#200 April 24, 2023
Paris Pittman is a Senior Program Manager at the Open Source Program office at Apple. A Prominent Kubernetes and CNCF member who served many roles with a focus on community and governance. Paris was on some key milestones for this show. First appearance was on Episode 1 and later on Episode 100. So we could not be happier to have Paris back in Episode 200. We discussed how Paris got started with community work and how the experience has been. Paris shared with us some words of wisdom on the power of working with others and the importance of moving on.
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KASLIN FIELDS: Hello and welcome to the Kubernetes podcast from Google. I'm your host, Kaslin Fields.
ABDEL SGHIOUAR: And I am Abdel Sghiouar.
This week, we're onsite at KubeCon EU in Amsterdam. Expect some awesome content from the conference soon, but first, we have a very special episode for you. This is episode 200 of the Kubernetes podcast from Google. Our first episode was an interview with Paris Pittman, as was our 100th episode. In keeping with traditions, we are interviewing Paris for episode 200. Keep listening for insights on the Kubernetes community, leadership, and moving on.
KASLIN FIELDS: But first, let's get to the news. Kubernetes version 1.27, codename Chill Vibes, was released on April 11, 2023. This new version consists of 60 enhancements. 18 of those enhancements are entering alpha. 29 are graduating to beta. And 13 are graduating to stable.
ABDEL SGHIOUAR: Keycloak joined CNCF as an incubating project. The identity and access management solution emerged in 2014 and have been used in production by organizations like CERN, Cisco, and the Ohio Supercomputing Center, Okta, and many more.
KASLIN FIELDS: AWS announced data on EKS, a new open source project aimed at streamlining and accelerating the process of building, deploying, and scaling data workloads on Amazon Elastic Kubernetes Service. Check out more in the show notes.
ABDEL SGHIOUAR: GKE Autopilot is now the default mode of operations for new clusters created in Google Kubernetes Engine. GKE Autopilot makes it faster and easier to reach a production-ready Kubernetes configuration with preconfigured defaults and smart automation for autoscaling to help you focus on your workloads.
KASLIN FIELDS: The CNCF has introduced the Cloud Native Explorers blog series, where they'll be featuring prominent community members who love the city where KubeCon CloudNativeCon is being hosted. Check out the series for more information about the where KubeCon is hosted in the future.
ABDEL SGHIOUAR: We have all been hearing about platform engineering in recent years. The CNCF platform's working group announced a new whitepaper on the topic. The document provides insights, guidance, and clarity on the benefits of internal platform offering, what problems they solve, methods to track their success, and attributes and capabilities they require. We also have an upcoming episode on that.
KASLIN FIELDS: Podman desktop released version 0.14. The new release includes some user experience and user interface improvements. But the major update is support for Kind, or Kubernetes in Docker. Check out more in the show notes.
ABDEL SGHIOUAR: The longest running Kubernetes Community Days is back. KCD Amsterdam took place on February 23 and 24 this year. The team wrote a blog post about their story, experiences, and lessons learned. For those of you who are looking to run a KCD, you will find a link in the show notes.
KASLIN FIELDS: KubeCon EU will feature a security village. The security village will be a dedicated space for attendees to learn, share, and collaborate about the latest security practices and tools in the Kubernetes and cloud-native ecosystem. So expect more news about security after KubeCon.
ABDEL SGHIOUAR: And that's the news.
KASLIN FIELDS: Today, I'm going to be interviewing Paris Pittman, who was very influential for me as I got involved with the Kubernetes open source community. She just does so many things. Paris, would you like to introduce yourself?
PARIS PITTMAN: Well, hello, Kaslin, and thank you so much for the invite today. I am super passionate about open source community, strategy, and governance. I used to hold so many positions inside of Kubernetes as well as CNCF-- Chair for Contributor Experience, Chair for the Tag Contributor Strategy on the CNCF side, the Kubernetes Steering Committee, and so many different maintainer roles. Now I sit on the Swift core team. I work at Apple in the Open Source Programs Office. And I am so happy to be here. Oh, and I love cauliflower and long walks on the beach.
KASLIN FIELDS: Those are the most important pieces. I'm glad that you got that in there.
PARIS PITTMAN: Cauliflower is good for you.
KASLIN FIELDS: I like cauliflower. Also, this is our 200th episode, which I'm sure that we've already mentioned. But you were on the first episode of the podcast, and the hundredth episode of the podcast, and now we're so excited to have you for the 200th.
PARIS PITTMAN: I can't believe-- I know, 200. You all have been working, OK. 200 is a lot.
KASLIN FIELDS: I mean, mostly Craig and Adam before us, but we're trying to keep it going.
PARIS PITTMAN: And I love that you took the reins and you're owning it and it's your own deal and your own personality shining through. I've always been a big fan of yours, Kaslin, so I'm so happy that you're at the reins here.
KASLIN FIELDS: I really appreciate that. And speaking of taking the reins, there are many reins that you have taken hold of over the course of your career. Could we start off by talking a little bit about how you got started in the Kubernetes community?
PARIS PITTMAN: Yeah. Long time ago, when I was at OSCON, I think it was either 2016 or '17, ran into a good friend of mine, Alex, who is friends with Sarah Novotny, who started the Kubernetes community, and they were looking for a Kubernetes community manager. I did not pause. I immediately sent my resume in. I knew this was an opportunity of a lifetime.
And I believe my first pull request was actually the steering committee election guide for the very first-ever steering committee election. So I definitely have a lot of roots in governance operations with the project. And I just didn't stop. I went full blast, as you know, and definitely love it, and I wish everybody could have that same kind of experience and that same joy that I had when I started with Kubernetes.
KASLIN FIELDS: So you came into it from kind of the community management angle. We talk a lot about noncode contributions, and you have kind of lived in that world for a long time.
PARIS PITTMAN: Yes, 100%. And the other thing is I think when we use the term noncode, it's so difficult for me to swallow that sometimes, because even as community managers, we're still using GitHub. We're still pushing pull requests. We're still using-- I mean, in my case, I was still using the command line to push my commits. And it felt technical. It all is technical, all of us. Everybody that's involved in open source is technical.
And I think it's really important for us to really understand that because I think sometimes it can be a little alienating for people when we talk about noncode as sort of this other thing. So I think it's important to bring everybody to the table and have opportunities for everybody, but make sure that you understand that when you're contributing, you still are-- you are a technical contributor.
KASLIN FIELDS: Always. And that's one thing, actually, that I found really intimidating about the Kubernetes community when I first got started. I come from a computer science and programming background, but I have always hated source control. We just don't get along very well. So getting familiar with Git-- and Git is so integral to the way the whole community works-- that was really intimidating for me. And one thing that I kind of want to talk to you about today, one of your past roles was as a chair of SIG Contribex, and I have just been nominated as a chair for SIG Contribex.
PARIS PITTMAN: Yes, and first and foremost, congratulations. Y'all, I have seen Kaslin rise up in this community, and it has been so great to watch. I think you are, in my opinion, just the pinnacle of success stories as far as open source is concerned because you found your way. Like you found your way, and that's so important.
And when I was first forming the marketing group in SIG Contributor Experience-- because I realized at that time that one of the issues that we had was just the fact that we weren't communicating at our best and at the widest that we could possibly communicate. The community is so large. I mean, the SIG service is 80,000 contributors. It's one of the largest projects in open source. And I knew that you were so good at communicating, and your developer advocacy work just really shone through. So when I was thinking about forming that group, I said, you know what, I'm calling Kaslin. And here you are.
KASLIN FIELDS: I'm so glad that you did.
PARIS PITTMAN: Here you are, though, leading this ginormous project from a contributor standpoint. And I'm just so happy for you, and I'm so happy for the project because I think that you offer something that is rare in open source. And I'm just so excited to watch you grow. So yay.
KASLIN FIELDS: Thank you.
PARIS PITTMAN: Oh my god, I'm getting a little teary-eyed.
KASLIN FIELDS: I appreciate that so much. And I so appreciate that you brought me into the contributor comms group because my first attempt to get involved with contributing was with SIG testing because I'm a really big fan of testing. And I was really interested in how testing would work for the Kubernetes project. But with a lot of folks that I know who contribute in the Kubernetes community, that first attempt didn't really work. Things kind of fell through. Nothing really stuck. But working with contributor comms and with the Contributor Experience SIG really stuck with me. So that allowed me to develop the skills that were hard, like Git, and move up to this point.
PARIS PITTMAN: And I've seen you move around, too. I think it's really important to get that one foot in to an open source project, and then you get that like purview of everything else around you. And it's so much easier, then, to really get involved in other places. So clearly, because obviously you're a chair now of the entire dang group. So that's why I said you're just like a rock star as far as the-- ew, and I hate that phrase. I cannot believe I just used that phrase.
KASLIN FIELDS: It's in your head. It gets--
PARIS PITTMAN: Yeah, I know, it does-- those evil tech phrases. But no, you are, like I said, the pinnacle of that story because that's exactly what you did. You made it your own, and you grew around you, and things like that.
KASLIN FIELDS: And the reason that I bring all of this background up is because I wanted to ask you for your advice. As someone who has been a SIG Contributor Experience chair in the past, I would love to hear a little bit more from you about leadership in the Kubernetes project kind of in general, and especially things particular to being a chair, and especially in SIG Contributor Experience.
PARIS PITTMAN: Yeah, for sure. That's definitely a good question because one of the things that I like to reflect on a lot are both the things I learned as a chair and also the things that I wish I would have known before I took the chair role. I remember I sort of dived headfirst into the chair role. I think a lot of people had nominated me because I was doing a lot of the work already. And that's kind of an important piece, too, like how do I get a chair role? Well, you have to start doing some work.
But there is a carrot there. And that's where I think my first nugget of wisdom comes in is the chair job does not mean lead maintainer. It does not mean that you're responsible for doing all of the work. I think I kind of got stuck in that trap at first. It's a trap. And if you find that you are the glue, meaning you're filling in for some of the work that needs to get done, try not to. I mean, of course, that's just human nature. You're going to want to fill in those blanks.
But one of the biggest things about the chair job is being really good at building a team and delegating and understanding the role of the volunteer and how they are incentivized and what gets them going. And so that's the part that I really wish folks would have told me in the beginning because, like I said, I kind of dived headfirst into being a maintainer for every subproject that we had.
And then, all of a sudden, I felt like some of our meetings started becoming the Paris show because when you're doing stand up, and then you realize, oh, I'm the only one standing up here, that's when I started to say, oh no. Let me build some teams. I mean, that's where the contributor comms crew came from and the events team and things like that, because it was, like, wait a minute. If we're going to sustain this crew, we absolutely need other people. And not just other people, but we need people to lead these things and lead them into the sunset. So I think that's probably my biggest nugget of wisdom.
I think the next one is that you serve the contributors. It's easy to get lost in the SIG. It's easy-- you are the chair of that SIG. But at the end of the day, the SIG's mission is to help contributors have the best experience. I mean, it's in the title. So it's super important to always get a pulse on what's priority for them. Because I think, in open source, we get really lost sometimes with let's do things that we are good at and that we know how to do, but sometimes, that doesn't match up with what's priority for the project and what needs to get done.
And that is from a chair perspective. It's important. That's where you can start delegating and doing outreach for those things and planning for those things instead of getting lost in let's just do what the SIG wants to do. I feel like that's representative of a lot of bad product organizations. But it's the same kind of thing here.
So I think those are definitely my top two. I would love to hear from you too, what your experience has been so far. I mean, I know it's only been a week, but you have been you have been doing the mentorship program, so I would love to hear like what's something that you have seen that you didn't know was there.
KASLIN FIELDS: Yeah, oh, there's so many things that I've learned over time. The bits of advice that you just gave reminded me of the very first thing that I learned from you when I started contributing in Kubernetes, which was--
PARIS PITTMAN: Uh-oh.
KASLIN FIELDS: Yeah, in trouble-- which was kind of a delegation hack. Since everyone in open source is volunteers, things fall through the cracks all the time. It's often really hard to get things done, and they take forever. And the first hack that you taught me for that was always assign something to someone in a meeting.
PARIS PITTMAN: Yes. Literally, what's the worst case scenario? They don't do it.
KASLIN FIELDS: And something I've learned over time as I'm currently a lead of a subproject within the special interest group for contributor experience-- by the way, if anyone has been lost with us saying SIG, it means special interest group.
PARIS PITTMAN: Yes, I do apologize. I am clearly rusty because I also used to explain acronyms all of the time to folks. So rusty over here, apologize.
KASLIN FIELDS: But one of the things that I've learned from being a leader in that group and using your tip of making sure that, if a work item comes up, it's always assigned, is that when new folks join the Kubernetes community looking to become contributors, they're looking for ways to get started. They don't know what to do. They generally want someone to assign something to them. So by assigning tasks to folks, even if it's not something they can do themselves, even if it's just go find out more about this thing or go talk to this other person to see if they could help us or something like that, having that sense of ownership really helps folks get ingrained in the community.
PARIS PITTMAN: And this is why I'm super pumped that you're leading-- and I'm being dead serious. I'm not trying to toot your horn-- because I think what happens in open source in general is people always say, oh, I just need people to jump in and help. And I know people aren't going to be able to see us shaking our heads right now, but what that gives you is the same type of contributor. And that does not give you a diverse contributor base.
I think it takes a lot of different strategies at play at once, and that is one, and that's something that is not often seen in open source with the delegation, with the breaking down of tasks. I mean, of course, we label things help wanted and stuff like that, but really taking that extra step and thinking about how to build a team-- it's so crucial. And that's why I'm just-- like I said, I'm just so pumped for you.
KASLIN FIELDS: And also, I think something you said there kind of sparked something in my mind. If you're always having folks come in and just asking them to jump in and get started, I think you're also going to end up with a lot of folks who are used to charting their own path and doing things their own way without talking to people. Folks do that all the time in Kubernetes. You chart your own path all the time and kind of make your own way. But we do it by talking to people most of the time. So I think that is a big difference that hopefully makes the contributor experience in Kubernetes a little bit better for folks.
PARIS PITTMAN: I think 80,000 people proves it, you know--
KASLIN FIELDS: Second-largest open source community in the world-- might have something to do with that.
PARIS PITTMAN: And oh my gosh, you know what, though, for people listening, that does not mean that the project does not need more contributors.
KASLIN FIELDS: Well, we do.
PARIS PITTMAN: Honestly, another nugget of wisdom is that I tried to not say that anymore, and there became a point where I would not say how many contributors we had because I felt like that actually turn people off because they would say, oh, you've got it, then. Oh, you don't need any more maintainers. And that's the farthest from the truth because maintainership takes forever to grow. You've been on the project for years now, so you know yourself that it takes a long time to really figure things out from that maintainer level, that "I'm here and committed" level and to stick around.
And I think the Kubernetes funnel, as far as contributors' to maintainers' concern, is like this gigantic thing at the top with this little pea chute at the bottom. So I don't like to say that a lot. I don't like to tell people how many contributors or maintainers that we have. I mean, I think it's like over 500 people in [? owners ?] files. That sounds like a lot, but when you talk about over 400 repositories and how Kubernetes Kubernetes may as well be the kernel, that's significant.
KASLIN FIELDS: And even just understanding that kind of breadth takes such depth within the project.
PARIS PITTMAN: It really, really does.
KASLIN FIELDS: You are one of the best people to talk with this about because you've held so many different leadership roles and been with the project for such a long time. And I think your current work that I've seen the most of has been a lot of this delegation and really handing off leadership.
One of the things that you mentioned that you've done in the past was being a member of the steering committee and helping with steering elections, doing all kinds of steering things. And you chose, actually, to move on from steering. There are no term limits, really, in Kubernetes. So all of these leadership positions you've had over time, that you're not in anymore, those are all by choice. Could you talk a little bit more about that?
PARIS PITTMAN: The funny thing is for all of the roles that I have held, I think I have left for differing reasons for all of them. But the one main thread, the one main reason that I've left all of them, is to give other people a chance. And I think that it's one of the most important elements of leadership in open source is that emeritus is not a dirty word.
You should strive for that. It's just like retirement. We're not going to work ourselves to death. We should work ourselves to a point where we can hand things off before we're so stressed out and burnt out. I mean, don't get me wrong, I've definitely burnt out on this project and definitely have taken on more things than I ever planned to and burnt out in certain areas.
But at the same time, a chair shouldn't be a chair forever. Who wants to see the same person lead a group forever? I don't know, it's just it doesn't make any sense to me. So I mean, this is something that I preach all of the time. And I feel like, as a leader, you should practice what you preach. And if there was one thing that I think that people should take away from my tenure here is that you should build a practice that you can give to other people and that you can mentor them into those roles. That, again, is another role of the chair. You should be mentoring the next one.
I mean, honestly, I don't think now, but in 3 to 6 months, Kaslin, I definitely think that you should start thinking about who's going to replace me. That's in there. Who's going to replace me in the next year to two years, or what have you?
And then, I think, for steering committee-- I think steering was both the best job and the toughest job of my life. Not a lot of people realize that when you steer a ginormous open source project that you may as well be the city council of a small to midsize city. So all of the problems that we have in society, we felt in steering. That meant social elements. That meant technical negotiations. It was really hard, and it took a lot out of me, honestly.
And sometimes, moving on and letting go is so important, both for you and the people around you and the project. And really, like I said before, I just think that emeritus is the way to go in so many elements of leadership.
KASLIN FIELDS: And I think there's another nugget of advice in what you were just saying there, too. It's also not just delegation, and it's not just planning for the next group. It's also-- it's kind of partially delegation-- but sharing the load across peers.
One thing that's happened since you were in these leadership positions, especially with SIG Contribex, I know that we've been working on making it so that there are more chairs. It's not just one chair, maybe even not just two chairs. You might have up to three or four chairs in the future because there's so much work to be done that it makes sense to spread it across more people. So thank you for all of the leadership that you've given us in the past, and we're trying to learn from it.
PARIS PITTMAN: Yes. And you know what, when it doesn't give you joy anymore, be out. Be done. And I think that is something that we, as open source maintainers, also don't really think about a lot. I think all of us are just-- we just hold on to stuff for so long, and then it becomes bad. And that's why. I don't want it to become bad, especially not something that you put so much love and TLC into from the beginning. So for folks listening out there, if something doesn't give you joy anymore, just Marie Kondo it and get it out of there.
KASLIN FIELDS: Leave as the hero, not as the villain.
PARIS PITTMAN: Yes, for sure.
KASLIN FIELDS: And all of this advice-- we've framed it in the context of open source and specifically contributor experience and the Kubernetes project, but this is fantastic advice, I think, for any professional. If you're aiming for senior levels in your career, I think all of this advice about training up the next group and delegation-- all of that is going to be useful for you.
PARIS PITTMAN: 100%, yeah. My day job too-- that is exactly how my career has been as well.
KASLIN FIELDS: So we've talked about SIG Contribex. We've talked about leadership in general. And we've talked about moving on. So what is next for you, Paris?
PARIS PITTMAN: Well, I don't know if you've heard about SIG Fashion--
KASLIN FIELDS: I love the concept of SIG Fashion. I would love to get involved. Could you tell me more?
PARIS PITTMAN: Yeah, I was about to say, for folks listening, some people in the community have done these like superlative-esque SIGs. They're in jest, but we have the special interest group for biking and running. So biking and running happen at KubeCons. And I think there's even a SIG Beard.
And we've also joked around a lot about SIG Fashion, and that's with Sarah Novotny and Stephen Augustus and Karen Chu and so many other folks who love looking their best and feeling their best. And I've had this dream of going around the KubeCon hallways with my little mic, just like this-- obviously, people can't see us, but I'm like holding this little portable mic right now-- and I would love to ask people on the show floor, so tell us what you're wearing, just like at the Emmys.
So one time, I did. I wanted to practice, and we were in-- I think it was KubeCon San Diego. And I saw Hippy Hacker. And I was like, Hippy, come over here. Come over here. And I started doing the bit with him, and somebody was recording just from a phone-- we're just being silly. But the sketch ended up being so hysterical because he had this Hawaiian shirt on, and he's like, oh, I'm wearing this shirt that reminds me of Hawaii. And it was just great.
So I would love to just, I don't know, add a little humor into it, but with some stuff that I really find amusing, and also really like-- but on a more serious tip because, obviously, that's not serious. I think what's next for me is really helping more open source projects thrive and not just survive. I think thriving is important, obviously, for both people and projects. And I think that having a contributor strategy and community strategy and that glue work, that intentional glue work, is a key to success for open source. And trying to figure out how to sustain these projects through those endeavors I think is super important.
And of course, my day job work at Apple and on the Swift core team, I am really enjoying these new challenges that lie ahead of me. And of course, I'm still here and around the community the Kubernetes community and CNCF community. That's definitely not going to go away. And yeah, I'm just really looking forward to the future.
And I'm looking forward to your future. Oh my gosh, I'm so excited. I've said that so many times on this show, but I wanted to say it one more time.
KASLIN FIELDS: I appreciate it. And a rare example here, folks, someone who went through those leadership positions, had all of the burnout and the struggles, and you're moving on to things that you love. You haven't lost the bits of the community and working in open source that you really loved, and you're continuing to build on those. I love to see it.
PARIS PITTMAN: Yeah, love it.
KASLIN FIELDS: So thank you so much for joining us today, Paris.
PARIS PITTMAN: Thank you. Y'all, 200-- I can't believe I've been on the first one, the 100 one, and the 200. Kaslin, you better invite me back for 300, OK. Let's regroup at 300.
KASLIN FIELDS: I mean, you're a staple.
PARIS PITTMAN: I know. Let's regroup at 300 and say where we are, OK?
KASLIN FIELDS: Sounds like a plan.
PARIS PITTMAN: Yes!
KASLIN FIELDS: And if folks listening out there want to get in touch with you, are there any ways that you would like to share?
PARIS PITTMAN: Sure, definitely. Hit me up any time on the Kubernetes Slack. I am Paris. I have a little avatar that has a big motherboard behind me. That's how you'll know that you got the right one. There are multiple Parises on that Slack, can you believe it? That was not the case, y'all. So I'm very happy that my brethren got on Slack. And then, also, I'm on Mastodon, and I think it's paris, if I remember correctly, @hachyderm.io. I think it's just Paris. That's why I was second doubting myself.
KASLIN FIELDS: Probably is. I would imagine that that's right.
PARIS PITTMAN: I know, that's like the first social network that I've been able to capture just Paris. It's like ooh, because it's the cool part of distributed social networks. Everybody gets a server and everybody gets their name.
KASLIN FIELDS: So thank you so much for being on today, and we'll see you in episode 300.
PARIS PITTMAN: Thank you. Yes, see everybody at 300.
ABDEL SGHIOUAR: That brings us to the end of another episode. If you enjoyed this show, please help us spread the word and tell a friend. If you have any feedback for us, you can find us on Twitter @kubernetespod, or reach us by email at <firstname.lastname@example.org>. You can also check out our website, kubernetespodcast.com, where you will find transcripts and show notes as well as links to subscribe. Please consider reaching us in your podcast player so we can help more people find and enjoy the show. Thank you for listening, and we'll see you next time.