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I signed a two year contract at this company expecting a developer role. However, something happened and now they need many configurations (SQL entries) to be done and I now am essentially doing data entry. It also doesn't look like this is going to change anytime soon since these configurations are "critical".

My question is, what can I do part time in order to be hire-able as a software developer once my contract is finished. I was thinking of pursuing an online masters degree in comp-sci but I don't know if there are any reputable online masters degrees out there or if it's even a good idea.

Additional information:

1.) This is my first job as a "developer", previously I worked in numerical computations in academia. 2.) I have a science degree not a computer science degree (which is why I think I may have been pushed to this data entry work).

Update

Thanks everyone for the suggestions. Based on the comments and answers my plan is to

  1. Automate the manual configurations as much as possible
  2. In six months, depending on how things go, look into if there is a breach of contract (consulting a lawyer) which allows me to look for another job.
  3. Contribute to open source projects in my spare time.
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    Have you considered looking for another job? Such a drastic change in job duties may constitute a breach of contract and may allow you to freely leave even if the contract disallows it (but you'll need to talk to a lawyer about that). You may also just be able to give notice to leave as usual, depending on your contract and local laws. A new employer may also be willing to give you a signing bonus to nullify any penalty there may be. – Dukeling Jul 28 '18 at 6:50
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    this is not unrelated to development at all, and as M.T.Davis' answer already said, SQL is a important skill for any serious professional application. Also, if you do data entry, maybe you can try to automate your work, this will sharpen some programming, or at least scripting, skills. I don't think you are not "losing" by doing that. Also, this doesn't prevent you from looking for a new job as well, in case you are kept too long and/or you don't like doing this. For most developer jobs, experiences and being already familiar with various technologies is more valuable than degrees. – Pac0 Jul 29 '18 at 18:51
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    Does your contract prohibit you from doing developing work on the side, e.g. are you allowed to contribute to open source projects? Also, have you tried figuring out a way to automate the data entry so that your job becomes to support the software development and not the data entry? – JJohnston Jul 30 '18 at 17:14
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Using SQL is a critical skill and comes in handy as a software developer. I would continue to refine your SQL skills and seek opportunities to at your current employer to assist with any software development projects that may come up. Even it's a small role in a development project. Make yourself seen particularly to the team leads or manager(s) of the department you want to join.

Make your desires of becoming a developer known gently, be persistent but not annoying. I know many software developers without a Master's degree. The Master's may help but won't guarantee a job.

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they need many configurations (SQL entries) to be done and I now am essentially doing data entry

How do you know what to do? Presumably it is documented somewhere?

In my last job, I coded about 6k lines of C, and about double that in Python. The Python scripts took the requirements from Doors and spat out a further 20+k lines of C.

Try something similar, generating your SQL schemas (schemae?) from the requirements, in a language of your choice.

That way, you remain an active coder & can describe yourself as such on your CV, plus I got some great praise for being so productive (not to mention that coding is much more interesting than manual data entry).


A bonus, of course, is that whenever the requirements change (and they will no matter what anyone might think), it is much easier and far less error prone just to run my Python script again, than to make many manual updates.

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Are you actually "forced" to work for your employer for 2 years (in which case you usually can leave, you just get a penalty for doing so under breach of contract) or is it just a 2-year fixed-contract? I've been on fixed contracts, and they have notice periods just like a permanent job, only your employer can "naturally" terminate your employment after 2 years.

I'd second thinking "can I automate this?". Also look out for opportunities where a program would come in useful - it could be possible to suggest doing that instead/as well as what you're doing. If the crapwork persists, I'd recommend having a meeting with your manager to explain that the job isn't very fulfilling, and you'd like something harder/more interesting. I've sometimes had luck asking for better work - it doesn't necessarily get you out of doing it entirely, but a job's a lot less soul-crushing if you can intersperse unfun work with fun work.

Another option outside of certification is to produce your own app/website - if it's a fully fledged "thing" that's out there, you could list it on your CV. My home projects aren't usually CV-worthy, but I have used them occasionally in interviews as a demonstration of my skills. If you have code on GitHub, and your profile is listed on your CV, I can confirm some employers will take a look.

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