How to Market Yourself to Your Current Employer
Marketing yourself at your current place of employment is something that often is overlooked. Individuals tend to focus on how they are going to position themselves for their next role. More often than not, they believe that they will have to join another company to assume that role. They sometimes fail to see the potential opportunities that are available within the four walls where they currently occupy their time. On occasion, their ideal position might be there for the taking without having to switch companies.
In the end, it all comes down to positioning. You want to exhibit all the quality traits that your employer is looking for in an individual for the role you desire. These do vary on a case by case basis, but for the purpose of this section, I am going to take a more generalist view. Also, being that the focus is on open source, I am going to position things accordingly. By being actively involved in open source, you can exhibit traits that encompass many of the key areas within a business; finance, marketing and management.
Let's start with finance. You might be saying to yourself, ‚ÄúI am a technical professional, not a finance person.‚Äù And, by all accounts, you are generally correct. However, that does not prevent you from possessing the wherewithal to do a little spreadsheet management. Suffice it to say, when it comes to business, there is not much more that holds higher praise than the almighty dollar. In order to be successful, you have to turn a profit. And, the more you control expenses, the higher the profit will be.
Now, let's put that into context as it relates to open source. Perhaps you are a person that when you joined the organization, there was a mix of proprietary and open source software being used. Showing your open source savviness, you transition some of the proprietary software to an open source alternative. Hopefully by doing so, you not only put your company in a more stable environment, but you also saved the company money. The question is, how much? Well, this is where you need to put on your financial hat and start cranking out the numbers.
Do your best to be as accurate as possible. An estimate that is way off base is not acceptable. Take all the factors into consideration (i.e., labor, uptime, etc.) in addition to the cost of the software and support. In the end, you should have a spreadsheet that shows considerable cost savings. In turn, that is material that you should present either during an annual review or when interviewing for a new position within the company. In most, if not every case, this will catch the eye of upper management, who will in turn view you in an even more positive light.
That one was easy. Everyone discusses the cost savings and stability that is realized by implementing an open source software solution. But, there is another financial gain that can be assessed by being an active open source individual. This area is labor. Much has been discussed recently about the continuous growth in positions involving the knowledge of open source software. Overall, the supply has not kept up with the demand in this area. Therefore, talent is a key component to the success of your organization. Your company will need a top notch engineering team to compete in today's environment.
By you being a respected open source developer, you have the chance to impact this area. As a result of your work, there might be other individuals who actively participate or want to participate in open source software, that want to work by your side. Thus, they seek out a position at your company. It is very important that you keep track of these instances. Hiring and retaining employees is a large expense for the organization. If you can show that you have attributed to keeping these costs relatively low as a result of your involvement in the community, this could benefit you greatly. There is a large financial gain that can result from such an effort. And, you do not have to put in much time and effort outside of what you do on a day-to-day basis. You just have to be aware of your surroundings and realize the impact.
Outside of the financial arena, marketing is an area where you also might show your worth. Every time you provide meaningful code to a project, there is a chance that an impact is made. Even more so if you utilize your corporate email account. The rest of the community and abroad will continue to see the name of your organization while viewing certain mailing lists. As a result, there might be a number of individuals that have a comfort level in purchasing your company's product based on these contributions. They view your company in a positive light, and therefore you have helped the organization create goodwill. This area is hard to quantify, just as when you see any company attach a numerical figure to goodwill. Nonetheless, it is still important and something worth discussing.
Lastly, let's move to management. This is a key area if you are looking to eventually move into a lead or full management role. Even though your daily responsibilities at your company involve strictly hands-on development, that does not prevent you from gaining valuable leadership skills via your open source involvement. You perhaps have risen through the open source ranks to becoming a maintainer. In this role, you have essentially established yourself as a lead in the open source hierarchal structure. This is your opportunity to display to your current place of employment your ability to lead a component within the open source framework. Detail out to your employer how you have achieved this, and as a result of your effort, how this piece of the open source puzzle has thrived. You should be able to translate it to a position at your company that you fancy, and therefore, improve your chances greatly in landing such a role.
In the end, there are a lot of benefits that can be gained by either being directly involved in open source software or utilizing it. In most instances, these benefits can translate to daily corporate functions. The key is documentation. You must be able to document in a meaningful manner how the experience you have gained, as a result of your open source involvement, makes you a greater asset to the company. Be cognizant of even the most subtle achievements. You might not be aware of it at the time, but each accomplishment that is made might play a vital role in assisting you in landing your desired position. Open source provides you with opportunities that might not be possible elsewhere, so make sure you utilize them to your advantage, and your career will benefit accordingly.