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Becoming de-skilled

7 January 2011 by superlative

I’m totally becomingĀ de-skilledĀ at work I think, and it’s not good.

I’m writing this post at home, which I almost never do, and that in itself is quite telling. When I want to blog about something, I usually just bash a post out at work because a lot of the time my workload is so light that it really doesn’t make a lot of difference. And in some ways that’s very nice – my job is pretty easy, I’m not often very busy, and it doesn’t stress me out in the slightest because quite frankly how can one become stressed out poncing about on Facebook and Twitter for most of the day?

But in the longer term I’m starting to think that it’s not very good for me. At all.

Officially, I am a web developer and I’m required to have the skills that job title involves. In practice however, the vast majority of my work is web editing – updating text, doing a bit of HTML, cropping and tidying up a few images, and that’s it. I do some proper development from time to time, when I have to create a new site from scratch, but I probably only do in depth development projects about twice a year. And for the rest of the year I sit on my ass and copy-paste text into Dreamweaver.

I try to keep my skills up to date as much as I can, usually through self study and also occasionally with training courses. I need to do so both for my sanity (I’m frequently in danger of slipping into a coma at work), and also so that when a web development project does come up I have some reasonably modern skills to use for it. So since I’ve been working in a dedicated web role, I’ve greatly improved my knowledge of PHP, I learnt Javascript and then jQuery, I did a bit of Flash, I polished up my Photoshop abilities, I started doing a bit on object oriented programming, and I learnt to build sites in WordPress.

But my problem is I don’t really get to use any of this in my job. I use the PHP a bit, and I’ve done one piece of work that used jQuery. And other than that it’s just a case of going “oh that was interesting”, putting my book down, and then promptly forgetting everything I’d just taught myself over the next few months.

And it’s very frustrating! My job isn’t challenging, BUT it pays well (I’m overpaid really given the level of the work I spend most of my time on) and it’s a nice environment. If I wanted to take a more challenging job, given my actual level of skill and experience, I would have to take a pay cut. And who wants to take a pay cut and move into a more precarious position in the private sector?

So anyway, I’m just a bit annoyed at the moment. I really enjoy doing some proper web programming but I never get the chance to, and then it takes me ages when I do because I can’t remember the stuff I used to know. I feel like I’ve stalled professionally, I’ve got nowhere to move up to in my current institution, and I can’t move out elsewhere without losing money. I suppose really I should work on some projects of my own – either just for fun or as freelance projects. It’s just hard to find the energy for it when I’m at work full-time already.

And I don’t know what I’d build if I wanted to do something just for fun. I made an online comic publishing system once, that was quite interesting to do (this was before I knew about things like WordPress that I could do it in now much more easily). And I made this listings site for a friend, and that was challenging trying to get all the bits working the way she wanted.

Maybe I will have a little ponder about things I could make just to see if I can do it. And if I think of something good I can try to use some of the things I used to know about and have forgotten, and might even learn something new along the way.


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