Linux Developer Career Outlook
The future is bright. Ultimately, that sums up the outlook for an open source developer. Since 2000, we have seen the number of opportunities increase exponentially till this day. Sure, they go up and down periodically based on the health of the economy, but overall there is increasing strength. There are two main factors why that has been the case. They are breadth and depth.
Breadth is a key contributing factor in the growth of the open source employment landscape. When I mention breadth, I am speaking about the number of areas in the overall technology environment that open source based software has been able to penetrate. Back in 2000 when we first started this firm, the main focus was Linux. Companies tended to speak almost solely about Linux. They left out what would later become known as ‚Äúopen source‚Äù software outside of just Linux. MySQL and Postgres in the database space, and PHP and Python in the application space were not discussed in great detail by companies that we worked with at that time.
These technologies ended up on the periphery, and upper management was not always aware of the internal usage of these open source tools. The light bulb finally turned on when everyone started to talk about LAMP. Thus, the continued growth in these core areas as a result of people combining these components in one powerful open source suite.
But it did not just stop there. That is the beauty of open source software. There is literally an open source alternative to any proprietary based software that was used in the past. From CRM (Customer Relationship Management) to ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) to BI (Business Intelligence), there are open source alternatives. The list goes on and on in the different layers of the pyramid. The end result is opportunities. Opportunities to get involved in whatever area of the technology landscape that interests you. There was a time when you had to dedicate your talent in a specific area if you wanted to be involved with open source software. That time has come and gone. Developers not only have the freedom to hitch on to whatever project interests them, but also build new projects on the foundation that has been laid over the years. As you can see, there is a multiplying effect that takes place when this happens. And, the open source developer is the one that reaps the benefits of this taking place.
Breadth does not strictly apply to the technology piece of the equation. It also is relevant when thinking about the adoption of open source software. There use to be certain sectors that were the primary companies that were utilizing open source software. Whether it be financial or oil and gas or technology companies; these were the early adopters. But, times have changed in a positive direction for the open source developer. You can now name just about any sector of the economy, and I would be willing to bet that open source software has permeated their technology landscape. Due to that factor, we now see opportunities for employment in a lot more geographical regions than we use to. This has allowed individuals to stay home or close to home without having to relocate to one of the more technology centric areas of the country.
The other main factor in the growth of open source based positions is depth. As open source software takes on a more prominent role, the need exists for companies to increase the level of staffing they have in this area. We have throughout the years seen small teams grow to medium size teams and now are on the cusp of becoming large teams within the corporate framework. This growth in size creates numerous opportunities. In the past, these small teams would primarily be made up of senior level engineers. However, as the group grew, they were/are willing to hire individuals with differing levels of experience. The layers have created positions for junior and mid-level engineers that did not always exist before. Therefore, one now has the opportunity to join an organization with limited amount of experience with plenty of room for advancement throughout his/her career.
Depth has also let developers who get to a point in their career when they no longer are interested in coding have the opportunity to move into the management side of the corporate hierarchy. Positions such as Kernel Engineering Manager, Director of Open Source Software, etc. are titles that were very infrequent a few years ago. Their prevalence has grown and continues to do so. Therefore, if you get to the proverbial fork in your career path (development vs. management), you can feel comfort in knowing that whichever direction you choose, opportunities are abundant.
The growth in the use of open source based software has had a resounding positive impact on the career choices available to an open source developer. And, I only foresee it continuing in this direction well into the future. Due to the astounding adoption rate of open source software in so many different sectors, choice is now where the open source developer finds herself/himself.
Do you want to do kernel or application space work? Choose, because it is available to you. Do you want to be coding in Python, Perl or PHP? Choose, because it is available to you. Are you tired of coding, or do you want to do it for the rest of your life? Choose, because it is available to you. The open source developer's fork has many more prongs on it than it use to with more to come. Use it to your advantage. Expand your boundaries knowing that whatever direction you take your career in, there should be opportunities.