Why Every Engineer Should Contribute More to Open Source
By: Adesh Nalpet Adimurthy | Open Source
FOSS Developers 💪🏻
Free and Open Source Software
“Free and open-source software (FOSS) is software that is both free software and open-source software where anyone is freely licensed to use, copy, study, and change the software in any way, and the source code is openly shared so that people are encouraged to voluntarily improve the design of the software” - Wikipedia
Most of the applications, softwares, and tools we use day-to-day are built by thousands and millions of people all over the globe. So to the extent that Free and Open Source Softwares define who we are as Engineers today. Be it a full-fledged product or technologies used to build one - languages, frameworks, databases, queues/buses, caching mechanisms, deployment tools, visualization dashboards, the list goes on; revolves around the OSS community. It’s imperative to keep this community active and ever-growing.
How to Contribute
Broadly, one can contribute in two ways (ideally both): (1) Sponsor FOSS project(s), developer(s), organization(s). It can be <$5 to start with and consider being a monthly sponsorer. (2) Do what you do best. Build features, fix bugs, enhance the design, improve the documentation, test the software to find bugs and vulnerabilities.
Improve Skills and Gain Experience
The open-source community is inclusive; it’s not limited to a region, nor does it matter who you are or where you are from. Early on in the career as a Software Engineer, working on open source projects is probably the best way to work on an actual project and improve programming skills. But again, the complexities of every project differ; there’s always room for anyone to learn more and contribute towards enhancing a OSS.
Depending on the project, the code quality of most OSS tends to have a high standard; after all, it’s public and used by many, ranging from hundreds to millions. Lastly, contributing to OSS gives the experience of understanding the existing code base, fixing bugs, implementing a feature, debugging issues, and deploying the application, which is a game-changer for a new graduate.
Meet Top Talent/Find a Mentor
The maintainers and active contributors of good OSS projects are among the best developers and do what they do out of passion; this is an opportunity to “learn from the best.”
Better Job Prospects
A lot of the companies out there are on a constant lookout to hire engineers, and there’s no better than the OSS community. Toptal helps companies connect with open source developers. Moreover, it’s almost a norm for companies to ask for GitHub username in the job application, and contributions to open source projects stand out because it’s easier to assess the skills of a developer directly based on the code written.
A lot of creators out there have sponsors as their primary source of income. While that’s not remotely easy to achieve, this could be your chance to have a side hustle or even consider starting a project of your own; it doesn’t have to be a business plan and can be a simple library.
Moreover, in a way, it’s the right thing to do to give back to the community. About 3 years into my career as a Backend Engineer, an advice I would give to myself is to be a lot more involved with and contribute to open-source projects. I’m glad to be selected as a contributor for Google Summer of Code 2022 - working with Our World in Data is without a doubt a stepping stone towards the right direction :)