This week, I published Sumana Harihareswara's #DevJourney story on my eponym Podcast: Software developer's Journey. Among many other things, here are my main personal takeaways:

  • First and foremost, Sumana was able to throw me off balance, with her first answer. Chapeau :D
  • Sumana's mother (who had a background in economics and literature) and her father (who was a civil engineer) both were very active in their communities both as leaders and entrepreneurs. This certainly played a role in Sumana choosing to become an activist and invest all her life in Open-Source-Software. I find it amazing how "the apple never falls far from the tree". Not having children herself, Sumana didn't really want to dwell with me on the idea of role modeling, and that by not being courageous enough as parents, we don't set the bar high enough for our kids to change the world. This idea certainly followed me since. "Whatever you grew up around or got a chance to be near when you were you feels like no big deal to you. This is Sumana's "No big deal theory", or in academic terms "legitimate peripheral participation" and I love it!
  • Sumana's father was a Hindu priest and had created a Startrack program in BASIC. Sumana's first coding task was to help him with the colors. And she was hooked with the idea of solving a problem with a computer. It was clear to everyone that she would become an engineer, everyone but maybe Sumana herself!
  • Sumana came first in contact with Open Source Software while at UC Berkley. And she was much more interested in OSS than computer science. Here's how Sumana describes it: "CS is an academic discipline, it is basically applied math. In contrast, the OSS-movement has this extremely social sciences aspect to it, it is about freeing people, it is about empowering everyone in the same way democracy is".
  • Sumana shared this talk from Darius Kazemi at XOXO called
    "How I Won the Lottery". This talk was fascinating. As Sumana puts it, we don't control why and how we ran into this or that circumstance. As such, the paths we chose are really like a lottery ticket.
  • Sumana first decided to contribute to open-source as a developer to sharpen her coding and testing skills. She picked a project with clear how-to manual testing guides and learned how to test there. The directions were clear and she knew she was helping. This set the tone for her participation ever since.
  • Sumana is the second guest who couldn't praise the Recurse Center enough. This place seems to be incredible!
  • A few years ago, Sumana was at the PyCon conference and took part in the "PyCon Sprints", where open-source contributors meet and work for 4 days on advancing the state of open-source projects. On her first day there, she quickly realized that the most valuable contribution she could do was on the project management side. She helped get the next version of MailMan out and loved the process. She loved it so much, that it became her new business. She helps Open Source Projects get releases and milestones out, by providing "what is required". That can be project management, coordination, PR Reviews, testing, and so on.


  • If you are interested in participating to open source software development, as yourself why. Ask yourself why you are interested because of sheer intellectual curiosity, search on GitHub for languages and projects. On the other hand, if you want to contribute to liberation, look for the "liberatory technology movement".


  • "Computer sciences is an academic discipline that grew out of mathematics, so it is basically applied math"
  • "The OSS-movement has this extremely social sciences aspect to it, it is about freeing people, it is about empowering everyone in the same way democracy is"
  • "The fact that a human could deal with an extra comma, but not a computer didn't speak in favor of the computer"
  • "Whatever you grew up around or got a chance to be near when you were you feel like no big deal to you. This is my 'No big deal theory', or 'legitimate peripheral participation'"
  • "The biggest gift you can give someone, is an experience near something that feels scary so that people can have a feeling it is no big deal, the term is 'legitimate peripheral participation'"
  • "I hate waste and code waiting in Git-Master that hasn't had a release out is waste!"

Thanks, Sumana for sharing your story with us!

You can find the full episode and the show notes on

Did you listen to her story?

  • What did you learn?
  • What are your personal takeaways?
  • What did you find particularly interesting?