How to build the perfect computing portfolio


So, you’ve secured a place at your dream university studying a computer science and information technology degree. Or, you’re applying for your dream university and looking for new experiences to help jump-start your university career. Alternatively, you may consider entering the IT sector and focusing on building your career. But how do you do it? Applying for jobs with a resume in hand will only get you so far. We at Cybernews Academy want to demonstrate what you can do during university and what to do in your free time to pad out your portfolio.

What is a computing portfolio?

A computing portfolio is a collection of projects, skills, and accomplishments that showcase your abilities in the field of computing. A computing portfolio aims to demonstrate your expertise, experience, and growth throughout your educational and professional career. Students, job seekers, and professionals can all benefit from building a portfolio that showcases their unique skills.

Why are you building your portfolio?

Various elements encompass a computing portfolio, so defining why you are building your portfolio is essential. You might be looking to find your first job, presenting yourself at events, or just want to keep all your independent projects and academic work together in one space. Defining why you want to build your portfolio is a great place to start.

Define your discipline

Figure out what discipline you plan on preparing for before exploring different projects for your portfolio. A web developer's portfolio may differ from a computer scientist's. Similarly, a data scientist will perform different duties than a cyber security analyst, so you want your portfolio to represent your field of interest. Clearly defining this will help you understand what your portfolio will look like and what projects to pursue.

What can I do to pad out my portfolio?

As we’ve stated, a portfolio is a collection of projects, skills, and accomplishments compiled into a compelling visual representation of your work efforts. Your portfolio should consist of 2-5 of your best pieces of work and shouldn’t be a dumping ground for unfinished projects and loose ends. So, you must have some polished pieces ready to present to potential employers and universities. But what can you do to pad out your portfolio if you don’t have any prior experience?

Foundation courses

A foundation course at an in-person or online university could be a great way to get your academic and professional career off the ground. This course aims to give you an overview of the fundamental aspects of the discipline. A foundation degree will allow you to develop technical skills while building confidence. This degree will help you build on the academic skills required for an honors degree. A computer science degree's strong understanding of mathematics and statistics will be essential. Therefore, a foundation course will help you build on these competencies and act as a gateway into the next stage of your academic journey. Furthermore, you may complete various projects that will contribute to your portfolio.

Projects

Suppose you are interested in computer science, web development, or coding. In that case, you have probably completed some independent projects that can be used when building your computing portfolio. If you haven’t completed any projects and are unsure of where to start, there are a variety of online learning platforms that have an array of practice projects that you can use to strengthen your skills and develop your portfolio ready for that job or university interview. You can use many other platforms to create projects that can be used in your computing portfolio. Platforms like GitHub, a “code hosting platform for version control and collaboration, " allow you and others to work collaboratively on projects from anywhere in the world. This showcases your coding abilities and demonstrates your ability to work in a team while displaying your commitment to the developer community. Creating your own projects is the best way to demonstrate your skills. Start with small projects and gradually work up to more complex ones. These projects can be websites, mobile apps, data analysis reports, or anything related to your chosen field.

Computational camps

Another way of improving your technical skills that will help boost your portfolio is attending computational workshops, camps, and events. Coding camps have become increasingly popular in recent years as the demand for tech skills has grown exponentially. These camps are intensive, short-term educational programs designed to teach individuals how to code and develop software. They provide an accelerated learning experience for people looking to break into the tech industry or enhance their existing skills. Many computational camps involve hands-on learning, which will help you get to grips with your desired discipline. They often have experienced instructors on-site who can guide you through the learning process. These camps promote collaboration with other attendees, which will help you focus on different skills like teamwork and leadership. The curriculum is extensive and can cover various topics, from programming languages to app development. Coding and tech camps often culminate in a final project where students apply their skills to build real applications or software projects. These projects serve as a portfolio piece for students to showcase to potential employers. Coding and Tech programs can follow a boot camp model, which rapidly teaches students the skills they need to get hired as junior developers or even start their own projects.

Independent learning

Independent learning is essential to keeping up with the constantly changing landscape of the tech industry. Self-study will forever be a part of your life if you want to break into the computer science and information technology sector. Numerous online platforms offer free and paid programs that allow you to learn programming languages and new technologies related to your discipline. This focus on in-depth independent study will inevitably aid your professional and academic development.

Part-time programs

If you want to gain a kickstart in coding and programming you can take a part-time or full-time short course at various universities across the world. For example, the University of Edinburgh and the University of Birmingham hold 3-6 month boot camps that help you build the latest skills for web development, data analytics, and much more. Experienced lecturers lead these boot camps and allow you to work with a network of local employers. The program will enable you to learn new skills while helping you develop your portfolio by completing projects with your peers and employers. Massachusetts Institute of Technology also offers an eight-month online boot camp that allows you to build “future-ready skills” and provides you with a professional certificate in coding upon completion. You will receive insights and coding demos from renowned MIT faculty, daily live chats with learning facilitators, market-ready coding skills in a high-growth market, and a GitHub portfolio that you can share with potential employers.

Internships and work experience

A portfolio is similar to a resume, demonstrating your skills and abilities alongside your work experience. If you lack practical experience and wish to develop your skills in a fast-paced, real-world environment, then internships, volunteering, and part-time jobs are excellent options. Shadowing professionals, volunteering at a business or charity, or interning at a major company will give you a huge head start when entering the industry. Even if you're not paid, the experience and projects you work on can be invaluable additions to your portfolio.

Learn new skills and develop existing ones

Coding and programming aren’t the only valuable skills you can showcase in your portfolio. Soft skills such as critical thinking, problem-solving, communication, teamwork, and adaptability are crucial when working in a professional environment. If you can back these skills up with examples from university, internships, previous projects, or work experience, this demonstrates your abilities while ensuring your credibility.

Joining clubs and societies

Suppose you are already in university and are looking to expand your portfolio before heading out on the job hunt. Why not join a society to show genuine interest and dedication to your craft? Extracurricular activities are a great way of showing your employer that you have extensive knowledge and a great personal interest in project building and even project management. Engaging in competitions like hackathons and community activities could impact your portfolio and give you more material to work with.

Building your portfolio to get your dream job requires work, time, and commitment. We at Cybernews Academy have listed several ways to pad out your portfolio by participating in various events and activities related to your chosen discipline. Building a portfolio and securing your dream career doesn’t happen overnight. It’s a long process that will take time and exploration. What better way to explore than by immersing yourself in the glorious world of extracurricular activities, courses, and independent projects?

If you’re stuck on how to build out your portfolio, remember:

  • Foundation degrees and short courses - before embarking on your honors program, try taking a foundation year or a short course to help you understand your field of study while completing projects that help map your progress.
  • Projects - try different projects like designing a website or application and use sites like GitHub to collaborate with others on projects.
  • Coding and Tech camps - computational camps are fantastic options if you want to have fun while learning intensely, and these events will inevitably contribute to your portfolio.
  • Internships and volunteering - internships are a great way to gain practical experience in the industry and build on your multitude of skills by collaborating with others in a work environment.
  • Learn and develop new skills - part-time, independent, and skill-based learning opportunities are essential when working in tech. Continuous learning is a vital component of professional development in IT.