Meet Joe Sepi: Inaugural Cross-Project Council Chair

By July 25, 2019 Blog

With the merger of the Node.js Foundation and the JS Foundation complete and the newly formed OpenJS Foundation taking shape and coming into its own, there are many exciting things happening, including electing new leaders within the Foundation’s governance. Recently, Joe Sepi was elected as Chairperson of the Cross-Project Council (CPC), which is the top-level advisory and technical governance committee within the OpenJS Foundation.

As the first-ever Chair of the CPC, Joe will play an integral part in the success and progress of the council and Foundation. We caught up with him to learn more about his vision and what he hopes the CPC will accomplish. Read on to learn more about Joe, his passion for open standards and his vision for the OpenJS Foundation.

What does a day in the life as community chair look like?  What is the impact of this position?

For me, this role is all about facilitating productive conversations in our weekly meetings, forward motion in our GitHub issues and pull requests, and in general, a healthy environment for the folks working in our community. At the end of the day, I want to champion progress for the CPC, and ultimately for the community, the ecosystem, and the Foundation. Being new to this role, part of my strategy for success is to be familiar with each open issue and pull request and to know who the subject matter expert or person with the most context is, so I can ensure those folks are being heard and able to help drive the conversation. Yes, part of this job is to lead meetings, but I’m always looking to hand the mic off over. Often times, the best way to facilitate good conversation is to stay out of the way. Additionally, this role encompasses a certain level of diplomacy, efficiency, and fairness, especially making sure all voices are heard to prevent lopsided conversations.  

I’ll also add that transparency is super important in open governance — we aim to do the majority of our work through issues and pull requests. We have open meetings and publish our meeting notes and try to capture any verbal decisions in the accompanying issues or pull requests so that the community can see the work and have an easy and familiar way to get involved. This process is at the core of what we do and how we work.

While new to the particular role, you are no stranger to open source communities or open-source collaboration. In fact, you are heavily involved in the Node.js Project and community. How has that experience shaped you for this new role on the CPC?

Yes, I’ve been a software engineer working with JavaScript for many, many years, and have had extensive experience on the Node.js Community Committee (CommComm). Many of the operations adopted by the CPC were born out of Node.js Technical Steering Committee (TSC) and CommComm. These allow the council to focus on the important things such as good discussion and landing issues. What I can really appreciate about Node.js meetings is the high level of transparency and process-driven decision making. By adopting the operationalized aspects of the Node meetings, such as how to get something on the agenda, and how to capture important topics during the meetings, I feel like we have a bit of a head start. It’s great to bring these best practices to the CPC.

As CPC Chair, what do you hope to accomplish?

My main goal is to be a good steward of the council and advocate for the projects. I was elected from the Node.js Project, but I’ve been involved in other projects (within the foundation and beyond) and I feel a certain responsibility to advocate for all projects within the OpenJS Foundation and even beyond the foundation bounds.

Additionally, I believe it is critical to have a wide range of voices in the conversation and will be proactive in inviting and encouraging a more diverse group of folks to be involved in our work.

What are your goals for the Foundation, and how do you plan to accomplish them?

We have the successes of two foundations under our belt, and a great opportunity to take what’s been done, and build upon it within the OpenJS Foundation. I’m excited to leverage what’s been previously achieved to help improve the overall JavaScript ecosystem and community. An example of this is the first-ever OpenJS Collaborator Summit. Previously, it was only Node maintainers, but by opening it up, I found it to be a very positive experience. Cross-pollination within the open-source community is crucial for progress. It was inspiring to see standards bodies, browser implementers, platform and tool authors and collaborators in the same room. These broad discussions will build and strengthen our community. 

Give us a brief background of your career and how open source has impacted it.

I started my tech career as a software engineer in 1998. Currently, I am an Open Source Engineer & Advocate at IBM.  In addition to CPC chair, I am also the Node.js CommComm rep to the CPC, and a TC39 delegate from IBM. I am fascinated and inspired by the way JavaScript open-source projects have been key to the success of the web; projects like jQuery, Dojo, Backbone, CoffeeScript, Babel and of course, Node.js. Having seen a few false starts with JavaScript on the server side, it’s been incredible to watch Node take off. Even more so, it’s been an honor to have played a part in its growth. 

For folks wanting to get involved in the CPC, what’s the best first step? 

Definitely follow us on Twitter (@openjsf) to get alerted to meetings, news, and tidbits. We publish our meeting agendas as Github issues which always include a link to access the meeting — we encourage observers to join the meetings and get involved. I also suggest folks subscribe to the Youtube Channel and click the bell to get alerts when meetings are streaming. And finally, watch the GitHub repos and peruse the issues and pull requests to see what work is being done; its the best way to get involved in the conversations and to find ways to contribute to the effort! 

What else should folks know about you, and what’s the best way to get in touch?

I enjoy talking to people so please don’t hesitate to reach out! For those wanting to connect feel free to hit me up on Twitter @joe_sepi (DMs open) or in person at events or out on the streets. I’m always down to talk about everything open source, open governance, punk rock, dirt bikes or whatever. :wave: