My career journey guided by ‘open source values’

Michelle Tabirao
5 min readMay 25, 2022

The open-source concept was introduced to me ten years ago. Since then, open source has played a big part in my career path, career decisions, and how I appreciate technology and innovation today.

I see ‘open source’ as one of the most beautiful terminologies in the IT world. When we say open source in the context of software development, it means people can modify and share software code because it’s publicly accessible. It also designates a broader set of values called the open source way. Open source projects, products, or initiatives embrace and celebrate principles and values of open exchange, collaborative participation, rapid prototyping, transparency, meritocracy, and community-oriented development.

Isn’t it wonderful when people can collaborate and innovate to create something unique and valuable, and genuinely want to share the progress and project in the community?

Hello open source

My open source journey started in 2012 because of my curiosity about Raspberry Pi. This credit card-sized computer was featured in the local television news in the Philippines. It was described as a tiny computer, easy to use, cheap, and has all the fundamental components that can unleash one’s tech creativity. After almost one year of Raspberry Pi 1 release, I finally got a chance to save up and buy one. Then, for the first time, I got to experience Linux, mainly Debian. After that, our thesis team (see photo below) used it for an exciting Internet of Things (IoT) project for renewable energy monitoring and assessment.

I also remember when my best friend — Rosi (also the girl in the photo above) and I joined multiple hackathons like Firefox OS challenge and the first bitcoin hackathon in South East Asia when we were still students. Our open source curiosity brought us to many places and led us to meet unique networks of people. Afterwards, I also started appreciating ideas such as open data, open web, blockchain, open education, etc.

Open source advocacy

After getting exposed to Linux and open source values, I realised that I would like to share this knowledge with more students like me. So in 2013, I organised the first Software Freedom Day (SFD) at our university. SFD is a worldwide event which aims to increase awareness of free software and its virtues and encourage its use. More events followed SFD PUP. The photo below captures all the fantastic volunteers who made the SFD 2016 event possible; watch the same day edit (SDE) video here.

While in university, I decided to learn more about open source, so I started my internship at the company 8layer because the CEO, Mr Mara, started the Kahel OS project. Kahel OS is a Linux distro based in Arch that originated in my country, the Philippines. One year after my internship, I worked as a full-time employee in the same company as a community manager in different open source and community initiatives.

The years from 2014 to2016 were the most fantastic time for me as I worked closely with open source communities. We, at 8layer, travelled to different islands in the Philippines and advocated for the use of the open source. As a result, we conducted several SFD, Linux Day, and numerous training and hackathons.

It is nostalgic to see some #throwback photos of SFD and Linux Day as shared below. These photos are photographed in Albay, Marinduque, and Quezon City.

We also contributed to the policy-making of the Philippine Internet Rights and Principles, giving perspective on free software. As stated in Section 6: Openness and Access to Information, Knowledge, and Culture: “Everyone should have the right to access information on the Internet and be free from restrictions on access to knowledge. It (the Internet) should also promote the development of local content and the production and use of free, libre, and open source software (FLOSS).”

We also got a chance to co-organize an event with Richard Stallman called “Towards a Free Digital Society” in 2016. It is a unique experience to listen to his activism and advocacies on free software.

Open source interlude

I moved to Europe to study and work, and I had a long pause in getting involved in the open source community. Though 2017 was an exception as I joined the Open Source Summit in Prague, Czech Republic. It was a dream come true for me to be able to attend as an audience. I also had a photo-op with Linus at this event, in which Jim Zemlin took this photo. 😁

During this pause, I focused on personal learning in open source and decentralisation topics such as blockchain. I also published research on blockchain technology for a sustainability use case. In addition, I continued my personal upskilling in different data and IoT related open source and enterprise innovations. I also worked in an enterprise that focused on creating multiple IoT and data-driven solutions in the transport and logistics sector.

Open source continuation

December 2021, I came back in open source community again, as I joined Canonical/ Ubuntu as the Data Solutions Product Manager. I first encountered Ubuntu 13.04 — Raring Ringtail. I can’t believe I am an employee in Ubuntu 22.04 — Jammy Jellyfish release!

A little bit of photo description

1st 📸 Canonical Engineering Sprint in Frankfurt, where teams meet for engineering strategies.

2nd 📸 Canonical/Ubuntu Product Sprint team activity — when a group of 30 product managers went sailing in the canals of Copenhagen.

Last 2 📸 Representing Canonical in World Data Summit in Amsterdam, sharing our open source data products.

I am also excited to share more information about Canonical open source data solutions offering in the future. And you know what is remarkable about these products? They will be open source by default!

In addition, I am writing content regarding open source, technology, strategies and data products on Ubuntu.com. One example — I wrote a whitepaper that will help logistics leaders focus on customer-centricity strategy and gave some tips on using open source technologies in the logistics industry’s digital transformation.

Lastly, please follow the non-profit organisation I co-founded called ULAP.org, as we focus as well on open source and cloud-native applications upskilling.

I am indeed happy to be back in the open source community again!

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Michelle Tabirao

technology. community. open source. (and anything in between)