December 22, 2020

Building A Career With GNOME

Sriram Ramkrishna has contributed to GNOME for more than twenty years! In addition to being active within the Project and a Foundation Member, Sri is a Friend of GNOME. Sri’s career has been shaped by his experiences with GNOME.

It’s been a year of giving – where I make a regular monthly contribution to the GNOME Foundation.

You might ask why I donate even though I spend so much time working on the GNOME Project. The answer lies in the fact that I can wholly attribute my success in my career to being part of GNOME. I want to give back.

In the U.S., a lot of graduates of universities give money to their alma mater because the education they received gave them the opportunities to succeed, and so give back as a way to pay it forward. It’s in that same vein that I also am donating.

When I started with GNOME I was a systems administrator working on UNIX systems. When I had my first project in GNOME it was a non-coding project. My contract with my employer prohibited me from doing freelance coding so I had to find other ways of contributing. It wasn’t a big deal — I actually disliked coding unless it was to solve specific problems for myself. Besides GNOME had plenty of ambitious smart coders already!

Instead, I explored a broad set of new skill that are only now considered useful and strategic. Developer relations and project relations were things that relatively were unknown when I started in 1998, but became quite valuable. With GNOME, I moved from water cooler IRC conversations to giving talks at conferences and engaging with the free software community and the wider open source community.

I was given an opportunity to hone a craft that is now seen as very valuable and pertinent in this grand world of open source ecosystems that I would never had a chance to explore if I had stayed in my lane as a systems administrator. Now I engage with some of the smartest people I have ever known — and amazingly enough have a mutual respect.

Working on a desktop environment isn’t easy — the engineering that is involved is only a part of what needs to be done in the project. Managing user expectations, dealing with internal conflicts, and being the most reasonable person in the room are skills are valuable skills that are needed in every project — and no project can provide that opportunity more than GNOME.