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A Newbie’s Guide to Starting an Open Source Career

August 8, 2023Announcements

Are you intrigued by the world of open source software? Considering dipping your toes into this collaborative community? You’ve come to the right place. Linux Foundation Training & Certification has a number of tools to help you determine how to get started and where to go next. Best of all, much of it is free. But first let’s talk about coding, open source and how to get involved in the community itself.

The Tech Universe: Fast, Global, and Results-Oriented

The one thing to know – and embrace – about a tech career is it’s fast-paced, very fast-paced. New developments emerge in the blink of an eye, pushing everyone to keep updating their skills to stay relevant.

Moreover, tech has a global footprint, transcending geographical, time zone, and cultural differences. Whether you’re part of a project or a company, it’s nearly impossible to operate in one time zone exclusively. This global nature brings diversity, broadening our perspectives and encouraging innovation.

Good news for those starting out, unlike many industries, the tech industry places great emphasis on results over pedigree. The work you produce today speaks louder than your qualifications or the institutions you’ve attended. It’s a realm that values merit and what you bring to the table, making it a fertile ground for anyone with talent, passion and determination to thrive.

The Software Sphere: Your Code, Your Resume

In software, your code is your resume. This direct correlation between your output and your reputation can be liberating. Your work is visible, tangible, and can be evaluated for its functionality and elegance, underscoring the power of meritocracy in the software domain.

Another concept to understand is that of “search goods” in software. Code is a search good; it does what it’s programmed to do, and its quality can be evaluated before “buying” or implementing it. While this brings transparency and ensures merit-based recognition, it also introduces the complexity of software dependencies. Your piece of code, no matter how perfect, does not exist in a vacuum. It’s part of a network of other packages and libraries, all interconnected, which can impact its functionality.

The software world is also notorious for what we call the exploding scope phenomenon. You start with a clear task, but as you begin, you realize it’s dependent on other elements. Soon enough, you’re drawn into a spiral of dependencies, with your scope continuously expanding. While it can be overwhelming, it’s not a sign of defect, but an indication of the intricate nature of software.

Open Source – The Uncharted Territories

Your open source software code reflects your capabilities, but it also requires you to  collaborate. Despite being remote, open source is fundamentally cooperative. You’re not just developing code, but also reviewing others’ work, sharing ideas, and resolving issues together. The interactivity, openness, and diversity of open source make it a unique, enriching space for learning and growth.

Open source, while invigorating, calls for continuous learning. With the technology landscape continually evolving, you must keep adding to your skills. From learning new programming languages and frameworks to understanding the latest industry trends, the journey to mastery in open source is a lifelong expedition.

As you embark on this journey, remember, the open-source community, especially at the Linux Foundation, welcomes all enthusiastic contributors, regardless of their backgrounds. It’s a world that values your work, commitment, and passion for learning. You won’t just be contributing to a project, but also be part of a dynamic, global community that continuously pushes the boundaries of software development.

Getting Started with the Linux Foundation

The Linux Foundation is at the forefront of open source development. It houses various projects, providing a vast scope for newcomers to find a project aligned with their interests. Whether it’s system engineering with the Linux kernel, developing cloud-native applications with the Cloud Native Computing Foundation, or exploring blockchain technology with the Hyperledger Foundation there are endless possibilities across the Foundation’s hundreds of open source projects.

Your first step into this world starts with understanding how the Linux Foundation and its projects operate. Spend time exploring their websites and documentation. You’ll find a wealth of resources, including project descriptions, contribution guidelines, and community codes of conduct.

Remember, open source thrives on communication. Engage in the community’s mailing lists, forums, and chat platforms. These channels are where ideas are exchanged, questions answered, and collaboration forged. Don’t hesitate to ask questions; every expert was once a beginner.

Before submitting your first piece of code, take time to understand the project’s coding standards and guidelines. Ensure your work aligns with these principles. Contributing to open source isn’t just about writing code; it’s also about adhering to shared practices that make collaboration efficient.

Start small. You don’t have to leap into developing a complex feature right away. Look for “good first issues” or bugs to fix. These tasks provide an excellent opportunity to understand the project’s workflow and get comfortable with the contribution process.

Lastly, embrace feedback. Constructive criticism is a cornerstone of open source development. It’s how we learn, improve, and raise the bar of our work. Be open to comments on your code and consider them a valuable learning tool.

Free Career Resources

Ready to get started building your skills? Check out our training and certification resources to help you figure out where to begin:

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