Open Source: A Job and an Adventure – Dawn Foster, Puppet Labs

Why do you want a job in open source?

  • Meet friends from around the world.
  • Travel opportunities: conferences, but also interacting with other companies.
  • Career opportunities: your work is visible, and you have a lot of connections.
  • Freedom, innovation, cooperation (even between competitors, e.g. puppet + chef do configuration management camp at FOSDEM).

How do you get there?

  • Start a new project, with something that you need. This is probably one the hardest way to do, because it requires creating a company and doing a businessy thing, or you have to find some company to hire you to work on your project.
  • Participate in an existing project. This is the most common way – most companies who do significant work in open source hire from the community. Participation is not just from developers, but also blogging, documentation, …
  • Just join a company that does open source, in any role; you can transition into other jobs at that company.
  • Bring OSS in your current job.
  • Write and speak about your open source work, so potential employers see you. Sometimes it’s years later, but people know you.
  • Consulting: once you’re already relatively well known.
  • Documentation is one of the most common ways to get started participating in an open source project.
  • Be nice to people and to the community. What you do and say will be remembered. You never know that the person who you’re talking to might have a job for you in the future.
  • Networking, both for getting a new job and for improving your current situation. You can’t start with this when you are looking for a job. Basically it’s having interesting conversations with people. You shouldn’t think of it as a networking activity or work. Talk with a wide variety of people.

One of the tricky things about OSS work is that you can work on it infinitely, there is always more to do. So you need to manage your time. Prioritize, delegate (e.g. wait with responding to a question on the mailing list, maybe someone else will respond). Documenting things also saves time, because it is easier to delegate and it’s easier to respond to questions.


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