The past 6-8 months I’ve been seeing a new type of person applying for Automattic’s engineering positions that I hadn’t seen before, and I think it’s very interesting and promising but missing one key component.
These applications usually have great cover letters and well-put-together resumes, which is a good sign that people put some thought into it and had someone spot-check it before sending it in. But where most people list prior jobs, these applications (and LinkedIn profiles) list projects. When you dig into prior jobs listed, if there are any, they’re typically in a completely unrelated field like medicine or finance, and under education they list one of these new bootcamps, like Hack Reactor or App Acedemy.
Here I’m going to offer a key 🔑piece of advice to these folks to help their applications stand out, and can 100% compensate for their lack of professional experience: contribute to open source. “Projects” done in a coding bootcamp, even when they’re spelled out in great bullet-point technical detail, don’t really tell me anything about your engineering ability. Open source contributions show me a passion for a given area, ability to work with others to have a contribution reviewed and accepted, and most importantly show actual code. Even better than one-off contributions, if you can grow into a recognized position in an open source project, that puts you ten steps ahead of applications even from folks with 20 years experience in the field, at least to an Open Source-biased company like Automattic.
Though I don’t know any of these boot camps well enough to suggest them, I love the idea in general. Even before the more formal bootcamps I’ve seen hundreds of examples of people who used free information and technology to rise to a very high level of technical contribution. In fact that’s very much my own story from the early days of WordPress. So in summary: it’s okay to learn to code through class projects, but show your value by getting involved in something bigger.