Employees who exhibit a solid combination of technical expertise, soft management skills, and a willingness to proactively collaborate with other team members can be the ticket to a company’s growth, but that Goldilocks combination can be tough to find, especially now.
It can be difficult to ascertain whether someone fits the bill on a Zoom interview, which makes knowing where to look for the right talent all the more important.
The open-source community is a great place to start, even if companies are not specifically looking for software developers. Open source is all about contributing to something that is greater than the whole. Thousands of people in all corners of the world work together to generate ideas and create tools that benefit the open-source community, their companies’ customers, and the world at large. It’s not just developers, either; anyone who shares their knowledge with others — about anything, really — is someone who embodies an open-source mentality.
All are part of the open-source life cycle, which makes diving into the open-source talent pool a good idea — no matter what position an executive is looking to fill. Here are five reasons companies should consider people with open-source backgrounds.
1. They are used to working remotely, yet never alone.
Members of the open-source community have worked remotely for years, so they don’t need to adjust to the new normal of a distributed working environment. The distributed nature of the community brings different cultures, ideas, and values together for the common good. For example, my company has team members all over the world and from different cultures, but they work together in harmony because they believe in the open-source ethos. That attitude is fundamental to building a winning corporate culture.
2. They have a thirst for continuous learning.
“There is no greater education than one that is self-driven.”
– Neil deGrasse Tyson
Those with open-source backgrounds are some of the most self-driven individuals around. Most are lifelong learners who exhibit a growth mindset and continually ask questions. They are also open to their colleagues’ feedback and constructive criticism, even when it might be a tough pill to swallow. They appreciate having their assumptions challenged and use that feedback to continuously learn and improve. This passion for learning can lead to new innovations that can help companies stay ahead of their competition and blaze trails in their industries.
3. They love trying new things.
One of the many things this year has taught us is that business can never be stagnant. It’s best to have employees who are biased toward action and unafraid to proactively put forward ideas and drive change. A single idea can spread to the rest of the team, who can iterate upon it, refine it and improve it. That idea may also spawn other ideas that can ultimately benefit the company. Fortunately, members of the open-source community thrive on sharing ideas and trying new things — a piece of code, a new capability, or a new way of looking at a traditional approach. They make great leaders because they aren’t afraid to move past the old ways in favor of new thinking that helps them, their colleagues, and the company.
4. They have a passion for helping others.
Open-source contributors understand that for them to succeed, everyone must succeed, so they’re willing to help others learn and grow. They share best practices from previous projects to show their colleagues how to tackle a new challenge; in turn, those colleagues can pass that knowledge on to others. When people help each other, it can have an immediate and positive effect on the organization. Everyone raises their game, which can lead to new ideas and growth, both for employees and business.
5. They’re willing to dive deep to solve challenges
With their bias toward action, those with an open-source background will gladly spend time figuring out ways to get around a hurdle, even if that hurdle involves working on something that’s outside of their experience. They’ll research the problem, seek help from others and experiment with ways to fix it. This take-charge attitude can come in handy in organizations with limited staff. Self-driven employees who are willing to push themselves outside of their comfort zone can fill many roles.
The common theme among these qualities is the ability and willingness to try. My company recently hired 17 people across multiple continents and disciplines, including open-source development. They bring different perspectives and come from different walks of life, but they’re all committed to working together to achieve our company’s goals.
That’s a good reminder that companies don’t create good corporate cultures and atmospheres that inspire growth; the employees do. And I’d argue that you might just find your next star employee in the open-source community.
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