The new program aims to provide technical or career guidance, says IBM’s Emily Hugenbruch.


This post is part of the Women of OpenStack series to spotlighting the women in various roles in our community who have helped make OpenStack successful. With each post, we learn more about each woman’s involvement in the community and how they see the future of OpenStack taking shape. If you’re interested in being featured, please email [email protected].

This time we’re talking to Emily Hugenbruch, software engineer at IBM. She tells Superuser about WOO’s new mentoring program, becoming an active technical contributor (ATC) and pronouns in Python.

What are your role (roles) in the OpenStack community?

In my day job at IBM I’m a team lead for a group of developers.  My team works OpenStack drivers and continuous integration (CI) for the z/VM hypervisor that runs on the mainframe.  My background is in test, so I like to follow the Tempest project and contribute when I can.  I’ve been involved with the Women of OpenStack group since the Paris summit.

What can you tell us about new mentoring initiative for WOO and how can people get involved?

The new mentoring program sponsored the Women of OpenStack is designed to be a lightweight mentoring initiative to provide technical or career guidance to beginners in the community. Mentees should already be part of the community; they should have gone through, or be familiar with the Upstream Training.
Technical mentoring doesn’t just mean coding, we’re looking for people who are a specialist in any area of OpenStack – for example docs or marketing. Technical mentors and mentees should expect to spend about an hour a week talking about projects to get involved in, people to meet, anything to help their mentees get to their next step.
Career mentors could be in a completely different area of OpenStack from their mentees. They should expect to spend about an hour a month with their mentees offering more general career guidance, maybe helping their mentees make connections in the community.
Right now we’re putting out a call for potential technical or career mentors.
You can read our guidelines and if you’re interested, fill out our mentor questionnaire.

We’re especially interested in mentors who will be attending the Summit Austin, since we’re planning a Speed Mentoring session Monday morning before the first keynote. This is like speed dating, where mentees will have five-to-10 minutes to talk to potential mentors, then cycle throughout the room for about an hour-and-a-half. At the end, people will fill out surveys with their preferences and we’ll contact people about potential matches. We’re hoping to do this at the beginning of the Summit, so hopefully mentors and mentees can have some face to face time throughout the week.

Why did you get involved in the mentoring initiative?

When I started in the community a few years ago, I was so grateful to have support from within my company.  I did go to the Upstream Training class and that was a great introduction to the community, but afterwards I really relied on fellow IBMers for guidance.  I was so grateful to people who helped me by suggesting bugs I could work on, providing first reviews of my code, answering questions and even proofreading my blog posts.  But not everyone who gets involved in the community has that support structure.  When the mentoring initiative was first mentioned, I jumped at the chance to build that support structure into the community.

Why is it important for women to get involved with OpenStack?

It’s interesting how often people ask that question in tech.  No one ever asks “why is it important for men to get involved with OpenStack?”  There’s nothing inherently gendered about OpenStack – the Python language doesn’t have pronouns.  Anyone should get involved with OpenStack because they want to contribute to an Open Source project that companies and researchers worldwide are relying on.  Our community should make sure that we’re open and supportive of anyone who wants to contribute.

What obstacles do women face when getting involved in the OpenStack community?

Probably many of the same issues that women face in tech in general.  Because we’re around 10-15 percent representation at the summits, it’s easy to be the only woman in the room.  And that’s intimidating, it can make it even harder for a newbie to feel comfortable speaking up.
It’s also interesting to walk around the summit marketplace floor as a woman.  Even when I had an Active Technical Contributor (ATC) badge on, many people would come up and speak to my male colleagues and not to me.  That made it easy to feel like I didn’t really belong.  I hope as more women join the community more people will recognize that women are an active part of the community and they make real contributions.  Women are cores and project team leads (PTLs); they serve on the board of the foundation and contribute in so many ways.  Initiatives like this Superuser series really help to get the word out.

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

I think the discussions about what should be in DefCore are really interesting.  I was fascinated by the Big Tent idea, because it’s great to be so open and welcoming, but I wondered how that would look, practically.  So I think DefCore is going to be really important going forward for vendors and users of OpenStack.  It’s great to see that people are really engaging in an active debate about it, instead of just saying “oh, we’d rather spend our time on code.”

What advice would you give to someone looking to become an Active Technical Contributor?

Don’t be afraid to pipe up on IRC.  When I started it took months before I felt comfortable doing anything more than lurking on openstack-qa. When I did finally get the courage to say something, everyone was really nice.  I felt stupid for waiting as long as I did.  Also the Planet OpenStack blog aggregator is really great for knowing what’s going on in the community.

OpenStack has been called a lifelong learning project for those who work in it – what do you do to stay on top of things and/or learn more?

Listservs and Planet OpenStack are great resources, even just to skim through.  There’s also a really active Twitter community for OpenStack.  I really never used my Twitter account before I got involved with OpenStack, but now I keep it up all the time.

Cover Photo // CC BY NC