Simon Urli, our Core Developer

03 Sep 2020 5 min read
in 5 things
  • Favorite artist: High Tone
  • Best book ever read: Sandman by Neil Gaiman
  • Dream destination: Near a lake in the mountains
  • Quote you live by: Don't have one
  • At the office or remote? Mostly remote but I enjoy going to the office from time to time

Tell us a bit about yourself.

I'm 32, I live in Lille in the north of France, and I'm one of the core developers of XWiki for almost exactly 2 years now.

The journey to XWiki

What were you doing before XWiki? Did you change careers when joining our team?

Just before XWiki, I was finishing a postdoc at INRIA on the subject of software repair and more specifically on designing bots for fixing bugs automatically. Before that, I tried to create a startup on digital signage systems, and again before I finished a Ph.D. on software product lines.
I hesitated a long time between continuing in academics or going to industry. XWiki seemed like a good fit for me since I wanted to work in open-source and if possible I wanted to be able to continue to have a foot on research projects.

What is it like to be working in the Product team at XWiki? What was your career evolution like?

In one word I'd say challenging. XWiki is a big machine that can do many many different things. And it does some of them for many years now. So one big challenge is to understand how it works, and another one is to not break anything when adding something new. So the learning curve is not always easy but you learn a huge amount of things and you never get bored.
Besides the technical aspect part of the job is also to get involved with the community: by helping on the forum, by getting feedbacks for developing new features, by talking with the translators, etc. That makes it really rewarding to see people using what you do and providing feedback about it.

Open Source impressions

Was Open Source something you had an interest in before XWiki?

Absolutely. I've been an Open Source enthusiast for a long time, but it happened late for me to really become a contributor. As part of my postdoc, I became the maintainer of Spoon, an Open Source library that we use in XWiki, and I actually knew first XWiki because of some questions about using Spoon.

Simon presenting Spoon at OW2, in 2018

What's the Open Source value you appreciate the most?

Being able to understand how things work. I personally like repairing stuff, so it's really enjoyable when something doesn't work, to be able to put your hands in the code and read it, and to ask about it the people who conceived it. 

Being an XWikier for 2 years and counting

What has kept you at XWiki so far?

Until I don't understand it completely I won't leave. I think it will take a while emoticon_grin

If you ever wished for a job change, what made you decide to stay?

The first big thing for me is of course the possibility to work on Open Source and to have the opportunity to learn new things and to have diverse roles in my job.

Now on top of that, I really enjoy that the company is really transparent about the decisions taken internally and that the Open Source culture is not just a facade.

What were the most important or drastic ways in which XWiki changed during the years you've been around?

Well, I've not been at XWiki long enough to see really important changes I think.

Lessons learned

What would you say is the most valuable lesson you learned during your time at XWiki?

I learned and I'm still learning to communicate better about what I'm doing and how I intend to do it. XWiki is really a community project, so it needs to be done in a transparent way. And I can see how much value that communication can have when you're trying to fix something that is more than 10 years old. 

The XWiki experience

If you could describe XWiki in one word, what would it be?

As I said, developing XWiki itself is challenging, and I'd add that globally XWiki is friendly especially the community and the people working on it. 

What is your favorite memory of the years as part of XWiki?

My first seminar two years ago was my first time in Romania and it was even before I officially joined XWiki. It was really cool to met everyone there.

Simon and the XWiki team at the 2018 seminar, in Brașov (Romania)

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