Do I need to be an open-source contributor to be taken seriously by a Data Science Hiring Manager?

Do I need to be an open-source contributor to be taken seriously by a Data Science Hiring Manager?

"I would like to know if one has to be a committer in some Apache project to gain the acceptance as a Data Engineer in the eye of a Hiring Manager"

A fellow reader recently asked us this question. While the above is very specific, the question can be addressed (and answered the same) at a slightly more generalized level … Do I need to be an open-source contributor to be taken seriously by a Data Science Hiring Manager?

The answer, for the most part, is "no", for 3 reasons

  1. There are many ways - "proof points" that can be used to convey your skill set or competence. Open source contributions are one, but by no means the only way of doing so - you could also have a Technical Blog, you could answer questions on Stack Overflow, you could have a relevant thesis or academic qualification that highlights your relevant technical skills … all of which could be as good, if not better, than an open source contribution
  2. Open source contributions can be very time-consuming - there may well be simpler, quicker, more direct ways (per #1) to convey your knowledge without having to dig deep into an open source platform, understand it, find something to fix and/or improve and then set about doing so … In the time you've done that, you could likely have written a pretty decent technical blog post that could be very much tailored to what you know how to do (aka play to your strengths!), and would still demonstrate a high level of proficiency
  3. It is unlikely that the Hiring Manager and/or team is making open source contributions on a regular basis, though you should of course try to verify this assumption, as it is the one think that could suggest you also contributing is a good idea (i.e., if the Hiring Manager and/or team are doing so regularly, it is a strong signal that they really value the process, and will likely favor a candidate who has also contributed).

    There are a few ways to do this

    (a) Check their profile on the open-source site(s) you are curious about - all committers to the code are typically listed. For example, you can find the Apache ones here (note, page found just by googling "apache committers" - you could do the same for whatever open-source project you're interested in)

    (b) Check their GitHub profile to see if they list any contributions (note, they should either be searchable by name, or you can look on their LinkedIn page to typically find their GitHub user name / profile page link)

    (c) Check their LinkedIn profile to see if that itself lists any open-source contributions

    (d) Most direct, ask the Hiring Manager - this may seem weird, but often just simply asking what they expect from a candidate is as efficient a process as any (for both sides) - though will depend what lines of communication (if any) you have open on that front

How to take action now!

We mentioned "proof points" earlier. We'll go into them in more detail in a separate post, but it is worth starting to think about them. Let's start from a technical stand-point - start to create a list of all your technical proof points that could be relevant to different roles; write down both the skill/technique you're wanting to convey in one (left-hand) column and the proof point next to it. We'll come back to this so worth having a head-start :)

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