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Looking at several CV writing blogs and tutorials, everyone suggests to call out your contributions something like this:

  • Developed project X with 50$ million profit.

  • Developed this application saving support team 100s of hours.

Is there a way for a developer who had been mostly fixing bugs for years at a company, with some bug fixing saving the company a vast amount of money, to call that out in their CV?

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    It's worth remembering that 90% of software dev is modifying existing code. It's pretty rare that a project is started completely from scratch. I would be very suspicious of someone whose resume just listed a bunch of new projects. – DaveG May 20 at 12:28
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    You may want to add a country tag. In my country, this style is unheard of and would get your CV tossed out for over the top bragging. It is the default style in many countries though and if you add a location tag you will probably get good answers for that market. – nvoigt May 20 at 12:50
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    The problem with 'Saved $x million' or 'Generated $x million in revenue' is that it says a lot more about the size of the company you worked for than the size or quality of the contributions you made. Same with hours saved. The same effort would have drastically different results in a company with two support engineers than at another company with 2,000 support engineers. – Rob P. May 20 at 15:07
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    In most places I have worked as a developer, we did not have access to financial figures. We would never know whether we saved $1 or $1 000 000, the best perhaps is whether a client accepted a release or rejected (and we as a company lost a contract). – fr13d May 20 at 15:19
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    I don't understand of what importance are financial figures for a developer position, is this a thing? This is not a managerial position. Devs don't even have a free pick in exact projects they work on. Also, would say Uber devs are bad, because the company is burning money? I am not in hiring position, and perhaps this is a cultural thing, but if I saw something like that in CV for developer I'd consider whether the person is applying for a good position. As a dev you implement what you're told, and you suggest ideas. I am genuinely interested if financial stats are important to hiring folks. – luk32 May 20 at 15:51
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"Maintenance and support of project x, including major refactoring yy modules to allow integration with zz. This allowed the company to progress with MI reporting solution / comprehensive unit test framework / some other usefulness, resulting in a reduced total cost of ownership, a saving of approx $4m."

Repeat per project.

Mostly fixing bugs

Spin and emphasize (without lying) all the stuff that is not bugs in the same way.

Did you show anyone else how to fix it? That's team leading / mentoring (but don't lie).

Don't think of what you've been doing as defect resolution; think of it in terms of business benefit.

Aside - fix any spelling mistakes ("there", "their"). They will leap out far more at anyone reading your CV than bigging yourself up in the text. Your CV is a sales brochure and needs to be polished.


UPDATE

A number of commenters have pointed out that a developer would likely not know the $ value of their contribution, or maybe even the project as a whole. @puck points out that it may be detrimental, as an employer may not want their costs made public.

These are all valid points, and I generally agree, but note that as $ was mentioned in the original post, I included it in my example. For anyone uncomfortable with putting financial figures, try using another performance metric, e.g. (from my own CV):

Reduced database transactions from 4bn/week to 2.8bn/week leading to a direct reduction in hosting fees.

[I know exactly what that represented as a cost saving, as the CEO of that client was publicly ecstatic].

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    I would add, if the company uses Github or something where the changes are tracked, he should be able to do some sort of reporting to say HOW MUCH he did. There is nothing whatsoever wrong with being the guy that tracks down and resolves issues. – Keith May 20 at 11:54
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    There is nothing whatsoever wrong with being the guy that tracks down and resolves issues - Certainly true. I'm primarily a developer, but I just spent the last 2-3 weeks doing exactly this. Some contracts have been nothing but that. – Justin May 20 at 12:15
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    I've got lines in my resume that state "Maintained and enhanced...." whatever website or application I was responsible for. Anyone that interviews for a developer position ought to realize already it takes skills to fix bugs, as well as starting new things from scratch. It's up to you to emphasize that in an interview, and to sell yourself. – Keith May 20 at 12:18
  • "Maintained and enhanced...." - Me too. skills to fix bugs - Such as reading other people's code, a greatly underrated skill. "Enhancing" can also mean making the code easier to read (therefore decrease maintenance cost), often done whilst bug fixing. OP, did you ever look at some piece of garbage, and refactor it slightly, a) to fix the bug, b) to improve overall quality? Add that in too; "Refactored to leverage new framework feature X to reduce codebase". – Justin May 20 at 12:34
  • After a contracting job that was maintenance on a legacy production system I emphasized the importance of the system and of minimizing downtime (therefore the value of my contributions) in terms of % of company revenue the production system generated (which was significant) (as well as TPS, size of fleet, and so on to indicate the scale of what I was responsible for). – davidbak May 20 at 16:46
31

Is there a way a developer who had been mostly fixing bugs for years at a company with some bugs fixing saving company a vast amount of money call that out in their CV?

Yes - by simply calling that out as directly as possible!

I can assure you that someone who has spent years maintaining business critical software, keeping things running, saving the company a vast amount of money is exactly the type of engineer most companies would fall all over themselves to hire.

Bug-fixing is very skillful, crucial, high-impact work, and it's hard to find people who not only can do it well, but are happy and engaged doing it.

You don't say what your goals are, but if you are looking for similar types of work in future then I would go all-in on pitching yourself as an effective, proven bug-fixer and maintainer. Most teams need an engineer like this, and you're in a very niche talent pool because not many people pitch themselves like that.

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    The plethora of Github projects that people "developed" vs. the number that actually work should speak for the value of "just fixing bugs". – aidan.plenert.macdonald May 20 at 17:43
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    Generic and specific instances of this should be listed just like anything else. "Prevented various RTEs", "Fixed customer reported bugs", "Prevented world implosion by correcting recursive loop", and "Refactored legacy classes to increase efficiency and accuracy" are just a couple examples I can come up with ATM. These kinds of thing are very useful to help your interview figure out what you're good at as well as give them ideas how you can help them. Debugging can be (very) difficult. Finding someone competent in it can be as difficult. You can always move to another position later. – computercarguy May 20 at 19:22
3

To build on @Justin's answer, not only should you say what you did, you should spend a few words describing the project (what it does, what technologies it uses, how it is architected, etc.), so you have a chance to show off some of the stuff you are familiar with.

For example:

"Maintenance and support of project X, a > 1 million line distributed Java application, using Hazelcast, Kafka, and MongoDB, to collect realtime web usage data..."

2

Tracking down and correctly fixing bugs is quite often not trivial. Writing new code quite often is.

In addition to probably being able to debug code, you will have a better than average 'gut feeling' when confronted with a new bug - and you can read, understand and correct others' code. Any reasonable employer would recognize these skills as valuable on any team.

Assuming you now embrace your bug-finding skills, the question is whether you will be satisfied with being the bug-fixer or also want to participate on greenfield projects.

0

Be all about the specifics. What TYPES of bugs? I'm sure they weren't all typos.

Did you develop a procedure for checking/fixing? Or refine an existing one?

How many people or teams' bugs were you looking at? Were they in a variety of languages or other things showing that you can understand and switch between multiple things? Maybe sometimes it was a functionality fix, sometimes it was about improving security?

Use strong verbs : https://insights.dice.com/power-verbs-for-your-resume-and-cover-letter/ has some good ones under both the Technical and User/Technical Support sections.

From https://theinterviewguys.com/action-verbs-to-enhance-your-resume/ has these near "debugged"

Clarified, integrated, modified, overhauled, redesigned, restructured, transformed, adapted, debugged, regulated, restored, fabricated, remodeled

and some by "solved":

Capitalized, enhanced, expedited, stimulated, maximized , solved, strengthened, settled, reconciled, eased, elevated, negotiated, standardized, influenced, arbitrated, boosted

I also tend to like SquawkFox, here's their verb list: http://www.squawkfox.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/03/resume_action_words.pdf

One thing I notice on all of these: "Debugged" is a good, specific word! Hiring people probably are quite happy to see that this IS your skill/experience. Don't feel it's "lesser" than other programming. It's a cool skill-set, and those who need it will appreciate the thought you've given to explaining it well.

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A line should be drawn between "developed" and "took part in development"; the first implies that the person either did it alone or had a major role in the project. CVs should aim to be truthful and detailed, and while it's the recruiter/interviewer's responsibility to verify the information, an untruthful CV would end up wasting both sides' time.

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    Getting up to speed to find bugs in someone else's code takes skill... – Solar Mike May 20 at 12:23
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    It's not clear to me how this answers the question. – DaveG May 20 at 12:26
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    Fixing bugs is development work. Unless you subscribe to the frighteningly existing yet wrong notion that "real developers don't write bugs". Bugs exist and removing them is part of the development process. Oftentimes maintenance of a product may have a higher cost than the initial development proving that fact and proving removing bugs is valuable. – VLAZ May 21 at 6:25
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    Disagree - IMHO if you fix critical bugs in a project, you do have a major role in the project, so I don't see a meaningful distinction between "developed" and "took part in...". The number of lines you contributed alone does not mean everything. – sleske May 21 at 7:03

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