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#1 Vicious J  Icon User is offline

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Advice needed for mid-life crisis!

Posted 19 August 2014 - 07:30 PM

Hi everyone. Iím hitting a mid-life crisis and would REALLY appreciate your advice. 10-15 years ago I was in college working toward my Computer Science degree. Although the higher calculus classes were difficult, I really liked and did well in the programming classes I took. Unfortunately, with about 2 more years of school to go I was convinced by a summer job employer to quit school and work full-time in real estate. I did and made a go at it for a long time, but now over a decade later I have found myself desperately wanting a career change and wishing so bad that I had finished college. Iíve been burned out for years, and Iíve concluded that continuing this line of work any longer would be foolish because not only will I continue to have a job that I have no passion for, but because itís basically been paycheck to paycheck the entire time I doubt I will ever be able to retire until Iím dead.

If I went back to school full time to get a BS in Computer Science I will probably be 40 years old by the time I am done! Iíve read the ďAm I too old to start programming?Ē thread. While there were some bits of good advice I was able to glean, I feel my situation is a little different as I am much older than that guy and with no IT background. Also, many of the responses were, ďyouíre never to old to Ďlearn to programíĒ (which I agree with), but I want to actually ďget hiredĒ and stay hired by a good company that I can have a lasting career with. Combined with no prior IT experience, I do worry that my age will be a negative factor when it comes to getting that first good job, or even that job stability could be poor for me because of older age and less time with the company when itís time to downsize. For hiring managers and you workers that are my age or older, I would appreciate it if you could tell me your own experiences and honest thoughts on this. If Iím being lame and my fears are unfounded then great. Please set me straight. Younger people, please donít tell me about how an old person was in your CS class, or your mom or dad is taking classes right now. Iíd like to know about actual hiring experience. While I would love to finally get into a computer technical career, I would hate to do all the work to get there and be met with hiring or job security roadblocks.

Secondly, from reading forums Iíve heard from many that just learning on my own would be a good way to go, without needing to bother with a university. But I worry that, in reality, not having a BS degree (in anything, let alone CS) will limit my employability to many otherwise good opportunities that look favorably upon the formal degree certificate. If Iím wrong then please let me know, but because I am the sole income earner for my family of 6, it is very important for me to be easily employable for good jobs that can support a family, at my age and even when Iím older should something go wrong with the security or desirability of my first company or two.

If a formal degree IS the most secure way to go, are there certain schools that I should choose from (that arenít super expensive) who have good reputations or good hiring programs upon graduation? This is a concern for me because a friend of mine told me he got his Computer Science degree from an online school and then nobody would hire him, so he wasted all that time and money and eventually had to get a job doing something else. I donít know what online school he used, but are there any that ARE reputable and hireable? If you donít recommend online, are there any lower cost schools that you can suggest that have a good recruiting track or that look good on resumes? (I currently live in southern CA, but can take the family and move if it is worth it. Iím sure Iíll have to do that eventually anyway.)

I need your honesty and advice, no matter how blunt or brutal. Let me know if you think landing a good computer related job at 40+ with no prior experience might be an issue; and if not, any education advice (for an average guy that canít get into Stanford/Harvard) that would lead to the best chances of employment success in which I wonít have any problems supporting a family. Although Iím sick to death of what Iím doing now and think that I would really enjoy the computer science and programming industry, I would rather keep scraping by in real estate or work some other job I donít like than waste my time and money on a serious setback. Thank you for your advice!!

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Replies To: Advice needed for mid-life crisis!

#2 macosxnerd101  Icon User is online

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Re: Advice needed for mid-life crisis!

Posted 19 August 2014 - 08:08 PM

Do you want to program? Do you want to work help desk, do networking, etc.? Realistically, it will take you a solid 2 years to learn a language well enough to be employable. That generally involves writing code daily, and often times for a few hours at a time. It means stretching your mind and learning how to problem solve, rather than just learning syntax. I know that sounds cheesy, but learning to code is really about learning how to creatively solve a problem and then to express the solution in a concise, logical manner. Once you learn a language well and begin on a second, you'll start to see that languages are (for the most part) pretty much the same with control structures, arrays, loops, etc.

If you want to do IT, networking, help desk, etc., you could probably invest in a couple training courses and be market ready sooner.

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any education advice (for an average guy that canít get into Stanford/Harvard) that would lead to the best chances of employment success in which I wonít have any problems supporting a family.

Classroom environments are great because you're around people that are making the same and other mistakes that you are. It's a great way to interact with folks and get some structure, which are both important in learning something new. I'd strongly encourage the community college route. The intro classes are smaller than at a major university. And generally, you can find freshman and sophomore level CS courses. I would encourage you to take an Intro to Programming class, and then a first semester Data Structures and Algorithms class (the prereq being Intro to Programming). You'll get some good experience and should be able to decide if programming is a desirable career path. You should also be able to do some serious self learning after that and crank away more at projects. I would also note that sites like Code Academy are great for syntax, but not much else.

There are also Business Analyst positions, which are generally technical project management folks. They interact with the clients, but are technical enough to extract complaints and bug reports from the clients and relay the relevant info to the developers.

I probably would shoot for an IT or Business Analyst position rather than software development. It gives you some leeway to get better at the programming side of things in case you want to make a change later.
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#3 modi123_1  Icon User is online

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Re: Advice needed for mid-life crisis!

Posted 19 August 2014 - 08:13 PM

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but I want to actually ďget hiredĒ and stay hired by a good company that I can have a lasting career with.

That sums up a lot of folk regardless of age.

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Iíd like to know about actual hiring experience. While I would love to finally get into a computer technical career, I would hate to do all the work to get there and be met with hiring or job security roadblocks.

Then talk to a recruiter. No - talk to a ton. No one here knows who you are, what you are like, etc. Talk to a technical recruiting company and ask them. Go talk to a local college's IT councilors.. ask them. Let them assess you. They would know your local markets better than anyone else here.

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But I worry that, in reality, not having a BS degree (in anything, let alone CS) will limit my employability to many otherwise good opportunities that look favorably upon the formal degree certificate

Typically yes.. because a degree gives a pseudo benchmark for HR people to know that you were this tall to ride the ride.

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because I am the sole income earner for my family of 6, it is very important for me to be easily employable for good jobs that can support a family,

I hope you are not using any internet advice as a lynch pin for your entire future then.

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I would rather keep scraping by in real estate or work some other job I donít like than waste my time and money on a serious setback

Sorry - the magic eighball is being cleaned right now. Who the heck has a certain lock on any of the mid term range futures?

Maybe coding isn't the best thing. Figure away to branch your current skill set. Project managers, business analysts, team leads, etc.
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#4 Vicious J  Icon User is offline

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Re: Advice needed for mid-life crisis!

Posted 20 August 2014 - 11:04 AM

Thanks, macosxnerd101. That helps. I don't really know where I want to focus yet. I just know that I really liked the two C++ courses and the one HTML course I did long ago. Since then I've done minor programs here and there for work and fun so I haven't forgotten everything, but it's still pretty rusty. I've begun learning other code in my spare time recently so I can make sure I still really like it before I jump back in again. Hopefully as I continue and learn more I will get a better idea as to whether I would want to program all day or focus on networking, etc.

View Postmodi123_1, on 19 August 2014 - 08:13 PM, said:

I hope you are not using any internet advice as a lynch pin for your entire future then.

No, but I am trying to do as much research and get as much information as I can from other more knowledgable people's experiences that are in the field before I make the drastic change.
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#5 jon.kiparsky  Icon User is offline

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Re: Advice needed for mid-life crisis!

Posted 25 August 2014 - 02:06 PM

There are no guarantees. If you're risk-averse, and it sounds like you have good reason to be, then consider doing it in off hours. Many schools are interested in making accomodations for "returning students" - and they got a lot of practice with this during the Bush recession, as many people in their thirties and forties (and fifties, in one case that I personally know of) took advantage of their involuntary time off to go back to school and change careers.

I suggest you start by talking to the CS department at the schools that seem like they might work for you. They'll be able to give you an idea of what will be required in terms of courses and class hours to get a BS or MS in computer science - which is probably what you want. From there, go to the admissions office and talk to some nice person about what sort of thing can be arranged, and how it can fit into your working life

Unfortunately, your timing is terrible - most schools are in their busiest time of the year, so you might have a hard time getting the attention you want, and it'll probably be difficult for you to get in for this semester. But no harm in trying - and you can certainly spend a few months scraping the rust off your programming chops.

You should be warned, though, that programming is still a job. Many people seem to hope it's going to be a sort of playground with a paycheck - not so much. It's fun, if you like that sort of thing, but it's not much like the TV shows make it out to be. With that in mind, another option would be to pursue programming as a hobby - you can get all of the good fun of making stuff, without the stress of turning your life upside down
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#6 astonecipher  Icon User is offline

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Re: Advice needed for mid-life crisis!

Posted 25 August 2014 - 03:14 PM

Agreed. Start as a hobbyist first, one it will give you more practical experience and two it gives you a chance to see if you actually want to do it.

I never work. I get paid to do something I would be doing in my free time regardless. The company I work for also makes it a pleasure, but we still get busy and I have plenty of different projects to work on.
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#7 john5220  Icon User is offline

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Re: Advice needed for mid-life crisis!

Posted 27 August 2014 - 05:54 PM

How about try some freelance work on those websites first?

You can offer to do the contract for free at first but to be sure you are capable of making a software.
Or try something like building your own video game? once you have a goal to follow it should be relative straightforward in knowing if you would like to do this kind of work etc.

I can't speak for others but I build websites for people and I charge a fee, I use professional joomla templates from yootheme etc. And clients are very happy they could care less if its a template really as I can make it look different from the actual template. And from my experience I would say learning to edit templates alone is a bad idea, one needs to learn proper CSS and HTML learn every single thing and then learn php would be great. The shortcuts don't work honestly

So what I am trying to say is if you are going to do this you must go all out and do it properly, at my University they strive to create entrepreneurs, in the Caribbean we have a small market for hiring computer science graduates but the money is in when American companies want to outsource, no point in working for infotech Caribbean as they would pay you small money and make money in the big contracts. So our university is striving to train our minds to become entrepreneurs and create our own business so we can be able to get these contracts rather than work for someone doing the contracts.

So this is how it is here, since you are in the US it might make more sense for you to work for a company right? rather than freelance or start your own small business in this field? The only problem I see is that its difficult for us to compete with India and other Asian countries.

From what I have heard from people on this very website is that you must use your time wisely at University and do not look at a degree as the only reason you are going to college as it does not guarantee anything. Its all about how much you are willing to learn and sacrifice, think facebook and microsoft those guys never went to college for the sole purpose of getting a degree. So I guess if you truly want to learn CS and have a career in programming you got to have a passion for it. I love science thanks in part to Dr Richard Dawkins and it helped me realize my hidden love for something I didn't pay much attention to many years ago in high school and now I have a second chance in life to show what I am made off if that means anything.
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