Step 1 – Become an expert

Last week I did a presentation on “How to become a more marketable software developer”. I thought I would spend this week going over each of the five steps. Today we’ll discuss the first step toward becoming more marketable, “Become an expert”.

image While “Become an expert” sounds obvious, there are several things to consider. First, you need to pick an area that is viable. I don’t see much call these days for Microsoft BOB experts. For me, it is a mix of SQL Server Full Text Searching and SQL Server Compact Edition. For a friend of mine, Shawn Wildermuth it is Silverlight and his Silverlight Tour that is his current expertise. But Shawn’s story is one that beautifully exemplifies my next point: don’t be afraid to change your expertise!

While Shawn is known today for Silverlight, it wasn’t that long ago he was known as “The ADO.NET Guy”. Before that he was known as a co-author to many of the .Net MCTS/MCPD study guides. You need to constantly be flexible and react to the needs of the market. Don’t be afraid to retool your skill sets as new technologies emerge on the marketplace.

While you focus on an area of expertise, don’t forget your base skills. I recently heard someone describe your skills as a pyramid. Your expertise is right at the top, but it’s built upon a broad, wide foundation. Don’t forget to take some time on a regular basis to work with the basics, write some code, listen to some podcasts, read a “general programming” book so you keep in touch with the core development skills in your area.

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9 Responses to “Step 1 – Become an expert”

  1. Shawn Wildermuth Says:

    I am humbled by your post. Thank you for using me an example…I am hard to nail down, aren’t I? ; )

  2. Shawn Wildermuth - Humbling Post Says:

    […] Post URL: http://arcanecode.wordpress.com/2008/12/08/step… I am humbled by a recent post from Arcane Code’s only Robert Cain. In explaining how to make your […]

  3. brento Says:

    Your step 5 post hit RSS this morning, and the image scarred me for life. Going to go wash my eyes out with soap, hahaha.

  4. arcanecode Says:

    Yeah, when I posted the week last night I forgot to set the delay on Step 5. Went back and fixed it, but somethings get picked up too quick. For those who missed it in the rss just wait ’til Friday and you too can see what terrified brento.

  5. Derik Whittaker Says:

    As much as I want to agree with you I am not sure becoming an expert is necessarily the correct goal. About the only time I would want to be an expert in something is when I am ok with ONLY doing that in the future (foreseeable future at least).

    To me having a broad knowledge base is better than having a narrow one (remember it was Ayende who said that specialization was for insects). I found that having a broad knowledge base allowed me to find more jobs easier because I was able to speak to a broader set of issues and help provide more solutions.

    Tech changes too quickly in my mind to have a very narrow focus, by time you become that expert it is likely the tech is ‘out of style’ and you need to become an expert all over again.

    My 2Cents.

  6. Franz See Says:

    @Derik
    If you’re an expert, you won’t need much to find more jobs, because people will look for you, or if you’re already in, your employer/client will try to keep you happy just to keep you (doesn’t matter much if the other candidates are cheaper than you, if you’re the only one qualified).

    And of course, you need to be timely in your road to expertise. In fact, you need to be a thought leader. The thought leader is the real expert.

    But of course, your expertise can be adapting as well. If you can ramp up fast in any technology (which allows you to have a broad knowledge), then that’s your expertise.

    Whatever it is though, you’d have to market yourself as such to be an ‘expert’.

  7. arcanecode Says:

    @Derik – Good thoughts, which lead into my Step 2 post for Tuesday. See it for more info on keeping your base.

    @Frank – So true, marketing is a big part of the battle, which I cover in Step 4, Become Known in the Community which will post on Thursday.

  8. Juan Cherry II Says:

    I think my problem is I try to learn everything instead of mastering one. I think I will try your suggestion.

  9. facility9 » Links for the Week Says:

    […] to some developers out there, it’s always good to get a refresher in what keeps us all sharp. Step 1 – Become an Expert and Step 2 – Learn Iteratively are online now. I place a huge amount of importance on continuous […]


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