Helping build open source software can help your career

Some techies become part of open source communities and develop professional quality software for free. Then, when the software is production ready, they give it away. This is the nature of open source systems. Participating in these projects is not only good for the world; it can also be good for you.

I have a friend who is a dentist. After a hard day of filling cavities, cleaning teeth, and doing root canals, I’m pretty sure that when he gets home and wants to relax, he doesn’t look in people’s mouths for fun.

Many techies, however, after a busy day of writing software, fixing PCs, and so on, go home and do basically the same thing for fun. Some techies

  • Try to learn new programming languages
  • Read technical journals
  • Test out new operating system versions
  • Assemble computers and other electronic devices from the base components
  • Help their friends build web sites
  • Start companies

Some techies also become part of open source communities and develop professional quality software for free. Then, when the software is production ready, they give it away. This is the nature of open source systems. For those who may not be familiar with open source projects, they include the following incredibly well done, and wildly successful software including:

  • Linux
  • Apache
  • MySQL
  • PHP
  • Moodle
  • Open Sim

There are also a number of other really great and worthwhile projects, almost too many to name.

Programmers help develop open source software for a number of great and selfless reasons including

  • The desire to advance the state-of-the-art of computing
  • The ability to participate in the creation of great software
  • The opportunity to work with some of the best programmers in the world
  • The ability to be truly creative and have an impact

All of the above are great reasons to become involved in the open source community. That said, in addition to the pure satisfaction gained from working on these projects, it can also be professionally advantageous and can:

  • Enhance your software development skills
  • Allow you to meet other developers within the open source community
  • Gain a deep developer-level understanding of commonly used software products
  • Expand your resume with interesting and impressive new credentials
  • Learn new programming techniques
  • Enhance your understanding of large software development project management and control
  • Make world-wide professional contacts

I am by no means suggesting that you become actively involved in open source projects just for the personal professional gain, because this would be inconsistent with the values and true reason that open source projects and systems exist. That said, should you choose to participate for the right reasons, not only will you gain the satisfaction of doing a good thing for the computer industry in genreal, but you will be enhancing your own career as well.

If you have any questions about your career in IT, please email me at eric@ManagerMechanics.com or find me on Twitter at @EricPBloom.

Until next time, work hard, work smart, and continue to grow.

Read more of Eric Bloom's Your IT Career blog and follow the latest IT news at ITworld. Follow Eric on Twitter at @EricPBloom. For the latest IT news, analysis and how-tos, follow ITworld on Twitter and Facebook.

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