Finding Open Source Positions
Finding Open Source Positions
Finding open source positions can be one of the most difficult aspects of any career in open source software. The primary reason for this is most open source positions are volunteer projects where nobody involved is getting any compensation beyond recognition for their hard work. This is not to say that there are no paying open source positions out there, and surprisingly enough the competition for these positions is extremely limited as most people do not realize that it is entirely possible to make a career out of developing open source software.
One of the most common employers in the field of open source software is universities and colleges. Most government grants to develop software these days require the projects to be open source and focus on creating a sustainable open source community. The reasons for this are as varied as the projects themselves, but frequently the reason is that an open source community is significantly less expensive to maintain than an entirely internal development group.
Therefore when looking for open source software development positions, keep an eye on your local newspapers and college publications. Open source software development projects are frequently announced in local papers as they are a point of pride for the institution. Another great thing to check is for software developer positions at your local university or college. While they may not always mention in the job posting whether or not the position is open source, you can usually find out rather quickly simply by calling and asking about the position.
Another good way to find positions in open source software development is to look for large open source software projects that have a paid core staff. Some projects have paid staff because they are too large to rely on volunteers alone, or to ensure that certain tasks are done. Generally these are only the very largest open source projects and you will need to become not only a contributor, but a key contributor that participates in every aspect of the open source development process to have a chance at these positions.
One frequently underutilized method of finding an open source position is to create one where you currently work. By participating frequently in open source software development in your spare time, you gain a strong arguing point when speaking with your superiors about a new project. Make sure to play up the fact that your quality assurance process will essentially be handled by members of the project who are working for free, and the fact that you will be receiving up to the minute feedback about both the design and development of the project. Another key point to bring up is that should the company ever wish to stop development on the project, it will continue to thrive if a strong open source community is built. Most companies can be convinced to open source portions of their development, which allows you to create a position running that project.
An important thing to remember when taking a position in open source is that even if you are the primary curator of the project that does not give you dictatorial control of the project itself. Managing an open source software project can be as challenging as developing code, if not more so. An unfortunate number of open source software developers can be difficult to work with, having easily bruised egos or more interest in personal recognition than the advancement of the project, and require careful handling. You most certainly do not want to drive any developer away from the project if it can be avoided, but at times a developer will turn out to be more of a detriment than expected. Handling these situations improperly can lead to the rapid collapse of the entire project.
To conclude, by spending time looking into the common employers of open source software developers such as universities, colleges, and large open source projects you will maximize your chances of locating a position in open source software development. In addition it is important to continue to contribute as thoroughly as possible to any open source projects that you currently participate in, and if you are not currently participating in an open source project you should begin doing so. If all else fails in your search for open source software positions you may want to consider trying to convince your current employer to begin open sourcing some of their programming projects, particularly those that are not business sensitive or ones that are not currently making money for the company. Finally, if none of these methods work you could always consider starting your own open source project and as it grows creating a paid curator or code maintainer position that you can then fill, though expect some backlash if you are not the most qualified for that position.