Twenty one years ago, Leandro Komosinski, one of the best teachers (mentor might be more appropriate) I had, told me in one of our meetings:
"- You should never stop learning. In our industry, if you stop learning, after three years you are obsolete. Do it for 5 years and you are relegated to maintaining legacy systems or worse, you are out of the market completely. "
While this seems pretty obvious today, it was a big insight to that 18 years old boy. I don’t really have any data to back this claim or the timeframes mentioned, but that advice stuck with me ever since.
It actually applies to everything, it doesn’t need to be technology. The gist of it: it is important to never stop learning, never stop growing, personally and professionally.
That brings me to the topic I would like to talk about. Nowadays, I talk to a lot of young developers. Unfortunately, several of them when asked “What do you like to do? What is your passion?” either don’t know or just offer generic answers: “I like software development”.
"But, what do you like in software development? Which books have you been reading? Which courses are you taking?" And the killer question: "which open source projects are you contributing to?"
The typical answer is: “- the company I work for does not give me time to do it.”
Well, let me break it down for you: “this is not about the company you work for. This is about you!” :)
What is your passion? How do you fuel it? What are you curious about? How do you learn more about it?
It doesn’t need to be software, it can be anything that interests you, but don’t waste your time. Don’t wait for others to give you time. Make your own time.
And if your passion is technology or software, then it is even easier. Open Source is a lot of things to a lot of people, but let me skip ideology. Let me give you a personal perspective for it: it is a way to learn, to grow, to feed your inner kid, to show what you care for, to innovate, to help.
If you think about Open Source as “free labour” or “work”, you are doing it wrong. Open source is like starting a masters degree and writing your thesis, except you don’t have teachers (you have communities), you don’t have classes (you do your own exploratory research), you don’t have homework (you apply what you learn) and you don’t have a diploma (you have your project to proudly flaunt to the world).
It doesn’t matter if your project is used by the Fortune 500 or if it is your little pet that you feed every now and then. The important part is: did you grow by doing it? Are you better now than you were when you started?
So here is my little advice for the youngsters (please take it at face value):
- Be restless, be inquisitive, be curious, be innovative, be loud! Look for things that interest you in technology, arts, sociology, nature, and go after them. Just never stop learning, never stop growing. And if your passion is software development, then your open source dream project is probably a google search away.