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6 simple keywords on how to showcase developer work

person holding orange pen

Hi, my name is Darren. I’m a software architect and tech consultant, and today we’ll talk about how developers can showcase their work.

I have six keywords that outline what I want to share with you today:

  1. content
  2. meta content
  3. gratitude
  4. reading
  5. writing
  6. discourse

How do we “Showcase our work”?

1. Content

You’ve heard this time and time again.

This is your code and git repositories. It is your work. These are your results.

To recruiters, they might likely just be approximating your capabilities by checking the number of stars, the number of commits, what language was used. To technical leads who are reviewing your profile, they will definitely dive deeper and see your coding style, your consistency, and your code quality.

2. Meta content

Meta content is more like a journal about writing code, rather than actually writing code or building a system. Write about your journey! Here, you can talk about what it takes to produce the actual code- like the problems you were trying to solve and how you attacked them.

In interviews, you can expect technical leads and interviewer to ask you questions like “what is the biggest programming challenge you faced?” Do you want to try to answer that on the spot without having time to collect your thoughts? I advise against it. Why not write about it now, while you have space and freedom of time?

Use this moment to describe your thought process and your problem solving journey. This gives insight into your mindset.

If you are still shy and prefer to keep this journal private, you can grant and revoke access to this information to hiring CTOs as extra detail for your job applications. If you write your journey on your own platform (e.g. on your own GitHub repository that you own, and not in some Google Drive owned by a company that can remove your access), then you’ll always have control to grant and revoke access to your content. You can revoke access to the technical lead if the job application doesn’t push through.

By writing meta content, you are able to demonstrates proof of your consistency, discipline, and problem solving mindset. It’s also your opportunity to show your character and grit.

Do not be afraid of what you are “now”, even if that is an angry, confused, and inexperienced new college graduate. Decide instead what kind of person you want to be, and let that show on your writing and your behavior.

3. Gratitude

I would not be where I am right now if it were not for incredible mentors and entrepreneurs who gave me the opportunity to work and give my best shot.

Write down what good mentors are like. What were good actions that you really appreciated, and what were certain behaviors that you didn’t respond to well? This could eventually be some input for yourself, as you would eventually grow to be more experienced and possibly a mentor to others as well.

By writing about mentors, you not only demonstrate your character of gratitude and responsible attribution, you also gain the personal value of defining for yourself more clearly: what is a good mentor to me?

Problem

Here’s a problem that you would only encounter once you’ve moved from one job to the next.

If you are straight out from university, you have been instructed to write in your school. This could be a thesis research document, or a research paper that ideally was published to a conference. But it wasn’t. Your essays are accumulating digital dust, and forgotten, and eventually lost.

If you are about to leave one job and get to your next one, you’re submitting resumes to organizations and hiring departments left and right, but how do you condense all of your accomplishments and contributions in one or two pages? What about all of the writings you had in your daily stand up meetings, and your 1-on-1s with your direct supervisor/mentor? All of that content is locked within the organizations google documents because they likely are written for internal use. Furthermore, it likely has sensitive business information which you can’t share externally.

Data ownership is critical because it is your leverage, especially when you want to transition or negotiate for better pay, or for advancement in your career. You want ownership of your data and you don’t want to lose it. You want to be able to decide who gets access.

This is why there are senior developers who eventually write technical blogs and video content on their platforms.

Data ownership and data silos is the problem.

Recommendation

Start writing early on your own platform. It can be your own Github repository which you back up periodically, or a simple blogging site that you run independently.

There are a variety of different blogs that explain how to do the above, and I won’t cover it for now. I’ll pull up links later on and update this blog post (Read: do a shitty job).

4. Reading

Simply put, it will be difficult to write things you are not well-read. Reading is the first step to learning a lot.

Reading doesn’t necessarily have to be about reading books, or articles. It could be “consuming video content”, or “surrounding yourself with intelligent peers”, or simply repeating something that you know, and verifying it online.

This is all about absorption. Once you have more information, consider: what is your opinion? What do you think? Why do you think so? This variety of questions leads you to the next item: writing.

5. Writing

Learning to write, whether code or collecting your thoughts, will eventually teach you how to communicate effectively to your target audience. This can be customers, followers, students, or whatever. In life, society is fundamentally the meeting of minds of different people, to give and take value and help each other.

So as engineers and builders, go out and build, and build in public sure. Start with learning how to build and create value for yourself or your employer.

Once you fall in love with engineering, do not miss the critical step of learning to journal your progress and synthesizing your thoughts.

6. Discourse

Once you’re able to collect your thoughts and articulate yourself, reach out to others!

By practicing writing (which is simply non-real-time conversations), you boost your confidence to discuss, argue, and learn real-time with others.

A big part of discourse and communicating with other people is listening. This enables you to know your audience to learn how they can understand your ideas better.

When you understand your audience better, you open yourself to the opportunity of incredibly creating value for yourself and others whether through teaching students, learning to ask mentors, arbitrating disputes, and ultimately understanding yourself and what you want.

Close

That’s the whole advice on how to “build in public” and showcase your work.

  1. Content – build your code in public (e.g. GitHub)
  2. Meta-Content – demonstrate your problem-solving mindset and character
  3. Gratitude – discern for yourself what good leadership and mentorship, and express gratitude
  4. Reading – Read to expose your ignorance, immerse yourself to be familiar.
  5. Writing – Collect your thoughts and pen your ideas down. Revise drafts as needed.
  6. Discourse – Know who you are writing for, and for whom you are delivering value to. Writing for yourself is incredibly different from writing for others.

Recommendations

If you’re a new developer, you might be interested to check out my post on prioritization and learning, to give you some guidance on what to focus on.

If you want to hear my own story of my own journey as a software developer, you can listen to it here:

New to sapalo.dev?

Hi there reader! My name is Darren and I write about technology, learning, and gaming for mid to senior level software engineers. I love learning and finding lessons (and mistakes) in things that I do.

Sharing what we learn enables us to encourage, uplift, and empower the next set of engineering problem solvers. Writing them down also reminds me to seal the lesson in and not forget them!

I have a series of mental models that helps you think and strategize for problems whether in engineering or in your personal life. I also share short stories about reflections of my life, studying the similarities of playing competitively both in games and in performance at work.

Here are some trending things I’ve been talking about lately:

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