As a junior developer, it can be easy to overlook the importance of investing in your portfolio. After all, you may have landed your first job using your "old" portfolio, so why bother putting in the extra effort to create a new one? But as I've learned, a good portfolio can open doors for future opportunities and help you stand out from the competition.
Creating a Story with Your Portfolio
A portfolio is not just a collection of facts or smaller projects. It should tell a story of your journey in the tech industry and showcase the amazing projects you have created. For me, this story began as a geologist and environmental engineer, working in a laboratory for six years. But I wanted to make a career switch to tech, and that's where the concept of "From Lab to Web" was born. This slogan represents my transition from one field to another, and helped guide the rest of my portfolio design.
Building a Brand
Creating a portfolio is like building a brand for yourself. The first step was to connect with a UI/UX designer for advice on design principles and work closely with them to achieve my goals. Together, we created a logo that represents the smooth transition from lab to tech industry.
When it came to the look of the portfolio, I had to decide on styles, colors, and themes that represented me. I decided to go for a minimalist, essential theme, and chose colors that represented soils and the environment. I also wanted to create a portfolio that was serious but also had hidden jokes throughout.
Content is King
As a junior developer, the content of your portfolio is crucial. Many HR experts recommend showcasing 2-3 big, complex projects to demonstrate your ability to think critically and solve problems. However, if you don't have any big projects yet, don't worry. You can still put them up on your portfolio with a note that they are under development.
One thing that I want to stress is that as a junior developer, it's important to show not only your technical skills, but also your personal development and growth. Showcasing your journey and how you've learned and grown as a developer is just as important as the projects themselves.
The Bottom Line
Investing in your portfolio as a junior developer is worth the time, money, and knowledge. Start thinking about your story and the message you want to convey from day one. Get your slogan, logo, and content right, and choose just a few bigger, complex projects to showcase your skills.
A good portfolio can help to stand out from the crowd, as David Robert said. It's not just about showing your technical skills, it's about telling a story and showcasing your personal development. It's also about being unique and standing out from the competition.
In my opinion, as a junior developer, it's important to start working on your portfolio early on in your career. Even if you haven't landed your first job yet, it's never too early to start thinking about and planning for your portfolio.
You can check my first version of website and my new portfolio (which is still not ready) to decide whether it was worth it or not.
Top comments (24)
In reality, it simply isn't true that you need a portfolio. I've never had one in over 25 years, and all the best developers I've hired haven't had one. An interesting, active GitHub (or similar) account is a far better way to attract the interest of the person responsible for the hiring. A curated vanity project honestly tells them very little about you and your skills. Seeing the candidates journey/activity in its "warts and all" form on GitHub gives wayyyy more information about a candidate - you get an unfiltered idea of how they code, what kind of programming interests them, their enthusiasm for coding & design, etc.
I've rejected a good number of candidates actually because of their portfolio sites (error ridden, over-engineered, etc). A portfolio site can catch the eye, but if the hirer is doing a good job they will look past it for more honest detail, and to make sure it's not just "lipstick on a pig" (if you'll pardon the expression) 🐷
It depends. As a front-end developer, if I view a portfolio it can tell me:
An active Github is good but if the developer worked on projects that weren't allowed to be public because it's proprietary code, or maybe they worked with content management systems such as WordPress which doesn't typically utilize Github, then I wouldn't want to necessarily penalize them because they don't regularly code in their free time.
I completely agree with you. A portfolio can give valuable insights into a developer's skills and experience, and it's important to consider all of the factors you mentioned when evaluating it. Additionally, not having an active Github or having worked on projects that can't be made public should not be viewed as a negative, as there can be valid reasons for this.
When you see activity on GitHub, you can actually see it develop through commits, dates, forks etc. A portfolio website could well have been spat out by a profile site generator, copy-pasted from elsewhere, the result of a 'how to make a profile site that stands out' tutorial etc.
You see an end result, but it's like a portfolio of pictures from a modelling photoshoot - it isn't necessarily authentic (possibly photoshopped) and you don't get to see the how it came into being. The whole thing is skewed and distorted.
Sure, it's possible to fake a GitHub profile too (and I've come across a bunch of those from candidates - a number of different candidates even linking to the same anonymous GitHub account and claiming it as theirs!) - but it's normally quite easy to spot.
Every case is different, and I certainly wouldn't penalise a candidate for not having an active GitHub account - my point was that a portfolio site is pretty far from a necessity.
You're not wrong that it's not necessary, but we have to be mindful that the industry is a spectrum of roles and skills.
If you're applying for a C++ role at a company that's automating cars or airplanes - a portfolio isn't going to be what a hiring manager is probably interested in when evaluating you as a candidate. Github will most certainly shine better in that context.
However, if you're a front-end or UI designer applying at an agency? Chances are the hiring manager there will appeal more to visual demonstration of one's skills than the particular patterns that one uses to deliver the end result.
Thank you for sharing your experience. It is true that a portfolio alone may not be enough to secure a job, as it may not provide a complete picture of a candidate's skills and experience. Based on my personal experiences and input from both tech and non-tech HR professionals, I have learned that a portfolio can still be important in the hiring process. I value the additional understanding you shared about the importance of GitHub activity. Going forward, I will pay closer attention to my own GitHub activity :)
Unfortunately, HR are often easily dazzled by sparkly things. Real devs should be involved in vetting candidates as early in the process as possible
I agree that developers should be included from the initial interview. Unfortunately, it is typical for developers to only be involved in the interview process after the first or second round.
They should be involved before that IMO - would help save a lot of time. Unfortunately though, what you say is usually true - normally even more so the larger a company gets.
Totally agree, Jon. :) I can confirm every single word here as Engineering Manager and developer.
I must say I haven't had a working portfolio site in ages, but I actually agree, it is important to have a good portfolio. Just a GitHub profile is only enough if you want to work in teams where they think code is the only thing that matters for a developer.
I think this is certainly relevant for design work. graphic or web designers tend to need folios to demonstrate their ideation abilities.
But for programming? It’s not really relevant. Deciding the way the things look isn’t our domain. Generally the only thing I’m interested in when deciding to interview candidates is their previous experience and their code.
You can show me all of the shiny stuff in the world, but your personal repos tell me everything I need to know about your work.
For budding software developers put the effort that a designer puts into their folio into writing good README docs and demonstrating consistent standards in your work :)
I agree with your comment that an active GitHub account with well-written README-s are important as it allows for a more transparent and authentic view of a developer's work and progress. It can also be a good indicator of their skills and experience, as well as their level of commitment to their craft. However, the hiring process can often be led by non-technical people who may not be able to fully evaluate a GitHub account.
The point I'm making, having a lot of experience in hiring programmers, is that a creative portfolio is mostly irrelevant for a technical role. This approach to showcasing work is more appropriate for graphic or web designers.
For example, a portfolio cannot demonstrate the implementation of a middleware that consumes data from a POS system and synchronises it with a CRM, or an eCommerce payment integration, or the majority of tasks that are completed by software developers.
Whereas this job description speaks to both technical and non-technical people:
Text description for non-technical people, dot points for technical people.
Perhaps if you have zero experience, ie: you're a graduate or changing careers, then maybe it's valuable. But I'd suggest doing these things is going to be even better than a portfolio:
So you're saying that a GitHub profile can actually tell you a lot more about a developer, and that a profile site is only really 'needed' due to the broken hiring processes of some companies?
It's so true that as a junior developer, it's important to not only show off your technical skills but also your personal growth and journey in the tech industry. I love the concept of "From Lab to Web" as a slogan, it's such a clever way to show your transition from one field to another.
And the minimalist, essential theme with subtle nods to the environment is a really unique touch. Your advice to include 2-3 big, complex projects, or even projects that are under development, is spot on. I really think that creating a well-designed and thoughtfully curated portfolio can open a lot of doors for future opportunities and make you stand out from the crowd.
Thank you for your kind words . I'm glad that you found my advice and concept useful. I'm happy that you liked the "From Lab to Web" slogan as a way to showcase this transition.
While it's absolutely valuable to learn all the pieces in indie web hosting (front to back), it's far more valuable to have a GitHub account tied to you. A lot of teams are not only looking for people that can dev, but also the dev style they follow. How their projects are structured, how they code, what kind of interests they have, etc. A GitHub profile with projects, small or big, can show a lot about competence and passion. That's what nailed my last few jobs, even when I started going into my first dev job.
Well when it comes to portfolios of developers it's really hard to showcase anything.
Most of your code is private and you cannot share it. Even if you could share it then it's been probably created in a team so it's not clear what's your code.
Also I've seen frontend developers show pretty pictures of websites and apps they obviously didn't design and providing very little information because of the reasons listed above.
So unless you're active in Open-Source, which is in 99% of cases public, you cannot really show anything.
When I want to hire a developer usually I just talk with them and then do pair programming. From my experience that's the best way to guess their level.
So in the end I'd say portfolios are kind of useless for developers.
Thank you for your insight on the challenges with developer portfolios. Your perspective on relying on personal interaction and pair programming to assess a developer's skills is noted. :)
I really like your design and theme, very cohesive. And your button animation is one of the most satisfying ones I've seen! Thank you for sharing.
Also, congratz on landing your first developer position! Did they bring up your portfolio when they were hiring you?
If you want to build a good looking portfolio site fast, and learn some AWS and Next.js along the way, I just created a guide:
Host a portfolio site with Next.js and AWS in under 30 minutes
Hello let me show my portfolio then ... any suggestions are received!
That's a great move on your part