With Hacktoberfest in full swing, contributors and maintainers alike are busier than ever. But this month is not only about writing code and opening PRs—it is also about connecting with people and becoming part of a community. We would like to take this time to share a Hacktoberfest story that’s very dear to us.
Meet Bruno Casali, Meilisearch’s very own Integrations Team Lead! Bruno was scouted last year following his participation in Hacktoberfest, going from occasional external contributor to a key Meilisearch employee. He kindly agreed to share his thoughts and experience with us.
Contributing to Hacktoberfest
First of all, it’s important to know last year wasn’t Bruno’s first rodeo.
“I have participated in Hacktoberfest since 2016 (the second year). I have always been that developer who tries to find good repositories to contribute to, and suddenly, with Hacktoberfest, I could be rewarded in some way for doing that. I immediately saw it as an opportunity to meet people from different countries making contributions to open-source and found out it was also a way for me to validate my programming knowledge.”
We were curious to hear about what made Hacktoberfest such a peculiar time of the year for the participants. He explains to us that the atmosphere is very different, for both maintainers and participants, who are 100% focused on their objectives:
“You can expect a lot of activity in your repositories (sometimes even 20x more than usual) and meeting people from around the world. Big projects receive even more attention. It’s a good time to show up and do great things: not only can you learn a lot, but maybe the people you’re collaborating with can see you as a potential employee.”
When it came to his favourite part of Hacktoberfest, Bruno was emphatic: it was all about connecting with the community. “I enjoyed Hacktoberfest for many reasons. It was a time to meet new people (mostly people from outside of my native country) and show I'm a good developer. It was also an opportunity to create a portfolio for my work.”
Communication is not always easy nor smooth, though:
“Unfortunately, some maintainers neglect communicating with contributors. Sometimes honest attempts at solving an issue are completely ignored and this represents for me the worst possible thing. Because I, as a contributor, am not paid for that work. I invested my time and I expect something in exchange, even if it is just a ‘hey, you did it wrong’ so I can learn from that experience. And of course I don’t get that if the maintainers just disappear.”
Which is a very good reminder for us maintainers to respect the time and energy invested into our projects by Hacktoberfest participants.
From contributor to maintainer
We were of course interested in knowing how Bruno found Meilisearch and why he decided to contribute:
“Hacktoberfest 2021 was the first time I heard about Meilisearch. I was looking for projects offering extra swag for contributors and found Meilisearch in a random list out there. I checked if they had any repositories I could contribute to and found the Ruby and Ruby on Rails integration repos.”
A lot of repositories take part in Hacktoberfest, so we wondered: how was working with the Meilisearch team when compared to other companies?
“The first contact was amazing! The Integrations Team answered quickly, so it made me want to keep contributing, because I felt I was part of the project, that Meilisearch was a place where I could actively make a difference. It was a very positive experience and I could feel that Meilisearch was different.”
This eventually led to an unexpected (but very pleasant) surprise:
“Then, 10 days after my first contribution, Morgane Neff, Meilisearch’s HR Manager, reached out to me with a job offer. I was quite surprised about that, because I've never had that kind of response to one of my contributions before, I felt amazing.”
One year later, we asked Bruno to reminisce on his transition and if the change from participant to employee was an easy one.
“I maintain my own open-source projects, so in some aspects the transition was easy. Something I was not used to was dealing with interpersonal conflicts during code reviews. Other situations can be a bit awkward, like external users complaining about something in our repositories. Also, my role at Meilisearch is to manage the Integrations Team, which means I'm responsible for 30+ repositories with multiple tech stacks. Keeping on top of each one of them requires a lot of context-switching, which can be difficult.”
In the end, Bruno says, the secret to a great Hacktoberfest experience is very simple:
“Love the process of contributing to open-source, love the idea of meeting people who can teach you, love the idea of teaching others through your own contributions. You have nothing to lose and everything to gain by doing that.
“And, if you want to work for an open-source company, you can see your contributions as a coding test. Do your best, be kind with the maintainers—rinse and repeat 😊”
We are super grateful to Bruno for sharing his experience! We hope his story can motivate anyone out there wondering whether they should get involved in open-source development. If you wish to contribute to Meilisearch during Hacktoberfest and get some of our exclusive swag, find all our Hacktoberfest eligible issues on Github and check out our dedicated #hacktoberfest channel on Slack.
And again, to all Hacktoberfest participants: good luck and keep up the great work!