2. Create an internal open source culture.
- Tools and practices. An open source culture can feel alien to the corporate world, but efforts to build it are not futile. In the corporate world, project teams are not usually open to allowing developers from other teams contribute code since it can disrupt their development cadence. Open source projects are usually more receptive to outside help and manage two versions of their code, one that is more stable and one that is open to constant activity. If you can adapt your projects to the open source processes internally, you’ll be able to succeed in external open source projects, where that flexibility is a must.
The tools open source developers use are different, too, and generally require a different infrastructure or platform. Developing an IT infrastructure that enables developers to communicate and work with the global open source community without any bottlenecks or problems is an important first step. Collaboration is at the heart of all things open source.
- Incentives and rewards. As mentioned earlier in this guide, open source developers are motivated by rewards, respect, and purpose. A competitive salary will get them in the door, but to retain them, make sure they are recognized for their contributions to open source.
This respect should be earned, but once achieved, it must be consistently present. You’ll want to build that into your recruitment and retention strategy. Since word of mouth is key to recruitment, this is a good place to fan all the goodness developers will talk about amongst themselves.
Last but not least, as Camille Fournier said in her talk, “ship often.” Open source developers like to see their work in production, to feel the thrill of finishing something and marking it done. Build your strategy and processes so that developers have a purpose and can see the effects of their work often. Mix challenging work with less taxing work to prevent exhaustion but keep interest high at the same time.
3. Attend and support open source events
- Send developers to present at conferences and events
While there is no doubt that good code and community leadership builds a reputation that attracts talent, recruitment efforts must go beyond this level of developer engagement. Ask good developers in the company to attract more good developers through strategic networking, speaking engagements at conferences, and collaborating with others on open source projects.
Much like you train developers to code in public, help them present in public. They can use the event to test an idea and to announce a new open source project. The people they meet will be more likely to adopt your projects if they hear about them from the developers who wrote the code. This way, you can attract future contributors and future new hires.
- Sponsor and/or set up a booth at open source events
Developers come to conferences to hear about new developments, interesting projects, and cool companies. Since they’re all ears, shouldn’t you pick up the megaphone? Sponsoring an event and setting up a booth are two ways to clearly showcase your company, its support of the open source community, and developer opportunities to the very people you hope to recruit.
By all accounts, challenging projects are the top attraction for highly skilled, experienced open source developers. Hackathons are fun challenges packed with rewards (be those cash prizes or bragging rights), so they’re a perfect addition to your recruitment efforts. Besides, you have the added benefit of evaluating their work first hand.
4. Incorporate open source into job descriptions. Open source is at the heart of almost all technologies now, therefore it should be a part of most technology job descriptions. Tell prospective candidates if the role expects them to contribute to or manage open source projects.
These days, many developers are looking to build their open source skills. They’ll want jobs that give them experience, or that leverage the experience they already have. Show them you are serious about open source and you’ll get people who can help maintain, contribute to, or even be committers on your most important projects. If the role has an open source element to it, say so upfront. Given that so much technology is based on open source these days, most of your tech roles should have something about open source in it.
5. Invest in training – build talent from within. Given the growing shortage of experienced open source developers, you’ll need to invest in training programs to strengthen and update the skills of in-house talent. You’ll also want to use training to proactively groom successors for key project contributors so natural attrition and turnover doesn’t harm your company.
There are a variety of ways to incorporate training programs, from offering sessions designed to address specific open source concerns, such as license compliance, contribution processes and code mirroring, to apprenticeships where developers work alongside more experienced open source developers, to mentorships that provide help on sticky communal problems. You can structure any of these formally or informally. Either way, it’s important to have ongoing training programs always in place.
For additional ideas on recruiting and retention strategies, see the predecessor to this guide, How to Recruit and Hire Open Source Developers from 2015.