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#1 matt_  Icon User is offline

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Advice on education/career path

Posted 22 September 2012 - 04:45 PM

So here's my current plan

1: Learn what I need to land the quickest job I can at a higher pay rate (40-48k). Right now I do data entry 29k.
2: Get certifications in the areas I need for the job since I have no degree.
3: Learn what I need to land a very good job at the next highest pay grade (60-80k).

How I plan to learn what I need:
1: Self teach via books.
I've looked at my programming books and most are between 15-18 chapters. My goal is at least a chapter a week in 3 different books/subjects. If necessary I will insure that books longer than 16 chapters are finished in 16 weeks. My hypothesis is that this will put me at an advanced level in any 3 languages/whatever in 1 year maximum.
2: Do projects on my own that can be utilized at my current position as well as given as examples for interviews.
I've been doing this with data analysis. I've made a database with many reports from our sales team. I've also done this with my fantasy football league (hey, I don't have anything else database worthy).
3: Attempting freelance work to help build my ability and for examples in an interview.
I'm not really sure how to go about this.

My current knowledge:
I would consider myself, maybe not an expert, but very advanced in Excel. I can also do medium- level Visual Basic in Excel. Anything I don't know how to do I feel comfortable saying I could easily figure out in someone else's work, or teach myself. I have taken: Java, C++, and Visual Basic. I do not remember Java/C++ syntax, but I definitely understand the logic and code at I'd say... a middle of second semester level. I worked in Access one time.


The careers I'm interested in are- Data Analyst, Database Administrator, and Programmer.

My sense is that the easiest one to get into would be Data Analyst. If I could run everything through Excel I, probably incorrectly, think I could handle the job with a short 1 month grace period of on the job exploration. However I know I'll need to know something other than Excel.


Questions:
1: What do you think of my plan? Are there glaring issues? For example - is getting my Microsoft Excel Expert, or SQL certificate useless?
2: What would you recommend I go for to get the quickest job? I was thinking SQL for Data Analyst, but I'm not very knowledgeable.
3: What would I need to learn for Data Analyst or Database Administrator? Example: SQL, PHP, Statistics, Calculus..
4: After I get my quick job goal, what would be 3 good things to learn? From my looking around, I've noticed a lot of people suggesting PHP, SQL, Ruby/Rails, and Java.


I feel like I have so much ambition right now and I'm not sure where to funnel it. I have no programmers or people in IT to talk to. I've looked at job postings online, and most things seem rather arbitrary. One job will want a specific language/database/compiler or something knowledge, and the next will want completely different ones. So I want to learn what will either be the most in demand, or the most diverse languages/things.

Also I just really want someone to mentor me, but I'm not sure how to go about finding that.
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Replies To: Advice on education/career path

#2 BenignDesign  Icon User is online

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Re: Advice on education/career path

Posted 22 September 2012 - 10:33 PM

View Postmatt_, on 22 September 2012 - 07:45 PM, said:

So here's my current plan

1: Learn what I need to land the quickest job I can at a higher pay rate (40-48k). Right now I do data entry 29k.
2: Get certifications in the areas I need for the job since I have no degree.
3: Learn what I need to land a very good job at the next highest pay grade (60-80k).


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#3 matt_  Icon User is offline

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Re: Advice on education/career path

Posted 23 September 2012 - 12:20 AM

View PostBenignDesign, on 22 September 2012 - 10:33 PM, said:



I'm sorry if you find my aspirations ridiculous. The rest of my post stands. I don't see how ambition can hurt. It's only $20 an hour to make 40k. Not really that much.

Thank you for contributing to my quest.
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#4 darek9576  Icon User is offline

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Re: Advice on education/career path

Posted 23 September 2012 - 12:30 AM

About your point 1: reading good books is very important (at least thats how i learn) but go through them a bit quicker. Chapter a week is slowish.

Point2: yeah, everything you learn, put into practice. Build stupid programs that do nothing, make mistakes and debug them. Then after you made million and three small programs you can make 1 bigger one.

Point3: i dont think thats useful for an interview. If you have a good portfolio, you dont need that.

Good luck.
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#5 JackOfAllTrades  Icon User is offline

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Re: Advice on education/career path

Posted 23 September 2012 - 04:11 AM

You may need to reset your expectations on starting salary given the economy. Your self-study program sounds good to me. However,

Quote

My hypothesis is that this will put me at an advanced level in any 3 languages/whatever in 1 year maximum.


More likely this is going to put you in a position of having an intermediate level in a language (or languages). It will NOT put you at an advanced level, because you really need to deal with code within larger system contexts to get a feel how everything fits together in the real world.

In any event, I was in a similar situation some 15 years ago, so I'll relate my career path, which was successful for me and I think is a good way to do it. I can't speak to whether it will completely work nowadays, unfortunately.

First off, I had previous knowledge of programming, but my degree was not in CS. I had written several freeware programs which were moderately popular in the niche for which they were written. I was not able to get my foot in the door anywhere without some sort of piece of paper that was computer-related, so I went to an intensive 6-week course in Unix/C/C++ programming at a local, well-regarded brick-and-mortar polytechnic. I already had some self-taught C/C++ programming experience, so I used the time leading up to this to study Unix stuff. Consequently the course was very easy for me, but many in the class were absolutely clueless, and unfortunately they got the same certificate I did, so I am not differentiated from anyone else that has that piece of paper. This is what may make this piece of paper less worthwhile these days; hiring people know this. The good thing is these programs often have job placement assistance at the end, which is (and was for me) very helpful.

I got a job doing technical support for -- and I think this is really key -- a startup. Why? Because they are going to be more seat-of-the-pants. They may let you have read-only access to the source code, which you can use to diagnose problems for which you receive calls. In fact, when you interview tell them your ambitions, and they may help you along. With some luck, you can find a mentor in the area you wish to pursue who can help guide you. I would diagnose problems, come up with potential solutions, and bring them to one of the developers, who would either validate my solutions or tell me where I was wrong.

I also used my "downtime" to write small utility programs that helped me and others. Be proactive, but don't step on any toes. Make yourself valuable to the company and those around you.

Before long I had worked my way into QA. Through attrition of developers (startups tend to go through developers at a fast rate), I was able to move into a development role. Within a year or two, I was the Senior SW Engineer and Tech Lead and had pretty much tripled my salary. When I tried to leave the company as it was failing, the CEO and VP of Engineering gave me a bonus to stay on and threatened to sue the company to which I was going (run by a former employee)...again, make yourself valuable.
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#6 stackoverflow  Icon User is offline

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Re: Advice on education/career path

Posted 23 September 2012 - 06:16 AM

Don't think in terms of money or landing a "better" job. No good developer ever came from that realm of thinking. If you're in it for the money or job you'll never be happy or any good.

Find something you like to develop and make it. Build a solid portfolio of personal projects. Keep a record of your skills, projects and experience and what you've learned from them. Build a stellar resume and apply to jobs you think you'd like.

Would you rather hire someone that:

1) Has read a few books on a subject and has a certificate in that area.

or

2) Has a collection of projects he/she has completed in that realm, loves what they do and can talk about what they've made and learned from it?

Actions speak louder than words (and paper with words on it).

This post has been edited by stackoverflow: 23 September 2012 - 06:20 AM

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