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#1 nim6us  Icon User is offline

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Advice Wanted: Two Roads Diverged... Or Was It Three?

Posted 09 September 2012 - 07:36 PM

I'll try to keep this brief, however summing up one's station in life is normally not such a task that lends itself to brevity. If you want to skip all the background and go to the reason for this thread, start at the paragraph that begins with an asterisk.

I'm almost thirty, doing the whole wife and kid’s routine, and I find myself truly perplexed on what course to take in my life. I've always loved tech, I can remember my first real fascination with something was when I was in my early teenage years and my Dad bought a computer. It was Hewlett Packard, with only dial-up, AOL at that, and I wanted to know how it worked. My very first book I ever purchased with my own money was "DOS For Dummies". I was enthralled; I went through all the commands learning what each one did. I can't count how many times I had to format that computer and start over, and the frustration it caused my Dad as each time I broke it he thought for sure, that was the end. Yet every time, no matter how bad it got, you could format it and start over. I always liked that, most people dread a system format, but for me it was so liberating, I was never afraid to break anything because I knew I could just wipe it all and start over. Things like installing drivers and resetting system configurations totally engaged me, and still do. Either way with this DOS book, I was hooked, I loved being able to manipulate the computer from the command line, show off the "cool" things I could do. I should have known right then that this is what I wanted to do with my life.

However as I got older, I didn't stay in computer land; I ventured out and found girls! Sex, drugs, and... well techno actually. I spent a lot of time partying, and only went to college as a last resort like a lot of kid’s do, to get their parents off their back. When I graduated, computers still being a hobby, I was obsessed with being a millionaire. I saw quickly money could get you things that made you happy, and I remember distinctly looking at the tech industry and thinking "there's no money in that". I floated around aimlessly, even managing to start my own company, which was short lived and closed after a year. I'd worked a lot of jobs, but nothing that made me really happy. I had found becoming a millionaire quickly was no easy task, and with the wife and the baby was not something I could afford to gamble on anymore. I needed to find work that fulfilled me, that I enjoyed.

So two years ago I decided to go back into something tech oriented. I had a small background with HTML and tried to masquerade as a web designer. I got a job through a friend of the family, only to find I was severely out of my depth. With no formal training and close to 10 years passed, web development had changed a lot! It wasn't just HTML; it was CSS, and PHP, a lot of other acronyms and two or three big software programs you needed to understand. Not feeling too thwarted because I knew my heart wasn't in web design, I answered an ad for a "Junior Developer", "no experience needed, will train". I thought this is it! Programming was like my DOS books I started with so long ago. I could actually learn to TALK to computers and make them do what I wanted.

While the company that hired me had the best of intentions, they had never taken on this task before, of hiring a programmer with no experience and teaching them. The owner was swamped with his own projects, and within a month had paired me with another Access Database Developer. She herself only had a few years’ experience, and was NOT the teaching type. She was cold and impatient. She also gave off this threatened vibe, like the owner had hired me to replace her. As you can imagine it didn't last long either, after three months of that I was brought into a conference room and told "we just don't see you progressing to the level we'd need you to be at for this to make sense." Imagine that, a guy with no programming experience, was paired up with an employee who'd never taught anyone, and herself had a full workload of clients to satisfy, who needed to teach me not only programming but database design concept and implementation with ACCESS! Looking back on it now, I see how unreasonable it was for them to think I could be a competent programmer in three months’ time. However at the time I really beat myself up about it. After all this is what I wanted to do, the owner was such a smart guy, and I studied every night. Maybe it was me that just wasn't cut out for programming. It actually still bothers me now.

Thankfully, they saw a passion in my heart for tech. It just so happened their hosting manager was a one man band, and was having a tough time getting his job done with all these lower level phone calls and emails he had to deal with. So they created a Help Desk position for me, which I've thrived in. I have almost a decade of customer service experience working for call centers, and I love solving problems, so the position was a natural fit for me. This was about eight months ago. Since then the hosting manager also introduced me to the networking side of things, how to work with servers and hardware etc. I found all that equally as fascinating, he was nothing like the girl who had "tried" to train me before. He was knowledgeable, smart, and patient; he had a great sense of humor, but was ex-military and had a way of dropping the hammer when he had to. Right as he was beginning to open this whole new world to me, last month I found he's leaving the company. He's a giant whale of a fish in a tiny pond and he's got to move on. Before he did, he got me on a path to work on my CompTIA A+ Certification. I feel very prepared and I'm sure I'll pass it.

* Here's where my problem comes in. Ever since starting the Help Desk job I've loved it. For the first time in my life I'm not watching the clock. I'm not waiting for lunch time to come, and quite often I'm even staying hours past my punch out time because I'm so into my work. However I've handicapped myself. While others have had fifteen years to be doing this work, I'm just now getting started at thirty. My two greatest traits are my knack for dealing with people and my tenacious problem solving skills. When I don't understand something, or can't figure it out, I'm not a pass the buck kinda guy, I'll spend hours on it until I can figure it out. I enjoy the satisfaction of giving the client a great product, and the "eureka" moment when I figure out the issue is like a drug for me! I LOVE the sensation that comes with understanding.

The thing is after my A+ I want to move on to my next cert and start tackling it. Not just to say I have the cert, but to gain the knowledge that comes with it. Problem is I don't know what my next move should be. The "tech industry" is so wide open. In my heart, I think I want to go back into programming. I like the idea of speaking with computers, making them do what I want. However I have the bad taste of the failed Access Programming job fresh in my mind, I wasn't "getting it". Was it that I needed to give it more time or was three months long enough to understand the foundations? What's worse, where I was comfortable with the command line, now I'm intimidated by it. I seem suited for networking, talking with people and tracking down problems. Or do I just feel that way because I had a better teacher in that field and had a more positive response?

I guess that's why I wrote this beast of a thread, to give you a little background. I'm hoping there are some more seasoned professionals out there who can say "you sound like you'd be a great _____ " or "your mindset sounds geared toward _____ ". Again there are so many specialties, maybe there's some other field I haven't even considered. I don't know many experienced tech professionals, so I don't have anyone to talk with about this. All I know is I LOVE technology, I love problem solving, I'm about to have my A+ and 1 years’ experience as a Help Desk Analyst... where do I go from here?

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Replies To: Advice Wanted: Two Roads Diverged... Or Was It Three?

#2 alias120  Icon User is offline

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Re: Advice Wanted: Two Roads Diverged... Or Was It Three?

Posted 09 September 2012 - 08:03 PM

I think you're on the right track, more so because you've realized a career in which you worry more about how much you enjoy it rather than the money being put in your pocket. It sounds as if you are off to a good start.

Someone here might prove me wrong, but I believe anyone is going to have a hard time telling you what you ought to do with your life. I think some of the most sound advice that one could offer under these circumstances is to be adventurous. With so many good (and bad) books and online/offline material available, your potential is only limited by your ambition. It sounds as if you were given a raw deal with the programming job. That happens, as i'm sure many members here could attest to. If you really want to know whether or not you might enjoy programming, start doing it. Pick up a book or two, find what is required for you to use that language(s) on your system, and get on with it. We can all guess as to what we may or may not enjoy doing with our lives. Sometimes the only way to know for sure is to just do it. You can continue working as help desk in the mean time, which sounds like a job you enjoy anyways.

As for other realms of IT, I suppose you should do some research. Maybe you'll find that you not only enjoy networking computers, but hardening them against potential threats. Or maybe you'll just prefer being on the front lines solving problems. There are many good books about all these different subjects in technology, and I think if you find the time to dig into a couple of them you might begin to answer your own question more accurately than any of us ever could.

This post has been edited by alias120: 09 September 2012 - 08:04 PM

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#3 BenignDesign  Icon User is offline

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Re: Advice Wanted: Two Roads Diverged... Or Was It Three?

Posted 09 September 2012 - 08:24 PM

I think you need to do what makes you happy.

I've stated in other threads here that not every programmer enjoys every language. Maybe the language you played with in the past wasn't the right language. Regardless of your age, you only have one year of tech experience under your belt. A little patience will do you good right now. And, quite frankly, if it's programming you're interested in... well, you're in the right place.

But keep in mind that getting "the basics" of a language and "mastering" a language are two very different things. I've been writing PHP professionally for almost 10 years. There are folks on these boards much younger than I - with considerably less experience - who can code circles around me.

Some days, it makes me feel very small, stupid, and insignificant.

Other days, I get to solve someone's quandry somewhere on these boards and I feel like a genius - like a super coder powerhouse - and I puff out my chest and walk with a swagger the rest of the day.

Then there are the days when I need help with a code problem and I sit in my office in absolute and utter awe of the DIC coders who can quickly and easily solve an issue I've struggled with for days.

I think it's important to realize no matter how far behind you think you are, there's always someone behind you... and no matter how good you get, there's always someone better.

If you're willing to put in the time, the effort, and check your ego at the door, you can learn to code. We all have to start somewhere. Whether you're 16 or 36 shouldn't matter.

PS. Moving this to the Cube for a more serious discussion.
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#4 h4nnib4l  Icon User is offline

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Re: Advice Wanted: Two Roads Diverged... Or Was It Three?

Posted 10 September 2012 - 06:35 AM

The start of your story sounds a lot like mine, right down to falling in love with the command line (I'm 29, so we're probably talking about the same time frame: back when windows was launched from the DOS prompt). There's no telling how many times I had to reformat the computer because I reorganized the autoexec.bat or config.sys trying to get my games to run. I was really into computers as a kid. Then I found out how much fun girls and drugs and playing in bands was, and I ended up dropping out of college after 1 1/2 semesters. The third time I woke up in jail, I decided to enlist. After the Marine Corps, I went back to school. Long story short, I'm 29 years old, married with 2 kids, and finished my bachelor's less than a year ago. Last summer a landed a job as a software developer at a pretty good company, and I absolutely love it.

You are behind. So was I. I get discouraged sometimes when I see 16 year olds on here who have been programming longer than I have. 15+ years later, the command prompt is pretty alien to me now, too. But after some education and some practice, I am to a point where I make damned good money doing something that I love. A job that I truly enjoy and appreciate is providing a better life for my family and I than any of the jobs I've ever had. Programming may or may not be for you, but don't let your age deter you. I develop in .NET (C# and ASP.NET for web applications), and I'm a huge fan. Object Oriented Programming just clicked for me. You may like it, or you may be happy somewhere else. But by all means give something a try. It would be a shame if you missed out on a potentially life-altering career move because you felt you were too old to start.
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#5 NecroWinter  Icon User is offline

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Re: Advice Wanted: Two Roads Diverged... Or Was It Three?

Posted 10 September 2012 - 05:37 PM

View Postnim6us, on 09 September 2012 - 07:36 PM, said:

I think I want to go back into programming. I like the idea of speaking with computers, making them do what I want. However I have the bad taste of the failed Access Programming job fresh in my mind, I wasn't "getting it". Was it that I needed to give it more time or was three months long enough to understand the foundations? What's worse, where I was comfortable with the command line, now I'm intimidated by it. I seem suited for networking, talking with people and tracking down problems. Or do I just feel that way because I had a better teacher in that field and had a more positive response?


I wouldnt worry about it, seems like you had quite the "trial by fire." You can definitely learn programming, just study and do things more suited for your skill level and youll get better, youll see.

Even if you did feel like you "got it" (so to speak), chances are, without your feet firmly grounded in solid basics, you would have developed bad habits down the road. So maybe its good that you didnt continue with the access job

I started programming when I was about 13, when visual basic 3 was common. I never read a tutorial, I was just doing it for fun. I looked at source code and analyzed what I could, and although I was able to get a decent idea of how source code flows, I developed really bad habits because I never actually studied, I just went right into it. Thankfully, when I started college, I was able to weed a lot of those habits out :)

If you cant decide if you want to do programming or networking, theres plenty of free ways to figure it out. On your pc, install linux or bsd, play around with all the different protocols etc, in programming, get yourself a good tutorial or book and read/do exercises.

This post has been edited by NecroWinter: 10 September 2012 - 05:42 PM

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#6 nim6us  Icon User is offline

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Re: Advice Wanted: Two Roads Diverged... Or Was It Three?

Posted 10 September 2012 - 08:27 PM

Thanks guys for the words of encouragement. None of my friends or family have any roots in the tech world and I find it hard to share my thoughts and ambitions. h4nnib4l It's amazing how similar our stories are, I actually had a bit in there about editing my autoexec.bat file, but I trimmed it out in one of the drafts of my post. It's a shame I should have left it in, it would have been a good chuckle. It's also good to hear that perhaps I am being too rough on myself. It's just the guy who hired me seems like a really smart intelligent guy, and I wanted the opportunity so badly, when I was going over everything in my head, my only conclusion was that I failed him, when perhaps by pairing me with the ice queen, he failed me.

I also understand as others have said, no one can tell you what you want to be. In the grand scheme of things I have a little less than 1 year of tech experience under my belt. While networking seems to come easier for me, in my heart I still think I want to be a programmer. I love logic and solving complex puzzles, I also like the idea of seeing a problem and being able to write a program that fixes it, or serves a purpose. For me it's like watching a brilliant pianist play an amazing piece of music. I want so badly to play that music but I just can't make it come out of my hands. I don't understand the notes or how they all work together to make such beautiful music. Then again, as with instruments, or anything worthwhile, that takes time. And yes I could do with some patience... maybe content to play "Chopsticks" for a while ;)

Thanks again for the advice, I enjoy hearing others tell their stories, I hope more people will share, and thank you for being such an accepting community. To all the DIC's that took the time to read my whale of a post and then reply with a post of substance. It really means a lot.
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#7 fromTheSprawl  Icon User is offline

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Re: Advice Wanted: Two Roads Diverged... Or Was It Three?

Posted 10 September 2012 - 08:42 PM

Hey there, programming is no easy profession, and mastering it is very hard too, so I understand when you asked if you should try pursuing it. I say do whatever makes you happy. Programming can be learned by yourself, or with your current capacity to pay for stuff you could take lessons, enroll in a short course, or if you want, study these things all by yourself. It isn't uncommon you know. In fact, those who study by themselves are the ones fueled by the want and need to learn and these people are the ones who really fall in programming. Most of the time, their the ones who master it too.

It is hard to pick something out there to learn for you, since you know what you want to do, so I suggest you find it yourself. You could start with web development since you have an experience with it, and see if what you're reading about web development interests you.

The advice I give the most to people who wants to try out programming is to pick a project as a goal, and start from there. You'll learn while trying to figure out how to do it programming works and you'll learn new stuff as you go along the way.

Good luck! ^^
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#8 nim6us  Icon User is offline

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Re: Advice Wanted: Two Roads Diverged... Or Was It Three?

Posted 03 October 2012 - 06:19 AM

Yeah I think someone on another forum put it best, "there is no sorting hat for your tech career". Made me chuckle ;)
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