Wednesday, November 30, 2022 - 05:00
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At a Glance:

  • Involved in open source since: 2015
  • Works for: IBM
  • Eclipse Foundation contributor since: 2017
  • Involved in: Eclipse Adoptium, Eclipse AQAvit, Eclipse OpenJ9
  • Committer to: Eclipse AQAvit, Eclipse OpenJ9
  • Eclipse Foundation committer since: 2017
  • Fun fact: She’s finally learning to play the piano from her nine-year-old son, after she enrolled him in lessons. This way they’re both motivated to practice.

Let’s start at the beginning: what’s your background as a developer?

I’ve been a developer in a formal sense for about 15 years, but my interest in programming started much earlier than that. When I was in elementary school, my uncle would bring me to his computer lab. He was doing his Master’s degree in computer science at the time, and he would show me the very simple games he was developing on his Altos 586. He also showed me the code behind it, and that’s where it all started. I ended up studying computer science in university, and then the rest follows. 

How did you first get involved with open source? 

Around 2015, I started as a user of node modules, libraries, that sort of thing. At the beginning, I was not actively contributing. But my husband, who is also a developer, was putting some of his projects up on GitHub. It was really exciting to see how people were using his code, giving him feedback, and even helping him add features and fix bugs. That’s where I got interested in the open source world.

And how did that lead to your work at the Eclipse Foundation?

I created my GitHub account in 2016 and was one of the original creators of the AdoptOpenJDK project, which is now Eclipse Adoptium. When it moved to the Eclipse Foundation, I went with it. Pretty naturally I’ve become a committer on that project, as well as a PMC member. I also started to get more involved with the OpenJ9 project, becoming a contributor and then a committer. 

What was that transition to open source like?

It was totally new. I was used to working more behind the scenes at IBM. Suddenly, the project was out there in the open, not only the project code but also the testing, the infrastructure: everybody out there in the world could see everything. 

But that was also exciting. All of a sudden, we had all kinds of people with all sorts of perspectives looking at the project, proposing different use cases, and giving us different feedback, which is not what you get working behind closed doors. 

How would you describe your experience as a committer?

I’ve been a committer since about 2017, and it has been a great experience. You take on a lot of responsibilities: expanding features, doing demos, having discussions, answering questions, and getting feedback. But in return, you get the chance to interact with a lot of different people with a lot of different backgrounds, which exposes you to new ideas every day. The new tools they suggest, and the creative ways they think of how to implement features are really fascinating. 

Any advice for someone considering taking the plunge?

Start now. You sometimes hear about places saying they have an open door, for example. We don’t even have a door: there’s no barrier to entry. 

I think, in general, there are two types of contributors. The first type are people new to the industry looking to build up their portfolio. For them, start with the contributing guide because it has all the information you need to get started. 

The other type are experienced developers, people getting involved because they want to help the project or have a feature they want to add. For them, it’s best to start with communication. Talk to the project coordinator and find out what the projects goals and plans are. It’s important to understand the direction of the project, as well as the tactics being used, to make sure that the idea you have fits into the broader framework. 

But the bottom line is, if you want to be a contributor, just go for it.