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As a new software developer, it's always recommended to have a portfolio of work and an active GitHub account. This always presented a problem for me when I was initially looking for work because I don't like displaying my personal projects.

Now I have about 5 years of professional experience in a mix of W2 jobs and contract positions. Will most employers still expect me to maintain and give them a portfolio to be considered for the position?

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  • What country is this and what type of software development jobs are you seeking?
    – dbeer
    Apr 9 '18 at 14:37
  • What is "W2"? I've not seen this term before.
    – user44108
    Apr 9 '18 at 14:37
  • @dbeer It's almost exclusively web development work, but I also have done desktop development.
    – Jorge
    Apr 9 '18 at 14:39
  • @Snow "W2" is slang in the US for being a direct employee (who has filed a W2 form and pays taxes as an employee) as opposed to a "1099" (a contractor who has filed a 1099 and pays taxes as a contractor).
    – dwizum
    Apr 9 '18 at 14:39
  • @Snow Sorry. That is a US term meaning a W2 tax form job, which is basically just a normal employee.
    – Jorge
    Apr 9 '18 at 14:40
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I've been hiring for software developers for 10+ years, and I'll put it this way: It was never needed but it certainly helps.

I don't expect anyone to necessarily have a GitHub account and active portfolio worth looking at. I do expect every candidate to give me enough information in their resume to quickly and accurately vet them. And to realize that if I can't vet the candidate, the easiest thing to do is put the resume in the "no" column.

Anything you can do to give a potential employer more reasons to respect your skills, the better, so long as you don't inundate them with minutia. Github accounts help, active LinkedIn accounts with a reasonable number of connections helps, resumes with good details, a work history that makes sense, good GPAs, and a clear statement on work accomplished and applicable skills helps.

The more the better, as long as it's terse and I can read through it in 15 minutes or less.

And none of that really changes from 0 years to 30 years of experience. The only difference is that you have to support the experience and seniority you have, and the more you have, the stronger a case you must make. If you don't like sharing your projects, that's fine, but you need a good, solid, write up of the work you've done on the job, and it needs to speak to the experience you claim.

5

It's hard to answer this in general since it'll depend somewhat on the industry and type of employer you're going after. There are certainly markets where the portfolio will (or will not) be very important, and I don't think it depends on the length of experience (per your indication that you seemed to believe it was more important for people with less experience.)

That said, I'm going to base my answer on the comment you made above, where you clarified your question:

My question is really about if I leave the "GitHub or personal portfolio" line blank on an application, will I even get an interview?

I think there's a pretty good general rule of thumb here: If they care about it so much that there's a space in the job application explicitly asking for it, then you should absolutely supply it or risk being discarded.

One more thought, based on your statement of:

I don't like displaying my personal projects

I think you need to consider long and hard why you don't like sharing personal projects. If there's a legitimate reason, then consider making some "marketing use" projects: develop something specifically for the purpose of showing off your skills, and put that in your portfolio. There's no rule that you have to share your (sensitive) personal projects, and tailor-making something for the purpose of marketing yourself will allow you to really show off your skills, versus just sharing whatever you happened to be doing anyways.

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  • 1
    At my company, they list a github account as "preferable" but not required to get the job. It's definitely a plus to have it or at least a list of sites you worked on. The OP says "portfolio" so I guess that could be a list of sites or paper you worked on.
    – Dan
    Apr 9 '18 at 16:20
  • Yeah I doubt it would ever be an actual hard requirement, but as @JimHorn mentioned in his answer, it's always a good idea to sell yourself. If they put a spot for something, even if it's marked optional, and it's an opportunity to show off your skills, you'd be foolish to leave it blank - there will certainly be other people who don't leave it blank and they'll look better than you right from the start.
    – dwizum
    Apr 9 '18 at 16:54
1

Yes. You still need to show potential employers that you have the experience, and with many people flat-out lying on their resumes stating you have five years experience is not good enough. So you'll need to do something to separate yourself from the riff-raff.

When I was a freelance Access developer I had a laptop with many of my projects where the client was okay with me using it to demo my services as long as there was not anything confidential on it. Worked like a charm, I was able to demo my work right to the hiring manager during the interview. This may be tough if your skillsets don't lend themselves to being demonstrated on a laptop.

Also recommend writing articles. Have you ever been in an interview when the hiring manager asks 'Have you ever done X?', and your answer was 'Yes I did, and I really wish I could show you x but it was with a previous client and is confidential?' Me too. So write an article, sanitized without any confidential info, and get it published. Then the answer is 'Why yes, and I even have an article out there that shows how to do it, would you like to see it?', which clearly demonstrates that you have the experience.

Check out my article Contracting: How to go out on your own for a wompload of other advice on how to get gigs in your situation.

Good luck.

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I never shared my private github account with any employer and I will never do so. I would suggest to separate any private account from work. There are exceptions, primarily if you try to get into a heavily distributed team or a company with a certain culture.

By sharing your private development accounts, you can quickly get into muddy waters if you use your experience gained at work to advance your personal projects. That this is always the case might be common sense, but some legal frameworks might see that differently.

That said, an interview should always be able to determine the knowledge base of the candidate. Maybe have some demos on your personal device to show off. If they don't have time for an interview or see a missing repository as a reason to not invite you, try to search for alternatives.

1

It depends on what you are looking for. If you want to work at a techy firm, or the front line of technological development (e.g. google and the like) you should have a github full of the latest and greatest, contribute to 3rd party everything and stand out in every way. It is effectively required because there's such strong competition for those roles.

If you are looking for more or less any other job, it's only going to impact the decision if the person making that decision is anal about only hiring people who have a portfolio/extensive github.

When I am hiring software engineers, I ask extremely open ended questions about common occurrences. Things like "What project have you worked on that you were the proudest of" followed by "What would you change about it looking back?" Questions that not only get to the meat and potatoes of what you've done, but also gauge what you've learned since. Personally, I never would hire anyone who couldn't answer those questions because if they don't have something they are proud of, and haven't learned anything since then, they don't have any of the skills I need on my team. I can find a dozen keyboard jockeys overseas for the price of one developer here if that's what I needed....but what I need is good software engineers.

Another reason I don't trust portfolios or github accounts is that they aren't necessarily yours. You can buy them just like you can buy anything else. Sure, I can try to "trip you up" by asking about one of your repos, but unless it's a project I cared about or spent time on recently, odds are very good I can't recall half the things I've worked on over the years.

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Yes.

It might be shocking, but a majority of candidates for the position you are aiming for are not fit for the position. Many of them will have resumes as good as yours. Accurate filtering(whatever way it's done, technical tests, assessment of previous jobs, references.....) is mandatory for any employer who wants real, skilled professionals.

As Joel Spolsky Says, you need a great number of resumes to find a few good professionals. It may be depressing, but I've been in a team that was not sorting resumes properly, and being the long skilled programmer of a team is very, very, very depressing.

It didn't last long, as my manager noticed I was not clueless as others, she asked me to design a quick test. Though far from perfect, it was enough to keep only efficient professionals. No superstars, but no more clueless people with 10 years of experience, who sell themselves as expert, and who, when asked to change the feeding of a field in a table

  1. don't take the proper table
  2. therefore, don't find the proper field
  3. choose randomly another field
  4. rename the other field
  5. do something stupid with the feeding, instead of the specifications
  6. claim that everything is fully tested, and push the modication to production, and QA has to stop them at the last minute before they break the production(we were lucky, this time).

Showing your portfolio allows you to make the difference with such profiles. It's one way amongst others.

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