I've been playing with RoR for about 2 years. Bought all the books,
built prototypes for at least a dozen apps, follow the online
discussions, and have a good basic understanding of things.
The challenge is that SW design hasn't been my full time occupation
for several years. I'm thinking about making the jump, but would like
to find a way of certifying that I can be a productive member of the
community. It's a risk for a company to hire a programmer without a
portfolio. Any suggestions?
Well first off, as long as you can show that you're generally a smart
guy with the right mindset that may be enough (that's been the usual
way in which the company I work for hires people).
That said any or all of:
- contributions to relevant open source projects (existing (eg rails)
or you own
- write your own apps. Scratch that itch you've always had
+1. Even if the app you want to write has already been done it can be a great way to showcase what you can do (code style, tests, documentation, etc.) I wrote an app like that partly to scratch an itch, but more so that I'd have a full working site that (technical) clients could look at in it's entirety. Saves the whole "well i did all this work, but I can't show you cause I was under NDA"...
Another option is to find a rails plugin that is complicated and build a demo around it. Maybe one of the search engines (solr, sphinx, etc). I did that with http://facebooker.pjkh.com -- partly to get a sense of the facebooker plugin and partly because if I'm asking questions so are others and maybe it will help those folks.
- track record of speaking at conferences, local user groups etc
- writing articles (whether on your own blog or elsewhere) about
relevant topics (doesn't need to be 'how to prove the four colour
theorem' - showing that you can effectively communicate even basic
skills shows a decent mastery of the topic)
- (I'm sure others will think of things to fill this space)
- Make a point of answering questions on this mailing list. Answer the ones you know, see if you can answer the ones you don't know by figuring it out. Many times it's 10 minutes of digging through the Rails source code and you'll learn something along the way. I doubt it will get you hired, but it's nice to be able to tell a potential client search for 'email@example.com' on google groups. Shows a nice long history of answering questions (and hopefully your competency
- Search the open Rails bugs and see if you can fix them. Yet another point you can show potential clients.