Your Open Source Stories

In this post, I am asking for your help and input, although it might seem like a post about nothing in particular to begin with. Please keep reading!

Last month, I gave a talk at TEK-X entitled "Open Source Your Career". Personally I think that a lot of the high fliers in this profession use their community activities as a boost to their professional development, and I know that this has been true for me too. So in my talk I told stories about situations I'd met in my professional life and how I'd either achieved or made new opportunities by building on skills and experience (and network) that I've come across in my community activities.

For example I said to my CTO, Ivo Jansch that I was giving this talk and he asked what it was about. I said that, in a nutshell, I didn't think Ibuildings would have trusted any of their developers to host the Dutch PHP Conference unless they'd seen that person hosting events elsewhere - as a volunteer co-host of PHPNW, I gained some experience doing this sort of thing. His response really brought home how true it is that getting out there can reap rewards in ways we don't expect - or in my case don't even recognise. He simply said "one reason you have the job you have now is the fact that you did an oracle podcast for zend once which I heard when I received your CV". It hadn't occurred to me that activities like that would have helped when I was changing jobs.

What I Need From You

I'm giving this talk again, at FrOSCon in Germany in August. It was a huge amount of fun to deliver last time but I'd really like to pull in more stories from other people to include in my talk. So ... have you ever got involved with something outside of your day job, only to realise later that it was a good career move? And would you let me tell your story?

Answers on a postcard, by email, or in the comments field below. Any and all input is very gratefully received :)

6 thoughts on “Your Open Source Stories

  1. I certainly did. After the first BarCampDC (Aug 2007), I attended a couple other uncon-style events and helped put together one the following May (SocialDevCamp). Since I knew that ZendCon had tried one uncon, I wrote Cal Evans a pitch on three reasons why he should "hire" me to run the 2008 ZendCon Uncon.

    I contacted everyone that I thought had something good to say and convinced them to get involved. People like Ed Finkler, Jason Austin, Garrison Locke, Ben Ramsey, and Terry Chay stepped up beforehand and others like you and Matthew Weier O'Phinney and Stefan Priebsch joined once we got there. I even got Mark DeVisser involved. He was CMO of Zend at the time.

    Conveniently enough, the following week I was headed up to Toronto to meet Marco for the first time. That was when we decided to form Blue Parabola. :)

    I just described the goal, the community made it a success.

  2. Open source is a lifestyle, an attitude towards sharing knowledge and ideas.

    This can be as simple to share your notes taken at a conference to fellow colleagues. Or blog about challenges you've experienced and solutions solving particular problems.

    Giving a talk at a bar camp, user group meeting, (un)conference or at the office for your team mates supports the open source spirit and it will make you more comfortable speaking for an audience.

    Last but not least, look for an open source project you're interested in. You can help out by writing documentation, do translations, fix bugs or even contribute code.

    If you ever find yourself in a situation where you need a new challenge in your professional life track, know that there is a whole community out there ready to help out.

    Community works!

    • Lorna,

      Your question has kept me thinking all night and I went over my career in particular.

      Like I stated before, open source is an attitude where you think in concepts of "how can I share my knowledge to help others and receive feedback so I can learn too".

      This attitude has given my career an enormous boost. When starting a new contract I stipulate that I contribute generic components that would benefit the open source tools I use on the job, I motivate the development team to participate in user group meetings, attend events like PHPTestFest or Bughuntdays, I give weekly training courses on open source tools and set up workshops to show best practices, and I persuade management and sales to join discussions regarding strategies and tools to improve workflow and internal communication.

      I've been working with mostly enterprises and governmental institutes since 2001. It has taken a while, but since the credit crunch of lately, I receive little to no refusal on these terms. Better, they embrace this attitude and are happy someone like me stepped up to the cause.

  3. I got involved with the PHP internals because I didn't want to use curl just to get SSL support into PHP's fopen wrappers.

    At first, I thought I could do this as part of a work project, but time pressure meant that we went with curl. In my spare time, I continued to build out what would eventually become the Streams layer in PHP.

    I did this because it was an interesting project; I didn't think much beyond that, and was surprised when I was invited to speak about that stuff at one of the early Dutch PHP Conferences. I got to meet face-to-face the folks I'd been communicating with via mailing lists and feel the community buzz.

    As it turned out, I met what was to be my (at the time) future, and now present employer as part of this early conference exposure. I pretty much owe my career to a hobby coding project.

    On the hiring side of the fence, we tend to view candidates with some kind of open source exposure as stronger candidates than those without. This is partially because it's easier to get visibility into what they've done than you can get out of a resume, or some prepared code samples, but more importantly, because it demonstrates that the candidate has drive and passion for this type of work.

    And that's the important part; don't just "do open source" to make your resume look good, do it because you really find it interesting. You owe it both to yourself (why bother with it if you don't really want to do it?) and to the others in the community.

  4. In a hurry, so please forgive the format. Email me if you want more details. Happy to help:

    Anecdote #1:

    I'm the guy who came up to you after the Tek-X talk and mentioned I was emailed about a position while you were speaking. I got the job, in no small part because of my experience writing WordPress plugins and my involvement with the Drupal and PHP communities. I was able to show that only could I "talk the talk" (and very well, I might add), but my open source code was proof that I could "walk the walk" too - actually delivering code that solves problems and supporting it.

    Anecdote #2:

    Last time I had to hire a programmer, we asked for code samples and were shocked at what we saw. Only a few people had anything they could bring in. The ones that had something usually brought in a few simple objects that did basic CRUD operations. The job went to the one guy with an active Github profile and projects we could see.

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