Working For Cheap Or Learning Technologies?

Written By John Sonmez

Being a developer at its early stages means making some choices that can definitely influence in your career 5 years later. Should you work? Should you invest in learning new technologies?

When you're beginning in software development, you almost don't know anything. And, in that stage, you need to make a decision: should you start working, with what you have and know, for cheap, or should you invest more time in learning new technologies so that you can charge more for your work?

While you might think that this case has a specific answer, things might not always work like that.

Should you work for cheap or learn new technologies? Watch this video and find out!

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Transcript of The Video

John Sonmez: Hey, what's up? John Sonmez here from This time, I'm going to be talking about working for cheap or learning technologies or learn technologies. I got this email from Raj. Raj is a pretty dang cool name, by the way. I like that name. I think if I were in India, I would go with Raj. “Should I choose to work for cheap on technologies (Winforms, image processing), which will have very less impact on my career or learn technologies,”—and he's got ASP.NET, MVC, AngularJS— “with high demand in market and continue job search?” The way I'm interpreting this question is basically saying, “Hey, look. I can get a job doing Winforms development or doing—what else did he put here? Something that’s not as valuable. Image processing. I think image processing is valuable, which will have not much impact on the career because it's—Winforms development. Who is using that anymore?

We're using MFC and all that or I can continue my job search and I have a job right now, but I could learn ASP.NET, and AngularJS something more valuable in the marketplace. What should I do? Should I take the short-term money and work the Winforms thing and sacrifice my future or should I go without a job and maybe not eat for a while and learn ASP.NET. Here's what I would actually recommend that you do. I would recommend, you know, if you don’t have a job and you don't have a buffer, take the job that you can get with the skills that you have right now, but figure out how you can start transitioning in that job to more update skills, right? If you know you can get a Winforms job like this tomorrow, then go for it. Then go do it, right? In the meantime, start learning something else, and try to incorporate that into your current job. I think a lot of people—and this is—I mean we could apply this to a higher level. I think a lot of people that are out there looking for jobs, a lot of you software developers right now because I know I got to get emails from you. You're like, “Well, I want to do this but I'm not getting that job. I don’t have that perfect opportunity,” or you're even—you've got some experience in retail or some other area and you're like, “Oh well, this is beneath me. I want to be a software developer now. I'm going to just be unemployed for a long time and I'm just going to keep on learning my software development.” Life doesn’t work that way, right? You've got to be working. You're not going to have success by just like spending all this time learning and then you get a job and it's the perfect job that you want. A lot of times you have to create your own opportunities in life and they're going to come from unexpected places that you might not expect.

I would say that like don't wait. Don't just wait for this perfect opportunity. Don't wait for the perfect job that may not come along. I mean be specific. Be targeted in your job search, but mostly, this advice goes to someone who already has a job. If you don't have a job, don't be picky. Right? Be willing to do whatever you need to do to get by in the meantime and it's going to take some extra work. It's going to take some extra hours that you're going to have to devote some extra time studying and learning something else. Maybe you can incorporate it into your job. There's always ways to do that I found, right? When I was working as a developer—and maybe this will help you more than anything else. Take that Winforms job and figure out how to build some tools using ASP.NET or ASP.NET MVC, or whatever technology or AngularJS that you can use at the company. I use this technique myself a lot. I work for a lot of companies that were using outdated technologies. Right? I worked for like HP and Xerox and companies that—and also for government systems where they had really—actually, government systems is probably is the best one where they had really outdated technologies. They were not on the cutting edge at all. Their guys maintain these old systems, but you know what I did is there's always a need for developer tools. There's always a need for tools that make the developer's job or the team's job easier. Right?

All kinds of business processes and things that you have that you've got automated in some way or they can help developers to do their job better that are on your team. What you can do is you can build those tools in those technologies. I was working for this one contract position at a government job and we had, again, an old antiquated system that was this old java system and, you know, not using any of the newest and greatest stuff. What did I do? I started building a tool that made it so that—I built a tool that made it faster for us to do the build of the system. What technology did I use to do that? I used the latest ASP.NET MVC web development technology to do that. Okay? I had a similar job at HP and we had this old tool that we're maintaining. ASP.NET was coming out just at that time and so I created a test tracking software to help internal—an internal tool, not the actual product that we're selling and I created it in ASP.NET MVC.

Use that technique in order to move yourself over to the new technologies where you're still going to get paid to do this and still going to be valuable. In the meantime, you don’t have to be hungry looking for a job because you're looking for that perfect ASP.NET job, but you don’t even have the skills yet. You can be developing those skills while you're getting paid and actually providing value to your team and to your employer. Take the Winforms job as my advice and hey and learn ASP.NET by creating some tools on the side. All right. Hopefully, that's helpful to you. If you have a question for me, you can email me at If you haven't subscribed already, click that Subs—crick it. Click the Subscribe button. I'll talk to you next time. Take care.