Your next job: Mobile app developer?

With companies scrambling to build mobile apps, there's a gold rush on for developers willing to retool their technical skills and adopt a new design mind-set.

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They need to make a full commitment to doing as much as possible in the mobile environment to experience firsthand both the constraints and the new opportunities.

"On a smaller device that doesn't have much memory and has a weaker processor, you have to be more conscious of how you're programming," says Dalton. "Those things can't come from theory, they can only come from experience."

Dalton, a 25-year veteran in the IT profession, spent much of his career as an enterprise Java architect designing back-end systems and customer-facing applications at companies like Nissan and Toyota.

When the iPhone was first released, Dalton published an e-book called 101 iPhone Tips and Tricks and took a self-directed crash course -- using the SDK, e-books and other online resources -- to master the iOS SDK once it was released.

That early training and exposure established him as a go-to resource once the Apple App Store was announced and the market for mobile app developers took off, enabling him to leave corporate IT and start 360mind.

Today, 360mind employs nearly 20 mobile app developers and has moved away from building simple novelty apps to working on corporate initiatives that link both Apple iOS and Android apps to back-end enterprise systems. (For example, 360mind was the development muscle behind fast-food chain Chipotle's ordering app, which lets customers order and pay for meals on their phones.)

With no end in sight for the opportunities in mobile development, Dalton says this latest "gold rush" sends a clear message to fellow developers, system architects and Web designers: "In today's global, outsourcing economy, you don't want to be stuck with outdated skills," he says.

And there's an added bonus to mobile app work as well. "If you're coming from a multimillion-dollar enterprise server project where every decision takes forever, working on these small, self-contained projects around [mobile devices] is a lot of fun."

Stackpole, a frequent Computerworld contributor, has reported on business and technology for more than 20 years.

Copyright © 2011 IDG Communications, Inc.

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