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

OpenSource For You - - FOR U & ME -

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)

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