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I'm using programming as an example since this is the situation I'm in:

Ok so I have a couple of years experience under my belt at this point working with C#/.Net and in that time have covered most of the .Net stack (Console Applications, Windows Services, Winforms, Webforms, WCF, WPF, MVC).

.Net is awesome, and I am at the point where I can apply for decent .Net jobs, and stand a good chance.

What if, for example, I decide that I want to work as a Ruby on Rails developer for a while? I have worked with ASP MVC so I have relevant experience, but obviously Ruby isn't C#.

Now for the question:

What are the consequences of

  • boldly claiming, you'll pick up the required speicalizations because you're specialized in a related, similar field and are a fast learner

VS

  • taking a step back career wise and applying for junior/entry level positions when that new specialization is required?

Is it maybe a common enough practice in certain industries to hire people who haven't worked with a technology before but who have demonstrated an ability to learn fast in the past and giving them time to get up to speed?

  • this might be better asked on programmers.stackexchange.com – Preet Sangha Nov 27 '13 at 19:57
  • I'm scared of those guys, they close everything but point taken! Thanks! – JMK Nov 27 '13 at 19:59
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    @PreetSangha I think you've got a wrong idea about Programmers – gnat Nov 27 '13 at 22:22
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    @PreetSangha P.SE is primarily about the design phase of a software project (rather than the implementation which tends to go on Stack Overflow). Career and skill development is specifically off topic on P.SE because to give a good answer it becomes very individualized. We enjoy such questions in the chat room, but as a question on the site, its not appropriate. – user10042 Nov 28 '13 at 3:04
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    So I tried to edit the question in a way that makes it more applicable to a wider audience. @JMK please check if this is acceptable to you. I would very much love to keep this question open as it doesn't seem to belong to any other SE and it's a question that might be important to a lot of people. – CMW Nov 28 '13 at 9:13
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How does a programmer change programming languages, professionally?

  1. Apply for a job where the skill that you want to learn is in the "nice to have" list and not the "must have 5-7 years experience".
  2. In your free time (if you have any):

    • Learn the skill on your own.
    • Decide on a pet project that you can enjoy learning the skill with.
    • Then, when you interview, you can explain that you do not yet have professional experience in that area, but you do have a demo of the work you've been doing with it.
  • One comment: For your "Demo" work - try to re-solve an old business problem with the new technology (providing you aren't exposing any trade secrets in doing so). Playing with something at home vs. solving a business problem is very different. It shows you're serious about the technology, and not just dabbling. – Wesley Long Nov 28 '13 at 0:10
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    If you decide to use your free time to learn new programming languages, please see if you can do so by contributing to OSS projects. – CMW Nov 28 '13 at 9:20
  • @WesleyLong I think we mostly agree here. "Dabbling" and "playing around with" are counter to the advice being given. They are not examples of learning a new skill. Also, others may have better discipline during their off hours learning, but I find that I stay engaged and focused longer when working on my own projects. I have nothing against re-solving an old business problem if that holds your interest. But the goal is learning the new skill and you need to stay engaged to do so. Otherwise, you risk losing focus and only "dabbling" and "playing around with", which would be a failure. – もしもし Nov 29 '13 at 18:43
  • @もしもし - No one is saying that you aren't serious. However, there is a big difference in presentation. If you show someone a project where you can turn your water heater up or down based on time of day, that comes across as "dabbling." I'm not saying it is, I'm saying it comes across that way. If you show them, "We solved this workflow bottleneck this way," then you come across as serious. Presentation matters as much as substance in an interview. – Wesley Long Nov 29 '13 at 18:49
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In such a circumstance I would look for someone 'migrating' from one to the other - it doesn't really matter which direction because you'll be expected to learn the one you don't understand. Often this occurs when one company acquires another and they have to reconcile two dissimilar environments. While this is a small subset of employers, there are people that are highly impressed with people willing to expand their range.

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