I had the opportunity to sit on a panel at the Nashville .NET user group tonight on developer careers. The goal was to open the floor and try to help tear down some walls between developers and recruiters. On the panel were several recruiters from our local area to represent that side. I got to sit up there with Elijah Manor and Derek Greer to represent the developers. Overall I think it was a good experience to let everyone ask some questions.
I was there to represent how I feel about developers contributing to open source projects. It's late, but I want to get my thoughts down in writing before sleep washes them away.
Contributing to open source software has had a positive impact on my career. I really haven't really contributed anything major, but my point tonight wasn't that you need to go out and write the next big thing. You see, there are gaps and voids all around us. Everyone is capable of finding something that needs to exist and creating it. I've benefited so much from open source software, it's only fair I give back.
There was a lot of apprehension for me leading up to pulling the trigger on my first project. Should I put it out in the open? Will anyone find it useful? Are people going to ridicule me on how crappy my code is? The answer to those questions turned out to be yes, yes and sometimes. When I put my stuff out there for people to see, I got feedback (both good and bad) and I was able to iterate on my project and make it better. Any feedback you get is a good thing because that means people care at least a little. It was really a learning experience to see how people use the thing you've created.
To potential employers getting a product "out there" means a few key things:
- You care enough about something to take initiative and make it a reality.
- You are capable of finishing something you started.
- You are detailed. There is a big difference between a proof of concept and live production ready code. A polished project has been tested and documented.
- You love what you do so much that you used your own free time to improve yourself.