The Apache Software Foundation Blog

Tuesday December 12, 2017

Success at Apache: What a Long Strange (and Great) Trip It's Been

By Jim Jagielski

It is normally during this time of year that people get awful retrospective. We look over the last 12 months and come to terms with what kind of year it has been. We congratulate ourselves on the good and (hopefully) learn from the bad. We basically assess the ending year and start planning, even a little bit, on the one to come.

In general, we reminisce.

I am thinking not about 2017, however, but instead of 1995 and the origins of The Apache Software Foundation. And what a long, strange, and great trip it's been. And how incredibly lucky I've been to be a part of it.

A common saying is that success is mostly about being there at the right place at the right time, and although I'm not sure about the "success" part, it certainly applies to me. At the time I was working at NASA and was starting off a side business as an ISP and Web Hoster, and using the old NCSA web-server. I had created a small reputation for myself as an "expert" on a flavor of UNIX called A/UX, which was Apple's UNIX offering at the time. In addition to being the editor of the FAQ for A/UX, I also ported a bunch of "free software" to that platform and that's how I got started with Apache, providing patches to support A/UX, which is what I used as my web hosting platform. It was really no different than what I did for other software projects at the time.

And then something wonderful happened. I got hooked.

I really, really enjoyed the people I was collaborating with. I wasn't an "outsider" providing patches, I was part of the inner circle. I was a full fledged member of the Apache Group. I started to really understand just how all this really could change the world, and how I could maybe be a small part of it.

As a result, Apache changed my life, literally. Instead of doing software development as a way of "getting my job done" (at NASA, I was a power system engineer, and so I would code modeling and simulation software for spacecraft solar arrays, batteries and orbital mechanics), I starting doing software development as my job, in addition to my hobby. Apache and Open Source became a huge part of my life, and my career changed to focus on Open Source almost primarily, a change that continues to this day.

During this time I've been fortunate enough to work with, and learn from, extremely talented people. Not only related to code, but legal matters, inter-personal skills, presentation skills, etc. I've had opportunities that I never imagined and met people I never would have had expected otherwise. I'm made great friends. I've been mentored by incredibly giving people and have mentored in return. And have seen my mentees become mentors themselves.

Over the years, I've seen Apache grow from a rag-tagged group of people working on a web server to one of the leading Open Source foundations in the world with more than 300 projects under our belt. I've been blessed to serve on the board of the ASF for every single year since we incorporated in 1999, seeing 2nd and now 3rd "generation" Apache Members take on the reins.

The Open Source movement, and especially Apache, have given more to me than I could ever pay back, and that is why I still volunteer and contribute. Of course, to be honest, I still get a kick out of it, and love what I am doing, and continue to enjoy the opportunities and, especially, the people that I get to work with.

But, you see, I'm nothing special. All this is also open and available to you. You too can change the world, and have your world changed in return. We all have talents that can be shared, talents that can be recognized and rewarded. Apache is a family, always looking for new family members. 

So take that first step. Find a project and community you want to a part of. Jump in. Have fun. Grow. Learn. Teach. Live.

But just be prepared to get hooked, and have your life change.


Jim Jagielski is a well known and acknowledged expert and visionary in Open Source, an accomplished coder, and frequent engaging presenter on all things Open, Web and Cloud related. As a developer, he’s made substantial code contributions to just about every core technology behind the Internet and Web and in 2012 was awarded the O’Reilly Open Source Award and in 2015 received the Innovation Luminary Award from the EU. He is likely best known as one of the developers and co-founders of the Apache Software Foundation, where he has previously served as both Chairman and President and where he’s been on the Board Of Directors since day one. Currently he is Vice-Chairman. He's served as President of the Outercurve Foundation and was also a director of the Open Source Initiative (OSI). Up until recently, he worked at Capital One as a Sr. Director in the Tech Fellows program. He credits his wife Eileen in keeping him sane. 

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"Success at Apache" is a monthly blog series that focuses on the processes behind why the ASF "just works". 1) Project Independence https://s.apache.org/CE0V 2) All Carrot and No Stick https://s.apache.org/ykoG 3) Asynchronous Decision Making https://s.apache.org/PMvk 4) Rule of the Makers https://s.apache.org/yFgQ 5) JFDI --the unconditional love of contributors https://s.apache.org/4pjM 6) Meritocracy and Me https://s.apache.org/tQQh 7) Learning to Build a Stronger Community https://s.apache.org/x9Be 8) Meritocracy. https://s.apache.org/DiEo 9) Lowering Barriers to Open Innovation https://s.apache.org/dAlg 10) Scratch your own itch. https://s.apache.org/Apah 11) What a Long Strange (and Great) Trip It's Been https://s.apache.org/gVuN

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