While at the 2016 OpenStack summit in Austin, TX, I came upon a creative artwork titled the Diversity of Innovation. Marveling at the colorful graphic, I was intrigued by its powerful message that gave me pause. Open Source, by design is a fertile ground for innovation as an environment that continuously brings complementing perspectives to bear on forward thinking technological concepts. But, as the graphic implies, add a healthy dose of diversity to it and magic happens - an ecosystem already primed for innovation is injected with the diversity of the practitioners with varying characteristics and backgrounds. Diversity met Innovation in an environment of Open Source at the OpenStack Summit - a conference where Intel VP Imad Sousou punctuated his keynote with the phrase --Open Stack Open Source Open Mind !!
Little did I know that I would really live the experience of SouSou’s message during the conference. There were two distinct encounters with a couple of attendees at this summit that characterized this message culminating in the poster on display on the last day of the conference. Diversity can be manifested through varied representation from different countries, cultures, professions and other demographics. But, there are ways that we can be diverse ourselves as individuals -- as my two open encounters reinforced at this conference.
I attended a panel session on Open Stack in the Enterprise -- Are we Doing Enough? This panel, moderated by one of the industry analysts had representation from multiple vendors as well as The OpenDaylight Project -- represented by its Executive Director, Neela Jacques.
Many of the thoughts that Neela shared about the need for an Open Platform in the Telco world during his panel session resonated with me. Over lunch, Neela was very cogent and articulate in his passionate thoughts around Open Culture and Open Source making me wonder if this white Caucasian looking guy I just met was born with Open Source in his bloodstream. I was almost right!
Neela explained that he spent many years in an Ashram in India where he had seen his mother lead a group of volunteers who always came together to collaborate and do goodness. People who did this driven by their passion took it upon themselves to drive the community forward. Based upon their skills and abilities, some of them emerged as experts in different domains. Meritocracy. The environment Neela grew up in exuded a culture that was flat by nature where titles did not mean much. Sound familiar?
Hello Open Source !!
No wonder Neela was able to articulate his thoughts around Open Source concepts so clearly. And then, he said that he was originally from France. Talk about diverse backgrounds ! Remember, the cup of innovation served with a shot of Open Culture at Costa Coffee in downtown Raleigh, NC?
My encounter was with Nithya Ruff, Open Source Strategist at Sandisk. Nithya shared her background from the state of Karnataka in India and various activities she is engaged with in the Silicon Valley for different causes. Having exchanged some ideas with her on Social Media, I had a good feel for where she stood on Open Source (hello! Check out her role!) but I was pleasantly surprised to note that she is also a passionate advocate of Diversity. She was one of the moderators of a discussion at this summit that focused on the vision of a world where the OpenStack community is truly and completely blind to meaningless differences in gender, color, creed and culture. Hello Diversity !! Checkout Nithya's quote in the graphic displayed at the conference: "A Company's Diversity can strengthen the core workforce" !!
People like Nithya and Neela have diversity in their upbringing which is very likely to influence their thought processes. Diversity in representation across color, sex, gender and race within a community is a good first step. But, there is a lot to be said about the diversity within us which represents our own true mindset.
Real diversity comes from within.
The OpenStack Summit had 7,500 attendees in 2016 compared to the 75 that it had in 2010. The community has come a long way with representation from several countries around the world. I heard so many different languages in the elevators and hallways that it did not quite feel like being in Austin, TX once you entered the Austin Convention Center.
I am sure the OpenStack community has several individuals like Neela and Nithya from all parts of the world with diversity ingrained in their mindsets.
Which is why it will grow. Because it is such individuals who continuously give shape and form to the culture of Open Source -- one person at a time.
Like somebody I know very well recently said: Culture and Technology can drive the future of OpenStack.
Let the diverse minds prevail.
What say you?