Thursday, December 18, 2014

Blogging for your Career

It may not seem obvious to the casual observer but one of the major ways the testing community disseminates information is through blogs. When practitioners want to find help or stay informed of the latest on goings, reflect on events, the medium-of-choice are blogs. We are able to disseminate and discuss things online in an open space for anyone to consume and criticize. A blog can also serve as a public identity; proof you exist. It signals to others in the community that you feel discussion and sharing is important. It could also signal to potential employers you have depth and experience dealing with issues they may consider to be important.

My current employer contacted me because the CTO saw me write about a topic they had a need for. I consider software testing to be an important role in the world of software development so I write about it. To them that was important or at the very least a differentiator outside of my resume or LinkedIn profile.

I believe modern software professionals must shape their own identity or else it will be shaped for you. There may be times its smart to keep your identity small but not with your career.

At the very least a blog is a starting point. I can’t tell you how many people have used my blog as a first time / conversation starter for gauging my interest in a job, product, or service offered for the industry. Don’t get me wrong I think writing is hard and requires practice but it can lead to all kinds of interesting connections if you use it right.

There are lots of reasons to blog:
  • the intrinsic value
  • to share what you know and think is important 
  • be part of the community 
  • advance your career
  • you enjoy writing 
Being afraid to write or say something in public is NOT a good reason to avoid blogging. A few years ago when Google was testing their Chromebook concept they created the Chromebook CR-48 as part of the Chrome OS Pilot Program and I believe that having this blog was a major contributing factor to me qualifying (early on) for the program. For more posts on the early versions of ChromeOS look here.

Where do you start?

There are a lot of popular options. In the book Technical Blogging author Antonio Cangiano suggests the 3 options:

  • Wordpress (his recommended smart choice)
  • Static site generators like Jekyll (think GitHub pages) or Octopress that use Markdown
  • Blogging services like Wordpress.com, Blogger, etc. 




Cangiano recommends getting your own web host and setting up a Wordpress site because it has the most customization options. Up until a few months ago I would have agreed (Wordpress) but I’d like to suggest another option for those who’d rather start writing right away.
Medium.com
I’ve written two “stories” on Medium here and here and in that short time I have to say Medium is by far the best writing platform. It’s not as great as Wordpress for customizing your identity but it is a great writing platform and for anyone thinking about blogging for their career one word of advice - content is king. Start with content. Medium allows you to focus on the content (easy to write, share drafts, simple formatting, etc).

Create your public identity and signal to others in the community what you feel is important. Blog for your career and if you want to do some research take a look at Cangiano’s book. What should you write about? I like Cangiano’s advice “blog for the position you want, not the one you have. “

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