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Hobbies and Projects You Can Include on a Computer Science Resume

by Dominique Rodgers
11.22.2016

If napping and binge-watching Netflix were legitimate hobbies to include on a resume, the unemployment rate would be 0 percent. Until that magical day, however, most college students have to beef up their resume with part-time jobs, hobbies or volunteer opportunities that are relevant to their future career.

Here’s where computer science students have a big advantage: Many of their favorite hobbies can be easily related back to their computer science degrees, showing off their technical and soft skills.

To find out what types of projects and hobbies are resume-worthy, we reached out to William Assaf, a principal consultant with Sparkhound in Baton Rouge. If you’re looking for some new projects to tackle in your spare time, while also honing skills to make your resume stand out, give his suggestions a try.

Languages, Frameworks and Platforms You Taught Yourself

If you’re studying computer science or planning to study it in school, chances are you already know a couple of languages, frameworks and platforms. Why not go a little further with that?

Assaf says any new skills don’t “have to be far from someone’s core skillset or what they've learned so far.” For example, a web developer might know JavaScript well enough, but could expand on that and learn new frameworks by working on a project with AngularJS or TypeScript.

A C# developer might try the Xamarin platform to create an Android or iOS app. Or someone already familiar with Xamarin could explore data platforms like Azure SQL Database or Azure Mobile Services.

It’s about taking whatever knowledge you have now and going just a little further, Assaf says. On a resume, this shows additional technical competency, but also motivation and self-directed learning capacity.

Games and Apps You Built for Fun

Assaf says he sees a lot of people designing games or apps that align with their hobbies. “Some of my colleagues have had side projects to create characters for their favorite tabletop role-playing game, like ‘Pathfinder’ or ‘Dungeons & Dragons,’ to be a companion app for a video game or to track match scores at the Sparkhound pingpong table,” he says. Assaf says he wrote a database to create his own college football rankings system.

“The Maker community is rich with opportunities for pet projects,” he says. These could include experiments with a Raspberry Pi, a home-automation system or the Amazon Echo voice-recognition platform.

There are ways to gamify or create apps to align with nearly every interest, Assaf says. On a resume, this can show off technical skills, creativity and a bit of your personality.

Pet Projects Based on Data Analytics

Want to find a way to predict when those expensive boots will go on sale online? Use an open-data tool to find out. Open data sources are abundant online and can help you play around with business intelligence and analytics, Assaf says.

For example, you could delve into some machine learning by using open data on the passengers of the Titanic. You could feed a neural network with 70 percent of the Titanic data and have it predict with a high degree of accuracy who survived the disaster based on their ticket class, age, race, gender or other characteristics, he says.

Others of Assaf’s favorite open-data sources include Baton Rouge’s Open Data project and historical results of and data from NFL games.

Assaf says he also likes Power BI, a data-visualization tool from Microsoft, to build dashboards and graphs based on open-data projects. He says it can graph out a fantasy football league’s results, voting precinct info or an item’s price history on Amazon. (If you spot a pattern, maybe that’ll help you get those boots on sale.)

If you’re into these open-data and visualization projects, highlight this on your resume. They show you have curiosity, can work with large sets of data and can apply predictive applications to business data.

What You Learned in Hackathons

Those weekend-long hackathons in which you and your buddies stayed up for hours building something cool? Those definitely belong on your resume.

Sometimes the events are centered around a specific puzzle, problem or question set up by the organizers. Other events are more like a “code garage, where folks can work on whatever they want and get feedback and assistance from others,” he says.

The setup of the hackathon isn’t important. You don’t need to be building the next Twitter, Instagram or even “Flappy Bird,” Assaf says, so long as you’re having fun and broadening or deepening your skills.

On your resume, highlight the technical skills you learned from your hackathon experiences and the teamwork needed to achieve your goals.

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