Open Source

Why open source is a draw for job candidates

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The tech surge that revived the ailing HealthCare.gov website serves as a tool for recruiting top IT professionals from outside -- and within -- the government.

Joseph Castle, director of the General Services Administration's Digital Service, said he looks for talent in the public and private sectors.

"It can be a struggle to get people to come to GSA," he said during a July 12 panel discussion on Open Source Market Disruption hosted by FCW sister publication Washington Technology. "My ace in my pocket is to tie myself to the U.S. Digital Service team that changed HealthCare.gov."

The number of top candidates is limited, and it has been a challenge for federal agencies to compete with the deeper pockets and flexibility of private-sector companies.

"People in Silicon Valley don't go to USAJobs.gov," Castle said. But appealing to candidates' sense of challenge and desire to make a difference can lure them to government, he added.

Even the private sector is having issues competing for IT talent. John Coble, a solution architect for SAIC's Software Integration Service Line, said he had recruited an engineering student who had five other job offers from competing companies. Coble told the candidate he couldn't match financial offers from some competitors, but he could offer a guaranteed opportunity to work in an open-source development environment. That won the candidate over, he said.

According to Castle, who has hired three new technology employees in the past few months, new talent from the private sector isn't the only way to get top job candidates.

"There are really good people already in government," he said. Convincing those employees to move to another agency could be a matter of giving them the chance to work with new technology and open-source and DevOps practices they might not have access to in their current positions, he added.

About the Author

Mark Rockwell is a senior staff writer at FCW, whose beat focuses on acquisition, the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Energy.

Before joining FCW, Rockwell was Washington correspondent for Government Security News, where he covered all aspects of homeland security from IT to detection dogs and border security. Over the last 25 years in Washington as a reporter, editor and correspondent, he has covered an increasingly wide array of high-tech issues for publications like Communications Week, Internet Week, Fiber Optics News, tele.com magazine and Wireless Week.

Rockwell received a Jesse H. Neal Award for his work covering telecommunications issues, and is a graduate of James Madison University.

Click here for previous articles by Rockwell. Contact him at mrockwell@fcw.com or follow him on Twitter at @MRockwell4.


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Reader comments

Wed, Jul 13, 2016 Jawabean Virginia

The reason is nobody is applying through usajobs.gov is because it's the strangest job Web site in the world. It's like s black hole that eats up all applications. Nothing ever comes back from it.

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