Github: A Software Engineer's Resume


By PGP Director Sally Phelps, Evan Morikawa '11, Tim Ryan '13.5, and Juliana Nazaré '14


Sally:  True to his thoughtful yet rushed/chaotic style, I received this cryptic yet endearing email from Evan Morikawa '11 late last Fall.


Hey Sally -

Now as an app:

Very legitimate source for modern software devs.


I kind of understood what he was saying, but requested a bit more info from Evan, one of our more software-savvy alumni.  He and a few other 'software aficionados' went on to offer their perspectives and the added benefits of using Github. 


Evan:  I would strongly encourage anyone remotely interested in software development to have a Github account. Here's why:

  • For a large and growing segment of software-focused companies (especially startups), Github accounts are a  crucial part of the hiring process -- I would argue more so than a résumé.   In fact, I personally know a handful of founders who go as far as viewing cover letters and résumés as an anti-signal. With a tool like Github I can "show" you my software experience instead of simply "telling" you about it.
  • What about After Olin?  Post-college, it is surprisingly difficult to find the time and effort to fill a software portfolio with significant and interesting personal projects and contributions to open source software. This is less true while you are at Olin. With a little extra effort, many Olin projects make a fantastic software résumé.

When software employers look at Github résumés, I have seen them look for a few important things:

  1. Significant personal/school projects -- These demonstrate end-to-end architectural know-how and follow-through.
  1. Contribution to open source projects -- Demonstrate proactive engagement with the community and an understanding of the latest norms and tools.
  1. A long history of activity -- A proxy for experience!  Most start this work post-college. Oliners often have a 4-year head-start.

There is a gap between Olin CS classes and modern industry tools. I believe this gap is intentional and useful.   Just as Gödel's incompleteness theorem (an Olin CS concept) is not necessary to build a "Node.js" app (a modern industry platform), learning the details of "NPM" (a modern industry tool) would be a waste of class time and obsolete in 2-3 years anyways.

 How can Oliners bridge this gap?   By continuing to work on school and personal projects, open source contribution, and by doing internships.  All of these continue to be evaluated by employers today through Github.


tim r.jpgRecent Grad Tim Ryan:   I agree.  At the end of the day, much like a résumé, a Github profile is only a loose (yet high-signal) filter. By far I find the most important skill is the ability to clearly explain a project and why it is built the way it is.



Senior Juliana Nazaré:  I have a slightly different take on Github. Github has mainly been useful for me working on group projects and to submit work for classes online. Instead of sending a professor a zipped up file, you can send them a Github link with install instructions, which is much easier to use. Teachers can also see who contributed what to a project on Github, which is helpful in understanding the group dynamics of a team's project.

 Any way you look at it, Github is an easy-to-use tool to put your code online and start building up projects that others can see. If you are a E:C or ECE at Olin and not on Github yet, I'd recommend taking the advice in this post and opening up now.



Posted in: Alumni Speak, From Our Staff, Job Hunt