Alternate title: “How I finally convinced my Dad that open-source can put food on the table”. Since this entire story got started on this mailing list, I figured it would be appropriate to end it here.
Last Friday, I signed a contract to begin working as a “Senior Scientific Programmer” for a research company. The company has recently begun making Python the “preferred language for new development” and has become heavily dependent upon NumPy, SciPy and matplotlib. They have been doing fairly well for a while now, but a few months ago, they ran into a problem with matplotlib. After spending a few weeks butting heads on it, they finally decided to post a question about it to the matplotlib-users list. After reading the question and seeing the code example, I replied with a one-line fix within half an hour of its posting and moved on.
About a week later, I got a personal email from the original poster informing me that my solution worked perfectly. He also noticed that I was working in a neighboring building on campus and wondered just how much longer my PhD was going to take and if I had any interest in going into the private sector. (The company happened to deal with atmospheric science and my PhD is in meteorology).
It turned out that the company realized the value of having on-staff a “SciPy Guru” (I still consider myself a beginner). After the usual visits and interviews, I was offered a position. At multiple times throughout the process, it was obvious to me that while it was good that I was an atmospheric scientist, what was most valuable to them was my knowledge, insight and expertise with Python and its tools.
The lesson I hope everyone here can take in is that there are many companies out there that are using open-source tools and libraries for their purposes. Learning and using these tools for your own purposes not only solves your immediate needs, but also sets you up for future opportunities.
Therefore, I would like to thank John Hunter for making matplotlib available for the community, and a hearty thanks to the rest of the community for their contributions to matplotlib. Without this, I doubt I would have found this job opportunity, nor have the “value-added” skills to have them consider hiring me.
Lastly, a reminder to everyone on this list, I hope this encourages more of you to help each other out with answers. You never know if the person you help out is your future co-worker!