The other day in one of the Rather Useful Seminars, Richard Adams (@dickyadams) from Microsoft Studios brought up a rather important point on internships and in particular, getting an internship. One of the topics he discussed was showing off your levels of skill in a way that a company can visually see than you jotting down that you have good C# skills on your CV. To which he said, start a blog and post about what you do.
When I was a first year, Rob really pushed to get folks starting blogs and it didn’t really take off. Only a few of our year really bothered but when I got into my second year, Rob pushed again with the new first year group who got into it and started up a project called Hull Computer Science Blogs (CS Blogs) which was a collection of Hull students’ blog sites as a single blog roll. The problem is, there aren’t any fresh faces on the site and haven’t been since the project started. There are a few of the current second year blog sites available but it is mainly built up of third or fourth year students and the odd lecturer.
Blogging is important to build a public profile of who you are as a person both personally and professionally. Employers will look at blog sites and e-portfolios to reassure themselves that you are right for the job that you’re applying for. While current first year students may feel that it isn’t relevant to them now, it will be in a few years so getting a head start is a bonus. Creating a blog site has been a major aid in presenting to the employers I have applied to that I have the abilities they are looking for in a software developer. I don’t believe I would be where I am at the moment if it wasn’t for my blog. There are other factors to your professional profile but everyone reads blog posts, not just employers, and you will start to get recognised.
The best use of your blog site will be as a tool to record the projects you’re working on now. For example, say you are working on a small Windows Phone project in your first year to gain a better understand of its APIs or just advancing your C# knowledge, blog about it as you develop it. It shows that you’re interested in the subject and appeals to the companies that consider you when you start to apply for jobs.
An example of this using personal experiences, I started to learn Windows Phone development in my first year at university when the year group were still learning to develop in console back in 2010 and that is also when I started blogging about the projects I was working on. It’s all about you ambition and physically showing that you can do what you say you’re good at when you come to write it down on your CV. You can even blog about the way you developed a project showing snippets of code. It encourages readers to comment and help you with ways to improve and you’ll become a better programmer.
As someone reading my blog, you may even notice that I don’t blog as often as I used to and there are reasons behind this. As you get towards the end of your university career, deadlines and coursework to tend to take over everything you do so you may notice the odd article pop up here and there (also in my case I am the Technology Editor for The Hullfire student newspaper and occasionally write for Microsoft Student Blogs). One thing Rob always told us, it’s not about posting everyday for the sake of it. However, deadlines in your final year should be another sign to start posting early, it all pays off in the future and you will feel better for doing it, I guarantee.
Feeling motivated now but don’t think it’s worth the effort for what you think will be little readership? Maybe stats will convince you!
While stats on a personal blog generally don’t mean much to you for bragging rights like popular websites which publish news style articles, it does give you details of how many people are reading your blog. Most of my readers actually come to my blog by finding me on search engine results when looking for how to program a certain thing in their project and come across some of my how to’s, tutorials or code snippets that I have shared. So never assume that you won’t get regular readers or viewers because they will come.
If I could find a way to get every single Computer Science student to set up a blog and start posting then I would but unfortunately you have to do it yourself folks. It is a great experience and like I stated before, it will start getting you recognised so go for it!