Hi all, I'm currently job searching after being laid off (junior engineer with 2.5 years of experience) and I know after browsing around here that side projects are heavily encouraged (especially Android apps) to boost up your portfolio and chances of getting an interview.
What are your opinions on doing certifications? I am making my way through an AWS Solutions Architect course while doing side projects - is it a complete waste of time or is it worth balancing along side project work?
That's a great question!
Certification is a great alternative to doing a side project, especially if it is in the direction that you'd like to progress your career in. i.e., if you are doing an AWS Solutions Architect, then I am assuming you have an interest in DevOps and how deployment to the cloud works. This also applies to side projects as well I think.
Think of it this way:
Certification is a license that a well-known company says you're competent at - a higher certification level means higher competency and more trust that you know at least X amount of information to do the job
Side project is showing that you know by providing an example PRODUCTION level code. It shows your competency through code and documentation and proof that you can do X amount.
I think both complement each other but Side projects have more to show because you're able to show your 100% while certification gives you a paper saying you completed minimum required training and level testing.
Does this makes sense?
Yes, makes sense! Thank you Junghwan, super helpful
While certificates provide value in theory, in reality the people who frequently try to get cetificates are often doing so last ditch effort to highlight their skills as an engineer. Software as a field values practicality and the knowledge gained from certificates often focuses on presenting infomation in a generic manner (since it can't capture all the nuances of context). A lot of folks call it a day after getting a cetificate, which is why they find themselves struggling to get any opportunties from them: there's no clear sense of what are they doing with that information. If you want to pursus certificates & ensure you get the most value, try using that information in a practical manner (either by using it in a side project or using it at work).
Here's the logic for whether you should do a certificate:
For context, I have been on the hiring loop for 1,000+ engineers across all types of companies (Course Hero [$3.6B startup], PayPal, Meta, Robinhood), and I have literally never seen a certificate make a difference in a hiring decision.
At the end of the day, software engineers are hired if they can concretely prove that they write great code and build quality software. A digital piece of paper on its own doesn't show that, while a side project (especially if it has 1,000+ users) does. So if you're doing a certificate just for learning, make sure to tactically apply its concepts somewhere, either to an open-source repo or a side project.
Personally, I have gotten hundreds of interview opportunities with top companies (Google, Uber, Block, Instacart) with side projects for the very reasons I just mentioned: [Case Study] Building An App With 1,000,000+ Users To Get Into Facebook
Thanks Jonathan and Alex, super helpful!