Welcome to our series of interviews with the people behind the OpenChain Project. While open source is mostly about software, and governance is mostly about licenses, it is also the story of thousands of individuals collaborating. We hope these interviews with inform and inspire our readers, and encourage more people to participate in open source and OpenChain.
Our first interview is with Kayoko Takanishi from TUV SUD
You have been involved with technology for a while and you now have a leadership position in open source. Can you tell us a little about how you joined your company, why you are involved in technology development, and how you first discovered open source?
I have been in Automotive industry almost 20 years as system/software engineer. In the first half of my career I was involved in system development and software development and in the second half of it I have been a safety assessor for functional safety. Developing the products and being assessors are a bit difference and I wanted to challenge both.
Regarding the open source, I knew it was used in software development, but I was not aware of the importance of open source at first. My colleagues in Germany told me that the compliance of open source also important as well as software quality and safety for a future development, then I started to research about open source compliance.
Your involvement in open source is very interesting. Software is behind most of our technology and open source is behind most of our software. However, in relative terms there are few coordinators or managers with significant experience of this approach to technology. How did you become a decision-maker in your company’s use of open source?
Maybe this question is not applicable for me as we are not developing any software products as we are certificate body.
OpenChain is all about open source compliance in the supply chain. Our industry standard builds trust and our reference material helps companies build processes to meet the standard. Approaching this discussion for the first time can be a little intimidating. Most people are modest about their understanding of licenses or choosing the “best” approach to solve a business challenge. It may be a strong word to use, but often a certain sense of fear makes people hesitate. How did you learn to approach this issue with a positive and open mind?
I understand people are hesitated over tackling new challenges due to some kind of fear, it is a kind of normal human nature. In my case, fortunately my colleagues motivated me to approach the problems. Gathering people who have same vision works to decrease the fear. Therefore, I think joining the project which is gathering people who has same issues like open chain is very effective when they start to tackle new big problems.
One thing the OpenChain Project is concerned with is diversity. Our project is developing a long-term industry standard and our strategic perspective is measured in many years or even decades. To access the potential in our community we need to make sure gender or personal choices never make people feel unwelcome or excluded. In some markets like China and Korea around half of the people we work with are female. In other markets, such as Japan and the United States, the percentage of women is far less. Have you faced challenges because of gender and how did you overcome them?
Maybe I am not a right person to be asked as I did not face (or feel) any problems about genders. When I was a high school student, there were only 4 female students in my class as it is for students who majors in math and science. Since then there were not many females around me and I was used to it, I did not focus on gender so much in my work life
The next question is directly related to the last one. Because the OpenChain Project is concerned with diversity we must acknowledge that every part of our project needs to continually improve. Our social structures, our meeting formats, our processes to create or improve material. Everything needs to be considered to find any challenge to making people welcome and empowered. Can you assist us in this process with some suggestions for improvement?
I see open chain project is already a great project that is willing to improve for its future. The attendees try to understand each other even in the different situation and try to change if better solutions are found. I have no additional suggestions at the moment.
All around the developing world age is a topic. Our populations are getting older and the social distance between young and old people seems to be growing. People in their early twenties seem to have very little in common with people in their forties or fifties. Of course this is understandable and of course it has always existed between generations. However, in the context of open source, our population is aging too, with the average age of participants around 30~55. Maybe we have more older people than young people. Do you have any suggestions for how we can make young people interested and welcome in projects like OpenChain?
I think it is difficult question for me. When I was twenties, I just worked for money and development of my skills and did not think about the future of the industry. In general, young people tend to focus on development of their personal skills than what they can do for the entire industry. But I think it is also important in the process of their growth, so I don’t have any clear solutions about attracting young generation at the moment. But I think it is important we show somehow that having a broad view for the industry is very worthwhile and having horizontal ties within the industry make their working life more comfortable and fun.
There is a big difference between tactical activities that solve day-to-day problems and strategic activities that solve bigger challenges. OpenChain is basically focused on strategy. This means our participants think about the future and it means we also have to think about how many tactical actions can serve a strategic mission. People often ask how to do this and they often mention that it is hard to think strategically when many business metrics are based on quarterly activities. Do you have any suggestions based on your own experience?
I don’t feel it is easy to tackle the strategic activities that solve bigger challenges for future. Usually the organization has a long-term goal and a short-term goal like quarterly target and people tends to work for a short-term goal for their KPI and so on. In such an environment, it is very hard to continuing to focus on strategic activities with a long-term view.
In my case, I try to imagine a new future in detail as much as possible. If that future is very valuable and attractive, I sometimes get strategic ideas and can motivate myself to focus on the strategic activities for a long-term goal. But I don’t know if this my approach works for everybody …
We have asked many serious questions in this interview. Each of your answers is extremely valuable for our current and our future community. OpenChain is all about sharing knowledge and helping everyone do better. However, we are not only a dry, factual community. We also have many positive social relationships and there is a hope or a goal that OpenChain can be fun too. We are all together collaborating to solve interesting challenges. Do you have any tips for how people can come into a project like OpenChain and find the experience rewarding personally as well as in a business sense?
On the aspect of the business, off course the sharing knowledges and experiences support us to tackle our own problem and it is also very valuable for the future technology. If we can recognize these merits here clearly, joining open chain would become very valuable and fun.
Finally, you have been so kind to answer these questions in English. However, the future of open source and OpenChain is not in English, but instead in languages like Mandarin or Japanese. The future is making sure people in each nation can work together freely. We already hold the local work group meetings in the local language but is there a way we can reduce language barriers even more?
I think the local working group and local mailing list are very good approach and it shows already great accomplishments. there are no additional suggestions so far.
Thank you Takanishi San for your time and thoughts!