I heard Tim Ford say recently that the years of experience don’t matter as much as what you do with them.
That’s a great quote. It’s also one that goes along with the idea that there is no shortage of people that mistake 5 years at a job for 5 years of experience. It’s highly likely that many people really get 6 months of experience and repeat those same skills for years, because that’s what the job requires. Unless you have a dynamic, changing environment, one that experiments and regularly looks to upgrade systems, it’s hard to get those years of experience without changing jobs.
That’s a conundrum. Do you want to change jobs to get new experiences and grow? Some people become consultants for this reason. Others regularly look to move on to a new company, sometimes sacrificing benefits, short commutes, or something else to grow their careers. However plenty of people prefer to stick with an organization, whether that’s because loyalty, a great set of coworkers, security, or nature of the work being accomplished. Many people will stick with a job as long as they can.
In those cases, I do believe that you can still do something with your years and grow experience. Continue to learn, experiment, and suggest changes where they fit. Learn to write the complex T-SQL that’s needed in older SQL Server 2005/2008 systems, but spend a bit of time also learning how Window functions in SQL Server 2012+ run more efficiently. Rebuild reports in PowerBI, and see if your organization can see the benefits of investing in one new thing this year. Even if your company won’t make changes, imagine what you’d do if they ever change their minds.
Above all, practice your skills. Rewrite old processes and squeeze out more performance. Automate things in your job, whether you use PoSh or VBScript, when you can make gains in productivity, you can create time. Time that’s valuable in helping you learn. Even if you can’t get your code deployed, will will have the satisfaction of improving your skills, and knowing you can make a difference if you ever get the chance.
I realize many of you are busy. I realize that learning about R or Kimball data warehousing might be seem to be pointless because your organization will never use the technology. I get it, and I don’t disagree. However I hope to inspire you to try to enjoy technology. Jump on Twitter with the #sqlfamily and gain some motivation with what others are doing, or have them cheer you on as you learn. You might be surprised what you can do with your years when you find something you enjoy and get support from others that share your excitement about computing.