In The News3 min read

The Intentions of a New Chief Open Source Officer

Chip Childers

There is something uniquely powerful about a time of change, both as individuals navigating our own life journeys and as groups working toward common company goals. These periods of change give us moments of opportunity: the opportunity to take stock in where we have been, the opportunity to thoughtfully reconsider our goals, and the opportunity to renew our resolve in achieving those goals. Change gives you permission to … change. And embracing that change with intention is how we unlock the potential of the moment.

Joining VMware as the Chief Open Source Officer is not unlike that moment for me. This opportunity is a time to take stock and set a course for the future. To change. Only one month into my new role and I can already see the immense potential and the incredible body of work that VMware open source community leaders and contributors have built. It’s impressive, without a doubt. But there’s always more work to be done. As I have been telling our team: Be proud of what you have achieved but never be satisfied.

As I made this transition into VMware, I reflected on how my career has led me here. I used to consider it a bit of a winding path, filled with serendipitous moments that opened the door to my next challenge. What I found upon reflection this time around is how important it has been for me to act with intention at each step of the journey.

I started my career as a developer at a professional services company. At that job, I expanded my experience with each new assignment, shifting between clients with different industry needs, technology stacks and personalities, and each client expecting me to play a different role. I learned to embrace change, to quickly orient myself to each new environment, and to focus on setting the right goals that would move the client forward with intention. It is these lessons that have underpinned my growth at every step of the way.

Open source also played a key role in my career. As many technologists do, I started as a user of open source well before I became a contributor. I still remember the many hours it took to get Linux installed from a stack of 5 1/2-inch floppy disks when I was still in school. It wasn’t until later in life that I started to contribute to open source communities. The driving motivation for taking that step was to ensure the diversification of a project beyond the vendor that first produced the project. It was an investment decision to manage risk, really. An investment of my time, of my teammates’ time, and of dollars to support the community. We achieved the goal, but perhaps more importantly, it gave me a new perspective on the power of collaborative development in open source communities.

Collaboration in open source projects makes you part of a community. These communities drive the growth of new innovations, from idea to implementation. Ecosystems form around successful projects, moving the entire industry forward. Early adopters inspire further development by acts as simple as acknowledging the work of the maintainers. While open source has been a part of the technological landscape for many years now, we have reached new heights of importance and impact. Everywhere we look, open source technologies have shaped our world. This is especially true in the world of enterprise technology.

So, what does the future hold for VMware and open source? A continued investment. A continuation of community collaboration all based on what I call “intentional engagement.” Engaging authentically and sustainably in open source demands that you start with a plan: know why you’re engaging and your desired outcomes. It also demands that you are intentional about what projects you rely on. While we will continue to actively encourage and support upstream contributions by our entire VMware engineering community, we also want to be sure that our larger-scale engagements are aimed directly at helping our customers be more competitive and innovative.

I’ll be speaking at VMware Explore at the end of this month about VMware’s strategy and approach to open source. Join me for a lively conversation and take part in the many other open source sessions while you’re there. I look forward to meeting you and the rest of the VMware Explore open source community in San Francisco. See you there!