Want to Work for a Startup? Contribute to Open Source!

Our CEO at SocialRadar, @michaelchasen just tweeted an article entitled ”Want to work for a startup?” which had 5 great tips for getting hired at a startup.

I’d like to get up on my virtual soapbox here and suggest that there be one addition:

6. Contribute to Open Source

This assumes you want to join a startup on the technical side of course, but few things will get you more noticed and be more impressive to the hiring engineers at a startup than contributing to open source.

Whether you are creating a library from scratch or helping on an existing one, contributing to open source shows how you can collaborate, will get your name out there, provides a potential employer with a code sample, and shows you have the motivation to build something outside of work.

Before I joined SocialRadar I wrote a small utility library for generating random stuff I called Chance. I wrote it from scratch with documentation, support for the browser and Node.js, unit tests, the whole nine yards.

I got a ton of traffic to the project page and my own personal website because it was tweeted and linked all over the web including some heavy hitters like DailyJS. In just a few months it has rocketed to a few hundred stars on Github, has been forked many times, and has led to 28 pull requests that I have triaged and merged thus far.

My intent here in rattling off these facts is not hubris, but rather to show that my decision to spend a weekend building this library did a fantastic job of getting my name out there and continues to serve as a wonderful showcase of my ability to write good, clean code, to be responsible for maintaining a codebase, to be literate in my documentation, and to be thorough on my test coverage. It serves as a public record of my interactions with other contributors and as a great portfolio piece for the work that I do.

And thanks to the support my work has received on Twitter, Github, and other virtual communities, it serves as a hearty community approval that I’m doing something right and that my skills would be quite valuable to a startup.

With all of the benefits above and the buzz I received for my library it’s no wonder my name came up when SocialRadar was looking for a Node.js expert in the Washington DC tech community.

Want to join a startup? Contribute to open source today!

You should follow me on twitter here.

Published 18 Aug 2013

Scaling and leading engineering and data teams to solve the world's problems
Victor Quinn on Twitter