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Building a reputation as an developer

JC Smiley
Front End Developer with a focus on React (web) and React Native (mobile), Code Connector national team Online Content Manager and a leader for the Memphis chapter, Gardner, and Outdoor Enthusiast
・4 min read

I asked my local tech community for advice on how to develop a reputation as a developer. The following curated summary of their answers will start with the “why” and end with practical advice on the “how”.

Your reputation is your brand.

Your reputation is tangible like a brand. It has a cause and effect on how others treat you. Your reputation speaks for you even when you are not around. A positive brand could lead to opportunities. If you are not known for anything, that speaks volumes about you to others. This is why it's important to build your reputation (aka: your brand).


Set yourself apart, so you are memorable.

It's important to stand out. This is in regard to getting hired and for promotions. I'm not advocating that you must be exceptional at all times. But you will be known for something. It's in your best interest that it's positive. Imagine three people applying for the same job:

  1. Person A doesn't meet expectations.
  2. Person B meets expectations.
  3. Person C meets expectation, but does something that stands out.

Person B and C have a legitimate chance of getting the job. But person C will be at the top of that list. You don't have to exceed every expectation to stand out. Simply play to your strengths in a way that shows how wonderful you are.

Crafting your brand

Everyone's brand is unique to them. Crafting that brand takes time, effort, and being honest with yourself. I remember a supervisor giving me this advice, "I can tell you a way, but I can tell you the way. Everyone has to choose a path that works for them".

Code Connector member Lawrence Lockhart stated an awesome strategy, "Take a negative and spin it into a positive". He talked about taking a negative like ageism and talking about the positives:

  • experience
  • wisdom
  • leadership
  • steadfast

Part of a strategy is knowing what you don't want to be known for and then consciously making sure you aren't doing those things. Branding is about being known for something. It's how others describe you based on a consistent set of actions. With this in mind, a great tip is to ask others what you are known for and what makes them a good coworker. This information can help you determine what to focus on and what is your natural strength.

Don't mistake "Being known" with being able to code

One community member sounded the alarm that focusing on being known to the exclusion of being able to code is a problem. While your reputation is important, it can't consume all of your time. If you only think of how you will look to others, you could hurt your growth. Just because someone is known, it doesn't mean they can code.

Practical advice on building a reputation

Joining Developer Communities

Tech communities is a great place to build a reputation. An example is Stack Overflow where you can answer questions. Another example is the Code Connector Slack community. In that Slack channel, you can join daily conversations about tech. Teaching others about what you know is one of the best ways to craft a good reputation. Other developer communities:

Hackathons

Joining a Hackathon team is a great opportunity to show others your strongest skills and to be known as a developer. This is a chance to frame the conversation to do something you enjoy and are good at. An example is if you are good at building an API, then you can volunteer to do just that.

Speak at tech conferences and tech user group meetups

The ultimate reputation builder is to speak at tech conferences and local user group meetups. Speaking publicly provides the perfect combination of meeting people, teaching, and showing off your expertise.

Personal projects

Personal projects are a wonderful way to build something you can share with others. Projects allow you to talk passionately about something that reflects your skill sets. If your project is open source, then your reputation could spread through the use of your project.

Pair programming

Working side by side with someone lets them know your personal skill level and get to know you as a person. A good outcome can make that person advocate in your name.

Mentoring

The final method I want to mention is mentoring others. This isn't just passing on coding knowledge, but includes listening and helping someone through difficulties that you may have faced yourself.

Summary

  1. Your reputation is your brand. It speaks for you even when you are not around.
  2. It's important to stand out. You will be known for something, so be intentional on what it is.
  3. Crafting a brand takes time, effort, and being honest with yourself.
  4. A word of caution, just because someone is known doesn't mean they can code. Reputation !== Code
  5. There are several ways you can build your reputation among the tech community. You can join tech communities, attend Hackathons, speak at conferences, talk about your personal projects, help others by mentoring, and pair programming.

Please help others learn by leaving a tip on how an aspiring developer can create a reputation. Thank You!!!

Shout out to my local tech community who contributed to this article: Lawrence Lockhart, Eric Burden, Corey McCarty

Code Connector is a non-profit that organized tech meetups to help people start their journey into tech. You can join our daily conversations by clicking this link: Code Connector slack channel.

Bonus

I converted several blog posts similar to this one into a free e-book called "Advice for Breaking into Tech". The book summarizes advice from 700 developers about learning how to code and looking for your first job in tech into an easy-to-read narrative.
Click for your free Download

Discussion (3)

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kevinhickssw profile image
Kevin Hicks

Great article. I work with a large group of developers where some of them often wonder why they aren't moving up as quickly as others and it usually is because the ones being moved up specialize in or become known in some way.

In addition to the tips here, writing articles, tutorials, and even teaching courses are other great ways to build a reputation.

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jcsmileyjr profile image
JC Smiley Author

Thank you. I have worked in several industries and the value of someone's reputation is invaluable no matter where you are. I like how you stated things, specialize (be extremely good) or become known in a way (known to be extremely good).

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kevinhickssw profile image
Kevin Hicks

Another thing people may not realize is you may not need to be extremely good either. When working a regular career, sometimes just being the one willing to tackle challenging problems, adapt to changes, being reliable, and/or being able to learn quickly can make you stand out even if you aren't actually more skilled than someone else.

This can also be applied to freelancing and consulting, but it is harder to stand out and get hired for contract work focusing on your ability to learn as your reputation.