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    At a crossroads. Need career advice! (long)


    I'm posting this because I'm desperate and need some career advice. It's easily the most important forum post of my life! Sorry for the length, I promise every chunk is relevant.

    Two and half months ago I was layed off as a VB6 programmer (1.5 years). It was the first pure software development job of my career. My past jobs were (in order of most recent): Electrical Controls Engineer (1 year), Automation Engineer (Designing and programming robotic palletizing systems) (3 years), and a Manufacturing Engineer intern at a fortune 100 company (2 years while attending university). I took the VB6 job because I wanted to get into software development, because frankly I'm not good at mechanics and electrical design which is why I made the career change away from that sort of thing, among other reasons.

    I've always been very interested in programming, I took 3 semesters of C++ in high school but honestly had some trouble with grasping the concepts of linked lists, BSTs, and OOP compared to many of my peers which concerns me a little. It was a very gifted bunch however and they easily one some big statewide programming competition (I wasn't picked for the team).

    Fast forward to today: So I might have a made a serious mistake in learning a little C# in hopes of getting a good job to further my career. I learned C# because I was very green and an old friend of mine in the industry recommended it to me. It got me a job offer as a C# developer for an ERP company, but I'm worried that it will be a poor career move. My ultimate career goals are to work in a growing tech sector (open source preferably) in a major city and be able to walk, bike, or take public transportation to work. I looked at the downtown area companies in the mid-size city I live by and they all seem to want Java developers! (mainly financial institutions). I also have no clue of what type of development I'm interested in. I've only done desktop windows applications in VB6 and developing/administrating SQL Server databases. So I've never done web applications, object-oriented design, etc. In the mean time I have been working thru projecteuler.net problems and having a complete blast (only up to problem 12 though so far).

    Furthermore, things that I think are a big factor about me that you should know:

    1. I'm 28 years old, so I'm getting up there in age.

    2. I've been unemployed for 2.5 months and counting. I have a decent amount of savings as a cushion. Maybe a year or two until I have to dip into my 401k. I'm mostly concerned about the growing unemployment gap on my resume.

    3. I have a BS degree but not in CS, Engineering, or MIS. I had a great GPA so an advanced degree might be a good option. I don't think I have the math chops to do a Masters in CS though. I only went up to Calc 1 in uni got my only C!

    4. As mentioned earlier, my resume is already littered with 1-3 year stints. These are not contract positions so I think it might look bad jumping around so much (rolling stone). Plus, I was fired from my last job.

    So my questions to you dear readers,

    1. Should I begrudgingly take the C# job in the suburbs while learning Ruby/Java/HTML5 whatever on my own in my limited free time and jump ship in a year or two or should I wait to find a job with the lifestyle I want. I'd like to eventually move back home to Chicago or another major city but very apprehensive about doing it without a job offer. Or should I even find another career? I also worry about not making it past the probationary period (they offer lengthy training however) and further tarnish my resume.

    2. What's a good way to find out what kind of languages/development work interests me (and quickly!)?

    Thank you very much.
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    Originally Posted by Novice123
    1. Should I begrudgingly take the C# job in the suburbs while learning Ruby/Java/HTML5 whatever on my own in my limited free time and jump ship in a year or two or should I wait to find a job with the lifestyle I want. I'd like to eventually move back home to Chicago or another major city but very apprehensive about doing it without a job offer. Or should I even find another career? I also worry about not making it past the probationary period (they offer lengthy training however) and further tarnish my resume.

    2. What's a good way to find out what kind of languages/development work interests me (and quickly!)?

    Thank you very much.
    1.) You have to eat and the longer you have a gap in employment, the more employers start questioning you. I would say if a job is available, take it.

    2.) Find some open source projects and play around with the code a bit. Find the language you like to mess with the best. Otherwise pick up a beginners book\tutorial of each language and say invest a week or so learning it (if you know one language the other languages should come a bit easier). Find what you like the best.

    It seems like there's a lot of opportunities in Chicago. I've been keeping my eye out in the area a bit (I'm from Central Wisconsin). It's more of finding your niche and networking to find a job.
    Codeinated
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    Step one: take the job now. Build experience and your bank balance.

    Step two: figure out what you want to do. Be realistic. Its really hard to get paid good money in open source, lots of people want to do that, so to get good money, you have to be really, really good.

    Step three: get knowledge in whatever you want.

    Step four: get a job doing what you think you want.

    You are only 27, you can't possibly know what you really want to do for the next 40 years.

    The key to a career is to find something that you really like doing that has a demand, and that will let you grow. In the late 90s, there were zillions of jobs doing Cobol because of Y2K. Those jobs are gone. Poof.

    Java is popular today. I've posted here, years ago, that I think Java as it is today is totally unsuited for the long term. Its next to impossible for an average Java program to properly code for a multi-core computer. These days, cool cell phones have quad cores. Desktops have 8 and 16 cores, and in a few years, everything will have 64 cores. By then, either Java will be dead, or Java won't look like Java looks now.

    When I was a freshmen engineering student, they had lectures by all the old professors. One said that when he was in our seats, the hottest career for an engineer was steam locomotive designer. That went poof as well.

    I stronly discourage Grad School. I think real world experience is far more valuable. All IMHO, YMMV, etc
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    Thank you all for your advice.
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    Also if development isn't your forte, try systems or network administration. Personally I'm a Systems Administrator and I enjoy the line of work I'm in. There's a ton of opportunity out there for Systems or Network Administrators, especially in Chicago. I know because Chicago is a target market of mine that I might move to eventually.
    Codeinated
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    My advice is to take the C + job and start learning other things to pad your resume like:

    - Shell Scripting with bash on Linux
    - Linux (SUSE or Red Hat)
    - Vi and VIM editors
    - sed & Awk
    - Perl
    - Ruby
    - Python 2 and 3
    - MySQL (community edition)
    - PostgreSQL (Open source) / alot like Oracle

    You have to decide what you want to do with your life but I am a unique case, I am 48 yrs old and am a Systems Architect, Database Administrator, and Project Manager all in one and have been in the IT field now for 24 yrs.

    Take this other job and pick everyone's brain and learn everything and anything that they can teach you. Dig into everything and make sure they see you doing it and it will pay off. Also do not be affraid of learning how to use any tools of any kind, it all helps out. Your young, take advantage and volenteer to do extra things and learn things and it will pay off for you.
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    Originally Posted by ByGoneYrs
    Take this other job and pick everyone's brain and learn everything and anything that they can teach you.
    That's another big advantage if you are around a big city. It's one of main the reasons I'm considering leaving this town in the middle nowhere Wisconsin. It's amazing what you can learn when you find meetup groups and other organizations local to the area and start attending their meetings.
    Codeinated
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    Well yes Special User groups are great for that, but I was really talking about his future fellow coworkers.
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    Originally Posted by ByGoneYrs
    Well yes Special User groups are great for that, but I was really talking about his future fellow coworkers.
    Not sure in the development circles but I find that most people I have worked with are twice my age (I'm 23 will be 24 in March). Then again it seems like that's the case in most things around here. I own a 1969 Mercury Cougar Eliminator and when I take it to car shows nobody my age owns anything that old and there's barely anyone my age that owns stuff and brings it to car shows.
    Codeinated
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    Originally Posted by cody_e
    Also if development isn't your forte, try systems or network administration. Personally I'm a Systems Administrator and I enjoy the line of work I'm in. There's a ton of opportunity out there for Systems or Network Administrators, especially in Chicago. I know because Chicago is a target market of mine that I might move to eventually.
    Hmmm, never looked into Systems Administrator. What's the barrier of entry like?
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    Originally Posted by Novice123
    Hmmm, never looked into Systems Administrator. What's the barrier of entry like?
    If you have been using the shell a lot to manage your own systems running Linux or a *BSD, its easy. There are also jobs being a Windows Server admin.

    Its a field with a lot of jobs and they pay well.

    It also is a job with some times of a lot, and I mean lot, of stress. If the system goes down when a lot of people are relying upon it, and therefor you, everyone from the janitor to the CEO will be watching how long it takes you to fix it.
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    Originally Posted by fishtoprecords
    It also is a job with some times of a lot, and I mean lot, of stress. If the system goes down when a lot of people are relying upon it, and therefor you, everyone from the janitor to the CEO will be watching how long it takes you to fix it.
    I will definitely second that but it's more of how you handle the stress. I work as a NOC Systems Administrator right in the data center of a large clinic. I'm on the front line to over 1600 servers (mainly Windows). I can get stressful at times to say the least.

    I guess for me I just naturally progressed into my role. I mean I started at 16 doing desktop administration and help desk stuff and slowly worked my way up through various jobs (and getting a college degree). I personally don't have any certs but this year I want to take my game to a new level and get the MCITP, RHCE, CCNA, and CISSP.

    If I were to recommend someone going into the Systems Administrator role with no experience, get some certs. Nobody with any sort of enterprise level environment is going to trust you to touch anything. Most likely you'll start at a lower level doing support and as you prove yourself, you will get additional permissions\responsibilities. Now you might be able to find a smaller company that gives you keys to the kingdom (like the trucking company I worked for starting as a senior in high school through college).

    I would say you're going to have to pay your dues and you will start at a low end of the totem pole, often doing direct end-user support. I also recommend learning to become as proactive as possible and get a sixth sense for things going wrong. Learn to be able to spot trouble very early on. It will save you a lot of headaches (as well as people like the aforementioned CEO and janitor breathing down your neck).
    Codeinated

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