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Had no idea where to post this... Hoping someone can give me some advice.

I have a rather broad set of IT skills. Ranging from helpdesk support, server support, desktop support etc. All the way through to some coding skills (html , CSS and JS )

At the small business I currently I am employed to do IT support full time, there isn't enough work for this so I am often given web dev jobs. Mainly coding up WordPress sites...

Anyway, I'm 29 this year and am contemplating what to do... I seem to have this broad range of skills but I'm not a specialist in any of them...

I am trying to work out what to do and how I should choose a speciality ...

I have some solidity programming skills too (ethereum) wondering if that is the way to go.

Anyway, I guess I'm half venting and half looking for advice, just so lost.

Any advice would be very much appreciated...

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  • Hey there. You might get a bit more of a response if you edit your question to include a question (other than "what should I do").
    – JohnHC
    Jan 15 '20 at 14:53
  • hey, generally many web developers are familiar with many different tools and technologies - web kind of requires that. I'd say try to find what you want to specialize in... you mention wordpress and eth, so maybe get deeper into PHP or solidity. What do you enjoy doing and what are your goals?
    – ina
    Mar 2 '20 at 23:37
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I was in a very similar situation many years ago. I started working for my family right out of college and even though it was a great opportunity to show off my skills, it was hard for me to gain any real experience as there was no one to really learn from. I continued to be a "jack of all trades" for many years, which can bring a lot of value to a small team or startup. Unfortunately, not a lot of companies need that type of person.

If you have to pick a clear career path/focus, I would focus on the areas you most enjoy and gives you the best work/life balance. I would recommend getting certified in that field as that will give you some credibility and advantage in finding new employment and/or try to get an entry-level position behind someone who can mentor you.

If you want to stick with the full-stack developer angle, you would definitely add some value to a startup that needs someone who can wear multiple hats. You can also try your hand at freelancing; set up an account on Upwork and see if you can get a steady stream of work - you might be able to turn it into a fulltime gig.

Good luck!

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There are a lot of great technology paths and it can be tough to focus. You are in a promising situation with your current employer, though.

  • Create small software projects to solve company problems. These become your portfolio and legitimate experience if/when your skills develop to the point you want to focus on software development. Then ask your employer to change your job title to "web developer" and then your "jack-of-all-trades" job becomes a real stepping-stone.

  • Create documentation for basic tasks you do with the server, web site, and support. Step-by-step instructions for adding email accounts in your company might seem basic, but in a small business (with probably no documentation at all), this is huge. Plus, you are the SME and reinforce your own knowledge.

  • Education. Ask your employer for permission to take 1 hour daily for web developer education. Then sign up for a course from Udemy and get paid to learn to make a greater contribution to your company. Or certification courses. Go through the core CompTia certs (A+, Net+, Sec+). Same justification, your value will increase at your company because you level-upped your job-related skills.

  • Personal projects. Small investment here. Buy 3-4 domains. Host one with a cpanel, another on github. Take the third, get a virtual machine somewhere, and create your own web server with email.

Embrace your opportunity. You can make incredible growth where you're at while you sort out your future focus.

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I can sympathise with your situation, having found myself in a similar one a few years ago. I'll get on to what my advice would be shortly, but to give you a bit of background into why I'm advising this:

I studied Computer Science at university, so learnt quite a broad range of programming & scripting languages, along with the theory behind best practices, different methodlogies, etc. I chose to study computer science because I thought I would enjoy a career in programming- I enjoy logic & problem solving, and had always had an interest in how software worked/ curiosity regarding how you would write software.

My course involved doing an Industrial Year Placement (sandwich year), which I spent working for a large consultancy firm. During my time on placement, although my job title was Associate Software Engineer, I held a few different roles with a couple of their clients- based at the clients' sites- these roles included functional testing, and business analysis. I didn't actually get any real industrial experience of software development which is what I had been hoping for before I started, but I realised that actually, I had really enoyed the BA experience I'd had, and thought maybe I would enjoy that as a career more.

Over the first 5/6 years after graduating, I had a few jobs that were 'Software Developer' jobs (the job titles varied, but this was essentially what I was employed for). Due to the different industries that the companies I worked for were in, I ended up with a very broad range of programming/ scripting skills, including C++, Python, Angular, C#, Java. In most of these roles, I was a member of a team of developers (varying sizes, from 2/3 all the way up to 30+ spread across multiple countries). I also spent six months to a year or so working self employed, with a couple of clients- one of my clients was a company in a 'non-technical' industry, and I was writing some bespoke software for them, to assist their team with their day to day tasks. As the only 'techy' there, I ended up managing their IT as well as writing this software for them.

As time went on, I realised that I wasn't enjoying the programming side of things as much as I had thought I would before I started working in it. Sure, it was interesting, but what I enjoyed more was working with people to understand what problems they were trying to solve, i.e.e gathering & analysing requirements, and specifying solutions, rather than the actual work of building the solution.

So, I started applying for Business Analyst roles. To start with, my applications kept getting rejected, and the feedback I was getting was "You don't have the relevant experience".

So, I sought some advice from a careers service, and they helped me to re-write my CV, so that rather than being tech-heavy, it focussed on the interpersonal skills I had developed (working directly with clients/ end users to gather & analyse requirements, and drawing on my development experience to be able to articulate the requirements effectively to developers).

I started applying for BA jobs at some point while I was between other contracts, and had a few interviews. I was also still interviewing for developer jobs at this point, and found that I was still getting head-hunted for that (I had uploaded my CV to a few jobsites online). Eventually, I ended up taking a couple of developer jobs that didn't work out, and decided that enough was enough. I stopped accepting requests from recruiters to put me forward for developer roles, and decided to focus on applying for BA ones myself.

I eventually started getting interviews for BA roles, and was able to draw on the relevant 'BA experience' I'd had in my previous roles as a developer to show that I was qualified for the job. Having now been working in a BA role for about 6 months, I am really enjoying it, and think it was definitely the right move for me. I don't currently see myself ever moving back into development, and I'm looking forward to the challenges of establishing myself as a Business Analyst.

My Advice

  1. Work out what you enjoy doing. This might take some time/ a few attempts at different things. Just because you aren't enjoying one thing, doesn't mean there isn't anything out there for you. It could be something completely different. It could be something very similar. But there will be something out there that you enjoy doing/ enjoy more than other things.

  2. When you have worked out what you enjoy doing, figure out why you enjoy doing it. What in particular is it that gives you that enjoyment? What made you realise that this was what you want to be doing?

  3. When you know what you enjoy doing, and why you enjoy doing it, you will know what experience you have of doing it. Try to get more experience in this field.

  4. Draw out the strengths you have in this on your CV and when attending interviews. If you have worked with this in the past- make the most of that experience. If there is anything outside of your working life that has a positive effect on the particular thing you want to be working with- make the most of this.

It may take some time to find the right role/ company/ whatever, but don't lose heart. Look to learn from whatever your current situation is, and work out how you can use that to move you in the direction you want to be going.

One other thing to mention- you don't have to choose a speciality. There is absolutely nothing wrong with being a jack-of-all-trades. If that's what you enjoy doing, make the most of it. There are plenty of companies out there who can't afford to employ a specialist in all of the different areas/ technologies they work with, so if you can fill several gaps at once for them, by being someone who understands/ can work in all of these areas- market that.

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