ROSE Blog Interviews You

Rikki Kite

ROSE Blog: Rikki's Open Source Exchange

Jul 29, 2009 GMT
Rikki Kite

I think I'm recovered from OSCON finally, so I can get back to my poor neglected blog. Over the course of the past couple of weeks, I met many women in open source. I also got to spend some quality face time with women I already know. The topic of "women in open source" was covered in depth and with frequency at the Community Leadership Summit and OSCON 2009. A lot of the conversation was productive, and plenty of it was more heated and divisive.

I'd like to take a step over (not back, and not quite forward) and take a look at where we are, who we are, and why are we here. Please take a moment to answer a few questions either in the comments or by email (if that's how you roll):

1. Who are you? (this is a great place for your name and brief bio)
2. What do you currently do in open source? What do you love about it?
3. 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?
4. You're speaking to a group of high school students (male and female). Why should they consider exploring career options in open source?

5. What question do you wish I'd asked? And how would you answer it?

Comments

  • Interview

    > 1. Who are you?

    I'm S.P.Zeidler (called name Petra). Once upon a time I was an astrophysicist, but life happened and also I met the 'Net and I've been a Unix sysadmin these past 15 years.

    > 2. What do you currently do in open source? What do you love about it?

    I'm a member of the NetBSD project; I spend some of my free time being sysadmin for the NetBSD projects servers (and services), plus doing some releng work and some tending my packages and occasionally hunting a bug. (NetBSD is a FOSS operating system with its own kernel and pkgsrc is the packaging system it uses. See http://www.NetBSD.org/ )

    What do I love about it? I don't like being a passenger or even a dead weight. I can program, but I don't have much of a creative drive, and the jobs I currently do Need Doing (tm), and when I handle them, someone who'd rather write new stuff gets to, and we all win. Otherwise, being part of that community is a pretty good prevention of developping professional hybris blunk I keep learning, and that's rewarding.

    I don't earn income from my open source work, although I get to use open source software in the course of my job.

    > 3. 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?

    Get yourself good input filters. For every piece of good advice you get you'll get two or three items of people splitting hair or having completely misunderstood what the topic is, especially while you are a beginner and are asking 'easy' questions, the 'fluffier' the project you join is the worse.
    For 'why go there in the first place':
    If you are in closed source and your company fails (or you want to climb the corporate ladder by changing company), almost noone ever heard of you nor have they ever seen your code; people working in open source will have a name and a reputation, and will be able to point at something and say "I made that".

    > 4. You're speaking to a group of high school students (male and female). Why should they consider exploring career options in open source?

    See the why above.

    > 5. What question do you wish I'd asked? And how would you answer it?

    "Does your project welcome women?"
    It doesn't care whether you are male, female, neither, black, white or a tri-gendered lilac-striped fluff from Proxima Centauri, as long as you contribute in a constructive way. Don't expect preferential treatment, but the tone is usually civil, and there's a lot to learn. If you don't mind a steep learning curve, or are a pretty hot programmer already, do take a look see. happy
  • another possibility

    You forgot "hold on, I'm hacking...wait one more bug...ok and a feature..and...what? haven't left the computer in how long?" blunk

    My reason though is umm...hmm...uhhh...I'll get back to you
  • Interviewees

    I have theories about why more women haven't responded to this interview, including:
    1. Much too busy happily being a woman in open source to take time to respond to these questions (I like this theory).
    2. Wouldn't recommend a job in open source to a friend, so isn't answering these questions (I don't like this theory).
    3. Haven't seen this interview entry because she doesn't read the ROSE Blog (again, not fond of this theory)
    4. Planning to respond but haven't finished revising her thoughtful answers yet (ok, I could live with this, too)
    5. The list of reasons she'd recommend working in open source is soooo long that she needs to streamline it a bit (oh, that's a good one!)
    6. I've set a bad example by not answering my own questions (ok, here goes):

    Rikki (bio here -- works on Linux Pro Magazine and Ubuntu User, blogs, etc.)

    I work in publishing, focusing on open source topics. (Although I'm on vacation now, but I'm commenting on my own blog...) I love helping people connect through print and other media. And I really really love helping women in open source do a better job of promoting themselves. And I enjoy helping bring free and open source technologies to people who might not otherwise know about them (children, people who are intimidated by 'technology', etc.). (And I love starting sentences with 'And' when answering my own blog questions.)

    Here's what I'd say to anyone wanting to know more about the world of open source: If you are the type of person who loves 'thinking outside the box', blazing your own career path, being innovative, helping bring affordable and practical technological solutions to people who might otherwise be left out of the world of technology, learning, teaching, being hands-on, fixing things, multi-tasking, self-motivating, empowering others, & meeting other people who also love these things, then open source might be the right fit for you. If you consider yourself a bit of a punk rocker at heart, then open source might be a fit for you. If you love working with quirky, opinionated, intelligent, inspiring, mavericks (I'm reclaiming that word from our most recent presidential campaign), then open source might be the right fit for you. If you love feeling like you are contributing to a field that makes a difference and is changing the world for the better, then open source might be the right fit for you. (climbs off soapbox...)

  • Interview

    1. Who are you? (this is a great place for your name and brief bio)

    Amber Graner

    I am a open source and more specifically and Ubuntu user and enthusiastic. I am a stay at home mom who blogs about my experiences with open source and life in general.

    2. What do you currently do in open source? What do you love about it?

    Currently I use Ubuntu and I blog about the experiences. I am involved in the ubuntu LoCo, women, and the community as a whole. I enjoy helping with open source events and currently I am helping to organize the Atlanta Linux Fest for 2009 and an Ubuntu User Conference in 2010.

    I love the aspect of there is a place for everyone in the open source communities. Regardless of your skill set and your knowledge base you can jump in and just contribute. Contribution comes in many forms. You don't have to hack kernel code to be able to contribute to a project.

    3. 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?

    Since I don't have a "paid" job in the open source field I can't speak to what I would say to others. However, I am currently a stay-at-home mom who will be looking at reentering the work force at some point in the future and I personally would not hesitate to work in an open source field.


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

    I think the advice that I would give them in regards to an open source job wouldn't be any different than any other career advice. Which would be to find a job you are passionate about. Give it your best effort and enjoy what you do. Just as people choose becoming a doctor, joining the military, become a religious person, or even therapist, they do these things to help people. If you understand the open source philosophy and you believe in it then you also know that supporting any aspect of open source goes toward a larger goal. A goal of empowering people, showing them what they are capable of, and helping others in ways we are only now beginning to grasp.

    5. What question do you wish I'd asked? And how would you answer it?

    Rikki I can't think of a specific question I had wished you'd asked. We have talked about so many things concerning women and technology, women and open source, women and ubuntu, women and... in the past. I am not of the mind that it is a dead subject, and I think there are people who really care about this subject, I know I do. I have a daughter who I am stressing to everyday that she can feel, think, believe and do what she feels is right for her when she grows up and that the only person who has the ability to limit her achievements is herself. I encourage her to look at the technology and more specifically the open source technology fields when she is looking at careers. I also tell her regardless of what she chooses to see where open source can fit in to her future.
  • Thanks!

    Dru,
    Thanks for setting a good example (in more ways than one)! blunk
  • Interview

    1. Who are you? (this is a great place for your name and brief bio)
    Dru Lavigne (http://blogs.ittoolbox.com/unix/bsd)

    2. What do you currently do in open source? What do you love about it?

    Chair the BSD Certification Group which maintains certifications for assessing BSD sysadmin skills. Assist the marketing team of the FreeBSD Project and the FreeBSD Foundation. Write and speak about open source, BSD, training, documentation, and gender in technology issues. Manage the Open Source Business Resource (http://www.osbr.ca). And I've just started my third book on BSD. I love learning new things, sharing them with others, and watching people grow.

    3. 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?

    Open source provides a low entry barrier where you can ramp up your technical and communication skills, access mentors, build your reputation--all valuable things you can add to your resume. Know that every community is different, some are easier to get along with then others, and its okay to shop around until you find the community that works best for you.

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

    Where else can you get the above for free? Becoming an active member of an open source community will give you an edge over your classmates and help open future career doors. Breaking into any career is all about who you know and who knows you.
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