There's never a perfect time for anything. A couple of weeks ago, I was presented with an opportunity to brush up on my software engineering skills. My company was offering a series of courses online through a university that would result in a C++ certification. I have been thinking about doing something like this for some time. The position I am currently in provides me with a little bit of programming practice (mostly in the form of scripting), but almost nothing in terms of actual software design and engineering. I would like very much to change this, but I feel the effects of skill rot. Without recent practice, I would not feel very confident representing myself to a hiring manager.
I took a look at the course descriptions. The first of four courses would be a cake walk, the second one looked interesting, and the third and fourth looked very intriguing. I have been wanting to get more experience working with the design patterns since college. The earlier courses feature using the STL and Boost libraries, which I would like to be more proficient at.
So, I requested the challenge exam in order to skip the first course. There would be no sense in lulling myself into a false sense of an easy course, only to be shocked by the work load later on as I encountered truly new material. That, and I don't want to spend my precious time learning something I already know. I have a wife and kids who deserve better.
The challenge test was a three-part assignment that appeared to have been the final exam for the previous year. I was given a week to complete the assignment, which was about how long it took me (I finished testing it early the evening before it was due), working on it during the evenings after work, and most of Saturday.
I don't want to commit myself to something that will take more time than I have, especially with Elizabeth working, and she, Shoshana, and Abigail needing me to spend time with them, but as I said before, there is not going to be a perfect time to make this move. The intensity of Shoshana's treatment will decrease in the coming months, and I am working on the paperwork to officially hire Kristen as a nanny.
Even after just taking the test, I am much more confident in my skills and ability to perform, both in general as a programmer, and specifically using C++. There were several things I had to look up online, but I knew what to look for. I haven't gotten the results back, but I would be surprised if I did not pass.
Of course, if things get too crazy, I may need to drop the course or stop early, but even in that case, it will not be a vain effort.