Will Open Source Development Help Your Career?

Jakob Jenkov
Last update: 2014-05-25

This is a question I have been getting a lot from visitors on my website, and subscribers in my news letter:

Will it help my career if I participate in open source development?

To answer this question, we first have to look at how it could potentially benefit your career:

  • You might learn a lot from the development process.
  • It might look good on your CV.

I'll address these points in the following sections.

You Might Learn Something

This is pretty much a no-brainer. If you develop software, you will learn something in the process. There is no doubt about that. If you develop open source together with other developers, you can also learn a lot from them, and from looking at their code.

Additionally, once you publish your project and start telling the world about it, you will get a lot of feedback from the world about your project. Not all of it will be positive, be prepared for that.

So yes, you will learn a lot from developing open source projects. I have done a few open source projects myself which are available on http://butterfly.jenkov.com. I have learned a lot from that process.

It Might Look Good on Your CV

Will an open source project look good on your CV? Well, that depends.

If the project ends up being very popular, then of course having developed that project will look good on your CV. It will serve as a proof that you know what you are doing. The company might even be using the project, and then it will just be great that you are the developer of it.

If the project does not become main stream popular, it's a slightly different situation.

A manager looking at your CV may not really care much about such a hobby project. He will often be focusing on what you have done professionally - meaning commercially.

However, since most managers are not able to judge your technical skills, your CV will often be passed on to a technical person, who will try to determine if you seem to have the required skills. This technical person may view it as a bonus that you have developed open source software. It is not a guarantee, but I have personally experienced positive feedback from such technical persons, with regards to my open source activities.

Summary: Yes, Open Source Development May Help Your Career

The overall answer to the question must be:

Yes, it may help your career to participate in open source development.

Just keep in mind, that there are many other ways to help your career. This is just one of them.

Jakob Jenkov

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