Lesson Wednesday

Open Source Projects

Open source projects may not initially seem like they connect to career services, but the code that you do outside of class when you complete the program can have a big impact on your job search. Open source is, by definition, open! While this might sound intimidating or challenging, it’s often a lot of fun and can be a great way to gain experience. Don’t be afraid to find a project that interests you and get involved.

Why contribute to open source projects?

Open source is a great way to improve your existing skills in many different areas of tech. You might be called upon to learn new technologies, develop your project management skills, or and grow as a leader. Additionally, you’ll be collaborating with other developers throughout the process, so expect to stretch the collaboration skills you’ve developed through pair programming at Epicodus. While in your own projects, you may be in the position to act quickly and make decisions without input from other developers. When it comes to open source projects you will have to discuss potential changes and next steps with other folks on the project before acting. You will be getting in touch with strong decision makers and very talented developers. You may have to make a strong case to convince them to enact your solutions or the design you have chosen, but it is always beneficial to brainstorm together and bounce your ideas around.

You’ll also learn a lot about organization and prioritization. Open source projects usually have a clearly defined roadmap for the sake of collaborating with other contributors who need to know where the project is heading next. As such, when you actively contribute to open source projects, you benefit from this transparency and you will be able to evaluate the risks associated with required features or bug fixes more precisely. You can learn from the structure created by other folks on the team, and implement similar roadmaps for your own projects.

Volunteering your time to work on an open-source project is a great way to network, too. This is especially true if you are more introverted and don’t enjoy traditional networking. Open source work is a structured networking opportunity with concrete tasks to focus on and discuss with other volunteers. If you pick a project that interests you, you’ll be connecting with other people who share those interests. You might find a mentor, or help others who are just starting their developer journey. Overall, being involved in open source can enrich your career journey. You’ll find that these unique experiences are great for building skills, and make great talking points on your resumes, cover letters, and in interviews.

How to get started with open source?

Step 1: Find a project that you are interested in!

Remember to consider the scope of the project before jumping in, as well as what kinds of languages and topics you want to work with. These resources are a great place to start looking:

Step 2: Get familiar with the project

  • Spend a little time going through READMEs, known issues, and other important documentation.
  • Figure out how the project contributors work together and get connected — Slack, Discord, Trello boards, etc.

Step 3: Make your first contribution!

  • Open a pull request.
  • Open an issue.
  • You also don’t have to code to contribute! You can also make contributions to design, documentation, or even answer questions for other developers on the project.

For an in-depth look at how to get started with open source coding check out: