One of the best things you can do for yourself as you pursue a career in tech is to build a personal project. Not only do personal projects allow potential employers experience your coding chops, but it provides you with a growth mindset. Your programming knowledge and skills are not fixed qualities, you are constantly learning and growing. Your personal project allows you the freedom to experiment, learn, and implement new coding or programming skills that you learn throughout your tech career.
Why Build a Personal Project
Believe it or not, building a personal project isn't just about building a portfolio for potential employers. You might find that building a personal project allows you to focus on aspects of programming that you enjoy and don't necessarily get to do in your regular job. Plus, it can be enjoyable to build things for fun and you may rediscover your love for other programs you don't always get to work in! If you are using your personal project as a way to build a portfolio for a potential new job, make sure you're using the opportunity as a way to gain marketable skills and showcase your hard technical skills.
How to Build a Personal Project
You'll want to approach your project as a Minimum Viable Product (MVP). An MVP is a product that has just enough features to satisfy users and gather feedback for further development. This key is to start out simple. Don't overcomplicate your project so that there isn't any room to grow based on feedback from end users.
Start out with wireframes to create a non-tech version of your MVP. Once your wireframes are complete, divide your work into small pieces of User Stories. These User Stories are short descriptions of how your project functions and they're told from the perspective of a user. Then you'll want to prioritize your project by Intra-Project Dependencies, tasks that are dependent on another task being completed before it can start. Then you'll want to create a Sprint or a repeating cycle of the workflow. Lastly, once you've established your sprint, you'll want to then set up your Frequency, which is a realistic goal to complete X number of user stories in a sprint.
5 Tips for Building Your Personal Project
Embrace Imperfection: Everything about your project will not be perfect. In fact, it's not supposed to be perfect! The project should leave room for growth and feedback from the user side of the project.
Document your process: It's important you document your process and everything you've learned on your project. Some ideas would be to use a VCS or do learning journaling to document the process.
Share your experiences: In order to tell your story and share your project outcomes, make sure to share your experiences with others. This will allow feedback and discussion built around your project.
Focus on your personal objectives: No matter what, your personal objective for this project is very important to the overall goals of the project. Make sure that you have some sort of personal objective for the project you are pursuing. It will help drive your focus going forward.
Let it go:Lastly, let everything go if you need to. Give yourself permission to not finish a project. As long as you have accomplished your objective you don’t need to finish the project. Not every project has to be finished if the objective is to learn!
Building your personal project doesn't have to be overly complicated, it doesn't have to be for anyone but yourself, and give yourself the freedom to explore. Even if you don't finish your project, it's all about the process. We hope this inspires you to get started!