15 Hacking your future

It’s very easy to overlook mistakes in your own writing. That’s true of any written communication such as a covering letter, personal statement, email or any message that you write. Mistakes are particularly common in CVs (or résumés) because you can spend hours carefully polishing the words and the formatting but not see a fatal error at the top of page one. Hacking9 other people’s CV’s will help you improve your own. You may need to use ingenious hacks like the one on the bridge in figure 15.1. Returning to the bridge analogy from section 0.5.1, fixing other peoples bridges will help you improve your own bridge. You’ll build better bridges to more interesting and ambitious destinations.

Your CV is a bridge which enables you to cross from where you are now to where you’d like to be in the future. Like the bridge in this picture, the CV’s in this chapter are all faulty in some way, can you fix them? You may need to use ingenious hacks and kludges like the one shown here on the Million Dollar Bridge in Alaska . Public domain image of kludgy repairs adapted from an original by Jet Lowe on Wikimedia Commons w.wiki/3Uvn

Figure 15.1: Your CV is a bridge which enables you to cross from where you are now to where you’d like to be in the future. Like the bridge in this picture, the CV’s in this chapter are all faulty in some way, can you fix them? You may need to use ingenious hacks and kludges like the one shown here on the Million Dollar Bridge in Alaska . Public domain image of kludgy repairs adapted from an original by Jet Lowe on Wikimedia Commons w.wiki/3Uvn

15.1 Hack their CVs

A useful hacking technique is to take somebody elses stuff and fix or improve it. That works for written communication as well as actual code. The dogfooding technique described in section 4.4.1 is a useful hack which you can use by:

  1. Eating your own dogfood by reading your own written work ALOUD
  2. Eating somebody elses dogfood by:
    • Hacking a friends or peers CV by swapping with them and giving them constructive feedback
    • Hacking the fictitious CVs below by ranking them against a job advert. Who would you want to interview and why?
  3. Eating your own dogfood again, re-reading and re-editing repeatedly
  4. Persuade someone else to eat your dogfood - get feedback from as many people (and bots see section 7.7.6) as you can

So, here are some fictitious CVs for you to hack, from students of Computer Science. They are based on CVs I’ve seen, warts and all, with personal information removed and anonymised. Can you spot their triumphs and tragedies? Can fix their CVs and work out which candidate is best for the sample job description at CoolTech in section 15.4? Can you hack their future?

Special thanks to Toby Howard and Sean Bechhofer for coming up with some of these silly names for fictional students in computing. Please direct any complaints about the terrible geeky puns to Toby and Sean! Thanks also Ben Carter and Penny Gordon Lanes in the careers service at the University of Manchester, some of these CVs are based on examples they have collected and anonymised. 🙏

15.2 Breakpoints

Let’s pause here. Insert a breakpoint in your code and slowly step through it so we can examine the current values of your variables and parameters.

* PAUSE ⏸️

When you read these CVs make a note of:

  1. What Went Well? (WWW) What do you like about any given CV, what have they done well?
  2. Even Better If? (EBI) What could be fixed or improved, can you hack it?
  3. Their Rank order (1,2,3...) Who is top of your list to interview? Who is going in the bin and why?
* RESUME ▶️

Imagine the person is real, what would you tell them about their CV if they’d given it to you for advice without hurting their feelings? How could you be a critical friend by giving them actionable feedback?

15.3 Sample CVs

Hacking other people’s CVs will help you improve your own because you’re putting yourself in the shoes of your reader. Here are some samples:

15.3.1 Penelope Tester

Penny Tester, or Pen as her friends call her, loves cybersecurity and reverse engineering. She has a real passion for finding vulnerabilities in software and hardware. Just don’t call her a hacker she hates that word, see 15.2.

Penny Tester’s full CV can be viewed at cdyf.me/Penelope_Tester.pdf

Figure 15.2: Penny Tester’s full CV can be viewed at cdyf.me/Penelope_Tester.pdf

15.3.2 Rick Urshion

Rick is a big fan of functional programming and loves expressing himself using languages like Lisp, Haskell, Clojure, Erlang and Scala. He really hates side-effects but tries to avoid getting into a state about it. His critics say he can be inefficient but Rick insists he’s just lazy, see figure 15.3.

Rick Urshion’s full CV can be viewed at cdyf.me/Rick_Urshion.pdf

Figure 15.3: Rick Urshion’s full CV can be viewed at cdyf.me/Rick_Urshion.pdf

15.3.3 Marge Conflict

Marjorie loves version control and her superpower is resolving people’s differences, see figure 15.4.

Marge Conflict’s full CV can be viewed at cdyf.me/Marge_Conflict.pdf

Figure 15.4: Marge Conflict’s full CV can be viewed at cdyf.me/Marge_Conflict.pdf

15.3.4 Michael Rokernel

Mike loves operating systems, but not if they get too bloated, see figure 15.5.

Mike Rokernel’s full CV can be viewed at cdyf.me/Mike_Rokernel.pdf

Figure 15.5: Mike Rokernel’s full CV can be viewed at cdyf.me/Mike_Rokernel.pdf

15.3.5 Florence Ting-Point

Flo loves maths and is a particularly big fan of floating-point arithmetic, see figure 15.6.

Flo Ting-Point’s full CV can be viewed at cdyf.me/Flo_Ting-Point.pdf

Figure 15.6: Flo Ting-Point’s full CV can be viewed at cdyf.me/Flo_Ting-Point.pdf

15.3.6 Peter Byte

Peter and his twin sister Peta, both love big data, machine learning, statistics, data science and Artificial Intelligence (AI). They come from a big family with nine siblings, Deca, Hector, Kilo, Megan, Giga, Terry, Exa, Zita and Yotta. They are wildly ambitious, but critics say the Byte family have been terribly over-hyped, see figure 15.7.

Peter Byte’s full CV can be viewed at cdyf.me/Peter_Byte.pdf

Figure 15.7: Peter Byte’s full CV can be viewed at cdyf.me/Peter_Byte.pdf

15.3.7 Polina Morphism

Polly loves object-oriented programming. She has lots of siblings, and a cousin called Isa. Instead of a CV or résumé, Polly has put some basic details on her LinkedIn profile which she primarily uses for professional social networking, see figure 15.8.

A pdf of Polina Morphism’s LinkedIn profile can be found at cdyf.me/Polly_Morphism.pdf, the original can be found at linkedin.com/in/pollymorphism (you may be asked to login to see her profile)

Figure 15.8: A pdf of Polina Morphism’s LinkedIn profile can be found at cdyf.me/Polly_Morphism.pdf, the original can be found at linkedin.com/in/pollymorphism (you may be asked to login to see her profile)

15.3.8 Neil Pointer

Neil is a mature student who loves the C programming language, see figure 15.9. The Pointer family are sometimes misunderstood, but Neil compensates for this with his excellent memory management skills and efficiency. As well as his famous sisters, he has a younger half-brother, Neil Pointer-Exception, from his fathers second marriage. Neil Pointer-Exception prefers Java. Neil has seen many programming languages come and go, but his favourite has always been C.

Neil Pointer’s full CV can be viewed at cdyf.me/Neil_Pointer.pdf

Figure 15.9: Neil Pointer’s full CV can be viewed at cdyf.me/Neil_Pointer.pdf

15.3.9 Bryn Hanby-Roberts

The last CV is a real one. Bryn kindly gave his permission to share it with you, see figure 15.10. Bryn graduated in 2016, his CV is longer as he has five years of experience under his belt but it provides a useful counterpoint to the examples above. Thanks Bryn. 🙏

Bryn Hanby-Roberts full CV can be viewed at cdyf.me/bryn.pdf a snapshot taken in 2021 from bryn.co.uk

Figure 15.10: Bryn Hanby-Roberts full CV can be viewed at cdyf.me/bryn.pdf a snapshot taken in 2021 from bryn.co.uk

15.4 Sample CoolTech Job advert

We’re looking for bright and geeky graduates to join our software engineering team. No experience is required, and many of our successful applicants have never programmed before. If you think logically and enjoy problem solving, then you have the potential to become a great developer.

A career at CoolTech will challenge you every day. In your first few weeks you will be solving real-world problems as you help to develop software used by professionals across the world.

You’ll be part of an agile development team, working on one of the largest real-time databases in the world. You’ll work on a wide variety of projects, ranging from Artificial Intelligence assisting clinicians with early diagnosis of cancer to an iOS app helping patients manage their diabetes.

Developers at CoolTech are involved in the full software cycle, and work closely with all teams across the company to scope out new projects as they design, develop and deploy our products.