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GitHub’s head of communities explains how its big push into AI and cloud will help educate a new generation of developers — and get them paid

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Stormy Peters is wearing a black blazer, black blouse, here hands are clasped on a black table.Stormy Peters is the vice president of communities at GitHub.

Emily Sierra/GitHub

  • Stormy Peters, GitHub’s VP of communities, is a believer that open source can improve the world.
  • Firms like GitHub help eliminate barriers to creating software, Peters told Insider.
  • This article is part of Innovation Leaders, a series examining how business leaders view their role in driving tech innovation.

Open-source-software development can make the world a better place, according to Stormy Peters, the vice president of communities at GitHub.

That was demonstrated by the developer response to the COVID-19 pandemic. In the wake of the outbreak, developers everywhere jumped into open-source software. Interactive models projected the effects of the disease in prisons, self-monitoring tools helped healthcare employees care for patients remotely, and a volunteer-matching system connected community volunteers with at-risk people.

Those GitHub-based projects proved the open-source community’s quick collaboration could be used to solve fundamental issues and transform the world of software, Peters said. Now she wants to make it easier for everyone to create cloud software for good. At GitHub, she’s leading projects like GitHub Education to give free open-source resources to students and teachers, and Sponsors, which lets patrons donate to the developers behind open-source projects.

“It’s fun to work with, like, all of our maintainers in open-source-software communities because everyone sees different solutions,” Peters told Insider. “Some are obviously more altruistic than others, but they’re all like about using technology to solve a problem that we have.”

Solving those problems starts with making it easier for people to create projects and grow communities around them. Companies like GitHub are responsible for eliminating barriers, including finding projects to contribute to and compensating people for their time, Peters said.

And Peters’ role in that includes the innovation behind features for developers. For example, she led the charge with Achievements, a project that celebrates actions on GitHub and supports developer recognition. She also guided the launch of Discussions, a forum designed for users to ask and answer questions on open-source projects.

“I think our work is about making it possible for people to create software and the solutions they need and focus on that by providing them tools that make it easier to do,” Peters said.

Peters said she’s particularly passionate about GitHub’s Education project. She’s in charge of making new ways to support the 2 million students and teachers who use the product. Peters helped launch Global Campus, a program that allows teachers and students to access GitHub’s premium features for free.

Recently, the company also made its artificial-intelligence-based pair programmer, GitHub Copilot, and its online development environment, Codespaces, free for students. Tools like Codespaces were created so that all students could start learning to code, regardless of whether they had access to a computer.

Making these tools widely available for educators and students is game-changing because it gives those who want to participate in open source a chance to do so, Peters said. Overall, Peters’ focus is on making it easier for the world to develop in the open, which includes finding ways to get people involved.

“The open-source community is unique because the opportunity for innovation can happen anywhere. It doesn’t matter your résumé. What matters is that your idea is heard and felt by the community, making an impact,” Peters said. “I believe the power of creating things is in supporting those that want to implement awesome things, and in collaborating on them.”

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