It’s no secret that open source developers are in short supply. That is likely to remain the case for the foreseeable future given that adoption of open source projects is at an all-time high and shows no signs of slowing. Not only does this mean that it is hard to find skilled developers to hire, but it is also tough to retain them if you do.
A 2016 Cloud Foundry report found that there are “a quarter-million job openings for software developers in the U.S. alone and half a million unfilled jobs that require tech skills.” Additionally, the analysts forecast that the number of unfillable developer jobs will “grow to one million within the next decade.”
The demand for open source developers is even more extreme.
Still you can find out who are the leaders and who are regular and skilled contributors in an open source community and try to hire them directly. Or, you can ask them to recommend developers they themselves would like to work with.
“If you’re planning on hiring a maintainer, or hiring a strong contributor, keep in mind that those people are in high demand and they’re the most job flexible people on the planet. Meaning, they can go from company to company, and still work on the same project. The only thing that changes is the name of the company signing their paycheck,” says Martin.
You can find additional guidance on hiring open source developers in the Linux Foundation Guide “Recruiting Open Source Developers.”
Building talent (the best way)
Fortunately, open source is so hotly in demand that developers actively seek opportunities to develop or hone their open source chops. Martin says that every developer he’s interviewed to date has asked him how the company will help him build his own open source brand. Helping the developer grow into leadership in an open source community is a prime perk and useful in recruitment.
Raising your own company’s visibility in its open source work can thus also help recruit developers. Some companies even offer open source training to add to the appeal. Presenting the company’s open source projects at conferences and contributing code in communities hare the best ways to raise your company’s visibility. Asking your developers to network with other developers and invite them aboard also tends to work well.
Another key approach to attracting developers is by offering apprenticeships. Developers like to work on significant projects with plenty of reputation-building challenges. Offering apprenticeships and mentorship programs tends to be a successful draw and a great way to leverage the talent you already have onboard.
Above all, gain the community’s trust so that your company is attractive to open source developers and to developers who seek to advance their career by working with a trustworthy, open source leader.
“Like anyone else, commercially-motivated developers gain influence in the project through the quality and quantity of their contributions.” – Open Source Guides, GitHub, Leadership and Governance, corporate employees.
Strategic contributions are significant in establishing leadership. They tend to address a large problem shared across the ecosystem, or provide a key advancement that pushes the project past a community set goal line.
However, you can’t just release the code and forget about it. There’s work to do in providing documentation, expanding the ecosystem, partnering to advance this code or toolset even further, and so on. Staying in the game and remaining both visible and reliable is key.
Non-technical contributions and support
Beyond technical contributions, strategic and otherwise, are other ways to contribute and support the community thereby further building leadership.
Those include contributing to and supporting developer education and providing mentorship. Providing support for the technical aspects is another successful way to establish leadership.
The key is to look around and see what the community needs beyond technical contributions and then step up to contribute some of that.