Spotlight on 5 women in open source

Five talented women in open source you should know

Careers in open source, desk chair in a field
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Women in open source are making revolutionary contributions and paving the way for others as they innovate in the field. In tandem with the Grace Hopper conference happening this week, I put together a healthy dose of knowledge on the subject with a quick spotlight on five talented women in open source. A few of them give advice on working in tech.

Carol Smith pic from her blogCarol Smith, Google

A California State University graduate with a journalism degree, Carol Smith manages Google’s Open Source Programs, including the Google Summer of Code, a global program that pairs student developers with mentors as they work on code for various open source software projects around the world. Since the program’s launch in 2005, it has involved more than 7,500 student participants from more than 97 countries, producing more than 50 million lines of code. Smith has also spoken at numerous tech conferences including OSCON, OSS, POSSCON and Typo3 Con North America.

(Photo from Carol's blog)

Carol’s advice for women in open source:

"Persevere. There will be days, just with any job, that it seems like things are going wrong or you feel like you made the wrong choice. In open source those feelings seem so much more public, primarily because we work with such open and honest communities. Persevere. It will get better, and ultimately I think you'll be happy you did, because open source is such a rewarding and fulfilling line of work."

Jennifer Pahlka headshot, Code for AmericaJennifer Pahlka, Code for America

Through the nonprofit Code for America, Jennifer Pahlka has redefined public administration careers, proving that government work can be innovative and relevant. Pahlka is the executive director of Code for America, which she has described in a TED Talk as the "Peace Corps for geeks." The organization helps create and deploy open-source software for local governments and has a fellowship program that pairs tech innovators with city governments across the country to show them the possibilities afforded by new technology. Prior to founding Code for America, Pahlka graduated from Yale University, led the video game group at CMP Media, and co-chaired the Web 2.0 conferences.

(Photo courtesy of Code for America)

Photo taken by Antony Sastre at Nordic Ruby 2013Katrina Owen, Exercism

Self-taught software developer Katrina Owen studied molecular biology and biological chemistry at the University of Oslo in Norway. She originally presented on Therapeutic Refactoring at Nordic Ruby in 2012 and has been invited to present the same talk at other tech conferences. Owen also founded Exercism, a popular website where coders can critique and learn from each other’s work. Within the first few months of its 2013 launch, more than 1,000 people submitted more than 10,000 pieces of code.

(Photo taken by Antony Sastre at Nordic Ruby 2013)

Katrina’s advice for women in open source:

"Find problems that you like to solve, and then focus on solving them. Don't worry too much about what people are saying or thinking. Work trumps opinions."

Danese Cooper of PayPalDanese Cooper, PayPal

Danese Cooper earned a Bachelor of Arts in French Literature from UCLA and credits her French language training with helping to pave her neural pathways to eventually learn programming. Following work for tech giants including Apple, Intel, and Symantec, and at the nonprofit that operates the open source encyclopedia Wikipedia, Cooper joined PayPal earlier this year as its new head of open source. Cooper is working to develop and implement open source strategies at the online payment company.

(Photo courtesy PayPal)

Leah Silber of TildeLeah Silber, Tilde

Leah Silber attended City University of New York-Brooklyn College and is a core team member for Ember.js, an open source JavaScript library for building web applications. She’s also an organizer of the annual Golden Gate Ruby Conference and a cofounder of Tilde Inc., a small team of open source developers in Portland, Oregon, who provide consulting, training, and development services. In addition, she’s worked in developer relations, community management, marketing, and content creation for early-stage tech startups.

(Photo courtesy of Leah Tilde)

Leah’s advice for women working in open source:

"It can be intimidating to get involved in a project only to realize you might be the first and only woman at the table. Stick with it though! Putting aside the unfortunate bad actors who exist in any line of work, I’ve found open source folk to be extraordinarily welcoming and respectful. You’ll find fantastic opportunities to expand your skills, meet great people, and really push your career forward."

About the author

Adam Levenson - Adam Levenson is the community manager at UNC-Chapel Hill’s MPA@UNC: online Master of Public Administration – a top ranked MPA program. To learn more about Adam and his various passions, you can follow him on Twitter or Google+.