Why open source skills are in high demand and helping developers get hired, according to a new IBM survey

  • A survey of 3,440 technologists commissioned by IBM suggests open source skills are in high demand.
  • 87% of hiring managers say these skills are an important factor when hiring, per the survey.
  • IBM’s chief developer advocate says dedicated open source developers help shape the future of tech. 

Open source expertise is in high demand and job seekers can particularly benefit from building skills related to open source cloud technologies, according to a new IBM survey.

A survey of 3,440 developers and managers found that 87% of hiring managers considered knowledge of open source an important factor when hiring, while 65% of all respondents fully believe that open source project contributions impress future employers and can contribute to better career opportunities. The newly released survey was conducted by O’Reilly Media and commissioned by IBM in the fall of 2020.

Furthermore, 67% of hiring managers thought that experience with open source provides greater long-term value than experience with the technologies of specific cloud vendors. For example, hiring managers may be looking for talented developers experienced with popular systems like Kubeflow, Tensorflow, and Kubernetes, instead of simply knowledge of cloud platforms like AWS, Google Cloud, Azure, or IBM, according to Willie Tejada, chief developer advocate at IBM.

“They’re trying to actually find folks with this skill set that can cut directly across all of their cloud environments and the way they do that is by the common denominator of being open source,” he told Insider. 

One reason for this could be the increased shift to hybrid or multi-cloud strategies, where companies choose to use multiple cloud platforms, or a combination of cloud and owned-and-operated data centers. IBM, in particular, (which trails behind cloud rivals AWS, Azure, and Google) has leaned into both hybrid and multi-cloud. 

The IBM report also notes that the Linux Foundation’s 2020 Open Source Jobs Report — which surveyed 175 hiring managers and more than 900 open source professionals in 2020—  similarly found that hiring managers are 70% more likely to hire a developer with open source skills than someone without them, which is up from 66% in 2018. Meanwhile, there’s also a skill gap: 93% of recruiting managers reported difficulty finding enough talent with open source skills, up from 87% in 2018. 

Hiring managers are also particularly interested in developers that are playing a prominent role in the direction of a given open source technology, Tejada said, because these committers or maintainers can help shape its future. 

Tejada also shared a few steps he thinks developers can take to break into open source communities: “Start with documentation,” he said. “If they want to aspire to actually be a maintainer or committer in a particular community, we can show and discuss with them what it takes to actually get there. But the bottom line is, just jump right in. Most communities that you’ll see will understand the power of participation. And so they’re very amenable to new folks basically participating.”

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