Gabriel Răileanu, our web developer

04 Jun 2020 5 min read

This article is based on a conversation with Gabriel. The opinions and wording are the author’s personal understanding of that conversation and not an exact transcript of it.

Part of the XWiki internship program last summer, Gabriel is more than an Open Source advocate and passionate about all things tech. He's also the guy to make jokes, bent on getting you to smile on a bad day and the one with an endless list of music recommendations. Back in April, he rejoined our team, so we thought we'd sit down and have a talk about him, his opinions, previous internship experience, and the decision to rejoin the XWiki team.

From intern to web developer

Tell us a bit about yourself.

My name is Gabriel, I am 22 years old and recently rejoined XWiki as a web developer as part of the Client team. I'm also in my final year at the Faculty of Automatic Control and Computer Engineering, studying Information Technology. As for things I'm passionate about, the most representative ones would be hiking, camping and listening to rock music.

in 5 things
  • Favorite artist: Three Days Grace
  • Best book ever read: Talking to strangers: what we should know about the people we don't know, Malcolm Gladwell
  • Dream destination: A hammock in mountains
  • Quote you live by: “The two most important days of your life are the day you were born and the day you find out why." - Mark Twain
  • At the office or remote? At the office for the people, remote for the pyjamas

The internship experience

How did you find out about XWiki and what made you choose it for an internship?

I first found out about XWiki through a Romanian internship program, during my third year of university. I was actually required to do an internship during that year. I could have done it within the university, but I wanted to change the research environment and do something different and that's where XWiki came in. It caught my attention because it was Open Source, so I decided to apply.

What was the internship experience like for you?

While it brought a lot of new things to the table, this internship wasn't my first one, so I had some experience to back me up. Even so, working on Open Source software was new to me. It also made me realize it's so different because it involves more than the people working in the company and the community has a voice in the decisions that are taken. The community rules implied quite a bit of rigidity, which didn't make the accommodation as smooth as I thought it would. XWiki is also a complex software so learning how it works took me quite a bit of time.

As with most things, the internship had its up and downs, but overall I was impressed by the company and team and happy to learn more about the community, which I think is what culminated towards my coming back to XWiki.

What about the integration process? How smooth or difficult was that for you?

All in all, it was a pretty smooth process for me. The team was welcoming and easy to collaboration with. I was grateful to have them help me understand more about the Open Source community and what it means because it definitely facilitated my integration process within the community as well.

Coffee on a bad day and a good word from your mentor is what can transform an internship in a great experience. At least for me, it did.


Gabriel during XWiki's 15th anniversary party

And what about the tasks you worked on? How challenging did you find them?

For the most part, I worked on Paid Apps, fixing bugs, and such. I should admit that while it was interesting to encounter so many different use cases, it also got frustrating sometimes. As an intern, it takes time to learn how to do things, so you shouldn't be expected to understand how a project which the others have been part of for 10 years works. I don't think any intern's abilities should be measured by the time spent learning a product as a whole. To me, it's about seeing a person's potential, how much they can grow, and guiding them in the right direction. 

It's not really about the destination, but about the journey of developing myself and learning new things.

And I definitely felt that this could be applied to my internship experience. XWiki is a complex software, so learning its ins and outs takes time. And developing and solving tasks on top of it? That takes effort and accumulated experience. I never put too much thought into how long it takes me to learn the ropes, as long as I take my time and understand how the software works so that I'm sure I can properly resolve the tasks I'm given. 

My motto throughout the whole internship has been that it's not only about the company, but also about the values, community and my personal evolution.

Open Source impressions

Was Open Source something you had an interest in prior to XWiki?

Yes, I both knew and used Open Source software prior to XWiki. For me, Open Source started with Linux, which I'm passionate about and use on a daily basis. I based my Bachelor Thesis, too, on this concept and built an Open Source social media network. I have actually been trying to transition towards both Open Source and software focused on protecting user data and maintaining privacy. It's also one of the reasons I've been gladly using CryptPad, which I discovered after joining XWiki, to store documents, knowing all my data is safe and sound.

You obviously appreciate Open Source, so what's the value related to it you identify with most?

Hmm...the freedom of choice, I'd say. Proprietary software always implies a price and you can never be sure it's 100% safe for personal data. Open Source software, however, might be more of a struggle when it comes to configuring it, but it is also more rewarding because you can add the features you need. It's also safer because you get to review and read the code you use. As as a favorite quote of mine says, "In God we trust, the rest we test". Not to mention, it's free and everyone can benefit from it.

Talk is cheap, show me the code. - Linus Torvalds

Coming back as a full-time XWikier

What made you decide to come back to XWiki as a full-time employee?

I felt at ease as part of the team during my internship and I knew it would be the same when I came back, which I thought of doing after I was done submitting my Bachelor Thesis. I also realized that XWiki is an environment where I can grow and learn new things, all the while gaining experience in Open Source and continuing to contribute to the community.

Becoming an XWiki employee is one of the first steps I'm taking to give (value) back to the Open Source community.


Gabriel with some of the team, hiking on the Toaca peak in Ceahlau

Did you feel like anything changed after this in the way you view or do things?

Some things definitely changed after my return, but I think that's normal when going from intern to full-time employee. As an intern, I was supervised and helped every step of the way because I needed to learn how things were being done. Now, as a full-time employee, I can be my own supervisor because I proved I can handle myself and my work. However, this also means having more responsibility and more complex tasks. I also changed teams and am now part of the Client team, which involves direct work on client projects, so I sort of have to learn the ropes again by finding out how to do tasks I've done before but for other, more complicated use cases. 

What is working as a web developer at XWiki like?

It's a bit of a challenge, I'd say. Working on XWiki, I always face new tasks that help me analyze, discover, and learn more about it, as an Open Source product. Since my internship, I've come to realize more and more the importance of the Open Source community, too. That's why I've also become a lot more active on the forum and made a habit of taking part in discussions there. I usually start my day by reading the forum, getting an update on what's new there, and only then moving on to inside company news, checking tasks, and organizing my day.

The community doesn't stop at XWiki, but at everyone else who uses tools we ourselves use inside XWiki. Some of them are experienced developers with whom you can network, discuss and receive valuable feedback from.

One thing I appreciate about working at XWiki is the opportunity to use many other tools and technologies that are widely spread and which make for interesting use cases. I prefer customizable tools that require more time to become functional, but which are much easier to use and control.  

If you were to meet a random person for a drink and mention you use any Open Source software, I'm pretty sure you're bound to find a common point of interest and have interesting conversations about it.

Lessons learned

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

Definitely to think twice (or just many times) before doing something, like a commit on the platform. I also realized that the community matters more than you think. Finding what should be implemented in the product and how to extend it to meet user requirements can be difficult, but when it comes to Open Source, the community makes it a bit easier. It can be a factor that not only helps find the direction for the product but also the balance between the company and users' wishes. In the end, it is the community that can offer your project scope by giving feedback and telling you what they need from the product. 

The XWiki experience

Finally, if you had to describe your XWiki experience in one word, what would it be?


XWiki is a challenge to work on. On the one hand, you have a complex product on top of which development is done and, on the other hand, tasks are each done differently, even if the use cases might be similar or, sometimes, even the same.


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