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How Open Source Can Pave the Path Towards a Staff+ Role

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Open source contributions and long-term community engagement can help you on your path to a Staff+ engineer role. Written communication skills are key for the async and remote work which is common in open source. Your contributions should be aligned with business needs, which can give you visibility that opens up career possibilities.

Alex Porcelli presented How Open-Source Engagement Can Accelerate & Solidify Your Staff+ Career at QCon London 2022.

The path to a Staff+ role usually depends on situations that engineers don’t have much control over, like having the opportunity to work on a visible project that will help get them to the next level. One way to hack around this limiting situation is to start contributing to open source and pave your own path to staff+, Porcelli said.

Porcelli mentioned several ways to engage. You do it by being active on communication channels and supporting new users. You can contribute ideas, participate in code reviews, or provide draft solutions. When you contribute something, give it a good description.

As a newcomer to a community, one of your benefits is that you will have fresh insights to bring, Porcelli said.

Open source is done async and remote, and written communication is a key skill for such a way to communicate. The best way to get better at writing is to write, Porcelli said. Writing is the foundation for communication. Porcelli suggested grabbing opportunities for writing, like blog posts, mailing lists, or bug reports.

A great way to learn technology is to explain it to someone else, Porcelli said. He suggested writing articles and blog posts to do this.

Porcelli mentioned that effective leaders spend more time following than leading. He suggested learning how to follow by aligning your contributions to the community direction.

To influence, Porcelli suggested engaging in the problem and not starting with providing a solution. As you don't have people who report to you, you have to learn how to read the room to influence.

Your visibility should be based on your contributions, Porcelli said. To increase your visibility, make sure that your contributions are aligned with business needs. This might give you access to new sponsors that open up career possibilities, Porcelli concluded.

Alex Porcelli will be presenting at QCon Plus May 10-20, 2022.

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