September 18, 2014

Lessons from the Women’s Resume Writing Workshop at LinuxCon

Meg FordLinuxCon North America was a chance to attend talks by leaders in the community, and to learn about current development efforts in the space. It was also a chance to network, and to discuss technology, open source culture, and jobs.

One of the events which I attended focused on overcoming common pitfalls that women may encounter when preparing a resume which meets the expectations of corporate recruiters and hiring managers in the Linux community. As a recent MS in Computer Science graduate, I attended in order to receive feedback and improve my resume to emphasize the skills I have gained both as a student and as an open source developer. That workshop, which was lead by Leslie Hawthorn on the first day of the conference, provided me with insight and tools to present myself to employers and to actively shape my career trajectory.

The session was informal and highly engaging. Leslie began by handing out ‘before’ and ‘after’ example resumes.  She highlighted the reasons for the changes she had made to the examples, and how we could use similar tactics to playing up our skill sets and catch the attention of hiring managers. In the course of her presentation she made several points which I found to be valuable. She explained that it is more important to the resume reviewer to understand what an applicant accomplished in a position than it is to list the specific title the HR department used, and that therefore it makes sense to choose job titles that describe the role. Since recruiters are familiar with the types of technologies used in different areas, it makes sense to provide generalized information about expertise rather than a long, specific list of skills. She also presented strategies for choosing to either focus on career progression within a company, or to combine and summarize various roles.

During the second half of the workshop we presented our resumes to the group and received personal feedback. Leslie gave detailed reviews and pointed out flaws. I presented the resume that I have been sending out to prospective employers. I wanted to make my resume shorter and more pointed, but I wasn’t sure which aspects of the resume I should pare down in order to accentuate my skills and increase readability.

As is the case with most students, there are certain languages and technologies that I have only used for academic projects. However, since I am an open source contributor and application maintainer for the GNOME project, and have been working as a web developer, I have significant experience with writing code for production. Leslie suggested that I move the jobs section of the resume to the beginning of the first page and cut the skills section which included experience gained as a university student. This strategy links my experience to released open source projects which prospective employers can review.

I also chose to include two sections which list talks I have given on open source technology, as well as my experience teaching and organizing workshops and user groups. This serves to augment my technical experience and demonstrate my level of commitment to the field and to acting as an ambassador for open source culture in the Chicago tech community.

The changes that she suggested present a picture of me as a flexible and experienced developer who adapts quickly to the specifications of projects and can move easily throughout the various levels of the stack to implement and enhance necessary functionality.

Overall, I found that the workshop provided me with valuable feedback not only about the way that I present myself on paper, but also about my level of experience and strategies to use when discussing it. Learning to present knowledge in a format which is easily recognizable to others is not only a valuable skill, it also allows me to mentally frame my experience in ways that help to create an comprehensive picture of the developer I am, and the places I plan to go in my career.

Meg Ford is a open source developer. She recently completed her MS in Computer Science and is currently seeking a permanent software development position. You can view her updated CV here or her Linkedin profile.

For more information on the resume writing workshop, see our recent Q&A with Leslie Hawthorn on why women can, and should, write a better resume.

Register now for the Womens Resume Writing Workshop at LinuxCon Europe in Dusseldorf, on Wednesday, Oct. 15, 2014.

Click Here!