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.