Today I was out playing on LinkedIn and came across a developer in my town who used to work at a friend’s company, so I checked him out. I was looking at his website and reading a few entries of his blog. One thing caught my eye.
Apparently, he’d recently been laid off, and was looking to shift gears into a different development stack. He said something to the effect that he was worried that his skills were growing stagnant at his old company.
What struck me was, every developer has at least two full time jobs. One is the job that the company is paying you to do. That might be developing a website, or windows app, or managing a database, or whatever it is. You do that during the week. The danger is thinking that’s your only full time job.
The other job is keeping your skills sharp. That means investigating new technologies, reading other blogs, staying up to date on what’s out there. You might not be able to completely overhaul an application to use the latest technology, but see if you can work in a few pieces here or there.
At my last job I was the sole guy writing a Windows app. But we needed some sort of management piece for configuring static data. I had never done any web application work (the last “web” work was a static HTML page about 10 years prior.) So I decided this management aspect would be a web application. It was a win-win for me and my users. I learned a new technology (in this case ASP.NET MVC 1.0) and they got a single place to update static data without another windows install. In the end, taking a week to work on that project got me some invaluable experience that I could parlay into my current job.
I’ve been on both sides of the interview table, and I can tell you that if you wait until your job search to investigate new technologies, you’ll have a hard time finding employment. It’s a lot of work, but it definitely pays off in the long run.