GitHub has long been a part of Hackcon – John Britton has been to every one so far! We can’t wait to have him, along with Carol Smith and Brandon Keepers, back for another to share how GitHub Education can empower you (besides the awesome initiative that they’re already doing for first time events!). This year, Brandon, Head of Open Source at GitHub, will be giving a keynote talk, and we simply couldn’t wait to hear from him. Learn a little bit about him before the conference!

So, who are you?

I’m Brandon Keepers, and I am Head of Open Source at GitHub. I lead up our efforts to help developers, communities and companies overcome hurdles in embracing open source. I came to GitHub in 2011 with a decade of experience in software development, consulting, and building products.

What is your experience with hackathons and the hacker community?

The moments in my career that I have grown the most as a hacker and a teammate were in focused hacking sessions surrounded by others. These moments include hackathons, user group meetings, conferences, and team offsites.

In 2006, I joined the Grand Rapids Ruby User Group and, for the first time in my professional life, felt like I had found my people. We held regular user group meetings and occasional hackathons after work, where a small group of us would pair on each other’s pet projects. These hack sessions taught me many of the fundamentals of great software development.

At GitHub, we hold various forms of internal hackathons. Two of my favorites are “Open Source Friday” and “Hack Houses”. “Open Source Friday” is a tradition I helped start where the entire company is encouraged to use every other Friday getting more engaged in open source. Some teams will work together on an ambitious project, and sometimes we organize projects for people across teams to hack on together.

“Hack Houses” are opportunities for teams members from all over the world to meet up in real life and work together on a project. They are great for starting a project, or putting the finishing touches on a new feature launch, or just helping the team work through a particularly challenging problem. I’ve participated in several Hack Houses, and they’ve been some of my favorite moments at GitHub.

So many great things happen when you get a diverse group of people together to focus their energy.

Hackers Working Together at T9Hacks

Why do you love Open Source?

Open source has been critical to my growth as a software developer from the very beginning. I learned to code with open source languages, built apps with open source libraries and frameworks, learned how to truly collaborate on open source projects, found great mentors and role models in open source communities, and fell in love with the open source process as a model for creating great software.

How can Open Source impact students and education?

At the heart of open source is a notion that we have more to gain by sharing our knowledge and working together than we have to lose by hoarding our creations. The open source community and the software industry owe this enlightenment to academics. And now open source communities are showing how to scale collaboration to an unprecedented scale.

There has never been a better time to be a student, especially in fields related to software. Students have free access to millions of high-quality open source projects to experiment with, take apart, fix, and improve. There are endless opportunities to learn how great software is built by examining the source code, getting help from peers, and collaborating with some of the best developers in the world.

As students look ahead to what comes after their education, many potential employers are seeking candidates with verifiable skills related to open source technologies. A public record of open source participation is one of the best ways to showcase their experience.

Octocats at WHACK

#HackconIV is just a few days away, and we cannot wait to see you there! We’re excited to hear what all our speakers have to share, and what you can share with one another! We’ll see you in Colorado!

Tickets for #HackconIV are all sold out, but don’t miss your chance to go #HackconEU, the student hackathon organizers’ conference that will be hosted in Eindhoven, Netherlands in September! Early Bird Tickets are out now, so get yours!