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#1 garbus  Icon User is offline

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What should I do despite my obstacles to get a good developer job?

Posted 20 June 2017 - 07:20 PM

Throughout my early teenage years I spent all my free time on the computer (I even used the computer when I should have been doing homework), often wasting my time on the internet, but often learning how to code, coding projects that interested me. I created no applications of any notability, for they were small applications and ones that demonstrated the things I was learning, not that I created programs only to practice language features and APIs, but the programs I created were nonetheless small. In those years I learned Visual Basic and C++ in part, and I also learned enough of the Win32 API that I could write small Win32 Applications. But often I did not finish projects because I lost interest in them and wanted to build something else.

It was during those years that I was hospitalized and sent to a program for my mental disorder, where for the most part I had no freedom to code, but toward the end of those years when a worker took me to visit a college that deals with technology, I suddenly swelled wth the desire to go to college and to major in software engineering. Also in those years I started to visit my family at home, and at home I began to learn two new programming language, Java and C#. Now I had intended to go to Bible College and earn my degree there, but the workers at the program, thinking I would lack support if went there, set me up to attend community college.

After taking several courses there, that is to say, one or two at a time, I was living in a transitional living program, where I was free to leave and return at any time of the day. While in this program, my friend got me a job at a small startup, where I developed workflows and web parts for SharePoint, and wrote web applications and windows services, all in .NET. But due to unfortunate circumstance the startup shut down, and my mental disorder, kicking in, lead me back to the hospital.

I said all that to make this point: One way you can characterize me is as disabled and unintelligent, being bright enough to understand technology but not bright enough to master it, or having some intelligence but due to my illness not being able to use it. My goal is to work at a notable company like Microsoft, a place where sophisticated software systems are designed and coded, ones requiring advanced backgrounds in computer science and various other fields. Knowing that a degree is not required to work there, I think I might have an opportunity to work for them without returning to college, but knowing also that my skills and experience, when it comes to computer science, is limited, I feel overwhelmed by an estimation of what I must do to make it.

So my questions are these: Do I still have hope of achieving my goal? and what steps should I take to achieve it?

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#2 modi123_1  Icon User is online

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Re: What should I do despite my obstacles to get a good developer job?

Posted 20 June 2017 - 09:11 PM

Plenty of great companies outside of the big hitters... though with many people gunning for them so having limited programming skills puts you far in the back field.

Do-able.. sure. Easy, not really.
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#3 jon.kiparsky  Icon User is online

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Re: What should I do despite my obstacles to get a good developer job?

Posted 20 June 2017 - 10:12 PM

Hm. This is certainly not the usual set of obstacles. Sounds like you've run into some real impediments, and you've found ways to deal with them in ways that have met with at least reasonable and perhaps unreasonable levels of success. So far, so good - you're to be congratulated on what you've achieved.

But that's not what you're asking. You want to know if you have a hope of gaining employment as an engineer at a high-visibility company such as MicroSoft.

Let's simplify the question, and start with "gaining employment as a software engineer". Forget about which companies you want to work for for now - there are many companies, you will not work for all of them, and many of them are great places to work. The important thing is that you pursue opportunities at places where you feel you're doing the right thing (whatever that means to you), learning and developing your skills (whichever skills you're most concerned about), and well rewarded (according to your standards, obviously taking into account existing market forces).

The answer is, yes, there's always a hope, and there are always obstacles. The first obstacle is the lack of formal training. This is not a blocking issue - many people work in software without having degrees in computer science, including me. However, many of those people do have some amount of formal training, and/or degrees in convincingly similar fields. If you don't understand basic elements of computer science, for example, how to understand the requirements of a computation in time and space as the scale of the problem tends towards Very Large, and why this is important, then a lot of people are going to be concerned because this is the sort of thing that you need to understand to write performant code.

So while you don't need a degree, there's a lot of stuff to know about CS that's best gathered in a formal setting, and it would be very much worth your while to pursue as much of this sort of training as you can do, considering your circumstances. This has the extra virtue of demonstrating both a commitment to learning the trade that you want to pursue and also a good degree of gumption.
This is a general statement - it's true for anyone trying to reinvent themselves as a software engineer, and it's true for you.

Another general statement: answer questions on stack overflow and dreamincode.net, solve problems on projecteuler.net and rosalind.info and codeeval.com and the like, write a blog about programming, attend programming meetups - do whatever it is that you can do to be part of a local and a global community of programmers. This will teach you a lot about the craft, and it'll help people find out who you are and what you know. Again, anyone can and should do this, and you're included.

Another general statement: many beginning programmers do one or several internships early in their career. If you're taking courses at a community college, your school will often have a career advisory office that can help you find internships. Take advantage of these, and learn as much as you can from them. You can learn a lot from working with a team on real problems, even if it's "just an internship". Again, this is true for anyone looking to become an engineer, and so it's also true for you.

Now, as for your condition and how it affects your potential employment, I can't say much. I don't work in HR, I'm not a doctor of any sort, and you haven't given me any information which I could use to make an evaluation if I were either of those things. (Note: this is wise of you, and I suggest you keep it that way - don't get into any details that you wouldn't want to wear on a T-shirt as you go about your day)
I would first try to understand your legal status - is this even something you should bring up in an interview? Or are there equal-opportunity guidelines that make this a problematic subject? Again, your careers office or medical professionals can probably help you understand this a lot better than I or anyone here can. If you do bring it up, that's great. Openness is a great thing in an interview, and this interview is no different. Answer any questions, bring up any concerns you might have, and help them understand that you're just a person looking for a job who's eager to find the right place to do good work. If you can get that across to enough people, you will get offers.
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#4 tlhIn`toq  Icon User is offline

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Re: What should I do despite my obstacles to get a good developer job?

Posted 21 June 2017 - 03:30 AM

Quote

My goal is to work at a notable company like Microsoft,

I think when you start out with a bad premise you get a bad result. Your stated goal is not about your life and how you want to live it or what you want to get out of it. Its about obtaining a status you can show to people that says "Hey look, despite my handicaps I'm normal and I can achieve". Yeah, great, then what? You're in a high-pressure environment with demanding bosses and short deadlines, in a large company that has to treat everyone the same and has no room to make allowances for the individual. Do you think that's going to play well with your mental health issues?

Quote

often I did not finish projects because I lost interest

If you can be a developer at all.... You have to work your way up to a large notable company. You don't start at Microsoft. You start at some local company doing skud work because you are the rookie. You do the grunt work that senior developers don't want to do. That's life. As you work up you get more creative and interesting work assigned to you. But you have to accept that you'll spend at least a couple years doing really boring grunt coding and bug fixes 40 hours a week. Is your lack of attention and tendency to just drop interest going to cause you to quit in 6 months?

There's an old saying about how nice it is to be the big fish in the little pond, instead of a out in the open ocean where you're just a meal for an even bigger fish. Its the same with jobs, any jobs - but especially high-tech positions like software engineer. Personally I'd suggest you stop focusing on working at a Microsoft or Intel and define what you want and need for a good quality of enjoyable life. Personally I'd rather have a flat 9-5 so I can be home with my family, than make an extra 20 grand a year with an 80-hour work week and no home life. I like my weekends to go camping and have hobbies. One of my favorite coding jobs was with a company of 10 people but everyone was of an engineering mind set and didn't care if I worked from home so long as I produced. That left me free to work 12 hours on Tuesday night if I was inspired. I could work the weekend if it was raining and take of Tuesday and Wednesday when the weather was nice. I made less money than I do now, but I was practically semi-retired and intellectually stimulated while getting paid to do work I thrived on. Who gives a damn if you've never heard of the company if you can feel good about yourself, the work, the people you work with, and if it is work you could do forever instead of leaving in a year or causing you to crack up.

This post has been edited by tlhIn`toq: 21 June 2017 - 03:30 AM

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#5 Skydiver  Icon User is offline

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Re: What should I do despite my obstacles to get a good developer job?

Posted 21 June 2017 - 12:10 PM

As an ex-MSFTer, I can tell you that when I was hired on in 1994, one of my co-workers was among the last batch of entry level people that was hired without a degree. After that point, the entry level developer needed a degree to get past the HR filters. If you already have industry experience, then you would come in as an industry hire. HR doesn't look at educational backgrounds at that point other than to verify that you aren't putting fake stuff on your resume.

View PosttlhIn`toq, on 21 June 2017 - 06:30 AM, said:

You're in a high-pressure environment with demanding bosses and short deadlines, in a large company that has to treat everyone the same and has no room to make allowances for the individual. Do you think that's going to play well with your mental health issues?

+1. Working at MSFT is not as high pressure as working for a game company (unless you happen to work in the Xbox division), but the competitive pressure is there due to the stack ranking system and application of a curve to determine performance and bonuses. There are the standard allowances provided by law (being in California or a European subsidiary will help dramatically here) regarding health (mental or physical). There are further allowances that you can workout with your manager and HR, but you basically need to be at the top of your game at some point before asking for such allowances.

View PosttlhIn`toq, on 21 June 2017 - 06:30 AM, said:

I made less money than I do now, but I was practically semi-retired and intellectually stimulated while getting paid to do work I thrived on. Who gives a damn if you've never heard of the company if you can feel good about yourself, the work, the people you work with, and if it is work you could do forever instead of leaving in a year or causing you to crack up.

+1. It takes a little while to get past the status symbol of working for a big name company. In the end what matters is doing something that makes you happy in the long run.
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#6 garbus  Icon User is offline

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Re: What should I do despite my obstacles to get a good developer job?

Posted 24 June 2017 - 08:18 AM

If I am not able to return to college, what can I do to learn what is needed to get a good job in development of software? In other words, where can I find the material to learn from, and what material should I use?
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#7 modi123_1  Icon User is online

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Re: What should I do despite my obstacles to get a good developer job?

Posted 24 June 2017 - 08:20 AM

Books are good for structured learning that should cover all in a given area. Typically I search through amazon, sort by newest publication date, review those that are well rated, pick a few, compare table of contents, flip through a few reviews, and make a purchase.
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