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Best way to invest time?

 
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I am in a situation that is probably not too unique. I am getting plenty of work-at-home contracts doing Cold Fusion, JSP, ASP.NET, SQL, etc. I have plenty of time to kill before I am desperate for work again, and I'm wondering what is the best way to invest my time.
I have a wonderful library covering everything from advanced Java/EJB, design patterns/UML, C++, MFC, DirectX, OpenGL, 3d animation, and anything that can be done on a computer with software.
However, my work experience is only as a web programmer. So, my question is:
1.) What is the best topic to study on my own during this time...
The tricky condition to this is: "...where a lack of real world experience with a particular technology will not make it a waste of time."
(e.g. I spent time practicing building apps with EJB's and Oracle, but I have never seen a position posted that would hire someone who knew ejb's unless they also had financial experience.)
 
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device driver development?
game programming?
I guess look for areas that require a greater amount of technical expertise than delivering solutions to plan/budget.
The reason why many jobs require project experience is that the technical skill is low, so more focus is placed upon project delivery..
Does that make sense?
my 2c
 
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Create your own real world experience by getting involved with an open source project.
 
John Fontana
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Simon and Matthew -
Both interesting suggestions...Simon's is a new one, and I'd like to discuss both...
I have consistently seen open-source projects mentioned as one good alternative to work experience - I've joined Sourceforge and browsed the projects...the question here is still what then to pursue? Would I do well to heavily pursue Java/Swing GUI development having a background in visual design as well as SCJP? Or would it be better to combine Simon and Matthew's suggestions and take on an open source 3d game engine project?
To add another familiar angle, what would be more beneficial: An open source project under my belt, or another certification? (Maybe Oracle OCP or MS MCSD C#?)
 
Matthew Phillips
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I don't have a suggestion as to what type of project to pursue, but I would suggest getting involved with an open source project instead of getting a certification. Working on an open source project will prove you can do the work. A certification will prove you can pass a test.
 
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or maybe study EJB, and do a short-course on stock-trading basics, which also delves into Fixed-Income and Investment Banking... ??? i am just having a wild stab in the dark.
concerning all that financial experience that is sometimes asked for, maybe, it is just a familiarity with processes and terms that is required?
 
John Fontana
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Originally posted by Jasper Vader:
or maybe study EJB, and do a short-course on stock-trading basics, which also delves into Fixed-Income and Investment Banking... ??? i am just having a wild stab in the dark.
concerning all that financial experience that is sometimes asked for, maybe, it is just a familiarity with processes and terms that is required?


Thanks for the feedback, Jasper.
I tried for almost two years to find a way into the financial programming field...I have BEA Weblogic and Oracle running at home just for this purpose alone. You can still see all of my threads from the past year asking for collaboration on an open source financial application, but my efforts did not produce results.
Unfortunately, the barrier to this field seems too great -- comparable to starting completely from scratch in almost any other facet of development. If the ad does not say "do not apply unless you have financial experience", then it says "degree from high-ranking university only".
It seemed to make sense to me at first, being a very skilled programmer, knowing UML and have a solid understanding of design patterns and OOP. But somehow in the eyes of a company hiring a programmer for financial applications, there is little to distinguish me from someone who doesn't know how to program at all.
 
SJ Adnams
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There are lots of financial certificates available, see securities institute, ACI & the CFA. Oracle OCP has a high profile of course too.
Don't dismiss all certs as the ability to pass a test. People have opinions about open source projects also (along the lines of unstable bloatware written by 14yr olds).
To be honest if you really have that much energy you should think about starting your own company/project. You must be able to think of something that people would be willing to pay money for surely?
my 2c
 
Jasper Vader
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dude, i hope you get a break... i do think networking is a good way to go. it helps. if you happen to be good friends with someone, and a position comes up at their company, they may very well put a LOT of effort into helping you. although i have never been a great networker and only chosen my friends for who i like etc, but friends have helped at certain points.
programming is not like life. life can be chaotic, magic, and i hope it displays some miraculously surprising characteristics for you soon!
 
John Fontana
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Originally posted by Jasper Vader:
dude, i hope you get a break... i do think networking is a good way to go. it helps. if you happen to be good friends with someone, and a position comes up at their company, they may very well put a LOT of effort into helping you. although i have never been a great networker and only chosen my friends for who i like etc, but friends have helped at certain points.
programming is not like life. life can be chaotic, magic, and i hope it displays some miraculously surprising characteristics for you soon!


Thnaks for the good wishes! I actually consider myself pretty lucky...I've gotten a lot of good contract work this year doing web dev, so I think that having the freedom to study anything is pretty cool...

Originally posted by Simon Lee:

There are lots of financial certificates available, see securities institute, ACI & the CFA. Oracle OCP has a high profile of course too.
Don't dismiss all certs as the ability to pass a test. People have opinions about open source projects also (along the lines of unstable bloatware written by 14yr olds).
To be honest if you really have that much energy you should think about starting your own company/project. You must be able to think of something that people would be willing to pay money for surely?


Still more interesting suggestions...I did recently write and publish a personals website (sex always sells), and I'm thinking of reusing the code to publish many more geared to specific audiences...
Meantime, I'm considering an open source Swing GUI bioinformatics project...and really getting to know Swing like nobody's business. GUI comes much easier to me than EJB, perhaps because of my graphic design background...Hopefully in this area my eye for design will matter more than financial experience...
 
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