As a back-end developer, I’m used to building stuff that people interact with every day but never actually see. I create that layer beneath the surface that makes things work the way people expect them to — and I’m the one who gets called in when something goes wrong. Either way, I spend a lot of time unraveling puzzles and reimagining solutions, forever pushing the limits of what software can do.
I make things work; that’s what I love about my job. It’s also the reason why I like being part of the Open Source Software (OSS) community. OSS offers nearly infinite opportunities to solve problems or build things that didn’t exist before.
Plus, as an open source contributor, by writing one little fix you could be helping hundreds or thousands of digital platforms.
Why Open Source Matters to Me
I first got involved with OSS back in 2007, when I used Drupal CMS for a client project. I spent a few years getting comfortable with the software and kind of dipping a toe in the community aspect. After a while, I’d been consuming Drupal so much that I started to feel bad about using all that free software and not giving anything back.
Then I had a project come along that needed a custom feature for Drupal that didn’t exist yet in the open source space. I wrote the module and gave it back to the community, working through other open source contributors who needed it too. That’s when I discovered how rewarding it is when you build something and people actually use it.
When you’re working on a project and you find a problem, you could just fix it and move on. But when you say, “Hey, somebody else might find this useful,” and you take that extra 30 minutes to give the code back to the community, you make everybody better.
I love the feeling that giving back gives you, especially when you fix something that thousands of other people use.
From Dipping a Toe to the Deep End
For me, being an OSS contributor comes with a sense of responsibility. It’s rewarding when you fix an issue for other developers, but it also makes you not want to screw up something that thousands of other sites report using. So I’m always mindful of releasing quality code. Maybe that’s also why I became a maintainer.
Years ago, I was using a contributed theme that someone else had written as a starting point for a lot of the projects I worked on. Then the sole maintainer passed away, and a lot of us still wanted to use the theme. So a coworker and I offered to maintain it — I couldn’t just walk away from something I’d been benefiting from for so long.
Today, I regularly submit code to open source communities, and I’m a maintainer of nine different open source modules. How did that happen, you ask? Well… sometimes I’ll recommend that a client uses an unmaintained module in their application, and then, you know, somebody’s got to take care of it.
What can I say? I also feed the stray cats in my neighborhood.
I Get to Do This for Work?!
Problem-solving is the best part of my job. And with OSS, you’re always going to have a problem to solve, or a bug to fix, or a new feature to build every time someone says, “You know, it would be great if this module did this.” That’s when my teammates and I roll up our sleeves and say, “Okay, how are we going to make this work?” When we find a solution, we give it back.
Fortunately, I work at an agency that actively encourages us to make open source contributions. We recognize the value we get from OSS, and that’s why we go the extra mile to support the community. I can build OSS fixes while I’m working on client projects, or take professional growth days to focus on open source work.
I don’t know if that’s true of all agencies, but I’m lucky enough to work somewhere that believes in making an impact.
Want to come build things with us? Check out our open positions.