The OpenStack Blog

Open Mic Spotlight: Paul Michali

This post is part of the OpenStack Open Mic series to spotlight the people who have helped make OpenStack successful. Each week, a new contributor will step up to the mic and answer five questions about OpenStack, cloud, careers and what they do for fun. 

Paul Michali is a Technical Lead onPaulMichaliHeadshot the OpenStack team at Cisco. Although new to OpenStack (started in 2013), Paul has been a software developer for over 30 years working at various companies and industries. His current focus is on VPNaaS, and he has been trying to drink from the fire hose for all things Neutron. An empty-nester, he lives in New Hampshire, USA, with his wife and pets. Outside of work, Paul enjoys photography, playing soccer and volleyball, watching sci-fi and action movies on his home theater, and playing on the skid pad with his BMW. Follow him on Twitter @pmichali

1. Where is your happy place? Favorite place to visit, vacation, decompress? 

One of the special places I go to (except for in the winter), is a small beach about an hour away from home. I take my dog early in the morning and he runs up and down the beach, retrieves (usually) balls and sticks I throw into the ocean, and gives both of us a good workout. Being a morning person, it’s nice to get out and watch the sunrise in a quiet and scenic place.

2. What publications, blogs, mailing lists, etc. do you read every day?

Besides reading the OpenStack developer mailing list (well, ok, maybe I just browse it :) ), I like browsing through StackExchange areas StackOverflow, Super User, Ask Ubuntu, Ask Different (Mac), Programmers, Unix & Linux, and Photography on a daily basis. For leisure reading, I try to get some news and info via Twitter feeds, and I visit Lifehacker.com daily.

3. What behavior has helped get you the furthest as a developer?

Probably the best thing that helps me grow as a developer, is the desire to constantly learn new things. I try to read a technical book every month or two, am constantly seeking new techniques, methods, and processes that I can apply, and help people as much as I can. I’m frequently humbled by how much one can learn by reviewing other peoples’ code, and by explaining things to others. It helps solidify one’s knowledge and tests past assumptions and learning.

4. How did you learn to code? Are you self-taught or did you learn in college? On-the-job?

A mixture. Initially, I was self taught. When we got an ASR-33 Teletype connected to a school computer (don’t ask how long ago that was) in high school, I started writing small BASIC programs during free time. The infection took hold, and by the time I was a senior in high school, I had a part time job, at the first personal computer store in my home town, selling computers and writing small custom business apps for small companies in the area.

By then, I clearly knew what I wanted to be when I grew up, and couldn’t wait to get my own pocket protector (yes, I did get one in my first “real” job). I went to college and learned a ton, filling my head with several languages. From there, I started working, and pretty much in each job I’ve had to learn a new language: microcode, Pascal, C, Java, Perl, and for OpenStack, Python.

5. How did you first get involved in OpenStack?

At the very end of 2012, the whole group I was in had completed a major project and had handed off the reins to another development team. As a next assignment, we were offered two different projects, one of them joining the OpenStack team, of which there was a very limited number of openings. It would be a leap of faith for me, to work in a new area (cloud computing), with a new language (Python), using a new process (open source/community based), and as part of another organization in the company.

I had toyed with Python a bit before, writing some tool scripts, and was intrigued by the language. The thought that I could move away from a more traditional development process using C, and into a much more iterative and incremental process with Python, encouraged me to jump at the opportunity and I haven’t looked back since. It’s been the happiest time for me in my career.

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