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From Sally Khudairi ...@apache.org>
Subject Success at Apache: The Apache Way for Executives
Date Mon, 09 Jul 2018 15:30:10 GMT
[this post is available online at https://s.apache.org/2Wg8 ]

by Alex Karasulu

I'm a long time member of the Apache Software Foundation and have been an executive officer
of several corporations over the course of the past 20 years. I've co-founded several projects
in the community and mentored several others.

The "Apache Way" has benefited several aspects of my life, however I never imagined it would
help make me a better executive. Even non-technical executives, in organizations totally outside
of the realm of technology, can benefit from the Zen of the Apache Way.

Life is hard when you're stupid

I was involved in a number of early dot com startups as an executive, however that was before
my involvement with Apache and long before any exposure to the Apache Way. To this day, I
remember how opportunistic decisions for short term gains, the lack of collaboration, openness
and communication kept causing friction that made my job and ultimately my life much harder
than it had to be.

Learning while on the job

Exposure to the philosophy began early even while lurking on mailing lists but picked up more
while incubating the Apache Directory Project where I worked with others to grow an active
community. Meanwhile, I was the Chief Technology Officer of a large financial services company
called Alliance Capital Partners. It was 2002, and the first time I had to conduct myself
as a C-Suite executive in an enterprise that was obviously not a technology company. Incidentally,
the lack of hands-on coding got me working on a pet project that ultimately became the Apache
Directory Server and Apache MINA. The project was medicine to keep me sane and technically
up to date. Unbeknownst to me, this would save my career, not as a developer, but as an executive.

The Apache Way makes life easier

The most important and first lesson I learned from the Apache Community was to avoid short
term gains that were unsustainable in the long term. This very important core principle derives
in part from the concept of "community over code". It does not matter how much code you write,
or how good your code is if you cannot get along, compromise, and communicate respectfully
with your peers. The code does not write itself, its the community behind it that keeps the
code alive. Involving only the most technically proficient contributors should never trump
the need to build a sustainable community. I saw projects often suffer from self-centered
yet skilled coders added as committers for short term gain at the detriment of a healthy sustainable
community. So as a corollary to community over code, avoid short term gains that get in the
way of the long term sustainability of an organization's culture. This has immense applications
for any executive in both technical and non-technical fields.

While growing my new development organization in this financial services organization, I decided
to avoid hiring people that seemed to be very skilled technically but lacked the desire or
social skills to collaborate with others. Thanks to experiences at Apache, I could start telling
them apart much better than I did before. Also, I was calmer and less anxious when hiring
to fill gaps on the team. It was better not to have the resource than to introduce a bad apple
onto the team. 

This was contrary to how I had operated earlier and started producing great results. The application
of this basic principle lead to a solid team that worked better together than ever before
in the past. They were able to leverage each others' skills thanks to collaboration to out
perform any one skilled developer. This is all thanks to the concept of community over code
where social skills, and collaboration were stressed more than technical skills. In the end,
being kind, listening, and asking smart questions begets the kind of collaboration needed
to build complex software. 

Not only did this help with developers, it also worked with teams that did not produce code
like project managers under the CTO office. The rule is golden, and IMHO should be applied
to any executive's decision making process regardless of the nature of the business or topic
at hand.

Inner Source is the Apache Way

Executives drive the architecture and cultural direction of their organizations and the Apache
Way provides a solid framework to create healthy foundations through open collaboration, communication
and the availability of knowledge for everyone to participate.

Several very successful technology companies have adopted the Apache Way without really realizing
they're doing so.  In 2000, Tim O'Reilly coined the term Inner Source https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Inner_source
to apply Open Source principles to any organization. Tim was essentially talking about applying
the Apache Way within organizations. The Apache Way has proven itself with companies like
IBM, Google, Microsoft, SAP, PayPal and even financial institutions like Capital One which
have adopted the Inner Source methodology which is one and the same.

Without going into the details, of which we the Apache Community are intimately aware (using
it daily within our projects), I would like to stress how important the approach is for executives
outside of Apache to understand. The Apache Way can save organizations from all out disaster,
not to mention billions of dollars by impacting the quality of services and products they
produce. Again this does not only apply to companies in technological sectors. Capital One
a financial services company has also used open source methods for internal projects to be
extremely successful https://www.oreilly.com/ideas/using-open-source-methods-for-internal-software-projects
.

Conclusions

The Apache Way provides several benefits to executives aware of the approach. Executives can
directly integrate the principles of the Apache Way into their own thinking to improve their
potential for personal success. However the biggest value comes from the cultural framework
it produces for the entire organization, however to leverage it in their organizations, executives
must be aware of it. The Apache Way has personally helped me grow as an effective executive
and it can help others as well. It also provides a compass for how to properly build effective
organizations, not only technical ones.



Alex Karasulu is an entrepreneur with over 25 years of experience in the software industry
and a recognized leader in the open source community. He is widely known as the original author
of the Apache Directory Server, used by IBM both as the foundation of the Rational Directory
Server and also integrated into the Websphere Application Server. Alex co-founded several
Apache projects, including MINA, and Felix, among others, which, along with their communities,
thrive independently past his day-to-day involvement in the projects. He is the founder of
Safehaus, where he authored the first low-resource mobile OTP algorithms in open source with
the OATH community that was later adopted by Google in their Authenticator product. In addition
to IBM, Atlassian, Cisco, and Polycom are just a few of the many companies that sell commercial
hardware and software solutions that bundle or embed software and products that Alex has created.
Alex holds a BSc. in Computer Science and Physics from Columbia University. He is the founder
and co-CEO of OptDyn.

= = =

"Success at Apache" is a monthly blog series that focuses on the processes behind why the
ASF "just works" https://blogs.apache.org/foundation/category/SuccessAtApache

= = =

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