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Is Perl a good career move?

by Mutant (Priest)
on Jan 13, 2005 at 13:46 UTC ( #421963=perlmeditation: print w/ replies, xml ) Need Help??

We all know that Perl is great, but some recent discussions have got me thinking: is Perl a good career move?

I have friends who have about the same amount of experience as me, but program in Java, earn more money and, (most importantly) have more career options open. I have a good job, but when it comes time to move on, will there be a Perl position waiting for me? My friends know for sure there'll be Java positions.

Another problem is that Perl is kind of a dead end in terms of moving to other languages. One of my Java programming friends was initially a Smalltalk developer, but was easily able to move languages. I'm not sure an employer would be as convinced about a Perl developer doing the same thing (I'm not saying it's not possible, or even difficult, but it's what a potential employer thinks that matters). You can't move from Perl to .NET, VB, or really even C

If you knew a recent graduate, who knew a little Perl and a little Java, which career path would you suggest they take?

I know there are a lot of Perl jobs out there, and there probably will continue to be for some time, but why would anyone choose it as a career path, other than that's what you knew?

Comment on Is Perl a good career move?
Re: Is Perl a good career move?
by naChoZ (Curate) on Jan 13, 2005 at 14:03 UTC

    Ovid's recent post Re: Java Vs Perl on the topic was informative.

    I'd have to disagree about perl being a dead-end. Heck, one of my friends was an asp and asp.net guy and moved to perl. Besides, I think that if you have a solid understanding of structured programming and maintainable code, can't you adapt that philosophy to other languages?

    --
    "This alcoholism thing, I think it's just clever propaganda produced by people who want you to buy more bottled water." -- pedestrianwolf

Re: Is Perl a good career move?
by dragonchild (Archbishop) on Jan 13, 2005 at 14:19 UTC
    Another problem is that Perl is kind of a dead end in terms of moving to other languages.

    Really? As a result of programming in Perl, I will have a much easier time of moving to Smalltalk or LISP. Why? Because I now understand the fundamentals behind real object-oriented or functional programming.

    My friends know for sure there'll be Java positions.

    Yeah, and ColdFusion was never going away, either. VRML was the wave of the future and Flash will revolutionize the web. There are very few things that will never go away:

    • Systems administration, especially large heterogenous setups
    • Database administration, especially large heterogenous setups
    • Data loading, especially across large heterogenous setups

    Perl is ideally suited for all three tasks. It is the ONLY language in the world that can be written once and run on over 200 different systems without changing a single character. Java cannot say that.

    Plus, a language isn't a career path. That would be like saying "If you knew a mechanic who knew a bit about Fords and a bit about Toyotas, which would you recommend him specializing in?" That's a dumb question, huh?

    Being right, does not endow the right to be rude; politeness costs nothing.
    Being unknowing, is not the same as being stupid.
    Expressing a contrary opinion, whether to the individual or the group, is more often a sign of deeper thought than of cantankerous belligerence.
    Do not mistake your goals as the only goals; your opinion as the only opinion; your confidence as correctness. Saying you know better is not the same as explaining you know better.

      I'm not saying I couldn't learn Java in a matter of weeks (actually, I already know a little bit as it is..), but could I get a job as a Java programmer tomorrow? Even if I go away and fork out for a 3 month course, who's a Java employer going to hire? Me with several years Perl experience and a 3 month course in Java, or someone else with several years Java experience?

      I might be sounding pessimistic here, but I honestly don't know the answers to these questions.

        That isn't comparing apples with apples in my book. Regardless of the language an employer will always pick the person most suited for the job. If someone has several years experience of your core system then you will pick them for your shortlist of candidates. Simple.

      Yeah, and ColdFusion was never going away, either. VRML was the wave of the future and Flash will revolutionize the web. There are very few things that will never go away:

      But, we all know that COBOL will make a come back ;).

      I chose the computer science field simply for the fact that there is always something new to learn. I have found it easy to move from one language to the next as long as you adapt your mindset. Anyone who argues whether one language is better than another and how long it will be around needs to approach the subject with an open mind (which I am very pleased to find Muntant doing). Each language has a specific job, even field, it is good for. If I find myself in doubt, I learn both :).
Re: Is Perl a good career move?
by robharper (Pilgrim) on Jan 13, 2005 at 14:45 UTC

    Well, I'm still just starting out in my geek career really, and decided to learn some Perl last summer in order to add another string to my bow -- and have an interesting and enjoyable challenge.

    I haven't managed to get a Perl job, but my demonstrating understanding of REs and some other Perl techniques recently helped me get a job in a team standardizing on Python -- a language which I didn't know at all until after being offered the job (now studying!). I figure that at least some Perl skills are transferable.

    And yeah, I know, I'm joining the Dark Side, but Python seems nice too.

      Gosh Rob, this sounds exactly like me too... Perl skills are sharp, landed a nice Python job (coming sono), now studying up on what I don't remember from occasional plaing around with Python. Maybe I'll come to find we are working for the same place :) Also coming to think the dark side isn't so dark...
Re: Is Perl a good career move?
by wolfger (Deacon) on Jan 13, 2005 at 15:02 UTC

    If you're interested in money, this website might be worth looking at. Me? I'm trying to get a career with Perl because I like it, and I want a career doing something I enjoy!


    --
    Linux, sci-fi, and Nat Torkington, all at Penguicon 3.0
    perl -e 'print(map(chr,(0x4a,0x41,0x50,0x48,0xa)))'
      That's an interesting site. Mostly because of the graph. Java is slipping. Down further, there's a link to an interesting blog.

      Being right, does not endow the right to be rude; politeness costs nothing.
      Being unknowing, is not the same as being stupid.
      Expressing a contrary opinion, whether to the individual or the group, is more often a sign of deeper thought than of cantankerous belligerence.
      Do not mistake your goals as the only goals; your opinion as the only opinion; your confidence as correctness. Saying you know better is not the same as explaining you know better.

Re: Is Perl a good career move?
by Anonymous Monk on Jan 13, 2005 at 15:34 UTC
    No, it's not a good career move. But the fact that it's not a good career move has not much to do with the language.

    Positioning yourself as a "X language programmer" is IMO not a good career move, although for a very few languages (C, Pascal (70s/early 80s), C++ (80s), Java (late 90s), perhaps .NET (00s)), and a timeframe much smaller than the average length of a career (a few years vs 35 to 40 years) its doable. Although you position yourself as not flexible.

    Gazillions of Perl programs are written by people who aren't on the payrole as a "Perl programmer". Instead, they have a much broader function (and hopefully that reflects in the amount of money they can bring to the pub), and they wield Perl as one of their tools. Perhaps their most important tool.

    To make an analogy, do you think it's a good career move to position yourself as a "hammer wielder"? Or do you think that it's better to become a "carpenter"?

    You can't move from Perl to .NET, VB, or really even C
    I'd say that C is the closest relative of Perl, and that the more you know Perl, the easier it is to code in C. And some things are easier in C than in Perl.
      This is right on, ++. A career is much bigger than the languages you know; it's about the kind of work you want to do and being competant enough to know and use the right tools. If you are doing the right kind of work, you will probably enjoy using the tools, even when they change.

      I've used C for a long time, and could still find work with it if I wanted (it was supposed to have died off long ago due to C++). While it was the best tool for the kind of work I was doing, I enjoyed using it. As my work content changed, it became cumbersome. I found Perl was a much more efficient tool, and now I use it and enjoy it.

      Anonymous Monk++. (and by the way I don't normally upvote anonymous nodes because it's kind of a waste of a vote). Banking your career on a single general-purpose programming language is downright foolish (I qualify it with "general-purpose" because there are people who make very productive and satisfactory careers as SAS programmers, but that's different). That said, the reality is that you will often find a job description that really attracts you but requires a language you don't really know. So I would suggest that you bone up on the language really quickly, send in a resume that emphasizes your broader skillset and experience, and if you're lucky enough to get an interview then go in there and prove to them that you're a good enough programmer to fit right in even if you don't have much experience with that particular language. Write up a simple program on the whiteboard or something. Granted, all this is easier said than done, but I definitely don't think it's worth fretting over "Perl is bad for my career" or some other such rubbish.
Re: Is Perl a good career move?
by TrekNoid (Pilgrim) on Jan 13, 2005 at 15:38 UTC
    > You can't move from Perl to .NET, VB, or really even C

    While I'm not 100% certain I agree with *that* statement, I'll point out that moving from Perl to PHP is *very* easy.

    You want an honest answer? After being in Computer Programming professionally since 1986 (meaning, I've been paid to write software since 1986, on one platform or another), I can honestly say that the *language* itself isn't what I look for in new hires... It's the ability to show that you're versatile that gets my attention.

    Granted, I'm not going to hire someone to be an Oracle Developer who's never worked in Oracle... but at the same token, I've turned down several applicants for Oracle positions who have *years* of Oracle experience.

    What I look for in someone to hire is someone who has a 'skill'... not someone who's 'taken a class and done a few programs'.

    I would think you'd be more interesting to an employer looking for a Perl/PHP developer with three years real experience, rather than as a Java developer with a class and no real experience. Same thing is true the other direction.

    Just like Perl, Java (in and of itself) isn't magical... It's what you've *done* with it that matters.

    Look at it another way... Would you rather your resume be one of 200 Java resumes being sorted through, or one of 20 Perl resumes?

    > If you knew a recent graduate, who knew a little Perl and
    > a little Java, which career path would you suggest they
    > take?

    Whichever they can get hired to do right now... A 'recent graduate' needs experience more than anything else. Worry about picking a career path once you've had a chance to see what's going on.

    If you're hoping to stay in this line of work for 20+ years, the best thing you can demonstrate is the ability to switch between languages with proficiency.

    TrekNoid

      I'll point out that moving from Perl to PHP is *very* easy.

      Is it really? Perhaps you are right for simple web based stuff like a mail form, a simple database driven site or just templating. However, real programming isn't translated to PHP so easily.

      First of all, what are you going to do with namespaces? PHP still does not have namespaces.

      Then, what will you do with closures? PHP has no closures. Heck, it doesn't even have anonymous functions. That's another thing: how will you be rewriting that hash of coderefs? A hash of strings that are evaled at runtime?

      And what about all those objects that aren't simple hashes?

      But let's assume you didn't use any of these slightly more advanced programming techniques than the average PHP "programmer" can handle. But you did use modules. You do use modules, don't you?

      PHP is a web programming language, so it must have a good HTML parser ready, right? One is available, but it cannot be called good. It cannot even parse processing instructions like, ehm, <?php ...?> itself.

      Another common task in web programming is sending HTML mail with a few inline images. So what alternative for MIME::Lite do you have? The PHP-ish solution is to build the message manually. Good luck, and have fun.

      But at least it can open files over HTTP. Yes, that it can. But what do you do if you want more than that? What if you want to provide POST content, headers, or implement ETags? Then, you must use Curl, which isn't nearly as convenient as LWP. Don't even think about having something like WWW::Mechanize in PHP.

      Enough with the modules. I think I've proven my point that CPAN makes Perl strong. Now let's discuss the core. In fact, let's focus on something extremely elementary in programming: arrays!

      PHP's "arrays" are hashes. It does not have arrays in the sense that most languages have them. You can't just translate $foo[4] = 4; $foo[2] = 2; foreach $element (@foo) { print $element } to $foo[4] = 4; $foo[2] = 2; foreach ($foo as $element) { print $element }. The Perl version prints 24, PHP insists on 42. Yes, there is ksort(), but that isn't something you can guess. It requires very in-depth knowledge of PHP. And that's the one thing PHP's documentation tries to avoid :)

      Also, don't think $foo = bar() || $baz does the same in PHP. In PHP, you end up with true or false. So you must write it in two separate expressions.

      Exactly what makes you think and even say moving from Perl to PHP is easy? It's very, very hard to un-learn concise programming and go back to medieval programming times. And converting existing code is even harder.

      Juerd # { site => 'juerd.nl', plp_site => 'plp.juerd.nl', do_not_use => 'spamtrap' }

        Exactly what makes you think and even say moving from Perl to PHP is easy? It's very, very hard to un-learn concise programming and go back to medieval programming times. And converting existing code is even harder.

        I wasn't speaking in the context of 'leave Perl behind and go to PHP'... I was speaking in the context the original poster was asking...

        Unlike a lot of folks here, I'm not a person that works with Perl every day... I don't write a *lot* of Perl a year... I write enough that I consider it my favorite language now, but I'm nowhere near Saint-worthy... As a result, my understanding of a lot of the things you mention is limited... and my basis for comparison of the two is viewed through the eyes of someone who isn't an expert in either language, but who found the syntax of the two so similar that he was able to do some PHP work after only a few hours, mostly because I had been working in Perl for 3 years.

        I know I said I'd been writing code for 19+ years, and that's true... The first 12 years of that were BBX (Business Basic Extended) and COBOL... PL/SQL for the last 7, and Perl during the last three... Should, I hope, explain my scope of understanding better.

        I'm not suggesting, in any way, that it's comparable in scope or maturity, because it isn't... I'm just asserting that it isn't that hard to pick up and work with, ie... countermanding the OP's speculation that somehow Java prepared you better to learn other languages, and Perl didn't.

        But I'll gladly concede your points to someone with more knowledge on the differences in the two languages...

        TrekNoid

        Your post has helped me so much. I'm a pretty slow learner so don't go along with the idea of learning serveral languages - especially when one of them - PHP - is a bastardised, inferior version of something I spent years learning - Perl. So many programmers use throw away comparisons betwen PHP and Perl as if their syntax is virtually the same but I've had terrible trouble having to use PHP for some web projects coming from a Perl background. PHP syntax makes me wince, compared with the elegance of Perl. Unlike you multi-linguistic programmers I HAVE to specialise in 1 server-side scripting language to get anywhere with it. I believe in sharpening a single tool rather than trying to be a master of all trades. Perl, with CPAN, is enough to occupy a lifetime anyway so I don't understand where all you multi-linguists find the time to be excellent in so many languages. Competent, maybe, but excellent, no.

        I've reached the point where I'm considering leaving all PHP work well alone because it's having a detrimental effect on my Perl skills. It just encourages so many bad habits.

        I think learning PHP as a PERL developer is very easy, but the other way around might be a little more daunting. My question is why should you want to switch from PERL to PHP. This is like saying that people who speak German should switch to English, just because it's easier to learn. As far as I'm concerned you are better of speaking German in Germany. What I'm trying to say is that sometimes programs need to be written in PERL and other times in PHP or ASP for that matter. Do not switch but increase your knowledge, it's always handy to know how to speak different languages. As for all the built-in PHP functions, it's enough to know that it's possible, you don't have to remember each one of these functions! I've been programming with PHP since version 3 and still sometimes I have to look up (thanks to inconsistent function names(I'll give you that)) in which order the function requires its parameters.

        Furthermore I'd like to point out that PERL and PHP are by no means interchangeable, so learn both. In practice you cannot build all your applications in your favourite scripting language, simply because different customers use different platforms and environments. Planning a career move in just one scripting language limits you to a handful of jobs. In the end you'll see that scripting languages differ very little from each other. Some are better equipped to do some chores, while others are better at other stuff. In the end they all work in more or less the same way.

        Let me point out that I love PERL and that I've also got a weakness for PHP, but this is basically because I'm an Open Source disciple. Let's not worry too much about the differences. It's possible to use both you know!

        Hi Juerd,

        You make some excellent points about PHP, (and having spent much of the last 2 years as a PHP programmer, I agree with many of your points). In particular the namespace issue is a killer (although using OO techniques you can avoid the problem to a degree). You have also made some errors in your comments.

        >>> Heck, it doesn't even have anonymous functions.

        Yes it does.

        >>> That's another thing: how will you be rewriting that hash of coderefs? A hash of strings that are evaled at runtime?

        #!/usr/bin/php -q <?php error_reporting(E_ALL); $dispatch_table = array( # create some anonymous functions 'foo' => create_function('$a', 'return "foo got $a\n";'), 'bar' => create_function('$a', 'return "bar got $a\n";'), 'baz' => create_function('$a', 'return "baz got $a\n";') ); print $dispatch_table['foo']('hello'); print $dispatch_table['bar']('hi'); print $dispatch_table['baz']('yo'); ?> # outputs foo got hello bar got hi baz got yo

        >>> Also, don't think $foo = bar() || $baz does the same in PHP. In PHP, you end up with true or false. So you must write it in two separate expressions.

        $baz = "DEFAULT VALUE"; function bar(){return "Assigned value";} function quux(){return false;} $foo = bar() ? bar() : $baz; print "$foo\n"; $foo = quux() ? quux : $baz; print "$foo\n"; # outputs Assigned value DEFAULT VALUE

        I'm not sure if you could consider that as two separate expressions, but it seems a concise enough idiom for me.

        While PHP does not have closures, I have used static variables in functions to emulate some of the behaviours I have used closures for in Perl.

        Perl remains, by far, my language of choice, but I thought it would only be fair to point these things out

        cheers

        thinker

•Re: Is Perl a good career move?
by merlyn (Sage) on Jan 13, 2005 at 15:47 UTC
    At last night's pdx.pm meeting, we had one of the largest attendances in recent years. And it was for a "lightning talk" session, not even a big name speaker, so the attendance is more remarkable.

    But the jaw dropping moment is when Josh (former pdx.pm leader) got up and said "who here knows Perl and doesn't have a job right now?" In years past, this would have had about half the room responding. But there wasn't a single person in the room that fit! You could have heard a pin drop. So, Josh was reduced to saying "well, if any of you have a friend that knows Perl and doesn't have a job, I'm hiring, please, desparately."

    -- Randal L. Schwartz, Perl hacker
    Be sure to read my standard disclaimer if this is a reply.

      Oh really?? I'm looking for a job, I have years of perl under my belt but am working as part of a Data Integrity team (I clean up typos) at the moment :( Can I fire a resume in someone's direction? ... I am chaz at dslnorthwest period net . Super-thanks.
Re: Is Perl a good career move?
by zakzebrowski (Curate) on Jan 13, 2005 at 16:04 UTC
    >You can't move from Perl to .NET, VB, or really even C
    I disagree. If you *know* perl, then switching to any language (aside from the very object oriented ones, at least in my personal experience) should be trivial. Because, if you know perl, you then know *how to solve problems*, which you can then apply to other languages.


    ----
    Zak - the office
Re: Is Perl a good career move?
by Solo (Deacon) on Jan 13, 2005 at 16:25 UTC
Re: Is Perl a good career move?
by bwelch (Curate) on Jan 13, 2005 at 16:47 UTC
    If you knew a recent graduate, who knew a little Perl and a little Java, which career path would you suggest they take?

    I'd suggest they treat Perl and Java only as skills. A career path generally involves a field or specialization where one learns about the field and the skills needed to work well.

    With all the outsourcing in the US as well as changing industry, try to choose a field that isn't going away quickly. This isn't easy. Two years ago, I chose to get out of writing generic java applications and develop skills in bioinformatics. Perl is still a favorite tool in bioinformatics, and life sciences in general seem to be growing in the United States. The pharma and health industry seem to be doing well, so as a career path they might be good.

    This doesn't mean being a java developer in any field is a bad choice. I'm only saying that given my location, the work I enjoy, and the options I had, bioinformatics looked best. Careers tend to make sharp turns now and then, but if one can find work that lets one make a living and enjoy their job, life is good.

      Thanks for the response 'bwelch', but would be great if you could shed some lights on future of Perl language as compared to other technologies ( skills ), I have heard of few of the limitations about Emb Perl in terms of supporting larger systems, so i am a little anxious to know where Perl wud lie in the software world down the line.I had a choice of selecting between Java and Perl, I opted Perl, was it a correct move? I am a big fan of Perl..
Re: Is Perl a good career move?
by Anonymous Monk on Jan 13, 2005 at 17:11 UTC
    I've been programming for about 20 years now, of which Perl was my preferred language for the last 10 years or so. I've had several kinds of jobs - I've build websites, I've done system administration, I've managed databases, I've been a trainer, I've been a consultant, and I'm currently an architect/designer/implementor. In all the jobs, I've used Perl.

    I've never applied to a Perl position, and I've never been hired mainly because of my Perl skills (although having skills is always a good thing). And I have several frieds who have done a broad range of IT positions - and they have their languages of choice (not Perl) as well. None of them have ever taken a position as "programmer in the language-du-jour".

    Don't focus on your tools - it's not the tools that are important. What is important is that you know your tools, and that you can use them to do your job.

Re: Is Perl a good career move?
by dws (Chancellor) on Jan 13, 2005 at 17:29 UTC

    Positioning yourself as an Perl Programmer (or a Java Programmer) is rather like a driver positioning himself as a Ford driver. Be general. Learn programming. Programming languages are an essential tool; you do well to make yourself familiar with several. Emphasize the problems you can solve, not the tools you use to solve them.

Re: Is Perl a good career move?
by Anonymous Monk on Jan 13, 2005 at 17:31 UTC
    My view is that ideally you should know dozens (or at least a half dozen) of languages at such low levels of familarity, and should be able to pick up new ones pretty quickly.

    No language is a career path, IMHO. Things will come and go. A good developer can switch languages very quickly and becomes familar with the general themes (static vs dynamic languages, strong vs weak typing, garbage collection vs manual memory management, functional programming, OO programming, procedural programming) and can use that to his advantage.

    I'd say if you like Perl more than Java, go with the Perl job as happiness is important. But learn other related dynamic languages, get familar with Java, and by all means learn C (and to a lesser extent C++). These things will serve you well even if you don't use them -- and having familarity now will allow you to quickly switch to new languages for new jobs.

    I was at a primarily Java/C++ shop (shudder) and now I'm going to be doing Python/C. Given the choice, go with what feels good at the time.

Re: Is Perl a good career move?
by brian_d_foy (Abbot) on Jan 13, 2005 at 17:34 UTC

    The best career move is the one that makes you happy.

    Who cares if Java is better than Perl, Perl is better the Java, this is better than that, and so on? Which one is going to make you happier? Don't think that going for the money is going to be the big factor in that: I know plenty of miserable people making more money than they have time to spend.

    Here's a question I've been tossing around to people I know: Do you think most Java people are in it for the money or the joy of programming? I've known a lot of Java people, and a lot of them aren't programming anymore. They didn't really like Java all that much, and they didn't like programming all that much. This isn't a representative sample, it's just this notion that I have: these people wanted to be "computer programmers", so they found out what computer programmers did and did that. The "that" was Java. It's sorta like a kid who thinks he wants to be a fireman (or pirate or astronaut) before they even know what the job is.

    I've met relatively few people who do Perl because that's what the job happened to be, and I teach Perl for a living so I've run into a lot of people starting their Perl careers. Again, that's a self-selected sample, so it's not representative either. I've just noticed a different mindset. It's one of the reasons Perl Mongers works, I think.

    No matter what you choose to do, you can always learn something else. There's no reason you can't move to some other language other than Perl (or Java or whatever). A real programmer will know one language very well, a lot of languages reasonably well, and even more on a casual level. Real programmers don't have to put a language qualifer in front of "programmer". Indeed, as Randal has mentored me to where I am today, he's made me learn other languages ("Let's do this is Smalltalk!").

    So, decide what makes you happy, and don't let anyone convince you otherwise. If Java makes you happy, find a Java job. If Perl makes you happy, do Perl. Don't let anyone tell you what *should* make you happy though. :)

    --
    brian d foy <bdfoy@cpan.org>
      I've met relatively few people who do Perl because that's what the job happened to be, and I teach Perl for a living so I've run into a lot of people starting their Perl careers.
      Fortunately, when I started my sysadmin career, learning Perl and programming a few scripts was my first task. Happily enough, I found myself having fun, learning a lot of new things (e.g. regular expressions) and ended up thinking in Perl even when programming in other languages, that now seem much less powerful to me.

      The best part is that I need Perl for my every day job, I love it very much and it's a lot of fun, so it makes me very happy.

Re: Is Perl a good career move?
by bschilli (Friar) on Jan 13, 2005 at 20:12 UTC
    I'm new to Perl, but I've working as a programmer etc. for about thirty years. In that time I've used several versions of Fortran and Basic, COBOL, Pascal, Java, html, PL/SQL, and probably others. While I've had classes for most of those, most of what I know I've learned by doing. If I'd tried to stay with what I'd started out with, I'd have been unemployed for at least twenty-five years. Like they say about Perl, there's more than one way to do things. Some times that means using another language.
Re: Is Perl a good career move?
by lestrrat (Deacon) on Jan 14, 2005 at 00:07 UTC
    You can't move from Perl to .NET, VB, or really even C

    I strongly disagree with you on this. Yes, you can. You just need to be able to do it, and prove it.

    Write programs. Contribute to opensource. I can't emphasize enough the advantages of contributing code to opensource software. If you do it right, it's just going to be one of the best learning experiences you'll ever get.

    I also feel that if you are *just* a Perl programmer, you'll have trouble finding a job. However, if you are good at Perl and something else, then I think your options will increase by some very large factor. In this case I don't mean Perl and some other language: I'm talking about, for example, Perl and Biology. In my case it has always been my interest in web technologies, being fluent in Japanese and English, *and* Perl ;)

Re: Is Perl a good career move?
by Qiang (Friar) on Jan 14, 2005 at 03:29 UTC
    I am graduating this April in computer science. With my knowledge of linux, freebsd, perl ,research and problem solving skills, I just got in a junior sysadmin job at my University. I don't have connection with the workplace so I know I am qualified because of my skill.

    Perl is essential part of the tools I use day to day. but it's not the only one I use. I am sure a lot of us here don't have a title as 'perl developer'. As to the people who are, I think it's best to caputer some more skills along the line if you want to have opportunity to expand.

Re: Is Perl a good career move?
by talexb (Canon) on Jan 14, 2005 at 04:28 UTC
      I have friends who have about the same amount of experience as me, but program in Java, earn more money and, (most importantly) have more career options open. I have a good job, but when it comes time to move on, will there be a Perl position waiting for me? My friends know for sure there'll be Java positions.

    So what you're suggesting is that the only difference between you and your friends is the language you use, and your salary?

    First of all, money isn't everything at a job. There's also the reward for a job well done, the fun you get out of working with a bunch of really bright people, the chance to learn new technologies, a nice workplace and maybe a pleasant commute.

      Another problem is that Perl is kind of a dead end in terms of moving to other languages. One of my Java programming friends was initially a Smalltalk developer, but was easily able to move languages. I'm not sure an employer would be as convinced about a Perl developer doing the same thing (I'm not saying it's not possible, or even difficult, but it's what a potential employer thinks that matters). You can't move from Perl to .NET, VB, or really even C.

    I moved from C, to awk, to Perl .. yes, there were some new things I had to learn, but I was able to get started fairly quickly. Am I still learning? You bet I am -- just today I made the connection betweem ?: and "Don't include this group in the collection of numbered results in the s command'.

    But as a C programmer I knew about $foo = (condition) ? bar : baz; already, so that construct didn't throw me off.

    Perl is actually an amalgam of C, shell, awk, sed, and (I'm told) some LISP as well. There may be other bits in there as well. Thus, moving from Perl to C would be fairly simple.

    And don't concern yourself too much about what your employer thinks .. sometimes (gasp) they're actually *wrong*.

      If you knew a recent graduate, who knew a little Perl and a little Java, which career path would you suggest they take?

    Continue to learn both. Why do you feel you need to specialize? I have experience with C (15 years), various flavours of assembler (several years), and Perl (5-6 years). I also know databases (dBase III, ingres, MySQL and PostreSQL), and a fair bit of HTML, CSS and JavaScript. And I continue to learn new stuff all the time. In this business, you have to continue to learn all the time.

    Don't have a preconceived idea of what tool you want to use or what path you want to follow -- be more flexible and accept challenges as they come to you -- just remember, you have to keep learning, reading books, staying up to date on what's happening in the industry. Never stop learning.

    Alex / talexb / Toronto

    "Groklaw is the open-source mentality applied to legal research" ~ Linus Torvalds

Re: Is Perl a good career move?
by robot_tourist (Hermit) on Jan 14, 2005 at 09:01 UTC

    In some ways Perl could be seen as a dead-end language because you don't want to use anything else. Most of my programming is using Delphi, and once you get past making the pretty form on the screen, you scream when you can't do simple text processing.

    How can you feel when you're made of steel? I am made of steel. I am the Robot Tourist.
    Robot Tourist, by Ten Benson

      Use PLDelphi from you delphi applications! ;-P

      Graciliano M. P.
      "Creativity is the expression of liberty".

Re: Is Perl a good career move?
by r34d0nl1 (Pilgrim) on Jan 14, 2005 at 10:10 UTC
    I just finished my bacharel degree in computer science and I saw myself creating distributed objects in Java, having a
    good skill in networkings and C programming. I was studying to archieve the java programmer, developer and so on certifications.
    But when I stopped to thing about what I would like to continue to learn I entered to Perlmonks because in the unix world (the world that i know better)
    there is something different - that you create things because you like it, not just because you need it. - we use things we know.
    Noone can predict the future of the Java platform (once that it belongs to Sun).
    Anyway to a hacker the language is just a tool and in an interview you will talk about experience as a developer using tools not only about the formal syntax of a specific tool.
    That's the way I thing. By now I prefer Perl although I used to know more of Java and knowing not just Perl but how to design OO and work with it I will be able to work with any language that can be created by the human beeings - and even by ets :)
    (Okay. the sun is rise I going to sleep.. - :p)
Re: Is Perl a good career move?
by Paulster2 (Priest) on Jan 14, 2005 at 12:54 UTC

    While in no means is it a "scientific" search of Job sites or anything, by doing a quick search on Monster for perl jobs, I had no problem finding postings for them. I'll admit, using the same criteria for Java found more, but my point here is that it appears that there are plenty of perl jobs to be found. Is one of them exactly right for you? Couldn't answer that one, but would assume that if in the last 30 days there are over 1000 postings (Monster would only post to 1000) for anything in perl, I would be one of them is a match.

    In the mean time, why don't you start playing around with the other languages (to include Java), you will probably find that making the switch from programming language x to programming languae y is a little easier than you think. IMHO, perl brings a whole bunch of the good things about other languages, while leaving most of the bad stuff behind. Because of this a lot of perl things are derived from other languages and while the syntax for perl maybe different that others, the concepts and ideas still translate over.

    IMHO, I think that your fears are misplaced. It's a good thing that you are thinking about these things, though. It really sux to find your shorts around the ankles. No matter what you do, always prepare for the future. As robharper stated above here, "decided to learn some Perl last summer in order to add another string to my bow", it never hurts to expand your horizons.

    Not a sermon, just a thought.

    Paulster2


    You're so sly, but so am I. - Quote from the movie Manhunter.
Re: Is Perl a good career move?
by zentara (Archbishop) on Jan 14, 2005 at 14:17 UTC
    If you intend to work as a sysadmin, or network administrator, Perl is a necessity ( as is shell ). I think they don't often advertise for Perl or Shell programmers, because they consider it a common pre-requisite.

    I'm not really a human, but I play one on earth. flash japh
Re: Is Perl a good career move?
by silent11 (Vicar) on Jan 14, 2005 at 14:26 UTC
    Is Perl a good career move?
    Perl isn't a career, it's a programming language. By itsef it's nothing. I've never seen a job listing simply for "Perl". It's just a tool to help you in whatever career path you choose.

    Plenty of people are making money using Perl in their jobs, businesses, and careers.

    As far as I know, Larry's career isn't Perl - it's that of a language designer. Randal's career isn't Perl - it's as a consultant and author.

    It's like how some people think that McDonalds is in the Hamburger business - they aren't. They are in the franchising and Real Estate business, they just use Hamburgers and French Frys are their agent to their business.

    Think of Perl as your Hamburger and side of Frys -- Not as your business or career.


    -silent11
    Spread Firefox
Re: Is Perl a good career move?
by superfrink (Curate) on Jan 15, 2005 at 03:20 UTC
    It's funny because I just read an essay by Paul Graham last night which talks about Perl and Java (and Lisp and Python too). It talks about hiring and what he recommends people look for. If you haven't seen it yet I recommend it if only for another perspective. http://www.paulgraham.com/icad.html
Re: Is Perl a good career move?
by gmpassos (Priest) on Jan 19, 2005 at 02:23 UTC
    Well, I know Java, Perl and C/C++. I have worked in a good job with Java, and know a lot of people that work with Java too. What I see is that they take too much time and people to make any project. Today, actualy the last 2 years, I work only in projects that uses Perl and XS (C/C++), and what I can say to you is that today I win much more money than any other that is working with Java, and all the others that work in my projects win a bit better than if they were working with Java.

    The problem is not if you will win well, but is that the market look much more to Java than Perl because Java has a Market machine behind, and this make a difference. What I'm trying to say is that you will have more probability to find jobs for Java, but if you know Perl well and C/C++ you will find jobs that only fill people can do, and is possible to also find jobs that pay very well. Is like in medicine, you can be a plastic surgeon where you will find a good market, or you can be a neuro surgeon, where only fill people will be able to do a really good job on that, but will win much much better if they are in the right place.

    Graciliano M. P.
    "Creativity is the expression of liberty".

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