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Ask Slashdot: Moving From Tech Support To Development?

timothy posted about 7 months ago | from the which-flavor-of-ice-cream? dept.

Programming 133

An anonymous reader writes "My eastern European tech-support job will be outsourced in 6 months to a nearby country. I do not wish to move, having relationship and roots here, and as such I stand at a crossroads. I could take my current hobby more seriously and focus on Java development. I have no degree, no professional experience in the field, and as such, I do not hold much market value for an employer. However, I find joy in the creative problem solving that programming provides. Seeing the cogs finally turn after hours invested gives me pleasures my mundane work could never do. The second option is Linux system administration with a specialization in VMware virtualisation. I have no certificates, but I have been around enterprise environments (with limited support of VMware) for 21 months now, so at the end of my contract with 27 months under my belt, I could convince a company to hire me based on willingness to learn and improve. All the literature is freely available, and I've been playing with VDIs in Debian already.

My situation is as follows: all living expenses except food, luxuries and entertainment is covered by the wage of my girlfriend. That would leave me in a situation where we would be financially alright, but not well off, if I were to earn significantly less than I do now. I am convinced that I would be able to make it in system administration, however, that is not my passion. I am at an age where children are not a concern, and risks seem to be, at first sight, easier to take. I would like to hear the opinion and experience of fellow readers who might have been in a similar situation."

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Java (0, Troll)

JustOK (667959) | about 7 months ago | (#46559035)

Java is a fad.

Re:Java (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46559063)

Ya all those billion plus mobile devices running java are a fad too...

Re:Java (2)

davester666 (731373) | about 7 months ago | (#46559661)

yes, with slightly different versions of Java with slightly different bugs, different screen sizes, different processors, different installed libraries.

It's the easiest platform to develop for, by far.

Re:Java (1)

DexterIsADog (2954149) | about 7 months ago | (#46559823)

yes, with slightly different versions of Java with slightly different bugs, different screen sizes, different processors, different installed libraries.

It's the easiest platform to develop for, by far.

Yes, that's called job security.

Re:Java (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46560889)

It would be extremely hard to make the jump to a professional development team. There is a huge difference between being able to hack together android apps in java and writing code for an enterprise. That being said, it isn't impossible. People don't realize just how spoiled and lucky they are with what the internet offers. It really is by far the most amazing resource that man has ever had access to. If you want to be a developer, start at the beginning and be humble; in the scheme of things, you know absolutely nothing. There are awesome free online courses/lectures from colleges like MIT and there are infinitely many free text based resources. If you put effort to it, you can accomplish it. Start at the beginning, learn about basic computer science concepts, re-learn java, and most importantly write lots and lots of code. You can start by hacking together android apps, but they are very different from enterprise development, so you will also need to learn how to write stuff that runs in standard enterprise jvms. It will also be hard to get your first development job, but if you do your homework and learn everything you need to, you should be able to interview well and there should definitely be a few companies out there that would give you a chance as a jr. dev.

Also, the sysadmin route is also possible. That is the route that I took, I had a business degree and started out doing tech support for a software startup. It allowed me to learn about the systems as I was doing my day to day work, and I slowly grew my knowledge base. I put a lot of work in on the side and I taught myself a ton. As far as careers go, getting out of tech support will be awesome for you. I know kids who have stayed in that track and the most their salaries increase is 5% a year. I've been pretty lucky and have been able to increase my salary by almost 100% in 3 years by working hard, being aggressive in salary negotiations and switching companies at good times.

Re:Java (5, Insightful)

ObsessiveMathsFreak (773371) | about 7 months ago | (#46559065)

Java is a fad.

We're talking about a programming career here. Following fads is a major aspect of the industry.

Re:Java (1)

JustOK (667959) | about 7 months ago | (#46559515)

Sooner or later, I'll be right ;)

Re:Java (1)

XopherMV (575514) | about 7 months ago | (#46559643)

Java's been around for almost 20 years. For a "fad" it has incredible staying power.

People used to think the internet was a fad too.

Re:Java (3, Funny)

JustOK (667959) | about 7 months ago | (#46559669)

Well, Java always seems to run a bit slow.

Re: Java (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46559693)

The problem lies not in the VM, but in the coder, young grasshopper.

Re: Java (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46559771)

When every freaking program runs slow, then I think it is the tool.

Java is the new COBOL (2)

Eric Green (627) | about 7 months ago | (#46560661)

Nobody really writes new applications in it, but there's a bajillion Java applications running most major corporations now the way COBOL used to in the old days.

That said, when looking for an engineer I'm not looking for someone who knows Java (even though that's what a lot of our product is written in). I'm looking for someone who understands computational complexity, is familiar with common algorithms and data structures, and has some notion of object oriented programming and software engineering. Anybody who's written a lot of code can pick up Java fairly swiftly at least to the "getting s**t done" stage, it took me roughly a week to do so ("oh, so it's like Python with C++ syntax, except with only single inheritance and with templates!"), but if you don't understand the why of what you're doing, you're not going to do well in our shop.

So: Get a computer science degree. Or at least significant computer science coursework. And not from Joe's Plumbing and Programming School, get one from some place that teaches actual computer science, not programming. Either that, or write some Open Source applications and contribute to the Linux kernel. Nobody cares what school you went to if you can write Linux drivers, all they care about is that you know the difference between a BIO and an SK_BUF. But they want to see your name in the Linux changelogs first.

Re:Java (1)

AtariEric (571910) | about 7 months ago | (#46562435)

I wish someone had told me this anytime significantly earlier than now.

Maybe then I could get another job.

This statement deserves its five-score.

Why not? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46559073)

It sounds like you're more than qualified. Experience is always a lot more relevant than degrees or certifications, at least here in the states. Not really a slashdot-worthy post.

Re:Why not? (4, Insightful)

AF_Cheddar_Head (1186601) | about 7 months ago | (#46559421)

Until you need to get a resume by HR.

12 years as a successful network consultant and getting a resume by HR sucks because I don't have a master's degree and my certifications are old and outdated. I get the job because someone tells HR to stick it and goes around the system.

Re:Why not? (4, Insightful)

Applehu Akbar (2968043) | about 7 months ago | (#46559725)

Bypassing HR by connecting directly with a project manager is ancient advice, but still valid today. I first used this ploy in 1970.

Re:Why not? (1)

Billly Gates (198444) | about 7 months ago | (#46560963)

Oh please!

Everyone knows doing the exact same job title name with the same exact specifications with no gaps EVER even if you were laid off means great performance over someone who can do the job.

Re:Why not? (2)

gbjbaanb (229885) | about 7 months ago | (#46559691)

true, experience counts more than anything, second is enthusiasm which you seem to have in abundance.

My advice would be to make 2 CVs rather than try to bung everything into 1 somewhat vague or confused single one that tries to cover both dev and admin roles.

My other advice is that Linux sysadmin (especially contract) pays more than dev. So if you want to focus on something, get that. And make sure you learn what you can when you can, someone who knows how to do linux sysadmin and can make it work in a Windows environment is worth significantly more than someone who has a couple of Linux certificates and won't expand his knowledge into what the real world wants from their computers.

Certification counts for very little BTW, it'll be read on your CV, and then ignored - interviewers will still ask you the same questions if you didn't have the certs. What counts is being able to answer.

Re:Why not? (2)

turbidostato (878842) | about 7 months ago | (#46560847)

"Certification counts for very little BTW, it'll be read on your CV, and then ignored"

Certifications will be read BY AN HR DRONE and, if not found, your CV ignored. You won't get to an interview unless:
a) It is a short company so CVs are triaged by technical staff themselves.
b) You know an insider so your CV bypasses HR.
c) Your CV has the proper buzzwords for HR to pass it to next level.

Note that having the certifications won't hurt on cases 'a' and 'b' but not having them will kill you in case 'c'. Now you need to look around you and ask yourself what's your proportion of 'a', 'b' and 'c' cases to see if it's worth for you the investment on time and money to get the certifications.

Re:Why not? (1)

gbjbaanb (229885) | about 7 months ago | (#46562015)

buzzwords are technology words, not certificates in 99% of the places I've ever worked.

To get past that HR drone you need 5 years "GUI"experience, not some funny words about MSCP certification - they don't know what certification exams are "valid" or not, you could put your 2nd place egg and spoon race certificate from school on and it'll work just as well.

No HR drones I have ever known consider themselves knowledgeable enough to vet a CV, that's why I used to get so many crap ones - if the recruiter said the guy was good (and they always do) then the CV gets insta-forwarded to the appropriate department. ITs easier for HR to do that, then they can go back to gossiping about the employees.

Re:Why not? (1)

dbIII (701233) | about 7 months ago | (#46560935)

My advice would be to make 2 CVs rather than try to bung everything into 1

Be ready to tweak it to highlight appropriate things for every application. That's why the job agencies say they want your CV in MS Word format and not a PDF (and why they fuck it up when the 17 year old intern in the place turns your CV into an obvious work of fiction).

Re:Why not? (2)

Antique Geekmeister (740220) | about 7 months ago | (#46562333)

> My other advice is that Linux sysadmin (especially contract) pays more than dev.

My experience is that admins tend to make _less_ per hour than developers with the same amount of experience, but the work is much more stable. _Architects_ make more. Systems admins tend to be generalists. Showing a variety of skills, and being able to apply lessons from one to lessons in another environment are invaluable. So your VMware experience can be tied to systems integration work, monitoring, cloud computing deployment, software optimization, security, and resource planning.

Also, learn to cook. You say that your girlfriend is supporting you for a while? Then she deserves her dinner on the stove with clean plates and a cool drink when she comes home from work. It will save you both a lot of money on eating out, and it will keep you from spending all your time glued to a monitor reading Slashdot. At the interview, if you mention it, it also shows "this person cares about the people around them", especially if you can demonstrate it by arriving at a job interview with a plate of good home baked cookies or brownies. Applicants like that are _remembered_ by HR personnel and interviewers.

Follow your passion and keep your options open. (1)

johnnys (592333) | about 7 months ago | (#46559075)

If you find "problem solving" to be your passion then follow it, but try to make sure you don't follow something that will limit you later on: If you think Java is interesting then go ahead and learn it BUT make sure you learn the general skills in programming over the particular skills. Learn how to program then learn the language. That way if opportunities around Java go away, then you are set for what's next.

You may find that "problem solving" leads to programming now, but as you grow and develop new skills and interests it may lead to something else, then something else after that. If you can keep your passion then you will be motivated to keep going and learning new things.

Re:Follow your passion and keep your options open. (1)

Billly Gates (198444) | about 7 months ago | (#46560975)

Well

Considering those out of work for more than 6 months have a better chance of starting a new carrer outside their field such as fast food than to have no gaps in your resume mean that is horrible advice.

Take a job FAST. Any job within 1 month unless you want to work flipping burgers or answering phones for 5 years until you are economically recovered.

I speak this too from experience. HR is brutal with this!

Almost always (1)

Ygorl (688307) | about 7 months ago | (#46559081)

do what is more interesting to you. You will have more fun, and enjoy it more, and therefore probably be better at it. If/when money becomes an issue, being good at something that you love leaves you well positioned to leverage it to make more money. Being mediocre at something that you don't care much about is unlikely to be very lucrative. You can get valuable (demonstrable) experience by, for example, contributing to open-source projects. Showing that you're decent at programming is more important for most decent employers than showing that you've got any particular degree.

Work for free (2, Insightful)

aclarke (307017) | about 7 months ago | (#46559091)

Way back a long time ago I graduated from university with an engineering degree unrelated to programming. By that point, however, I had decided that I wanted to be a software developer. This was the mid '90s, and I took a job with an un-funded startup for equity and no pay. From there I worked at a friend's company doing Perl, again for no pay but I crashed with my friend and he paid for my food. So in that sense it's not that different from your situation.

Things are different now, as there are plenty of sites where employers offer contracts for unreasonably low wages. You could start bidding on those, and take some smaller projects and complete them. There's also the option to put your time into some sort of labour of your own love. Write some sotware that demos well, and bootstrap yourself up from there. A lot of companies would be happy to hire an enthusiastic junior Java developer with demonstrated experience that they had the drive to accomplish themselves.

Just do everything you can to pick up as much experience as you can. Keep a positive attitude, and work on all the "soft skills" like listening to your boss and coworkers, doing what you say you're going to do, communicating effectively, etc. With a year or so of this, you should find yourself very employable, assuming there are jobs where you're looking.

Re: Work for free (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46561777)

My tactic was always doing what I can to learn things of interest... No degree, ended up in tech support by accident. After 5 years moved to be a sysadmin, changed employers with similar job, changed to security specialist and studied on the side. Once the SEC team was discontinued I was made a programmer, did that for a few years. On that path I ended up being an architect and then pressured into management.

While I could hold my own as a programmer it was clear I could never(?) really reach the levels our real guru's who had programmed since youth were at. I could have some good ideas, but could not explain them clearly enough for them to gain traction. Due to that I'd make an ugly prototype at home which showed the point, and then somebody more talented would rewrite them (they where generally big ideas). It seemed I could have game changing ideas, but without the ability execute you won't really be taken that seriously...

But moving back to system administration after programming was quite a game changer. Not only was I capable of debugging problems better then before, I could talk with developers better then before, and automate / build things to save a lot of time.

Try everything, make sure you keep learning.

Don't quit your day job (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46559097)

Don't quit your day job, but in your time off (nights, weekends) improve your skill and work on an open-source Java project. Then once you feel qualified and equipped try to do the job switch.

Re:Don't quit your day job (3, Interesting)

Concerned Onlooker (473481) | about 7 months ago | (#46559385)

"Don't quit your day job..."

You might want to re-read the summary. His day job is quitting him.

And to the original question asker I'd say go with development because you'll never be good at something you don't like.

Also, when you've landed that good job, reward your girlfriend amply for helping make it all possible. :-)

Re:Don't quit your day job (2)

DarwinSurvivor (1752106) | about 7 months ago | (#46559493)

Don't quit your day job, but in your time off (nights, weekends) improve your skill and work on an open-source Java project.

I actually highly recommend this. If you can put a well known open source project on your resume, that will definitely get the attention of employers. With proprietary software (previous jobs, etc), the potential employer cannot try it out for free, see your contributions to the project or check out the quality of your code. With open source projects they can do all of the above (or at the very least know that they could if they wanted to). It also shows that your work has been accepted by a community on its own merits which is a lot more convincing than "I wrote a module for some application you'll never get to try".

I've actually had my open source contributions (not code in this case) commented on during interviews.

Become CEO instead (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46559099)

Become CEO instead. More fun.

Re:Become CEO instead (1)

Applehu Akbar (2968043) | about 7 months ago | (#46559739)

Good advice, but save this one for when you turn forty and are deemed too old for the field. It can be as simple as opening a Subchapter S.

write some code (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46559119)

Write some code, make something cool, that will put you ahead of 90% of people with degrees and certifications. Look into DevOps, which is programmatic system administration. All the VMWare sites are doing this since VMWare is pushing Puppet after putting a bunch of money into it.

I've been there (1)

laffer1 (701823) | about 7 months ago | (#46559121)

I started in technical support at a small ISP. I worked up to sysadmin and worked various IT related jobs while I got my degree in Computer Science. I did try to land programming jobs and aside from some small business website consulting, I never had much luck at it.

Your situation is different than mine because of location. I live in the US. However, my experience is that you get filtered out unless you have a lot of experience programming when another candidate has a degree. I've even had a few cases where masters degrees blocked my job opportunities although that is much more rare.

If possible, I strongly recommend you get a degree and if you can't do that, get some certificates.

Re:I've been there (1)

just_a_monkey (1004343) | about 7 months ago | (#46559305)

It's like the old saying about how hard it is the verify that the applicant actually is any good: "no-one was ever fired for hiring someone with a degree".

Re: I've been there (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46559399)

Eh, no degree or cents needed. If you can code your ahead of 90% of new grads. The downside is don't expect top pay to start, again this topic is beat to death... Coding is not somthing that is tought in school. Unless your trying to code some advanced signal processing or scientific application, you don't even really need any CS theory or mathematics, basic algebra, the high school kind is more than plenty.

The important thing is code and code often, and you must enjoy doing it! If your in it for money only you'll fail. Just have fun, the rest takes care of itself!

Re: I've been there (1)

laffer1 (701823) | about 7 months ago | (#46561339)

I thought there was no value in computer science theory when I was younger. Once you go through the experience, it changes how you look at problems and it does impact your code quality. There is a big difference between writing software that works and writing well designed, maintainable software. That's what you get out of college. Learning to code is on you either way.

Re: I've been there (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46561633)

There is a big difference between writing software that works and writing well designed, maintainable software. That's what you get out of college.

Sorry I don't see which one you get from college. I'm serious.

Re:I've been there (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46559785)

If possible, I strongly recommend you get a degree and if you can't do that, get some certificates.

I strongly recommend the opposite; that's the same as giving in to the shallow, worthless status quo. Without any sort of a degree or any certifications, it probably was more difficult for me to find a job than it would have been if I had either of those, but if I had decided to get a piece of paper, I wouldn't have been able to look myself in the mirror.

Its an interesting situation. (5, Interesting)

GoodNewsJimDotCom (2244874) | about 7 months ago | (#46559143)

The dirty secret: Unlike sports where the best player is sought after, or music and art where you can judge someone's skill, most HR firms have no way of telling if you can do the job. So it doesn't matter if you're really good or just beginning, if you can sell the interview you can probably get a job. Some of the most talented people never get a chance to ever start, and a lot of nearly incompetent people get luxurious positions. Someday you might get good after decades of experience, but there's no reason not to apply to any job if you can write the most basic cell phone ap. Another dirty secret: A great majority of jobs ask for so many techs, there may be one or two people on the planet that qualify. So instead of looking for having all the techs, apply if you have one or two. Its a giant 'or' list, not an 'and'.

I say this reality situation as a guy on the outside looking in. I've done everything in my power since a young age to become the best software engineer I could. I code in my free time. I went to a #1 college for computers. Yet, couldn't even break into the industry in the past 11 years. The road goes both ways. I'm good at programming, and I'm not good at job searching.

Re:Its an interesting situation. (2)

Jmc23 (2353706) | about 7 months ago | (#46559343)

The road goes both ways. I'm good at programming, and I'm not good at job searching.

Maybe you should make an app for that.

Re:Its an interesting situation. (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46559469)

That is so true, but hopefully there are ways around this. I got to regular tech meetups, i.e. Java user groups, Javascript talks, etc. A lot of time there are quite a number of recruiters and tech hiring manager there and if you participate, i.e. do some talks on your own work that contributes to the open source community (not just your hobby app that goes nowhere), you will get noticed. The mailing list to these are very active in terms of recruiting as well. If you participate a lot and make yourself a known regular, lots of people would be happy to give references.

Re:Its an interesting situation. (1)

Stumbles (602007) | about 7 months ago | (#46559479)

HR, the one department in a company that does more damage than all others.

Re:Its an interesting situation. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46559681)

With an ego to prove it. HR is always an obstacle to overcome, and rarely if ever providing any 'benefits'.

Re:Its an interesting situation. (1)

manu0601 (2221348) | about 7 months ago | (#46560949)

A great majority of jobs ask for so many techs, there may be one or two people on the planet that qualify.

But they would not be selected because they would be too expensive.

Re:Its an interesting situation. (1)

tfigment (2425764) | about 7 months ago | (#46561301)

I'm a hiring manager and basically this is mostly the truth unfortunately. However I really do want that person that can do the 20 things I've listed (as I have to) but generally I want to know you are willing to learn them and already know a few of them and preferably have mastered some as well.

I've hired people that interview well and can talk the talk but end up not being able to program hello world in 2 weeks and those are the hardest to fire sometimes. I've also hired some brilliant programmers that didn't realize it though most of the time they still have to interview well. I've had great candidates rejected by HR because they didn't actually graduate from university. If you can interview well that gets your foot in the door but your resume has to pass through HR to even get that shot. My issue with my company is our interviews are structured so I only get 30 minutes with the candidate and that is just not enough in many cases. Hard for me to get a feel and hard for you to make an impression. Anyway happy hunting.

Re:Its an interesting situation. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46561779)

I do support for a medium sized recruitment firm, let me assure you, tech recruiters have no technical knowledge whatsoever, often I'm not sure they know which way to hold the mouse. Good news jim is bang on his assessment, he is also correct re skills, basically recruiters in tech do keyword matching on your resume I still get calls from recruiters asking for .net devs because my cv mentions an into to .net course I did. I'm not saying recruiters have no skills, sales is a skill, but 99% of the people you will speak to are just salesmen. Get Java on your resume in some defendable way and you will start getting somewhere fast.

Posting AC for obvious reasons

Re:Its an interesting situation. (1)

TapeCutter (624760) | about 7 months ago | (#46561899)

As developer who has been involved with hiring quite a few other developers over the years I have to ask - Do you really want to interview a corporate plumber who is so inept at navigating corporate departments that he can not find his way to your office via the HR department? Someone who has failed the "creativity test" of matching the laundry list of technologies in a job advert? Do you want to hand hold a "delicate genius" every time they have to navigate mundane corporate bureaucracy?

BTW: The "laundry lists" are normally supplied by the project manager, HR have no idea what they mean. HR's only rational course of action is to treat them all as equally important.

Re:Its an interesting situation. (1)

mbkennel (97636) | about 7 months ago | (#46562027)

So exactly how would somebody "nagivate the corporate departments", ask "Q: Who is the hiring manager for this position? A: We won't tell you." Is spamming the phone list appropriate? No.

| BTW: The "laundry lists" are normally supplied by the project manager, HR have no idea what they mean. HR's only rational course of action is to treat them all as equally important.

?

HR's rational course is to ask the project manager to prioritize the actual requirements, and to learn what they actually mean if knowing this is necessary for doing their job. The project manager's job is to convey appropriate information to HR so the most suitable candidates are passed.

Why such acceptance for arbitrary bizarre corporate inadequacies and thinking that an excellent candidate's most important skill (since failure means no hire) is to somehow, from the outside, overcome them without any knowledge?

Re:Its an interesting situation. (1)

Antique Geekmeister (740220) | about 7 months ago | (#46562359)

Because navigating byzantine bureaucracies is an invaluable work skill. I'm blessed with colleagues, and managers, who are very good at navigating these, and getting our technical personnel paid for the time burned in this arena. If you cannot navigate these pitfalls yourself, your managers will have to spend far more time doing it for you. They will also _own_ you, since you'll have no way to defend against decisions that eliminate your project or that take unearned credit for your work.

Thinking more for this anonymous reader: the combination of Java experience and VMware experience is intriguing. There are other virtualization technologies, and newer "container" technologies, that could benefit from streamlining and integration. Doing some open source development with tools like Tomcat or JBoss, and the "maven" or "ant" toolkits to build Java components, might provide good leads to workplaces that would benefit from your experience.

If you can (1)

Zaphod-AVA (471116) | about 7 months ago | (#46559155)

Do what you love.

Re:If you can (1)

Grumpinuts (1272216) | about 7 months ago | (#46559185)

If you can't, just love what you do.

Re:If you can (1)

oodaloop (1229816) | about 7 months ago | (#46559237)

And if you can't be with the one you love, then love the one with whom you are.

That sounds kinda dumb, but it at least it doesn't end with a preposition!

Re:If you can (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46559621)

This can work if there's no issue with the money, but I've known more than a couple people who have tried quitting their day job to shift full time to what had been a hobby they loved, and once it was the thing they had to do to pay the rent, it stopped being what they loved. If your income level from doing what you love is high enough in relation to your personal circumstances that financial matters aren't concerns, that makes "do what you love" much more likely to be good advice to follow.

Make the change ASAP (1)

werepants (1912634) | about 7 months ago | (#46559159)

If you know you want to program, start laying out the groundwork for that to happen. See if there are things that can be automated/tackled with scripting in your current workplace. Find a way to start taking some community college (or the European equivalent?) programming classes to get a feel for things and see if you would really want to do it. Spend some of your free time doing tutorials, building your own programs for fun, or helping out on some open source effort.

Getting a degree is nice because it gets you past the HR gauntlet at many firms, and you have a lot more choice in jobs you can apply for. It corresponds pretty well to a pay increase - ROI is still pretty good on most tech degrees, and the earlier you get that degree out of the way the better. It isn't impossible to do what you want to do without a degree, but it certainly helps.

The big thing, though, is if you know what you want to do, start pursuing it. Take some step to make it happen. You have 6 months, which is plenty of time to find a job that is at least somewhat more related to what you want to do, or to find a school option you can commit to, or in some other way move towards the career you want without making any highly risky/expensive changes.

My experience with this same situation... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46559169)

If you want to get hired directly as a Java developer, you are going to need experience with real projects. Consider finding and becoming an active contributor to an open source project.

I did the same thing, however my approach was a little different. I took a job in tech support at a company which I knew did java development. When I started, I told them my goal was to become a developer. I was told that I would need to prove myself. I did. A few years later and I'm now doing full time development. It can happen, you just can't quit. If you know your goal, and really want it, do whatever it takes to get there.

DevOps (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46559183)

Why not just get in to DevOps. DevOps is administration and automation through software development. You basically engineer solutions, for instance I coded a wrapper for bind in Ruby that can be administrated from a web interface. Likewise you will get in to using Puppet/Chef/CFEngine/Logstash etc. Its advisable to learn some Ruby though to get the most out of it. My advice would be to pick up your LPIC1 cert. Testing for it runs about 200 dollars and there are brain dumps online to help you study. Just do not memorize the questions, really study them and find out why the solutions are the way they are. Pick up a book on Ruby and Puppet and your existing java background is very helpful as well. If you do those things over the next few months then you will be in a very marketable position.

Learn Android (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46559195)

Android is one of the best 'learn for yourself' platforms right now, because it is easy to get started with the new SDK kits that GOOG has. There is the good Reto Meier (Google evangelist for Android) books http://www.amazon.com/Professional-Android-2-Application-Development/dp/0470565527/ and http://www.amazon.com/Professional-Android-4-Application-Development/dp/1118102274/

Personally I still recommend reading 2 first, and learning the core concepts THEN moving to 4, because the things added in 4 don't really make sense until you grasp the topics in 2. (but if you can't buy both books, getting 4 isn't bad, I just don't prefer the order things are presented in the book)

Once you have a base understanding of how to make some simple apps in Android... Then:
https://www.coursera.org/course/posa (Full disclosure, I am associated with this course) Uses Android, but teaches way beyond just Android concepts, such as concurrency, networking, etc.

Design Patterns go beyond programming languages and will help you quickly adapt to new languages when they come up, be a better developer in the languages you know, and make more versatile, adaptable, easily maintainable, and (overall better OO Code).

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Design_Patterns This is basically the book that started the area of Design Patterns study. , Great book, I would count this as required ownership for ALL programmers. (The examples are often[maybe all, I forget exactly offhand], written in terms of writing a text editor, but the patterns themselves are unbelievably useful in pretty much any situation that calls for them.... ONCE you know about them, and can recognized when/how to use them)

(Patterns don't solve every problem, but they give you a good 'language' of how to describe the interactions of components, and known practices of ways to solve particular issues that arise quite often)

http://www.cs.wustl.edu/~schmidt/POSA/POSA2/ This is the POSA book (there are 5 books in total, each with a different focus area) that focuses on concurrency, which is what will be discussed in the POSA MOOC.

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCt-Wvc_ojTzGLpjhruIXYSw/playlists Doug Schmidt (co-author of POSA2, Instructor of the POSA MOOC) has some great videos online that you can watch also. They are his lectures of his two courses that deal with these topics. CS 251 (intermediate c++ & patterns) and CS 282 Adv OS concepts shown with Android (also use of patterns)

open source project (1)

dwater (72834) | about 7 months ago | (#46559211)

find an open source project that interests you and get involved, making sure your contributions are attributed to you; then you can point a potential employer at your work.

alternatively, in an appropriate point in the interview process (even in your letter of introduction), ask your potential employer to give you something to do as a project for a few weeks so that you can prove yourself and they can see what you can do.

Programming what? (1)

wjcofkc (964165) | about 7 months ago | (#46559247)

You say you want to be a developer. Your time scale to pick up new skills in programming, join some Open Source projects for your resume, and begin creating a living resume of application you have written is extremely limited but doable. The most important question you have to ask and answer yourself right away is: What field of programming do you want to get into? If you want to get into web and mobile applications then there are probably half a dozen very specific languages and technologies you need to start drilling down on right now. If you want to get into any other particular area of programming then there will similarly be a different set of languages and technologies you need to nail to the wall. You say you like Java and that you like to solve problems. What types of problems do you like to solve with Java? Answering that might help you pin down the area you should pursue. The thing about programming these days is that it is a field of specialized compartments. For you that is good because it decreases the amount of time and effort you have to put into learning.

Whatever you figure out, best of luck.

Find a project for your support job (4, Interesting)

scsirob (246572) | about 7 months ago | (#46559285)

No-one will start with a blank screen in the morning and start to write code, just because. You need to have an itch, something you want to solve. Writing code is the means, not the goal.

Think about your support job, and ask yourself what tool would really make your life easier. Then set out to write that tool. You have the target people sitting around you right now, solve your problem and solve theirs too. If you're lucky, the tool will be valuable enough for the company to take it to that next country, all while you keep supporting that code.

I did this many years ago, while working as tech support for a tape vendor (Exabyte). I found their customer tools rubbish, so I started writing something easier (Expert 7 for MS-DOS). I asked my wife to test it for me (she is not in IT), just to see what she struggled with and made it better. It took me a while, but in the long run the company made my tool the default for customer support. I have kept on supporting that tool and many others after that until the end of last year. For almost 20 years those tape tools have given me part of my income. Even today, I still have a few customers asking me to code for them. LTO-7 is coming, perhaps I'll be asked to integrate support by then.

Re:Find a project for your support job (1)

cascadingstylesheet (140919) | about 7 months ago | (#46560129)

No-one will start with a blank screen in the morning and start to write code, just because. You need to have an itch, something you want to solve. Writing code is the means, not the goal.

Think about your support job, and ask yourself what tool would really make your life easier. Then set out to write that tool. You have the target people sitting around you right now, solve your problem and solve theirs too.

This!

Somewhere right around you, people are doing something in a laborious way. Automate it. Make their lives easier. Make a business process work better.

Re:Find a project for your support job (1)

reikae (80981) | about 7 months ago | (#46561713)

Nice story, sounds quite familiar. Nowadays it's so easy to find tools and applications for almost anything that I usually don't feel the need to code stuff (I did it professionally for a while but I'm back to being a hobbyist coder). I wonder if I'm just not that interested in programming any more, or whether it's because I haven't had an itch to scratch in a while.

Outsourced to where? (2)

EmagGeek (574360) | about 7 months ago | (#46559291)

"My eastern European tech-support job will be outsourced in 6 months to a nearby country."

Do you work in eastern Ukraine? I hear a lot of those jobs are soon to be outsourced to nearby Russia.

Re:Outsourced to where? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46560267)

The submitter said he didn't want to move... the upcoming outsourcing you are talking about won't require a move.

Re:Outsourced to where? (1)

Hognoxious (631665) | about 7 months ago | (#46560493)

In Soviet Russian outsourcing, job moves to YOU!!!!

Go Balls Out (1)

BoRegardless (721219) | about 7 months ago | (#46559333)

Study night and day and find a small niche with some local small software developer and take whatever server administrative task you can drum up and keep learning and asking questions until you get to "help out" in programming.

Even if you eventually don't find programming is what you want, you will find a handful of other interesting things to work into.

Enthusiasm and hard work pays off.

I was in a similar situation (1)

1000101 (584896) | about 7 months ago | (#46559379)

'Back in the day', I was in a similar situation as you are. I was working in tech support for a software company but knew I really wanted to write code. I took the plunge and got a CS degree, and it was the single best decision I've ever made from both a personal and career perspective. However, I also realize that many talented people can't take this path, so the next logical step for those individuals is to at least show some effort. I'm in a position now where I have influence within the hiring process. If a candidate doesn't have a computer related degree, the next things to look at are past work history in programming, sample 'pet projects', certs, programming community involvement, etc. You don't seem to have any of these, so, that is where I would start. The degree will absolutely get you in the door but it isn't a guarantee for a job (by a long shot). I highly recommend the school route, but if you can't do that for whatever reason, take the time to invest in yourself (heavily) over the next 6 to 12 months and start building things on your own, participating in any open source projects (so you can show/describe the work you have done), join local programming clubs (for networking alone), etc. If you don't invest in yourself, why would an employer invest in you?

"Market Value"??? (1)

Jane Q. Public (1010737) | about 7 months ago | (#46559409)

"I have no degree, no professional experience in the field, and as such, I do not hold much market value for an employer. "

To what "market value" do you refer? Your employer isn't trying to sell you. Your actual "value" is what you can do for them.

If you mean they value they perceive you have for them, prior to employment, you might have a case. But keep in mind that their perception is not always (or even very often) close to reality. Part of your job is to convince them of that.

Let me give you a concrete example: many firms that employ programmers have preferred to always get "fresh young faces" into their flock, despite study after study showing that older, more experienced programmers are usually a better value, even at a higher wage.

You can use things like that to your advantage.

Lolling (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46559415)

Funny how you consider kids to be a "concern" ? :)

No. (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46559497)

The world doesn't need another garbage programmer. Go find a job at mcdonalds where you belong.

Re:No. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46561889)

Just kill yourself.

corporations (1)

thoth (7907) | about 7 months ago | (#46559521)

Corporations generally don't give a flip about this situation:

>I could convince a company to hire me based on willingness to learn and improve.

If that's true, what sets you apart from anybody else that is also willing to learn and improve, with a more extensive background that you have?

That being said, I think what you should do is start networking immediately, reach out to anybody and everyone you know for entry level positions in development and/or system administration. Do not spend the next 6 months studying on your own in the evening, in isolation.

I was about to ask the opposite question ! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46559525)

I can't stand the current "Agile" and "Scrum" hype. I miss sitting around with technical guys, brainstorming about datamodels, algorithms, software modules, protocols, interfaces and so on. I hate these stupid yellow post-it notes and planning poker bullshit, "scrummaster" and "retrospective" bullshit. The software that comes out is complete crap most of the time. Because of all this I wanted to find out whether it's feasible to switch to a support role and just wait until this whole scrum-nonsense is gone.

Go with the sys admin role (0)

statemachine (840641) | about 7 months ago | (#46559543)

Programmers are hired straight out of college and can be outsourced and located anywhere on the planet. You can never compete with the 22 year-old who was taught with the latest programming language fad, and will work for peanuts. You, on the other hand, will have to learn the language du jour and have demonstrable experience with said language. Without a degree or certification your resume will be thrown into the trash without even a glance to your job history. In fact, your job history aside from your lack of degree, is the biggest thing holding you back. QA is not respected anywhere.

For Linux and VMware you can get certifications. Become a sysadmin and you'll have better luck at getting a job, keeping a job, and getting another job when that time comes. Maybe being a cable-monkey and setting up networks isn't as glamorous, but when the chips are down you can't outsource the need to have a human near the racks. And in the datacenters, you're always getting to work on the latest, and you're not stagnating. If anything, having 20 years deploying networks is more marketable than 20 years of writing C -- anyone can "write" C, not anyone can get the network or storage array back online.

Try that first. It's cheaper than moving.

Re:Go with the sys admin role (1)

PmanAce (1679902) | about 7 months ago | (#46559607)

I'm curious, what is the language du jour these days? C#. Java, etc are all still relevant in the industry.

Re:Go with the sys admin role (1)

statemachine (840641) | about 7 months ago | (#46559649)

Take a look at the job postings for the latest word salad.

However, if you want the du jour of the du jour, I drive by a billboard every week that advertises something to do with Hadoop.

Re:Go with the sys admin role (1)

Billly Gates (198444) | about 7 months ago | (#46560985)

The best way is to do things on the side web related. That way you do not have a gap on your resume and you have a portfolio.

HR will filter you out unless they say exact experience with the same exact keywords with no gaps in employment. Otherwise it will be thrown in the trash etc

Re:Go with the sys admin role (1)

mbkennel (97636) | about 7 months ago | (#46562035)

| when the chips are down you can't outsource the need to have a human near the racks

That's true, but the racks can be, and are outsourced to countries with cheap humans.

Re:Go with the sys admin role (1)

statemachine (840641) | about 7 months ago | (#46562089)

You're forgetting that you will still need a network to reach your "outsourced" network.

I did this. (1)

tthomas48 (180798) | about 7 months ago | (#46559547)

I started in tech support. Created a QA department and eventually moved into development. Create a github repo. Build things to help make your job easier where you work now. Stress your customer service skills in interviews (programmers are frequently known for not having them). Look as startups as they're frequently looking for people who can wear multiple hats. Maybe you can do tech support and programming for one.

more info r.e. possible customers? (1)

Fubari (196373) | about 7 months ago | (#46559555)

Your strategy will depend on your possible customers (or employers); I can't say much in detail without a better understanding of that.
(by the way, for eastern europe your english writing is quite good!)
So... can you do some market analysis for us here on Slashdot?
Are there any local shops in your geography that do software development?
Are there any charities or small businesses that would benefit from some custom code and/or database work?
Schools perhaps?
I suspect it will be easier to connect with them rather than looking for telecommuting jobs day #1.
Your main advantage at this point is your low cost + enthusiasm; work that.

The other posts about Open Source projects are fine to get started with....
But they won't be as useful as a reference from some small business owner who loves what you
were able to do for them and talks about it to their associates.

It is a good time to make the jump (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46559729)

It is a good time to take the jump. I've been hiring recently and folks who I would consider too junior to hire are getting jobs making $60K. This is in a really low-cost of living area... folks who are senior are making 90k - 120k+. The market is so much in favor of the employee that marginal folks are getting 2 or 3 offers within a week of entering the market.

Get in now while the getting is good.

She Will Bail (0)

Jim Sadler (3430529) | about 7 months ago | (#46559959)

Most women will not tolerate a partner that pulls in less than they do. She will leave you all too soon. Secondly age works against you. Employers like youth a lot. I would suggest that you take any job that you can get and stretch out your opportunity pathway as it may take some time before you land in the right position. She will respect you more that way. I think that if I had to live in Turkey the shock of culture change would be too great. Perhaps you could adapt easier than i could.

Re:She Will Bail (2)

antifoidulus (807088) | about 7 months ago | (#46560481)

This is actually changing quite rapidly as society changes and in a lot of areas of the (rich) world young women are starting to pull in more than men. While the culture in eastern Europe is certainly different, there was an eye-opening study published recently about young couples in the USA. For the first time since the study began more women than men are "marrying down" [latimes.com] (here marrying down means marrying someone with a lower educational attainment than they have). This is largely out of necessity, but necessity often times breeds cultural shifts.

Not to mention there are always more poor people being born, and I doubt all the poor women are getting pregnant by rich men....

Go for it (1)

SoftwareArtist (1472499) | about 7 months ago | (#46560319)

It sounds like you're at a point in your life where your ability to take risks is as high as it will ever be. If you don't aim for what you love doing now, you'll probably never do it.

Re:Go for it (1)

jones_supa (887896) | about 7 months ago | (#46561893)

How do you know that?

systemd == slashdot beat (1)

Hognoxious (631665) | about 7 months ago | (#46560397)

Stuff Debian. RHEL is still using tried and tested init scripts. Free binary compatible distros such as CentOS and Scientific Linux are available.

Checked out their beta? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46561265)

RHEL 7 beta includes systemd. Coming soon to a terminal near you.

You're looking at the wrong thing (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46560679)

Have you sat down and talked to your girl friend about the idea of her supporting you? It's also not clear if the "age you are at" where children are not a concern means you are too young for children, or past the point of worrying about it at all. I definitely get a sense a certain youthful naivety in your submission.

What would you do if you could suddenly no longer rely on your girl friend's support? Perhaps she ditches you as a free loader? Loses her job? Worse? What does she think of the inherent risks associated there in? Where do you plan to be 5 years from now career wise? Relationship wise?

I'm not trying to be nasty, but your questions should have almost nothing to do with "scratching an itch", and much more to do with "what makes you and your partner happy now and in the future". Given that you intend to live off your girlfriend's income, you better get her fully on side, and ask her before you start asking slashdot.

Wouldn't be Crimea would it? (1)

Billly Gates (198444) | about 7 months ago | (#46560955)

Just curious due to the turmoil and the likelihood of Russia also owning Eastern Ukraine in the next 48 hours.

Go For It (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46560991)

I would say to go for it, as long as there is local demand for the language of choice. In November of 2008 I was laid off my job. I had been working to going into programing. I thought it would end my dreams, but ith some learning I instead followed them. Since then my pay has doubled and I enjoy the work much more.

Offshore got outsourced? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46561259)

Your are outsourced labor and your job got outsourced to another country? Aint that a bitch?

While I think it's great you are trying to improve your skills if the corporations have already started their exodus you might find it a challenge to get any kind of work since they found someone cheaper. Are there any local companies you can get involved in?

The whole outsourcing sword cuts both ways it seems. :/

devops (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46561345)

in a devops job you move toward development from support; might be easier to quit support cold though.

Get Out While You Still Can: Get a part time job. (2)

VortexCortex (1117377) | about 7 months ago | (#46561627)

I would like to hear the opinion and experience of fellow readers who might have been in a similar situation.

Get a job at an office, or prepared to get dumped. Women typically do not like stay-at-home guys, despite their claims to the contrary. Even though a freelance software contracting company allowed me to pay all the bills, I have observed that when I decide to work from home that the relationship will soon end. If your girlfriend is paying the bills, get ready for her to terminate the relationship. Seek employment, even if just part time in an unrelated field while you begin learning more languages and building your development portfolio, perhaps through sites like freelancer.com. Create your own website to showcase your talents. Contribute to open source if you have the time to scratch such an itch, it looks good on resumes and will expose you to more software development practices. Do not bet strongly on payouts from long term investment as human relationships deal primarily in the present.

You see, humans are the product of a long and bloody evolution into sentience. Instincts were natures first way to impart cognitive information about experience to your ancestors' offspring. Due primarily to the nature of gestation, especially the disparity in time and energy investments between sexes of sexually dimorphic species, males and females exhibit different instinctual behaviors. The male reproductive strategy of most species is to produce the most offspring and spread their genes as far as possible. The female reproductive strategy is instead to select the best mate. Humans are not immune to their instinctual drives, as evidenced by their sexual activity even when they consciously reject the burden of raising a child. Were you attracted to each other? Good, now you know your are both acting on primitive instinct at some level. However, your girlfriend's inner ape will most likely subconsciously begin selection of what her instincts inform her is a better mating prospect, i.e., one that is more active and thus capable of providing for her and her offspring. Yes, complex behaviors are imparted through instincts, for example see mating rituals and nest building of any species that exhibits them.

The instinctual drives imparted by millions of years of evolution remain with humans. Even the "brightest minds" among you ignore the emotion, feeling, instinct, and other primitive drives that affect your reasoning, deeming them "irrational". That you do not teach your children to harness and hone this faster but less accurate mode of thought leaves your race more susceptible to its primitive biases than necessary. Since it was primitive attraction that brought you together it will not be a conscious decision that instigates the termination of your relationship, but an instinctual feeling that produces dissatisfaction with your living arrangement. You may not like it, but one must cope with the environment one finds themselves in. Even we explorers do not always get to choose our assignments.

Socialization is only the learned part of ape behavioral software. Humans need not be slaves to their ancestor's instinctual firmware, but you can only free yourselves through conscious awareness of it.

Find a small company without HR department (1)

dejanc (1528235) | about 7 months ago | (#46561959)

I am in a South-Eastern European country and I don't have a degree in a related field, but I didn't have a hard time finding my first programming jobs.

Keep several things in mind:

1. Good developers are in demand. If Eastern Europe is anything like the Balkans in that regard, people are looking for competent programmers. At any particular job interview for a programmer most of the people who apply don't know anything about programming, have never used a relational database, etc. Use that to your advantage.
2. Small companies don't have HR departments to veto you just because you don't have a degree or enough years of work experience.
3. You have 6 months to beef up your resume. You can always invent free-lance work, as long as you have knowledge to back it up.
4. You can always find for-peanuts work on various "hire a freelancer" website. You will not earn good money there, nor will you get any enterprise application experience, but you will have an "Aha!" moment if you never programmed for money before. When you are developing as a hobby, you tend to adjust requirements to your knowledge and spare time, but when somebody else gives you requirements, you will quickly discover how to learn quickly and do things efficiently. That's what employers want from their programmers.
5. When negotiating a salary, keep in mind that the price you suggest will tell a lot to your employer about what you are worth. I know this may be a mistake, but when I was interviewing people for jobs, I took more seriously people who expected higher-than-indurstry-average salary than people who wanted to work for peanuts. If you come to me and ask for a salary that's half, or a third, of what I know most company in my city pay their developers, I will assume that you don't have much experience.

Well off is highly overrated (1)

MindPrison (864299) | about 7 months ago | (#46561975)

Quoting OP: My situation is as follows: all living expenses except food, luxuries and entertainment is covered by the wage of my girlfriend. That would leave me in a situation where we would be financially alright, but not well off, if I were to earn significantly less than I do now." Endquote.

I'm in a position similar to yours, except I work - for a minimum wage at the moment, but I get by. What is Luxury (or well off) is highly subjective, and for me... I have all the luxuries of this world (well, perhaps except a car, but I don't need one...I do own a house though, so I don't pay rent). The good thing about your (and my) situation is that you have the LUXURY OF CHOICE. Many people don't even have that, I bet you're better off than 94% of the planets population - I know I am, despite not being able to afford a lot of expensive new stuff.

The luxury of choice, is to be able to say no to a job if you don't like it. I am in a minimum wage job because I happen to like this particular job, and it's hourly based so I can just walk away if I need or want to do something else, that's high living in my world. I've seen people struggle with collecting garbage 20 hours-a-day for a living, just to feed their family.

create something do something (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46561979)

Each job I have got I can attribute to something that I took to the interview. First position I was offered was Java developer for internet fridges(1998). I had no professional Java experience but I took along my multithreaded chat app and was a able to explain how it worked an why I had made certain choices. ASP VB developer (before c#) job, took a simple shop app with Access backend and all the code/pages in one file, it was hideous but the interviewer loved the screen shots of the shop app and I was able to explain all the functionality. Silverlight (c#) took 3 games I had written with, again no commercial experience.got the job. The best one was when I did not take anything to a C# position but explained I was studying for the Linux LPIC Level 1. The were so impressed I did not get back to the car before the recruiter called to say they had offered me the job. Now when I am interviewing for developers I look for anything that demonstrates this person will enjoy learning.

Worked for me (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46562203)

Hi, I have a college degree in automation and have worked as a field service technician for some companies for about 5 years.

A few years ago I decided to switch to programming, and I got a job as a QA because there was a lower entry barrier (I had low confidence in my coding and needed time to learn learn the development process).
I approached the management, got in house training and now it's been almost a year since I'm payed to code. And I feel very accomplished for this.

If I were to do it all again, I would search for development jobs from the start. Your resolve is outweighing your degrees. The company will know you are new at programming and will offer coaching.

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