We have some exciting news from our Codit team. Tom Kerkhove has been recognised by GitHub as one of the first GitHub Stars globally! He is one of the first 14 people in the world to join so it is a great achievement for him. We decided to ask him what this GitHub Stars program is all about and give us an insight into what type of work he will be doing for them.
Tell me a bit about the GitHub Stars Program?
The three pillars of the GitHub Stars program are; Influence Educate, Inspire. So basically, the GitHub Stars are people who want to help people using GitHub for their companies or communities. The program also gives a space for the Stars to influence how GitHub will work and bring our expertise from our fields to give feedback on the future direction of the platform. GitHub deliberately aimed to choose people from different communities, I’m from the Azure community, but there are others AWS, GCP, DevOps, JS, SQL, security, etc. They chose me because I have an open-source project which I maintain and run, and for this I use GitHub every day. Because I’m on it a lot, I have examples where I would like to see changes in the product to help it work better for me and the community I work in, so I am constantly giving them feedback. You could say GitHub is my second home, that’s how much I am on it.
What does this recognition mean for you?
The major thing is that I now can collaborate more with the GitHub teams building the product. We have a channel to give feedback and we get previews to try things out and to help change the product. It’s intensive and I do a lot in my spare time. Since running an open-source project has a big impact on my life, even if it’s all for free, my main focus is on the sustainability of maintaining an open source project.
How does GitHub Stars blend in with your work at Codit?
I’ve worked with people from the program for many years. Eventually, I am convinced that Codit and many of its customers will want to go to GitHub, because the rate at which the features on GitHub have been improving it is clear that it is the strategic future for Microsoft. So a part of what I’m doing is looking at the future for Codit and its customers. I check up on what’s the progress on the products and when we should work on which one. I’m also researching with Codit itself how we can move more stuff onto GitHub. This will give people a place to experiment and get familiar with it and feedback on their projects potential usage of GitHub.
From the customers’ point of view I look at what’s needed, how Microsoft can help, and why for some of them we will stick with Azure DevOps for a while at least until we see comparable features from GitHub.
Contributing to communities is very important, Codit also recognizes this, why do you contribute, what does it do for you, how does it help the community?
This is why I was one of the drivers behind that make it easier to build applications that run on Microsoft Azure. We have a lot of customers that have similar needs. I thought if we have to re-implement the same thing for every customer, why don’t we put it in a framework we can use everywhere, it can grow, and we can more easily deliver to our customers. Making it open-source means that other people can also use it, they can add new features, without us doing anything – so this folds back into the idea of sustainability.
I advocated moving our framework to open-source because 90% of software built is now open-source. I thought so many people are doing it, why aren’t we doing that and help people? A lot of the time these projects are mostly done by one person running and maintaining it – I know how hard that is. So opensource frameworks will help these people to maintain it and they in turn help us by contributing, so it becomes more sustainable.
What I would like to do in the future is to delve into GitHub Sponsors, either alone or with Codit. So that’s where I say ok, I use this framework all the time, maybe I should be a sponsor, give a bit of money to show my appreciation and the value it brings to me personally. I am sponsored by people in the community for some of the projects I work on in my spare time, the money isn’t huge, it allows me to turn coffee into code. But what I get out of the sponsorship is seeing that the community appreciate the work that I do and for me that is worth more than the money itself.
For me the GitHub Stars program is really about helping people. That’s how my open-source project started, I had a customer who wanted to solve a specific solution which was So we came up with one, but for that customer, it was out of their budget. That same day, I was in my hotel room and still thinking about the idea and I decided to start building Promitor, only to notice that people started it using it and Microsoft reached out to do a hackathon on it. Two years later companies from all over the world are using it, such as Walmart, and that’s what I like, I get to help them.
It’s really about community. Instead of finding solutions just for myself, why not fix them for everyone, or let others help you fix them. An example we use a lot of microservices, but sometimes the Azure services they are based on go away, and Azure doesn’t really communicate they are going away. So, it became another small project of mine to keep track of deprecations and their impact. I made that open-source and now people contribute, so everyone using it can move away from the Azure services in time. I could also just keep it for myself, but I think why not help others? The Azure team responsible checks with me what can be improved for deprecations so hopefully, I can remove my project in the end.
So, if people have suggestions about GitHub they can come to you? Yes, absolutely. But they should also take a look at the GitHub Support community to see if others have the same suggestion or they could take a look at the GitHub Public Roadmap to see if they are already working on it.
It sounds like your job is really your passion?
Yes. I told someone if your job is your hobby, is it your job? I get paid to do what I’m passionate about and Github and Codit give me that space.