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Ask HN: How Blog/side projects helped you land a job
62 points by mraza007 3 months ago | hide | past | favorite | 35 comments
I would love to hear from people who a got job through their side project or got recognized through there blog. What was the experience like and how much leetcoding did you do?

While I was working on my “startup” one guy wrote me the following: “I lost my internship due to COVID. I’d like to help you guys with your project”.

So, it was hard to us to find some job for the guy but we were open sourcing our job. I told the guy to work on a next version of our open-sourced Python package[1].

After we released it, it went #1 on Hacker News. I put him everywhere in the credits. You can still see him in our “Team” section[2].

The next day he got 2 offers.

[1] https://github.com/kotartemiy/newscatcher

[2] https://newscatcherapi.com/team

Oh wow that's pretty cool. Definitely liked the newscatcher project

Hey I remember your package! Why did you write startup in quotes?

Because it is business. I think we all should stop calling “startup” any project. But. That’s how people like to talk these days.

When I was early in my career I would do a variation of this. I would read the job descriptions for something unique that I could write a demo app for the show that I actually, A. Had the skills to do the thing they wanted, B. Had the dedication to do something like this.

It got me to the interview stage often and then it was up to whether I knew the nonsense whiteboard leetcode situation, which I've never been particularly good at.

If I got the job it was because they were pre-sold on step one's effectiveness I've always felt like.

This is a very good point.

During the interview for my current job (Machine Learning & Deep Learning Scientist), I didn't get any theoretical questions on machine learning, but only questions on my projects.

I didn't study machine learning per say, I followed dozens of online courses but no diploma in this exact field, and my last job was in traditional software engineering.

Despite this, I managed to do two small projects (one of music genre recognition [1] on my own iTunes library, and one of eye motion recognition [2]). For both I had published the code on my GitHub, and written a small Medium article to expose the problem I was trying to solve, the data available, the issues I faced and how I overcame them.

I personally believe that this is all the recruiter wanted to know, and why I encourage interns and candidates to work on their side projects.

References of the projects: [1] https://github.com/despoisj/DeepAudioClassification [1] https://medium.com/@juliendespois/finding-the-genre-of-a-son... [2] https://github.com/despoisj/DeepEyeControl [2] https://medium.com/hackernoon/talk-to-you-computer-with-you-...

Agreed. Side projects really help you but don't you think it would be better to leetcode if your aim to land a position at FAANG

While the creator of Buttondown [0] and Spoonbill [1] wasn't trying to get a job, I really like the philosophy he talks about in this post about side projects [2]:

> If you are going to find a project, I encourage you to find something particularly small and particularly durable (which is to say, does not require constant or near-constant attention), so that you give yourself the ability to take a break from the project for weeks or months while it accumulates interest.

*edited for formatting

[0]: https://buttondown.email/

[1]: https://spoonbill.io/

[2]: https://jmduke.com/2020/06/26/atypical-success

Not really a side project, however:

I wanted to make the jump from system administration to devops engineering. As i started started learning ansible i noticed that something was a little off and submitted a small pull request about one of the core ansible modules.

That didn't get very far because the maintainers didn't like the way it was and also i hadn't time to fix it the way the maintainers wanted it to be (not having time was also one of the reasons for me wanting to make the jump).

Despite this, I included a link to that pull request in my cv anyway (along with other OSS contributions) and that definitely helped, in two ways:

1. during the technical interview i was asked about that pull request and that meant i was able to direct the discourse where i wanted and where it was most favorable to me and basically talk about stuff i knew about (i mean, i did the stuff).

2. as i have been told much later, their gut feeling when taking the decision about my hiring was that i wouldn't have had much problem in figuring how stuff work even though i wasn't technically qualified for that position (in my opinion I was like ~30% qualified). Worst case scenario, i could have been let go during the probation period (I was not).

That was my experience.

Needless to say, that helped me getting hired. I then had to work my a.. off to fill the gaps in my competencies and learn a lot of the new tools. It's been almost a year now and I'm fairly confident with most of the stack, even though there are a few components that I still have to properly study and learn.

So far, it's been a pleasure.

I started writing blog 5-6 years ago. Initially, there was no tracktion. With time, as the content grew and a few of my posts got attention on HN and StackOverflow; I started getting requests from companies to work for them. A few of them were small gigs but I have been working with 2 companies as a freelancer since last 6 years.

A few of the posts were research based and therefore they wanted to know more about my insight. A few of them were tutorials and they wanted me to build something for them. Hope this helps. If you have any other question, send me an email. (in profile)

I've never worked a day in my life as a developer, but I've been offered positions multiple times because of side projects.

My mantra to everyone is to just build things. Don't wait to be asked. Build things. Makers make things.

I built an ecommerce site out of curiosity using some of the lesser documented PayPal APIs and services for micro-transactions (even talking to their developers to get concrete answers.) While relaying this to someone at a tech meetup I was offered a job on the spot from a fintech company CTO because he'd been trying to solve the same problem and was impressed with how far I went to solve it out of curiosity.

Another time I got invited to beta a product from a company and was able to show them a variety of uses cases by building small projects around it, which lead to a job offer.

I wasn't doing particularly sophisticated coding, but I knew enough to build everything from mobile apps to server-sided apis.

I never would have made it past the recruiter for either company had I taken the traditional route because I've never formally worked for anyone in tech. However my habit of learning all kinds of frameworks and outside thinking was something they realized they wanted.

P.S. In the latter instance I also blogged about their technology which helped showcase its potential.

+1 on this. Trying to get back that hacker velocity that doing professional software engineering seems to put a drag on.

So, here in Austria, I applied for a few software development and architecture jobs in 2015. Went for interviews at 3 different companies. Was sad not a single one had asked me about my blog as I'd written quite a few posts over the years.

On the 3rd interview I asked to look at the CV that they'd been given by the recruiter. It turns out the recruiter had deleted both my blog and my GitHub link.

Presumably the recruiter feared the company might be able to contact me directly via those links. Or maybe just didn't understand what they were.

A classic case of the recruiter looking after their own interests instead of those of their customers.

So - in conclusion - the last time I searched for a job - my blog with > 250 posts [1] had zero influence on the outcome of my job search :-)

It's a good thing I wrote the posts for the fun of it, and not with the intention of improving my job chances.

[1] https://www.databasesandlife.com/newest/

I started my blog in 1999, so it was a different world. I guess it's a story of right place, right time more than anything else. At that time it took some REAL effort and at least a little bit of skill to get a blog going. But I'm here because I started that silly little blog. I got my first real programming job because I was able to show that I could do real programming from having that blog. My second job, more or less the same thing. That blog led to me starting my own tiny little hosting company. And because I had some decent tech cred on my resume, I got yet another job. Then, finally, that got me here. That didn't happen over night, it took from 1999 until 2013. I couldn't be happier with my current position and hope to never change jobs again.

Almost every professional job I've had since the 1990s was because I liked Slashdot in 1999 and wanted a site just like that. So, thanks CmndrTaco!

I created an app for helping people find parking at my college. It was really simple, each parking lot had a traffic light color corresponding with likelihood of being full (Red: likely full, Yellow: possibly full, Green: unlikely to be full).

It was based off of class times, so when more classes were in session near the buildings of those parking lots, the color would change.

I put it on my resume, and had it in the Google Play Store during my time at university. Got asked about it during interviews and every interviewer really liked the fact that I saw a problem, proposed a solution/assistance, and published it to the world.

I was working at a larger R&D firm (BBN Technologies, since acquired by Raytheon), and had some intriguing projects involving Semantic Web technologies (DAML: http://www.daml.org/). I got interested in how that technology might support my separate interests in the completely unrelated field of digital technologies for Bible study. So i started:

* blogging (http://semanticbible.com/blogos/, now rather moribund)

* creating hobby projects (like The Composite Gospel Index: http://semanticbible.com/cgi/cgi-overview.html and New Testament Names: http://semanticbible.com/ntn/ntn-overview.html)

* submitting talk proposals to biblical studies conferences, though I had virtually no formal education in that field.

It was a classic "FieldA + FieldB = Innovation" strategy: but at the time it wasn't a deliberate strategy, just what interested me. I met some folks at the conferences who made a software package I'd never heard of (Logos Bible Software), which led to discussions and a job offer. 13 years later, i'm the Director of Content Innovation there. My side projects were responsible for the original connection, as well as demonstrating my interests and competence, and the novel contributions I could make to the company.

I created a few open source Opera (presto) extensions. Didn't even put it in my online profile as I considered it a work in progress and wanted to improve the code more. One got prominent because Opera featured it on their extension site (something like "Editors' Pick", don't remember). Another became popular with users. Somebody looked up the code, found my email ID, invited me to eLance and paid me well to create a few Firefox extensions. It was unexpected as I hated javascript, and was in love with Python. (Still do.)

Another one, I remember was a blog I started to experiment with Google Adsense. It didn't make much money, but once or twice a day made a few cents. There were some book reviews, and links to "read more" on a few article (for readers who wanted to research more on the subject). I added Amazon referral links to it. Was shocked a week later to see that I had made around $50 or so with one click because somebody who had clicked the link bought some expensive item on Amazon! While the blog was alive, Amazon ads / links made me more money than Google Adsense. That was some fun experiment, while it lasted.

I wrote a blog post about hugging that a google recruiter saw and emailed me about. I probably would've been contacted anyway, but the post certainly helped with making an impression!


This was a very small thing but in 2017 I had a tech blog on WordPress (very simple stuff). I didn't code anything. Just used a theme I bought online, and now and then fidgeted with whatever (little) I knew of CSS. I found a job description on LinkedIn for an opportunity pertaining to WordPress. What helped me was the interview where they asked me about my experience with the platform. This wasn't in the US, and my guess is WordPress wasn't big back home in 2017, so however little my experience was, it helped me get the job.

As someone who hires, I can tell you it works. I hired a Go developer after finding his ebook and blog posts and he did a project that was worth $10K+ USD. If he didn't have that ebook and his blog along with his open source contributions, I wouldn't have found him and hired him.

Last time i was looking for a job, i didnt do leetcoding at a big company which surprised me as im pretty junior, then in my interview with the team lead he said he looked at my two tiny PRs to an some opensource projects and thanked me for contributing, got an offer from it as well

When I was applying for my first job I passed various filters and eventually landed a cool job thanks to a side project.

It helped to show case that I understood several parts of the software development cycle, my communication style and documentation. This, I believe, would be hard to describe on a CV. [1]

It also helped me a lot to practice and learn things otherwise I wouldn't have, and that I put on practice for the interview task. [2]

Here are my examples:

[1] https://github.com/eaguilera23/miSalleScrapper [2] https://github.com/eaguilera23/ex_banking

Sure. I've run in the past popular blog in the past about ERP software which for some keywords came up as third or so in Google and I got lots of offers from that.

Since I'm not working in that exact field anymore this blog has lost its rankings. I do have another blog that I'm building (https://integrated.ee) which I kind of hope achieving something similar in the future. So far from the new blog there has been one contact which didn't lead to any significant co-operation.

I started building two blogs about tech in 2012, in the first blog I wrote a lot about automation with WordPress, and the other one I wrote about cross platform automation with python. The main goal when I build those two blogs is to get extra income from Google Adsense. Then things started to change when I joined a few communities and getting active in there. I contribute and share what I created until the day I got few offers a month.

that's great. Honestly blogs really help and this is why I believe blogging is one way of giving back to the community and I have been blogging for about 2 years now but I have been on and off. I need to start contributing actively

Is the blog on automation with python still active? I'd love to take a look.

I posted here (on a different account) and a VP-level tweeted it saying it was cool. I pestered them on email and LinkedIn until they responded (I assumed they were busy and was very polite). I got very lucky with who I contacted and how it worked out, but if you get on the front page you’ll notice a lot of automatic tweets are sent out. Can be good to sort by popularity and find potential people to connect with.

Blogging and side projects helped me land a job at Pixar! Many years later I wrote about it in an article- https://hackernoon.com/3-things-i-learned-from-5-jobs-in-12-... Blogging about how blogging helped me get a job got me the job I have now as CTO at Tonk Tonk Games :)

I had a "consultancy" website up, with basic content. Maybe a dozen posts, never kept the habit.

Because I had something (even though it was crap), I was able to talk my way into being the cofounder at a startup, then a job at a FAANG at a crazy salary. The FAANG recruiter mentioned specifically that they saw I was running my own shop (even though I never landed any accounts > $10k in the 6 months).

A recruiter for the company I'm at saw my github with a few Elixir projects, which was one of the reasons he reached out to me. During the interview my use of Elixir and dynamic languages came up as well since the company uses Clojure. A previous job I found out that the VP had read my blog and utilized it to work with Excel and .NET.

For me it was a talking point in my interview. Helps to break the ice to talk about the architecture I used.

I write about iOS development stuff on my blog (https://fluffy.es), and I have gotten a few mentoring gig for junior iOS dev, and gotten job offers as well.

Didn't do any leetcoding, just keep on writing helpful tutorial

Oh wow definitely looking up to you as my motivation

My web scraping related blog posts helped me to get the current job and many side gigs. All because I had written not only code related tuts but also discuss about theirs efficiency and other stuff that help non coder people like CEOs etc to learn about me.

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