The game of open source: a feast for geeks

I build software and products and I base a lot of my personal knowledge on free online resources, open sourced by talented software engineers or companies that believe technological advances are collectively crafted. A lot of my peers do the same, solve their daily tasks or innovate on top of open source frameworks and libraries. And some also give back to the community.

There are a couple of initiatives that happen yearly, conducted by big software players that incentivize engineers, regardless of gender, to contribute.

Here are the ones I was part of in the last years:

Google Summer of Code

Google summer of code (GSoC) is a global program focused on getting the students involved into open source. 1000 students are selected every year worldwide. They receive 5000$ and the opportunity to work for three months with the most active open source communities, mentored by professionals.

You can apply to projects based on your interest, in my case I was getting more interested in mobile development in 2012 so this was a good opportunity to get started. I worked on the OpenNMS project, which is a carrier-grade, highly integrated, open source platform designed for building network monitoring solutions.

The experience was invaluable. As a student, you are given the chance to work on complex systems and receive proper feedback on your work from professionals, besides the financial compensation. At the same time, you are introduced into a community of passionate coders from who you can learn and get educated from an early stage in your career to care about contributing back.

HP OpenStack Scholarship Program

OpenStack software controls large pools of compute, storage, and networking resources throughout a datacenter, managed through a dashboard or via the OpenStack API. It was originally created by NASA in partnership with Rackspace in 2010. There are many big companies nowadays that use OpenStack as their private cloud solution and open source later on the new custom modules created in-house. This was the case with HP Helion.

Every year now, HP runs a scholarship programme dedicated to women in technology to encourage them to contribute to OpenStack and to open source in general. I was selected as one of the four award recipients for 2016. Similar to GSoC, you are given 10 000$ and a mentor who helps you find the right project to work on and guides you when needed. You have approximately 3 months to work on your contribution and then present the final result to a team of stockholders.

Grace Hopper Celebration — Open Source Day

The Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing is one of the largest events for women in technology in the world. Last year, in Houston it gathered more than 10 000 people over the course of 3 intense days. There are many global grants which you can apply to and get the chance to participate at the conference, either from companies like Google and Facebook or the Anita Borg Institute.

Besides the inspirational speakers the likes of Sheryl Sandberg and Megan Smith, and the career fair with some of the top 100 companies in the US, the conference provides volunteering opportunities like the Open Source Day. This one-day hackathon focuses on open source projects with social impact and puts the spotlight on some real life issues solved with technology. I was a mentor at last year’s OSD and helped three bright young coders make their contributions to one of Systers’ projects, PowerUp, an educational choose-your-own-adventure game that teaches and empower pre-adolescents to take charge of their reproductive health.

Being inspired by the energy of this initiative, I applied for a scholarship for Systers Pass-It-On programme to replicate the event in my hometown. I received the grant and I will start organising the hackathon in the following months.

Contributing to open source can start with a library you use in your own projects, with the custom code you wrote for your personal use case. There could be someone, somewhere in need of a helping idea just like yours.