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I have almost 9 years of IT experience of which 7 years was worked in an IT company.

For past 2 years I have been stuck in a non-IT based company using outdated technology and methodologies. We don't follow any good practices nor do we upgrade to the latest technologies due to budgetary constraints. For a time, there was some amount of work to keep me active, but lately, there's just maintenance work for a product running on an old technology stack.

So I'm looking to get out of this job and into one that's more my speed: using the latest technology, writing new things, and actually in the IT field. But I keep coming up short on interviews due to the last few years of being in a job that's behind the technology times.

What can I do to prepare myself and prove to more cutting-edge companies that I'm up to the job?

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Hi Irfan Khan, I've revised your question a bit to generalize it so other programmers in similar situations can benefit from the answers received as well. –  user8 Sep 14 '11 at 8:26
    
"I don't seem to crack any interviews" -- use interviews as a lead in your way out. To me that was the best way to channelize efforts when I found myself stuck in low-demand technology. –  gnat Jun 6 '13 at 6:08
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marked as duplicate by gnat, BЈовић, Yusubov, Dynamic, Caleb Jun 6 '13 at 17:35

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5 Answers

You did not precise if you like your current company or not. Sure, you can learn new technologies at home, or at work when there is nothing to do, apply what you learn to a pet project, get involved in an OS project, etc. There is another solution though, and it is by staying in that company.

If you like the company you are working in you may also talk to your managers about your situation, explain that the IT market evolves very fast and that for the sake of your personal career you need to keep up and learn new things. Don't be aggressive, and don't be self-piteous, it should be a normal discussion. Such talks may at least lend you some comprehension from your management, but maybe more. From then you may try to obtain the following things:

  • Obtain training: If this is a slow period, ask them to provide you with training on the technology you want to learn.
  • Apply what you learnt: And/Or you may apply that new technology on prototypes of new applications or tools that may be useful to the company. This may lead to a bigger project.
  • Self-training: if they don't provide you with training, ask them to get one day in the week on working with something new, explain that this is something that is done in several big companies (ok, it's much more of a rarity for smaller companies for example, but still)

If you see that it does not lead you anywhere and that they don't give you anything, well then it means they don't care about you and you should move on. What "Demian Brecht" wrote should be very useful to you.

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Thanks. I can start with your approach. with this approach I can leverage the existing rapport I have and still try for be in touch with the technology. If this fails I will try Demian's approach. –  Irfan Khan Sep 14 '11 at 6:36
    
+1 for exhausting all avenues if you're happy where you are first. Unfortunately however, I'd venture to say that most companies will push back if the technology that you want to learn isn't directly relevant to what you're working on. –  Demian Brecht Sep 14 '11 at 7:45
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  1. Figure out what you want to do (industry, technical domain, etc)
  2. Focus on learning the technology for the above (look at job posting requirements, etc):
    1. Read books/online documentation on each topic
    2. Try implementing simple test projects with each new topic to help the information stick
  3. Get involved with an open source project that employs as much of the applicable technology stack as possible (it never hurts that it's something that you're interested in personally either)
  4. Add that experience to your resume

It doesn't hurt to keep applying for new jobs in the meantime, something may come up. Your proven interest in new technologies and commitment to learning them (via OS projects) will help to set you apart from the rest of the pack.

And you never know.. If your OS work catches enough gusto, you may be the one finding that you're being contacted with work offers, not the other way around.

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I agree with the answers, but sometimes, (in my case at least), it was really close to impossible to add more work on my planning : working all day, having a family, ... I was really in a state that doesn't allow me to have enough "Mind Power" to dive into new technologies and concepts during my reminding spare times. And yes, I've read some books, used my commute time to listen or watch videocast, but it's not enough to add another chapter on my curriculum.

So, what really helped me was :

  • Focus : Choose 1 topic / 1 language / 1 framework. That's the most complicated task, and the more time consuming : you've to choose it carefully because I think you can not do this effort twice in a row. So document yourself well before starting anything. Ask for advice and know what you're pleased to do all day long.

  • Get instant Help : What you need is someone to help you. I don't mean "a teacher that will give you lesson", but just someone that you can call when you are stuck with something you don't grasp. You should avoid at all cost to remind stuck in this process : you don't have time to loose. You have to go forward. Otherwise you will let it down because it's too disappointing to spend 4 nights on a ridiculous issue.

  • Get more free time : It's not always possible, but if you can, reduce your working time (I reduced to 4 days/week work, for instance) for a while.

  • Work on real-life project : I don't tell you not to practice, or to do the assignments of the tutorials you read, but facing real-world problems will speed up your learning curve (I repeat myself, but : you don't have time to loose, otherwise you will give since it's a huge effort that you're asking yourself.)

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in your situation I would

  1. quit
  2. thinking about where do you want to go
  3. take time to learn new things and get your knowledge up to date
  4. realize one or more projects to proove your knowledge
  5. apply for a new job

that is of course only possible if you have enough money savings.

if not, then you are somewhat trapped and you have to apply for jobs while being employed.

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Not always an option. Sometimes you have family needs etc. that require you to stay employed while looking. –  Bill Leeper Jun 6 '13 at 20:34
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Start trying new things at your free time, software is a craft and you need to sharpen your tools and add new tools to your toolset time to time. And with time, you wont feel the strange feeling you mentioned when interviewing. I hope you do it; )

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