“If you’re an engineer and you don’t use GitHub, you don’t exist.” That’s what major VC Ben Horowitz told CNET back in 2012—and with approximately 10,000 new users signing up every day, Horowitz’s claim is looking pretty spot-on.
But just having an account won’t get you very far. If you want to use GitHub to boost your reputation, show off your skills, and build credibility, you’ve got to be strategic.
5 Tips for Boosting Your GitHub Profile
1. Start With What You Know
If you’re having trouble finding projects to contribute to, try solving bugs or issues in a library you’re already using. In the course of your work, you’ll naturally find things to fix—so fix them! Building up a history of patches—even simple, one-line ones—demonstrates that you’re an active and valuable member of the OSS community.
2. Comment Your Commits
When it comes to coding, it’s better to add too much information than too little. Make it a habit of commenting on every commit you make, even if you think the reason for the edit is obvious. Your change logs should be detailed enough that new users can come in, clone the repository, and easily figure out what’s going on.
3. Show Your Progress
Some developers worry they’ll be judged for the sub-par code they write when they’re experimenting with a new language. But people (especially employers) actually like seeing your mistake-filled commits. Even if your code has a ton of problems, it shows you’re willing to learn and challenge yourself. The more you play with the language, the better you’ll get, and employers will love seeing this improvement in your code over time.
4. Start a Project
Obviously, just creating a repository looks good. But having one that people are interested in? Well, that looks even better. To boost your chances of getting contributors, ask yourself what kind of users will be interested in your project. Then reach out to them. A simple, “Hey, I’m a huge fan of your work and would love your feedback on my project,” will do the trick. You should also make sure your project has thorough, complete Readme, License and Contributing files.
5. Do Some Clean-Up
Github wasn’t designed to be an alternative to a resume or a LinkedIn profile—so it can be difficult for people looking at your page to quickly get an overview of your skills and achievements. Get around this problem by clearing the clutter. Do you have projects you forked that you never ended up contributing to? Delete them. Maybe a project you spent a significant amount of time on is buried beneath ones you barely touched; consider getting rid of the less-important ones so your most meaningful work stands out.
If you want a summary of your Github work, check out Github Resumes. Once you enter your username, the site will automatically generate a “resume” that includes your languages and how often you work in each one, your popular repositories, and your organizations.
Syed Ahmed is the co-founder and Chief Technology Office at TARA. He graduated in 2014 from Queensland University of Technology with two master degrees and founded TARA Inc. in 2016. Syed specializes in creating applications related to machine learning and data science, as well as process development and business process engineering.