In my past as a recruiter, I have learned there are certain questions a candidate and avid open source contributor should ask. On occasion, the potential employer may be unprepared to answer, but if he or she is competent, your answers will be forthcoming quickly.
These are the top questions you should ask. They will help you make the best decision for both your personal and professional growth.
- What are your policies regarding open source contributions? As a recruiter, I researched my company's policies, but I also pondered the implications to an individual's career should they not know to ask about open source contribution policies prior to accepting a position at a company.
- What open source contributions is your company currently making? This is a fantastic way to determine where the company stands with open source values. The answer to this question will also help you determine if the company has current processes in place for open source contributors. Additionally, by understanding where the company currently contributes you will be able to glean some insight into the company's culture.
- What kind of license do you use? Licensing questions will help you to learn a great deal about the company. The question of licensure is two-fold. First, if the company currently contributes to open source projects, your understanding of the preferred license type will help you determine the company's current legal procedures. Second, for a company that has no open source contributions, you can learn if it has any legal constraints preventing you from contributing, and what the different types of licenses are that you can use. The Choose a License website is a fantastic resource for understanding more about the different types of licenses.
- Who owns the copyright to my open source contributions? You should carefully review any employment contract because some companies may claim ownership of anything you create while employed by them, regardless of whether it was created during your personal time. There is no right or wrong, but it is good to know before you start. Understanding the equipment and time that you can use for your personal open source contributions is of the upmost importance when signing any contracts.
- Will I have specific time during the day to work on open source projects and contributions? Today, companies realize the benefit of open source involvement. However, determining your allotted time during the workday for your contributions or company-sponsored projects is important, as is making sure that you have buy-in from your manager and leadership team.
- What is the review process? If there are current company contributions in place, they may have a detailed review process. This process should outline very clearly who owns what, the timeline to release, and how the company protects you from legal trouble. If a potential employer has no current process in place, you need to determine with the company and the legal department how your personal contributions will be handled to avoid infringement on intellectual property rights and to deal with other copyright issues.
While this list may not be 100% complete, it is a great place to start when evaluating whether a company is the right fit for you and your goals. In the end, don't forget that you can often negotiate these details into your contract. Please share your thoughts and comments regarding the right questions to ask recruiters and companies when contributing to open source.
These resources were helpful in my research and may prove helpful to you as well: