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Hiring managers advise job seekers to contribute to open-source projects

Fred O'Connor | Feb. 12, 2014
Contributing to open-source projects can give software developers an edge over other applicants in the competitive IT job market, say hiring professionals.

"Anyone who has a project out there, especially one that utilizes a piece of our open-source software in a meaningful way, we're going to be very impressed with how candidates present that," said Nagro of HubSpot, which posts projects to Github and uses the repository as a recruiting tool.

Developers looking to work on open-source projects shouldn't sacrifice quality and commitment for quantity. While more involvement is preferred, mediocre contributions and short-lived commitments don't impress hiring managers.

"I'll often see a project has 50 contributors and I'll look at the contributors and 30 percent have submitted one bug fix and that's all they've done," said Gruber. "They probably used a piece of software that had one small bug and sort of offered it up but really didn't contribute to it and stick with the project."

His ideal open-source resume shows a developer who has contributed to a diverse number of projects and has a high level of engagement to at least one project and "reasonable commitments" to others.

The soft skills developers acquire from working on open-source projects are applicable to enterprise IT careers. Companies want engineers who can work together and share project feedback with colleagues, traits that are essential to successful participation in open-source communities.

Collaboration "is an increasingly important skill in today's job environment because software is being built outside of a firm," said Zemlin. "Someone who can collaborate within their company and across different organizations is highly sought after."

But businesses looking to hire open-source talent and open-source developers who are contemplating job offers should perhaps give some thought to the changes that would be necessary to work in a closed-source environment.

"I've known cases where open-source developers who got work at closed-source companies because they're experts in their area and they don't like that because a lot of the freedoms they've become used to are now severely curtailed," said Graham. "That transition has to be taken with some thought. One isn't better or worse."



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