Open Source Organization: How to Achieve a Success?


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All of us debate, think, ask how to become a successful in our private and professional life. What is the recipe for the success? How people like Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk, Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg have achieved such a huge success? How can I do the same with open source organization?

Today we talk with one of the successful man – Rafał Korytkowski who made his first steps as a developer in one of the biggest open-source organization – OpenMRS. For those who don’t know, open-source mostly refers to the term of software (open-source software) which means that source code is publicly accessible—anyone can see, modify, and distribute the code as they see fit. Around open-source software are created communities which develop the code, refresh it, clean and keep it alive. Nobody pays them for that work, so they work as volunteers. Open-sources aren’t a new thing in XXI century, but in the last decade the popularity of open-source software (and organizations) has increased. Do you know that popular web engine – Mozilla Firefox or LibreOffice which is a solution for users who don’t want to pay for Microsoft Office are actually the open-sources?

How to start?

Let’s start from the beginning of your career and adventure with code. When you went to university, had you an idea for yourself, did you know what you want to do? How did the studies verify these initial assumptions?

I knew precisely from around the age of 10 that I would be a programmer. I did not even have my own computer back then. I experimented with one at school and at my mother’s workplace. I truly submerged myself in the IT world when I got a computer for myself at the age of 12. My first lines of code I wrote in C++ soon after, followed by learning HTML, JS and PHP to create web pages. Only when I advanced my English in high school, I was finally able to read docs and access tons of programming knowledge that was not available in Polish back then.

The university was a bit of a disappointment at first, as in the initial years I was spending much more time learning maths and physics than informatics, so I coded mostly in my free time. I kept my eyes open for opportunities. I attended different IT conferences. In the 2nd year of studies, I joined a team of students who worked on an ERP platform for the university. I spent my 4th year of studies on an Erasmus exchange programme in Berlin, where I felt I learnt much more about coding than over 3 years at the university in Poland.

What was later? Was it hard to find a job in your profession? Where did you hear about Google Summer of Code? The program still isn’t as much popular as it is in Africa or Asia, so how did it happen that you registered for GSOC program?

It was in Berlin that I learned about GSoC from one of the lecturers. I applied very late in the process (two weeks or so before the deadline), but I was able to prove my skills. I chose OpenMRS as it was written in Java, which I wanted to be proficient in, and the goal of the project to support healthcare in developing countries felt right. As it turned out, it shaped my entire career in a way I’d have never imagined.

Google Summer of Code as a huge chance for young students

How did it happen that after the GSOC you stayed in the OMRS for a while? (Why did you stay there?) What was your goal for that time?

I simply really enjoyed working on the project. The community was very vibrant with lots of open communication, which was very encouraging. There was also a strong interest in the module I wrote. From the day it was released, I kept getting pinged about feature requests and issues, which I continued to address in my free time. My goal was to simply make the module as good as possible, so others can rely on it. Eventually, when I was at the end of my university and looking for a position, I asked my mentor in OpenMRS for a recommendation letter. He said that he would rather offer me a job. I ended up accepting it instead of working on closed source for one of the big tech companies. I feel that GSOC in my CV opened some of their doors as the phone kept ringing.

Had you felt more skilled and experienced after the GSOC? What were your thoughts after the program? How do you rate that experience?

It was an amazing experience. I definitely felt much more skilled after the GSOC. The module I worked on was not trivial and pushed me very far to accomplish the goals. It is still one of the core modules that is used by most OpenMRS implementations around the world.

What type of knowledge, skills did you gather during the program? How did you develop those skills during the work in OpenMRS?

Being part of OpenMRS gave me a unique opportunity to learn from great leaders and programmers. It introduced me to the essence of open source, where almost everything happens in public and everyone is open for discussion.

Which of the gathered skills turned out to be helpful in your later job?

I actually continued working full time on OpenMRS for 8 years. It was 2 years back when I decided to try something new. I did want to stay in open source, so Red Hat was my best bet.

Where I can sign in?

Rafał took part in Google Summer of Code, which is just underway. The next edition will start in a year, so by that time you can improve your skills and find an organization which take part in GSOC and there is a high chance that do the same in next year. If you are thinking about joining the OpenMRS, first you have to do is sign up to the community. Then you’ll get the access to Jira Board, you could take part in discussions on Talk and taking part in meetings! If you want to see what projects offer OpenMRS you can do it on Wiki or track student’s progress by reading their blog posts, watching their tasks (issues on Jira Board) or just by being active on OpenMRS Talk.

I hope that helps you. If you have any questions about GSOC or OpenMRS or question to Rafał – feel free to ask us 🙂

To find out more about GSOC u can find here.

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