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I'm in a situation I find pretty typical for a lot of my friends right after they graduate and work for a year or two. I'm a junior developer and for the most part I like my job a lot. However, I have a lot of interests outside of just software engineering, and before I commit to being a career developer I would like to try other roles like system administrator, network engineer, security analyst, or solutions architect. Given though that salary is based on years experience it seems silly that I would basically spend 6 or 7 years in entry level positions in each of these fields until I decide on which one to pursue.

So my question is, what are some good ways to get acquainted with other parts of IT professionally? Should I seek certifications in these fields while still employed as a dev to get a flavor for the work? Is freelancing or working a second job a good idea? Do I need to just try each job one at time and take the pay cut? Or are there more options?

closed as off-topic by Jim G., Masked Man, David K, Joel Etherton, gnat Aug 31 '15 at 15:52

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    I'm afraid this will be closed within the hour because career decisions are off-topic. But if you like Java, then the sky is the limit. There are plenty of Java jobs out there. Good luck. And God bless. – Jim G. Aug 30 '15 at 21:15
  • Thanks, I do enjoy Java. I'm new here, and I didn't quite understand what they meant by career decision. I thought it meant more like should I take this job or this other job, not something like how do I figure out what field to enter w/out negative impact to my current career. Thanks for the advice! – mercurial Aug 30 '15 at 21:37
  • I don't think this question is off topic. There are a few different ways to get breadth of experience, beyond just job hopping at entry level, as shown by the answers. This question has merit. – yochannah Aug 31 '15 at 9:59
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Your best bet is probably working for a very small company. If the IT dept is only one or two people, a Jack of All Trades Master of None, type person is exactly who they'll be looking for.

If you're employed in a more conventional role, doing IT for a charity on evenings/weekends is another option to get your feet wet in other areas.

  • Yup. I went this career path. A similar option is working for a bespoke software agency, which does projects for other companies. Such companies are almost always understaffed and you'll find yourself taking on a lot of different roles. – Muz Aug 31 '15 at 11:48
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However, I have a lot of interests outside of just software engineering, and before I commit to being a career developer I would like to try other roles like system administrator, network engineer, security analyst, or solutions architect.

Are you sure that as a developer you won't do any system administration, network configuration, security work troubleshooting issues or project planning? In small companies, a developer may well have to where almost all the IT hats one can wear in my experience and some of the more high up formal roles like architect may well require some experience as a developer to know the SDLC well.

So my question is, what are some good ways to get acquainted with other parts of IT professionally? Should I seek certifications in these fields while still employed as a dev to get a flavor for the work? Is freelancing or working a second job a good idea? Do I need to just try each job one at time and take the pay cut? Or are there more options?

In smaller companies, developers may well do some of the work of the other roles you noted in my experience. If you work in bigger companies where roles are more siloed, then I'd suggest asking co-workers if they could describe their work and if you could shadow their work to some extent.

I do think at times if you expect that developers don't do testing or network configuration you may well be in for a rude shock at some point though I've been a software developer for 17 years and done pretty much any role within IT with the exception of CIO.

  • That's good to hear. I do work for a large company that's pretty stratified. I've done some unit tests and integration testing also a tab bit of database performance tuning. Nothing though as far as networking or system administration or security. Sounds like developers are relatively constrained where I work. Thanks for the reply! – mercurial Aug 31 '15 at 0:15
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Are you a recent university graduate? In the UK, and possibly other places, larger corporate companies have graduate employee programs where you sign on for a longer period of time, e.g. two years, but them do one job for a certain amount of time, before switching to another, allowing you to try out several of the different career paths.

Try googling for "Graduate Programs" to see the options that are out there.

It's worth noting that job scopes in corporate environments can have a very focused scope, however, so don't assume that a sysadmin role in a small company would be the same as a similar role in a corporate environment, or vice versa. I find working as a developer in smaller companies to be highly stimulating, but working as a dev in a larger company was one of the most boring experiences I've ever had. Others loved it, so it's all down to personalities.

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