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Author's profile photo Ulrike Fempel

Open Source at SAP – What’s in it for students?

Are you fond of learning and of innovation? Do you enjoy trying out or sharing your knowledge with others? Would you like to be part of a global developer community? Then engaging with open source or contributing to open-source projects might be for you! In this blog post, I would like to focus on how students benefit from open source when diving into a first job opportunity with an open-source project or when making open source part of their thesis or research at SAP.

As described in the figure below, there are different ways for students to combine their academic aspirations with open source in an enterprise, taking advantage of certain aspects related to open-source development. Many students are already convinced of the open-source way while others start experiencing notable benefits when they start at SAP. I talked to a couple of students in different teams at SAP to better understand how open source was helpful in their first work assignment or what differences they observed in the enterprise environment as compared to university programming projects or how research is driven with open source in a joint effort of stakeholders from different entities. In the following figure, you find some examples and ways of academic collaboration while using open source, including research on Ph.D. level, writing a master thesis, or as an integrated part of vocational training.

 

A common finding when working on open-source projects in a research context is the advantage of access to code and its visibility, and that sharing the code with peers or professors is easy. There are no restrictions such as NDAs, which are known limitations when working on a product in an enterprise context. This is especially relevant when students want to share their work, such as with a thesis, Ph.D. paper, or report of an internship.

Areas such as Artificial Intelligence, Blockchain, or Cloud Native Computing use open-source projects as drivers of innovation, which Enrico Fini, Ph.D. student at the University of Trento collaborating with the AI research team of the SAP Innovation Network Center (INC), demonstrated to me with his open-source library and research papers for self-supervised learning. It is by means of diverse and distributed collaboration that innovation has the best hotbed. Besides, when working on an exciting open-source project in an enterprise such as SAP in combination with their field of study, students have the option to continue this project in their spare time, even if they move on to a different job assignment. In any case, what is a big plus especially for young talents is the fact that they can leave a footprint publicly visible with their contributions to an open-source project.

Most of my interviewees confirmed what is true for a majority of open-source enthusiasts: being part of a powerful developer community and influencing projects can be extremely motivating:The biggest upside of open source for me is the community and the culture for sure – open source is more than code! Open source with the ability to follow contributions and other people’s experiences as well as getting feedback about my work is a great environment to learn as a student. My first commit to an open-source project on GitHub will always be a special memory to me in my learning journey”, says Lena Hammerer, Business Information Systems student and vocational trainee at SAP.

It is a constant learning process if you want to understand the project’s content while contributing or maintaining code and documentation. For those students who are new to open source, such as Julian Schmitt, a student of Mathematics at TUM in Munich, learning the specific open-source methodology and getting familiar with collaboration tools like GitHub (with pull requests, issues, etc.) is a good skill and helps with getting involved in open source in the future.

 

There are some specific learnings for students related to open source in the enterprise context: Open-source security is important for risk mitigation at SAP as well as for adhering to quality and product standards. Understanding how to adhere to these standards is an asset in any CV. Besides, governance and license compliance, bundled in a global open-source policy at SAP, are new pillars of binding rules for those who were involved with open source in their spare time before or who apply open source code for a university project, for instance. Working at SAP, students have to pick the right project if they want to use existing code – healthy communities, risk mitigation and security ratings are aspects they need to take into consideration. By taking SAP-specific open-source trainings or consulting detailed documentation, even newbies get good guidance on the specifics of open source at SAP. Finally, open source in an enterprise context also implies a basic knowledge of CI/CD, something which is usually not applied in university projects but plays a significant role in software deployment in any enterprise.

At SAP, we collaborate with open source in many teams contributing to projects based on different technologies. While becoming a cloud company, open source is playing an important role when using existing software components or for driving joint innovation with projects such as Kyma, Gardener (SAP initiated projects) or Kubernetes, or Knative (initiated by Google). Entire industry sectors join forces in an open data ecosystem, such as in the Catena-X project – a new way for SAP to collaborate with long-term customers. Furthermore, SAP engages in foundations such as Linux, Eclipse, Cloud Native Computing Foundation, and many others. Openness is key for collaborative practice and interoperability. Apart from open-source software, API-based integration architecture, open standards and open learning assets (open documents), and platforms (i.e. OpenSAP or SAP student zone) are keys to modern digitization.

Open source is an attractive development method for students and young talents. There are many ways to find a suitable working opportunity that combines open source and first work experience. “SAP Next Talent” is a career accelerator for recent graduates which provides an opportunity to gain experience in software development, design, and data science. The SAP Academy for Business Transformation is a 12-month program in which students will undergo three rotations in different business areas that contribute to SAP’s own transformation journey such as Intelligent Data & Analytics, Strategic Business Services, and Global Performance Organization. Visit SAP’s career page and find more about entry-level opportunities and careers at SAP (you can use the keyword search to find open-source related jobs). For open-source specific information, please refer to the links below.

Open-source related information

SAP Open Source Community

SAP Open Source Landing Page

Podcasts “The Open Source Way”

Webinars featuring open-source topics

Twitter @sapopensource

 

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