Review: Software Developer Career Management Courses III


[ Part 3 of 3 ]

This is part 3 of a 3 part series I have done on reviews of software developer career management courses. In part I I reviewed “Get Involved!” by Scott Hanselman and Rob Conery. You can read that review here. In part II I reviewed, “Becoming an Outlier: Reprogramming the Developer Mind” by Cory House. Part 2 can be read here.

Course 3: “How to Market Yourself as a Software Developer”

I first came across John Sonmez when he was the instructor for several courses I took on Pluralsight. This lead me to check out his blog and I was really interested in his posts on topics relating to software developer careers. When I saw that John was coming out with a course on software developer careers and how to market yourself, I jumped at the chance to get it as a pre-order and couldn’t wait for it to be released. John’s course emphasizes that software developers should be looking at themselves and their work like they are a business or product. Software developers should be creating a personal brand and marketing themselves to increase the quantity and quality of opportunities that come their way.

“How to Market Yourself as a Software Developer” covers a wide range of topics including personal branding, creating a blog, social networks, resume advice, networking and getting your name out there. The course also includes video interviews with top developers like Jon Skeet, Jeff Atwood, and Uncle Bob Martin. The course is made up of several books, multiple video tutorials and the aforementioned video interviews. There is quite a bit of material to go through!

As I mentioned previously, I purchased the course when it was in pre-release. Upon purchase, I was able to download one of the books from the course titled, “Why Marketing Yourself is Important”. The book is around 75 pages in length and gave a good introduction to all of the course topics. Other modules of the course cover the topics in greater detail. This book was an easy read thanks to John’s clear and concise way of explaining things. This book alone is enough to get you thinking about why marketing yourself is important and what you can do to get started down that path. The section on personal branding opened my eyes to things I wish I would have started thinking about and implementing years ago.

Once the course was released I was able to download the remaining bits to the course. The .zip included several folders for the different sections of the course and then some “loose files” that were some of the reading material. This leads me to an nit-picky complaint about opportunity for the course. There isn’t a readme file or an obvious starting point or path through the course. You extract the archive after downloading the course and are staring at a bunch of files and folders with no direction on where to start. In my opinion, the “Why Marketing Yourself is Important” book is a great overview of all the material covered in the course and should be your entry point into the course. In the end it really doesn’t matter what order you consume the material in, but looking back, I’m glad I started with the book I did.

The 2 video courses on creating a blog and building a brand are very detailed and very well done. In the blog videos, John takes you step by step through picking a blogging platform, where and how to host your blog as well as his tips and tricks to help get your blog noticed. One blogging tip that I have heard John and others say is that you need to be consistent with posting new material to your blog. If you take a look at my posting history, this is obviously something I still need to work on. There was so much info on branding to soak up that I’ve watched the videos on building a personal brand twice. John covers what branding is in general, what a personal brand is, how to craft your message, he covers visuals (logos, head shots, etc), the importance of consistency and finally repeated exposure. For me, this was probably the portion of the course that I got the most out of and made it worth the money.

One of the other books included in the course is, “Getting Your Name Out There”. It is 39 pages of advice on how to get exposure for your personal brand through a variety of channels. John gives advice on how to best gain exposure through blogs, magazines, books, videos, podcasting, speaking engagements and open source software. While not as in-depth as some of the other portions of the course, John still gives a lot of great tips, tricks and links to more information on a ton of topics. For instance, in the section on creating video John gives software and equipment recommendations based on his experiences recording his YouTube videos.

“Resume Advice That Will Make or Break You” is a 14 page book of advice on… you guessed it… resumes. Each page is covers a topic and gives tips on that topic that will “Make You” and tips that will “Break You”. While there weren’t any ground breaking tips on resumes in here for me, I did pick up a few tips on things I could do better and it helped re-affirm some of the things I had done the last time I was job hunting. If you are someone that hasn’t had much resume or job hunting experience, the tips and advice in here (like tailoring your resume to the job you are applying for) should prove invaluable to you. Something that I wish John would have included in the book are some examples of good, modern, developer resumes. In the book he talks about being creative with your resume design so that you stand out, and it would have been nice to see a couple examples of what he is talking about.

The last of the books in the course is “The Ultimate Developer’s Guide To Social Networks”. In this book John lays out what your goals should be for using social networks (like building an audience and a solid reputation in the industry) and then provides his strategy to achieve those goals. The bulk of the pages in the book are spent covering all the different social media platforms and how to get the most out of them. There is also a section on useful tools where John suggests some applications and plug-ins he’s used to make managing his social media accounts less time consuming. Of all the content in the course, this is probably the section that I got the least amount of value out of. That being said, I still picked up a couple tidbits like Google+ Authorship that could pay dividends down the road.

Then there’s the interviews. 10 of them. With “famous” software developers that you have probably heard of sharing how they got started and how they built their personal brands and continue to market themselves. There are interviews with Uncle Bob Martin, Christian Heilmann, Derek Bailey, Jeff Atwood, John Papa, Jon Skeet, Josh Earl, Miguel Castro, Pinal Dave and Rob Conery. The interviews are great and I found it very interesting to hear their stories. Easily my favorite part of the course!

Last but not least is the “Networking Do’s and Don’ts for a Software Developer”. This is a list of 2 dozen or so networking tips to help you make connections and grow your personal network. There is some great advice in here that has already paid dividends to me in a small amount of time. The only down side to this piece of the course if that it is delivered in the form of a .jpg file. While I appreciate the design and artwork that went into this, I found it a bit awkward to try and read compared to the other materials in the course. This is because I had to zoom in on the file to get it to a level where I could read the text and then I had to scroll around to be able to read all the tips. Not sure why this wasn’t put into book form like the the rest of the reading materials.

Final Thoughts

“How to Market Yourself as a Software Developer” is a course packed with information. Having been through several other career related courses, there were some topics that were repeated from the other courses, but John had his own insight and advice to give on them. John’s advice is all based on his experience learning to market himself as a software developer and build his personal brand. In typical John Sonmez style, the videos and books are easy to digest and understand. This course contains the type of advice that I wish I would have received 15+ years ago when I started as a software developer. Implementing everything that John suggests in this course will take a bit of time and commitment. But if you are serious about advancing your career and making a name for yourself, then this course will definitely help to put you on the right path to making that a reality.