- Wise Words -
What If They Hate It?
by Jake Nixon
I am about one year away from graduating from my Computer Science degree so I could be thought of as a very early, Early Stage Professional or maybe even a “Seed Stage Professional”!
That said, I have been lucky enough to have a number of paying internships both during term time and in the holidays and I have learnt that having a portfolio of work that is on public view has really helped me land these positions.
Progress in the software development industry, like many others, is often judged by output. Now more than ever, hiring managers are looking for demonstrated ability in programming and are not relying solely on grades or university prestige. Despite this, many aspiring software engineers apply to their first jobs by stating their skills without any supporting evidence. Often these applicants are almost always overshadowed by their more fearless peers who have demonstrated their work.
In this column, I want to explore the reasons why you may be reluctant to put your work out there, and hopefully convince you that we should all be open to doing it and also give some ideas based on my experience for doing this. Despite it being based on my experience of gaining software engineering positions, I think it can apply very widely to a lot of professions and also for people at all stages of their careers.
“What if I get criticised?”
We are all scared of criticism (I am no different from anyone else) and care what people think about us and what we do. If we do not have confidence in our ability, then it can be really difficult to put our work out there. For me, I have got through this fear of putting my work out there by knowing I will get my work critiqued. I turn this into a positive and make it useful to me.
The criticism that I have received on some of my open source projects in the past has been one of the most useful learning resources I could have hoped for. Almost everyone who sees our work and is in a position to judge has once been in our position, and they will want to help. Why not let them help you learn?
“What if they remember me for bad reasons?”
As a beginner it can be tempting to think that people will remember small or poorly written projects for bad reasons, and forever associate you with that level of output. This is not true! One of the best reasons to put yourself and your projects out there is that it is a fantastic way to both build your CV and build a professional network.
In my case, this has even led to job opportunities and has only ever been a positive influence on my reputation. One example which stays in my mind is a small ‘Raspberry Jam’ event where attendees were encouraged to show off projects using the Raspberry Pi computer. I took a few examples of my work along and through this I was invited to attend hackerspaces, hackathons and received constructive feedback on my work from university professors and industry professionals. Even though the projects were small (and in hindsight, not very well written!) they only impacted my reputation and my education in a positive way.
“Is it really worth the risk?”
Yes. Putting yourself out there is scary, but it is definitely worth it. Putting your work out into the public domain can lead to opportunities to learn, to network, and possibly even job opportunities. The only difficulty (in my opinion) is getting over the fear of putting yourself out there, but once you’ve done it once it only gets easier. Remember: nothing worth doing is easy!
“How do I get started?”
It’s ok and probably better to start small. For aspiring software engineers, there are many popular websites where open source projects can be posted. Starting with small projects (even just a few lines of code!) is absolutely fine - just make sure you get something out into the world! Eventually, you can move on to working with others on larger open source projects.
Did you hate this column?
This article has been focused on software engineering, but that is only because it is the industry I am most familiar with. The same concepts apply to almost every industry I can think of. It does not matter if that industry is creative or non-creative, employers like to see exactly what they are getting, and nothing demonstrates that as strongly as a well-built portfolio and plenty of practical examples.
Publishing your work is scary, but it’s also a fantastic opportunity to develop your career as an early stage professional and now that I have put my views “out there” in this article, please give me your feedback (firstname.lastname@example.org) unless you hate it, that is!
Related columns: "Be a Professional of Action", "Focus on Results", "Small Actions Make BIG Impact"
Jake Nixon is an Early Stage Professional in the Software Engineering industry. He currently studies Computer Science at The University of Warwick and has interned at companies including The UK National Quantum Technology Hub and Seneca Learning.
EarlyStageProfessional.com is the companion website to the career playbook "Early Stage Professional: starting off right". The goal of Early Stage Professional is to help people make the transition from formal education to the workplace and be effective, successful and satisfied in the first 5+ years of their careers. To learn more, head to our Bureaucracy page.