Contributor Blog #8: Interview with Priya Sharma
A Journey of Self-Discovery through Open Source
We have many diverse contributors in opensource that help upstream communities in unconventional ways, which doesn’t require any coding or development skills. Starting with a non-code contribution can help anyone overcome the sense of failure and not being good enough, and it can also serve as a springboard for our open source adventure. This interview series aims to highlight some non-code open source contributions that anyone can make right now to get started contributing.
For this month’s edition, we talked about community building, documentation, blogging and hosting meetups with Priya Sharma.
Can you introduce yourself and share your journey so far?
Hi, I am Priya, an average not-so-happening person (at least, that’s what I think about myself) from Indore, the cleanest city of India. I am currently working as a Technical Consultant with HotWax Systems. I joined HotWax immediately after graduation. It was here that I first heard about Open Source, which later brought a lot of positive changes in my life.
I started contributing small chunks of code and fixing small bugs on the Apache OFBiz project, which also happened to be the spine of the company back then. We used to have community Saturdays to come together and make contributions to the project, as our entire business was so closely connected to this project, and our founding team had a lot of love and respect for open source.
Initially, I wasn’t really happy with the idea of working on Saturdays and being able to do nothing. I could hardly name a few open source projects and knew almost nothing about the communities. But when my first patch got merged, and I received a thank-you email, it changed something inside me. I wanted to do more of it. Maybe because it gave me a sense of freedom, like it’s here that I can speak my own thoughts, make mistakes, try, learn, and share it with people. It was a completely new arena for me, and I just knew nothing about the processes, etc., and maybe that worked in my favor as I was free of all the presumptions and unwanted clutter.
Later, one of my colleagues sent out an email inviting volunteers for an initiative called Apache Local Community (ALC), and I just said yes without a second thought. It was then that I actually took a peek at the vast ecosystem of open source, different types of opportunities, and how it positively influences the contributors involved. I was blessed to be at the right place at the right time.
I started giving sessions on open source and sharing my journey, and it kind of became my mission to promote open source. I am so fascinated by the fact that open source communities work so effortlessly, benefiting everyone just by sharing good things.
Being a software developer, I always asked myself if it was worth writing code, earning money, and just dying like that. Open source was the answer to my query. You not only write code but work towards society, help people, and work on yourself.
From a naive user to a committer and finally an ASF member, I cherish every moment of this journey.
What projects have you contributed to?
Initially, I started contributing to the Apache OFBiz project, which mostly involved code contributions. People used to say that the project was ahead of its time, but lacked documentation. It was a massive project with numerous services and modules, a complete world in itself. Even today, we find it astounding how this software can take care of every business need.
Later on, I became interested in community building and got involved in the Apache Community Development project, which primarily focuses on engaging new contributors and initiatives to support communities and make them more inclusive and welcoming.
How did your contribution journey start?
I started my contribution with the Apache OFBIz project, which is an open-source ERP development framework that caters to any business’s needs. It’s like an iceberg, with half above the sea and a larger portion below it.
Initially, I struggled to find issues that I could turn into a reasonable contribution, given the enormous codebase. But every bug I fixed taught me a lot, and it gave me a fulfilling feeling when I could fix it. I received a lot of support and motivation from my colleagues for these contributions.
Since it was also the underlying framework of our projects, it became a bit easier for me. At the same time, almost everyone in the company was a contributor to the same project. But I didn’t want my contributions to be a company effort where I was making the PR, and some colleague was merging it. That gave me a feeling of appeasement and didn’t allow me to be happy with my contributions. After all, open source is about individuals, and freedom and independence are essential parts of its philosophy.
The community members, especially Jacques, were very kind and supportive. That’s when I got the push that I needed to boost my contribution. Soon enough, I could communicate and explain myself effortlessly, and that is what I think is my major takeaway from this entire experience.
After around a year of consistent contributions, I was invited as a committer to the project. The key here is consistency. They want to have people who will stay with them long-term and share that same sense of honorship for the project.
In what ways have you contributed?
I started with small bug fixes like minor alignment fixes, then moved on to code improvements such as implementing some best practices, reporting some bugs, and testing other PRs.
After being involved with the ALC initiative, we started having sessions and webinars about ASF and open source. We also conducted meetups with other projects. I also try to answer questions on the mailing lists and help fix bugs on the website. Last year, we also represented the foundation at the Open Source India 2022 meetup in Bangalore.
I also write posts about different projects and their utilities to engage more people and help spread the word.
You can read my posts by looking for the hashtag #forkkiyakya
As part of the ALC initiative, we deliver awareness sessions about open source and Apache Way.
It is one of our mission at ALC to empower students and developer community in tier2/3 cities, Open Source is the doorway to their dreams.
Github is one of the most important tool in open source contributions. We help young minds gain some handon experience to facilitate their contributions.
Can you talk about some of the challenges you might have faced?
Firstly, I believe that keeping up the pace and staying motivated is the only challenge. Replies might be delayed, and sometimes you might not get a reply at all (although this is mostly not the case). Sometimes things don’t go as expected, and your solution might not be the best or what is expected, and you might be asked to change or come up with an alternative solution. In such situations, we have to be patient and remain positive.
Thirdly, you might feel that there is a lack of mentorship, or that you are not being noticed, or that your contributions are not good enough. In that case, go ahead and ask for help and mentorship. People will be happy to help, and contributions (no matter how small or big) are always welcome and appreciated. Just have patience and believe in yourself.
Your efforts must be consistent for your contributions to be recognized. There is no set timeline for rewards, as it is a natural process.
How do I get started with contributing your way?
For newcomers, I always suggest starting slowly and keeping realistic milestones (although I did not have any milestones in mind). Take some time to understand the project by first using it, building your understanding, and then getting involved with the community. However, I have also seen experienced individuals deliver amazing new features as their first contributions, so there is no “best” or “worst” way. Everyone can have their own path and approach to bring out their best for the community.
Why should one contribute to the Apache community?
Everyone can have different motivations. For me, it was the feeling of giving back. I feel good when I am able to help people or do something that has an impact. Apart from that, the Apache Software Foundation is a very welcoming community. So anyone who is hesitant to participate because they are from a minority, not well-represented in society, or lack confidence should know that there are many things they can achieve.
The Apache Software Foundation is a big brand in the industry, with various widely-used projects and people from all over the world participating and contributing to them. Additionally, The Apache Way, which is the heart and soul of the communities here, breaks down barriers. Everyone is given equal importance, regardless of where they come from. Only your merits represent you.
All decisions, whether they are about releases or inviting new committers, are made through voting, giving everyone a fair chance to be a part of it. Every discussion, no matter how small, takes place on mailing lists, which keeps you aware of what’s going on, who the active members are, what the hot topics are, and how to respond to emails, even when you are in different time zones. Moreover, this keeps you up to date with the topics discussed when you weren’t even looking.
Above all, we believe that community is above code, and we celebrate our community each day. Therefore, it is a great place for anyone to start fresh and shape their own open-source journey
Recommend one unconventional contributor whom you admire and tell us more about them.
I admire Sharan Foga a lot. She is a wonderful person who believes in helping others move forward. She has always been someone you can reach out to whenever you need help. Despite her stature and experience, she is very grounded and supportive
Priya, I want to extend my sincere thanks for sharing your valuable thoughts and experiences regarding your contributions to open source communities. Your insights were truly priceless, and I am certain that our readers will greatly benefit from them. Thank you for taking the time to participate in such a productive discussion.
I will leave you all with my favorite takeaway from this interview..
Your efforts must be consistent for your contributions to be recognized.
- Priya’s Posts | https://www.linkedin.com/search/results/all/?keywords=forkkiyakya&origin=GLOBAL_SEARCH_HEADER&sid=Z0C
- Apache OFBiz project | https://ofbiz.apache.org/
- Apache Local Community - Indore | https://www.linkedin.com/company/alcindorechapter/
- Apache Community Developement Project | https://community.apache.org/
Priya Sharma is currently working with HotWax Systems as a Technical Consultant in Indore, India. She’s been an active open-source user and a contributor since 2017, a committer on Apache OFBiz, PMC Member for Apache Community Development and an ASF Member.Priya loves talking about open source, helping people and solving problems. She can be reached out on LinkedIn, Twitter, personal mail or community mail
This blog post is part of the Feb edition of UnconventionalContributors, our monthly interview series about different ways to contribute to opensource. If you like this article, check out the stories of our other contributors and stay tuned for our upcoming editions.
Have a story to share? We’d be delighted to get in touch and discuss sharing your story. We are also open to suggestions for new content that will foster the community’s growth.
We’ll see you all in the next one. Till then, Happy contributing!👋🏻