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The Importance of Having a GitHub Account

May 2017 - By Richard Stanley, Open Source Practice Director

Richard is a Certified ScrumMaster and has written data-driven CRM, CMS, and ERP applications for various fortune 500 clients on various platforms including iOS and Android. He has worked in a variety of industries throughout his career including higher education, government, healthcare, finance and gaming. Richard has been in IT since 1999, starting his career as an MIS Database Administrator/Programmer for MCIWorldcom. He has a BSE in Computer Science and a BS of Computer Information Systems from Northern Arizona University and a Minor in Japanese from Aoyama Gakuin University in Japan.

In my monthly Angular Meetup, I am often asked what one can do to make themselves stand out in the job market. Irrespective of the seniority or years of experience of the individual asking the question, my answer is nearly always in the form of a question:

“How much code do you have on GitHub?”
If at this point you have not heard of GitHub, I am not going to bore you with the details other than to mention it is a large online code repository based on versioning tool Git of Linus Torvalds origin. To summarize, it allows the de-centralization of code storage. If you are unfamiliar with Git itself, http://git-scm.com is a perfectly reasonable source for learning about its use. In this article, however, rather than speaking about the technology itself, I am going to focus on its’ impact on the industry as a whole.

Looking through large swaths of resumes for good talent is a bit like using an abacus for high-order mathematics. You can get the job done eventually, but it takes a lot of repetition, trial and error. It is probably the least robust process in business, and this is despite the many technological advances we have had with predictive analytics and big-data with respect to talent deep-search farms. As a software developer, you can almost immediately start to see the inherent issues with attempting to process the varied amounts of data in a resume, let alone try to compare it with some standard for quality.

In the end, the issue isn’t the complexities of how to predict the level of experience of a software developer by the resume that is the real issue. Resumes are, themselves, an inherently faulty data point. They contain no universal data standard as far as structure, or category of terms, but most importantly there is no way to tell if the data included in a resume is accurate from the beginning. After 20 years of software development and 5 years in the technology talent industry, I can confirm that the possibility a resume is even mostly correct is likely around 10%. As such, the natural progression when trying to verify skill becomes not to ask the individual what they have done, but to challenge them to produce work in the hope that you can accurately ascertain their skill level. This is where Github has changed how we think about talent discovery.

In the past year, we have been able to report on a 43% increase in requests for GitHub account links from managers looking for development talent. As of now, the number of opportunities out there far outweighs the available talent and so, as yet, there are few companies actually requiring a GitHub account, but the number is changing slowly. From our internal reporting data, as a developer, you are 80% more likely to get a position you apply for if you have a GitHub account and can speak to the code you wrote. This number increases significantly if you regularly contribute or fork to other GitHub-based open source initiatives such as Angular, or Apache projects.

Here are a few tricks to get you developing without making it seem like you are taking a second job:

  1. Set aside a block of time once a week to code. Even start with just an hour

  2. Alternate between coding your own solutions and forking to add functionality to somone else's

  3. Be a stickler with code standards so your code is easily readable

  4. Ensure your code is highly annotated with notes

  5. Write the occasional blog talking about your difficulites and how you overcame them

Now I understand what you are thinking; it sounds like a big time investment. I am a lover of technology and started developing my first software application on a Tandy 1000 at the age of 8 using Turbo Pascal. However, I have a limit on the amount of time I am willing to spend outside work. Software development can be an exhausting process and most days I simply want to sit back and watch television with a beer, not troll tech.net for hours looking for new Javascript Libraries to test out.

So here is your reason to put in the extra time: Software Developers with an active GitHub account man an average of 17% higher salaries than their counterpart.

Companies will actually go out of their way to request more funding in order to hire you if you can prove to them you are worth it. So basically what I am saying is you are not going to be working for free.

The Process of creating a GitHub resume with some code over time doesn’t have to be a lot of work if you spread it out, but the lasting value of your coding history in a code graph is slowly going to become your most valuable asset.

As the Director of Open Source Technologies for Apex Systems, Richard provides high level architecture analysis and consultation on Enterprise software development opportunities. Richard partners with technology managers to help identify specific technical requirements, design software solutions, and develop Apex’s strategy for success in identifying software talent. In addition, Richard trains Apex internal employees and keeps them up-to-date on software technologies and trends.

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