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Open Source software has seen mass popularity with sharing of great ideas eventuating in collaboration between software engineers creating amazing tooling for everybody to use - for free.

But does it come with a hidden cost & a potential risk of difficult resourcing?

Something that I’ve noticed over the years is that companies need to consider the trade off between using exciting open source tooling and readily available skills / experience in the market.

Open source software or new tooling might solve a problem & be free (open to the community) but will you be able to hire that skill set? Especially if that technology or tool sets are very new or leading edge it might be difficult to get an expert within that open source software whereas sometimes it can be easier to go for something mainstream (that has an upfront cost & vendor support) but not a down stream cost. Not great if every time you need to recruit you have to hire an obscure expert from overseas to work on your specialist software (which is also fine but can take time).

If you do have a couple of experts in say that particular technology, functional or new languages….how replaceable are they? And can you get some colleagues or other engineers around them to have some knowledge sharing & transfer? Think long-term planning or dare I say the ‘Red bus’ scenario in which ‘what happens if that person won’t be here tomorrow’? Food for thought….and it really can be scary…

Another take is that a good software engineer can learn any language. Object oriented languages are similar to each other as are functional languages and a good senior software engineer should be able to pick up new languages, but of course all languages have different nuances & it depends on how deep you need that knowledge… Deep I hear you say ;-)

We often will keep an eye on the market for the clients we partner with, alerting them of rare skill sets that may arrive overseas or return home to Christchurch, sometimes it’s not the best timing but’s always good to be thinking ahead with your IT resourcing so as not to put unwanted pressure on your people, teams & inevitably your customers & get into a tight spot.

So my advice is to be proactive, especially if you have a niche skill set, and look at knowledge sharing & skills transfer between people in your teams. It can also be useful to be active in local user groups, to get teams or individuals to give presentations, and to get involved and be known to the community in that particular skill set. It’s fun & enriching for devs etc too.

And while we’re on ‘Community’ that’s where the global community within Open Source really kicks in where ideas & information are shared and this can become your first port of call for enticing new staff that are known to your devs & people active in that Open Source community.

‘Grow your own’ - bring in graduates that you can train up on your own tech stack (yes easier said than done, as it takes time), the way you want them to work & they can bring fresh ideas, passion & new energy. It also gives an opportunity for Senior Devs to mentor & lead by example. It can be a great idea to have a couple of interns in to do sand pit projects & they can turn into your next grad hires & eventual rock stars.

If it does get too much, sometimes it’s a good move to bring in an IT contractor, or consider remote working to help out in busy times to bridge the gap. 

The key takeaway here is plan ahead for rare skill sets within Open Source, be proactive in all these different areas and that should see you right for future growth.

We currently have a number of exciting roles in the Open Source space in Christchurch please check out:

Lead Full Stack Web Developer, Christchurch

Senior Software Engineer (Python), Christchurch

Python Software Engineer, Christchurch

Exploratory Software Tester, Christchurch

Web Apps Developer, Christchurch

UI/UX Designer / Front-End Developer, Christchurch

I'm Paul, I love coffee, Founder & Principal Consultant of Sunstone, an IT Recruitment & HR company specialising in recruiting IT roles within software, web, mobile, blockchain, big data, cloud infrastructure, security & networks in Christchurch & South Island of New Zealand.

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