“Be generous with computing resources, stingy with space and encourage the messy, creative stew that results,” says Sean Roberts of WalmartLabs.


“Open source first” means that we look to open source before we consider vendor-based products to meet our needs. To use open source technology correctly, you need to do more than just consume; you need to participate to make sure the open source technology survives long term. Participating in open source requires splitting your engineer’s time between working for your company and working on the open-source project.We need to define, build and maintain a culture of contribution, collaboration and merit-based work.

Open-garden development 
Our private company strives to be a leader in technology through its contributions to the technology community. This will require more than just the use of open-source code. Being a leader requires participation. To be a leader, participation with groups or communities outside of the company is necessary. Each community will be organized around a specific research and development (R&D) project. Participation in each of these communities is much like working for a company. Substantial results require substantial participation.

Code more, live better

We must be generous with computing resources, stingy with space and encourage the messy, creative stew that will result from this. Allowing people access to the tools of their business will transform them. We must have spontaneous interactions. We must build the online and physical spaces that encourage creativity through collaboration. Collaboration doesn’t happen without access to each other in real time.

Innovation through meritocracy
We must create a meritocracy. The quality of ideas have to overcome the group structure and tenure of those in it. Promotion by merit encourages everyone to better people and employees. While we are being the best badass we can be, hearty debates between passionate people will happen. Our culture should encourage the obligation to dissent. Strong opinions and ideas lead to a passionate work ethic. The ideas and opinions can and should come from all. It shouldn’t make difference who you are, rather what you do. As meritocracy takes hold, we need to invest in teams that are going to do the right thing without permission.

Project to product 
As our private company embraces open source contribution, we must also create a clearer separation between working upstream on an R&D project and implementing the resulting product in production. A project is R&D where failing fast and developing features is the status quo. A product is what you put into production, has  software licensing agreements and is using the results of the R&D project. The separation requires, at the very least, separate repositories for projects and products. Normal separation entails different communities working on the projects and products. Each of the communities require substantial contribution and participation. In order to keep these activities separate, there needs to be a workflow of customer features and bug fix requests from project to product. Below, we highlight the major steps in creating, supporting and expanding open source at our private company.

School for the technically gifted

The seniors must mentor the inexperienced. As new skills are learned, you pass them on the next person. As you train the next person, you move on to new challenges. Never expect to stay in one position for very long. Get skills, become awesome, pass it, move on.

Find the best people for your family

We love our work. We love it so much, we want to work with our friends. We are part of a community that is larger than our company. Recruitment of the best people to work with us, should always be on our mind. We find awesome jobs for the people around us. Even if that isn’t with the company we are at. Thinking this way makes hiring great people a way of life. As hiring becomes common, then reviewing and helping new hires becomes easy.

Sean Roberts, director of platform product and open source at WalmartLabs, has been involved with OpenStack since 2012 holding various positions including his current one of OpenStack Ambassador. This post first appeared on his personal blog and was part of a presentation he made at a recent TODO event.

Superuser is always interested in community content, email: [email protected].

Cover Photo // CC BY NC

Sean Roberts
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