Discussion On
The Power of a Programming Portfolio

by in Career

27 Comments

  1. GaMerZ
    Tuesday, July 2928, 2008

    Thanks for including my portfolio link. I have to agree that I got quite a number of friends who are programmers are too lazy to put up their portfolio.

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  2. Veera
    Tuesday, July 2934, 2008

    Very valid point. I will create my own portfolio soon. :)

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  3. willCode4Beer
    Tuesday, July 2901, 2008

    I don’t think it’s fair to say most programmers are too lazy to put together a portfolio. Most companies require employees to sign NDA’s. This means putting your best work into a portfolio could leave you open to legal action.

    An alternative is participation in open source projects. But, if you are working on an open source project, it doesn’t need to be in a portfolio. It can stand alone.

    I’m not against having a portfolio, in fact, I think it’s a great idea. Just be sure to understand the issues that can prevent people from having one. I often recommend that developers have their own web site. They can post code from personal projects and answers to problems they’ve faced. It can serve as both an online notebook (that’s what mine is) and a portfolio at the same time.

    I’ve been in interviews where at the end we are just talking and discover that the interviewer had actually found solutions to their problems from my website. Now, that’s a big ego booster.

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  4. Doug
    Tuesday, July 2946, 2008

    Thanks for your post,
    I strongly agree that we, as programmers, need to have portfolios for future reference. I sometimes have great difficulty writing resume because I am not sure what I should put in. The number of projects/technologies you’ve been using getting larger and larger over time. having a portfolio is a great wy to organize your thoughts. And also, it show prospect employers your commitment to your job, and that you’ve been taken proud in what you were doing.

    Doug

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  5. fluminis
    Wednesday, July 3020, 2008

    Interesting article.

    I’ve got one for a couple of years now, but I never had the possibility to show it during interviews.
    In most of them, I was in reunion rooms with no computer…

    So it’s a good thing to have a live portfolio but don’t rely only on it during your interviews.

    It could be interesting to put the url of your portfolio on your resume.

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  6. Joel Parker Henderson
    Wednesday, July 3033, 2008

    If your portfolio includes work you have completed for others or with others, it’s wise to check with them to let them know you want to share it in your portfolio.

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  7. Robby Slaughter
    Wednesday, July 3037, 2008

    Like George Bernard Shaw, I’ll quote myself in response:

    It seems like a portfolio of technical work should be like a private art gallery: the ultimate display of skill. But really, it’s more like a picture of a field of icebergs. Almost of all of the important details are hidden below the surface, and who knows how much things have changed since the photo was taken. A portfolio implies a history of work, but is not proof of expertise.”

    Read the rest and see my portfolio at http://www.robbyslaughter.com/consulting/portfolio/

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  8. Edward J. Stembler
    Wednesday, July 3035, 2008

    Here’s my portfolio: Projects

    It’s not comprehensive list of all of my projects and I still need to fill in some descriptions and screen-shots…

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  9. Daniel Benamy
    Wednesday, July 3003, 2008

    I really like this idea. Would you mind if I copy the format of your portfolio?

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  10. Jess Johnson
    Thursday, July 3132, 2008

    I should have included a word of caution about respecting NDAs and asking for permission before including something in the portfolio. These are very valid concerns, and nobody wants to be left open to litigation. Thanks for bringing it up in the comments.

    @fluminis Great images on your portfolio! They really make the portfolio interesting. Have you thought about bringing printed copies to an interview?

    @Robby True that a portfolio isn’t proof of expertise, but really what is? A resume shows even less proof of expertise, and it can be hard to show expertise in an interview if you are flustered or just don’t interview well. I guess I like the portfolio approach because say I am the only developer on a project, an interviewer would be able to tell pretty quickly with some basic questions about the project if I really did the work or not. I suppose this is more true of application developers than of web developers & designers though.

    @Edward I like how your portfolio is searchable by platform and technology. It makes it really easy to find relevant experience when there are a lot of projects.

    @Daniel Sure go ahead and copy the format!

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  11. Jack
    Thursday, July 3119, 2008

    That’s all very well for web developers where your work is publicly available, but what about other programmers who don’t have things publicly available or that don’t even have a user interface? Wandering into an interview with a large sheaf of printouts of previous companies’ proprietary source code might not give the best impression.

    Also, what happens when there are many people working on the website… you’d need to be very careful to explain precisely what you were responsible for.

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  12. Robby Slaughter
    Thursday, July 3105, 2008

    @Jess, you agreed that a portfolio is not proof of expertise, but wondered what really is. Did you see my sidebar? Quoting me again:

    Past may be prologue, but what you can do is still more important than what you have done. Challenging projects need leaders who are both experienced and expert. The best way to find out if someone is qualified is to ask them tough questions, have them actively demonstrate real understanding, and see if you are immediately impressed by the results.

    The best proof of expertise is demonstration. As has been pointed out by many people, 99% of applicants for programming jobs can’t actually program and fail simple interview tests like “write a program that prints all the odd numbers between one and a hundred”.

    Portfolios can be a useful source of talking points for an interview and sometimes clients or employeers will review portfolios to assist in their decisions. It’s something everyone should consider, but it’s not nearly as important as actually knowing and demonstrating your stuff. Like when hiring a juggler, always ask candidates to code in interviews, and never take a job where they don’t care to see you write code.

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  13. Arthur Abogadil
    Monday, September 2959, 2008

    Yes, i agree putting a portfolio online is helpful in letting potential client evaluate your skills, mine is at and it landed me quite a few project already.

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  14. Nicholas Baiborodin
    Friday, October 350, 2008

    Thanks for your article! I haven’t got my portfolio as software developer, but now I’ve got decision to make it. Thanks one more

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  15. TLKniteOWL
    Tuesday, January 2755, 2009

    “willCode4Beer” hit the nail on the head. Having spent the majority of my own career as a consultant, every consulting company and client whose environment I worked in (creating my innovative solutions to resolve their business problems) all considered my work to be “client confidential and proprietary”. Consulting company employees sign non-disclosure, non-compete, proprietary intellectual property confidentiality agreements all the time. Better check with an attorney first or you may find your own portfolio as prosecution evidence being used against you in a court of law. Remember also that anything created with client resources (time and/or equipment) is normally their copyrighted property and would require written permission to be presented in a portfolio. I do have some FAC bar napkins documenting some of my successful design solutions … only natural since free thinking thrives best in an unrestricted thinking environment.

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  16. AddaxSoft
    Friday, May 2223, 2009

    Awesome post. I was wondering if other programmers care about making a protfolio & indeed very few of them do!

    here is mine addaxsoft.com :D ~

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  17. Miroslav Adámus
    Tuesday, August 427, 2009

    Ye, cool post!

    I was wondering if I could find some site with a list of programmer portfoilos, but I didn’t. If someone knows about such a web site, please let us know here.

    See my portfolio at: <a href=”http://www.miroslavadamus.sk” title=”www.miroslavadamus.sk”

    Reply
  18. Tyson F. Gautreaux
    Wednesday, February 1006, 2010

    Great Website!

    Reply
  19. l3nsh@rk
    Sunday, March 2147, 2010

    great input indeed. i just graduated this month and now on a job haunt. a friend of mine suggested the same idea of creating a portfolio. googled few tips about creating a portfolio and got here. i will start with mine today. i will soon come back here to have your views on my soon to be website portfolio.

    good post willcode4beer :)

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  20. justin
    Wednesday, November 1054, 2010

    grokcode portfolio looks kind of bad with all the broken image links

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  21. Kiran Hegde
    Tuesday, November 1647, 2010

    Nice idea… I will create one soon!

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  22. Jess Johnson
    Sunday, November 2147, 2010

    Thanks Justin. Fixed now. Some links broke during the domain change from grok-code.com to grokcode.com, I’m hoping I caught them all now.

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  23. Linda E
    Friday, August 920, 2013

    I have been a programmer for (probably too long) and have built mainframe and server systems. My personal opinion is that using LoC as an indicator of programming ability is counter-productive. I’ve had to untangle far too many spaghetti and jelly coded systems not to believe otherwise. You know the ones – you look at the code and you think *$%(#???
    I believe that the goal of a good programmer should be to get the job done efficiently, effectively and in as few lines of code as is necessary. Keep It Simply Simple has always been my mantra.
    Although the flip side here is that if you make the system and the code easy to understand, maintain and *actually* work like its supposed to, the possibility is very high that you’ll no longer be deemed necessary … :/
    Of course, now that I’m transitioning to the web, maybe things are different?

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  24. Sourabh Singh
    Friday, November 1535, 2013

    Hie,
    I liked your article. Really nice.
    What would you suggest for a fresher programmer who has nothing specific to showcase, besides a few modules in someone else’s projects. I am still finding my way in the industry, but I would definitely like to build my own portfolio.

    Reply
  25. Carole
    Saturday, November 3032, 2013

    I appreciated this article and will be using some of the ideas for my portfolio, which I am starting. I know that most of this conversation is as old as fossils, but here are some thoughts.

    @Sourabh I’ve struggled with the same thing. Although I’ve been in this field for many years, the nature of my previous jobs were such that I haven’t worked on any “big projects” or done anything that I considered *mine* or seemed especially impressive or noteworthy. I finally decided that I needed to have projects that are expressly for my portfolio. I’m finishing up my first one and am quite pleased with how it turned out. It might not be ideal to write to a portfolio, if you will, but I think it’s a place to start.

    @Robby, I’ve been in situations where I’ve had the knowledge, but haven’t been offered the job because my experience is a little thin. I spent 7 years documenting a technology. I think I know it inside and out, but the lack of concrete work has made transitioning to a straight development job more difficult. So it goes both ways. Employers want the knowledge AND the evidence.

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  26. Sean Snyder
    Tuesday, November 1734, 2015

    Jess – Great Article. I wanted to include my portfolio – http://www.seansnyderdeveloper.com I believe it is a very good example of a stream-lined, concise, developer website. Please feel free to include it if you feel it merits consideration. Thanks!

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  27. Rosa
    Tuesday, March 2915, 2016

    I liked the article. My own portfolio is up and running, but I would like to improve it since I’m still a student. I study game programming and I really appreciate all the feedback I can get to become better! Thanks!

    http://rosacorstjens.com/index.html

    Reply

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