TechTips: Breaking in .. or breaking in again

Scottsdale, Arizona in the wintertime is an unabashed party-town.  The
low temperatures in the dead of winter in the dead of night >might<
break freezing; a daytime high of 72 degrees in January is fairly
common.  All of us try to forget the coming onslaught of summer Heat and
to do that we sit out on our patios, throw parties, drink our imbibement
of choice, and talk about work.  ;-)  {Same as everyone else 'cept we do
it in polo shirts in January.}

Anyhow, at one of those engagements an acquaintance struck up an
interesting bit of talk when he explained that he really wanted to get
into something different.  I asked him what that was and he said -- "web
pages."  After a brief bristling of the ol' competitive edge {"what is
this?  COM-PETITION??"} I asked, "so what's the question?"  He asked,
"so how do you break in?"

"Easy," I said.  "Write something."

Write something.  Write anything.  But do it for someone else and do it
at a level that's just a little bit beyond your present comfort-zone.
It does not really matter if you get paid for it, or if you get paid
what it is worth or any of that.  But make sure that it is something
that you learned from, that you can talk intelligently about (absent
your imbibement-de-jour on a balmy Saturday evening), and that someone
ELSE can talk about too.

Of course, make damn sure that the program you have done is rock solid
and bulletproof.  It's got to be GOOD work, and I suppose it goes
without saying that you'll have spent a lot more time on it when you are
done than you thought you would when you were starting out.  But it's
your showpiece, even more than it's an application for a paying or non-
paying customer.

The good news is .. you probably only need to do it once.  After that,
you will find that you HAVE accomplished "a[nother] career change," and
all of your projects from that point on should be paying ones.  (At
least until it is time to change careers again.)

What I would -not- recommend that you spend too much time doing is to
pursue vendor certifications.  Other people have differing opinions on
that of course, but in my humble "it's just too obvious and easy."  Any
one can "buy" a certificate whether they have really earned their chops
or not...  but no one can argue with a rock-solid program that works,
and the thus-proven ability to produce another one.

I also would not recommend -- let alone in these tight economic times --
that you be particularly =choosy= about exactly what sort of opportunity
you want to fall into your lap:  take what comes.  It might be some idea
that you've coined up for a local non-profit ... it might be a bit of
pro-bono work someone else at that same party suggests to you.  Doesn't
really matter:  "find a pot to throw, and throw it.  Once you've
accomplished that, the pot will speak for itself."

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