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Sidebar: In-House Expertise Key to Open-Source Effort

April 26, 2004 12:00 PM ET

Computerworld - The biggest advantage has going for it as it migrates to an all-open-source architecture is its people. The company has a highly creative and dedicated group of 23 IT experts, according to those involved in the project.
"We don't have a big team, but the people we have are all good problem-solvers," says Tim Bolser, director of applications development at "These are people who just eat up any problem you give them. You can give it to them on a Friday, and they solve it over the weekend," he says.
In fact, it was thanks to the creativity of individual IT staffers that came to appreciate the value of Tomcat open-source application server software. Several staffers had been experimenting with Tomcat on their development machines even though was using IBM's WebSphere application server software on its Web site at the time.
They could do so because IT managers not only allow, but encourage, developers to use the software tools that work best for them, rather than force them to adhere to a corporate standard.
"Our management philosophy is based on the fact that good technical people are also highly creative. I like to build an environment where they feel they have a say in things," says Bolser. "Sure, there are certain [technical] requirements, but when you can give technical people some leeway, it makes for a better working environment."'s technical staffers are also tinkerers by nature, notes Joey Reynolds, senior system administrator-supervisor. "Every individual here has done work with Linux, either playing around with it at home or on live applications," he says. And much of their expertise comes from work experience, not just training programs, he says.
Another advantage is that "almost 90% of the people here also know one another" from previous jobs, says Reynolds. "We value that greatly."
Staff recruiting was done through informal channels. "Our recruitment is a lot by word of mouth," Reynolds explains. "Most of these people have all worked with one another somewhere else. There's the advantage of knowing just who you're bringing aboard."

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