Making Open Work
May 8–9, 2017: Training & Tutorials
May 10–11, 2017: Conference
Austin, TX

Attracting, retaining, and developing new contributors in open source

Nithya Ruff (Comcast), Rupa Dachere (CodeChix)
11:00am11:40am Thursday, May 11, 2017
Location: Meeting Room 10 A/B
Level: Intermediate
Average rating: **...
(2.00, 1 rating)

Who is this presentation for?

  • Project leaders, community managers, and newbies alike

Prerequisite knowledge

  • An understanding of how open source projects work and how to contribute to them

What you'll learn

  • Learn simple ways for new people to get involved
  • Understand how to recognize and value contributions of all kinds
  • Explore strategies for developing and retaining contributors through assignments and investment in their skills


Projects thrive on great contributions, but this does not happen by magic. Very often, people will leave projects that do not make them feel welcome or are easy to contribute to. A vibrant project attracts, grows, and values all contributions, and this is especially important for welcoming first-timers like women and members of other underrepresented groups to FOSS.

Nithya Ruff and Rupa Dachere explain how to create on-ramps for first-time contributors, how to retain the contributors you have, and how to develop contributors for the future. Along the way, they share best practices from companies and projects for making new developers feel welcome.

Photo of Nithya Ruff

Nithya Ruff


Nithya A. Ruff is the senior director for Comcast’s Open Source Strategy practice. Nithya first glimpsed the power of open source while at SGI in the ‘90s and has been building bridges between hardware developers and the open source community ever since. Previously, she created and managed Western’s Digital’s Open Source office and has held leadership positions at Wind River (an Intel company), Synopsys, Avaya, Tripwire, and Eastman Kodak. Nithya has been a passionate advocate for opening doors to new people in open source for many years and has promoted diverse ways of contributing to open source projects. She is coleader of the Women of OpenStack (WOO) group and a liaison into the OpenStack Foundation. Her work has included partnering with NCWIT on a Male Allies Workshop and panel and serving as a mentor at OpenStack. She is also a sponsor of the Women in Open Source (WIOS) Lunch at the Linux Foundation and an active leader of WIOS, advocating for reducing barriers for women and underrepresented minorities. Nithya was invited to be on a diversity leader panel at the 2015 All Things Open conference and has spoken at a number of other conferences, including OSCON, SCALE, Grace Hopper, OpenStack, and Red Hat Summit. Her writing on open source and best practices for increasing diversity has appeared in Light Reading, the Huffington Post,, and the San Jose Business Journal. You can often find her on social media promoting dialogue on diversity and open source. In recognition of her work in open source both on the business and community side, Nithya was named to CIO Magazine’s most influential women in open source list. In 2014, she was invited to be president of SanDisk’s Women’s Innovation Network (WIN), dedicated to the development of women’s highest potential in the work place. Nithya holds an MS in computer science from NDSU and an MBA from the University of Rochester’s Simon Business School. She lives in the Bay Area and is a proud mother of two daughters.

Photo of Rupa Dachere

Rupa Dachere


Rupa Dachere is the founder and executive director of CodeChix, a 501( c )3 charitable nonprofit dedicated to the education, advocacy, and mentorship of women engineers in industry. Rupa has been a software engineer and tinkerer for decades and loves to learn new technologies and skills and share her knowledge with others. A recognized speaker and panelist at PyCon, OSCON, the Grace Hopper conference, and several international conferences, Rupa is known for her straight talk about the challenges that women face in the tech industry and her dedication to addressing the retention issue through her unique annual technical conference, DevPulseCon, which focuses on open source. Rupa holds a degree in computer science from the University of Colorado Boulder. She received awards from the IEEE and ABI. You can learn more about her at