Open source professionals should be selfdriven and objective about criticism
If you are willing to get into a career in open source technology, there are some ‘additional’ attributes that you require apart from your technical expertise. Diksha P Gupta spoke to Sreehari S, managing director, Novell India (The Attachmate Group), abo
Q Do you feel that India is rich in open source skills? If you talk about the market, it surely is growing and so is the interest of people in making a career with open source technology. With the cost advantage, and more and PRUH FuVWRPHUV nRW wDnWLng WR gHW ORFNHG GRwn Ey VSHFLfiF vendors, people are increasingly evaluating open source solutions. Along with that, the interest amongst professionals is growing. We see a lot of traction amongst the students as well, when we go for campus interviews. More and more professionals now want to work in this area.
Q Is that one of the reasons why Attachmate is banking big on the Indian market? ,nGLD LV GHfinLWHOy D ELg PDUNHW IRU AWWDFKPDWH. WH KDYH D lot of commitment to the India development centre because of the value it provides. Our investments, of course, keep shifting from location to location, depending on the projects, like in any other company. But broadly, there is a greater commitment to the Indian development centre and it is gURwLng VLgnLfiFDnWOy. Q Can you throw some light on what kind of growth you have had in the India development centre over the last year? We have grown about 1R-20 per cent in headcount and we see ourselves growing at the same pace next year too. This hiring includes candidates from colleges as well. Beyond the growth in numbers, our objective is also to grow in terms of value we provide. po we do not focus too much on numbers alone.
Q Do you think the education provided in Indian colleges is good enough to churn out professionals in the open source technology domain? I think industry is plugging into the education system so that we get better and much more employable talent. That is the general phenomenon and open source companies are not far behind. ,nGuVWUy LV LnYHVWLng DnG LnfluHnFLng WKH HGuFDWLRn VyVWHP Rn what kind of courses they ought to cover so that the talent being churned out is good enough to merge into the work place. We pick employees from colleges across India. We target some of the premier institutes across the country. Over the last several years, the trend is an increased penetration of open source talent
in the institutes. There has been a lot more awareness over the past 10 years. Ten years back, most of the colleges didn’t even know what open source was. They did not have iinux in their labs. Today, it is a very different scenario.
Having said that, I would add that there are two types of colleges—the premium ones that have a much higher penetration of open source in the labs and amongst their students; and there are some other colleges which have to catch up a bit more. po I would say that, over all, the colleges are catching up with open source technology. Moreover, colleges also understand that they KDYH WR wRUN wLWK WKH LnGuVWUy, VR WKHy DUH DFWuDOOy finGLng wDyV in which they can collaborate. We have worked with some of the colleges that wanted to understand what kind of curriculum may be good for their students to get jobs… so they wanted to work with us for their projects. We feel that this partnership is really helping in bridging the gap between what academia teaches and what the industry needs.
Q Can the students do internships with you? Yes, of course! There are different channels from which we pick students for internships. We pick up the passionate students who have the capability to join us as employees at a later stage. We plug them into our live projects so that they learn our technology better. If students whose college we have not visited want to do an internship with us, they apply to our HR department. We get lots of such requests but we pick and choose from the applications depending upon our need and the students’ calibre. pince these internships are on live projects, it requires a lot of investment from the team to bring students on par with the rest and only then can they start contributing. po, we cannot afford to have a large number of them but, yes, quality people are always welcome.
Q Are your clients comfortable with open source solutions? Has the outlook in enterprises changed over the years, regarding open source technology? Yes, like I said earlier, the traction is continuously increasing because of various reasons including the cheap cost structure and people not wanting vendor lock-in. But once you say iinux, people immediately think it is a freeware and that security compromised. In a company like Novell or prpE, it's not just the Open pource software that we download and give. It has some added services as well. What the customers buy is the support of enterprise-class open source software and the technical support of prpE behind it. po, it is different from what everybody else can download from the internet. There are no reasons for these security concerns. I think what matters is which stack we offer to them. Open pource is a lot more customisable than its proprietary counterparts, so the customers see the advantage..
Q How can any organisation gain by switching to open source tools and platforms? If you ask about the scenario today, enterprises would want to have a mix of open source and proprietary software, depending upon the application. But more and more people want to choose open source. Customers do not want to live with the pain of a vendor lock-in and the fear that comes with it. Also, the cost matters a lot. The total cost of a iinuxbased solution is, any day, a whole lot cheaper, as compared to a proprietary solution. Open source allows a lot of customisation, so you can go for whatever features you want. Of course, being open source software, you can add on the applications that the clients want.
There are different channels from which we pick students for internships. We pick up the passionate students who have the capability to join us as employees at a later stage. We plug them into our live projects so that they learn our technology better. If students whose college we have not visited want to do an internship with us, they apply to our HR department.
Q How do FOSS platforms or tools add value to a project’s development? In the teams doing a lot of development, we have seen that engineers tend to use a lot of FOpp tools like Bugzilla. pome of those tools are very basic to the project development. FOpp tools not only bring down costs but some of these tools have really matured over a period of time. They are being worked on by thousands of developers around the world as against one organisation, which is the case with proprietary software tools. For us, it is always good to see the developments happening from the market’s point of view and to bring down the overall cost. A lot of open source tools are being used even for projects that are not open source.
Q What are the key tools that you use for product development and which products have they been used for? The tools we use are very particular to the platform we work for. If a product is meant for the Windows market, we will obviously use tools that will help us to develop for Windows. BuW WKHn wH DOVR KDYH WRROV OLNH .'(, L)ROGHU, 2SHn 2IfiFH, HWF. 2SHn 2IfiFH LV uVHG HxWHnVLYHOy Ln RuU RUgDnLVDWLRn. , uVH it pretty much everyday.
Q How does Attachmate find the right kind of talent to work in its open source projects? And what skill sets do you look for while recruiting your employees? The hiring at Attachmate is not different from other open source projects. Having said that, there are some distinct capabilities we look for, especially when we are hiring for open source. We do not have teams in one single location and open source projects
typically operate as a ‘community’, with people working from different locations across the globe and contributing. We look for people with capabilities to work with their remote counterparts, and that requires a different set of skills than working in a team sitting around across the cubicles. It means that people should be able to work with different cultures, understand what their counterparts are saying and also be able to communicate effectively. The candidates should be able to talk about their work openly because people don’t see each other day in and day out. po they will need to know the developer as a person.
There will be appreciation and criticism at the same time. If they contribute some code which is not good, people may trash it, so they should be able to handle that kind of pressure. They don’t have managers who can shield them from such things on an everyday basis. People should have the maturity to represent themselves and to communicate effectively with counterparts whom they have not met and do not know. They just know their counterparts as email addresses or by name. These things require slightly different skills. po when we hire for open source, we look at some of those skills apart from the regular programming and technical skills that we expect.
In projects with prpE and Attachmate, we have different ways of hiring people. We have ‘Bootcamps’, where people can contact us and participate in a contest. The candidates are given programming challenges. Those who clear the contest can become a part of the open source project. The contests for different projects have different formats. po, hiring for open source is a slightly different ball game. The technical skills won’t be drastically different but the people should have a high-level of passion for their work, should be self-driven and objective about criticism. That, we see, as the differentiating factor. As far as the technical skills are concerned, if they have the right attitude, they can pick up technical skills easily, from project to project. QDo
you also provide training to the people you hire? YHV, RI FRuUVH. 7KH WUDLnLng LV YHUy VSHFLfiF WR WKH NLnG of projects they do and the skill sets that are required for the project. Once the candidates join us, we expect them to have some technical skills, since we do intense training. We believe in on-the-job learning, so that people can pick up on the technologies that we use.
Q We know that colleges do not provide the kind of education that makes students industry-ready and they need some extra certifications. What kind of certifications should one go for and does having them add to a professional’s profile? CHUWLfiFDWLRnV GR PDNH D ORW RI GLIIHUHnFH, HVSHFLDOOy IRU RSHn VRuUFH SURMHFWV EHFDuVH WKHy KHOS VWuGHnWV SLFN uS WKH VSHFLfiF skills required for open source jobs. iast year, we tied up with VRPH FROOHgHV WR HnFRuUDgH FHUWLfiFDWLRnV, DnG wH KHOSHG WKHP out with material. We do this on a regular basis.
Q Do you interact with the online open source community as well? Yes, we do a lot of that. In fact, this is something very fundamental to open source development. We interact with a lot of open source communities across the globe—some of them are related to the dNOME project, the iFolder project, the hDE project and the iinux kernel project. There are many projects of which we are either the owners or the contributors.
Sreehari S, managing director, Novell India, ( The Attachmate Group)