Almost any open-source project of a certain size is powered by a globally distributed team. Different contributors from different parts of the globe have a similar interest and gather virtually to work on it, often in their free time. Many people underestimate the potential of building a valuable product this way, but today no one can ignore the incredible impact that open-source had on our technological progress. There are thousands of open-source projects that have anywhere from one to thousands of contributors. Each of them has a leader or some sort of steering committee and most of them work in a fairly similar way. If you think about it, this is by far the most successful model of software development.

There are many ideas that can be taken from the “open source way” of building a product that you can apply to manage any type of distributed team working on any type of project. The open-source model has shown us that we can work efficiently in an async way, across multiple timezones, that allows people to combine their personal life with building successful products. 

Monica will share her experiences in building and leading several globally distributed teams of paid engineers working on open source projects.  She gained her experience on building an open-source project and a community around it by starting Packetbeat, which was acquired by Elastic. Packetbeat was the starting point of the Beats project, which is one of the most downloaded products of Elastic with over 100M downloads. Her experience continues with leading the team that develops and maintains Logstash, another very popular open-source project.

One of the things she learned during her experience is the value of 1:1 mentorship relationships and how they can be a powerful tool for encouraging and growing diverse talent. After leaving Elastic, she founded, a non-profit initiative that offers free mentorship for women and underrepresented groups in tech. This presentation will include the learnings from creating and running this mentorship platform.

The talk will have the following structure:

  • The open-source development model

    • Constraints: multiple locations, multiple timezones, reduced hours

    • Characteristics: async communication, PRs, code reviews

    • Benefits: scalability, sense of accomplishment, leadership

    • Concerns: inclusion, lack of professionalism 

  • The open-source development model for teams:

    • Autonomy, flexible working schedule

    • Favor async communication, but still take advantage of the technology

    • How can you still do performance management? Don’t count PRs

  • Mentorship

    • The value of mentorship for increasing diversity and inclusivity

    • The mission of and how you can help as well


FOSS Backstage 2021