Priyanka Sharma

In open source communities, we meet people every day.  We probably know their current role and responsibilities, but we don’t always have perspective on the history, education, and career path that made them who they are.  These are some of the untold stories of open source.  

At the Linux Foundation, we’re a couple of weeks away from launching a new podcast series, The Untold Stories of Open Source.  For our blog readers, you’re getting a sneak peek into a few of the stories that will kick off our series.  Today, we’ll share perspectives from episode 1, Priyanka Sharma.

After Graduating

Priyanka Sharma is an evangelist for the power of community in open source. Okay, she is much more than that, and we will get to that in a bit, but her passion and what drives all of her other successes in open source is the power of an inclusive, supportive community. 

Priyanka didn’t begin in open source. After graduating from Stanford University in 2009 with a degree in computer science, she started her career at Google in the online partnership group, where she was a technical consultant onboarding new Doubleclick clients and acted as an interim project manager for internal insights tools. Following Google, she held roles at Outright and GoDaddy, including integrating the Outright product into the GoDaddy sales catalog.  However, she was bitten by the build-a-business bug years earlier. In 2014, she gathered up some ideas and funding, experimenting with consumer products, but nothing was sticking. 

A Road to TechCrunch Disrupt

She realized that her business partner had built a time-tracking app for himself that was geared towards software developers. It was plugin based, so you could put it into your IDE and have time tracking at your fingertips. After all, who wants to track time, so the easier you make it, the better. 

All of the plugins were open source – introducing her to the world that she was about to live in. She noticed how people were drawn to the plugins, customizing them to work better for what they needed. She thought, “Maybe this is what we should focus on.” So, with a path she couldn’t have seen coming, she ended up getting into developer tools. The plugins were eventually used by 100,000 developers, featured by TechCruch Disrupt, and chosen by Y-Combinator

Setting Out on Her Own

But, as she says, “All that glitters isn’t gold.” There were challenges every day as with any startup, from fundraising to public visibility. Getting into Y-Combinator was a pivotal moment, forcing the team to come to terms with what it would take to work together to make a real commitment to the project together, as a team. 

Priyanka thought back to that time, “I think you can overcome anything when you are part of a team when you jive with each other, where everyone is aligned on the final outcome. When that is not the case, it is very tricky because everyone is going towards different goals. That is the meta issue that led us to go our different ways.” 

Now out on her own, she realized that there were not many people who understood marketing developer tools or a go-to-market strategy for developer tools. So, she began working with Heavybit, an accelerator and incubator for developer products. “They really took me in and gave me opportunities to help their portfolio companies.” Her work helped Rainforest QA, Lightstep, LaunchDarkly, and Postman API

Reflecting on Ben’s Approach

She ended up joining the Lightstep team because she saw not only the value of their reputation, but was drawn to the top-notch team and what they could teach her. Part of the draw was Dapper, a tool built at Google to provide developers with a distributed tracing system exploring the behavior of complex distributed systems. Dapper sparked many tools that weren’t anticipated by its initial developers. Ben Sigelman, co-creator of Dapper and the OpenTracing and OpenTelemetry projects, now part of the Cloud Native Computing Foundation (CNCF). “Ben’s approach was very much as an educator. There are lots of experts out there, but if they aren’t interested in teaching, I don’t get any value in it.” 

As the second hire at Lightstep, she had a variety of roles, including developer relations, marketing, documentation, and more. 

The initial focus of the company was on OpenTracing. They initially were an independent open source project, but they eventually decided to join the Cloud Native Computing Foundation to give them more firepower than “us by ourselves.” 

Now, between her startup and Lightstep, she heard more and more about open source. She was drawn to the value placed on creation and collaboration. 

Evolving to Cloud Native

Priyanka attributes the growth of cloud native to the fact that the core group welcomed everyone. You can see that in person at KubeCon + CloudNativeCon, the largest open source events in the world. She recalls how nervous she was going to her first Kube Con, feeling out of her element, but as soon as she walked through the doors, everyone was so welcoming and inclusive. 

Dan Kohn built CNCF into one of the most successful open source foundations in the world in large part because it was built on being an open and welcoming community. Priyanka recalls, “Dan baked DEI into everything at CNCF from day one. . . He set the example and put it into the structure.” 

Priyanka felt welcomed into the community and began asking for opportunities to participate. Sometimes the answer was yes, sometimes it was no thank you. But she still felt she had the support of the community. She had a sense of belonging for the first time in her career. 

In 2018, she joined GitLab as director of technical evangelism, where she formed the technical thought leadership team. She was also in charge of cloud native alliances. At the urging of her boss at GitLab, she put her name forward to be elected to the CNCF Board of Directors. 

While on the CNCF Board, she was energized by several other women on the Board. She said they set the bar high with a focus on the project’s good at all times. 

Fast forward. Now, Priyanka is the general manager of the CNCF, leading one of open source’s largest and most effective foundations. 

Seeking More Insight

You can listen to the full episode with her story on the Untold Stories of Open Source podcast and hear about the power of the CNCF community and its impact. 

The Untold Stories of Open Source is a new podcast from the Linux Foundation to share the stories behind those in open source. Take time to listen to all of the episodes and let us know what you think (or if you have suggestions of stories to be told). Look for the formal launch at Open Source Summit North America and OpenSSF Day on June 20, 2022. 

There are thousands of incredible open source stories to share and we’re looking forward to bringing more of them your way.  If you like what you hear, we encourage you to add the series to your playlist.  

For those seeking even more open source stories from across the Linux Foundation and the communities we serve, you might start with some of the other storytelling pioneers including: Open Source Stories, , FinOpsPod, I am a Mainframer, and The Changelog.  As we grow deeper roots in the podcasting arena, we’ll introduce more news about a network of open source podcasts.

Have even more time? Feedspot recently covered an additional 40 Open Source Podcasts worth listening to on your morning walk or commute home from the office.

brian behlendorf

The power of a story. I first wrote about this 7 years ago in a series I titled Lessons from a Two Year Old. But it is a reality as old as time itself – humans are wired for stories. We enjoy listening to them, telling them, and they help us to relate to others and to remember things. 

And everyone has a story to tell – many of which haven’t been told yet. 

The Linux Foundation is working on uncovering the previously untold stories of the people in open source. We are showcasing what made each person who they are today and how their journey resulted in some of the top open source projects of all time. Each person is making a positive difference in our world, and each one has their own unique journey.

We will be sharing these stories in our upcoming, aptly named podcast, The Untold Stories of Open Source. It will be formally launched at the Open Source Summit North America and OpenSSF Day in June, but you are in luck and we have soft-launched with a couple of our first episodes, including Priyanka Sharma and Brian Behlendorf. You can listen to the trailer below for a preview of the storytelling you will hear: 



I enjoy listening to the episodes, learning about my colleagues and others who are continuing to affect positive change in our world through open source software. I adore a good story! So, as episodes are released, I will also be writing about each story on the LF blog. You can read about Priyanka’s story here and keep reading to learn about Brian. 

As I was listening to Brian’s story unfold, I kept thinking, how many layers are in this onion? He has so many unique life and professional experiences that shaped his open source story. 

Like myself, Brian was coming of age when PCs were being introduced to the world, Oregon Trail was the game of choice (okay, it was about the only game), and the Internet was still a project at the National Science Foundation. Brian’s parents worked in the science and technology field – they even met at IBM. His father was a COBOL programmer, which gave Brian a look into the world of programming. Imagining a life of coding in basements, away from people, is why he decided against majoring in computer science. I can relate – we both started college in the fall of 1991, and, I too, decided against majoring in computer science because I envisioned a future of myself, a computer, a pot of coffee, and little social interaction. 

The Internet was just getting introduced to the world in 1991 – and Brian, like all incoming freshmen at the University of California – Berkeley, received an email address. With this, he connected with others who shared a common interest in R.E.M. and 4AD and the rave scene around San Francisco. He built a mailing list around this shared interest. Yada…yada… The first issue of Wired magazine mesmerizes Brian in 1993.

Turns out one of the friends Brian met in his music community was working at Wired to get it – well wired. It started as a print newsletter (ironically). His friend, Jonathan, reached out and hired Brian for $100/week to help them get back issues online. Unlike today’s iconic, stunning design, it was black text on a white background. 

Besides just digitizing previously published content, Brian helped produce digital-only content. A unique approach back then. It was one of the first ad-supported websites – hotwired.com. Brian jokes, “I like to say I put the first ad-banner on the web, and I have been apologizing for it ever since.” 

As Brian worked on the content, he had a vision of publishing books online. But, turns out, back then publishers didn’t have the budgets to devote to web content. But bigger brands, looking to advertise on Hotwired, did, and they needed to have a website to point to.  So he joined Organic, a web design firm, as CTO at the ripe age of 22. They build the websites for some of the first advertisers on Hotwired like Club Med, Volvo, Saturn cars, Levis, Nike, and others. 

Back then, Wired and the sites Organic built all ran on a web server software developed by students at the University of Illinois, in the same lab that developed the NCSA Mosaic browser. Long before the term open source was coined, software running the web almost always included the source code. Brian notes there was an unwritten code (pun intended) that if you find a bug, you were morally obligated to fix it and push the code upline so that everyone had it. He and a group of students started working on further developing the browser. Netscape bought the software, which halted ongoing student support for the browser. Although the code remains open. Brain and others kept updating the code, and they decided to change the name since it was a new project. Because it was a group of patches, they chose the name Apache Web Server (get it – a patchy server). It now runs an estimated 60% of all web servers in the world. 

As interesting as Brian’s story is to this point – I really just scratched the surface. The full  episode of the podcast shares the rest, from founding Collab.net to a medical records system in Rwanda to working at the White House to his roles at Hyperledger and now OpenSSF and more.

Okay – I have said too much. No real spoilers. You can listen to the full episode now on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, or your favorite podcast app. 

Take time to listen to all of the episodes and let us know what you think (or if you have suggestions of stories to be told). Look for the formal launch at Open Source Summit North America and OpenSSF Day on June 20, 2022. 

There are thousands of incredible open source stories to share and we’re looking forward to bringing more of them your way.  If you like what you hear, we encourage you to add the series to your playlist.  

For those seeking even more open source stories from across the Linux Foundation and the communities we serve, you might start with some of the other storytelling pioneers including: Open Source Stories, FinOpsPod, I am a Mainframer, and The Changelog.  As we grow deeper roots in the podcasting arena, we’ll introduce more news about a network of open source podcasts we plan to grow visibility for.

Have even more time? Feedspot recently covered an additional 40 Open Source Podcasts worth listening to on your morning walk or commute home from the office.

I am old enough to remember when organizations developed software in-house – all of it. I also clearly remember my information systems college professor teaching it is almost always less expensive and better to use code/programs already written and adapting them for your use than to recreate the wheel from scratch. 

It is a different world now – software is built on a foundation of other programs, libraries, and code bases. Free and open source software (FOSS) is key to this because it is so easy to pickup, use, share, and create code. What an opportunity to speed development and focus innovation on the next thing rather than creating what already exists. This is part of the value of open source software – collaborate on the building blocks and innovate and differentiate on top of that. 

However, there are also challenges in this space, with a good example being the question of how to address licensing. There are A LOT of types of licenses that can apply to a piece of software/code. Each license needs to be understood and tracked with each piece of software it is included in for an organization to ensure nothing is missed. This can quickly multiply into a significant catalog that requires lots of manual work. On top of that, you also need to provide that license information to each of your customers, and they will have their own system and/or processes for providing that information to them and making sure it is up-to-date with each new version of the software. 

You can see where this can quickly consume valuable staff resources and open doors to mistakes. Imagine the possibility of a standard way to track and report the licenses so your teams don’t need to worry about all of the digital paperwork and can instead focus on innovation and adding value to you and your customers.

This is exactly the problem a team of lawyers and governance experts sought to fix back in 2016 and created the OpenChain Project to do just that. They asked, what are the key things for open source compliance that everyone needs, and how do we unify the systems and processes. They envisioned an internationally accepted standard to track and report all of the licenses applicable to a software project. The end result is a more trustable supply chain where organizations don’t need to spend tons of time checking compliance again and again and then remediating. 

The result – a ISO standard  (ISO/IEC 5230) was approved in Q4 2020. The OpenChain Project also hosts a library of 1,000 different reference documents in a wide variety of languages – some are official and many more are community documents, like workflow examples, FAQs, etc.

How are organizations benefiting from OpenChain? I find it encouraging that Toyota is one of the leaders in this. As anyone who has had at least one business class in college knows, Toyota is a leader in innovations for manufacturing over several decades. In the 1970s they pioneered supply chain management techniques with the Toyota Production System (please tell me they had to do TPS reports) – adopted externally as Just in Time manufacturing. They are also known for adopting the philosophy of Kaizen, or continuous improvement. So, as they looked at how to manage software supply chains and all of the licensing, they adopted the OpenChain Specification. They implemented it, in part, with a governance structure and an official group to manage OSS risks and community contributions.


Toyota’s OSS governance structure

diagram of toyota's open source software governance structure - OSS Developer; Security Specialist; IP Specialist over R&D over Developing OSS Culture and Handling OSS Risks

They are also an active participant in the OpenChain Japan Working Group to help identify bottlenecks across the supply chain, and the group enabled Toyota to develop information sharing guidelines to address licensing challenges with Tier 1 suppliers. They now see reduced bottlenecks, more data for better decision making, and decreased patent and licensing risks. Read more.

PwC is a global auditing, assurance, tax, and consulting firm. As an auditor, much of their business revolves around building trust in society. They also develop software solutions for thousands of clients around the world and receive software from providers of all sizes and maturity levels, making OSS compliance difficult. It was a tremendous effort and caused time delays for them and their clients. Now, PwC is able to provide clients with an Open Source Software compliance assessment based on the latest OpenChain specification. Their clients can share an internationally-recognized PwC audit report to verify OSS compliance. Read more.

And just last month, SAP, a market leader in enterprise application software, announced they are adopting the OpenChain ISO/IEC 5230 standard. It marks the first time that an enterprise application software company has undergone a whole entity conformance. Their reach across the global supply chain is massive – its customers are involved in almost 90% of global trade.

As the ISO/IEC standard is done, what is next for OpenChain? They are looking at security, export control, and more. 

If you or your organization are interested in learning more about OpenChain, adopting the standard, or getting involved in what is next, head over to https://www.openchainproject.org/. We also host an online training course when you are ready to dig in: Introduction to Open Source License Compliance Management

My hope is that you now spend less time on compliance and more time on innovation.

dream big little one

About 3 ½ years ago, Sanath Kumar Ramesh and his wife welcomed their son, Raghav, into the world. Like any new parents, he immediately became their everything. And, as new parents do, they threw him a 1st birthday bash where many of their friends and family were meeting Raghav for the first time. 

As Sanath was getting ready to cut the cake, he received a call from raghav at first birthday partyRaghav’s doctor. The doctor informed him they received the results from a battery of tests and, “We think he has an ultra-rare genetic disease called SSMD (Spondylometaphyseal Dysplasia), but, unfortunately, we don’t know much about the disease because all of the other kids died just a few weeks after birth. Your son is lucky to be alive.”

Sanath recounts, “I was taken aback. I was standing at my son’s first of many birthday parties to come and someone was telling me that Raghav was lucky to be alive. This was a turning point in my career – in my whole life.” 

raghav as a baby in cribIn plain English, he has a typo in his GPX4 gene. The G became A. Consequently, he can’t sit, stand, walk, or eat by mouth. 

Raghav has what is called an ultra-rare disease. Only 9 other children have been diagnosed around the world. 

Sanath called hundreds of hospitals, doctors, researchers, etc. and found no treatments. So, he took matters into his own hands. He tried 5 different drugs for his son and saw some improvements, but not enough to “give him the life he deserves.” Raghav did lift his head up at 13 months – something he never did before. At 3, he is still unable to sit, stand, walk, and talk, and it looks like his disease is progressing faster than they anticipated. 

While SSMD only has a handful of known patients, 400 million people around the world live with over 7,000 rare diseases and disorders. 93% have no FDA-approved treatment

So, Sanath began asking researchers, How do we bring treatments to all of the rare diseases? Unfortunately, there is no simple solution. The drug development process is a maze and the biology of most is a complete mystery. But the advice he got was to foster open collaboration, lower the cost, and operate at a global scale.

maze showing the path to disease treatments

Source: Open Treatments Foundation

raghav in crib and sign on wall says dream big little oneWell, that sounds exactly like the open source model – something Sanath knows well. So, in March 2021, he started the Open Treatments Foundation with the mission to, “Create a society where there is at least one treatment for all genetic diseases accessible to all patients.” That is one giant BHAG

They settled on four strategies: 

  1. Put every disease on the map: increase disease awareness, build a robust patient community
  2. Make diseases easy to work with: open source animal models, assays, and natural history data 
  3. Generate more money for research: crowdfunding, incentive-based funding, etc.
  4. Create more drug developers: decentralize drug development, go global

They also chose to collaborate with The Linux Foundation on the open source software and created the RareCamp project to house the source code under an Apache 2.0 license and to create and foster a community. The ball is rolling.

On a more personal level, I spent the previous five years working for individuals with rare disorders and diseases. Specifically, I worked at the National Fragile X Foundation. Fragile X syndrome is an inherited, intellectual/developmental disability and is rare (but not ultra-rare). My advocacy extended to all individuals with rare diseases/disorders through groups like the EveryLife Foundation and the Friends of the National Center for Birth Defects and Developmental Disorders – so I am especially excited to see this work. 

Our Fragile X parents would often say this isn’t the life they anticipated or hoped for, but they are better for it. I would say our world will be a better place because of sweet Raghav and all the work he is inspiring. Are you inspired? Join us! As Jim Zemlin said when Sanath spoke at the 2021 Open Source Summit, this project is about, “personal motivation and a collective response.” Can you be part of the collective response? Visit rarecamp.org.

This is just one of the many projects at The Linux Foundation that has the potential to make a major, positive impact on the world. As Jim also stated, “We are just getting started addressing huge issues like rare diseases.”