Open Source projects on your resume are more important than your co-op or education. I've seen brilliant developers that shatter walls of constraints by being strictly committed to the vision of the project. If there was ever an issue that constrained the team's ability to move forward, there was always that developer hero that would step up to the plate and do what he could to resolve the issue. These types of developers don't play by the rules of the game. They change the game.
Software development companies don't want drones. Drones are people who have jumped through the hoops, ran the courses, and are ready to get paid. Drones aren't creative, confident, or committed. Once a company starts to accumulate too many drone programmers, your company starts to grow "corporate arthritis". Corporate arthritis paralyzes your company's ability to deliver your products efficiently with a degree of quality and reduces your company's ability to keep your customers happy.
The first thing a technical hiring manager will do is Google your name. Then, he or she will try to figure out what your Github is. By looking at how many pull requests / tests / gists / repositories you have, we're able to discern the following characteristics:
- How you write your code
- How you inspire your teammates through your ideas and participation
- Why you make certain technical decisions in your projects
- Why specific decisions need commitment from your teammates. Are you able to get commitment out of your teammates on volunteer software development?
- Can you really convince your teammates that your technical decisions steers the team in the direction that best suits the teams' needs?
- How committed and passionate you are about your discipline
- Do you act as a mentor to your teammates?
Since open source software development is solely based on building a shared vision and aligning everyone's personal masteries (design, development, quality assurance, technical writing), you're essentially putting yourself as a developer on the map for smart companies to hire you. There's nothing more important to a company than hiring heroes that really understand the meaning of shared vision, commitment, dedication, hard work, creativity, inspiration, and mentorship.
Good luck and have fun,
Jaime Bueza is a software developer in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. He has developed web applications for Nintendo, Electronic Arts, Ritchie Brothers, Kiwi Collections, Cox Communications and Microsoft. When he's not developing useful software that constantly evolves with business requirements, he's creating tutorial videos for aspiring front-end developers.