Episode 98 – Get Involved with Open Source Projects to Improve Your Skill Set and Help the Community with Vicky Brasseur

 In Podcasts

Today, Phil’s guest is Vicky Brasseur who is an award-winning open source contributor and author. She has been working in the IT industry for 20+ years. During that time, she has worked on numerous open source projects, which have led to the development of industry-leading software. Work she now combines with her writing, public speaking and consultancy engagements.


­­­(1.16) – So Vicky, can you expand on that summary and tell us a little bit more about yourself? Vicky responds by explaining that for many years she spent a lot of time doing business management stuff. But, today she mostly helps companies to understand how to contribute to and release free and open source software. She shows how to do so in a way that is both good for their bottom line and the community.

(1.45) – Phil asks to share with the audience some of the benefits of using open source. For a company, there are many benefits. It removes the need to continually invent the wheel. There are millions of wheels you can use instead of wasting time and resources writing all of that code yourself. Companies can get up and running much faster using open source.

(2.39) – Phil asks Vicky for a unique IT career tip. Vicky’s advice is to get involved in developing free and open source software. Doing so enables you to gain a lot of new skills and experience. Plus, it greatly improves your public and open portfolio. Importantly, you do not have to be a programmer to get involved in open source. There are many skills required to develop free and open source software, so virtually anyone can make a contribution and benefit by doing so.

(3.40) Phil asks Vicky to share the best way to get involved if you are new to open source project. Vicky explains that there are lots of options, which is why she wrote a book on the subject. But, generally speaking she recommends that you pause for a moment and think about what your professional and personal goals are. It is important to work on something that interests you and will help you to grow. You could for example get involved in developing open source software for your favorite hobby. If you want to become more proficient in JavaScript and you like woodworking, go out and find a project that ticks both of those boxes.

(4.53) – Vicky is asked to share her worst IT career moment. That happened when Vicky ended up working for a poorly run startup. Vicky felt she ended up in that position because she had not asked the right questions at the interview stage. It reminded her that finding a new job is a two-way street. A job seeker should be interviewing the company as much as they are interviewing you. Vicky now has a set of questions that she asks every single interviewer. This enables her to compare the companies in a logical way. She finds that the way they respond is very telling. Often, it is what they do not say rather than what they do that is very telling.

(7.25) – Phil asks Vicky what her best career moment was. For Vicky being asked by Pragmatic to write a book about a subject she is really passionate about has been amazing. Getting paid to work on free and open source software is also a highlight. But, the best thing for Vicky is helping companies to see the benefit of bridging the gap between corporate and community interests. To see that it is in everyone’s interest to work in this way.

(8.44) – Can you tell us a little more about your book, “Forge Your Future with Open Source”. Has it been published yet? Vicky says yes, but she has not seen the physical book yet. On the evening of the podcast recording, she was hosting an unboxing party to reveal the book to her friends, colleagues and family. Her book is all about how an individual can contribute to free and open source software. The book explains what it is, why it matters and what copyright is. It covers licensing, intellectual property how to interact with everyone effectively. Plus, more complex issues like how to take something you may have developed in the workplace and legally share it with a wider community.

(11.26) – Phil asks what excites Vicky about the future for the IT industry. Vicky is really pleased to see the IT industry opening up. Over the years, the industry has been too insular. It is great to see more diversity. Diverse teams come up with better ideas and work more efficiently. The fact that IT is becoming more inclusive is exciting and will greatly benefit everyone.

(13.23) – What drew you to a career in IT? Vicky responded by saying “I love pushing buttons,” She loves computers and the process of creating something out of nothing, literally by just pushing the right buttons.

(14.00) – What is the best career advice you were given? Vicky answered by saying “You can get out.” If you are in a bad situation, you don’t have to stay there. Even if you cannot leave immediately, you can start to change your situation. There are tons of people who are going to treat you better and probably pay you better. So, if you are in a bad situation, work to get out of it.

(14.38) – If you were to start your IT career again, now, what would you do? For Vicky that is a hard question to answer. There would be things she could change, but, she is actually pretty happy with how things have gone.

(15.37) – Phil asks Vicky what she is currently focusing on. Vicky finds freelancing exhausting, so she wants to work for a company that will pay her full-time for her open source related management skills. Lots of companies have open source offices. She is hoping to work for one of those and do so for several years. So that she can get to see some projects through to the end.

(16.36) – What is the non-technical skill that has helped you the most in your IT career? For Vicky it is listening, communicating and writing. Documenting how you do things is a force multiplier. When you write things down, you can share it with any number of people. Vicky suggests that the audience check out the writing tips shared at the “All Things Open” conference by Jen Wike Huger from Red Hat.  Her speech notes are available here.

(18.06) – Phil asks Vicky to share a final piece of career advice. Don’t rely on your manager to move your career forward. It is something a good manager will help you with, but you cannot rely on them to do so. You need to sit down and think about where you want to go and take steps to get there. Start slow -baby steps are still steps, provided you take the action, you will progress.


(1.45) VICKY – “We get that very good balance and that beneficial cycle of the corporate contributions and the community benefit, all at once.”

(3.39) VICKY – “You can move your career forward by contributing to free and open source software.”

(6.34) PHIL – “When you go for an interview, make sure that you find out as much as you can about that company before you commit to joining them.”

(12.20) VICKY – “The studies show that communities and projects and teams that are more diverse, are also much more innovative.”

(17.28) VICKY –“I can have an idea, and I can tell it to you, and then it disappears. But if I write it down, I can share it with any number of people.”

(18.13) VICKY – “You have the power. It is within your power to move your career forward. But you have to take the time to think about it.”


Twitter: https://twitter.com/vmbrasseur @vmbrasseur

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/vmbrasseur/

Website: https://www.vmbrasseur.com/


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