Opening Doors Through Open Source Projects
Professor Tejas Parikh knew that an open-source project would be a fantastic experience for his Information Systems students at Northeastern University, and began looking for opportunities at his employer, Red Hat, a tech company in the Boston area. In the spring of 2019, Professor Parikh found an open source project at work to which students can contribute and made sure to advertise the opportunity as soon as he could.
His excitement about the opportunity was matched by his students Krish Jain, MSIS’19, Renu Hadke, MSIS’19, Neha Jain, MSIS’19, and Dhanisha Phadate, MSCSE’19, who all jumped at the opportunity to apply their skills developed in the classroom, to industry work.
Open Source projects are done by communities of sometimes over one hundred engineers from all over the world who work on the same project by communicating with each other through comments about the coding and formation of the project.
“The beauty of the open-source community is that it doesn’t stop anyone,” said Professor Parikh. “You can go right in and code or even just update the technical documents, send a pull request, and the community will review it and then accept it if it meets the standards.”
Initially, it was a daunting task for the four graduate students, but they have found their stride along the way.
“We were a little scared working with an open-source community for the first time,” said Phadate. “But now we work very freely with them. We can raise pull request or if there is a bug or anything, we can directly drop an email to them and explain that we a facing a specific issue and ask them how to go about fixing it.”
For this open source project, Professor Parikh’s students worked on developing an Ansible module for Podman. Podman is a container management technology that Red Hat has as a replacement for Docker. Ansible is an open-source software provisioning, configuration management, and application-deployment tool.
“For Ansible you’re automating your infrastructure and you’re automating the configuration of that infrastructure,” said Professor Parikh.
Professor Parikh went on to explain that Ansible can be looked at as a tool for automation and that there was no way to use Podman in Ansible directly before the technology (Podman module for Ansible) that his four students developed with their open source project. IT professionals will use Ansible Podman because it will make it easier for them to make a broad change across an entire organization. While the students are proud of their product, they value the overall experience of working on an open-source project even more.
“What was so great about working with Red Hat on an open-source project as a student is you find out how different professionals work and how to cooperate with them in terms of structural codes,” explained Hadke. “You communicate with them more in terms of your work by writing comments for each part of the code. So your work must be clean so that people across the world will know which part of the code is doing which work.”
All of the students spoke about the confidence that this newfound ability to communicate in this specific type of forum has given them in terms of going into the industry.
“This was great for us because we got to know the code that other professional developers have written,” said Krish Jain. “We came to understand their code and to analyze how it works and then develop something new which connects products that different people have built. Open source gives a lot of opportunities to students to see how the industry works and to understand the works of other people and how to build off of that.”
When asked about the idea of the project being finished, Professor Parikh and his students collectively laugh.
“Well, it’s tech, so nothing is ever really finished,” Parikh joked. “But the real value from this work is the experience that students got working in the open-source environment.”
by Jess DeWitt