No Recent Grad Open Source Jobs for Non-Rockstars

As I continue my job search, I realized the difficulty of finding open source jobs for recent graduates. Especially if you aren’t a rockstar programmer. Unless people know you, and you worked on a high profile open source project, there seems no real way of working in the open source business.

Open source businesses have started to rock the software industry. Software companies either want to convert to open source or want to stomp it out completely. Apparently companies want to protect themselves from the downturn of the economy, by hiring recent graduates who are cheaper to erm… maintain pay-wise. I don’t see lots of people wanting to hire lots of recent CS graduates with open source experience. Unless they are rockstars in the open source world already.

In my case, maybe its just that Toronto is oblivious to open source in general. Or maybe its my bad luck. But looks like my only way of getting hired on open source, if I can work at Red Hat, IBM or Sun Microsystems. That doesn’t look likely though.

I don’t have the time right now to rise to rockstar FOSS programmer status right now. I need a job sooner than later.

Is there any hope of a FOSS career for someone like me?

Productization of Self

Wonder where I have been in the past few days? Still job hunting and figuring how best to market myself to prospective employers. Its not easy for a few reasons.

First, is most people don’t learn about how to do this sort of thing until they hit unemployment line. I for one don’t claim to have figured out job searching. Second, being a recent student without a ton of certifications or years of work experience doesn’t help matters. These first two dilemmas will only resolve themselves after I am employed.

Third I am still trying to decide what kind of job I want and in which sector. And often what I want to do and what is possible are at odds. Example I want to work on open source games in the GTA. Its not gonna happen, at least not anytime soon. I also want to become an astronaut, but am neither a pilot nor a scientist. Reality unfortunately bounds my ambitions into a significantly smaller space. Right now, I am looking into openings that match my skill set, or companies that match my err… interests.

I do have a few possible leads. But I need something more concrete then that. Nothing but to press onwards till success. Wish me luck.

Adjusting to Easy Schedule

I am not good at adjustments. The switch from a super-busy, near-hyper-kinetic schedule to a “normal” lighter schedule keeps on throwing me off. Hence the lack of updates since Friday.

Yesterday was the great chill day. Today was the great after-chill day. Meaning, I did not get too much done when it comes to assignments or studying. Anyone who follows the justCheckers project got lucky with the new daily updates (at least on the wiki). Everyone else… kind of lucked out. (At least you lucky denizen of the blogosphere get a neat treat today – 3 make-up posts. Why? Because I love you and enjoy having a regular audience.)

Still, I rejoice at the thought of the “evil” over-busy semester finishing. With the exception of three moderately difficult exams, a wack of writing for my writing portfolio and two assignment-papers, my goal of finishing a B. Sc. in Computer Science from the University of Toronto, just got a semester to completion. The very thought of finishing in April-May 2007, makes me euphoric. Now assuming that I pass every course this semester, only 4 more courses await me next semester.

I only worry about what I do after-university. People assure me, there is a life after university. I am not too sure. I guess I will need a job, to pay off my meagre debt. But kind of a job? Where can I work? Sure I do plan to work for myself one day, only I need money to bootstrap any sort of business. I would prefer to entire self-employment on my own terms, rather than “starving” myself into it.

So where should I work? Most jobs want some sort of work experience, something I lack in the professional sense. Take gaming firms like Valve, Apogee, id or EA: everyone wants an artist with a portfolio (but can I build one in less than 6 months?), a project developer (do you know that I never worked in let alone managed developing a commercial game?) or a programmer (does Java AWT count as graphics experience? No I don’t do OpenGL, at least not yet). How about NASA’s JPL? Would love to code rovers to race around on Mars, yet neither engineer nor US citizen I am not.

Realistically, I should contemplate working for IBM or Canonical (makers of Ubuntu). Man too little dreamy options (Valve), and too many risky (Canonical) or dirrery options (IBM, Microsoft *shivers*). So long as all effort does not land me a low paying sys admin or code monkey job.

Why Open Source Projects Make Sense Career Wise

Greetings Earthlings! (OK enough silliness for one day, back into the pocket you go Martian.) Once again I have to bring up the sort of lame excuse of being too busy to blog earlier. Well yes, it was lame too much work. Actually I killed my “1337” Gentoo box doing an update. So I basically installed the new Ubuntu 6.06, and I am in the process of setting things up. More on the new Ubuntu tomorrow.

Today’s rant is why open source projects make sense. At least from a university student’s point of view. Undergrad in CS to be exact. All other information from me will have to be extracted via torture, slyness or greasing of palm. 😉

Back to the topic, I am in the process of finding an internship position for the next 12-16 months. So far my own personal experience has mostly unsuccessful. The interesting part is that for the two interviews I have received, my interviewers were most interested in my open source projects. They glossed over my “work” experience, if you can call it that in my case. University courses were not even mentioned. Nope, the thing that stood out were the two projects I am currently actively involved in. For those in the unawares, I actually have 3 open source projects in the works. While initially I thought that working on these projects would be fun and simply educational, it turns out that they mean more than that.

There are three main reasons why I believe employers are interested. These being experience, portfolio and marketing. When you work on a project you have to not only have a grasp on the technology but also on the subtilties of team relationships, and organization. Any open source project will showcase your performance as a developer and/or project leader. The final product is interesting in itself. A look into your source code will reveal your work ethic, organization, knowledge, talent and creativity. Finally comes marketing, which applies mostly to the employer and sometimes to yourself. The words “open source” currently flow with the hype and buzzwords of the business world. By hiring an open source developer, the company gains a zen and almost messanic reputation of by part of what the business world sees as the future. Personally I think open source means plain old fashioned politeness and embraces the ethics of old (the “new” standard of “Western” ethics is quite dissettling). In some rare cases if the project is successful enough, the product becomes a brand onto itself. Any developer of said project also gains a certain amount of worth and can use this to his or her advantage when looking for work.

Well that is all great and everything but how can one gain these advantages. Simply put start a project for something that you need or want. Treat if it were a real life product to sell not just a “pet” project. This is how many open source companies themselves started out. Show your professionalism throughout the process. Try new things, and over time maybe that project will pay off in hard, cold cash.

Till tomorrow,