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Why PayPal bets on open-source

Soumik Ghosh | July 4, 2016
Here’s why Bill Scott, the man leading next gen commerce at PayPal, swears by open-source and believes in lean engineering. Failing fast and learning fast is the key to the castle, he says.

Why PayPal bets on open-source

The old way was to spend a lot of money on limited software and hardware. The new way, as PayPal's Bill Scott, VP of next gen commerce found, is to scale out with lots of low-cost hardware and software. Open-source enables this, and to marvelously good effect.

Scott, a firm believer in lean engineering, stands by the fact that it's the secret sauce that fosters innovation and efficacy.

Lean engineering, simply put, is becoming a part of the experimentation and learning cycle. The idea is to have rapid iteration and get feedback from customers quickly.

"We talk about lean startup and lean UX, but without engineering being lean in the way they think in partnering, we can't really see that happen.

Because engineering - they're the ones who create the bits. So we tend to take engineering and make it just a production machine," believes Scott.

There's simply no way around it. If you want to be the next "disruptor" on the block, it's imperative for your engineers to be part of the understanding of requirements; for them to know what they are doing, and why they are it, so they can go: "I've a better idea."

"The premise of lean startup is all about being able to invalidate your ideas. You may have a lot of great ideas, but when we get down to implementing it, you may figure that's it's not all that good. So it's really all about failing fast and learning fast," explained Scott.

The next question that pops in our mind is: What's lacking in the industry right now?

"I think we're trending in the right direction, but there are a lot of engineering organizations that think of themselves only as a delivery machine.

I can tell you that there have been many companies who reached out to me to ask: How do I get my engineers to where they want to be a part of the overall process?" said Scott. "So, I think, in the engineering culture, the thing we're lacking most is to associate yourself as a partner in the forefront for the process."

And this is precisely why a lot of his passion revolves around getting engineers to wake up to the fact that they have product, design, and business folks who want them to be part of the solution.

How open-source cracks the case

"I think that open-source is key. One of the things we decided earlier on, when I got to PayPal, was we wanted to make sure that our technology staff was so full of open-source, and so part of the open-source community that anybody who came into the company just knew how to use it," explained Scott.


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