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Skills vs time

Hi Guys,

I'm looking at making a career change from "IT generalist" to a more specialized field.
I've been employed as a systems administrator for the better part of 10 years, and have general skill in Linux, virtualization, scripting and hardware.

My consideration is also bound to time, eg. Java / C# is in high demand, but I understand that learning Java will take several years and as I'm not in a development environment I won't get the necessary experience, therefore it might be unrealistic to try and learn Java / C# and trying to get other/better work.
I want to make the move within the next 2 years.

So my question: Which field would you specialize in if given a 1 - 2 year window (with the aim of making a career move)?

3 Solutions
I've been in the IT industry for a good 20 years, and I've found that I'm actually happier being a generalist than a specialist.  I refer to myself as a "Jack of All Trades, Master of None", because it's surprisingly helpful knowing how everything interoperates with each other, rather than specialising in one field.  I used to work for Novell, and specialised in Client to Server technologies, but found that I am far more fulfilled with a greater range of expertise.

I've been programming for even longer, so it's just good fortune that I have already gained knowledge and expereince in the programming field.  It's fun, but I've found myself happier with the Infrastructure side of IT.  The fact that you have scripting knowledge will help you with learning Object Orientated languages such as C# and Java.

To answer your question however - I would not specialise in a field, and I would not change my career as I enjoy it too much :)
I'm actually going thru this right now;  started ~6 months ago.  I was more of generalist.  Did Windows, Linux, Networking, etc.  I then got into monitoring, configuration management, and automation as it interested me to make things easier to setup and maintain as well as to find problems faster to minimize down time.  However, I became so specialized that I went into pure configuration management; not a lot of jobs out there in that area.  The company I work for killed that project and after about a year and half my entire skill set is dead.

I still understand the core of my generalist days but technology changes so I'd have to take a major step back in pay to make any switch.  I /really/ enjoy breaking things and figuring out how things work though so I decided to make the move into security and eventually into penetration testing.  Very difficult field though as you have to understand so many things; like being a generalist but being virtually an expert in all of those areas at the same time.  So I'm taking the next couple years to enhance my skills and get some certifications since I don't have professional jobs backing my knowledge up.

Simply put, pick an area you love but keep in mind the job market.  For me, they pulled my area and I'm stuck.  For my wife, she's so pigeon holed in telephony that she can only really work for a few people nation wide.  Both of us would be forced to consultant work and neither of us want to do that.  If you're ok with that, then it opens a lot of doors.  But most of all do what interests you.  If you can't stand programming, don't do it.  And if you're going to go that route, don't half-ass it.  Anyone can learn how to do a loop, function definition, etc. in one minute of googling.  Learn design patterns, SDLC, etc.  Watch job boards and see what people are wanting in those areas that interest you.  Then spend the next 2 years getting good at it and most likely some certifications (which are worthless but HR loves them)
Paul SauvéRetiredCommented:
Here are some ideas from Computerworld that may help...
10 programming languages that are in demand by employers

Have you been considering adding some new programming skills to your toolbox? Here's the what, the where and the how much for hot programming jobs, along with the tools you need to get them.
10 programming languages that are in demand by employers
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