Ruth Ikegah

Backend developer and technical writer

January 2021

Ruth makes FOSS and takes our Twitter mic from January 13th to 20th. Thank you, Ruth!

Please tell us about yourself

I’m Ruth Ikegah, a backend developer, technical writer, Github star, public speaker, open-source enthusiast, and a people’s person. I grew up in Port Harcourt, Nigeria. I am sparked about onboarding beginners into the tech system, especially the open-source space. Asides from being actively involved in tech, I am a social entrepreneur and a voluntary blood donor. I love making new friends over a slice of cake.

What are you working on right now?

Asides from working on improving my coding skills with Python and Golang, I have been trying to create a safe space for beginners in the open-source space by advocating and handholding to the first contribution and all about open source. I achieve this by having casual calls with people who reach out to me.

What is most interesting about that?

I was once a beginner and I know how it feels to be lost and confused about a project or codebase. It’s so sweet when someone I had a call with a while back gets so active in the community, I mean that is impact!

How did you first discover FOSS?

Before starting code in March 2020, I heard about open source from my friend, Peace Ojemeh who is actively involved as a designer. She randomly explained it to me as “volunteering in tech”, I do a lot of social volunteering so I was nice, maybe if I take to come in this tech space I will try that.

What prompted you to start contributing to FOSS?

Fast forward, three months into coding, OSCA (Open Souce Community Africa) had the challenge to spur more women to contribute to open source in July 2020 with a prize for the highest number of submitted Pull requests. I was excited about this and took up the challenge and had the highest no of PRs winning a domain name! After this, I continued in active contributions to the organizations I found.

Why should others get involved with FOSS?

Personally contributing to open source has impacted my career highlighting my biggest recognition being a GitHub Star. There are so many benefits but I will love to pinpoint its effect on career development:

  • Improves technical skills

  • Gaining soft skills

  • Great network and collaboration

  • Paid opportunities like Google summer of codes, Outreachy

How should they get started?

First, contributing to open source projects could be a scare especially for beginners, but do not be scared to contribute to the codebase no matter how large. Have the mindset of making quality contributions over quantity. First-timers only is a great place to get started as of finding beginner-friendly articles to start with. Additionally looking for local open source communities and getting involved helps you learn better and collaborate. It is not only about contributing via an open-source project, there are other ways of contributing like: creating your own open source project, organizing events and conferences, sponsoring open-source projects. Remember every contribution is valid.

What difficulties and limitations do you see with FOSS?

Starting to contribute as a beginner coder was really difficult because I could barely see issues as regards my level to fix. So far I have noticed this is one difficulty beginners scare away from contributing to open source. The onboarding process of some open source projects does not suit beginners. Another I have noticed is with creating issues on GitHub, most times there is not enough context to what the issue is about and it can be a scare to contributors as not everyone is outspoken to ask for more details on the issue.

How can they be solved?

Open Source projects can start by reviewing their onboarding process, get data from other contributors on how it was for them, ask new contributors to what area they can improve on if possible apply handholding. As regards issues on GitHub, projects should adopt having issue templates so it helps better issue creation.

What does a perfect day off look like?

A perfect day for me is eating a lot of cake or ice cream because I love it a lot. Asides from this I feel fulfilled when I am able to help explain a concept especially open source to a beginner.

Do you want to tell us something else we didn’t ask?

If you want to get so much context about Open Source, check out the Open Source Guide. Open Source for me is the community and I hope to keep contributing effectively to the community and impacting the world at large.