Don’t take it — a job that allows you to do what you love.
For instance, if you love FOSS, and someone offers you a job related to FOSS, don’t take up the offer for your love of freedom. Take it up if it offers you good money, and a solid career path.
Else, your emotional decision may just damage the job market and the career paths that can be built around FOSS, for everyone else!
I’ve met quite a lot of brilliant people, who’ve been foolishly emotional, in the Indian FOSS community. These are software and IT professionals who are brilliant with their tools and technologies, and skills with FOSS. They know that if they apply for jobs in proprietary software companies, they’ll get juicy pay packages, loads of benefits, and blazing career paths.
Yet, they steer away from this beaten path and take a job which pays much less, and offers a career path that seems to stagnate after just three years. This happens because such employees allow their love of the freedom and philosophy of FOSS to be exploited by their employers.
“Why do you work for less?” I often ask these geeks. “Oh! They offer me freedom,” is the defensive line I often hear.
Truth is, if your freedom has to be offered to you, it cannot be freedom. Nobody can give you freedom, and nobody can take it away. There’s an inherent flaw in that kind of thinking. Yet, once such professionals believe that freedom is being offered to them, they sign away their freedom to reach their peak potential.
What happens next? Other good and equally competent guys are similarly offered miserly deals and benefits from employers, now that a precedent has been set. No wonder, skilled and experienced FOSS professionals are hard to find.
There’s a second, darker aspect to this dilemma. Eventually, folks who can’t really compete for lucrative industry jobs, seek shelter for themselves in FOSS jobs. Peer deep into their eyes and you may not find any love or passion for FOSS, or for its philosophy. This spoils the industry even more.
What’s your true worth?
There’s also a third aspect. Perhaps some IT professionals have not even bothered to understand their true worth in the industry; or are just too lazy to seek a job that offers dignity and delight. In fact, some of the most exciting and demanding jobs in the industry today are based around FOSS, and all such jobs are offered by the top companies in the world.
So, if you feel you’re stuck, and being exploited in a low-paying job in the FOSS industry, here’s what I think you should do. Get to know your true worth by applying at another FOSS-based company, and then confront your employer with the written offer made to you. If your employer refuses to give you a fairer deal, you should quit. It’s about time FOSS companies that exploit freedom-loving employees get a wake-up call.
If there are no FOSS companies that offer you a similar job description and/or package, then definitely apply in other companies. Yes, I mean in proprietary software companies. You should know your true worth, and should know whether you really do have desirable and marketable skills. Once you become aware that you do, you’ll find it’s very difficult to let yourself continue to be exploited.
Finally, if you do have skills, but no job to match, consider launching a startup. See if there are clients and a market need for your kind of skills. If you bring good business-management to your startup, you might just get bought out by the same companies that initially rejected you.
Just remember: the FOSS movement can only be successful if all the individuals working and contributing to FOSS also seek financial success for themselves. I’d always be wary of folks who promise to save or make me millions of dollars, but can’t allow themselves to be paid a penny. I’d never trust a bare-chested man who promises me the shirt off his back.