Next move: How do I avoid obsolete skills trap?

I am a 49-year-old programmer working for a university. My main tasks are maintaining legacy programs written in Fortran, doing statistical analysis with SAS and writing SQL scripts for Ingres databases. My worry is that I am in a dead-end role and one day there will no longer be a requirement for what I do and I will not have the right skills to move on. What should I be learning?

The question: How do I avoid obslete skills trap?

I am a 49-year-old programmer working for a university. My main tasks are maintaining legacy programs written in Fortran, doing statistical analysis with SAS and writing SQL scripts for Ingres databases. My worry is that I am in a dead-end role and one day there will no longer be a requirement for what I do and I will not have the right skills to move on. What should I be learning?


The solution: Java and Linux would be most useful


It is never too late to retrain or up-skill if you are truly motivated and committed. You should perhaps think about acquiring some additional skills to bolster your skillset, or at the very worst retraining.

It is worth bearing in mind that Fortran as a language is rarely used outside of the world of academia. Java and Linux would be the most useful and most applicable to other positions across academia. More projects are being developed at an enterprise level within a J2EE environment, where knowledge of Java is, of course, critical.

Linux, on the other hand, is becoming increasingly popular due to its perceived reliability and security, therefore generating some knowledge in this area is advisable. SAS remains a sought after skill, and with this knowledge you could look at pursuing your career further in this area, particularly if you were interested in working with market research businesses or pharmaceutical companies.

Regarding a career move, consider what motivates and interests you. Changing career can be difficult, especially when you are unclear in your mind as to where your passion lies.

I do not believe your age will be, nor should be, an issue. Your level of practical and - critically important - business experience will stand you in good stead.

Solution by Jason D'Silva Williams, manager, commercial IT recruitment, Hudson

The panel: Plan-Net Services, Hudson, Reed Technology, Zarak Technology, No Limits Coaching, The Training Camp

E-mail your career questions to computer.weekly@rbi.co.uk

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