Want a job? Considered open source?
cmw.osdude 120000QT77 Visits (2012)
[Remember that even though I work for IBM I am an individual with my own thoughts and ideas. Anything I write here may not necessarily represent the views of the IBM Corporation or its partners... though I'm hoping that's only a matter of time before they catch up.]
The job market is a struggle right now. People are finding themselves out of work and having more difficulty being placed. There are all kinds of opinions about why that might be and who is to blame for it, but none of that really matters if you are the one looking for a job.
An article on the ComputerworldUK web site suggests that one place you may look is in the open-source world. Free Open Source Software (FOSS) is out there and more businesses are looking to it to fill gaps in their finances. I know, I've seen some of the articles about how FOSS is a pit of despair which costs more than it's worth and how one should go with commercially licensed software— like the ones installed and maintained by the author of the article. The truth is that there are businesses making open-source solutions work for their needs and they are looking for skilled people who will not fight the idea and help make everything work. This might be you.
The article above mentions a few key qualities that someone needs to be successful and I agree with their assessments. You should probably take a moment to read what they have to say and then come back here. I'll wait...
Good! You're back.
They also mention coding as a core value. The real skill here is to fully appreciate how and why coding works, exclusive of particular tools and languages. Go back to your original computer science core values. Get away from the drag-and-drop tool mentality. If you really understand coding, then the language doesn't matter. Your command of logic and structure are what will make the difference for you. The rest is just syntax. They aren't real specific, but I would say that everyone should have a general command of C, as most things are written in C at their lower levels. PHP is pretty useful. There is a lot of activity in Python. A modern coder should probably have Java skills as well. Beyond that, see what projects interest you and build skill in what they use. Since you are focusing on your coding foundations, which are largely universal, you can pick up any language that you need.
They don't mention it in the article, but I think that there is tremendous need for people who can provide instruction on FOSS packages. Commercial companies generally devote resources to creating training and documentation because that is part of what helps to sell their products. (In many cases it becomes its own revenue stream.) If you are a good communicator you can help prevent some of the horror stories by helping to document usage of projects within an environment and develop training for people who will need to use this stuff so that they are more delighted and less obstinate as things are deployed. This need exists out in the public... most projects need a boost in the training and documentation areas. However, companies that are taking on FOSS need it as well, and may not recognize their need. Your attention to this area could spell the difference between success and failure.
I also want to point out that getting involved in an open-source project can be a way to keep your edge if you are on a long-haul job hunt. Technical skills want to be used. Jumping in and solving some open-source problems keeps that part of your brain active and gives you something to show for your time away from someone's office. Who knows? You might even find your next opportunity through that work.
An open-source project can also be a great way to build skill. If you are in the process of re-inventing yourself a little, an open-source project can be a chance for you to practice with a technology that is new to you. You can try out a new language with work that actually needs to be done. In most cases contributions are peer reviewed, so you'll get some feedback on what you're doing.
If you are struggling right now, consider the pathways that open-source may provide to you. It might be a great chance for you to change your situation.