What should I learn?

This is a question I get asked a lot. Mostly by those who are just starting off their career as programmers/developers, but often times also by veterans of IT field.

Recently, I found myself asking that question when I came to the realization that PHP, as a language was not as much in demand as it once was. Not that I didn’t know this before but it became more apparent when I moved away from New York. With hundreds of companies and their office, it was never hard for me to find a job with great pay. Now, not so much.

With new technologies emerging faster than a New York minute how do you keep yourself relevant and keep moving up that corporate/salary ladder? A big part of that is knowing which technologies are in demand and being able to predict if they will stay in demand long enough for you to never run out of work.

After some experimentation (and a lot of help from God), these are the things that helped me realize where the market is going and what I need to learn next.

  1. Search the job sites
    Check out various job listing sites (monster.com, dice.com, etc) and search for jobs of all the technologies you are interested in and take a note of how many jobs are available and what their salaries are.

    If you are planning to move soon, then perform this search for the city you are going to move to (or thinking of moving to).

  2. Talk to recruiters
    The first time I heard big data was increasing in demand is when a recruiter mentioned it to me. She also told me PHP was becoming more of a niche skill than a mainstream skill. So, I decided to learn Ruby. I have always been fascinated by the meta-programming capabilities of Ruby.

    However, I came across an article published by Stack Overflow which showed Ruby was even less (much less) popular than PHP. I haven’t stopped learning it though. It’s a fun language and I want to explore it more.

  3. Go to startup meetups and see which technology stack is being used

    A few years ago, Python was the popular kid on the block. All the cool kids (new startups) were using it. If you told someone, your new project was not in Python or Node, you were looked down upon (I wish I was exaggerating).

    The only reason I found this out was because I noticed that at networking events, most new companies were using Python and Mongo.

  4. Other Thoughts

    These three things help you get a general idea of what you should learn next. However, there other things you should take into consideration. What is the most important thing you want your employer or your job to have? If you like working 9-5 then find out what big companies are asking for. If you like the startup culture, then find out what they want.

    Sometimes, you don’t know what you want until you have gone through a few jobs. When I started by career as a developer, my first few jobs were great. I was part of planning process for projects and it opened my mind to all the possibilities. I enjoyed that a lot. I felt intellectually challenged and learned a great deal.

    Later on, one of the jobs I got was at a firm where my manager expected his team to be robots. On top of that he micro-managed everything. I hated it. I didn’t like being micro-managed. Some people prefer it. Some developers are okay with vague requirements, some get paralyzed by them. In an ideal world we would have clear cut business requirements, but depending on where you work, that is often not the case. You need to figure out what you want and then narrow down your search based on that criteria.

    Currently the popular technologies seem to be: NodeJS, AngularJS, React, Big Data (data analysis, machine learning, etc). I think the reason for this is that quite a few new companies are being founded and investors (as well as business owners) need to know if the business plan will work and how to make it work. Javascript is is supported outside the browser, (applications like Mirth let you write code in JS for custom rules) which has added to its popularity.

    Java will always be in demand in the financial sector. You can never go wrong with learning C/C++. As long as computers are in use, C/C++ will be in demand.

    I hope this helps others are out who confused about their next step. Please feel free to contact me, if you have anything else that might be helpful. Below are some useful links:

    http://stackoverflow.com/research/developer-survey-2016 (a great resource)
    http://monster.com
    http://dice.com
    http://glassdoor.com
    http://indeed.com
    http://careers.stackoverflow.com

Published by Moazzam

Moazzam is a software developer working in the big apple. He has over a decade of experience in development. While most of his work involves developing web applications, he does development for Android and Windows Mobile in his spare time.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *