Our school systems have drilled the idea into our heads that grades are the most important indicator of success. Without good grades, you’ll spend the rest of your days living in your parent’s basement. Or so your parents and teachers would have you believe.
If you’re interested in a career in software development, good grades certainly aren’t going to slow you down, but they aren’t going to get you very far, either. Showing that you got an “A” in “Fundamental Programming Concepts” or “Visual Imaging in the Digital Age” is all well and good, but if you don’t have hands-on experience putting your learning to the test, how can you show that you’re actually able to do the job for which you’re applying?
For career success in the tech industry, good grades simply aren’t enough. You need to be able to demonstrate real skill, and one of the best ways to do that is to get on GitHub.
What is GitHub?
Git is a version control system that lets you maintain clear records of your code. That means that if you design an app, you can upload your initial code, then as you make changes, each new version of your code will be saved and stored, making it easy to go back when you hit a snag.
The hub part is the community. Using git, developers all over the world can share their code with one another on GitHub. Because a lot of GitHub projects are open source, you can view and play with anyone’s code that you’d like, and they can do the same with your code.
The Benefits of Being on GitHub
If you want a career in software development, becoming active on GitHub has a number of key benefits that will help you turn your goals into reality.
1. See what others have done.
GitHub is a virtual playground for software developers. If you have minimal experience writing your own code, you can explore the code of your favorite projects and learn from other’s experience.
2. Contribute to open source projects.
You can use the “forking” feature of GitHub to actually copy all of the code of an open source project and play with it yourself. If you manage to improve the code, you can send a “pull request” to the owner of the project, and if they like what you’ve done, they can incorporate your changes into the project. Contributing to open source projects allows you to have a positive real-world impact on important tech projects, and support the progress of a particular software and its community. Not to mention, your contributions will look very impressive on your resumé!
3. Get help with your own projects.
If you’ve developed some of your own projects, put them on GitHub and see what other developers can do with your code. Getting feedback from other developers is one of the best ways to improve your coding skills.
4. Show off what you’ve done.
If you have projects that you’re proud of, GitHub is one of the best platforms for showing off your work. Sharing your apps in this way lets companies that might want to hire you take a look at how you write code and how you improve your code over time.
5. Build relationships.
In addition to all of the practical experience that you can gain on GitHub, you can also build a network of friends who share your interests and can help you achieve your career goals.
Taking Your Career Into Your Own Hands
There isn’t any single correct path for how to become a computer programmer. A great GPA from a top university could certainly get your foot in the door at a lot of tech companies. But if you can’t back up that pedigree with real-world knowledge of software development, you’re unlikely to make it past the first interview.
So if your school isn’t teaching you the skills you need, take matters into your own hands. Attend hackathons, start developing your own projects, and put them all on GitHub.
And don’t let yourself be convinced that a traditional computer science degree is the only option. Consider saving time and money, and fast-tracking yourself into the tech career you want at a 21st-century computer science college centered on building your knowledge and skills at the same time. The tech industry is always on the lookout for driven people who think and act differently. The best thing you can do for your career in tech is to stop being complacent and take your future into your own hands.