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Software Engineer Portfolio

How To Make Your Software Engineer Portfolio Stand Out

11 minute read | April 25, 2024
Monica J. White

Written by:
Monica J. White & reviewed by Ruba Wisda

Monica J. White

Reviewed by:
Ruba Wisda

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Software engineering is an industry where practical skills and hands-on experience hold significant weight, so it takes more than just a resume to prove you have what it takes. But how do you show off your skills before the interview? With a portfolio, of course!

Showcasing your skills, creativity, problem-solving abilities, and passion through tangible projects speaks volumes louder than a traditional resume. “This is your chance to shine and show the interviewer that you are the one they should interview,” says Ruba Wisda, a senior engineering manager at Vox Media. “Highlight your best work, know what you should highlight. Show your skills that you learned and make sure to mention what they are looking for.”

But what exactly constitutes a compelling software engineering portfolio? While coding projects are undoubtedly the cornerstone, there are many elements to consider beyond lines of code.

That’s where this guide comes in. Here, we’ll walk you through the essential elements of an effective software engineering portfolio. We’ll cover everything from project selection to presentation, offering insights and inspiration to help you stand out in a competitive job market.

What Is a Software Engineering Portfolio (and Do You Even Need One)?

When you think of a portfolio, a writer’s collection of articles or an artist’s collection of paintings is probably what comes to mind—it might not seem that relevant to programmers at all. But the reality is that anyone who needs to prove their skills to a potential employer needs a portfolio. 

A hiring manager zones in on your resume’s skills list and makes sure it matches what they need, but the company engineer they hand it over to goes straight to your portfolio to find out if you actually have those skills at the level they want. To help them see you have what it takes, your portfolio needs to showcase real projects you’ve made using relevant skills and knowledge. 

“You should always make sure your resume has the skills/tech stack that shows in your portfolio!,” says Wisda. “When the engineer from the hiring company goes to your Github to see what projects you have built but can’t find the ones that match your tech stack listed, that’s not a good sign.” 

What Should a Software Engineering Portfolio Include?

While the finer details depend on your own skills, interests, and the kind of jobs you’re applying to, there are a few general rules every good portfolio should follow. 

  • Projects

  • About section

  • Work experience and resume

  • Certifications, skills, and tools

  • Testimonials

  • Contact details and social links


Your software engineering portfolio should feature your projects prominently showcasing your skills and expertise. These projects are tangible evidence of your abilities and can vary based on the industry or role you’re targeting. For instance, you might include web development projects, mobile applications, or machine learning models. Each project should be well-documented, with clear descriptions of the problem solved, technologies used, and your contributions (if multiple people worked on it).

“Keep in mind you should be ready to talk about these projects that you have listed,” Wisda says. “When interviewing, you might get asked questions about certain projects, and since you are stating that these are your projects, you need to be able to elaborate on them. Review your projects and be ready for that interview.”

About section

The About section offers a space to convey your story, aspirations, and personality. Use it to give potential employers insight into who you are beyond your technical skills. Share your journey into software engineering, your passion for technology, and what drives you professionally. This section humanizes your portfolio and helps establish a connection with recruiters and hiring managers. 

Work experience and resume

Including your resume and work experience in your portfolio is crucial, as some individuals may only review your portfolio without having access to your separate resume. Additionally, your portfolio offers an opportunity to expand on the concise format of a standard resume, so you can include a few details that you were forced to cut from your standard resume. Provide detailed descriptions of your roles, responsibilities, and achievements, giving potential employers a comprehensive view of your professional background.

“You should make sure your resume has all the highlights, and the portfolio has all the details of everything mentioned in the resume—don’t leave anything relevant out,” says Wisda. “This is your opportunity to showcase it all. A simple example here would be to list the tech stack you work with and share more details about the projects you worked on, including the team size.”

Certifications, skills, and tools

This section is a comprehensive list of the knowledge, skills, and tools you utilized in your portfolio projects. Every skill mentioned here should be evident in your work, and there should be clear evidence of the tools you’ve employed. The same goes for programming certifications—since they aim to prove that you’re proficient at a specific tool or set of tasks, ensure that some of these points are used in your projects. 


Testimonials from other engineers can greatly enhance your portfolio’s credibility. These endorsements act as references, validating your skills and capabilities. Including testimonials demonstrates that you’ve collaborated effectively with others and made meaningful project contributions. Aim to collect testimonials from colleagues, mentors, or clients who can speak to your technical proficiency and professionalism.

Make it easy for potential employers to contact you by including your contact details and social media links in your portfolio. Provide clear instructions on how recruiters can get in touch with you, whether it’s via email, phone, or through professional networking platforms like LinkedIn. By facilitating communication, you increase the likelihood of landing valuable job opportunities.

What Should You Not Include?

When crafting your software engineering portfolio, it’s crucial to curate its content carefully. Here are some key things you should avoid including:

  • Projects that are too old or irrelevant: Focus on showcasing recent projects demonstrating your current skills and knowledge. Older projects or those unrelated to the positions you’re applying for won’t be as impactful. 
  • Broken links or buggy projects: Ensure all links within your portfolio are functional and lead to the intended destinations. The same goes for the projects themselves—if they don’t work, they won’t showcase your skills very well. Double-checking and triple-checking your work is essential if you want to come across as professional. 
  • Too many or too few projects: Strike a balance by including a moderate number of projects highlighting your skills and experiences. Including too many projects can overwhelm viewers, while too few may not adequately showcase your capabilities.
  • School projects (unless you’re a fresh graduate): While school projects can demonstrate your ability to apply theoretical knowledge, prioritize projects completed outside academic settings whenever possible. Your personal projects showcase your initiative and passion for software engineering.
  • Boilerplate projects and ideas sourced from Google: Avoid including generic projects that need more originality or depth. Instead, focus on projects demonstrating creativity, problem-solving skills, and a genuine interest in the subject matter. Explore unique ideas beyond the first page of Google search results to differentiate yourself from other candidates.

How Can You Present Your Software Engineering Portfolio?

There are various effective ways to present your software engineering portfolio, each with its own advantages. Consider the following options:

  • Personal website: Create a dedicated website to showcase your portfolio. This allows you to customize the design and layout to reflect your personal brand. Include sections for projects, an about page, a resume, skills, and contact information. A well-designed website can leave a lasting impression on potential employers.
  • GitHub repositories: Utilize GitHub to host your portfolio projects and source code. GitHub serves as a platform for version control, collaboration, and showcasing your coding abilities—and it’s almost guaranteed that you’ll use it at your new job. Ensure that your repositories are well-documented and organized, making it easy for visitors to navigate and understand your projects.

“Make sure you star the repositories that you want to highlight and the ones that showcase your best work,” Wisda says. “These are the first repositories that might get looked at. It’s your homepage that people see when they look up your GitHub. It’s the first impression, so make sure it’s a good one.”

If web development is a relevant skill, you could even build your portfolio website from scratch. Code a server and develop a website demonstrating your technical prowess, and then your portfolio would be a portfolio project!

Top Tips To Make Your Software Engineering Portfolio Stand Out

Your portfolio has a specific purpose, and these are our top tips to ensure it’s as effective as possible.

  • Think out of the box. To make your software engineering portfolio stand out, embrace your creativity and think beyond conventional project ideas. Draw inspiration from your educational journey, personal interests, and dream job aspirations. Don’t shy away from exploring fun and innovative projects alongside practical ones. Remember, originality will always trump standard projects, so dare to be imaginative and bring your unique ideas to life. “If you are transitioning from a previous career maybe build an app that is similar to a tool used in your previous career,” Wisda says. “This shows your solution to a problem with your engineering skills.”
  • Keep your portfolio goals and intended audience in mind throughout. Maintain a clear focus on your portfolio’s overarching goals and tailor its content to resonate with your intended audience—potential employers. Highlight projects that are most relevant to the job applications you’re pursuing. You can also direct hiring managers to specific projects that showcase your most relevant abilities and understanding of their needs. Demonstrating this level of relevance and insight can significantly enhance your portfolio’s impact.
  • Provide relevant information and context for each project. Even if writing isn’t your forte, invest effort in providing comprehensive commentary for each project. Offer insights into the project’s inception, goals, implementation process, challenges faced, and lessons learned. Providing context enhances the understanding and appreciation of your work, showcasing your problem-solving skills and thought process to potential employers.
  • Design matters. Ensure your portfolio’s design is visually appealing, easy to navigate, and user-friendly. Opt for clear layouts, legible fonts, and intuitive navigation menus to enhance accessibility for visitors of all technical backgrounds. Remember that not all viewers may possess a deep understanding of programming, so prioritize clarity and simplicity in design to make a positive impression.
  • Ask for feedback before going live. Before launching your portfolio, seek feedback from trusted sources such as friends, mentors, former teachers, and industry professionals. Their insights can provide valuable perspectives on areas for improvement, ensuring that your portfolio is polished and impactful when presented to potential employers. Incorporating constructive feedback strengthens your portfolio’s effectiveness and increases your chances of success.

Software Engineering Portfolio Examples

We’ve been pushing “creativity” and “personality” in this guide—and now it’s time to show you just how creative software engineering portfolios can get.

Bruno Simon

This first example proves that you can do whatever you want with your portfolio. Creative developer Bruno Simon, for example, forces visitors to his portfolio to drive a car around to find his projects! It’s funny, looks great, works perfectly, and no one who sees this will forget it anytime soon. 

Robb Owen

Robb is a Welsh independent creative developer with a beautiful portfolio website that heavily focuses on his personality and passions alongside his skills and experience. His illustration on the front page follows your cursor around, and if you move it too fast, he gets dazed! The portfolio is full of open-source projects and has a detailed About section that shows off Robb’s passion for code, linguistics, and photography. He even speaks Japanese and has lived in Japan! 

Nick White

In this video, Nick White emphasizes the necessity of a portfolio for all software developers, highlighting its role in showcasing past work and accomplishments to potential employers. He advises against including excessive or irrelevant content and suggests focusing on highlighting one’s best work.

Nick provides insights into creating portfolios using website builders or coding from scratch, demonstrating the process with examples and recommending Hostinger for web hosting. He stresses the importance of portfolios in the job search process and encourages viewers to prioritize building their own. It’s a great video if you want to learn about portfolio projects in more detail.

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Resources To Help You Create Your Software Engineering Portfolio

Here are a few useful resources that can help you start the search for ideas to use, places to host, and people to share with.  

Inspiration and Ideation

Finding inspiration and generating ideas for your software engineering portfolio can sometimes be challenging. However, several resources can help spark creativity and guide your project selection process. Websites like Behance, Dribbble, and Awwwards can help get the design down, while searching GitHub for exciting open-source projects can help you find something to work on or be inspired by.

Design and Hosting

Several tools and platforms simplify the process when it comes to designing and hosting your software engineering portfolio. For design, consider using prototyping tools like Adobe XD, Sketch, or Figma to create visually appealing layouts and mockups. These tools offer intuitive interfaces and robust features for designing responsive and interactive portfolio websites. “Another commonly-used tool is InVision,” Wisda says. “That might be a good one to try out and get some hands-on experience in. Even just exposure to it helps.”

As for hosting, platforms like GitHub Pages, Netlify, and Vercel provide free or affordable hosting solutions for static websites and web applications. These platforms offer seamless integration with version control systems like Git, enabling easy deployment and maintenance of your portfolio projects.

Online Communities and Platforms

Online communities and platforms are crucial in supporting software engineers throughout their career journeys. Platforms like Stack Overflow, Reddit’s r/programming, and offer vibrant communities where developers can seek advice, share knowledge, and collaborate on coding projects. “Keep an eye out for Slack communities specific to your region or to your tech stack,” Wisda says. “Most areas have their own slack communities and have their own job boards.”

Joining these communities allows you to stay updated on industry trends, learn from experienced professionals, and network with like-minded individuals. Platforms like LinkedIn and GitHub also serve as valuable tools for showcasing your portfolio, connecting with potential employers, and building your professional brand online.

Portfolios FAQs

Can You Make a Software Engineering Portfolio With No Experience?

Yes, you can create a software engineering portfolio even if you have no professional experience. Focus on showcasing personal projects, coding challenges, and contributions to open-source projects to demonstrate your skills and passion for programming.

Do I Have To Have a Portfolio?

While having a portfolio is not mandatory, it greatly enhances your chances of landing a job as a software engineer. A well-curated portfolio is tangible evidence of your skills, experience, and passion for coding, making you a more attractive candidate to potential employers. The only reason not to have a portfolio is that you don’t want to spend the time to make one, and that’s not really a good impression to give employers!

Does a Software Engineer Need a Portfolio Website?

Having a portfolio website is beneficial but not strictly necessary. However, a portfolio website provides a centralized platform to showcase your projects, skills, and experiences in a professional manner. It also offers greater customization and personal branding flexibility, ultimately strengthening your online presence as a software engineer.

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About Monica J. White

Monica is a journalist with a lifelong interest in technology, from PC hardware to software and programming. She first started writing over ten years ago and has made a career out of it. Now, her focus is centered around technology and explaining complex concepts to a broader audience.