To Recruit and Retain the Best Tech Talent, Companies Need to Use Open Source Software

It’s a much better perk than a foosball table. Here are three reasons why.

Written by Junta Nakai
Published on Oct. 18, 2021
To Recruit and Retain the Best Tech Talent, Companies Need to Use Open Source Software
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More companies are starting to invest in technologies that enable AI to play a more central role in the products and services they provide. A recent IDC study found that the artificial intelligence (AI) software market will break the $500 billion mark by 2024, with the strongest growth coming from the AI software platforms market, covering the tools used to build AI models and applications. Successfully designing and productionalizing AI-powered products will increasingly become a major source of competitive advantage. To capitalize on this investment, companies will need to attract top tech talent — but the hiring environment for data roles is extremely competitive. While data science and analytics hiring is expected to grow almost 5 percent in 2021, the global talent pool is shrinking, so companies will be going head-to-head to attract and retain top candidates.

For institutions that have yet to complete their digital transformation, it can be a real struggle to attract tech talent to their organizations. While many turn to prestige, perks, and other benefits to lure the best talent, organizations could be better served by shifting their focus elsewhere: the software their employees use. Today’s tech talent expects to use open source software — here’s why.  

3 Perks of Using Open Source Software

  • It offers employees more transferable skills
  • It widens the resource pool for solving problems
  • It drives a collaborative, open-minded culture


Open Source Offers Employees More Transferable Skills

With many of the leading companies today leaning on open source software (OSS), IT professionals expect it to be a part of their day-to-day job. According to a recent report from Red Hat, 90 percent of IT leaders use enterprise open source, and 65 percent expect their use of enterprise open source software for AI and machine learning (ML) use cases to increase over the next two years. IT pros also believe an open source skill set is highly sought after — according to the 2020 Open Source Jobs Report from the Linux Foundation, 67 percent of open-source professionals believe they are more employable because modern technology often runs on OSS. For example, the foundational open source technologies that Databricks uses, including Delta Lake and Spark, are downloaded more than 30 million times every month around the world.

The best talent today no longer wants to work on proprietary technologies. Simply put, doing so is career-limiting. Open source software offers more growth opportunities for candidates, both within your organization and elsewhere. Without embracing open source technologies, it will become increasingly difficult for tech firms to attract world-class talent. 


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It Widens the Resource Pool for Solving Problems

With some of the brightest minds creating open source technologies, enabling your developers and data teams to tap it gives you access to the latest innovations and enterprise-ready tools. For example, recent data from PitchBook shows that in the past 30 years, more than 200 companies were founded with open source as their core technology. Embracing open source allows your tech teams to innovate faster and can benefit a company’s growth and success. Instead of spending resources building a proprietary solution in-house, leveraging code that is already available means employees can spend more time creating and problem-solving.

Open source allows IT teams to tune the technology to suit their unique needs. The alternative is to either purchase an off-the-shelf proprietary product that would likely only partially address their business problems, or build an entirely new solution from scratch which takes an incredible amount of time and resources. Today, organizations simply do not have the time or money to waste on either of those alternatives. In other words, embracing open source can enhance your intellectual property. 

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It Drives a Collaborative, Open-Minded Culture

While there are many technical benefits of open source software that can help attract candidates, another more-subtle-but-equally-important benefit is the culture it helps to foster. Open source communities are so successful because they’re based on collaboration, cooperation, and communication, and the notion that there is no “winner.” Everyone is on the same team working toward a common mission. There are also added benefits to employees for being more collaborative. A Stanford study found that more collaborative employees reported higher engagement levels, lower fatigue, and a higher success rate than their solitary peers.

Companies that leverage open source software inherently can offer their current and future employees a more collaborative, open, and supportive work environment and ultimately a better place to work — something that analyst Rob Enderle observed at both Microsoft and IBM. Open source can also provide personal growth opportunities for engineers outside of the workplace. Those who learn open source software can collaborate and work on new projects, concepts, and patterns and garner feedback from other skilled professionals at meetups, conferences, and online, which is an invaluable perk. In my experience, all of these benefits keep employees satisfied and on a path to personal growth, which improves retention.

While open source provides many advantages for the employer, including community, transparency, reliability, faster time to market, enhanced intellectual property (IP), and cost savings, there are also many benefits for current and prospective employees with increased transparency and skill-building. More than two-thirds of employees look to learn new skills for roles with more job security and opportunity, and open source provides a larger ecosystem of job opportunities both internally and externally. Employers that encourage employees to participate in open source projects will help them achieve better results and improve their skills while also keeping their own company and team competitive in a tight hiring market.


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