View Full Version : Pre-newbie: Specialise or Generalise?

10th May 2006, 00:27
I'm 24, I graduated last summer from Manchester with a 2:2 in Communication Engineering (Electronics, signal processing & nasty maths I didn't understand).

I've always thought this contracting thing could be a laugh and a good way to travel.

After bumbing around a bit in South America for a few months, I started a perminent job as a Software Developer for BT in January.

I have the oppertunity to become a "specialist" in Embedded Linux development. While at uni, I decided to stay a student as long as I could and did a 12-month placement at HP-Laps in Bristol. There I wrote stuff for an embedded linux device, so I've already got a pretty good base. I have also just been put onto 2 projects at BT, both working with embedded linux (This is mainly because I'm the only one in my department that knows about it).

On the other hand, I did a fair bit of database programming (Visual Basic, MS SQL, .net etc.) during my summers (in order to afford beer the next year).

I know I don't have enough experience to go contracting now, which is why I got a perminent job. But, in 18-months/2 years, I think I probably will have enough experience.

My first question is this: Would it be better to try and get onto some more database orientated projects at BT, or is it better to continue to specialise in Embedded Linux? It strikes me that there's a lot more jobs out there for C#, website, database type stuff. I don't want to limit my options by specialising.

Also, is it even possible to get contracts abroad? I only speak English, and that's only at the best of times. I don't really care where the work is, I just welcome the chance to live in different countries for a while.

Any advice welcome.


10th May 2006, 03:16
Contracting is getting harder , its not as easy to find contracts now as it was a few years back.

Simply there are just more and more people in the market chasing fewer contracts , the more experienced contractors will get offered the work first , but it is a question of how you present your CV and your marketing skills.

Rates have dropped over the past few years , we are competing against other skilled workers abroad , many like to go to UK because its a higher paying country compared to some Asian countries that give peanut saleries.

As for specialization , its good to specialise as you will get paid a higher rate because there is less competition , the only downside is that there are fewer opportunities for work. As a contractor you need to present yourself as a specialist in many areas , that way if database work if flat on its back you can then become a C (or C derivative) expert.

Just think of contracting as a self employed business , you need to go and look for work , market yourself and sell your services like any company does .

10th May 2006, 06:42
which is why I got a perminent job

10th May 2006, 06:46
You need to know as much as possible to broaden your chances. Of course you need mainstream skills, C++, C#, Java etc; what project these days doesn't use them or hook into them in some way or another? Have such a specialised skill such as embedded Linux would be great, but on its own you are a one trick pony.

10th May 2006, 07:24
get into .Net mate

you'll be sorteeeeeeeed


10th May 2006, 08:34
get into .Net mate

you'll be sorteeeeeeeed


I hear that sap stuff is the way to go ....

10th May 2006, 08:46
I hear that sap stuff is the way to go ....

Apart from the fact that SAP is slowly dying a death... Mind you that'll make it a niche!

10th May 2006, 08:49
NIOS or any other SoPC...

That's the future...

10th May 2006, 08:50
NIOS or any other SoPC...

That's the future...

As in embedded CPUs?

That actually sounds like fun :)