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August 22, 2016
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My Summer at Hortonworks – Legal

Growing up in the Silicon Valley, the daughter of a mechanical engineer, I always wanted to work in technology. However, I never quite managed to get myself exposed to a tech field until I’d already developed a complex about my abilities in the STEM fields. I pivoted towards reading and writing – oriented professions and ended up in law school for intellectual property law – the supportive underpinnings of local technology companies’ licensing deals, patents, copyrights, trademarks, and trade secrets. Here was a way to be innovative and strategic on the behalf of clients who were doing the more traditional kind of innovation.

Fast forward to Hortonworks, where open source software turns intellectual property law literally on its head – from “copyright” to “copyleft,” in certain situations. From the familiar world of proprietary innovation, I stepped into the community of open source innovation. I learned a new licensing regime that was focused on wide dissemination instead of the sale of relatively fixed products.

Coming from a “non-technical” profession and being part of the structured HIPster program (Hortonworks Intern Program), I got the fantastic experience of learning about open source from the ground up. Through small-group chats between interns and company founders, the exciting “10 Years of Hadoop” celebrations at the 2016 Hadoop Summit, and the patient mentoring of the entire Legal Department, I learned about the mission of open source software and how Hortonworks differentiates itself in the crowded Silicon Valley market.

Not only was the program interesting and instructive, but I started to feel pretty passionate about the benefits of membership in the open source community. Lock-in is a major business concern, especially in a time where technology seems designed for rapid turnover. Proprietary software can look like a tech treadmill, and it can be attractive to just avoid getting on it. Open source mitigates these concerns and focuses on consultancy and services, which sounds more like “here’s how we continuously make this work for you” and less like “buy this…now this…now this…now this.”

Plus, the piece of the open source community that I found at Hortonworks embraced me, non-technical background and all. I learned some basic coding to help a tutoring program for middle schoolers, I was given time and materials to explore the intersection of open source and law when I wasn’t working on my main project, and, as my main project, I got to help plan the company policies needed to support the expansion of our mission in eight countries besides the United States.

I continue to be impressed by how quickly that community is growing and how far-flung the committers, contributors, and supporting business teams are. I received valuable legal experience in licensing and employment law compliance this summer, which is what I signed up for. But I think the more valuable experience was my induction into a group that I previously did not even know about. I was welcomed and tutored, whether I wanted to know about the software or the law. In return, I ensured that Hortonworks is an upstanding citizen of the countries in which it functions.

They say that “Big Data” and “Internet of Things” are the current buzzwords in Silicon Valley. After my summer at Hortonworks, the open source method of software development seems buzzworthy itself, even if the concept is not new. It has its own challenges, including a unique legal schema not yet much explored. I feel ahead of the curve for having had this leading-edge experience. However, the atmosphere of the office was infectious – I did my little part to bring Hortonworks expertise to enterprises around the world who want to make the latest buzzwords into insight-driving business realities. And I think enterprises should investigate what open source data management products – and the consultancy services by the professionals at Hortonworks – can do for them.

I guess you can call me one of those Silicon Valley HIPsters!

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