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I'm a self-taught programmer and I'm working for a company that doesn't deal directly with building software (a glass manufacturer with a small IT team). I'm the only .NET developer there, although there are 3 SAP programmers with a bit of Visual Basic 6 background.

Now I'm only a medium-level developer myself and I want to improve my skills, but it's rather hard when you are the "one-eyed king" in the proverbial land of blinds.

Without leaving the employer, what can I do to improve my skills in such a sub-par learning environment?

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closed as off-topic by MichaelT, Bart van Ingen Schenau, gnat, World Engineer Apr 19 '14 at 23:30

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Why do you want to stay in this sub-par learning environment ? – user10326 Aug 21 '11 at 10:34
this is a hard question - the environment has not much concerning improvement (careerwise or learning-wise) but all the rest (good peers, family, .. - all those soft things that makes your live worth living after the job is done...) - it's (to) hard to leave all this behind just for the possibility of a bit better work-life – Carsten Aug 21 '11 at 10:50
up vote 2 down vote accepted

You have the challenge of continuously learning without facing problems in your workplace!

Here's some things I'd do (or have done):

  1. See if you can contribute code (or even a whole solution) to your current job. Maybe there's something that needs to be redesigned or a process that you could improve.
  2. Take on some small freelance projects. Learn and get paid. Try not to overdo it though; it is easy to get burnt out.
  3. Open source! Start contributing to a project. I'm sure there's plenty of .NET needs out there. If not, start your own project.
  4. As @Jon stated, look for some social development type of opportunities.

You should get in the habit of constantly consuming - I do this by setting aside at least an hour a day to work on a pet project. It means getting up an hour earlier, but I feel much sharper, especially when I need to use the knowledge later at work.

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Hi - nr 1 is my job. I'm doing all kinds of .net apps - from small apps for mobile scanning-devices (running WinCE) to some small intranet-apps to WPF apps. But those are mainly your standard data-form apps with no much "brain" in there. - ATM I'm tryining to get to grips with TDD and am working at a small bloging-engine using TDD and F# - no big deal. 2) is rather hard I guess but I keep my eyes open. 3) is really prommising but I don't know how to get started and if I can really contribute. Thanks again – Carsten Aug 20 '11 at 19:56
you can only accept one answer here? – Carsten Aug 20 '11 at 19:57
@CKoenig yes, but don't feel obligated to accept one answer here. This site is slightly more discussion driven than others. Also, I'd look for open source projects that you think are interesting and have a go at it. It sounds like you would find it fun :) – Nic Aug 20 '11 at 20:05
what to you recommend for .net (I guess I'm not ready for Haskell and I don't know any JRE languagues or Ruby and Stuff) - CodePlex? – Carsten Aug 20 '11 at 20:08

Probably the best thing you can do is to keep being self-taught. Keep learning stuff on your own and do some personal projects.

You can also search around for developer guilds and code camps in your area. Those are also great ways to network and meet other developers. I always love going to code camps, myself. They are just so much fun :]

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thank you. Code camps might be great but I don't think that there are any around here - I'm from germany and there are a couple of good "conferences" and I usually manage to go to one or to a year but nothing as great as Mix or PDC. – Carsten Aug 20 '11 at 19:27

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