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Resumes for Tech Leaders

Jul 18
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Kat recently wrote about the differeces between CVs and resumes. (Understandably, there is confusion about this!) As someone who works with lots of technical leaders, I often get questions about whether one’s resume should be different from when they were an individually contributing developer. The short answer is: yes.

Thinking back to the earliest days of your software career, you probably just had the fundamentals – maybe a computer science degree or a coding bootcamp – and a year or two on the job. With limited experience, your resume will focus more on the tasks you’ve been responsible for, the technologies you’ve been exposed to, and how you’ve worked in your team.

Examples of the sorts of things you may talk about:

  • Designed and developed core payment microservice.
  • Worked closely with product managers to help prioritise, scope and estimate projects.
  • Created frontend templates and worked on integrating those templates into various CMS.
  • Regularly performed code reviews for peers.

As you progress in your career, the value you bring to your team becomes less about being the most technical person at the table or being able to write the most flawless line of code. Likewise, your resume should reflect this shift. Instead of talking about just what you’ve done, you’ll want to place more emphasis on the scale of the work you’ve delivered and how it’s made an impact.

Great technical leaders know how to build, inspire and influence teams, both within an engineering team and across their organisation. They can demonstrate that they know how to make good decisions, bring their team on the journey, and execute the delivery of those decisions to effect positive change. For example:

  • Reporting to the CEO, scaled a team from 5 to 75 across engineering, product delivery, design, and architecture, while simultaneously setting up a strong remote working environment.
  • Led a successful platform re-architecture over to AWS and shift from monoliths to microservices.
  • Headed up restructure of engineering, DevOps and quality teams to cross-functional product teams. This resulted in significant improvements to delivery quality and shift from delivering once per month to multiple times per day.
  • Cultivated and grew a culture of innovation and built a robust engineering culture based on high-quality delivery, automation, continuous integration, and security.

The qualitative and quantitative statements above talk about the scale and breadth of leadership influence and the positive impact on a team and/or company.

Lastly, keep in mind that just because you’re applying for a leadership role doesn’t mean that your resume needs to be significantly longer. The general rule of thumb for all candidates is three pages at most, and I’ve seen concise, well-articulated resumes for executives that sit at 1-2 pages. Be thoughtful about what you include in your resume. Cut out the excessive number of certifications you got a decade ago (or have nothing to do with the role you’re applying for) and don’t make each role a laundry list of tasks you’ve completed. Remember: be milestones and achievements focused, and the rest of the finer details can be talking points in your interview.

If you’re having trouble pulling it all together or just need some advice on how to get started, feel free to give us a shout! We’re always happy to help.

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