Red Hat Research Quarterly

Combining experience with passion inspires a new mentorship program

Red Hat Research Quarterly

Combining experience with passion inspires a new mentorship program

about the author

Liora Milbaum

Liora Milbaum is a senior principal software engineer at Red Hat with a passion for DevOps culture.

about the author

Irit Goihman

Irit Goihman is a software engineering manager at Red Hat and an open source enthusiast. 

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The Office of the CTO is promoting open source development concepts among teenagers, the military, and the academic world in Israel. Here’s how two engineers helped realize that goal.

Red Hat Beyond is an initiative that gives students a taste of real-world software development and methodologies, by exposing them to the entire process of designing and developing a software project in a collaborative environment. Students have an opportunity to combine the theoretical knowledge being taught in the academy with hands-on experience with a real-world tech stack.

In the program, professional engineers prepare and present weekly sessions for the students and take responsibility for mentoring them. Mentors work with students to understand what is involved in real-world software development using an open source model, and they answer questions about technical difficulties. Students are also exposed to using GitHub, the code review process, and coding style requirements. 

Students are divided into teams of five, each one taking on a web application development project to complete. As part of the project, each team had to design the system architecture, database, and front end screens in addition to the back end in Python. While the Red Hatters are there for support and direction, the students themselves own the entire project. To this end, they learn how to collaborate with each other and divide their assignments so each team member has an area of responsibility.

A history of leadership

The Beyond initiative was started by Red Hat associates Liora Milbaum and Irit Goihman. Liora, a senior principal software engineer, joined Red Hat after twenty years of running a company providing DevOps services. In her company, Liora trained junior engineers and gave them the tools to start their own journey in the DevOps world. 

Training younger people was one of the things Liora felt fulfilled her the most. To continue this work, she started the DevOps Loft initiative, a nonprofit community for aspiring DevOps engineers willing to gain more knowledge and tools to bootstrap their careers. She ran weekly meetups where senior DevOps engineers provided workshops and shared their knowledge with others.

When Liora joined Red Hat, she discovered the company’s efforts to connect the industry and the academic world and suggested applying the methods she used in DevOps Loft in the university. Her proposal included creating a different kind of academic course, with real-world, hands-on experience for students. This proposal was warmly welcomed by Sofi Sherman, PhD, and Prof. Ruti Gafni from the Information Systems school of the Academic College Tel Aviv Yafo.

Irit, a software engineering manager, has ten years of experience in the industry, working in R&D as well as IT. She is passionate about sharing her knowledge to help other women succeed in the engineering field and promoting diversity inside and outside of Red Hat. Among her projects is a school visit program at the Tel Aviv site, in which high school students spent full days at Red Hat and learned about open source culture. 

Liora and Irit partnered to lead the Beyond initiative together. The program was a perfect opportunity to mesh Liora’s and Irit’s experience and passion while passing on knowledge and skills to future engineers early in their careers. The tech industry recruitment process puts more emphasis on relevant experience and skills than on degrees, which can create challenges for less experienced candidates. A program like Beyond helps potential engineers gain more background knowledge and leverage open source projects as additional experience.

Continued growth

When Irit and Liora presented their Introduction to DevOps course in the Information Systems school, they met Prof. Gideon Dror, the Computer Science Dean, in the elevator. Prof. Dror was eager to hear more about the course and immediately asked about incorporating a similar course in the computer science department as well. This is how the second course, Open Source Development Principles, was initiated.

During the second course, the COVID pandemic hit the globe. Beyond had to become fully virtual. This was a surprisingly easy transition. as the program members used the same tools that Red Hat engineers use for their daily work in a global environment.

Another virtual class about open source development was offered in conjunction with Prof. Anat Bremler-Barr, Vice Dean of the Efi Arazi School of Computer Science at the Interdisciplinary Center (IDC) of Herzliya, Israel’s only private university. 

So far, four courses have been delivered in two different academic institutions. Additional workshops have been offered at Haifa University, Bar Ilan University, and for the Israeli Navy.

The success of the program can also be seen in the organic spread of open source ideas. For example, after completing an open source course with Beyond, an IDC computer science student started working on a project with a few friends from the army and was able to teach them open source software development methods. In this way, Beyond has created new opportunities for collaboration and the growth of open source culture well after the course is over.

What they’re saying

“The course challenged the students and demanded a lot of self-learning. But eventually it was a big boost both to their technical knowledge and their soft skills.”

—Prof. Gideon Dror, The Academic College Tel Aviv Yafo

“Nowadays, when industry is advancing extremely fast towards new and exciting technologies, maintaining a strong link between industry and academy is absolutely vital.

—Sofi Sharman, PhD, Prof. Ruti Gafni

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