Every Developer Needs a Code Portfolio

See No Evil — ucumari (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

If you want to stand out,
you need some publicly visible code.

A lot of people have told me I shouldn’t look for code samples when I hire because lots of developers have a life outside work.

We all do, and your life outside work is no more valuable than the rest of the pack. A ton of designers and photographers and architects have lives and kids, too, but they still have portfolios. They still have sample work to show to prospective employers.

All developers should have some publicly available code, and every hiring employer I’ve ever seen does look for and consider code samples.

Wishing isn’t going to change the facts.

A few hours is all it takes.

A few hours is all it takes to put up a minimal sample project.

If you don’t have code samples, its much more likely that an employer will assign you a sample project to complete. I have called for employers to offer pay for these sample assignments, but unfortunately, most still don’t.

If you don’t find a way to fit some public code into your schedule, you’ll be asked to create code without pay at the most inconvenient time possible: When you’re busy looking for your next job.

There are a lot of people out there who only want to work while they’re at work, and spend quality time with loved ones when they aren’t. I know. I want to do that too, but there is a harsh reality in the software industry:

1. Technology changes fast. Nobody can keep up with it.
2. Most employers don’t allow adequate time for continuing education on the job.

Unless you’re lucky enough to have an employer who offers 20% time and invests heavily in dev team education, it’s just not realistic to assume that you’re going to stay sharp and competitive without investing some off-hours here and there.

Open Source

Lots of companies contribute code to open source projects. Just about every popular OSS project I can think of is maintained by people who are being paid for their work, including Linux, Node, React, Angular, and WordPress. In fact, I advise companies to adopt an OSS by default policy for modular components.

See “How to Build A High Velocity Development Team” and share it with your dev team lead. Pick your poison: Convince your leaders that sharing some open source code is good for business (point out that companies such as Facebook, Google, and Netflix do it), or be an open-source weekend warrior once in a while.

If you really want to preserve your off-time,
push hard for your company to invest more in OSS.

If you disagree with everything I’ve just said, I have some good news for you:

It’s a candidate’s market

If you can code your way out of a paper bag, chances are you’ll eventually find somebody who will hire without a code sample.

But you won’t get great at your job by putting in the minimum possible work.

Eric Elliott is the author of “Programming JavaScript Applications” (O’Reilly), and “Learn JavaScript Universal App Development with Node, ES6, & React”. He has contributed to software experiences for Adobe Systems, Zumba Fitness, The Wall Street Journal, ESPN, BBC, and top recording artists including Usher, Frank Ocean, Metallica, and many more.

He spends most of his time in the San Francisco Bay Area with the most beautiful woman in the world.