Does open source excite you, and all you dream about is becoming an open source developer? If you do, then you have come to the right place.
Open source is a technical term that means free software. However, there are a lot of things going on with open source.
In this post, we cover all of these, and in the process, we also give you the path to becoming an open source developer.
Let’s get started.
What is an Open Source Developer?
An open source developer(s) contributes to software distributed under open source licenses. So, by definition, if you contribute to open source, you’re an open source developer.
However, there is much more to open source developers than just contributing.
An open source developer specializes in an open source ecosystem. They have a complete understanding of how open source works, how to contribute to it, its different licensing, and the ability to collaborate with other developers to create the best possible software — making open source developers high in demand.
The open source market is very open and is mostly in demand for the following technologies:
Now, we will explore the duties of an open source developer.
Duties of an Open Source Developer
As an open source developer, your duties rely on multiple factors, including your experience, level of involvement, and skills. However, it needs to be fixed by adding new code or fixing bugs. As an open source developer, you’ll need to manage the community aspect of open source projects.
If you’re good at coding and development, you’ll surely get your chance to contribute to the core code of the project. This can include adding new features to the codebase or optimizing the codebase to improve performance.
Additionally, you’ll also need to do issue resolution and bug tracking. As anyone can contribute to open source projects, open source projects get big. To track all the bugs and issues, project managers deploy the proper issue-tracking systems to manage tasks, feature requests, and bug reports.
You must also participate in code reviews to ensure codebase consistency and quality.
Depending on your role, you may also need to do the following:
Testing and Quality Assurance
Backward compatibility with previous releases
Ensuring the project’s security
Ensure proper internal and public documentation
Next, we will explore open source as a career.
Why an Open Source Career?
Open source career is in high demand. More and more companies are making their projects open-source. In fact, if you look at the various technologies, you’ll find most of them open source. After all, the more eyes on the software, the better it becomes.
It also enables companies to cut costs, mitigate business risks, and improve overall project quality.
All these means that as an open source developer, you have higher chances to get a job in these companies. According to the Open Source Jobs Report 2022, managers actively seek open source candidates.
The 2022 Open Source Jobs Report reported that 86% of managers want open source talent. On the other hand, 46% of managers have shown interest in increasing open source hiring.
However, the study also revealed that 93% of managers need help finding their team’s right open source talent. According to them, most candidates lack the necessary open source experience.
The report also sheds light on the skills that hiring managers are looking for. The hiring managers want candidates to have the following skills.
The ability to architect solutions
A working knowledge of how to use GitHub
Experience in running projects and contributing to open source projects
Knowledge of new tools
From a candidate’s perspective, choosing an open source career has multiple benefits. These benefits include:
Working with modern technology and infrastructure
Working with knowledgeable people from all over the world.
Excellent growth opportunity
Ability to work on what you love, i.e., open source
How to Become an Open Source Developer?
To become a competent and skilled open source developer, you must start small. The best approach is to learn about open source and how it works. And the best way to start doing so is to learn how to contribute to open source.
#1. Understanding the Open Source Project Components
To start your journey as an open source developer, you’ll need to learn about it and how it works. It’s crucial to understand that an open source project consists of real people working on real problems. These include project maintainers, contributors, community, and users/customers.
Other vital components of the open source project include:
Source code and documentation repository
Project licenses to specify its distribution license
Code of Conduct Guide
Each of these elements is crucial to the success of the open source project. Also, at the core of all these is a version control system (VCS) such as Git.
#2. Starting Small
According to Radek Pazdera, it’s always wise to start small. It’ll help you to ignore the vastness of an open source project that contains a big codebase. If you try to learn about everything, you’ll soon see yourself overwhelmed with the project’s vastness. Also, starting small can help you spend time on what you like about the project and stay motivated throughout the process.
#3. Learning About the Basics of Open Source Contribution
The best way to become an open source developer is to learn the basics. The core concepts start from the fact that code needs to be modified, inspected, or improved across its life cycle.
The open source ecosystem is huge. Also, most projects are sponsored through a consortium or enterprise software vendors. Companies need to use open source software to build the components even when building proprietary software.
If you’re entirely new to open source, it is best to go to GitHub and look for projects that interest you. You can start them and learn about the project through its contributing and README files. The project documentation is also an excellent place to learn about the open source project, as it contains detailed walkthroughs and tutorials.
Once you’re comfortable, create a dev environment and start contributing.
#4. Keep the Communications Line Open
You should also invest time in the community when contributing to any open source project. So, make sure that you join the IRC channel and mailing list. These will help you keep updated on what’s going on with the community. It also allows beginners to start the project – especially if they need help figuring out where to start contributing.
You can also directly email project developers and maintainers to get help. People working on open source projects are beneficial and can guide you through the process. However, it is always a good idea not to bother them with basic stuff. For that, you can use the forums or the mailing lists.
Once you start contributing, you’ll get noticed. And this is where you begin your chances to get hired.
#5. Getting an Open Source Job
There are two ways you can get hired — the open source way or the traditional hiring process.
Let’s start with the traditional one.
Here, you find the job posts on job portals or official sites and apply to them. You can try LinkedIn to learn about the company’s culture and open jobs.
If you don’t see any open job listings for the open source project you’re interested in, you can connect to the developers or maintainers to seek an opportunity. There are instances where the company can consider hiring if the candidate is exceptional in what they do.
Another way is to get noticed through your contributions.
In my earlier post on open source and job hunting, I discussed how to make yourself noticed through your contributions. The idea is to keep contributing until someone notices you. Once you have made a significant impact, you’re in an excellent position to get hired.
The path to open source development starts with contributions. There are cases where the candidates learn about the technologies on the job. However, starting independently is highly recommended to get ahead of the curve.
Also, open source jobs are primarily remote, giving you a better work-life balance and the ability to keep contributing to other open source projects during your free time.
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