Let’s Discuss: Can Open Source be a Career Maker?

I have noticed that I have been passed up for career making opportunities because the majority of my freelancing work revolved heavily around open source. I am going to estimate that in about five years, traditional organizations will strongly be looking for making open source as a career-maker.

While, by statistics, more and better paying jobs are non-open source today, the future is clearly that open source is going to win.

Open source is officially in the air around IT. There is more than enough open source analytic tools, databases, programming languages, storage systems, and so much more. I have been releasing my own PHP framework and plugins as open source since October. Microsoft is working on hiring open source experts to help support Linux and open source software on it’s Azure Cloud platform.

While open source is moving dramatically into the mainstream, I am confident that there will be a wave of opportunities for developers who have their skills in open source platforms, tools, and programming languages.

Regardless of this wave of change that is happening, we still need people with experiences in proprietary software and programs. These requirements are needed for most of today’s senior and executive level developer positions. Yet there is strong signs of a major shift towards open source.

Some companies are actually seeking open source developers. An example would be, if a company has a specific need for open source, they are willing to bring in an expert to lead their team. Others seem to be accepting open source skills as an alternative to experience in traditional IT systems. An example of this is knowledge of Hadoop may be accepted in lieu of expertise in a proprietary platform.

I have helped my friends with their resumes when it comes to looking for IT jobs and positions, and our resumes tend to be in open source. A few examples are MySQL, Ruby on Rails, Linux, and Java. We tend to look for low to entry level positions over medium to management ones. For this to change, and yes it will, employers must put a greater emphasis on open source as a critical element of their IT departments.

Polyglots are Becoming a Requirement

Great developers aren’t born in a single day. A great developer is a great developer — their languages are just syntax. I’m looking for developers who at least has skills in Java and Ruby on Rails. If they also have PHP or something else, that is even better. I also don’t even care if their full resume is just open source.

We all know that open source is evolving quickly. There is even new languages such as Clojure and Scala. I think we all can agree just knowing one programming language can be a career-breaker. It can even slow down their future options. I am usually looking for someone who is open minded and curious. We need developers who can identify the right tool for the right job without being set in a single mindset.

As much as I am working with open source and saying that it is the future of technology. I know that if a proprietary approach would get the job done faster or better than a open source platform, I am willing to use it. Such decisions like these can save me time, money, and weeks of developing and patching a platform.

I know that having a mix of proprietary and open source developers within your company will give you options on which platforms, tools, and more resources that you can use. When you think about it, I don’t think anyone is all open source just coming out of college right now because the IT departments still use Microsoft and Oracle to teach their students. Instead, it seems like open source seems to be something both the college graduates and experienced developers experiment with in their spare time.

But all of this is changing.

Students of the open-source movement seem to be more passionate and values-based. If an application ot platform  doesn’t do what it [should], they want to be able to change it so it allows the job to do done.

The open source mindset is gaining a foothold across industries and growing expectantly. Two good examples of this happening is in Data.gov’s Open Source Project and Mill-OSS Working Group. These two promote collaboration between civilians and the military on open source projects. Even Telsa Motors has shared their battery patents.

Between five and ten years ago, you would be placing yourself into a smalal corner if you were solely working in open source. While it is still a little too early to say that open source has won, there is fewer and fewer organizations that doesn’t want anything to do with open source. In fact, you can most likely find open source projects to work on at most companies. As open source rises, so will the opportunities for higher ranking jobs will open up also.

I think we all can agree that open source gaining ground. Even the international market is looking for new stacks and technologies that are in the open source community.

There has been some really popular open source technologies been developed just recently, and because of this, it could be really hard to find candidates who have experience with them past entry levels. There is one plus side with open source with this situation, and that is the U.S. education system is embarrassing open source. This could lead to a competitive advantage in the international markets.

I strongly believe that developers should be able to move easily between programming languages as needed. It’s not a good sign when you get stuck between choosing one language or the other when it comes to building software and platforms. As an example, if you only have .NET experience, you can find a job, but it will be a little harder.

I know that having familiarity with multiple systems shows creativity and the ability for problem solving. We are currently living in the age where creativity and problem solving will separate us from the machines which we use to code.

This is just part one of a two part series talking about open source as a career maker. This series of articles will continue with part two being released in a few days. Keep your eyes open for part two which will be talking about going all in with open source and how it is going to effect companies.


Categories: Programming, Software

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1 reply

  1. I see open source on my résumé as both blessing and curse. Granted, I have plenty of experience and at least a decade of charging handsomely for my programming solutions. The average person who considers open source from a management standpoint is most likely interested in the idea that coding is free or nearly so. They reason: if it’s open source then it’s not just free (as in free speech) but it’s also free (as in free beer). And then they extrapolate from this that all your solutions within the open source world should therefor *also* be free. In their mind, you’re quite used to giving away your labors for free so why should they as your potential employer be treated differently? Can’t they also have your labor for free?

    So yes, some companies are finding it necessary to open up closed technologies and to provide more transparency to what goes on “under the hood”, so to speak. But the industry hasn’t yet figured out that open source doesn’t mean that programmers now have to become the new bohemia of America. We still deserve to be paid as professionals, the same as a doctor or a lawyer. I think what’s important is for ourselves as programmers to stop competing globally with people who don’t share the same cost structure as we do. Don’t lower your prices. Let these outsourcing employers fail and they’ll eventually return those jobs here to the states and they’ll pay what we ask them to pay, eventually that is.

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