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In the trenches with...Janice Smith of rSmart Group

We go in the trenches with Janice Smith of the rSmart Group and discover that academia and open source have much in common....

I found this submission for the "In the Trenches" series to be intriguing. If you wanted to find someone with experience analogous to working in an open source community, where would you look?

According to Janice Smith of The rSmart Group, in academia. This may be particularly true for Janice, given rSmart's focus on open source applications in the Higher Education vertical, but I think it's telling that Janice found the same sort of collegiality and community-approach in open source as she had in her previous life in academia.

But let's hear it directly from Janice:

Name, company, title, and what you actually do

Janice A. Smith, The rSmart Group, Senior Education Consultant. I conduct on-site client assessments, develop requirements, design customizations, offer virtual and on-site training, and provide functional/technical support for an open source application in higher education and K-12.

Do you work remotely or in an office with co-workers?

I work remotely and visit the home office in another state several times each year.

If you've had a similar role in a proprietary software company, how does your current role compare? Similarities? Differences?

I come out of higher education; this is the first software company I have worked with.

How familiar were you with open source before you joined your current company?

I learned about open source working for The rSmart Group.

Why did you join an open source vendor?

The rSmart Group recruited me because of a recommendation by a university colleague. I joined rSmart because I was at a place in my career where I was willing to try something new. I had already been working as a business expert at the University of Minnesota with the software I now support several years before the university contributed it to the open source community. It was a good fit given that rSmart had just decided to support the new open source application. (Sakai)

How long did it take you to adjust to an open source operational mode?

Not long at all. It is a natural fit for someone coming out of academia. I understood the rationale immediately and only needed help on some of the particular details of what became the Sakai open source community.

What do you think open source companies could learn from proprietary vendors?

Working with open source requires a new business model. For open source companies to succeed, they have to be able to make a profit and at the same time, live within the expectations of the open source community. It can be tricky to balance these two very different strategies. I assume that an open source company could learn more about making a profit from a proprietary vendor. I also assume that a proprietary company could learn more about collegial relationships with customers from an open source company.

Pithy but poignant. Janice discovered a similar community focus in open source as academia. No doubt she also found that we endlessly belabor meaningless minutiae. :-)