Linux Skills Most Wanted: Open Source Jobs Report

The 2018 Open Source Technology Jobs Report shows rapid growth in the demand for open source technical talent, with Linux skills a must-have requirement for entry-level positions.

The seventh annual report from The Linux Foundation and Dice, released Wednesday, identifies Linux coding as the most sought-after open source skill. Linux-based container technology is a close second.

The report provides an overview of open source career trends, factors motivating professionals in the industry, and ways employers attract and retain qualified talent. As with the last two open source jobs reports, the focus this year is on all aspects of open source software and is not limited to Linux.

This year’s report features data from more than 750 hiring managers at corporations, small and medium businesses, and government organizations and staffing agencies across the globe. It is based on responses from more than 6,500 open source professionals worldwide.

Linux skills rank as the most sought-after skills in the 2018 report, with 80 percent of hiring managers looking for tech professionals with Linux expertise.

Linux is required knowledge for most entry-level open source careers, likely due to the strong popularity of cloud and container technologies, as well as DevOps practices, all of which typically are based on Linux, according to the report.

“Open source technology talent is in high demand, as Linux and other open source software dominates software development,” said Linux Foundation Executive Director Jim Zemlin.

“I am encouraged that companies are recognizing more and more each day that open source technology is the way to advance their businesses,” he continued. “The Linux Foundation, our members and the open source ecosystem are focused on ensuring training and certification opportunities are highly accessible to everyone who wants to seek them out, and we are supporting the developer community and its growth in every possible way.”

Heightened Recruitment Efforts

There has been an increase in recruitment activities among companies and organizations that want to bolster open source technology talent, the report reveals.

Slightly more than half (55 percent) of the responding companies said they were offering additional training and certification opportunities for existing staff in order to fill skills gaps. That total is up from 47 percent in 2017 and only 34 percent in 2016.

Eighty-seven percent of hiring managers reported difficulty finding open source talent. Nearly half (48 percent) reported their organizations had begun to support open source projects by contributing code or other resources for the explicit reason of recruiting individuals with those software skills.

“Hiring skilled technology professionals remains a real pain point for employers, and our report shows newer skills like containers are growing in popularity, putting more pressure on organizations to find good talent to carry out necessary projects,” said Art Zeile, CEO of DHI Group, the parent company of Dice.

Key Takeaways

There appears to be a disparity between the views of hiring managers and open source pros over the effectiveness of ongoing efforts to improve diversity. Only 52 percent of employees saw those efforts as effective, compared to 70 percent of employers, the report found.

Other findings:

  • Hiring open source talent was a priority for 83 percent of hiring managers, an increase from 76 percent in 2017.
  • Containers have been growing rapidly in popularity and importance, with 57 percent of hiring managers seeking container expertise, up from only 27 percent last year.
  • Hiring managers have been moving away from hiring outside consultants, increasingly opting to train existing employees on new open source technologies and help them gain certifications.
  • Many organizations have been getting involved in open source with the express purpose of attracting developers.

Effective Business Strategy

Demand for open source talent is high because more companies have begun embracing open source technologies for next-generation workloads and applications, said Ian McClarty, CEO of Phoenix Data Center.

Business leaders see open source as a way to rein in licensing costs, and technologist are enamored with new ways to deploy code and systems in a scale-out fashion, he suggested.

“The big push into cloud services and virtualization has also helped to drive adoption of open source technologies,” McClarty told LinuxInsider. “Developers want rapid systems to deploy in, and do not want to wait around for purchasing and logistics to take care of their needs.”

IT has changed from driving the bottom line to driving the top line for enterprises. Most new applications are developed and built using the DevOps model, according to Brajesh Goyal, vice president of engineering at Cavirin.

This movement was driven by new-generation companies such as Google, Facebook, LinkedIn, Pinterest and Twitter, he noted.

“In addition to changing the business landscape, these companies also built the next set of tools for big data, cloud, AI/machine learning and containers,” Goyal told LinuxInsider. “All of these technologies are mostly open source. [They] are now entering the scale of massive adoption across the business landscape and hence driving the need for open source talent.”

High Demand Is Contagious

Two of the leading reasons for open source’s growing popularity are its effectiveness in improving time to market and in developing base software.

“It is the way most new software is being built, particularly infrastructure software that is broadly applicable across many industries and use cases,” said Howard Green, vice president of marketing at Azul Systems.

People who work on open source projects on their own time typically are willing to give their creativity and their work to the community. Almost any business that plans to survive wants motivated, creative people.

“That includes people who are excited enough about what they do to work on their own open source projects and make their skills and ideas directly visible to their peers,” Green told LinuxInsider.

Demand for open source talent increases because open source has become the most relevant way of producing base software, noted Stefano Maffulli, director of community for Scality.

Open source powers everything, he pointed out.

“Software drives innovation, and the productivity of whole nations depends on it,” Maffulli told LinuxInsider. “According to a Black Duck report, 57 percent of proprietary codebase includes open source code, up from 36 percent last year. I expect that percentage to keep on rising.”

Hiring Insights

Companies and job candidates can take steps to benefit from the report findings. The key is to leverage their interest in open source.

“Companies can take advantage of this trend by being clear that they support open source technologies [and] use them,” noted Azul’s Green.

“Most newer open source technologies are not available via traditional certification means. The easiest way to get into the open source field is to get a virtual instance in one of the many public cloud companies that are out there — it isn’t just about the hyper scalers,” he said.

“There are excellent documentation and videos readily available for beginners. Most open source software has toasters available that are step-by-step guides on how to configure, install and test,” Green pointed out.

“Finding a small project to apply the knowledge gained is also critical,” he continued. “The ‘just do it’ mentality married with a small project will give someone the necessary foundation to open up a new career field in their daily operations, and value people who also work on their own projects and/or contribute to larger-scale projects.”

Very large enterprises and early-stage companies often hire people full-time, with their sole responsibility being to contribute to a high-value open source technology, Green said.

Job candidates can respond to this trend by walking the walk. They can do this by contributing to one or more open source projects they care about. Another strategy is to learn how to make the best use of today’s powerful open source technologies.

“In the case of applications ranging from databases to development tools to messaging stacks, understand the tradeoffs between specific open source offerings and their closed-source analogues,” advised Green.

Developers and engineers interested in working on open source projects and tools can enter the field by demonstrating value within an existing community. Or they can build open source products or tools of their own.

“The great thing about open source is that quality of the design and the code is visible,” noted Green. “It is a living CV. Open source contributions and developers are by their nature visible, verifiable and stand on their own.”

Schooling and Professionalism Count

Technical schools need to start teaching social skills to engineers, suggested Scality’s Muffulli.

The old stereotype of the lone open source coder in the basement is not accurate anymore, he said. With so much code and documentation being developed in the open, across cultural boundaries, developers cannot avoid human interactions.

“In my job, a lot of effort is spent explaining how to craft comments to a pull request that is not offensive and can lead to actual progress. It should not be surprising, but candidates that are pleasant human beings have a better chance of being hired,” Muffulli observed.

Presentation skills are important to new developers, he added. “Be ready to show equally good code, well-done documentation, and social interactions on platforms like mailing lists, GitHub, forums and the like. [Candidates] need to demonstrate that they can develop and solve issues in a collaborative environment.”

No Ordinary Path

Most newer open source technologies are not available via traditional certification means, according to Phoenix Data Center’s McClarty.

The easiest way to get into the open source field is to get a virtual instance in one of the many public cloud companies, he suggested.

For job candidates, it’s a no-brainer: Learn open source software, said Kaj Arno, chief evangelist at MariaDB.

“Document your usage through certification — and if you are into developing open source infrastructure software yourself, start by writing contributions to existing open source software,” he advised.

“Almost all of our developers started out that way,” Arno told LinuxInsider.

The key is to learn, certify and develop by contributing. Then decide whether a career in open source means a career in developing applications that are based on open source, or a career in developing open source software, he suggested. “Those are two different things, albeit related.”

Jack M. Germain

Jack M. Germain has been an ECT News Network reporter since 2003. His main areas of focus are enterprise IT, Linux and open source technologies. He has written numerous reviews of Linux distros and other open source software.Email Jack.

1 Comment

  • Linux is the way forward, more and more people with a brain are getting it. Macs for example give the pretty GUI for the typical home users, and everything important is done by linux

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