Two weeks ago, I found myself leaving a CTO role at a small startup and back on the job market during a unique up-cycle of tech hiring. My past job hunts came during economic down-cycles or in locations outside of the Bay Area – so this was something new.
In down-cycles and smaller job markets it can be pretty easy to decide what to do next: “Hey, I got a job offer. I’ll take it!” In a booming tech economy, there’s an opportunity to something new and a lot of potential career paths to take. More opportunity…and more potential for “analysis paralysis.”
To add to this, the code stack I’ve been working in the last 10 years, Java/J2EE, was starting to feel stale. Java/J2EE is far from dead, but there are other languages shaking things up. I decided maybe it was time to check out Python.
With these two factors in mind, I had to come up with a plan for trying something new in my tech career. If you’re in the same boat, I recommend five easy ways to sharpen your skills while looking for a new job:
- Take a easy intro class. I found Google’s Python class online(http://code.google.com/edu/languages/google-python-class/), it was hard to make myself watch the videos, but the programming assignments were a lot of fun.
- Throw up website, figure out a framework. It was really exciting to do my first Django website: http://aristotl.es/. Will Aristotles ever become anything? Who knows, the point is to have something to play with.
- Join StackOverflow and start answering questions (http://stackoverflow.com/users/1169454/robert-peters). Over the years StackOverflow has saved my bacon, but I never had an account. Finally I have time contribute some answers. More importantly, teaching and troubleshooting for others has turned out to be a great way of learning more Python.
- Start working on something totally unreasonable. For that would be taking on some Python based Machine Learning problems (http://www.amazon.com/Machine-Learning-Algorithmic-Perspective-Recognition/dp/1420067184/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1328132424&sr=8-1). I’m not likely to become a master in algorithmic perspective recognition in the next few weeks – but I’m having fun trying.
- Networking. San Francisco offers a huge number of groups and people to network with. I just swung by a “Python Twisted Hackday” (via http://www.meetup.com/San-Francisco-Python-Hack-Night/) and was pretty inspired seeing teams creating useful projects in day. I can’t wait for the next meetup.
Will all the above end up getting me the career change I want? Not sure, but it’s definitely fun to try. Find yourself in the same situation? Make your own plan.