From Zero to Kubernets Subproject Lead

Getting started in any open-source community can be daunting, especially if it’s a big one like Kubernetes. I wrote this post to share my experience and encourage others to join up. All it takes is some curiosity and a willingness to show up!

Here’s how my journey unfolded at a high level:

  1. What am I interested in? Is there a SIG (Special Interest Group) or a WG (Working Group) that is dedicated to that topic, or something similar? 
  2. Sign up for their mailing list and start hopping on meetings.
  3. When (never if!) there are opportunities to help out and it aligns with your skills and desired growth areas, raise your hand.
  4. Ask for lots of help and don’t be shy about not knowing everything (or anything!)
  5. Keep plugging along, even if progress isn’t as fast as you would like it to be.

Starting up

First things first. What are you interested in learning more about? There are so many wonderful SIGs and working groups in the Kubernetes community: there’s something for everyone. And continuing to show up and participate will be so much easier if you think what you are doing is interesting. Likewise, continued participation is what keeps the community thriving, so that interest will drive you to have more of an impact. 

Also: it’s ok to show up knowing nothing! I remember showing up knowing very little about Kubernetes or how the community itself worked. And while I know more about how the community functions today, I am still learning all the time about it and the project. Fortunately, the community is full of friendly people who want to help you learn. Learning as you go is expected and celebrated. When you raise your hand to do something, even if you know nothing, people will cheer and help you along the way. 

This method was my exact story. It was my first or second meeting with SIG Security, and Pushkar Joglekar mentioned that he needed a lead for a subproject he was creating after having done a security assessment of Cluster API. Everyone was so friendly in the meeting that I thought, “Hey, why not try it out?” And since then, I have received so much support and encouragement from my co-leads who are delighted to have me, especially because I am a beginner; new participation is what keeps the community healthy.

Always learning

My participation has also been a great learning experience on several fronts. First, I have been exposed to techniques for how to build community consensus. It’s simple stuff: show up at other SIG or working group meetings, share your ideas or where you are looking for help, find people who are interested and have the knowledge to help, build an action plan together, do it, and share as you execute. But the other thing that I’m learning is that building this consensus and executing it in a transparent, inviting way simply takes time. 

I also have to be patient with myself and remember that I am learning as I go. The Kubernetes git repo can be daunting to navigate. Knowing the next best step isn’t always obvious. But this is where my third learning curve, how to engage the community to get what I need, comes into play. It turns out that asking questions in the Kubernetes Slack workspace and bringing my topics to the SIG Security meetings when I need help is an amazing way to get what I need! Again, simple stuff, but until you do it, it’s not always obvious.

Why you - a beginner - are important to the project

In many ways, beginners are the most important part of the community. To put a finer point on it: asking for, receiving, and then giving help is a very relevant part of how the community grows and flourishes. When we take on and then pass on knowledge, we ensure that the community grows enough to keep supporting the needs of the people who rely on the project, whatever it is. You have superpowers as a beginner! 

I hope people who read this post have their curiosity peaked about getting involved in the community. It may seem scary. My experience has been such that, about halfway through your first step, you realize there are loads of people here who want to help you learn and are excited for you expressing interest and trying to participate, and the fear melts away. Sure, I’m still uncertain about a few things, but I know the community has my back and will support my growth. 

Come on in, that water’s fine!