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I am working for a small but good software company with solid products in the US. I really like what we do here and my specialized education in one form of computer science is a very good fit for the company.

However, I was initially hired to work in a specific team inside the company and for about 4-5 years I've been stuck in the same team (since I joined) because the manager there doesn't want me to join any other team. He is keeping me as a special talent in the team to do specialized research etc -- but I get hardly any productive work to do.

Most of the time I have to invent things to work on. Also, I have to join a daily standup in the company and report what I did the previous day. I get very uncomfortable talking about my work because the work is most of the time something that is irrelevant or doesn't really fit in anywhere.

Meanwhile, because I don't get to work on real production code actively much of the time, my skill level has deteriorated and I am now finding it hard to move to a different company without making a serious time commitment to improving my skills first.

I am currently 34 and had to stay with the current company this long because they processed my green card.

I'm looking for suggestions on how to move on from this situation, possibly to another company.

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    Possible XY problem I think. Your problem is that your tasks (in your estimation) do not challenge and develop your expertise, and you have already singled out that changing company is the eventual solution. There might be other steps you can take. – ig-dev Dec 2 at 22:43
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    You're getting good answers so I will just leave a comment. Don't get too hung up on the idea that your skills are somehow deteriorating and you're becoming un-hireable. You just need to look for positions that fit your capabilities. The majority of the job market is built on "old" skills, not just the latest/greatest. – dwizum Dec 3 at 13:47
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As a first step this calls for a conversation, or maybe a series of conversations, with your manager. They should be private conversations, and you should ask your manager to allocate time for them, to reduce the chance of interruption.

Tell him you can do more. Present the situation as a problem for the two of you to solve together. Tell him you want to take on more responsibility. This is the positive way of saying "I'm bored and underutilized." Ask him what it takes for you to do more for your present company. You might offer a couple of suggestions for projects or temporary assignments that might work for you.

Asking for more responsibility is almost always a positive thing: companies like it when their people want to do more. Managers get a lot of credit when their people get promoted and/or start doing good things for their company.

Another idea: in the conversation, ask what your manager thinks about training somebody to do at least part of the work in which you are expert. Again, this is positive: it's good for the business if more than one person has business-critical skills.

If you really are without much work to do, spend your time learning new things. There are plenty of online tutorials and training classes you can take. Many of them are free. Others are inexpensive enough that you could pay for them yourself. If they're programming-type training, you can work the problems in your idle time.

Finally, if none of this works, it may be time to move on to another company. If you do that, be positive about yourself. Keep in mind that you have lots of experience and rare expertise; focus on what you know and what you do, rather than on what you wish you were doing. You might write a draft of your resume with several statements like this one.

I applied my sss skills to do xxxx project. It enabled my department to finish yyy on time and under budget. The result was increased sales (or whatever).

Three or four of those statements will (a) be a good start for your resume and (b) get you thinking positively about your present job.

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the manager there doesn't want me to join any other team.

In most companies, the key is that the manager of the other team must want you, and you want to move. Your manager doesn't want to lose you, but the company as a whole would rather you moved team than left for another company. If you want to move, talk to the manager of your target team and get him to organise it.

If the other team doesn't have an actual vacancy, you can try asking if they have any tasks you could take on in your spare time. That would give you something interesting to do, and they may make the move official after a while.

I have to join a daily standup in the company and report what I did the previous day.

If you weren't given anything to do, just say so. It's your managers fault not yours. It might encourage a team member to ask you for help, or to suggest something useful you could do. More importantly, it protects you if HR or your boss's boss notice that you're spending a lot of time on non-work stuff. Similarly, if this has been going on for years, there should be a written record of in your annual review.

hard to move to a different company without making a serious time commitment to improving my skills first.

If you're inventing things to do, you have plenty of time to improve your skills. There are several coding practice/puzzle/test/game sites that can teach you a lot (especially if you want to pick up a new language), look like work, and help you build a public profile.

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Right of the bat I got to thinking: you work for you, not your boss.

It's you who is investing time in exchange for money. As such, if you think your time is, essentially, wasted, why would you stay?

I'm not suggesting you leave the company, I'm suggesting you force the issue of you become less valuable for any other opportunity in your area, whether or not those are in the same company.

Also take note: the longer you let your skills deteriorate, the less valuable you will also be within the company until the only thing you could possibly be helpful for, is that specialised niche of yours.

What I would suggest is you get yourself a meeting with your manager and his colleague managers of other teams (or at least the ones your interested in). Make sure you lay it out extremely clear that you demand opportunity to keep on developing your skillset.

(I chose demand specifically, you sound fed up with the non-opportunities there)

They can then choose to either cave in to your demands, or you can find greener pastures elsewhere. You will most likely have to branch out from your niche, but it sounds as if that's also what your after.

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Is your specialized skill set close enough to the skill set required for you to work on production code? If not, is your manager ok with sending you to a training class? It feels like he’s going to hit two birds with one stone to me. He gets to keep you for special research AND he gets an additional development resource as well. You also get to work on production code and keep your knowledge base updated.

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