Career Reboot

Time for some changes, something needs to be done.
I had the chance to view an entrance exam that one of the local development houses uses for their junior programmers recently. Pretty simple stuff, basic theory a bit of C#, SQL, jQuery that kind of thing, nothing too taxing.
Yet, I would have failed, I wouldn’t have made  it past the exam into the interview room. That is depressing, especially when, with the amount of experience I claim to have, I would be looking for a senior position if I were to be looking to move (which I am not, just in case my current employer is reading this!).
How has it become this bad?
Basically I have let my skills rust for the last 3 years. I like to think I have kept up to date with all the new exciting technologies that have come out in that time, but the reality is there is a world of difference from reading an article or watching a tutorial online and actually using that knowledge in anger on a day to day basis.
Currently my job revolves around working in VBA and applying fixes to third party applications. Very rarely do I get the chance to open up Visual Studio and take .NET for a spin. That isn’t a knock on my current employer, it is just the nature of the job that I took on. I accepted that when I joined and thought I would be able to keep my skills sharp by reading up and watching videos.
That is clearly not the case.
I became far to comfortable in my role and neglected my skillset. I have not moved forward in the last 3 years, I have moved significantly backwards, and now it appears I have regressed to the point where I cannot even compete with graduates fresh out of college.
Something has to change. I need to get back to the level I used to be at, where I was confident in my abilities and looked forward to the challenges of programming anything.
How am I going to get there though?
Obviously I am going to have to include a lot more practical tasks and actually get back into programming again. This is going to have to  be both at work and also in my free time.
At work I will have to make sure that for any given opportunity I use the solution that is going to allow me to stretch my brain and take the rust off of my skills. So instead of just hacking away in VBA land, create a DLL in Visual Studio and link to it, putting all new functionality in the library and trying out new things.
Outside of the office I am going to have to force myself to develop small apps and look at helping out on others on Github, sourceforge etc.
I was feeling pretty depressed about the whole situation at the start of the week, but then I saw the latest release on Tekpub about getting involved and moving your development career forward. Talk about good timing.
So here I am, dusted off the blog and Twitter account, got G+ all sorted and I am ready to move forward.
I now need to look at my development process and the tools that will be needed outside of work to make it as seamless as possible. There is no point having these great ideas and plans if it is not easy to implement and actually work on them. I am the sort of person, clearly, that will look for any excuse as to why I shouldn’t do whatever is in front of me, the least amount of friction I can create between me and actually getting the job done the better.
I suspect there will be a series of posts now about how I am going to change my work flow both in the office and at home to ensure I get the most out of the career reboot without also sacrificing other import things like time with my family and also time away form the connected world!