I’m a skilled developer, I swear — I just have nothing to show for it
If you’re a developer like me, working for a company doing long engagement projects or working for a product company chances are you’re part of a larger team working on parts of a larger app/site. Also, depending on the length of your project, you could only be working on only a handful of projects a year. That’s been my life for the last 4~5 years (on one project a year).
I’ve been heads down doing (I believe) amazing work, but I have nothing to show for it. It’s hard to illustrate my strengths just by pointing to sections of the app/site — if I could even show the work at all. That is the other problem — these apps are all internal to client(s). I can’t show the application or even the code. Where does that leave me? Well, a healthy stack of skills and experience and zero proof.
About 2~3 years ago I did a small site for somebody as a favour, but initially when she looked at my portfolio she was uncertain I was up for the job. She was scared and I was embarrassed. My portfolio was just over 5 years outdated and really did not represent the current me (at that point). Of course I was able to finish the small site and deploy it all within 5 days. We were both happy about engagement, but I was not too pleased with how I was perceived as a developer… mediocre.
It took me another 2 years to do something about it. I recently revamped my portfolio to reflect my skills and interests a bit more. Since I didn’t have full projects to show I aggregated all small pieces of work I did on — anywhere. This includes experiments, articles, designs and code snippets all mostly for fun (since I only have one job, with work I can’t show) on CodePen, Dribbble, 500px, Plunker, etc. Yes, basically a Pinterest of me.
Why does this matter?
Well I’m not necessarily looking for new employment or freelance work, but I find I lack “street cred.” as a developer. When I teach, present, or mentor I have nothing to show for — me. Especially this year, since I made it a part of my personal development to do more talks and knowledge share and when I present I’m still worried about my reputation. The situation with the small site build still haunts me. I don’t need to be seen as the best damn developer out there, but at least a skilled one and this is why this matter to me and maybe to you too.
What should you do?
IMO I think all developers (or even designers) in the same boat should do the same. You don’t necessarily need to do a traditional “yourname.com” to present your work, but start collecting all the “side” things you do. Small snippets or test codes or experiments. Clean them up, save them, store them. When the moment comes you have pieces to demonstrate you, because you never know when that moment will come.