We can accomplish more by sharing | Opensource.com

We can accomplish more by sharing

What I've learned from the open source way
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This is the first in a series exploring the things I have learned from the open source way during my time at Red Hat.

About 9 years ago I joined Red Hat and my life changed forever.

As for my background, currently I'm the Senior Vice President of People & Brand at Red Hat, responsible for shepherding the human resources, learning, and brand and creative services functions within the company. I am a mother, a lawyer, a business school grad, a female executive in a male-dominated industry.

And I believe in the open source way.

So in this series, I'd like to share with you some of the key things I’ve learned from the open source way during my time at Red Hat--both from a personal perspective and as someone that has participated in building the brand and stewarding the culture of a true open source organization.

Today, I want to start with one simple idea many lawyers would not agree with, but is the foundation for how I need to approach my job here at Red Hat:

We can accomplish more by sharing.

Often when people think about open source principles, they think about them from an open source developer’s perspective. They think about sharing code and operating transparently to make better software faster. Because development is done in the open, many developers work on projects and get experience that previously was only available to them inside large, proprietary software firms. The quality of the overall development project benefits too. When developers share, innovation happens faster, and with many eyes, all bugs are shallow.

If you are reading opensource.com, you probably already know this.

I first learned about the open source way years ago as a tech lawyer in a private law firm when I was introduced to Red Hat. I found the open source model interesting, but from a different perspective than developers. For context, at the time, many technology licensing lawyers started talking about open source because of the innovative use of copyright law to protect transparency and sharing of the open source code through the general public license (GPL).

For those not already familiar with it, the GPL is a license that turns copyright law upside down (some call it a “copyleft” license). It is used to ensure improvements to the code are shared with the community and that the open source code is distributed along with the object code.

The idea of enforcing sharing of code with copyright law completely the opposite of what I had been doing as a technology lawyer to that point. I had drafted and negotiated many proprietary licenses built on keeping source code secret and prohibiting sharing to protect IP.

This new license gave me the opportunity to use the law to help people share. Cool!

I had the opportunity to join Red Hat soon after its IPO. When I joined, it doubled the size of the legal department. As the second lawyer, my job was to negotiate any deal we were doing, so in the process, I spent a lot of time educating, evangelizing, and share with other lawyers this new and innovative use of copyright law to spur technology innovation to the advantage of our customers.

As my career path moved me from the legal department into a role as the head of human resources, and now both people and brand, it has become very clear to me that sharing has the power to spur innovation and create value or solve problems in most any subject, not just software development. I became not just a true believer in the power of “enforcing” sharing as the default through the law, but also in the way it shapes company culture. To be transparent, sometimes in legal and HR, sharing simply can't be done because of issues like confidentiality. And when you haven't figured out all of the implications of a decision, sometimes defaulting to sharing early and often ends up being tough for people to handle. So, while sharing information does produce better results, it doesn't always make my job easier!

In the next few posts in this series, I’ll show you some of the places we’ve experimented with sharing beyond the GPL, and I’ll also introduce some of the other ways we’ve seen the open source way impact our culture and work here at Red Hat.

If you want to share your experience in sharing or would like to hear more about any of the things I discuss in these posts, please let me know in the comments section below.

I’d love to share (as much as possible). :)

About the author

DeLisa Alexander - DeLisa Alexander | DeLisa is Executive Vice President and Chief People Officer at Red Hat. Under her leadership, this team focuses on acquiring, developing, and retaining talent and enhancing the Red Hat culture and brand. In her nearly 15 years with the company, DeLisa has also worked in the Office of General Counsel, where she wrote Red Hat's first subscription agreement and closed the first deals with its OEMs. Today in leading the company's global human resources and employment branding...