The question: I have more than 16 years’ experience as a Cobol mainframe developer and I feel I need to increase my knowledge base with some PC programming. What languages would you advise learning? Would you recommend Java as a first step? Could you recommend a company that runs distance learning courses?
The solution: Make the business case for desktop skills
I would definitely recommend Java. It will complement your experience and can be financially rewarding. Most courses are tailored for those with development experience, so you will not be going over old ground.
Distance learning is an option depending on the environment you feel is most conducive to your learning process. If you have the self-discipline, you could try e-learning. The low up-front cost is an incentive, but consider how long it will take to implement the skills. Courses can span months, during which time they may be updated. If working in a group suits your learning style, an instructor-led course gives you the chance to feed off your peers and interact one-to-one with an instructor.
With your experience, do not be scared to make your boss aware of your aspirations. Your ambition can only go in your favour. Before approaching your boss, examine exactly what is included in the course price and syllabus, as this will show you are serious. Sell the benefits your new qualification could bring the firm and it is likely they will invest in your training.
Solution by Robert Chapman, co-founder and chief executive, The Training Camp
The panel: Plan-Net Services, Hudson, Reed Technology, Zarak Technology, No Limits Coaching, The Training Camp