Importance of Maintaining a Portfolio for Graduate Software Engineers

Alan Truong (Head of Engineering @ EntryLevel), Fabricio Leonardo Sodano (Head Of Engineering @ Wisr), Adrian Groch (Software Engineer @ Pendula), Khushbu Patel (Software Engineer @ Atlassian), Tanvir Hossain (Lead Software Engineer @ InLoop), Jared Fraser (Director of Engineering @ Mr Yum), Dale Baldwin (Senior Software Engineer @ Culture Amp), Will Parker (Senior Software Engineer @ Smokeball Australia), Jessica Sun (Software Engineer @ Atlassian), John Wesley Salvador (Senior Software Engineer @ Zeller)

Authored by engineering leaders at Atlassian, Culture Amp, Zeller, Mr Yum, Wisr and more

Graduate Software Engineers: Importance of Maintaining a Portfolio

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Alan Truong (Head of Engineering @ EntryLevel)

It’s always worthwhile to create a website to showcase your skills. It shows that you are at least motivated to work on something outside uni / work.

It also showcases the skills you have in a more practical way - although I wouldn’t say it’s super important, you just need to have a way to showcase what you are capable of.

Fabricio Leonardo Sodano (Head Of Engineering @ Wisr)

The short answer is: Yes. You don't need to keep doing this all your professional life, but it's essential to have a place to showcase the projects you're proud of when you're getting started.

The longer answer is: Yes, but ensure you also showcase how it was constructed; getting things to work is the easy part; doing it in a clean and maintainable way is what separates good developers from average ones. Include a link to the source code in every project you intend to showcase.

A well maintained GitHub profile with well-crafted repositories goes a long way. Ensure you follow these basic rules to set you apart:

  • Write good commit messages
  • Work with pull requests, even if it's just you working on a project
  • Don't commit secrets /passwords into your repository, instead work with something like dotenv
  • Use a relevant .gitignore depending on the technology you chose; seeing a node_modules folder committed is a big no-no
  • Don't leave dead code, useless comments or poorly formatted code in your codebase. Use an auto-formatter and a linter.
  • Remember those automated tests? Bonus points for setting them up using GitHub Actions or a similar CICD pipeline, so they run every time you commit, and they auto-deploy every time you merge to the main branch.
  • "Write good commit messages" is a link to https://cbea.ms/git-commit/


Adrian Groch (Software Engineer @ Pendula)

It’s only worthwhile if you enjoy doing it and you’d do it outside of work. I work with some incredibly talented developers with some pretty impressive accolades (i.e. co-founding successful startups), and a few of them have personal blogs, but the majority of them do not. At the end of the day, it’s a job. If you only want to code between work hours, that’s completely understandable and shouldn’t be looked down on. 

You shouldn’t have to prove your worth by maintaining and developing projects for internet kudos/props or for free. If you’re interested in being involved in open source projects and have time for it - great. I personally think it’s an easy way to burn-out and lose the love you have for your trade/craftsmanship/work/job. 
I think a lot of companies are expecting people to have portfolios outside of their work life to prove their abilities (especially juniors/graduates), which is stupid.

Bottomline it can be useful/helpful, but most definitely should not be mandatory.

Khushbu Patel (Software Engineer @ Atlassian)

I would choose a candidate for the startup that has an active GitRepo and if the repo is actively used by others, that would be cherry on the top. 

Tanvir Hossain (Lead Software Engineer @ InLoop)

If you are a fresh graduate and don’t have proper experience to show then you MUST HAVE a github profile with decent projects. Make sure you push projects regularly so your github looks active, don’t just push everything at once.

Jared Fraser (Director of Engineering @ Mr Yum)

If you have limited professional experience, an active portfolio allows recruiters and hiring managers insights into your technical skill set to ensure it aligns with the position they are hiring for.

Dale Baldwin (Senior Software Engineer @ Culture Amp)

I’ve only ever been asked once for code examples and for a lot of engineers this is difficult to provide. Most contracts will have various clauses about company intellectual property so if you spend most of your time working on other people's code you probably won’t have much to show for it.

A demo project or two is great but most recruiters aren’t coders and most engineers don’t have time to go through every candidate’s GitHub account to do a solid analysis of their previous public code projects.

Being able to demonstrate you can code in a coding challenge or whiteboard exercise is going to be far more valuable.

Will Parker (Senior Software Engineer @ Smokeball Australia)

Leetcode and similar sites are definitely good at improving your problem-solving skills and can be useful in preparing for some interview questions you might get (usually algorithm based questions). 

I personally prefer thinking of an idea and building it out from scratch. It can be anything from a personal portfolio website, an app to store your shopping list, or a little automation tool to make your life easier. Building from scratch forces you to take a list of requirements and turn it into a finished product filling in the gaps in your current knowledge as you go. You can also try out new languages and frameworks in the process to really improve yourself if you fancy a challenge.

Jessica Sun (Software Engineer @ Atlassian)

Yes, the reason I like having your portfolio showcased as a website is because it’s more visual. Recruiters can first hand see what you built and it’s easier to change it as it best fits you. You can show your personality and they shouldn’t take too much of your time to build either so I don’t see why not :) 

John Wesley Salvador (Senior Software Engineer @ Zeller)

100%. If you don’t have any experience to talk about yet, portfolios are a great way to showcase your passion in software engineering.


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