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11 Things Every Developer Portfolio Should Include

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Dustin Saunders
Does a little bit of everything, but specifically likes working with Powershell, C#, and MSSQL.  Lives in space in an orbiting castle.
Developer portfolios can be a bit of an enigma—how do you present yourself to employers without burying them in lines of code?  A modern portfolio is more than just work samples, it’s also a statement of how you work.

A Clean, Modern Website

In today’s world, you’ll need to make sure your web presence is well represented. If you are a web developer, this should come easily to you—but anyone can create a clean and responsive site using tools such as Wordpress or Wix.com. If you’re using a template, be sure to pick one without a lot of clutter or widgets. You still want the focus to be on the work you are presenting. Web hosting is extremely affordable, and a small investment to make in order to give prospects access to your body of work.

Some examples of great portfolio sites:
https://soulwire.co.uk/ (excellent example of a site that showcases coding skills)
http://www.seanblake.me/ (more of a designer website, but does a really great job highlighting projects and delivers an excellent case study)
http://briandelaney.com/ (simple and easy to navigate, contains all the relevant info you’d want within a few clicks of the main page)

 

Curated Examples of Your Work

Review past examples of your work (professional or private) and choose the projects that are the most innovative, most useful, or most creative. You really want to showcase the best of what you have done, and what you can do. When describing the work, be sure to highlight the challenges, any creative methods used, and how beneficial the end result was. If you were part of a team that created the work, don’t forget to highlight your role. Don’t worry so much about showing the code here (you can provide links to your github for those who want to go down the rabbit hole), but build an overview that gives the reader a good, general understanding of what you've accomplished.
 

Case Study or Lab

To really make your portfolio stand out, turn one of your examples into a case study or a lab project. This shows that you aren’t simply using your skills to create Windows Forms and fill in text fields, but that you’re interested and thinking about the underlying efficiencies in how to write code or how to use code to solve a specific customer problem. A case study should highlight a problem that was faced (for example, creating a better way for accounting to get expense reports) and your solution (perhaps a portal where employees can upload PDFs of their receipts and fill in a reimbursement form). A lab should explore a unique way of coding to create a graphical effect, or perhaps explore a method to complete a task faster and with fewer system resource requirements. These additions demonstrate that you have a mind for the big picture and how the code you write will affect the users and the server environment.
 

Link to Your Github

Linking to your github gives your prospective employers a chance to deep dive into the projects you touted in your curated list, as well as a chance to explore some of the other items that didn’t make your presented list. Your repositories can tell a lot about your coding—how you organize your code, and how you test, change, and push code throughout its lifespan. Presenting a github with your own side projects shows that you are passionate about writing code, and shows that you can also work independently on coding when needed.
 

Testimonials

Whether you’re seeking employment as an independent contractor or as part of a company, you’ll need to demonstrate that you work well on a team and to the satisfaction of your company or customers. A personal testimonial is a great way to demonstrate that you can build personal connections with people, and that you take their needs and skills into consideration during your work. Playing nice with others is key to being an effective team member—and what better way to let prospective hiring managers know than to have someone else telling them?

Clean List of Skills and Proficiencies

Your skills will be shown in the work you choose to show in your curated projects, but have available a clear list of your skills with various technologies. This is where you will plainly state what your expertise is, whether it’s Python, C#, Java, etc. Keep this list to the things you really know, more items in your list aren’t necessarily more valuable. Aside from the languages themselves, list the technologies you’ve also worked with (such as AWS, Azure, MSSQL, or OracleDB). Be honest with your experience levels, it will be apparent later if you misrepresent yourself.

You should also provide a downloadable copy of your resume here for your reviewer’s convenience. Matching the design of the resume to the overall design of the website shows forethought and attention to detail that will impress readers.


Easy to Access Contact Information

The whole point of the portfolio is to attract attention to your work, your skills, and your availability; so you would be remiss to have your contact information buried in a dark corner of your site. Always include a few methods of contact, but always include a good email address (that you check often) and your mobile phone number. Take the time to update your email address if needed, remember that this is your professional appearance on the web so create a new address (a free one from Gmail works just fine) if yours happens to be something like ‘idontlike2work@hotmail.com’.


Proper Spelling and Grammar

Proper spelling and grammar are paramount, as they reflect your attention to detail and polish—which is something every company wants. It never hurts to have another set of eyes on your writing, so trade some tech support time with your English Major friend to have them give it a quick proofread, or a vocabulary tune up. It really stands out negatively when a sentence don’t have the right grammar!
 

Links to Relevant Social Media / Community Sites

Another great way to showcase your talent and experience is by having access to your applicable social media sites. These include your LinkedIn, your Experts Exchange profile, or any other site where you can build a reputation online. A Q&A site can be a great reference point for people who are considering hiring you, and it gives you an online forum where you can demonstrate your knowledge and willingness to help others. Many of these sites are industry standard references, and the right profile here can carry a lot of weight.


The Sales Pitch

Being modest is a virtue, but your portfolio is not the right place for it. Think of your best attribute and not only highlight them, but also highlight how they are applicable to your work and the client’s potential needs. You want to convey that hiring you will be the right choice, and that by hiring you they are also getting your dedication, positive attitude, and creative problem solving skills.  Don’t be afraid to talk about your goals and your passion for the subject matter.


Something Fun

You’ve shown now that you have the necessary skills for the job, but more and more companies are hiring for culture fit first and skill second. Take a minute to show why you’re also the right person for the job. Share some pictures or anecdotes about your hobbies, or create a fun app the reader can waste a little time on. Your personality is that unique X-Factor that will attract people to you and help re-enforce their decision to reach out to you. Most of us spend 40 hours a week in an office with our co-workers, and it’s best when we like the people we work with. In the tech industry, don’t be afraid to showcase your inner nerd a bit!
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