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Mærsk shares code on GitHub to attract IT talent: “It’s a huge culture shift”

Illustration: Niels Christian Vilmann/Ritzau Scanpix

Denmark’s largest company, A.P. Møller – Mærsk, has moved onto GitHub and shared several of its open source projects with the public.

In addition to being able to improve projects by getting people from outside to review the code behind them, there is also another reason behind using GitHub.

“It’s a way to present ourselves as a company involved in modern software development,” says Søren Vind, senior engineering manager at Mærsk.

Within just a few years, A.P. Møller – Mærsk has grown to be more than just a transport group. Today, Mærsk has more than 6000 IT employees spread over large parts of the globe.

In fact, the IT department has become too big for Mærsk’s head office on Esplanaden in Copenhagen. Today, it is spread over several new addresses in the capital.

“It’s part of an overall initiative to ensure that we continue to be a modern shipping, logistics, and technology company, as well as a world leader in technology in that area. This means, among other things, using much more open source and sharing code on a platform of this type,” Søren Vind says.

By making open source projects available to the public, Søren Vind believes that far more IT professionals will realise how much Mærsk works with technology today.

“It makes it possible for our employees to market themselves as software developers who contribute to an open source project. Among other things, it’s about attracting IT talent, because the people we want to hire also get an insight into how we work,” he says.

Søren Vind, senior engineering manager at A.P. Møller – Mærsk. Illustration: Thomas Nymann Michaelsen / Mærsk

More openness

Large companies sharing their open source projects with IT experts outside the organization is far from a new concept.

Tech giants such as Google, IBM, and Microsoft have for years used the platform for internal projects, but it has been a radical change for the traditional Danish company.

“It’s a huge culture shift. The company is 118 years old, and when you’re an old industrial company, you can’t give away the things you have built yourself,” Søren Vind says.

Although the company has opened up to sharing its knowledge, a watchful eye is still kept on what information leaves the company.

“To some extent, it’s our investments that we distribute. And we’ve built some checks into the initiatives to ensure that we don’t give away Mærsk’s internal data and trade secrets,” Søren Vind says.

Controlled data

The code that Mærsk shares must therefore be targeted at solving more general problems that can help other companies. Mærsk will not share data that gives the company a competitive advantage over other shipping companies.

“We contribute tools that mainly solve general problems. Some of what we have released today is, for example, how to test code, and it’s not something that is exclusive to Mærsk. We have solved a general problem in a unique way, and we’re sharing it with others. But it’s not a unique problem for Mærsk,” Søren Vind says.

The code that Mærsk shares on GitHub should also show how seriously the Danish conglomerate works with technology.

“What we release must be of high quality. We can’t just release some junk because then we would miss the point. We want to show that you can spend part of your work hours on something that can be released and shown off on your CV and that we have good people employed who build some solid things,” Søren Vind explains.