How a GitHub executive wants to simplify building open source software

  • Stormy Peters, GitHub’s VP of Communities, believes open source can make the world a better place.
  • Companies like GitHub help remove roadblocks to software development, Peters told Insider.
  • This article is part of Innovation Leaders, a series exploring how leaders see their role in driving technology innovation.

Developing open-source software can make the world a better place, according to Stormy Peters, vice president of communities at GitHub.

That showed the developers’ reaction to the COVID-19 pandemic. In the wake of the outbreak, developers everywhere jumped into open source software. Interactive models projected the impact of the disease in prisons, self-monitoring tools helped healthcare workers care for patients remotely, and a volunteer-matching system connected community volunteers with those at risk.

These GitHub-based projects have proven that the open-source community’s rapid collaboration can be leveraged to solve fundamental problems and transform the world of software, Peters said. Now she wants to make it easier for everyone to create cloud software forever. At GitHub, she leads projects like GitHub Education, to provide free open source resources to students and teachers, and Sponsors, which allows patrons to donate to the developers behind open source projects.

“It’s fun working with all of our maintainers in open source software communities because everyone sees different solutions,” Peters told Insider. “Some are obviously more altruistic than others, but they all want to use technology to solve a problem we have.”

Solving these problems starts with making it easier for people to create projects and build communities around them. Companies like GitHub have a responsibility to break down barriers, including finding projects to contribute to and rewarding people for their time, Peters said.

And Peter’s role in this includes the innovation behind features for developers. For example, she led the responsibility for Achievements, a project that celebrates actions on GitHub and supports developer recognition. She also led the launch of Discussions, a forum designed for users to ask and answer questions about open source projects.

“I think our work is to enable people to build software and the solutions they need and focus on that by giving them tools to make it easier,” said Peters.

Peters said that GitHub’s education project is particularly close to her heart. She is responsible for finding new ways to support the 2 million students and teachers who use the product. Peters helped launch Global Campus, a program that gives teachers and students free access to GitHub’s premium features.

Recently, the company also made its artificial intelligence-based pair programmer, GitHub Copilot, and its online development environment, Codespaces, available to students for free. Tools like Codespaces were created so that all students could start coding, regardless of whether they had access to a computer.

Making these tools widely available to educators and students is groundbreaking because it gives those who want to participate in open source the ability to do so, Peters said. Overall, Peters’ focus is on making it easier for the world to evolve openly, which also means finding ways to involve people.

“The open source community is unique because opportunities for innovation can be found anywhere. Your resume doesn’t matter. What matters is that your idea is heard and noticed by the community and has an impact,” said Peters. “I believe the power of creation lies in supporting and collaborating with those who want to make great things happen.”

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