Friday, February 8, 2008

Status of the Open Source Labor Market

I have been contacted by a number of Linux engineers recently asking me about the status of the market. Everyone seems to have been sucked in by all the rhetoric about the looming recession or already being in one. I leave that debate up to the economists, but I figured it was worthwhile to let people know what we see from our minute vantage point.

The fact of the matter is that the market for established Linux/open source based engineers is still relatively strong. Overall, I would tend to say that the number of openings that I see is down slightly, but nothing drastic. That probably does not hold true for the entire labor market. I watched an interview yesterday on CNBC with the President and CEO of Craigslist, and they have seen their first negative growth in overall job postings since 2001. But, luckily in tech land, and especially in Linux land, things are not as dire.

As a result, people are constantly asking me, "Why is that the case?" The worst market that we have witnessed was right after 9/11 and the bubble burst (not surprising). However, at that time, there was a lot of excess to get rid of. Things were way out of proportion; not too much different than the housing market in the last couple of years. It takes time to bring everything back in line.

This "slowdown" is much different. Even though the labor market and overall economy has been relatively strong the last couple of years, there is not a lot of excess. I do not expect to see the amount of mass layoffs (exception being in the housing and financial sectors) that we witnessed from some of the technology companies back in '02 and '03. In addition, we are fortunate that a lot of the technology companies revenue streams are pretty diversified throughout the globe, thus the emerging markets are assisting us greatly at this time.

But, I regress to the open source market specifically. The trend continues in regards to corporate adoption of Linux and other open source based software. As a result, corporations are always going to be in need of so called "experts" to assist them in any migration of platforms or modifications to software that they are making. Therefore, opportunities for qualified individuals will always exist.

So, the Linux/open source labor market luckily does not sync up with perhaps the rest of the market at this time. Be thrilled that you selected to contribute to the BEST way to develop software, and one that continues to provide growth for you both personally and professionally! Long live a strong Linux/open source labor market! At least let's hope that continues to be the case ;)

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