Yahoo! is a brand associated with open source, particularly for its contributions to the open source community. LINUX For You caught up with Hari Vasudev, VP, Cloud Platform Group, Yahoo! India R&D, to explore the pros and cons of adopting open source software for product development. The conversation also covered the opportunities that exist in the industry for open source professionals, especially at Yahoo!; and the kind of skillsets that Yahoo!, and the industry, look for when they hire open source professionals.
How can an organisation gain by switching to open source tools and platforms?
When an organisation chooses open source software, it is able to take advantage of a platform on which it can build its own software. It can avoid designing software from scratch and leverage upon building blocks that are already available.
For example, if an organisation with limited resources wants to build a series of distributed applications, it can use a platform like Apache to build them quickly. When an organisation takes up such open source projects, it is often backed by the open source community, which constantly offers suggestions for improvements. The company is able to quickly build its software to perform at a much larger scale this way. Hence, lower cost is also a significant advantage.
How does Yahoo! find the right talent to work on its open source projects?
It is often hard to come across good open source professionals in India as the trend has just begun. Yahoo! does hire from campuses across India. We also engage in joint research projects with professors at institutes like IISc (Bangalore), IIT-Bombay, IIT-Madras and PSG Tech (Coimbatore). Students who work on these projects are often given an option to work with Yahoo!, once they graduate.
If students who intern with us show an interest in open source, we allow them to work on some open source projects and we have the option to convert them into full-time employees when they pass out. We also conduct campus recruitment at the IITs and other select colleges in India. If two candidates are equally good and one is well versed in open source, we prefer the one with open source skills.
What skillsets do you look for in open source professionals?
Since we work a lot on Java-based platforms, we look for people who are good in systems-level Java programming. We also look for those with strong fundamentals in data structures, algorithms and large-scale systems design. In general, we look for demonstrated development experience in building large-scale systems and a lot of distributed systems knowledge.
Is a certification in open source courses a prerequisite when you hire freshers?
We haven’t particularly taken advantage of open source certifications, per se. Prior training definitely helps, but we have many internal programmes to train employees. So, a certification does not play a significant role when we hire FOSS professionals. Yahoo! gives more weight to top quality talent when we look for FOSS professionals.
We tend to highlight their skillsets, achievements, experience and how they fit into the open source community. If certification helps a person to perform better on these parameters, it will be considered a plus.
Apart from technical skills, what else does Yahoo! look for while hiring open source professionals?
Open source projects are often a collaborative effort. The work is often reviewed and critiqued by experts from the open source community, and we look for employees who are comfortable with that.
How many Linux/open source developers are you planning to hire in the near future?
Currently, there are hundreds of professionals working on open source projects at Yahoo!, and we will continue to hire professionals with such skills in the future.
Do you provide training programmes for developers to sharpen their skillsets?
Yahoo! holds training sessions and offers internal courses as a part of its “Learning and Development” program. This is a way of keeping developers current in the technology. Our open source software developers, known as “committers”, also mentor junior developers. Thus, the latter learn what it takes to develop software for open source and how to follow the process.