How open source helped me get a good job

By Julien Bisconti | November 15, 2018


Photo by Rye Jessen on Unsplash

TLDR: It took years but it paid off and it is thanks to the people I’ve met along the way.

Starting with the Linux kernel

In 2006, in order to get my degree, I had to write a thesis about MPLS networks. I was waiting for servers (racks) to arrive so I could test my code and while waiting, I was looking for a way to test locally patched Linux kernel modules. So I looked in the Linux community, and I was not happy with the solution offered. By browsing around, I discovered User-Mode Linux on SourceForge It is a way to run a Linux Kernel as an application with only user privilege (no root). Basically, User-Mode Linux is a safe, secure way of running Linux versions and Linux processes. Run buggy software, experiment with new Linux kernels or distributions, and poke around in the internals of Linux, all without risking your main Linux setup which was a pain to install back then. Virtual machines were heavy and expensive to run, and with User-Mode Linux, I could run literally dozens of isolated applications where an isolated application is a running kernel + application. To my surprise, a project called Netkit used User-Mode Linux under the hood and moved towards networking which was a good starting point for my virtual testbed. The code of the Netkit is on GitHub for those who are interested. My thesis was completed, I got my master degree in computer science, proud parents and an urgent need to find a job.

Photo by Sai Kiran Anagani on Unsplash

Containers again

Some years passed and in 2013, I saw container technology is emerging again. I noticed a Python project was trending on GitHub (I was programming in Python at the time). I could not believe my eyes, this thing called Docker was a container manager which had some of the isolation properties of User-Mode Linux and was easier to use. Learning about it was quite easy but explaining it was near impossible. Also, yes, before being rewritten in Golang, it was in Python. To get adoption at my current job, I had to share articles and tutorials. To keep track of all those articles, tutorials, and projects build around Docker was a real pain, especially since I was unable to share them easily and clearly. At the same time, Docker was trending; another project peaked my interested. It is called the Awesome list and it is a list of awesome lists that has about 95k stars on GitHub. An awesome list is a curated list of resources on a specific topic and abides by the Awesome Manifesto

Awesome-Docker beginnings

In 2014, most evenings, I was hanging out on GitHub, reading code, learning and making small contributions wherever I could. One evening, I decided to create a list to gather all things related to Docker, see first commit. Then, contributing to the awesome list with a PR. Every time I read an interesting article, watched a video explaining better or encountered a twitter account with useful resources, I would add it to the list. It was much easier to share with everyone and easy to make it evolve. Spending those evenings on GitHub taught me the dynamics of open source. Basically, it can be summarized by “Don’t panic over what others are doing better than you, focus on doing something better yourself.” I think that process is called “learning” but I could be wrong. The best part is that people started contributing to the project and one of them was Brian.

Sharing values

Brian became a maintainer of awesome-docker, he was and still is contributing a lot. We kept in touch during that time. I move to Helsinki to work for Unity. Brian became the co-founder with Darragh of a company based in Switzerland called 56k.cloud. Earlier this year (2018), I moved to Stockholm and joined Discovery Networks. One day, I saw Brian installed an app called Keybase (encryption made easy and user friendly), and we started chatting through it. 56k.cloud needed someone to help with the workload. I tried my best to help by contacting the relevant persons of my network, but no one was available. Very quickly we realized that our values were very much aligned about open source, containers, the journey to the cloud and I could be a good fit to the company’s culture. We share the same vision about a learning culture, about work-life balance and about remote work. Those values go beyond just technology and tools. It is about mastering something, anything. It is about mastery.

Photo by Julien de Salaberry on Unsplash

Open source

I’ve been working for more than a decade, and it’s the first time that I get hired thanks to open source. Usually, people find my open source profile after I get hired, and they asked me “what’s your GitHub username?” I don’t see my contributions as a part of me or my ego, and I look at them as “that’s what I learned, I hope you will too.” Open source allowed me to meet a lot of great people. Those people want to leave a place better than when they found it. It took years to build those relationships based on trust and respect, but it paid off. I work with people who are highly skilled and have no fear to admit when they don’t know something. That’s how they got there. Open source is a great place to meet people who are not afraid to learn something in front of everyone else. I hope that people who contribute to open source get proper acknowledgment and compensation for their work. Whether it’s presenting, teaching, coding, documenting, maintaining or just sharing.

PS

Open source also led me to present at KubeCon Seattle in December link to the talk, if you’re there please come and say hi! Thanks to 56k.cloud to help me go there. 🙏