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 eighth interview is with Zhong Ming (Chloe) from Huawei
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 started as Firmware and System Engineer Developer for terminal products in 2004 when I first joined Huawei. After I moved to the smartphone development team I started gaining exposure to open source software.
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?
At Huawei, I’m not a “decision-maker” to choose open source software (OSS). It’s always the products to define the selection criteria. What I am responsible is to help decision-makers making precise decisions, verify the original source reliability, identify hidden legal compliance problems and potential network security/safety risks, and fulfill the open source obligation correctly.
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?
Indeed, open source license is a little bit complicated. Frequently communicating with other people with open source experience is a good way to help understand the license well. Even we may from the different product fields, but we are facing similar challenges in open source compliance. OpenChain is a great community about open source compliance. Everyone in this community has been helpful and friendly. People can share their experience about the open source compliance and also get the guidelines and tools from other people in this community.
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?
I majored in Telecommunication Engineering at university. This major is a popular choice among male students. There were only 6 female students including myself in my class. After graduation, most of the colleagues I have worked with were male. However, I have never been discriminated or excluded because of gender in my whole career. I think female engineers have great strength in many areas. Generally speaking, women are good in communication and cooperation. These qualities are very important in the open source field.
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’ve enjoyed every OpenChain meeting I have attended, particularly the friendly and inspiring atmosphere. Nowadays, OpenChain has been rapidly grown in Asian-Pacific region. China, as one of the leading country in this region, has been a giant incubation hub for high-tech companies. However, only few Chinese companies have been involved in OpenChain project. Having been actively sharing my experiences with my colleagues, I hope OpenChain project can be better recognized by more Chinese software developers and well advertised. Meanwhile, more Chinese relevant materials can be distributed at those events. I’m also hoping the language barriers or cultural differences won’t be an issues to stop excellent Chinese talents who work in this area to sharing their creative ideas and experiences in those events.
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?
Indeed, this is quite challenging. Given that the nature of OpenChain project is to mainly follow established protocols, it might not be the most attractive project to the younger generation who prefer creativity over compliance. However, being creative and being compliant are not always in conflict. Referencing the White Hat Hacker, those who will be engaged in the OpenChain project are encouraged to explore potential defects, propose their solutions, and gain reputations.
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?
Day-to-day questions and problems should be encouraged to submit to the local workgroups. These questions and problems can be centralized and classified base on the similarity and nature of the problems. Online discussion/seminar/local workshops can be hold to discuss the general solution of each category. People who are interested in certain categories can share their experiences and strategies in these events.
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?
To the best of my understanding, a harmonic community is based on the equity of treatment, mutual respectfulness and extensive inclusivity. People from diverse background engaging in the OpenChain project are expected to be open-minded, thinking critically and creatively, and willing to communicate freely. As participants with diverse backgrounds are encouraged to work both individually and collaboratively, it is a great opportunity for everyone to learn from each other and share their ideas and thoughts.
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?
In 2019, two OpenChain local workgroup meetings have been hosted successfully in China. I think this is a great start. I hope more local engineers and people working in related fields can join this type of events and have more interactions with other workgroups in the future. People who are willing to contributing on the development of AI translation tools or translating the relevant materials should be awarded. Once people are inspired by other people’s work, more collaborations and knowledge transfer about open source will take place.
Thank you Chloe for your time and thoughts!