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I work as a senior software engineer (5+ years of exp) at the moment at my company, developing some networked systems.

Since a year, I've noticed that I'm becoming increasingly interested in distributed/high-performance file systems (like apache hdfs, GFS) , cloud-scale databases (like azure table storage, hypertable) and that led me to start reading a lot about it. I've started buying books, playing with existing similar open-source software, reading their source code and modifying them as an exercise.

To sum up, I've read around 10 books on that topic (including topics that are somehow relate to DFS, like low-level high-performance IO optimization techniques, to minimize the hardware-related latency), spent approximately 15-25 hours per week hacking some code in that area, implementing some small proof-of-concept projects for a whole year. It was pretty fun.

But as it is said that the appetite grows with eating, and now I want to start spending all my days working on such systems - in short, change my job and start developing a commercial, widely used DFS.

Now, is there a way other than going back to school and doing a PhD on that topic, to find a job that would be related to an area that has not been on my resume (commercial experience) for the past five years?

How to convince an employer that I have managed to gain more knowledge than my resume is showing in that area? I am aware that I would be applying for a much less senior position that currently I'm holding.

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2 Answers 2

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I think this is a good question. Many in our industry will tell you that experience is more valuable than certification. I'd go a step farther and say that the old saying "It's not what you know but who you know," is also pertinent.

But for you it sounds like the key is just to get a foot in the door via an interview. If you are truly well-read on the subject and can converse it it and have the fundamentals of programming; then I think you'd probably interview well even without production experience, though that lack will be an obstacle for some firms, especially those with HR drones screening your resume.

You seem passionate about the subject and a willing learner. For the right manager or team lead, you'd be an attractive candidate.

Ways to show you're not like the million other idiots that lie on the resume to get a job they're not qualified for:

  • Present your self-taught knowledge and experience in any official capacity possible. Participating in a related open-source project seems to be a common suggestion on the site. But if you haven't, then you have to find a way to show on the resume that you have actually coded in the technology. Perhaps you can note what you did and how it solved a problem you encountered. Practical application should yield some experience common to both genre projects whether solitaire or corporate. Having it on there in some capacity is important to keep the HR drones from discarding you.
  • Networking can perhaps get you a contact that can put you in touch with an opportunity. A personal contact makes for the best recommendation, but if you're prolific on a site dedicated to that subject, you'll perhaps make a contact that way. User groups are another possibility.
  • Recruiters. Most recruiters wouldn't understand a word you said if you started talking about technical details, but a few might know enough to know where to look to help you, and they would have contacts. Most of us are wary of recruiters and justifiably so, but they can have a place and if you find the right one, he or she can be a way to get past that HR drone and get an audience with someone that you could talk to.
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There is a wide debate on the general worth of certifications, but I think this is the perfect example of a case where it would be helpful.

Microsoft offers a certification test for Azure, for example: http://www.microsoft.com/learning/en/us/Exam.aspx?ID=70-583&Locale=en-us

Depending on who is offering it, certification can an excellent way to demonstrate knowledge if you don't have any solid industry experience in that area. If I were interviewing candidates for a position involving Azure development, that would absolutely get you in the door.

It also helps to have examples of the work you've done in that area in your free time, however this assumes that you've gotten past HR and landed an interview.

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