Froilán Irizarry is a developer, community builder, and recovering entrepreneur. He’s worked in a number of industries in both the private and public sectors. Over the last five years, he’s helped organize a number of tech communities and events, including Code 4 Puerto Rico, Fullstack Nights, PyCaribbean 2017, and the Maria Tech Brigade. During his time in Washington, DC, he worked with the U.S. Digital Service, was the tech lead for Code.gov, and joined GitHub as a Services Account Engineer where he now helps US federal agencies use the platform to improve their code reuse and software delivery.
Hi @froi, what’s the most rewarding part of your day to day work?
The most rewarding part for me is the role that we have in the digital transformation of agencies, our impact goes a lot farther than the technology. For example in our work with the Department of Veteran Affairs, we are affecting the lives of real people and having an impact on the digital transformation and modernization of this agency to better serve our Veterans.
You have helped the government build better software for years now, why this focus for your career, why is it important to you?
It’s all about people. About serving them in a fast, productive, cost-efficient and human manner. It’s our responsibility as citizens to be involved with our government and be the change we want it to be. I’ve been involved in government, civic tech and community organizing because, at the end of the day, I want to help people, I care about that more than what tech we use for different projects or what programming language they are written with.
GitHub is a very unique place to work. What surprised you the most as a new Hubber?
I’ve always been a big fan of GitHub and during my hiring process, I asked a lot of questions about the efforts the company takes to make a difference in diversity and inclusion, I’m impressed by the investment the company has in this space, that helped seal the deal for me.
Since joining, I’ve become a member of the Octogatos (GitHub’s Latinx employee resource group) and felt welcome with open arms.
What’s the best and worst advice you’ve ever received?
The best advice was given to me by my first professional mentor: “when you are responsible, there is no room for excuses”, this really helped me frame my view on how to tackle work, and also framed my mind into not committing unless I can follow through.
Worst advice: “follow your dreams and everything will be ok and fall into place”, this advice does nothing to prepare you for the real and hard work that you have to do in order to achieve anything. I’m sure to instill this philosophy into people I mentor, only through hard work you can achieve your goals. You have to work at it.
Being a mentor is a big part of your life, why mentorship?
I take it very seriously because I am an example. I am a mentor because I know I couldn’t have achieved what I have without help. People helped and took a chance on me, I had a community behind me and it is important for me to pay it forward.
Is there anything happening in the open-source space that you are excited about?
The open-source space and the tech industry are going through a period of introspection in my opinion and that shows growth. I’m excited about the community having a hard time with its own definition, we are discussing both the future of open source, and at the same time things like pricing models, how we should pay contributors, and innovating other funding initiatives like GitHub Sponsors.
Why do you think that’s happening now versus five years ago or eight years ago? What’s changed?
A newer generation has come in with different perspectives and a bigger understanding of certain societal changes. Seeing the struggles and advocacy for women’s belonging in tech, for LGBTQ rights, and the push for a more inclusive industry. So this new generation is coming in with these points of view, looking at what’s established in open source and finding things they don’t agree with. In my opinion, that’s positive because, at the end of the day, older people are going pass the torch and the new generation is the one that has to continue.
What OSS projects are you working on currently?
I’m working with Code for DC on The Expungement Eligibility Guide app this is a brand new project being created with Rising For Justice. RFJ is a DC organization that runs legal clinics where residents can get help having their criminal records expunged.
Finally, the 1hora.org site and project, a mentorship platform, intended to be used by and for communities to facilitate mentorship.
Do you have any advice for folks starting their careers in technology?
As technologists, we are in a very privileged position to drive conversations and to help society move forward. A lot of the things that are happening are caused by us, and we should be responsible in what we build and how we distribute it. I’d call for people in tech to take a more active role in their communities, participate in civic hacking and help others understand what’s happening in the world. What we build has consequences now, not in five years, so we should act accordingly!
To learn more about Froi, his OSS projects, or to ask him any questions about civic hacking and contributing you can reach him on twitter @skfroi.