I doubt there is anyone in the IT field who hasn’t been affected by the current economic downturn-either personally or through friends and family. I know scores of people laid off from their jobs but some, while still obviously upset, are taking it in stride since they are better positioned for success than others. What’s their secret?
Their code-and thus their work-lives on in an open-source community, where it can easily be seen and used by many companies, not just the one who laid them off. They are open-source developers.
I’ll give you an example of the difference this makes during an employment search, using employees named “Larry” and “Dmitri.”
Larry, the C Programmer
Larry has worked for Giant Widget Supplier (GWS) for 10 years, writing in C for an embedded, proprietary operating system that GWS uses in its products. When Larry lost his job this past fall, he posted his resume. He quickly received a few interviews, but none have converted.
His C skills are certainly translatable to other projects and companies, but it’s harder for him to prove how translatable because his ex-employer won’t let him show any sample code from their products. It’s their product after all, and future employers find it harder to vet whether or not his work will directly translate to their environment. (Larry is still looking for employment, so contact me if you know of anyone.)
Dmitri, the Linux Developer
Dmitri, on the other hand, is a Linux developer. His power management code has been mainlined into the Linux kernel steadily over the last few years. He’s even been invited to Kernel Summit. Behemoth Consumer Products (BCP) employed Dmitri for the last three years, for work on their version of Linux that they embed in their devices. They, too, hit a rough patch, and Dmitri is out looking for work.
Luckily for Dmitri, his colleagues in the Linux community all work for companies who use embedded Linux. It’s easier for him to network, and employers don’t have to count on Dmitri for a description of his work. It lives in the open, in the kernel tree, for anyone to inspect. (He can even make it in the “Who Writes Linux” report that the Linux Foundation publishes every year.)
Demand for Linux Developers on the Rise
Demand for Linux developers on the rise
Even as the unemployment rate grows, job boards and Linux Foundation members tell us that demand for Linux-knowledgeable developers is on the rise. For example, freelance marketplace Odesk reported that the number of Linux-related jobs posted on its boards has increased more than 1400 percent since 2006.
Frankly, it’s not surprising to see an increase in Linux-related work. History has shown that the most pivotal growth point for Linux to date was during the 2001-2002 economic downturn. A similar pivotal growth point for Linux is taking place today.
Linux provides better value than Windows-and in tough times, this difference makes all the difference. You also see companies consolidating on platforms and technologies when times are tighter. We’ll likely see both Linux and Windows emerge from this recession stronger than other operating systems.
But Linux vendors and users across the globe are saying that Linux and open-source talent is not as abundant as they would have thought. We’re at a tipping point, where the demand for talent is outpacing the supply. At the same time, there are hundreds, maybe thousands, of developers and operations pros looking for new opportunities.
Linux and Open Source as a Career Path
Linux and open source as a career path
Here are a few ways you can move into a new career path in Linux and open-source development:
1. Join an open-source project and contribute code, documentation, your time, etc. While this may seem overwhelming at first, stick with it and you will learn more than you expect. Plus, you will make important connections.
2. Register for in-person or online Linux Foundation training courses. The Linux Foundation’s Training Program is in direct response to the trend that’s been outlined in this article. Courses are taught by many of the community developers. They provide broad, foundational knowledge and networking needed to thrive in these careers today. These courses on your resume will position you ahead of your peers.
3. Contribute to the burgeoning Linux.com community. This doesn’t just have to be code. For instance, Sys Admins or operations pros can participate on Linux.com, which is the destination for Linux users to share best practices and have a voice in the ongoing advancement of the platform. They can submit a tutorial featuring their favorite script or tool and then use that with potential employers.
While things can begin to look bleak out there, there is no better time than during a downturn to work on building new skills. Building expertise in Linux and open source is a long-term investment that translates across companies, organizations, geographic boundaries, languages, tough economic times-as well as good times. Code is the new resume.
Amanda McPherson is VP of Marketing and Developer Programs at the Linux Foundation. She is responsible for content, Web strategy, events, public relations and developer programs, including the Linux Developer Network. She also helped create the Linux Foundation Collaboration Summit. Amanda has been involved in open source for the past eight years. Most recently, she was director of marketing for the Free Standards Group, the certification and standardization authority for Linux. Prior to that, she was director of marketing for Covalent Technologies, the leading provider of Apache Web server software. She was also a core member of the marketing team responsible for the launch of the Java programming language in 1995.
Amanda graduated magna cum laude, with a B.A. in English from the University of California at Berkeley. She also holds an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Arizona. Her work blog can be found at http://www.linux-foundation.org/weblogs/amanda/. She can also be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.