What <technology/language/feature> should I learn in order to be best positioned for the future in order to increase my marketability in the future?
There are variations on this, like “should I be a DBA or Developer”, “is management a good career path”, “is management the only career path” (somehow intimating that all paths are just hobbies).
I just answered this one (again) on asktom and basically said it boils down to “soft” skills like common sense, communication skills, excitement about learning new things and so on. In short, a particular language or technology? No, there are none that will assure you of increased marketability in the future. A good track record – with the ability to think, be creative, be flexible, utilize your common sense – that can.
Then, later in the week, Kathy Sierra posted this… It says almost the same thing – using slightly different words of course (and a picture, always a neat graphic). Very nice.
I agree very much with her sentiment expressed there:
"How many of us over 30 are working in the same field that looked attractive to us (or our parents) when we were 14? I'd encourage anything that requires thinking, creativity, and focus."
If someone would have told me what I’d be doing at age 40 when I was 20 – I would have laughed at them, or at least not understood the words coming out of their mouth since bits of what I do would not have been comprehendible in 1985. To tell me I would spend some amount of time talking to a room full of people – sometimes with an audience numbering into four digits. To tell me I would be writing so much. Well, I couldn’t envision it back then (heck, I hadn’t really even touched a computer back then, I had no clue what I was going to do).
None of my career has been “goal oriented” so far. I never had a plan, I don’t even know how you would have a plan to do what I do now. I certainly never chose a technology or language as a means to ensure my marketability in the future. I did however jump at the chance to try new stuff – to move around, to never do the same thing year after year after year. I volunteer for those opportunities, still do. There have been what I thought were dead ends I got into – that turned out to be some of the best things to have happened to me.
So, my advice, be flexible, try new things, see what you like to do and what you are good at doing and constantly “refine” what you do over time. If you are in an environment where that is not possible – look for one that makes it possible. I’ve volunteered for projects that were far away from where I lived because they looked interesting, I’ve left a job because it became such a drag that I couldn’t envision staying there for another day. Change is good, even when it is bad.
Nothing wrong with having your hobby as your job either…