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I work as a Ruby developer/dev lead at a small startup company. I end up splitting my time between writing code, helping the team use more agile methodology and working with the product manager to get stories ready for the dev team. I enjoy my work and generally rate my enjoyment of work on these criteria:

  • Good boss (no pointed haired managers)
  • time is allowed to maintain the codebase (refactor code/write unit tests/etc.)
  • get paid competitive salary
  • no stupid deadlines
  • work normal hours

I am in no hurry to change jobs, but at least in the Ruby community it seems that everybody and their brother has their own blog, open source projects, or some other form of personal branding. I can just not get into these things. I really enjoy my work but when I go home I am ready to do something else and not spend hours writing blogs or writing more software. Is a requirement to write, blog, or engage in other forms of personal branding to keep myself marketable?

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required? absolutely not, but required for good work? well I've not found any in years so, perhaps I should work on some personal branding to see if that's the bloody problem.. –  Jimmy Hoffa Jan 5 '13 at 3:34
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@JimmyHoffa not sure where you're located but I regularly see ads on here from Jane St looking for functional programmers. –  James Jan 5 '13 at 3:51
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The problem with this question (other than probably being off topic) is the use of the words requirement and necessary. That results in only one possible answer.. no. If you are asking if branding is something 'recommended', you should really ask that. –  GrandmasterB Jan 5 '13 at 4:50
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@Josh Moore, You are already branding yourself here by asking a question with score of 12 (so far))). –  superM Jan 5 '13 at 8:25
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Not required, but it's gotten me every job I've had in the last 30 years. And that includes when I wasn't a Big Name in my chosen slice of the field. And it helped make my name for a while. –  Ross Patterson Jan 5 '13 at 15:55
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8 Answers

Is personal branding (blogs, etc) required to find good programming work in the US?

No, but a personal blog, GitHub Id, or Stackoverflow Id can be a great way to demonstrate your ability to code solutions for interesting and challenging problems.

Bottom Line: While none of aforementioned are required for employment as a programmer, all of them can certainly help you gain employment.

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Totally agreed. It's not required, but it certainly helps. I've been doing some hiring recently and candidates with an online presence (blog, github account, etc.) were certainly more likely to get an interview. –  MatthewKing Jan 5 '13 at 2:18
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@MatthewKing - My experience too. And a few even saved themselves time by hastening their inevitable disqualification from consideration. –  psr Jan 5 '13 at 3:24
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Well said. It's evidence of your skill. As an interviewer, I always google a candidate. Usually I can find a LinkedIn profile, sometimes a blog. This tells volumes about the candidate. –  Chuck Conway Jan 8 '13 at 19:59
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A blog may get you noticed, but it's your experience, skills, and references that get you hired. Recruiters don't call me because I hang out on Stack Overflow or because I have a (long defunct) blog, they call me because they've looked at my resume, or because friends or former co-workers have referred me to them, etc.

I've tried starting my own blog, but I just don't have the interest or the energy. I have zero interest in participating in open-source projects. I'd rather spend my free time writing songs or walking the dog or doing anything else but coding (except for occasional prototypes when I'm chewing on a problem). And I don't have any trouble getting interviews.

When it comes to finding a new job, you're better off investing your time in building a network (such as on LinkedIn or the old-fashioned way) than a web site.

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If it was required, you probably wouldn't have got the job you have.

Personal branding isn't something that is easy to do. Jeff Atwood once said in a blog post:

Mere competence in a technical discipline is not enough. That's the minimum required to keep your head above water. To have a personal brand, you must do something remarkable:

  • lead a user group
  • create a popular open-source project
  • write a blog
  • publish a book
  • publish articles
  • speak at conferences

Do whatever you like. Pick one, pick them all, or pick something that's not on this list.* As long as it's public, and it advances your skills, you're creating a personal brand. And that will help your career far more than technical chops ever will.

So it obviously isn't required, but it is one of the best things that you can do for your career and your image, if you do it right.

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Absolutely not. This kind of "personal branding," as you put it, can help to get someone's foot in the door, but it will never make the difference between getting a job and not - you still have to do well in the interview.

And a really, really good job will probably want someone well rounded, who does more than programming in his-or-her spare time.

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I guess no it is not REQUIRED, but other than that I disagree as: 1. Getting your foot in the door is a big deal - you can't get job that you can't get an interview with. 2. Those contributions will be (hopefully) on top of their full-time work, but still important enough for them to find time to do, because they value them enough, and that's the point. –  Michael Durrant Jan 5 '13 at 3:43
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I disagree, personal branding is everything, from your resume to your interview. You are pitching yourself for the position. Having a blog, a stackoverflow profile or working on open source projects is evidence that you are skilled. –  Chuck Conway Jan 8 '13 at 20:13
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+1 A lot of good devs just have better things to do. These things might include 1) Doing more work for their actual employer 2) Working on closed-source side projects that make money 3) Spending time with family/significant other 4) living life. Writing rants about API design or porting libraries from one language to another is a hobby, not a requirement of any sort. It also doesn't necessarily show any skill and shows that you eleceted to do THOSE things instead of the point I listed above. –  MrFox Jan 9 '13 at 18:20
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It depends on how you intend to get a job. If your blog/presence attracts an audience then word-of-mouth may result in you getting headhunted. You'd want to have some valuable things to say, not stuff like the merits of 2 space indentation.

If you just put it on your CV and give it to a recruiter then it's unlikely to make a difference as all they do is pull keywords from your CV and enter them into an internal search engine. An interviewer is unlikely to peruse your code either before or during an interview unless they've very specific requirements that need to be met, e.g. Some obscure technology.

That said, I've seen job adverts where it's explicitly stated that a GitHub account will help your application, but from what I can tell these tend to be from more start-up type javascript companies who look for 'rock stars' and 'ninjas'. Maybe they're just looking for code snippets to poach.

I do mention on my CV that I'm active on stackoverflow, because it shows enthusiasm for the field rather than demonstrating any technical ability. Some places appreciate this, some don't give a hoot.

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Is a requirement to write, blog, or engage in other forms of personal branding to keep myself marketable?

These activities are mainly done to get noticed or probably from a desire to share your experience with other potentially interested programmers.

Is it required? - Absolutely NOT.

Being presentable is NOT a pre-request for blogging and publicly presenting in Tech events. However, having a personal blog or being involved in open-source project may create a positive image of your GEEKY characteristics of your love in technology.

It is also very common that certain group of programmers may use all these to increase their online presence and marketability for different purposes. Because, presenting/speaking in community events and blogging on "hot" topics seems to be cool.

In summary: even-though it is NOT required, but it certainly helps in building a positive, Geeky online profile and increase your chances in getting noticed for open job positions or contracts.

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The best reason I've heard for having a blog is as a place to put comments and notes about tricky problems you've solved. That way in a few months time you can go back and it'll prompt you. I did start my own blog as a way of 'promoting' myself but there isn't much on there and those articles I have posted I would feel a bit shy about using at a job interview. So, it's not been particularly successful!

That said it seems to me that you shouldn't feel guilty about enjoying time at home away from your job. Do what's right for you. I learn better when I want to, not when I feel it's an obligation. Your time at home is yours, enjoy it. That said if you set some time aside for personal development, whether that be learning new software or just reading Tech sites and blogs that can only be advantageous.

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It also depends very much on how much you like to share your knowlege with other people. As I get older I find much joy in teaching the younger folks the things I already know. Gettings mails from strangers who tell you they a really did learn something from your website is something money can't buy.

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