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 sixth interview is with Kyoungae Kim from LG Electronics
LG Electronics recently announced OpenChain Conformance and is the first Korean company to formally adopt our industry standard for open source compliance. However, you have been part of the OpenChain community for quite a while, helping to create the OpenChain Korea Work Group, Korean translations and other really great activities. I know your office, and especially Haksung Jang, were leading this effort. We would love to take a few minutes to create a snapshot of your work and perspective.
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?
It’s been 16 years since I joined LGE. When I graduated from graduate school, I got a recommendation for a job from a friend who had worked for LGE. In the early days of working, I was in a development team related to network and then moved to a team working with Linux for LGE products. Since then I’ve started to use Linux and open sources.
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?
When I first started this work, I knew very little about open source. In 2007, when LGE had been introduced Linux for the first time into their products, someone had to take on open source compliance work. Luckily, I wasn’t doing any project at the time because I just returned from maternity leave. Since then, I have been doing this for more than 10 years in LGE, establishing and disseminating policies and processes related to open source compliance throughout the company.
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?
When I first took over this work, there were not many resources available than now, and the compliance area was unfamiliar to me as an engineer. At that time, Professor. Lee created a study group with people who were doing similar work in different companies. I could learn an open minded attitude as well as a lot about compliance and licenses from it and got a basic framework in this area.
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?
There are more men in engineering than women in Korea. But there are more women in my team. Perhaps in Korea, this slightly heterogeneous field in engineering is more attractive to women engineers, or less attractive to typical men engineers. (I think there’s a preference rather than gender difference in this area.)
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 think OpenChain is already a good project with lots of fancy designs, materials, and frequent updated news. OpenChain provides a number of documents, and thanks to several contributors, those are also available in many languages. I think if all the documents provided by OpenChain can be found on a single page or easily by search, it would be more helpful.
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?
These days, young generations say that they should have fun no matter what they do. I think it is a good idea to plan some events that make young people more fun. And It’d be great if we can get help from them with their fresh ideas to plan the events.
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’ve still been doing this tactically and have focused on tactics rather than taking a strategic approach. I’m focusing on making the work more efficient and delivering more results every day. Sometimes I think of myself and my role in the company after three or five years. I draw a picture of what I want to be many years later. This is a kind of simple strategy, isn’t it?
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?
I think that sharing ideas with people who are doing similar work and thoughts with you, can be very meaningful and powerful. Meet as many people as you can in this area, participate in meetings both locally and globally, don’t hesitate to ask about your questions or problems with open source. People I’ve met in open source world are all very kind and willing to help me and my company. The more you learn from them, the better for you and your company.
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 communication from Mandarin to Hindi to German. 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?
Because I’m not familiar with speaking in English, I have some hesitation in many global activities. In that sense, local work groups are very helpful for me. I really look forward to a future where technology is getting better so no translators are necessary, but before that I think it is helpful to keep many materials from local work groups and later share them with local groups in other regions by translating them in the help of many bilingual contributors.
Thank you Kyoungae Kim for your time and thoughts!