Shawn Pearce: a true leader

Shawn Pearce Memorial Fund

Shawn Pearce was the founder of JGit and Gerrit Code Review OpenSource projects. I am truly honored to have worked with him on the same project, even if we were sitting on the opposite sides of the Atlantic Ocean and working in offices with different company names.

Many times people talk about real leaders, but having known someone like Shawn for over eight years makes a big difference. We both started with the same ideas back in 2008 even before meeting each other. Shawn had the goal of making Git scalable for its adoption in the Android OpenSource project and started by rewriting the Rietvield project in pure Java, while I had the purpose of extending the use of Git version control to large Enterprises in the world, with the service.

Embracing ideas

We first met face-to-face in 2011 at the GitTogether in Mountain View CA at Googleplex. Shawn was the initiator of this famous “unconference.” It was an incubator of ideas and creating minds that were spending time together to exchange and enrich each one experience with new revolutionary concepts.

I was new, and I did not know anyone from the project. My ideas were very different from whatever discussed by the people in the room. Then I stood up and proposed to change the architecture of the project and make it fully pluggable, inspired by the experience and success of Jenkins CI.

Shawn did not have a clue who I was, where I was coming from, what was my experience or my working history: he just answered “yeah, that makes sense. Would you like to come and help us?”. And so I did and we worked together for a week where my journey with Shawn all started.

Inspiring people

What I liked about Shawn was his unique style of leading the project. He never announced or presented himself with glamour at the conferences, but everyone knew who he was and when he entered the room always captured the interest and attention of everyone.

The passion of talking about the challenges he was facing with the project itself and always pushing the boundaries of what could be achieved was contagious. He never said to the people what to do and still left everyone to make their mistakes to learn and improve.

Shawn was the seed that made the project grow far beyond its initial size and scope. He was able to take promising young people like Dave Borowitz, who started just a year before as an intern at Google and let him rewrite the entire backend to implement NoteDb.

Humanity first


Shawn was bright and genius, but what inspired me most of all was his passion for his children and his lovely family. He was used to having his son coming over the weekend to our Hackathons as well and be close to his dad. He merged his family life with his daily work and passion. The best moment I remember was when we had a “hacking barbecue” at his new house in San Jose facing the beautiful hills at sunset, with Noah playing in the garden and hugging his loving dad.

He always looked at combining the needs of his family and the presence and duties of the Gerrit project, which remembered everyone that people are the most critical part of it.



The loss of Shawn was for a lot of people unexpected: he kept on posting code and feedback on the mailing lists until his very last days. He implemented brand-new support for OpenSSH in Gerrit back in November 2017 and kept in touch with the community and contributors until Christmas. His last commit was on the 3rd of January 2018, always committed until the very end of his life.

commit ea974d725ed1d5d5ffa1461bef7986168819dee3
Merge: e650e06 bd42cc7
Author: Shawn Pearce <>

Date:   Wed Jan 3 01:06:03 2018 +0000
    Merge "Prolog cookbook: attribute success to uploader, not author"

He never disclosed publicly his illness and how severe it was. He lived his life with the best of his ideas and passions till the very end, with his family, his project and all the things he loved the most.

Shawn Legacy

When great leaders like Shawn are leaving, there is always the danger to leave a void. I believe it is not possible to replace Shawn because he was a genuinely unique leader in its style and passion. What he has created, however, is a vibrant and healthy community that is out there and will continue with the values that he taught us with his professional and personal inspiring life.

What Shawn has created he defined a “healthy live project” which will be able to continue beyond his life and our existence. See below the 10 years of the project in numbers.



We are all grateful for Shawn has done to us and all the future contributors and adopters of Git, JGit and the Gerrit Code Review.

I am a lucky person to have known and worked with such an inspiring leader. Thanks, Shawn.


18 thoughts on “Shawn Pearce: a true leader

  1. Pingback: donations to Shawn’s family | GerritForge Blog

  2. Pingback: New top story on Hacker News: Shawn Pearce has died – NEWS TODAY

  3. Pingback: New top story on Hacker News: Shawn Pearce has died – Tech + Hckr News

  4. Pingback: Shawn Pearce has died – posted at January 31, 2018 at 02:53AM by mattdisipio – Startup News 2018

  5. I liked that way David Ostrovsky decided to celebrate his memory:

    commit 23571ab1fa7fedc262d6c21510614353e9d8a4dc
    Author: Shawn O. Pearce
    Date: Fri Nov 14 16:56:58 2008 -0800

    Initial project setup of Gerrit 2

    Gerrit 2 is a ground-up rewrite of Gerrit, using GWT (Google Web
    Toolkit) for the client side user interface and a Java servlet
    based backend.

    Signed-off-by: Shawn O. Pearce

    10 years of hard work, dedication, humanity and friendship.

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  12. Hello.
    Just found out the sad news.
    I was Shawn’s 8th grade science teacher in Brielle,NJ.
    I had a long and rewarding career teaching wonderful middle school age kids but only a handful will go down in my book as very special students. Shawn was one of them. I have many good teacher/student memories of him. In particular there was a classroom science “project I wanted to devise to innovate learning As rudimentary as our school technology was back then, Shawn worked to help me achieve this for the other students. He truly seemed to enjoy the challenge.We laughed….a lot. I recall attending his Eagle Scout honor ceremony and to this day his project still stands along Union Lane in Brielle beginning each Memorial Day. You just knew…. way back when….. that Shawn would grow up to do good things. Make the world better.Be kind and share lovingly his genius with others. His passing is a huge loss to all.

  13. I had the honor of working with Shawn for a brief period back in 2006 before he broke our hears by going to google, learned a lot from him and agree he had unique teaching style that I miss sorely. I am saddened to hear of his passing, truly was great guy.

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