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I have a good breadth of experience now (over a dozen) primarily as a dba,developer, BI admin, data analyst. I started my career in a couple of startups and now for a big internet company. The culture has always been interesting, fast-paced and just constantly moving.

Recently, a family member of mine asked if I would be interested in taking my experience to his company (an established Oil & Gas). There's an opening for a database developer position there. The hiring manager liked my quals and has asked me to come in for an interview.

Not having experience in this domain, the opportunity seems to be intriguing to work with data in this domain. It sounds like the culture is much slower-paced, but there is stability. People who have worked there for years.

This is primarily a windows shop using .NET, Sybase, SQL server. Almost all my experience has been on unix/linux platforms with oracle, mySQL, open source tools.

Given my experience thus far described, would this be an opportunity worth trying? Going essentially from an internet domain to a manufacturing company? Anyone experience this transition?

I'm thinking there might be a good growth opportunity in the manufacturing company. There is also a chance I can obtain security clearance which could lead into other opportunities as well.

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3 Answers

Yes because it will make you more open minded. This is one of the main reason I encourage you to have as many different experiences as you can. And not only in your professional career.

Seeing different way of thinking or making things can make you a much stronger human being.

Being a total expert can be a problem: real experts (in a given domain) tend to be less open minded. They control totally their field and are less likely to innovate. However they excel in the given domain, so they are still very useful.

But today, innovation is what everybody is looking at. And one of the method to improve your ability of innovation is to look at what others do, how they solved their problem, what problem they have today.

Steven Johnson who wrote the book Where Good Ideas Come From? said:

The collision of hunches makes us more original thinkers

You can improve your capacity of innovating by colliding different way of thinking. For example, you could improve manufacturing with practices you learnt from the big internet company.

You can watch his great (illustrated) presentation on the subject here.

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Thank you. I love the presentation. Its definitely motivating and a reason why I'm thinking more and more about this opportunity. –  jdamae Jul 2 '11 at 15:28
    
Couldn't agree more with you, Pierre. Somebody with a diverse background is highly regarded. We all do software, but it's that industry twist that makes it always a learning game. Keeps you on your toes! –  user29981 Jul 6 '11 at 0:49
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The ever erstwhile Pierre 303 has already given a great answer, but I've made domain switches and here are some of my thoughts.

As Pierre said, you will be exposed to new ways of doing things. Some will be better than what you've done before and you'll learn from it. Some will be worse, and if the culture and management permit, you will be able to use your experience to make them better. Both of the above are good things.

If you're moving to a better set of benefits, compensation, and/or culture, then that's nice too.

The main con I have with domain switches is the learning curve. When you job switch there is always a period where you are dealing with unfamiliar concepts and processes, and this tends to be greater when there's a domain switch too. You'll have to endure some time in the lower left corner of the Flow diagram. But it's just a learning challenge; there is nothing to stop you from getting through it with some time and effort.

Oil and gas is big in my city. It is true that the pace can be more steady in the larger organizations, and they do have deep pockets so getting tools isn't a problem if you can convince management. Yes, they are pretty stable. They also tend to be process heavy, which can be both good and bad. But ultimately, it is one of the many situations where IT is a cost center. If that's the situation you're in now, then dealing with that part should be familiar to you. If not, it's just something to be aware of. There are good jobs in the cost center realm, but my understanding is it tends to be a different culture than when developers work for a profit center.

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In regards to switching domains, I feel that I've learned a lot as a database developer/designer by moving between various domains (mortgage securities, student loans, digital marketing for multiple verticals). At a high level, data is data is data but every domain has unique patterns & problems. Even if some specific knowledge can't be brought from one to the other, there's a lot to be gained by expanding your bag of tricks.

I think the bigger question is one of culture though. Moving from a fast paced agile environment to a slow moving environment can definitely be jarring. In a slower moving company you may not get as many problems to solve or be able to use the latest & greatest technologies. That trade off might be worth it to get more stability depending on your own mindset and where you are at in your life (house, kids, etc).

Only you can evaluate all the pros & cons for the new position but even if it doesn't work out in the long term you can come away with valuable experience.

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+1 for "I think the bigger question is one of culture though" totally agree on that –  Conrad Frix Jul 5 '11 at 21:59
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