One of the Foundation’s newest staffers weighs in on the Python debate and revamping Upstream University.


Give a big welcome to Kendall Nelson, who joins the OpenStack Foundation as the new upstream developer advocate. Nelson comes to the Foundation via IBM where as a software engineer, she focused on Openstack Cinder and was an os-brick Project reviewer and contributor.

Here she talks about revamping Upstream University, speaking at the Summit and her summer gigs hawking cookies at the Minnesota State Fair.


What’s your role (roles) in the OpenStack community?

I first started as an upstream contributor in Cinder and have been getting more involved in os-brick as well. I took on the role of Cross-Project Liaison for Cinder during the Mitaka release and got involved as a mentor and supporter of the Women of OpenStack group. Now, I have also taken on the roles of an upstream developer advocate at the OpenStack Foundation.

Why do developers need advocates in open source?

I think developers need advocates because the community is getting so big. There are so many different people bringing different perspectives to each project and each project has its own culture. The diversity is wonderful, but sometimes it can be difficult to make progress and so people like me can come in and help work out the issues so that things can move forward. Its also important that the community continues to grow and so I do what I can to support that as well.

What are you focusing on in the next couple of months as we build to the Barcelona Summit?

My primary focus in the next couple of months is primarily on Upstream University. I am working with another newer member of the Foundation, Ildiko Vancsa, to put some life back into the training and make it more user friendly and relevant. I’ll also be helping Thierry Carrez out with some of the planning of the Design Summit while working with Heidi Joy Tretheway on getting the project logos done. A variety of things really, but the most pressing is Upstream University.

There are always a lot of debates in the OpenStack community – which one is the most important, now?

I don’t know if it is the most important per se, but I think one of the more interesting debates right now is whether or not to allow other languages besides Python into OpenStack. There are a number of open source projects that would like to get into the Big Tent that have been written in other languages and even current big tent projects looking at adding implementations in other languages.

This could be an opportunity for OpenStack to grow and expand if they are allowed in, but it could also make the review process a lot more chaotic if community members are expected to know multiple languages, among other issues. Should OpenStack add just one or two more languages? Should they all be allowed in? Or should we just stick to Python? This debate will continue to crop up as OpenStack moves forward and I am interested to see what the final decision is.

There are many efforts to get women involved in tech, what are some initiatives that have worked and why?

I think that OpenStack has done a number of things to bring women in. The Women of OpenStack group, for starters. It’s a wonderful place to get to know other women, and men who support women in tech. They welcomed me in when I was interested in getting involved in their events at the Austin Summit. I was invited to speak at their Working Breakfast, one of the many events they plan for each Summit that has been growing in popularity. The events they plan for Summits celebrate the diversity that women bring to OpenStack and help make women feel like they aren’t alone in the community. There is a mentoring program that is also really helpful to women, anyone really, but a lot of women are involved. The program offers both technical and career mentoring and is incredibly easy to get signed up for. I signed up right away to both be mentored and mentor because I felt there was a lot I already knew about the community I could share with people just starting out, btu there was a lot I had to learn in terms of career growth. The mentoring program is another initiative that has helped me feel more involved in OpenStack.

What were your takeaways as a speaker at the Austin Summit?

Overall it was an amazing experience. I was more than a little intimidated at the beginning that’s for sure. Public speaking definitely isn’t my favorite thing to do, but I have been trying to push myself to grow and get more comfortable with it. The first talk I did was at the Women of OpenStack Working Breakfast. I felt so scared when I walked up there, I had gotten so warm I had to take my blazer off, and I was so shakey I could barely read my notecards on my phone, but everyone in that room made me felt like I belonged there so by the end of my talk I was running on adrenaline. Looking out at the room I could tell that I was actually having an impact and that was an experience I won’t soon forget.

The second talk I gave I was much more prepared for, aside from the technical difficulties which I am sure happens to everyone at some point. I also wasn’t alone for the second talk which made it easier. I highly recommend having friends in the room and friends on stage next to you; it definitely makes the whole experience less intimidating…

You’ve also worked for six years at Sweet Martha’s Cookie Jar – tell me a bit about that.

It’s actually just a week or two every year at the Minnesota State Fair. I started at Sweet Martha’s in high school for a little extra money and I keep going back. Employees get free entrance to the fair on the days they work, free legendary chocolate chip cookies, and it’s always a good time.

People will want to get in touch and say “hi” after reading this, what’s the best way to do so?

I’m pretty on top of things on Twitter so that’s always a good place to try to get a hold of me. Otherwise I am on IRC during the usual CDT work hours, my nick is diablo_rojo. I hang out in the #openstack-cinder and #openstack-women channels primarily.

Cover Photo // CC BY NC