Scholarship 2011

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Ian Weller interviewed Ricky Elrod, the 2011 recipient of the Fedora Scholarship.

Tell us a little bit about yourself. How old are you? Where are you located? What are some of the more interesting classes that you took in high school?

Well, my name (if not obvious by now) is Ricky Elrod, and I am 18 years old, starting my third semester of college, where I am majoring in Computer Science. I am located in northeastern Ohio, where I have lived for approximately six years now.

The most interesting classes I took in high school were the technological ones. I was involved in the TV Studio class where we ran the morning announcements every day. I was also involved in a Cisco/A+ certification class. I enjoyed this because it taught me a lot about an area that I didn't know much about (how routers communicate and such). I particularly liked the teacher of that class because he let us go as fast as we wanted to, and explore areas that interested us. He did try to poke fun at me for using Linux a few times though ;)

When and how did you become involved with Linux and/or free software?

I had been using Linux for quite a while, probably six years or so. I don't exactly recall what sparked me to go try it, but I can easily remember why I stuck with it: the community, the free software principles, and the ability to say the phrase "I don't like how this works, so I'm going to fix it."

What made you want to actually contribute to open source software, and what led you to the Fedora Project?

Before becoming a Fedorian, I was bouncing through different distros and operating systems. I couldn't really find one to "call home," because I felt like they all had something missing. I couldn't quite place my finger on it until I joined the Fedora Infrastructure team, and it all came clear: The other distros/OSes were missing [the same sort of] community involvement. A lot of distros out there don't let users help out with any aspect they want to — Fedora is an exception to that. If you're good at a particular area (even unrelated to coding) and want to help out, they will welcome you with open arms and teach you how to get started. This missing piece is why I have stayed with, and plan to continue my involvement with, Fedora.

How did you find out you could contribute to Fedora's infrastructure? What do you like about working with the team?

Well, like I said, I was distro and OS bouncing, figured I would take a look at Fedora, since I had heard of it before, but never really tried it. I had some free time that day in high school, after finishing lunch early, and headed over to an empty computer lab, like I did quite often, to check my email and a few other things. I went to the Fedora Project's website, and saw all the ways that you could contribute. Design, Marketing, Infrastructure, Websites, the list goes on. I wanted to enhance my sysadmin skills, and so looked into what it would take to get involved within the Infrastructure team.

The wiki had several pages explaining how to get started, and I remember very vividly sending out my "Hello World" introductory email to the Fedora Infrastructure mailing list, that day in high school, in between classes. When I got home, I joined the infrastructure IRC channel, and pinged Mike McGrath, who I read was the Infrastructure lead at the time. He helped me to get started on the team, and as time went on, I learned all about how the team works together, and what areas I could help out with.

One thing that impressed me with the team is that they would use skills you already knew — unless you wanted to learn something new. They would never say "go learn this and come back", they would say "What do you know, and what are you interested in helping out with?" But if you said "I'd like to learn more about this" they would help you get started in the area you asked about.

Tell us about some of the Fedora contributions that you are most proud of. Don't be shy!

A lot of my work so far within the infrastructure team has been internal things that end users don't directly see. Whether enhancing tools that we use to monitor services, upgrading things that we use to provide the best possible infrastructure for users and developers alike, and working with people to coordinate when things are happening that the infrastructure has to make any kind of change for.

In the future, I have some plans to work on things like getting the software that powers Fedora Hosted up to date, which is going to be a slow but exciting process. I also plan on venturing into some other areas of Fedora, such as the websites team and packaging, at some point. These areas have interested me, since I indirectly work on them, since the infrastructure powers them, and knowing the ins and outs of them certainly can't hurt.

Where are you going to college, and what are you studying?

I am currently a full-time student at the University of Akron, where I am majoring in Computer Science. I would like to use the knowledge I pick up throughout my college career to later benefit open source projects such as Fedora. I love learning (especially about technology), and giving back to the free software community where I can. What better way to combine the two? :)

Anything else?

Yes, as a matter of fact, there is — I would like to say a huge "Thank You" to the Fedora Infrastructure team and the Fedora project as a whole, for showing me (and many people like me) that open source software is easy to contribute to from any level of experience. I would also like to thank the selection committee and people who made the Scholarship possible. I appreciate it beyond what words can express. Thank you to all who make Fedora the great project that it is, and the great project that it will continue to be.