You’ve read me talk about the importance of having your code online in the past. I’ve had several discussions, chats, and various thoughts on this subject since I wrote that post over a year ago and I want to talk a little bit more about this, and give some tips on improving your code resume.
Get Your Code Online
First Things First, put your code online. Now.
If you are not putting the code for your personal projects online for others to see, you’re missing a huge opportunity. Not only from a job hunting perspective, but also from one of learning. When you put code online, you open yourself up to other developers. Sure, not everyone in the world is going to see your code, but if you’re using some of the more social aspects of Github, some of your colleagues are most likely to see it. This means that they might critique it, or at the very least a conversation will start up around that code you’ve made public. This is a great learning opportunity, even if your colleagues don’t massively review your code, they might skim it and find potential issues, and point you in the direction of fixing those issues. This opens a dialogue, and that dialogue can lead to you making better coding decisions in the future.
Not All Your Projects
If you’re like me, you have some projects you’d rather keep to yourself. They’re either client projects, personal projects that you make money on, or just stuff you’re not quite ready to show the world. I want to make it very clear, that as important as it is to put your code online, it’s not a requirement that you put all your code online. It’s okay to keep some things for yourself. Or at the very least, keeping them to yourself until they’re ready.
One other reason a code resume looks good, is that it shows you as someone who is a self starter. The more completed, fully realized projects you have on your code resume, the more people can see you are not only self motivated, but also have the ability to see things through to completion.
Different Languages Fill Out a Code Resume
Just like a regular resume, where having some diversity is good for rounding out the corners of your career, having an online code resume which shows the use of multiple languages can help show people you’re a well rounded developer.
But, just like a real resume where too much diversity can hinder you in a job search, so can using multiple languages in a code resume. Having one project in every language will distract from your code resume as it will not show expertise in any language. So having a few repositories with a couple of languages will show expertise in those languages. Then sprinkling in things from other languages, to show interest can add flavor (like spices when cooking a meal) to your online repositories.
The key here is balance. Having 10 repositories with 8 different languages isn’t going to show anyone anything about your coding ability. But having 8 10 repositories with 3, maybe 4, different programming languages shows mastery but also some diversity. And don’t let these numbers be hard numbers, just be sure to show balance.
If you’re not into creating or building your own projects, you can still build a code resume by helping other projects. Websites like Github or Bitbucket make it easy to fork projects and get involved by submitting bug fixes, documentation updates, and contributing new features.
Consequently, getting involved in this way also shows one’s ability to work with others. If you’re looking at getting a job that’s offering a telecommuting position, this kind of activity can also show them that you work well remotely, and might make you a more attractive prospect than someone who doesn’t have this kind of work on their code resume.
Back it Up
Like a career resume, a code resume could be faked, so be prepared to back it up. If someone asks you why you made the coding decisions you made, be sure you’re able to explain your reasoning. Anyone can cobble together code snippets from around the web to make a functioning application, but the ones that understand the code they’re cobbling together, refactoring, and making their own can explain why they did things a certain way. Even if that reason is, on occasion, “I didn’t know any better.”
This piece is what “separates the men from the boys” as they say. It also shows that you are willing to take criticism. In fact, just putting the code out there opens one up to criticism. The idea here is that you need to be able to answer for your code, good or bad. Good coders know why did the things they did.
Again, if you haven’t been putting your personal projects online, in front of others than you are missing out an opportunity to not only learn from your peers but also from giving potential employers a way to judge your work and make informed decisions about your abilities. Anyone can ace a spoken interview. Others can fake their way through a technical interview. People who put their code online, have confidence in their ability, even if it’s only a little bit. They are willing to open themselves up to critique, let their work be seen, and make themselves know one way or another.
What does your code resume look like?