Portfolios Dont Work

Each one of us eventually comes across a customer that wants to see a code sample. Who wouldn’t really, if you know what you are looking for you should certainly cover your bases somehow. Then for us, we have the requirement of keeping some sort of portfolio of tings we worked on and projects we were involved in. The designers keep little thumbnail screen-shots, and some coders keep snippets of code (more on this later).

I have been in the hiring seat several times myself. I know that when I look at these portfolio’s I question the involvement of a person, especially on large scale projects. A member of a team I headed some time ago was said to work for a well known company on what you might think of as well known software. You would assume it was high profile and that it had wide use. It sounded real impressive. However the person showed no signs of being capable of being involved at a high level as was the expectation set. Suffice it to say this is something I have come across quite often. A designer places a portfolio in front of you and says ‘I worked on these.’ so as to say ‘I was responsible for how these look and feel’. A programmer gives you a portfolio and says ‘I was responsible for these projects’ so as to say ‘I built these’. So how is a person to know what is theirs? Because, on a large scale project it is obvious that a single person did not handle it all. So we are forced to accept that the persons values are reflected in that product and that we can expect the same values while they work on our project. The unfortunate part is that we tend to put greater emphasis on these colorful pictures than the black and white truth of references and resume. Then seldomly do employers look past a degree of some sort. Really of what use is a BS in Computer Science when it comes with a 40 year old man if you are an Internet company?

So the rare few that take the time to check the merchandise find us off guard and scrambling for the real thing.

So as a programmer are you supposed to keep code snippets? What many people don’t understand is that working in the private sector leaves us without anything to show outside of the companies we already work for. Some would assume that every coder is involved in an OSS project that we can happily place a link to the SVN/GIT repository and say ‘Look for my user name codepimp99’. The truth of the matter is that hardcore coders that eat and sleep code, also eat and sleep their job untill it is done.

So what are those of us in the realworld to do?

Build a code example. When that golden opertunity comes along and you find yourself wanting to explain the private sector to a customer, you can simply email them a zipfile. It saves you time educating the world, and makes the customer happy that might just really apreciate you.

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Portfolios Dont Work

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