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I graduated from an applied computing top-up degree with a 2:1 (following on from an HND in Computing & Systems Development) in 2015, and went into a graduate software development role pretty much straight after there, at a small company in Oxfordshire. However for reasons unrelated to my role, the company has folded and so i'm looking for a new job.

However I'm getting very worried because almost every Junior Software role I see is for a job that involves a heavy amount of web technologies and skills, typically ASP.NET, which I don't have. The only web stuff I was taught at my degree & HND were PHP, HTML and CSS. The rest was SQL, VB.NET and C#.NET, both WinForms, alongside some Java work, mainly focusing on OOP and Swing (Designing Java applets).

Luckily for me at the time, my graduate role was in a company that used WinForms, specifically C#.NET, the role did not involve any web-based work as that wasn't what the company did. However now i'm job hunting again, and essentially all of the positions in which i'm vaguely suitable for, all involve a large amount of web-based work, and so i'm effectively having to go to an interview and say "Well sorry but I don't have any experience in the main part of what you're looking for", and as a result, I don't get any further than that stage, typically because they feel my ability in that area isn't to the level they want it to be.

Does anyone have any advice/suggestions? Is it best if I get out of the WinForms hole so to speak? and how should I do that when I haven't got anything else to go on, as far as front-end development is concerned?

  • Do you want to continue doing what you were doing before ('desktop client development with specialization in WinForms') or do you want to move into Web development? – Brandin Jan 28 '17 at 14:16
  • I don't know. I'd rather not start learning new stuff again, as i've spent my life in that academic cycle already and its nice to be able to get out of it and do something with my skills. I like doing WinForms, I like it a lot, but i'm not opposed to doing web development. – John Bergqvist Jan 28 '17 at 14:42
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    In that case, try applying for mostly the jobs that do what you want to do. Don't apply for Web development gigs unless that is only part of the job. – Brandin Jan 28 '17 at 14:52
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    "I'd rather not start learning new stuff again, as i've spent my life in that academic cycle already" - even if you're sticking with a language/framework/stack you've been using for long time, you should always be learning new stuff as that language/framework/stack is evolving. Also - why the assumption that you can only learning in an "academic" context? – HorusKol Jan 29 '17 at 21:51
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    If you don't want to learn new stuff, get out of programming because you can just as easily get stuck with the old stuff and make your job miserable. – user8365 Jan 31 '17 at 20:26
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Try looking for different programming jobs. I've been in the industry for about 27 years now. I once did a little bit of web interface programming as an R&D task. Apart from that - nothing.

There are plenty of other software jobs that have nothing to do with the web. There's embedded systems - automotive, avionics, defence, process control, TV set-top boxes and so on. Then there's desktop applications, back-end servers, games, ...

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Is it best if I get out of the WinForms?

WinForms is still used but it is already considered somewhat obsolete by some people, who favor WPF, its successor.

Do you need to know web technologies to succeed as a developer?

Not necessarily. There are lots of fields in programming, and web development is only one of them. It's getting a lot more prominent though.

Nevertheless, if you want to have a career in the programming industry, you need to understand that everything you know today will become obsolete at one point or another. It may take a very long time in some cases (e.g. COBOL) but it may also be very quick (e.g. the JavaScript ecosystem). You'll be pushing yourself into a corner if you stick to one stack.

As a recruiter, I don't really care whether a candidate specifically knows language X or framework Y. I'm mostly interested in their ability to understand and solve the problems we are dealing with. If they are good, they'll just learn to do it in the stack my company happens to use.

Which is why, along with problem-solving, one's ability to learn new things and adapt is so important. I always discuss that when I do interviews, because someone who seems trapped in a specific ecosystem and has no interest in what other stacks have to offer will not do well in the long run.

If most companies you've approached require knowledge of web development, you should at the very least spend some time learning these things. Maybe not become an expert. Maybe not make a career out of writing web applications, but at least to show that your are a capable learner.

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Lack of web development experience is likely to be holding you back, because it will limit the number of roles you can apply for. I estimate that over half of C#/.NET roles involve at least some web technology.

You currently have WinForms experience which is a good start. If you want to concentrate on the Microsoft stack, then ASP.NET "WebForms" is the closest equivalent to WinForms, but that is arguably yesterday's technology. ASP.NET MVC is probably the technology to learn.

If you don't mind exams, I suggest studying for and passing the following MS exams: 70-480 (vendor-neutral HTML5, CSS3, JavaScript), 70-486 (ASP.NET MVC) and 70-487 (Web API and WCF). That will get you an MS web development certification. Then spend some time learning Bootstrap and Angular, and you should be pretty much up to date as an MS web developer.

  • Agree learn HTML5. – paparazzo Jan 28 '17 at 14:26
  • Well I know HTML already. Unfortunately exams aren't my strong point. Heck, I struggle whenever there's a programming test at an interview, I can't handle the pressure & unexpected-ness of it all, and all my knowledge just goes out the window -_- Also I have tried to get my head around bootstrap but after many goes just gave up as I just couldn't understand it. No experience with Angular. – John Bergqvist Jan 28 '17 at 14:43
  • @JohnBergqvist Uh, HTML5 is another thing. – paparazzo Jan 28 '17 at 17:02
  • Is it? How so? I thought HTML5 was HTML as it always was, just brought up to the latest standard, with the new tags such as <video> etc. etc? – John Bergqvist Jan 29 '17 at 14:50
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I agree with LeBash's answer. In programming, there's no use sticking to one particular stack. At a junior level focusing on problem solving skills will open up your opportunities to a lot more jobs. As you spend more years in the industry you start focusing more and more on a particular technology and some set of languages. But, to start with that approach isn't a good idea. And with time programming languages, frameworks etc will fade. So learning new stuff is a part and parcel of being a programmer. Otherwise you'll lose out in the race.

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