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Transition to SalesForce or stick with Java?

 
Greenhorn
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Hi, first post so please go easy on me (and sorry for it being so long).

I have worked in the IT department of a UK charity for 15 years now. On joining the organisation (straight out of university) my first role was as a member of the Helpdesk. After around 18 months an opportunity became available within the newly formed web development team which I joined and progressed my skills as a front end developer.

Again after a few years my responsibilities grew and I eventually took over the back end of the website using Java, Oracle and at that point in time JRun, while still turning my hand to the front end as and when needed.

In the time since I've taken on the role of a Senior Java Developer and undertaken numerous other projects and mentored more junior members of staff while all the time gravitating back to the web site. Meanwhile having got married, bought a house and had kids, holding a stable job that offers flexible working has been a great benefit which is part of the reason why I have hung around so long.

The problem is that I have become a jack of all trades and don't feel like being what I would call a 'master' of any. I'm feeling that having such wide ranging skills has become somewhat of a curse as in one project I'll be dealing with Java/Oracle/Servlets etc and on the next I'll be turning out a JQuery plug-in.

Our team is small (currently 3 people) and between us we manage the entire technical side of our websites including front/back end, providing an element of business analysis as well as a lot of hand holding for other teams. So practising things like Agile development and peer programming are not really an option and this is something that I think is becoming a real Achilles heel in my skill set.

Anyway, to the point.

We've recently adopted SalesForce as a CRM system and this appears to be becoming a central strategic tool. Being a charity, the organisation isn't willing to offer the salaries that SalesForce developers demand and so have turned to me to transition across to being a SF Developer. They appear to be offering a lot of support in getting me up to speed which is a good thing and something that has very much been lacking in the past. Also, they appear to have far higher regard for a CRM system than they do their website.

(Wages are an issue here as so far they've reluctant to offer me any more for the added responsibility and I am already roughly 30% underpaid based on current salary surveys. I know, it's a charity, but I now have kids to feed and a mortgage to pay and when they employ new members of staff, new comers wages are far more aligned to market rates than that for us long-termers.)

I'm slowly persuading myself that heading towards SalesForce is a good thing as the skills that I already have will not be going to waste since most appear to be used to some extent within the platform. Wages are also very competitive in the outside world which is a good thing for me not only as a bargaining chip internally but also if and when I decide to move on. If I took this option it would allow me to concentrate on a single technology and hopefully for the first time in my career allow me to specialise on a distinct system - maybe one day I could actually call myself a master of something?

However, there's part of me that feels that I will just be learning yet another technology and in doing so will be diluting my skill set further. Before this opportunity came along I did plan to move on in order to up my income. Heading towards SalesForce will mean that for the time being at least my wages will continue to be comparatively low and stagnant. Maybe I should just be cutting my losses and going straight out there and get a job using the knowledge that I already have and hope to bridge the gaps in my skill set on the way?

I'm confused - maybe I just need the balls to make a decision and stick to it? But I'd really be interested to hear anyone's thoughts on this and understand what you would do in my situation and why?

Thanks for reading,
Dave.
 
Marshal
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I fail to see how learning more, and having a broad set of knowledge, "dilutes" your skill set. It's cumulative, not a zero-sum game.
 
Dave. James
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OK, maybe dilute was the wrong word?

What I was trying to say is that with such a broad skill set I don't tend to get the time or focus to reach a level where I feel that I justify calling myself an expert. The way I see it is that adding another technology will leave even less time for me to practice and keep up to date with them all.
 
Bear Bibeault
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Welcome to the club. But in my opinion, knowing more about more is better than knowing a lot about less. You can always focus on particular areas as needed throughout your career.

That is not to say that it's not good to be expert in something, but I think it's not wise to become an expert in a narrow field at the expense of other knowledge.
 
Dave. James
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Thanks for taking the time to respond Bear, it's the kind of thing that I need to hear right now.

Not so long ago I was on the cusp of leaving my current company in order to re-kick-start/progress my career, with a plan of trying to focus on the Java/Spring/Hibernate route. Just as I was about to, this opportunity can up and since SalesForce is a bit of a hot topic right now, it's really made me stop and think (and think, and think, and think!)

I am leaning towards the SalesForce opportunity now as I see it as a fresh start and although the wages will be poor for the time being, hopefully the market will remain buoyant over the next few years and my time will come.

Anyway thank you for taking the time to respond, it was very much appreciated.

Dave.
 
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You are not diluting your skill. You are learning to learn. Being able to learn something new on the job and delivering code that uses it is a rare soft skill. And you have it. And by going to salesforce, you are honing that skill. You aren't losing anything. Java/Spring/Hibernate stack is going to die one day (and some people will argue that Java stacks are starting to become obsolete due to Java script and Functional languages.. but let's not get into that argument right now). JQuery is on it's way to being augmented by Javascript framework that provide higher levels of abstraction. Salesforce is strong today. It won't be in 5 years

One thing is constant that in this industry is change. Everything dies away. also, the more things change the more they stay the same. The same concepts get recycled and combined in differrent ways. Once you practice moving between technologies, you see patterns, and you realize that this new thing is a variation of something that you did 8 years ago. For example, designing an Angular app is not that much differrent than designing a MVC application in Struts or Spring. It's running on the client, and it's all in Javascript, but abstractly it's more of the same. Exposing yourself to differrent hings helps because it makes it easy to transition to the next new thing.

Another place that your skill in being able to adapt might help is in greenfield projects. I was facing this for a while. A greenfield project is basically a project in which no technology decisions have been made. Sometimes you have a project where some people have a business idea that they want to implement and sell. These people have no idea how to implement it. So, they go looking for tech guys who can start thinking about fleshing out technically. what is the first thing that the tech guys want to know? What is the tech stack?! But there's no tech stack!. These business people need someone to define the tech stack. And if there's no tech stack defined, tech people get scared. They want to know if they are going to be succesful in their job when they join right? So, if they are experienced in Spring, and you suddenly decided to use Haskell, they will be screwed! So, a lot of the business people in tech need people who can basically enter the project with the attitude that says "I will figure it out. I have worked in several differrent tech stacks.. I'll figure out what the right stack is"

I do think you need to be paid fair wages. They are running a charity. You aren't! If they want you to run a charity, how about putting you on the board and allowing you to decide the strategy for the charity? No? Either pay, or provide ownership. You can't expect someone to hop where you want them to hop and don't pay them fairly! Founders and CXOs work without a salary. The reason they do that is they can leverage the experience that they are getting here into something that will take them to the next level in the next job. Interns work without salary so they can build their resume. They are not providing you an opportunity for professional growth, then they should pay you.

I think it's a good idea to get into Salesforce and leave.
 
Dave. James
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Thanks for taking the time to write this Jayesh - you've highlighted this in a way that I hadn't identified with yet. And you're right, learning a new technique would be adding new skills that could easily be transferable and combined with those that I already know in the future - especially that of cloud computing.

As within any technology SalseForce won't be around forever (even with it's promising start), but no doubt the the underlying principles will endure significantly longer. I will only really understand the benefits of having gained experience in this retrospectively.

I've been with my current employer for a long time, and at the back of my mind there's a voice telling me to move on and earn more for my family. But maybe (so long as I spend my time wisely) being patient will provide a better investment and open more diverse opportunities going forward.

Thanks again for your comments, they've been very much appreciated.

Dave.
 
With a little knowledge, a cast iron skillet is non-stick and lasts a lifetime.
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