3 Ways To Stand Out As A New Developer

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I was recently invited to attend Write/Speak/Code, a workshop-based, three-day conference to help female software developers increase their visibility in the tech community. I had the opportunity to meet and work alongside seasoned developers and code newbies on everything from writing a compelling bio to brainstorming talk topics, and finally contributing to open source.

It was amazing to see women from non-technical backgrounds in attendance, most of whom plan on switching to a dev job. The skills that we worked on over the course of three days – writing, speaking, and coding – are all relevant to those looking to start or revamp their career in web development. Here are three ways developers can write, speak, and code their way to the top.

1. Blog With A Purpose.

There are many examples on the web of coding newbies and aspiring developers starting blogs which they keep up early on but quickly fizzle out with time due to a lack of focus. For an aspiring developer, a blog has multiple purposes: it helps you document your programming journey from step-by-step problem solving to showing readers how you built something, it can serve as a refresher on a topic you haven’t visited in a while, and can also help you showcase your work to potential employers. For example, I started a statically generated blog which served the purpose of getting me used to using Git and version control.

 Extra Credit: If you’re applying for a job at a company or startup that has an open API, a great way to stand out is to create an app that uses their API and write a blog post about it. This will give them the opportunity to see your thought process as well as show them that you’re able to use their product.

2. Brainstorm Talk Topics.

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As someone who has attended Meetups and tech conferences, I get a lot of value from attending talks with topics that range from beginner-friendly to more advanced. But as a newbie, it’s not always clear what I have to offer in the ways of giving a talk.

At Write/Speak/Code, we each brainstormed ideas for possible talk topics and were tasked with fleshing one of those into a short, five-minute “lightning” talk. Proposed topics from attendees ranged from tech-heavy talks around Android development to non-tech talks like developing a content marketing strategy.

There’s no idea too small to give a talk. Think about problems you’ve solved such as when building an app, website, or learning a new framework, and brainstorm a few ideas (10 is great). Even the idea of giving a talk seems like too much, turn these ideas into future blog posts.

Extra Credit: Now that you have a few topics down, pick one to flesh out into a fifteen minute talk and pitch it to a local Meetup. It’s a great way of positioning yourself as knowledgeable on a topic and getting visibility with your local tech community.

3. Contribute to Open Source. 

A lot of the technology I learned to use is open source which is awesome for many reasons – it’s constantly evolving and the more people that use open source technologies, the more the community is invested in making it better. Contributing to open source can be intimidating for a lot of people, but it is one way you can set yourself apart as a new developer. 

At Write/Speak/Code, I knew that I wanted to work on content and worked with another content marketer to rewrite some copy for Girl Develop It’s website.

Here are ways to identify what projects to contribute to and how:

  • Contribute to technologies you use and know really well. Libraries and frameworks you use a lot in your projects are good entry points to open source. You can also check out Code Montage’s list of open source projects, or check out Trending repositories on GitHub.
  • Check out the “Issues” tab in the project’s GitHub repository. “Issues” are a great way to see everything from reported bugs to feature suggestions. Do you want to report a bug? Check out the “Issues” tab to see if someone else has flagged it; if not, open an “Issue” and provide details around the bug you found. In addition, some projects use labels to categorize issues by type. Flagging an “issue” is an open source contribution, FYI! 

Extra Credit: If you have some experience contributing to open source, here are other ways to contribute:

  • Fix a bug. If you’ve found a bug and no one’s flagged it, fix it yourself! Most open source projects on GitHub has contribution guidelines so be sure to read them first.
  • Add a feature. If you’re feeling a bit more adventurous, check if there are any feature suggestions listed in the open source project and try your hand at building it out. Don’t forget to open a pull request if you’re fixing a bug or adding a feature.Extra Credit: If you have some experience contributing to open source, here are other ways to contribute.

Whether you’re looking to land your first job or hit the restart button on your career using your writing, speaking, and coding skills by starting a blog, participating in talks and coreferences, and contributing to open source will help set you apart from the crowd.

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Stephanie Morillo is a Content Producer and Expert-in-Residence at General Assembly. She has attended, and spoken, at conferences, blogged and written articles about the tech industry, and made her first contribution to open source this past March.