ROSE Blog Interviews: Valerie Bubb Fenwick, Staff Engineer at Sun Microsystems

Rikki Kite

ROSE Blog: Rikki's Open Source Exchange

Nov 23, 2009 GMT
Rikki Kite

Valerie Bubb Fenwick is a Staff Engineer at Sun Microsystems, contributor to Solaris 10 Security Essentials, and lead for the OpenSolaris Change Request Team. She helped design and was a major contributor to the Solaris Cryptographic Framework, and she currently works on making it certifiable by US Government standards. Valerie talks about her role at Sun Microsystems and the importance of community in open source.

Q: Who are you?

A: Valerie Anne Bubb Fenwick, a.k.a. bubbva, though I don't always use my maiden name anymore (the Bubb of bubbva).

Q: What do you currently do in open source? What do you love about it?

A: I develop code for the Cryptographic Framework for the OpenSolaris operating system. My focus is on the framework itself, as opposed to the low-level crypto. I additionally focus on maintaining export compliance for the operating system as well as working with other US Government standards.

I am the chair for the OpenSolaris Change Review Team for the Operating Systems and Networking (ON) consolidation. That means I run nominations for new members of the team, make sure the documentation on opensolaris.org for how to commit and write for ON is accurate, as well as training new folks on the sponsor process. The sponsor process is where a Sun employee works with someone in the external community on a fix for the operating system, since most of our gates still live internally. (the source is mirrored outside, but the day to day operations are still internal).

I'm additionally on the OpenSolaris Governing Board, where I serve the community through working on a new constitution, explaining policies and procedures as well as making sure they voice of our members are heard by Sun.

What I love about working in open source: what I'm doing at Sun is no longer a secret, I am free to talk with friends, colleagues and students about my work. I love that when I need a quick code review, I can literally send a tweet and within a few minutes, I've gotten all my code reviewers lined up and I can quickly integrate my changes!

Q: You're speaking to a group of women from other fields who are considering switching careers. Why should they consider moving into an open source-related career? What should they know about the open source environment to prepare them for the transition from a different field?

A: One thing that is great about open source is that there are many different ways people can participate, from updating documentation, providing feedback on installation or usage experiences, providing good bug reports or with code changes. This makes it a great way to learn new technology, even if you aren't 100 percent sure you're ready for a career change.

Working in open source also greatly increases your network and exposure; your work can be well known and appreciated. This is a double-edged sword, though, as you can also quickly become known as someone that is difficult to work with and those types of impressions are hard to change. When working in open source, people need to be careful to put their best face forward and really watch what they say in emails and at conferences.

One issue I've found in open source is that unless you find a very helpful community, you will be expected to do a lot of things on your own that you would normally get training on if you were doing this as a traditional job. Fortunately, there are helpful communities out there that can really make a difference in a newbie's experience.

For women in particular, I would say that just because you may find one community that doesn't appreciate your work or take the time to answer your questions, please do shop around. There are lots of places out there that need your help and you can find you can make a big difference in a short amount of time.

Q: You're speaking to a group of high school students (male and female). Why should they consider exploring career options in open source?

A: I think there are great opportunities for both men and women in open source, and that gender shouldn't matter. Of course, we both know that isn't always true. Men and women often use different ways to communicate and look for different types of rewards for their hard work. I wish there were more women in open source communities and am excited about the research going on here now.

If you or someone you know would like to contribute to this interview series, please send your responses to the following questions to me at rkite AT linuxpromagazine DOT com:

  • Who are you?
  • What do you currently do in open source? What do you love about it?
  • You're speaking to a group of women from other fields who are considering switching careers. Why should they consider moving into an open source-related career? What should they know about the open source environment to prepare them for the transition from a different field?
  • You're speaking to a group of high school students (male and female). Why should they consider exploring career options in open source?
  • What question do you wish I'd asked? And how would you answer it?

Read previous interviews:

Ellen Siever, co-author of Linux in a Nutshell

Juliet Kemp, author and admin extraordinaire

Red Hat's Mel Chua

Noirin Shirley, Vice President of the Apache Software Foundation

Cheryl McKinnon, CMO of Nuxeo

KDE Project's A. L. Spehr

Con-Techie.com's Kendra "Admin" Schaefer

Emma Jane Hogbin, co-author of Front End Drupal

Sharon Moreland, Technology Consultant at the Northeast Kansas Library System

Meike Reichle, Debian Developer

Máirín Duffy, Team Lead for Fedora Design Team

Hillary Rettig, author and activist

GNOME.Asia's Emily Chen

GSoC participant Kanika Vats

FSF's Deborah Nicholson

OSBR.ca's Dru Lavigne

Stormy Peters, Executive Director of the GNOME Foundation

Linux Foundation's Angela Brown

Erica Brescia, CEO of BitRock

Ohio LinuxFest's Beth Lynn Eicher

Ohio LinuxFest's Moose

LinuxToday.com's Carla Schroder

Urban Forest Mapping Project's Kelaine Vargas

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