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I have spend the last 5 or so years doing PHP, and I have to say it is far from my favorite language. I would like to move to a position doing something else (say Erlang) but how do I get people to look at me. It seems despite everything on my CV (including an upcoming book from O'Reilly) I keep getting pigeon holed into PHP type positions.

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It's "pidgeon", by the way. Pidgin is a chat client. –  Jonathan Khoo Apr 13 '11 at 6:46
Thanks, I have pidgin open here somewhere, so my brain must have confused the two. –  Zachary K Apr 13 '11 at 6:53
sorry, but it's "pigeon" - no d's... –  HorusKol Apr 13 '11 at 12:18
Oops! Silly mistake :) –  Jonathan Khoo Apr 13 '11 at 12:56

4 Answers 4

Edit: It seems that these reasons stated below weren't obviously obvious reasons. Just to clarify: yes, these are obvious reasons. People choose where to go and what they do - there is no reason to succumb to being unwillingly pigeon-holed for five years.

  1. Stop applying for PHP positions.
  2. Remove detailed instances of PHP from your CV.
  3. Apply for Erlang positions.
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obviously... :-) –  Tim Büthe Apr 13 '11 at 7:06
1. and 3. are rather obvious and not particularly helpful. You have a point with (2), it needs to appear as experience but not highlight the PHP too much. –  Steve Haigh Apr 13 '11 at 7:41
4. study Erlang furiously in your spare time. –  user1249 Apr 13 '11 at 8:14
5. join an open source project using Erlang - or roll your own –  HorusKol Apr 13 '11 at 12:20
When proposed a PHP position refuse it. I have a friend that does just that though in another language. He is sick and tired of working on technologies so outdated it is no longer possible to procure the development environment legally ! –  Newtopian Dec 8 '11 at 7:46

You need to broaden your experience as it appears on your CV before you apply for more roles.

You say you have a book coming out, so clearly you do have significant skills, so you have to bring this out on your CV in some detail and make it jump out more than the PHP work. Don't hide the PHP work, you need to show work experience, and who knows, maybe someone ou there needs an Erlang developer with some PHP skills?

Would it be possible to do any work other than PHP in your current role, even if it is just a side project or some investigation. Maybe write a tool or test harness in another language. That way you can claim proffessional experience on another language.

If that really is not possible then I'd say you need to build the experience outside work. If you've written a book then you likely have the skills already. Could get involved in some Open Source work, this would get you experience to list on your CV and also a chance to have some of your work out there in use. Note, you might need to check your employers policies regarding working on OS code, some companies have rules about "moonlighting" even in your own time, so tread carefully.

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Yea we have a no moon lighting rule, (the book was an approved exception) –  Zachary K Apr 13 '11 at 8:04
6. get a PHP job that allows moonlighting in your own time ;) –  HorusKol Apr 13 '11 at 12:21
@Zachary. That's harsh, but not at all unusual. In that case I think you need to do "homework" but clearly you can't release any code, you can still add this to your CV but it won't have the same impact. –  Steve Haigh Apr 13 '11 at 12:23

despite everything on my CV (including an upcoming book from O'Reilly) I keep getting pigeon holed

Consider checking your salary expectations.

If you expect to earn (as a beginner) in a new language as much as you earn (as experienced programmer) in your current one, chances are high for you to stuck forever.

  • I've been through several skill shifts before. When I did it at my own will (as opposed to management decision), I usually had to temporarily give up some cash in order to move where I wanted.
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Apart from following some of the other suggestions here, consider working on an Erlang project yourself on the side. Write that webapp you've always wanted or that monitoring program you've always needed, and put it up on github (or wherever).

This will do several things: it will make you more confident as an Erlang programmer. It will equip you with the practical knowledge needed to show competence in an interview. It will also show potential employers that you have some Erlang experience, putting you ahead of most other programmers.

Also, you should consider looking at startups. Working at a starup can be more time-consuming and pay less than a berth at a big company, but it is also rewarding. In my experience, startups are simultaneously more selective than big companies and easier to approach. Most startups (at least the ones I know of)--especially ones using an esoteric language like Erlang--are looking for good programmers rather than buzzwords. If you talk to a developer at a small company and show him you know what you're talking about, you should have no issues with your php background.

Working at a startup isn't for everyone, but then neither is using Erlang. I would consider it, at the very least.

Ultimately, I think that both working on my own projects and working at a startup is more fun than working at a bigger company; you should consider trying both. Neither option is a silver bullet, and both take more time than just continuing to work at a big company, so be sure to consider the potential changes to your work/life balance.

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