Q. I’m an IT manager at a small organization for which I am also a Delphi developer. To my disappointment, the need for Delphi in my region has nearly died out. There used to be a time when Delphi developers were badly needed, but today no one is really looking for a Delphi developer and if they are, there are plenty of us around. I’m thinking of taking a certification exam in Delphi to strengthen my resume and to help me stand out in the Delphi crowd. Or I could switch to being a C+ programmer. What are my options? Should I get trained and certified in additional areas of software? If yes, which areas?
A. There is no doubt that the demand for Delphi development has diminished sharply over the last few years, but don’t give up hope yet. As you probably know, in August 2002 Borland launched Delphi 7.0 Studio, which allows developers to compile and run applications for Microsoft .NET. In light of this recent development, you could take your treasure trove of Delphi experience, combine it with some .NET training, and turn yourself into a migration guru. I am betting that .NET will be around for a while, possibly long enough for a generation of programmers to make a living knowing how to boss it around.
Even if you don’t go the route of combining Delphi with .NET, your idea to broaden your skill base by learning a second language is a solid one. C+, Java, or any language related to Web development would be a good choice.
No matter what you decide to do, research your options thoroughly because what you want to do is give yourself a specialty—such as the one I suggested with Delphi and .NET. You want to do something at this point in your career that will get you noticed.
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I am not sure that a generic certification in Delphi would help you, because it sounds as though you have enough experience in this language that a certification isn’t necessarily going to prove to potential employers that you know what you’re doing. If you want to get a certification, then get one in .NET or whatever else you choose as a second language.
Don’t limit yourself to a specific programming language
You also need to start looking at your programming skills as something perishable instead of something permanent. Specific programming languages rise and fall in popularity, often with an annoying swiftness to those who have skills in those languages. Remember COBOL? It had nearly disappeared from the IT landscape after PCs became popular. It had a brief revival a few years ago when people had to deal with Y2K problems, and now it’s disappeared again.
If you think of your skills as more than the knowledge of a particular language, it will be easier for you to keep your eyes and ears open for the signs that a particular language is losing its popularity. That’s the time to start learning another language or two, not after you find it harder and harder to get jobs.
By subscribing to programming journals that survey the IT scene and by spending time investigating the IT world, you can get a pretty good idea of the waxing and waning of languages. Right now, .NET, Java, C, and C++ are all popular languages, and I think that programmers who know these languages will have plenty of opportunities for at least the next five years.
One more suggestion to help you round out your resume: Get training and consider certification in IT project management. You can do this kind of training via the Web, and you can even take some of the certification tests on the Web too. With project management, .NET, and Delphi on your resume, you would be in a good position to take advantage of any number of IT job opportunities.