Docker Birthday #3: Q&A with Solomon Hykes, Founder of Docker

Mar 23 2016

To celebrate Docker’s 3rd birthday, we are inviting newcomers to the Docker community for a fun training on how to build, ship and run distributed applications with ease thanks to the Docker platform.

The Docker community organized over 120 Docker Birthday celebrations in 50 countries across 5 continents. We are immensely grateful to our awesome meetup organizers and the over 580 Docker experts who signed up to help newcomers complete the training!

We also partnered with several organizations to ensure that these events are inclusive for everyone attending including underrepresented minorities in the tech community. Stay tuned for a blog post later this week with more information on those efforts.

We recently sat down with Docker founder, CTO and Chief Product Officer Solomon Hykes to reflect on the past three years. We asked Solomon what his birthday wishes were for the Docker community and why diversity in tech and open source are important to him.
solomon_hykes What is your birthday wish for the Docker community?
My wish for Docker is that the community continues to grow around its core principles. In particular, I would like to see the community have more empathy and understanding of each other. It’s a very large and diverse community that includes developers, ops, enterprise organizations, hobbyists, beginners, and experts. And with diversity comes difference: difference of opinions, difference of goals, difference of expertise, and all of that is actually a good thing.

As with all communities, you have debates and disagreements. Sometimes, you have strong emotions because people care about what goes on in the community. My wish is that these differences of opinions become a strength enabling us all to learn from each other and grow closer together as a community.
Was there something that the Docker community did, maybe over the last three years or last year in particular that you’re happy about?
When we started out with Docker, it was a product for ops. We built a product – that we would have used at dotCloud – to be a platform we would use to manage our application environments and share with our own development teams. We did not initially anticipate that so many developers would want to use Docker directly to build their applications.

Developers initially started using Docker directly because they wanted more control over their own development environments. And it ended up being a 50/50 partnership between developers and ops instead of ops only. At the time, we were all ops people by training, building tools for other ops people to help developers indirectly. However, today our developer community is huge. That was an unexpected turn and we’re delighted. It’s an opportunity for us to provide a platform that will help both dev and ops work more productively.
Why is diversity in the tech community important to you and Docker?
By virtue of what Docker does, we find ourselves at the intersection of very different worlds. We connect devs and ops. We connect Open Source to the enterprise world. We connect clouds to data centers. We connect old fashioned proven methodologies for creating software with leading-edge, completely new architectures. And we connect community and business, so, that means we’ve hired and drawn in people from varied backgrounds. As a result, at Docker you find yourself always meeting people with an unexpected and unusual point of view compared to yours and you learn from that. So it’s become part of the culture.
Can you give an example of how Docker promotes diversity?
I think we obviously have a lot of work ahead of us, like everyone in tech. We’re by no means the perfect example of diversity, but we do value it enormously. We have seen that the more diverse we are as a group, the stronger we are.

I am proud that we have partnered with Women Who Code to proactively encourage more diversity within our company and at Docker events around the world. This partnership will include collaborating on campaigns throughout the year like Docker’s 3rd Birthday, DockerCon and Docker meetups. [Editors’ note: Stay tuned for more news about this partnership!]

I am also very happy to share that we have a new scholarship program dedicated to strengthening our Docker community and promoting diversity in the larger tech community. The DockerCon Scholarship Program will provide assistance to members of the Docker community from traditionally underrepresented minorities through mentorship and a financial scholarship to attend DockerCon 2016. The goal of our scholarship program is to help members of our community gain access to resources, tools and mentorship needed to facilitate career and educational development through attending DockerCon. [Editors’ note: Check out this page for more information about the scholarship and how to apply.]
Who is someone in the larger tech community that inspires you?
Katherine Johnson is an incredible pioneer in computing and aeronautics who did amazing things like calculate the trajectory for Apollo 11. She worked for NASA starting in the 1950s as an aerospace technologist. Working in science and technology back then in America as a woman of color was not easy and took a lot of fortitude. She’s an inspiring role model not only for women and minorities in technology, but also for many others including myself.
Why is Open Source important to you?
I think for two reasons. The first reason is that it’s really a breakthrough in how to create something. Open source allows more people to get together to build something ambitious more rapidly than ever before. An open source community cuts through a lot of the obstacles to actually building something because you have a group of builders across the planet creating something together. That wasn’t possible before, because before software, you had to physically be in the same place to effectively collaborate. Before the Internet, it was very hard to coordinate a group of people across the world.

Additionally, the freedom of open source enables the ultimate builder’s dream. If you’re a builder, then you dream about a society where the best craft wins. A lot of builders are unhappy because their jobs and their environment constrain them with layers of obstacles, which are not rewarding and do not encourage building. You can’t build a prototype and then show it to a lot of people to get more resources and help. In many scenarios, builders are forced to create a PowerPoint deck, fabricate something to get attention or learn how to speak louder than others in a meeting. So, there’s always been a lot of anguish for builders and how to best fit in society and bring as much value as possible.

Open Source is an outlet to that because it’s hard but the highest quality projects win. You can talk all you want but if your software is not good, it’s right there for everyone to see and everyone can fork it right now. So it’s incredibly competitive in a way, but in the healthiest possible way it creates emulation. It keeps you honest. This is why open source is important to me.
What’s one thing that most people don’t know about you?
Many people know that I ride a motorcycle, but they don’t know that I like to ride it safely! Everyone assumes I’m a crazy risk taker but I’m actually a safe and prudent driver. I think it’s funny to be a prudent driver on a motorcycle.

I’ve also been practicing a traditional Vietnamese martial arts form called Tay Son Vo Dao for over nine years. It’s a big part of my life and an important counterbalance to work.
Is there something from martial arts specifically that you incorporate into your everyday life?
Over the past nine years, there’s been a lot of ups and downs. To keep going on the tough days, you need some sort of a structure to stay level-headed, which takes discipline.

Practicing martial arts helps with that. When you get punched in the face, you know what a fight looks like and you’re less eager to start one. It pushes you out of your comfort zone so you can become disciplined about everything you do and that’s important. There are people here at Docker, including me, that you can throw whatever you want at them and they’re never going to give up. With a good master, you can apply a lot of what you learn in the practice to the rest of your life.



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