GitHub is the "playground" for developers. If you are a new or experienced developer and have not dipped your feet into the GitHub sandbox, then you need to do so immediately. If you are already on the playground with an existing profile, then you need to take a long look at how you can continually keep it updated.
For newbies on GitHub
Let’s first unpack what GitHub is and what you can do on this website and service to build your portfolio to impress potential employers.
The “Git” part of the term is an open-source version control system. Let’s say a developer creates an app. He may make a lot of code changes in the process and after the original version is launched. Git keeps all of these changes and stores them in one central place. So, if developers are collaborating, they can all see the changes and contribute their own.
Other developers who have not participated in the original app development can download those app files and use them – they are open-source.
The "Hub" part of the term is just that – sharing projects and networking with other developers. Here’s what you can do because of the "Hub."
Access the repository where all files for any project are housed. Every project has an individual repository with a URL, and unless the author has restricted access, anyone can open it.
A developer can "fork" a project. This means he can develop a new project, working off another project in the hub. If a developer sees a project he likes, he can "fork" the repository, make some changes, and then create a new repository.
If a developer has forked a project and thinks it is a good improvement of the original project, he can create a pull request and show what he has done to the original developers. They can then decide if they want to bring it into their original project. The developer and those original developers will have the means to communicate through GitHub.
The social networking aspect of GitHub is one of its most vital features. Each developer can create a profile that is somewhat like a resume. It lists all of the project work a developer has been involved in – original projects, forks, and pull requests. This allows developers to communicate and to collaborate publicly.
Changelogs created by developers’ collaboration on a project are all recorded and stored within GitHub if they have ended up in a project’s repository.
Given that GitHub can be an excellent resource for a newbie to engage in the development, network with experienced developers, and begin to develop a portfolio of project work that a potential employer will be able to see.
For experienced developers on GitHub
If your profile has been sitting on GitHub with no updates, even though you have been engaged in project work, then it’s time to get it updated. While you may be pretty content with your current work, new opportunities may arise that pique your interest. If your profile is out-of-date, you may lose out on those opportunities.
The critical reasons to start or update the portfolio
So, let’s look briefly at the reasons for both newbies and current GitHub members to get those profiles in shape.
1. The social aspect
In January 2020, GitHub reported that it had over 40 million members (users) and over 190 million repositories. It is the most prominent source code host on the planet. Consider the networking aspects of this vast social media platform, just for developers. Keeping a great profile lets others know what you can do and provide opportunities for them to let you opt-in on their project work.
2. You will always have control over your versions
Whether your project was a fantastic success or a complete bust, GitHub will have it, along with complete storage of every version, every modification, etc. So, let’s say a project goes haywire. You can track back and see where you went amiss.
The other good thing is you can work on a project outside of GitHub and when you have it right, merge it into your GitHub project repository through your pull request. You can also fork other projects outside of GitHub and then get back in and make a pull request.
3. Networking and potential global collaboration
The development world is moving away from secrecy and proprietary source code. It has come to realize that collaboration in an open-source environment means improvement and the best ultimate project delivery. It also means many pull requests that have been added to the project in many meaningful ways. Think how many careers (and money) have been made by those who have added significant development projects to WordPress.
GitHub users are global. When you have a profile that demonstrates the type of experience and work that a foreign group is looking for, you will have an easier time opting-in to their projects. Then you can give your portfolio a boost by demonstrating collaboration and teamwork with a much larger community than just within your home country. When your portfolio can show success in project work with an international “flavor,” employers with a global reach will appreciate this experience.
4. Your Next Employer is Probably a GitHub User
When you consider that companies like Netflix, Linux, Zendesk, Amazon, Facebook, and more are using GitHub for their projects and looking for talent that will add value to their organizations, it only makes sense to present a portfolio that shows that value. Obviously, an employer will not hire you based solely upon your GitHub portfolio, but the door may open.
From that point, it is your job to present yourself to a potential employer through a resume and conversation. And on that resume, you will, of course, provide a link to your GitHub portfolio. Do not discount the importance of your resume – it must be letter-perfect. Find a good resource for writing and editing to get that resume reviewed before submitting it in final form.
GitHub ranks 77th among the top websites in the world. This is quite a feat, considering that its niche is so narrow. If you are a developer, you need to be using GitHub. What’s more, you need a current and compelling profile that details all of your development projects, collaborations, and contributions.
About the author:
Bridgette Hernandez is a writer about all things digital. She contributes to any number of websites and independent blogs.
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