Thursday, January 10, 2008

Allow Participation if You Want the Best Talent

If your company wants the best talent on their team, please allow this talent to participate in open source projects! As long as their contributions do not violate the company's NDA, I am not sure why there is continued concerns about open source participation in some cases. Is this due to recent examples such as McAfee , or prior to that the likes of Tivo feeling corporate pressure as a result of their use of open source based software? Whatever the cause may be, it seems like the battle still has to be fought from time to time.

The reason why I bring this up is that we recently ran into this on a search we were conducting. In this case, a candidate for the opening had created a successful open source project over the previous 4-5 years. From all we were able to gain from the IP attorney, it appeared that this project did not violate the company's NDA. Even with that being the case, the company decided to stick to its' guns of not allowing employees to contribute to open source projects.

Thus, there still seems to be a fear factor when dealing with candidates that have contributed code to open source projects. On one hand, the companies love to see this involvement, because they can gauge the level of the candidate's development prowess. And, like I have said in the past, if your code is accepted in a particular project, it is a pretty good sign that we have a talented engineer on our hands. On the other hand, there appears to be great fear that somehow some of the company's code is going to find itself in open source projects. As a result, this code would have to be GPL'd, and the company could lose its valuable IP.

At the end of the day, there are always going to be risks with whomever you hire. But, I plead to the companies that prevent their engineers from participating. PLEASE find a way to have some trust in these individuals! I understand fully the investment that is at stake. But, if you want to take your organization to the next level, you are going to need the best talent. And, in these days of open source software, the best talent is contributing to projects.