Why Every Single Individual Contributor Matters to Open Source

Open Source is everywhere and the lifeblood of sustaining healthy open source are open source contributors and community. As modern software development today involves the use and engagement with open source, learning how to contribute and why contributions matter is important for developers. I want to cover open source contribution models, benefits of contributing and how to get started as a contributor. The rewards of contributing are many to individual developers and leaders. I will share my own story of how I got started in open source and why I continue to be a part of the global open source community. 


Nithya Ruff

Head of Amazon Open Source Program Office @Amazon

Nithya A. Ruff recently joined Amazon as the Head of Amazon’s Open Source Program Office.  Amazon is guided by four principles: Customer Obsession, Invent and Simplify, and Think Big; especially as they relate to the engagement, contribution, and participation in the broader Open Source Community and these guide her work at Amazon.  Open Source has proven to be one of the world’s most prolific enablers of innovation and collaboration, and Amazon’s customers increasingly value open source innovation and cloud’s role in helping them adopt and run important open source services.

She drives Open Source culture and coordination inside of Amazon and engagement with external communities.  Prior to Amazon, she started and grew Comcast and Western Digital’s Open Source Program Offices. Open Source Program Offices are a critical part of a company’s digital transformation journey. 

She first glimpsed the power of open source while at SGI in the 90s and has been building bridges between companies and the open source community ever since.     She’s also held leadership positions at Wind, Synopsys, Avaya, Tripwire and Eastman Kodak.   At Wind, she led a team of product managers in creating and managing a world class embedded Linux distribution and was a key member of the Yocto Project Board’s advocacy committee. Nithya has been an independent director on the Linux Foundation Board for the last 5 years and was recently elected to be the first woman to be Chair of the influential Linux Foundation Board.    She actively works to advance the mission of the Linux Foundation around building sustainable ecosystems built on open collaboration. 

She is a passionate advocate and a speaker for opening doors to new and diverse people in technology and can often be seen speaking and writing on this topic.  She has been pushing for all contributions to open source to be valued such as in marketing, legal and community and not just code.  You can often find her on social media promoting civil dialogue on diversity and open source.  She is a frequently invited speaker at conferences such as OSSummit, OSCON, All Things Open, SCALE, Grace Hopper, OpenStack, VMWorld, OS Strategy Summit and Red Hat Summit on the business and community of open source.   In recognition of her work in open source both on the business and community side, she was named to CIO magazine’s most influential women in open source 2016 list. She was recently one of 4 people to win the 2017 O’Reilly Open Source Award for exceptional contribution to open source. 

Nithya graduated with an MS in Computer Science from NDSU and an MBA from the University of Rochester, Simon Business School.  Today she is an aspiring corporate director and corporate governance enthusiast.  

Read more
Find Nithya Ruff at:


Tuesday Jun 13 / 05:25PM EDT ( 50 minutes )


Salon D (North Tower)


Open Source Software Strategy Developer Experience


From the same track


The Decision Buy-In Algorithm

Tuesday Jun 13 / 10:35AM EDT

Making large, important technical decisions is a critical aspect of a senior individual contributor's role. With the wide impact these decisions can have, it is essential to make the correct decision.

John Riviello

Engineering Fellow @Comcast and @Google Developer Expert

Session Staff Plus Engineering

The Creative Act: How Staff+ Is More Art Than Science

Tuesday Jun 13 / 02:55PM EDT

Achieving a Staff+ role is a huge achievement and something many engineers seek as the next step in their career growth. All Staff+ roles are not the same and exactly what your role entails can sometimes be a bit murky, to say the least.

David Grizzanti

Principal Engineer @nytimes

Session Engineering

Making the Decision To Be an Individual Contributor or a People Leader

Tuesday Jun 13 / 04:10PM EDT

As software engineers advance in their careers, we are often faced with the choice between remaining an individual contributor or transitioning to a people leadership role. This decision can be challenging and complex, as both paths offer unique benefits and challenges.

Michael Winslow

Engineering Director @Amazon Music

Session Staff Plus Engineering

Growing Others to Grow Yourself

Tuesday Jun 13 / 11:50AM EDT

The best way to grow in your career is to help others grow as well. This is true when you are going from engineer to senior engineer, or if you are a senior engineer growing into a principal or tech lead.

Audrey Troutt

CTO @Tomo


Unconference: Staff+ Engineering

Tuesday Jun 13 / 01:40PM EDT

What is an unconference? An unconference is a participant-driven meeting. Attendees come together, bringing their challenges and relying on the experience and know-how of their peers for solutions.