I had the luck to get to know free and open source software when I was still a kid. In this way, the willingness to share my knowledge became a part of my culture and personality.
If you browse this site, you will see that I have shared a lot of small projects, like FlatPress plugins. However, I have never been a long-time contributor to a big project.
Moreover, at the end of my University course of study, I had to do an internship to graduate. I went to a software company that creates proprietary programs for the enterprise. I remained for six months and then was hired as an employee, and I stayed for another two years.
I was on a small team developing a CAD, and I enjoyed working with my coworkers a lot (even though I worked remotely for most of the two years because of COVID).
But I did not like using proprietary libraries.
One of them was Parasolid, a geometry kernel developed by Siemens. It is powerful, but some functions are overly complicated to use. It comes with very prolific documentation, and its subscription includes technical support. But it is the only way to troubleshoot your problems: I could never find any public information online, which is extremely surprising in the 2020s!
Other libraries (especially some format converters) did not have good documentation. Sometimes you got completely unexpected results (including crashes 😰️), and you only had the black box approach to debug them.
We also used some open source libraries, even though you always had to get the legal office approval because we absolutely had to avoid copyleft 😅️.
Anyway, I preferred them a lot, and they made my life much easier. Surely I would have never understood many Qt features and mechanisms without looking at its source code. Eventually, I even became the developer of the Linux port of the software we developed.
But everything changed about one year ago, when I eventually managed to become a professional free software developer. I have been part of the Applications Team at the Tor Project since December 2021. I am one of the developers and maintainers of Tor Browser.
I must confess that, before starting, I had a pretty unreal vision of FOSS: I had never thought that development takes time and software needs full-time people to work on it. I also never thought of all the non-programmers but necessary people: project managers, UX designers and researchers, accounting and operation people, etc. These people are essential for open source projects, too. But they are too often forgotten by users (me included).
But I confirm that the community plays a fundamental role. It gives us many precious feedbacks. In some cases, even patches or very technical suggestions! I love them. And I am surprised and pleased that people take their free time to gather the knowledge required to patch Firefox and Tor Browser.
Now, one year has passed, and I can certainly say I am happy and satisfied with this experience, and I would like it to continue for a long time. Many open source-related jobs are about the “cloud” or server-side topics. I wanted to work on a program I would use. So, this is a dream that became real.