Dev-XP-Session on Career with Martin

Chat session for developers, designers and technology enthusiasts who wants to advance their career.

Martin McGovern


Hello Everyone,

Hello everyone, welcome to today’s dev-xp-session.

This session is centered around career development. We will be having the Career coach from Udacity, Martin McGovern here with us today! We trust it would be a wonderful session.

Hey Everyone!

To get started, We would like to know more about you @Martin McGovern

My name is Martin. I'm a Career Advisor and Program Manager with Udacity on their Careers Team. My job is to support students in their job search and create courses and programs that help people network better, crush the interview, organize their search, and land the job of their dreams.

Also been a private career coach for years, working with Development bootcamps and sites like General Assembly, The Muse, WeWork, Flatiron, Startup Institute, and more... 🙂

Lets get to the business of the day.

First question from: Zainab @zainab

I have been a product manager for over a year now and I have seen how work is done in the 'big' firms. I would like to know how best to become a kickass project manager ?

Great question! The best way to figure out what skills you need to build is to talk to the people who are currently crushing it in that role. Who in your network is working in this role? How can you get a 1on1 with them (coffee/phone)? and what questions are you most curious to know the answers to ?

Typically, for Project Management, you need to be well-versed in systems, planning, and people. Can you keep a project running smoothly and everyone held accountable ?

Yes I can to the best of my abilities, ofcourse when I run into roadblocks I escalate to my superior. Thank you!

Absolutely - these are the questions that we want to be asking ourselves and then finding better ways to improve our skills. What new software can help you track? etc. Identifying flaws and problems in the current system and then providing solutions to the team will get you to be known as a problem solver!

Question from: Tijesunimi Peters @tijesunimi.peters

In terms of portfolio building, how does one build an awesome portfolio?

When it comes to your portfolio, simplicity is key. What is the most relevant thing you want them to know about you? What is the most clear way you can show your work

Many people create video walk-throughs of the apps they build because they know it is easier for people to consume. 1-2 minutes to showcase your work

Question from: Afeez @ajay

What do you do when you feel stagnant as regards career advancement ?

Stagnation is usually a sign that your brain wants to learn something new. What are you most curious about in the world? Work your way backwards from your interests and hobbies. Try to combine your interests to find unique opportunities to grow. For instance, a developer who also loves classic cars might realize that they have a deep curiosity for Self Driving Car industry. This knowledge can help you begin to formulate next steps in your learning and development, and eventually lead to career changes that will engage your mind and end that "stagnant" feeling

Thanks, awesome answer!

Question from: Zira @zirajauni

After school, I have been working as a product manager in a startup, I have been conflicted between going for my masters and gaining work experience. Most organisations require 3-5 years experience and an MBA. What would you advise I do ?

Thank you for your question. This is quite a debated topic in recent years. I understand the difficulty of the decision. First, I want to congratulate you on working on top of your schooling, that is awesome!

There are many variables to consider when answering this question.
1) How old are you and where are you in your current career development?
2) What is your financial situation like?
3) What types of companies do you want to work for?
4) What kind of network will you be tapping into with your MBA? etc...

The first step is to figure out what it is that YOU want. What industry do you want to work in? What companies do you want to work for in that industry? What role at those companies? What education/work background do the people who are currently in those roles have? What requirements does the company actually have? ((Note - a lot of times the job description is more of a guide than a requirement - talk to people at the company to find out the real answers))

Then decide if you want to work first, then get an MBA. Get an MBA then work. Or just get right to work - maybe you find a company that doesn't require an MBA. All these options exist, you just need to find what you want and what you can afford to do.

Question from: Afeez @ajay

What are the key things recruiters like to look for in resume ? Am I to focus on projects built or places I have worked at ? and what are your recommendations regarding working at either structured companies or startups ( I mean the startup buzz is exiting).

Thank you for your question! First - know that recruiters don't work for the job seeker, they work for the company. So, their goals are not perfectly aligned with yours.

A recruiter looks for things that make their job easier.
This includes:
- Big name schools
- Big name companies

They look for these things because it shows you are able to make it through the interview process. They also choose these things because it makes the "sale" easier when they try to get a person into a company.

But, they are not going to spend the time to figure out "why" you are a good candidate. It needs to be obvious, or they will move on to the next person

If you want to help a recruiter help you, you need to learn how to tell your story and communicate why you are the best fit for the roles they are trying to fill. Typically, if you don't have big names on your resume, I find it to be better to skip recruiters in general and reach out directly to people who work at the companies you are interested in. This cuts out the middle-man


Do you think it is important to have a portfolio hosted online ? As a developer, most of the work done probably have an NDA clause, how do I showcase this works ?

It is important to have a centralized spot online that you own and points to the rest of your work. This is mainly to be "searchable". You want an employer to be able to find you when they google you, and you want to control what they see.

You can create an '' page that links to your GitHub, LinkedIN, etc. You can make LinkedIn your center-point for everything. You can have a detailed personal site with all your projects and a blog, etc.

But, the key is to figure out what you want to be the centerpoint of your online presence, and focus time and effort into that spot. So, if an employer asks where they can go to see your work, you have a place to point them

If it is all NDA - you'll wnat to create some side-projects that you own that showcase your skills. Otherwise, you're invisible on the internet

Question from: Sileola @sile

I had an interview earlier this year and I was asked a very funny question.'What is my greatest weakness ?' What do you think recruiters want to hear when this question is asked ?

Ah - super common question actually. Check here!

Another place to explore this would be to take the 16 Personality test

So, for me, I could talk about burnout and the ways that I work to prevent it. I'm not always successful, and sometimes do burn out, but my tactics are a focus on sleep and health and communicating with my manager when I feel overwhelmed

Dig into your results and see what you find!


What are some of the best practices to keep in mind in order to advance my career as a freelance developer ?

Networking will be the most important skill you need to develop

See this video

^^ This is a quick guide I put together around how to find people on LinkedIn - being a master at "finding people" and then setting up meetings will be extremely important. You will also need to learn how to close the sale. This is something I'm not as good at, but if you're interested in being inspired by a "sales guru" check out Gary Vaynerchuck, you might like his stuff.

See this video also

Also, your online brand will be VERY important. Follow a few influencers to learn from what they do - you don't need a following of 100's of people, but understanding how they present themselves is really important

Question from: Tobi Adeyemi bigtobz

I want to dive into a career in I.T, especially software development, but I'm over 30. I think it's too late for me and I don't know if I can catch up with the learning. I need your advice please (asking for a friend)

this is a great question, and a tough one too.

Ageism is a thing to think about in the tech space, but it is not a dealbreaker. If you feel that something like this is working against you, it is essential to figure out how to turn it to your advantage.

If you feel that something like this is working against you, it is essential to figure out how to turn it to your advantage.

What experience/ideas/learnings do you bring from your previous work into your new shift to IT?

If people think you don't understand new tech b/c of your age, how can you show them that you're on top of trends? (create a blog, podcast, youtube channel. etc)

You need to not only showcase your work, but learn how to tell the story of why you're able to help people with their problems. At the end of the day, if you are able to help and they like you, age becomes a small factor int he decision.

Question from: Torty Emmanuel BigTee

I have been working as a full stack web developer and doing more of backend work. I now want to specialize as a frontend developer but I feel like I'll be missing out if I do that (I don't really know why I feel so) . I want to optimize for the most fun and profit. Is it a good idea and future-proof to specialize ?

Good question.
Unfortunately, I am not a futurist and can't speak with confidence on what would or wouldn't future-proof you. But, in general, I don't think specialization is a bad thing. The bigger question might be, "What problems are you most curious to solve?" and then working backwards from that question to figure out if you should be on the front or back-end


How do i consider opportunities as a newbie developer currently overwhelemed with choices in terms of technology ?

are you asking more about what you should focus on learning, in terms of technologies? Or, are you asking how to decide between job opportunities?

Ah, the key here will be to talk with people in the field who you think are working on interesting things and ask them what they are trying to learn.

This question will give you big insights into where the industry is heading and allow you to build relationships with people you admire at the same time.

Often, it is good to orient yourself in pursuit of a big goal, like "Eliminate human drivers from the road via Self Driving Cars" and then figure out what tech you need to learn to get there, rather than start with the tech first.

Question from David Kezi: davidkezi

Books that helped you be a better Project Manager and knowing what you know now, what would you differently if you were to begin your career again ?

Apologies @davidkezi - I miss-typed earlier. I am actually a "Program Manager" not a "Project Manager" - which is slightly different as I am focused more on the product and services offerings than the project plans.
However, with that said, I've done project management in the past and here is what I have learned:
1) Documentation is extremely important. You need to know who is doing what when.
2) Communication needs to be constant. Everyone should be in the loop, aware of where things are at, and know their deadlines.
3) Understanding who the stakeholders and decision makers are is really important. Often times projects have too many cooks in the kitchen, and it is your job to keep things clear, organized and prioritized

As for books - I read a lot of books on Psychology and human behavior. I think that has helped me. How to Win Friends & Influence People is a classic

Thank you Martin, for taking out time to be part of us! This has been a wonderful session! We look forward to having you here some other time!

Till next time, have a wonderful day!

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