Vipul Siddharth

Software Engineer at RedHat and Mindshare member & Diversity & Inclusion advisor of the Fedora Council

June 2021

Vipul makes FOSS and takes our Twitter mic from June 16 to 23. Thank you, Vipul!

Please tell us about yourself

I am a 23 years old Fedora project contributor who is fortunate to work upstream and with the community as his day job. My journey started as a Fedora user and within a few weeks, I was contributing to Fedora QA by doing simple release validations and update testings. This got me the opportunity to do an internship for the Fedora QA team. I also worked as an Infrastructure Engineering Intern in GlusterFS (software-defined network storage solution). Currently, I work as a Software Engineer in the Community Platform Engineering team of Red Hat where we work on Fedora and CentOS Infrastructure. Outside of my day job, I am involved in different parts of the Fedora community. I am a member of the mindshare committee as mentored project lead (I work with program admins to help Fedora’s participation in different mentored projects), and I recently joined Fedora Council as the Diversity and Inclusion advisor.

What are you working on right now?

Right now I work as a member of the ARC Team where we do the investigation work on the initiatives proposed to the CPE team from the community. I am also working on a tool called Duffy that lets you checkout bare metals and virtual machines in CentOS CI Infrastructure.

Other than these technical works, I am looking for some mentored project programs (like Google Summer of Code, Outreachy, etc) where Fedora can participate and help newcomers' open source journey. (If you know of any, please do reach out)

What is most interesting about that?

Being the mentored-project representative in mindshare and D&I advisor to council gives me a very unique chance of combining both. I am very excited about the Fedora Project participating in new outreach and mentored-project programs where we can focus more on diverse and underrepresented communities. The opportunity to use the budget and community power we have to empower folks who may not have seen the same kind of opportunity is amazing. With the constant effort of trying to see how we can make the community even more inclusive and focus on equity, I am excited about the things I am going to learn in these positions

How did you first discover FOSS?

I had an idea of Linux since I was 14 or 15 and had used it (not a lot) but didn’t know of FLOSS until my first year of my university. It was a meetup I randomly decided to go where I met some people who helped me a lot in understanding thins — that showed me the power of community and how helpful and passionate people are. It was a Fedora meetup! I am in love and awe with the movement and all the values FOSS represents. I have been talking about it in conferences, schools, universities, LUGs, etc since then.

What prompted you to start contributing to FOSS?

It started with “Let’s learn something new” and slowly all about the community’s excitement and passion. With time as I learned that Open Source is more than just a method. It’s a movement! We just happen to ship software!

Why should others get involved with FOSS?

Being able to work on a real-world project and meeting/learning from brilliant people across the tech world gives a lot of leadership opportunities. It opens career paths as your work is visible. No matter your community, background, culture — your perspective matters, and open source needs more diversity in these. Lastly, new folks joining the community and giving back to the community is how Free and Open Source software sustains!

How should they get started?

The first step to contributing to open source can be daunting. It’s very important to take it easy and think about sustainability. Find a project that interests you (look at all the tools/applications you use). It’s also important to align skills with interests.

What difficulties and limitations do you see with FOSS?

Contributors' sustainability is one of the biggest challenges I can think of. Another thing that I consider a difficulty or limitation is the culture gap. Cultural diversity if not handled well can be a source of inefficiency, confusion, frustration, and anxiety.

How can they be solved?

Wish I had an elaborate answer that could solve these but unfortunately I don’t have anything specific. Encouraging contributors to take a break when needed, focusing on community and friendship before “contribution”, are some of the things I can imagine being effective. I am hopeful though, as this topic is being talked about a lot. CHAOSS, SustainOSS and a few more are coming with great ideas.

And about the culture gap, realizing that this exists and dealing with this with compassion and patience is the best way in my opinion. Be explicit with messages and stick to low context communication as it’s often precise, simple and clear.

A book recommendation on this topic: The Culture Map by Erin Meyer Where do you see difficulties in contributing?

Two things that come to mind immediately

  • Overwhelming amount of documentation: A lot of documentation and a rabbit hole of links to more documentation can be very challenging to figure out. This is also a question of accessibility. This by no means a question on documentation but I think we need to look more into an effective way of documentation. It can be the structure or indexing (This is also why we need more people working on documentation who are skilled in it instead of developers trying to write documentation that just works)

  • Not taking your time: Taking it easy, understanding the project and how things work, making friends, and slowly getting into contribution works better in my opinion especially for sustainability. I have seen enthusiastic talents get daunted when they jump directly into things (as different projects have different processes)

What does a perfect day off look like?

Cooking at least one elaborate meal, Meeting with friends (which has been long conference calls since March 2020), and a lot of anime and manga.