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From an Unrelated Career To IT/Programming?

kdawson posted more than 5 years ago | from the long-jump dept.

Programming 374

An anonymous reader writes "I hate my career of the past few years. For a long time I've wondered what I'd do after I broke even and could get into something new, and I keep coming back to computers. I'd like to get into software, since I always enjoyed coding. I have some background with C++ so I'm not starting entirely from scratch. My problem is my degrees and past employment have no practical application to the field. Where should I start? I have friends in both IT and software development who might be able to pull some strings and get me an interview or two for entry-level positions, but what can I do to make myself hireable in a short period of time? Is it possible to pick up enough of what I'd need within a couple months? If so, what and how?"

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Be Proactive (4, Informative)

alain94040 (785132) | more than 5 years ago | (#27270005)

Having been a hiring manager for a couple of years, I got used to scanning resumes and deciding within 10 seconds whether to read further or not. Guess what: the one thing that matters is relevant experience.

How can you get relevant experience in a few months? Contribute to an Open Source project [] . Join one of the Fair projects [] listed on my site.

Contribute. Learn. Then put this fresh experience on your resume. Then you'll be hired (at least you would have a year ago - in this new economy, even Bill Gates would be jobless).

Re:Be Proactive (3, Informative)

tritonman (998572) | more than 5 years ago | (#27270043)

I'd say the answer is no. I've never looked at a resume and saw that they had no PAID experience and then said, wait, they played around on some open source project, they must be good...

Re:Be Proactive (3, Insightful)

whiplashx (837931) | more than 5 years ago | (#27270227)

But then how does a person break into the industry?

The above question was rhetorical. You break into the industry by getting an entry level job. Then you work for 6 months, and get your promotion to the second level, or switch to a better job. 2 years later you have "experience."

Start with what you love. The money will come later.

Re:Be Proactive (5, Insightful)

SpuriousLogic (1183411) | more than 5 years ago | (#27270435)

I think the original poster will have a very difficult time, if not impossible time, getting into the field in anything other than the lowest, least skilled position (with commensurate pay). Just knowing C++ is not enough to break into the field in a few months. I have been doing development for years, and when I start to look for a new job it takes me a few months just to brush up on all the things I already know that are asked in interviews. He/She would be coming into the field with the same experience and less relevant skills than a new graduate, but most likely expecting a higher salary. That would be a large strike against them in the marketplace. Even if he had great business acumen, his stated desire for a tech job specifically requires a strong tech background, and we all know that learning a companies product is much easier than creating the foundation required for a good technical understanding of the field. If the original poster was willing to spend more than a few months in order to break into the industry, they may have a chance, but I don't see any way to accomplish that goal in just a few months of learning. I also don't think that Open Source contribution would be in any way valuable for the individual. Open Source projects don't just want "anyone who wants to code". The vast majority of these projects are run by very highly skilled people with years of experience. The only way to really get experience is to be hired and work in a business setting developing software. Just writing code is NOT experience. My best advice for the original poster is don't try to do this in a few months. Go take out school loans and get a degree in the area. That would be the absolute fastest way to get a mid level or higher job in programming. Otherwise they will spend way more time "climbing the ranks" out of the helpdesk or other low level job they are most likely to get. There really is no shortcut in gaining knowledge and experience. Both are a product of time and effort. Attempts to circumvent that RARELY work.

Re:Be Proactive (5, Informative)

endikos (195750) | more than 5 years ago | (#27270465)

But then how does a person break into the industry?

Freelance. Absolutely work on open source projects in your spare time to hone your skills, but then do some paid work for people that know and trust you. Then you have real-world open source volunteer experience as well as paid experience. Lots of small businesses need small utilities or enhancements to existing products they had custom built.

Re:Be Proactive (4, Interesting)

fwice (841569) | more than 5 years ago | (#27270287)

I'd say the answer is no. I've never looked at a resume and saw that they had no PAID experience and then said, wait, they played around on some open source project, they must be good...

as a part of my department's hiring team, more weight is given to paid positions, definitely.

but the programming skill / quality of some of these paid positions is the same as the programming skill / quality of the fuzzies in my sock -- non-existent.

if you work on an open source project, we can at least look back at the commit tree and see some of the actual codewrites and adds/changes in the tree. in some cases, it gives us more of a knowledge of the applicants skill then someone who is just providing a resume, and using the buzzwords-of-the-{day,month,year}, since we actually have something TANGIBLE to look at. Plus, working on an open source project, the OP may likely start on a low end, handling documentation or tickets, until progressing upwards into the high technical levels -- useful skills to have.

if you filter out all technical people right off the bat, due to past paid experience or college degree, you may lose a great hire. some of our best workers are non-ee/cs (surpisingly, civil engineers make good coders, and one of our best is a former music major, orchestra performer, & music theory professor). additionally, having someone come in without the 'dogma' from a standard ee/cs education & job background may be refreshing -- as they think and will approach problems in different ways.

YMMV, but just my experience that cares more about the people than your standard fortune 500 chairfiller...

Re:Be Proactive (1)

einhverfr (238914) | more than 5 years ago | (#27270725)

There is one other thing too: If you can show (eventually) some significant contribution (not just bug fixes, etc) to a project, that gives you an additional point to sell your experience. There is a tremendous difference between "I fixed a few bugs in TuxRacer" and "I built an MRP module for LedgerSMB which is now used by over a thousand users." Obviously you can't do that at first, but at some point.....

One nice thing about this approach is you can pick something which leverages the skillset from your old career and provides something unique and useful based on your unique point of view. This sort of thing can also highlight why your old career should not be held against you.

Re:Be Proactive (5, Insightful)

SatanicPuppy (611928) | more than 5 years ago | (#27270319)

Agreed. I had people look at my freelance experience like it was irrelevant:

HR: "I see here you worked for [company] for only 3 months"

Me: "It was contract work. I was on a team that built an inventory system for them that uses RFID to track over 1,000,000 discrete pieces of inventory, do automatic ordering, etc. We completed it on time, and all got bonuses. The floor guys liked it so much they threw us a barbeque."

HR: "So your work wasn't good enough for them to hire you full time?"

Me: "...It was a contract job."

HR: "I'll just put, 'No' how about that?"

Re:Be Proactive (1)

GMFTatsujin (239569) | more than 5 years ago | (#27270613)

Commiserations. All we can do is just be hopeful that someday, somehow, we'll land the job with the company that really knows how to do things, and with unity and experience, crush those who failed to hire us.

It seems like companies won't commit to long-term relationships with the people who work for them, yet they expect applicants to show unbending loyalty for decades. Yeesh.

Re:Be Proactive (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27270867)

Parent is in now way Flamebait, WTF?

Re:Be Proactive (5, Informative)

CannonballHead (842625) | more than 5 years ago | (#27270191)

Hm. I'm not a hiring manager, but was recently hired by a hiring manager (and interviewed by several people from the team I now work with). I was hired for a testing role of a product that involved UNIX (e.g., AIX) as well as Linux. I was freshly out of college with two Bachelor degrees - computer science and music. A few commented on the music thing and asked about it. One thought it was fairly related (e.g., creative thinking and programming SHOULD go together, but often don't). I had NO experience AT ALL with UNIX. I had self-taught experience with most computer stuff, including Linux and all programming (my computer science coursework was mostly review for me).

I got hired not because of relevant experience, but because I apparently could show that I was hard working and diligent, fairly intelligent, creative [music], familiar with a lot of programming languages (but only "good" with one or two, since I primarily did scripting stuff in the past few years), and able to teach myself (that was a big resume item for me).

Relevant experience is good, but maybe not for an entry level position? If anything, my manager was more interested in my attitude, willingness to learn, willingness to work hard, etc.

Re:Be Proactive (2, Insightful)

moderatorrater (1095745) | more than 5 years ago | (#27270339)

One of the best pieces of advice I've ever heard is that if they ask you if you know a certain technology or language, to always say yes. A good programmer, hell, even a decent programmer will be able to pick up a language fast enough that it won't matter, but an incompetent interviewer or someone who can't program won't understand that.

Re:Be Proactive (4, Insightful)

CannonballHead (842625) | more than 5 years ago | (#27270521)

I would disagree. My hiring manager has commented several times on my honesty, as well. I knew I was new and didn't know everything. My response, if asked if I knew something, was "No, but I can learn it." Maybe that sounds tongue in cheek but it's true; I was being considered for a position that I was going to have to learn a lot for, may as well be willing to do so. Furthermore, the people interviewing me actually asked for some examples (e.g., one guy asked about the advantages/disadvantages of Perl, one asked me to write a simple code snippet that would print out an array of somethings, etc).

Depending on who you end up working for/with, honesty can make you a great person to work with. Everybody hates it when someone doesn't answer a question. I have found that answering honestly (but positively) works very well. Lying in an interview would be even worse than lying on a resume. Which, by the way, I've had several interviewing people mention to me - most people lie on their resume. I didn't, but they still wanted to talk to me if they were interested, resume isn't enough.

Re:Be Proactive (2, Insightful)

Aladrin (926209) | more than 5 years ago | (#27270525)

So you want to work for a company that has incompetent employees? Are you sure you should be lying in interviews and hoping to get the company that can't even hire people properly?

Re:Be Proactive (1)

smooth wombat (796938) | more than 5 years ago | (#27270535)

I can't remember which industrialist once said it, but your comments are very similar to his. He said:

If someone asks if you can do a job, you say "Yes sir!" and then go about figuring out how to do it.

Re:Be Proactive (1)

fishbowl (7759) | more than 5 years ago | (#27270779)

And I have been known to put bogus things on job req's in order to catch people who lie about what they know.

If you don't know something, you should say "I don't know that particular technology, but I know how to learn it, and I push the envelope on acquiring new skills faster than anybody else who you will interview for this job."

Those are magic words that would get a thumbs-up from me when it comes to my input in the hiring process. (I would have been the second person to interview you, after an HR admin and before the president of the company. I would be the only person to ask you any really interesting technical questions, and I will *know* if you're lying about your programming or sysadmin skills.)

Re:Be Proactive (1)

Nursie (632944) | more than 5 years ago | (#27270829)

And a good interviewer will then proceed to ask you a few questions and expose the lie.

As an occasional interviewer I prefer to hear "no". Or "not extensively, though I have used it in", to an outright lie that I'm most definitely going to call you on.

Re:Be Proactive (1)

Kjella (173770) | more than 5 years ago | (#27270703)

Relevant experience is good, but maybe not for an entry level position? If anything, my manager was more interested in my attitude, willingness to learn, willingness to work hard, etc.

But you are young and had some computer education. Changing career paths always happen, but there's some paths that are rather uncommon to switch to, like either you wanted to work with this or you just didn't have the skills or will to. That's exactly what will be questioned here. "Why are you figuring this out first now? Is this something he's really motivated for or is it just because he's fed up with his old career? Has he still got that willingness of a college kid to learn or does he just think he can? Is he really motivated enough to start at a junior position again?" Ok, so I'm making this sound more difficult than it is, but having lots of completley irrelevant experience isn't easy either.

Re:Be Proactive (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27270211)

I agree with the OSS element, that is how I got into programming. One of the things that programmers often lack is intimate knowledge of how a given business works. Look at your field and identify a need that a piece of software could solve. Good candidates are tasks that people are currently performing with excel spreadsheets. Then, write a piece of software that fills that need. Be sure that you add a piece of value to the spreadsheet, though, like better change tracking or network awareness, to give people a reason to change. I got my start by writing a business management package for a specific niche. Use your business contacts and get a company to use it, offering them support for free. Once it is being used, you can stick this experience on your resume and get hired, or maybe start a small business around your product.

This approach will cost you a lot of personal investment. It will probably take several years. You will have to learn a variety of languages and continue in your day job. Just remember that you are competing against people who invested in a college education in what you are trying to do. Trust me, this works.

Re:Be Proactive (2, Informative)

rackserverdeals (1503561) | more than 5 years ago | (#27270285)

This advice is good.

I have been a programmer and manager. I can tell you that without a formal training in the field I wouldn't even bring you in for an interview.

Programming is more than just knowing a language. The other things you learn when obtaining a CS degree help you be a better programmer that doesn't require a lot of hand holding.

The only times I've seen this happen have been within a company. If the company you work for has an entry level programming opportunity and you've proven that you have some competency, they may let you transfer and provide some training in certain situations.

But this is like hiring your secretaries nephew to do the company website because people like his myspace profile.

The best thing you can do is contribute to an open source project, as suggested above.

This will give you some real world experience and something you can put on your resume. If after a year or two, you were able to add some substantial amount of code, not just some small bug fixes, you would be in a better position, but would still have a tough time.

Re:Be Proactive (2, Insightful)

ThatDamnMurphyGuy (109869) | more than 5 years ago | (#27270419)

"I have been a programmer and manager. I can tell you that without a formal training in the field I wouldn't even bring you in for an interview."

Then I'd say you're missing out on good talent. I have yet to interview ANYONE just out of school who knew a damn thing aside from how to spell "Java" or point click drag, which tells me formal training is crap.*

*Crap for Web 2.0 Tech, not crap for hardcore stuff like pcb, assembly, medical, science, etc.

They certainly don't teach troubleshooting skills in school.

Re:Be Proactive (1)

CannonballHead (842625) | more than 5 years ago | (#27270559)

They certainly don't teach troubleshooting skills in school.

Nor, typically, how to teach yourself. I was actually homeschooled and more or less "taught myself" for most of my schooling, so I had a bit of an advantage there, hehe.

Re:Be Proactive (1)

rackserverdeals (1503561) | more than 5 years ago | (#27270583)

Then I'd say you're missing out on good talent.

There are plenty of skilled and trained people looking for opportunities, especially these days.

Most univiersity programming courses aren't going to teach you all the new web 2.0 stuff. What they do is give you a strong foundation in the field that you can build on.

You normally build on it through internships, part time jobs and other projects you may work on outside the main curriculum.

A degree in the field isn't enough. Messing around in your spare time isn't enough. Someone with the formal training and who works on it in their spare time to learn the new technology is the ideal candidate.

Don't know what you mean about not teaching you trouble teaching skills. I sure learned them through the different CS and EE labs.

Re:Be Proactive (1)

SpuriousLogic (1183411) | more than 5 years ago | (#27270499)

I can tell you that without a formal training in the field I wouldn't even bring you in for an interview.

Programming is more than just knowing a language. The other things you learn when obtaining a CS degree help you be a better programmer that doesn't require a lot of hand holding.

AMEN! I agree 100%. The boom times of the late 90s are very long gone. Employers are VERY discriminating today. They don't just want a person who knows a language syntax, they want someone who knows software, and that involves skills FAR beyond language syntax.

Re:Be Proactive (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27270363)

I moved from sales to software development a couple of years ago and it is possible. First get some good books and improve your skills (I'd suggest web development). Next get some certifications (brainbench, etc), third get some experience by volunteering a project for your current company and/or creating data-driven websites freelance (talk to a group you belong to or a business you frequent, offer to do it for free or almost free), fourth, look at small companies to get your first professional experience. This won't happen in a couple of months but rather 1-2 years

hard work, a little determination... (2, Insightful)

Em Emalb (452530) | more than 5 years ago | (#27270017)

and some reserves in the bank (or mattress) should see you through til you can catch up.

Life is too short to work in a job you hate, so go for it dude(tte).

Re:hard work, a little determination... (1)

nizo (81281) | more than 5 years ago | (#27270237)

Luckily it is never too late to switch to a new career you end up despising as it sucks the life out of you and makes you age at twice the normal speed.

And the bitterness, don't underestimate that.

Re:hard work, a little determination... (1)

InlawBiker (1124825) | more than 5 years ago | (#27270835)

Agreed. Don't listen to the nay-sayers, you can do anything you put your mind to. Difficult != Impossible.

Read books, join communities, and get working on open source projects. In a couple years you'll be marketable. Start-ups are always looking for people who work cheap and hard.

I have hired many people off the street who had no paid experience. Some of them have gone on to surpass me by a mile.

no relevant background, no problem (5, Funny)

mtrachtenberg (67780) | more than 5 years ago | (#27270045)

"no practical application to the field"

Try management.

Re:no relevant background, no problem (1)

Kuj0317 (856656) | more than 5 years ago | (#27270129)

If you do not have a strong programming background, nobody is going to hire you as a programmer.

Look for IT Admin positiions, preferably with a very niche product. Find a contracting company that is willing to take you on, provide you with some form of training (whether it be just materials, and say go read it yourself, or hands on) and place you.

You could just lie and go for it. (5, Funny)

tjstork (137384) | more than 5 years ago | (#27270087)

Make it all up.... the worst that could happen is that you would get fired after a few months. But, believe me, there's a lot of shoddy programmers out there, so, you'd be hard pressed to do worse than some of the "pros" that are out there.

Re:You could just lie and go for it. (4, Interesting)

SatanicPuppy (611928) | more than 5 years ago | (#27270199)

Well, though obviously I can't advocate that approach, it's frankly not a bad idea. Your first hurdle is HR, and HR wants 5 years of this and 6 years of that, and they are going to toss everything that doesn't conform to those standards.

I've seen plenty of incompetent people lie their way through HR, so it definitely works. Now, if you do that, and get hired and it turns out you don't know what you're doing, you can expect your coworkers to turn on you big time. Nothing worse than an incompetent coworker: it's better to have no one at all.

Re:You could just lie and go for it. (1)

deets101 (1290744) | more than 5 years ago | (#27270497)

If you don't lie during your interview, chances are you will be the only they interview that doesn't.

Re:You could just lie and go for it. (4, Insightful)

tech10171968 (955149) | more than 5 years ago | (#27270767)

"I've seen plenty of incompetent people lie their way through HR, so it definitely works."

I blame a lot of this on companies who rely too much on HR to screen the resumes. When you submit a resume in hopes of scoring an interview, the first person to see it is the "Gatekeeper" in HR. Oftentimes that HR drone doesn't know the first damned thing about the industry for which the company is hiring, so they'll often read a resume a little differently from the hiring manager (who would at least have a clue). HR just scans the resumes and relies on bullet points and keywords; as a result a lot of talent can be completely overlooked because someone who otherwise might just have the chops didn't use the right words or format. Many people have found that careers can be affected by some nitpicking secretary so some will "pad" their resumes just to get by the clueless gatekeeper. In fact, I've even heard the argument that a lot of folks aren't necessarily getting their certs for the job itself; instead, they're getting them just to get past HR.

Re:You could just lie and go for it. (2, Funny)

GMFTatsujin (239569) | more than 5 years ago | (#27270669)

And hey! After you're fired, you can *still* legitimately put that time down on your resume as professional experience! It's a win either way!

Are you sure you wanna do that? (4, Funny)

drdanny_orig (585847) | more than 5 years ago | (#27270091)

Speaking as someone who's been involved in IT for 30+ years, allow me to shout at you...."You're going the wrong way!!!"

Re:Are you sure you wanna do that? (5, Insightful)

eln (21727) | more than 5 years ago | (#27270245)

Seriously. Unless his previous job involved rendering pork fat or defusing mines, he should probably just stay where he is. Leave IT to those of us who made the mistake of getting in years ago and are now stuck because our minds have warped so much that we're unfit for normal society.

Re:Are you sure you wanna do that? (3, Funny)

moderatorrater (1095745) | more than 5 years ago | (#27270473)

That's what she said!

Unfortunately :'(

Re:Are you sure you wanna do that? (1)

PPH (736903) | more than 5 years ago | (#27270553)

Unless his previous job involved rendering pork fat or defusing mines,

Actually, defusing mines sounds a lot like some of the IT work I've done. Back when I made a small detour from electrical engineering into a s/w project, I had a plaque made for my door that read "Software Conflagration Control Manager". And rendering pork fat is like dealing with PHBs.

Re:Are you sure you wanna do that? (2, Funny)

girlintraining (1395911) | more than 5 years ago | (#27270391)

Speaking as someone who's been involved in IT for 30+ years, allow me to shout at you...."You're going the wrong way!!!"

Kara Thrace, is that you?

Re:Are you sure you wanna do that? (1)

scubamage (727538) | more than 5 years ago | (#27270701)

IT is a bottomless pit of despair. I used to love computers, now I don't even own one outside of my work laptop (provided by my company). Go flip burgers, at least then you can stare at jailbait girls and get free food, and most importantly you know you'll work your hours and that's it.

Small time.. (3, Insightful)

The Dancing Panda (1321121) | more than 5 years ago | (#27270097)

You're not going to get hired by any of the big boys, because they all want degrees and experience. A small time shop writing business software is something you might be able to get into. If you didn't know, business software is by far the easiest and most boring software you can write. But, it all needs to be written, and that's where you can get your start. You could also just get an MCSE. That's easy enough if you have a bit of cash, and the letters next to your name can get you hired.

Re:Small time.. (1)

Saint Stephen (19450) | more than 5 years ago | (#27270151)

That's a funny way to spell MCSD.

Re:Small time.. (1)

The Dancing Panda (1321121) | more than 5 years ago | (#27270201)

Whatever, they're all the same. Useless classes and a piece of paper that can get you into an interview.

Funny, I'm the EXACT OPPOSITE (0, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27270107)

I'm in the IT industry. I got my B.Sc. in Computer Science in the early 1980s but before then I was fooling around with Apple ][, Cosmac ELF, PDP-11s, etc. etc. I'm sick of IT. I want to cook. I want to garden. I don't want to deal with people who constantly say: "My Internet is slow, can you fix it please?" or "I clicked on an email attachment and I think I've infected our company"

Unfortunately, the economic downturn (bubble burst?) has thrown any dream of retiring early into disarray and I guess I'm going to stick with things for awhile even though I hate it.

Be careful what you wish for... it may come true.

Call Sally Struthers (0, Offtopic)

launchpad1972 (1130441) | more than 5 years ago | (#27270115)

Call Sally Struthers.

Academia (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27270123)

Academic research labs are always looking for cheap talent (they're also not blind about what they can get for cheap). Pick the right lab and you'll get plenty of opportunity and experience. Just not a whole lot of money. But you don't have to stick around more than a year or two, and most labs don't really expect you to. On the other hand, you may like it, and with a good PI, do well. I've been with mine for 16+ years.

Look at your experience that isn't coding. (3, Interesting)

Smoky D. Bear (734215) | more than 5 years ago | (#27270125)

Understanding the business, understanding what the code needs to accomplish and being able to communicate with the users can be just as valuable as coding experience. This does depend on the company. Highlight these areas. It will tend to look you look a bit more than a manager than a programmer, but you will get your foot in the door.

Here's what you do... (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27270137)

  1. Move to Brazil, Russia, India or China.
  2. Take a "Java for Beginners" course.
  3. Get hired by an outsourcer as a "Java Expert".
  4. Profit!

Move to India (0, Troll)

Marxist Hacker 42 (638312) | more than 5 years ago | (#27270139)

That's where you should start. Move to India. The only places that are hiring no experience are places like Infosys and Tata Consulting. They're more likely to hire you as a Project Manager than a coder though, if you're American.
NOBODY wants American coders. Analysts yes. Project managers yes. Coders, no.

Re:Move to India (1)

The Dancing Panda (1321121) | more than 5 years ago | (#27270231)

I'm looking at around 400 American coders in just my (relatively small) office right now...

Re:Move to India (1)

Amazing Quantum Man (458715) | more than 5 years ago | (#27270445)

Damn! There's only room for about two other people in my office, and that's with the door open!

Wow (3, Informative)

exhilaration (587191) | more than 5 years ago | (#27270143)

How bad is it that you're actually considering changing jobs in this economy? IMHO, you'd be a fool to give up a paying job now for something uncertain.

consulting firms are a consideration (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27270159)

i personally graduated with a degree in biomedical engineering and didn't have relevant experience or business contacts when i decided that i wanted to do what i had always wanted to do - IT and Development. i got a job at an IT Consulting firm and have enjoyed my time since. (Accenture, CA, IBM, CSC, Infosys are some examples) If you can pick up new tech quickly and enjoy working with different people, you will learn a lot of new things and enjoy what you do. I do anyway.

however, i also do have to travel a lot. i personally enjoy this, even when the location is not the most desirable, but i know that some people do not.

Hard field to transfer into (4, Informative)

SpuriousLogic (1183411) | more than 5 years ago | (#27270167)

Programming can be very hard to transfer into, given the demand for experience and specific knowledge in the field (the US Dept of Labor sites this as one of the reasons less people enter into the field over others for second jobs). It would be almost impossible for you to get into anything other than an entry level support job (think helpdesk). Getting a job as a full developer will be a very difficult proposition. You might be able to get a job doing some "simple" development in a small shop though (think perl, php, that kind of stuff). Compare yourself to a college grad with a degree in Comp Sci (or similar degree) - graduates in this years class are seeing a very tough job market, even though software engineering is comparably untouched by the ongoing depression. These grads would have a level of experience similar to yours, but most likely be willing to work for less, and have been formally trained in the field. My suggestion would be to spend a significant amount of time learning the field, not just a language syntax. Go to a college website, see the books that are used for the classes, and start in on them. There is MUCH MUCH more to programming that just knowing a language syntax.

Re:Hard field to transfer into (1)

PrescriptionWarning (932687) | more than 5 years ago | (#27270799)

That sums up pretty much how I got into the programming career, did a few PHP/HTML related internships through college, then started out doing basic scripting with Python and Bash at my first real job after getting a degree. Now a couple years later I'm working on a utility used to configure and sell multi-million dollar orders. I think its pretty much a given that everyone who is starting out doing programming must start out really low level, and then based on the performance and conditions resulting from the first year or few of work you can rise up from there, fast if you have a real knack for getting things done to the satisfaction of the needs of the business.

Testing/Analysis (1)

PinkyDead (862370) | more than 5 years ago | (#27270179)

It's possibly a tough route, but domain knowledge is as important, if not more, than technical skill.

You don't say what your current area is but is there an opportunity to stay in the same field, but in an IT role?

Portfolio + demonstrable talent (3, Insightful)

Stiletto (12066) | more than 5 years ago | (#27270183)

In the absence of professional experience or coursework, I'd look for a portfolio of non-professional software projects you've worked on. Have you worked on any open source projects? If so, in what capacity? Did you submit patches, fix bugs, assist in documentation? Can you provide an example of a routine or software module you have written and are particularly proud of?

Also, good organizations will ask interviewees to discuss, at an abstract level,

  * Algorithms
  * Data structures
  * Pointers
  * Recursion
  * Object oriented design concepts

And really good ones will ask interviewees to write and read/explain source code during their interview. Be prepared to do that.

Watch out for organizations that demand a certain level of niche domain experience or knowledge of a particular API/language/library/technology, yet claim to be looking for "entry-level" people. You're probably wasting your time talking to someone like that, if you're just getting into the biz.

Strategy (3, Informative)

pete-classic (75983) | more than 5 years ago | (#27270213)

You don't give us much to go on, but surely software is used in your field . . . whatever it is. You probably already know more about that domain than most programmers already working in it. You might want to get as far away from that field as possible, but I doubt you can afford to not use your experience as a key selling point.

You probably don't want to hear this, but you're starting over. Without a relevant degree. So you're going back to entry level. I hope your finances are in order.

So, for example, you might apply to the support department for a software package that you use in your current field. I do QA, and I often say, "QA is a ghetto", but that's another possible entry point.

Once you get your foot in the door on the technical side you might be able to move toward programming if you bust your hump. For years. Largely without recognition. Be prepared, not just to prove yourself, but to prove your self over and over until someone actually notices. And then to that again until someone who is willing to take a chance on you notices.

Then, some day, if you put in a hero's effort, you might be able to be an entry-level programmer.

You've picked a tough row to hoe, sir.


Re:Strategy (1)

SpuriousLogic (1183411) | more than 5 years ago | (#27270651)

Once you get your foot in the door on the technical side you might be able to move toward programming if you bust your hump. For years. Largely without recognition. Be prepared, not just to prove yourself, but to prove your self over and over until someone actually notices. And then to that again until someone who is willing to take a chance on you notices.

I cannot stress this enough. The original poster would actually achieve entry-level programmer status FASTER if they went back to school for a relevant degree. Getting to the point of actually programming at anything other than the smallest shops would take such a significant amount of time, that you have to wonder if there would be any benefit at all to making the career change.

Re:Strategy (4, Informative)

microTodd (240390) | more than 5 years ago | (#27270681)

Then, some day, if you put in a hero's effort, you might be able to be an entry-level programmer.

Peter, I understand why you are being negative (as with most of the replies here). Programming is not an easy field to succeed in. But neither is any other field. And besides, why are we discouraging someone to do what he loves?

You probably already know more about that domain than most programmers already working in it

This advice you give in the beginning is very good, and something that I tell all wanna-be programmers, whether they are CS grads or something else. There are very few "pure" programming jobs, maybe just Google, Microsoft, and Apple. But in the world today, every field requires software somewhere in it.

You ask the right question...what is it you are doing now? Because its is 99% likely that his current career has some niche need for software.

Car mechanic - Parts inventory and job tracking
Musician - MIDI interfaces
Lawn mower - Job scheduling and business backend (bookkeeping)
Restaurant manager - Server scheduling, inventory, POS, (wireless handheld order entry?)
Truck driver - Log management

and so forth.

I've always thought, its easier to get an expert in some knowledge domain and teach them to program, than it is to take a programmer and try to teach them some knowledge domain.

try it old school (5, Interesting)

larry bagina (561269) | more than 5 years ago | (#27270233)

Learn fortran, cobol, mumps, pick, ada, k, and other legacy or non-mainstream languages. Companies that use them generally have a hard time finding people that know them, so you can get in without the experience.

You don't want to be in this market (3, Informative)

girlintraining (1395911) | more than 5 years ago | (#27270247)

The market for IT is horrible right now and will probably get worse before it gets better. All the jobs are contract, temporary, and there's a high ratio of applicants to available positions. And the disconnect between those doing the hiring and those who have the ability do evaluate your technical skills? Let's just say HR can put on their job requirements "Five years Windows Vista" and will not look at your resume (for being honest), while some joker will get the job because he's willing to taylor his resume to whatever lies HR is looking for. There is no oversight. There are few left in this industry that actually do the hiring/screening and so a bunch of useless requirements now pervade many job listings. Legitimate workers can't find legitimate work because they're not being hired by anyone in the industry anymore... Everything (and I mean everything) is outsourced, contracted, subcontracted, then thrown in the basement bound and with a ball gag in its mouth. It's reinforced by the attitude that IT workers are a nearly unlimited and with 10% unemployment rates in some areas now and schools pumping out "msce certified technicians" by the boatload -- the industry itself is rotting due to an inability to actually see real talent in all the crap. It doesn't help that most of the jobs that used to be here are now overseas.

My advice? Start filling out applications for customer service, or find some really rare niche tech job and learn it. But the entry level is saturated to the point of disbelief, as far as I can tell.

- in the Midwest, YMMV.

Sometimes entry levelers are the best (3, Insightful)

Twillerror (536681) | more than 5 years ago | (#27270251)

I'm sure there will be a lot of posts about how much expeirence counts. Sometimes it counts in the opposite way.

Almost everytime I hired an experienced developer I was not happy and paid to much. When I got a kid out of school
and was smart it almost always worked out better.

The thing to ask yourself is do you really like coding and are you good at it. If you do and your hungry you'll find a way in.
Chances are you will lap other expeirenced developers that you come across. The kind that have never heard of slashdot for sure.

You can always demo in an interview. Create some silly little app and demo it with excitement. How well you communicate the idea
will let the employer know if you are write for their team.

We don't want you (1, Troll)

eples (239989) | more than 5 years ago | (#27270253)

For the love of god, stay the hell away.

Or at least, stay the hell away from me

I spend close to 20% of each day educating people who should effing know better. Don't be that person. You make my job tiresome.

Re:We don't want you (1)

SpuriousLogic (1183411) | more than 5 years ago | (#27270587)

This is too true. I do think this is the product of hiring people because they know a specific technology, instead of having a strong underpinning of technical knowledge. The "Give a man a fish and feed him for a day, teach a man to fish and feed him for his life" certainly applies here. Learning just a language syntax feeds you for a day, and companies don't want that. If the person was a fisherman though, they could catch any kind of fish. A foundation in the basics of technology should be favored over knowing any one technology.

Stick in your field (2)

C10H14N2 (640033) | more than 5 years ago | (#27270261)

...and just start programming in it.

Hopefully, you have a relatively coherent background that is focused in some way. "IT/Programming" is a HUGE field. You can't really just get an "IT job" of any sort of quality. I mean, programming WHAT? Recipe apps for iPhones or reactor controls for ballastic missile submarines?

Think of this as changing your _role_ in your existing field rather than changing fields entirely. Hiring managers will be far more likely to listen to you if you present yourself as a seasoned professional in a specific field who is willing to expand their responsibilities, rather than a Johnny-come-lately with little to no skills and zero relevance.

Academia. (2, Insightful)

saintlupus (227599) | more than 5 years ago | (#27270269)

One place that you might want to consider looking is academia -- in my experience, colleges and universities tend to be more relaxed about your official background and certifications and more concerned with whether or not you can do the job. Plus, most schools will allow you to take classes for free, which would help you get some "official" education on your resume.

Even smaller schools generally have a dedicated coding team working in the IT department. Send some resumes to the "Director of Information Technology" at nearby schools and see what hits.


Things to remember... (3, Insightful)

geminidomino (614729) | more than 5 years ago | (#27270279)

1. You didn't mention what career you were leaving, but if you can have strings pulled, remember that an entry-level position will carry entry-level pay. Have a nice cushion to take up the slack, especially in this economy.

2. Do SOMETHING. Paid experience is best. OSS isn't as good. "Hobby projects" are only marginally better than nothing. For the latter two, something demonstrable is almost nonnegotiable.

3. Get your head examined. :) If you enjoy coding, nothing will kill that love faster than doing it day-in, day-out under the "guidance" of PHBs and Marketing-directed design... (What? Me? Bitter?)

Career flipping (1)

ToNoTo13 (1462349) | more than 5 years ago | (#27270291)

I have direct experience in this transfer. I was a restaurant manager for 3 years decided I hated working for a corporation. I took a job in the construction field to get the IT experience that employers look for. Worked for Primary Cableworks (they do IT infrastructure for colleges in SoCal) and 2 months later got an interview and was hired by a college for "IT Tech" with my IT "experience", nvm that my degree is in accounting. As a alain94040 wrote experience is the key and I'd follow up on his links.

This is not a good time (1)

greg_barton (5551) | more than 5 years ago | (#27270299)

There are too many qualified applicants for every job these days. I seriously doubt you'll have any luck. Try again when the economy heats up again.

Start small and you will win in the end. (2, Interesting)

dlarmeir (1505351) | more than 5 years ago | (#27270315)

I worked as a security officer for 7 years and had no relevant IT experience. I spent the majority of my time pulling pc's from the garbage and building/fixing them. I took a cut in pay from being a security supervisor to work a small tech support job. I spent one year doing this, 1 year at a slightly higher paying job, and ended up making over two times what I used to make in 2 years. The secret was just getting some experience and now I have a very awesome career in IT. Anyone can do this if they love what they do and have the drive to do it.

Well, what is your profession now? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27270325)

Knowing your current profession will definitely provide insight into any possible transition paths you could follow. You might want to share this information so that the group here can make better suggestions.

What you've done + computers (2, Insightful)

TheSimkin (639033) | more than 5 years ago | (#27270327)

I don't know what your past career was. But taking what you know, about your past career, and merging it with computers might be a viable solution. Ie find out how tech is holding back what you do in your existing job. Or find a way tech can improve it. And then create that solution. It is tough to do, but would let you marry what you've done with the past to program development and open up many oportunities for you. I did this at my first job, where i replaced a terrible order entry system. It has worked out very well for me.

Join the military. (1)

qoncept (599709) | more than 5 years ago | (#27270333)

Want a low risk (especially with our current economy) way to gain experience? Join the Air Force. They'll take anyone that can pass a test, train you and send you on your way with 4 years of experience. A very large portion of the useful people come back working their same job as a contractor for twice the money.

I hate the Air Force, but it got me where I am today.

Do some volunteer work, get experience (1)

magnosis (1366143) | more than 5 years ago | (#27270341)

Most importantly, learn how to write a kick-ass functional resume. Learn what fundamentally makes a good SW designer and draw focus on that (communication skills, fast learner, analytical thinker, problem solver, etc etc). Learning to code is just like learning a new language. What makes a good programmer is not the code, its the reasoning around it.

Here's the best guide I found so far: []

Here are few examples for ppl with either little experience (new grads) or making a career change: []

Start. Code Often. Contribute. (4, Insightful)

ThatDamnMurphyGuy (109869) | more than 5 years ago | (#27270357)

I was a double music major in college: a BA in Music Ed K-12, and a BA in Music Perf. Percussion. I got my teaching certificate, then promptly went into programming. For me, the key seems to be just programming. All you can. All the time.

My last 2 years of school, I started doing HyperCard scripting, then UserLand scripting, then VB and whatever I could get my hands on, doing whatever departmental projects I could do, like test taking apps, etc. Then I worked my way into web pages, html, and doing the department web site.

I've been at it for 14 years now doing .NET, Perl, SQL, Rails, Catalyst, Django...all without a programming degree or background. So, my advice would be:

1. Don't expect someone to hand you a job by pulling strings
2. Program. If you love it, do it all the time. The best job is one where you get paid to do what you would do as a hobby.
3. Keep at it. Be a sponge, and show you can the job by doing as much as you can outside of that job. Contribute to open source. Work on other projects. Start your own projects. Get yourself noticed.

For the "hiring manager" who say they never hire anyone with o experience on their resume, I'd say we all had none when we started. Conversly, I've seen awesome people who can't even tell me how to anything more than MS point and click.

Re:Start. Code Often. Contribute. (1)

CannonballHead (842625) | more than 5 years ago | (#27270609)

I was a double music major in college: a BA in Music Ed K-12, and a BA in Music Perf. Percussion.

Yay for double majors and music majors! (BS in CS and BM in Composition, for me)

I'm getting out..take my job... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27270371)

After 20 years in IT, I'm getting out as fast as I can. The constant outsourcing, the constant actually stated in meetings "If you don't like it we can find someone on the streets who will work more for less". The constant and unending complete changing of work hours - making them rotate on a random cycle thereby making it impossible to go to school to upgrade/change skill sets, the unwillingness to train or provide training, or any time to train, and an annual 'performance appraisal' system that is more akin to high school popularity contests and who is golfing buddies with the manager rather than who is actually competent at their jobs....I'm done.

I've been a contractor and have worked at multiple companies over the last 20 years, and it is the same everywhere I have been.

So I am going into the health-care field. I have committed to school for the next year, and have told management I will be unable to participate in the newly revealed utterly random work schedule scheme. We'll see how that goes.

Oh yea, currently at a very large corporation that took $25 Billion in taxpayers money and is in the middle of increasing outsourcing by 25%, and planning on spending $400 million to send several thousand more jobs to India.

Want a change? go into health care. You can't outsource physical therapy, occupational therapy, or nursing. Teaching is good too, if you live in a state that has decent teachers wages.

Ironic (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27270373)

That's ironic, I'm sick of IT and ready for something else. Can only do one thing for so many decades before you get burned out. Would you like to trade jobs?

Relevant Experience (1)

WibbleOnMars (1129233) | more than 5 years ago | (#27270375)

You've hit the nail on the head with the question about relevant experience -- it's the first thing people look for when hiring; it's way more important than qualifications.

I see two ways to get in:

(a) Contribute to some OSS projects that are relevant to the sort of coding you want to get into. Bear in mind that it will take you some time to build up enough experience doing this for it to really count for anything.

(b) Look for coding jobs in the industry you were previously in -- ie a cross-over job. For example, if you were previously a sales person for widgets, and you know loads about the various types of widgets and how they work, etc, you might find that a widget manufacturer or sales company might be willing to hire you as a coder based on your expertise in widgets rather than in coding. You'll still need to know how to write code of course, but I'm guessing you know enough already to be able to get through an interview once you've managed to get one.

Use your other expertise (1)

truthsearch (249536) | more than 5 years ago | (#27270385)

At my last company I was part of a team of 16 software developers. Only two of us had CS degrees. The rest had degrees in finance, economics, electrical engineering, and math. We worked in a financial company, so economics degrees were a natural fit to solving the problems we were given.

So hopefully you could use your current knowledge to program within a certain domain.

As for experience, I suggest contributing to some open source projects and taking on small contract work if you feel you can handle it. I used open source contributions to switch from programming on Windows to programming for Linux. The experience helps get the job, and the added bonus of contributing to open source is that you can easily show interviewers your code.

Leverage your existing experience (5, Insightful)

Faizdog (243703) | more than 5 years ago | (#27270399)

One thing you may find is that generic coding jobs may be boring/unexciting for you and also hard to get into. I would advise you leverage your current experience, and see where new software may help in your current field, or what is it about the existing software that you feel is lacking and/or needs improvement.

It will also make it easier for you to get a job that way. "I don't have software experience, but due to x years of experience in this field, I understand the ins and outs and that will be invaluable while I build up software design and implementation experience."

If you were a biologist, look at bioinformatics, if you were in real estate look at companies building better MLS tracking software, if you were a teacher, look at jobs with a company like Blackboard, you get the idea.

Look for something related ... (2, Informative)

fahrbot-bot (874524) | more than 5 years ago | (#27270403)

... to your degree and experience that you could utilize newly gained computer experience. Computers are a tool used to get stuff done.

You didn't say what your current career field is, but in many cases, unless you're looking for pure IT, the subject matter experience is more important and computer experience is a tool you use, or help others use, in that field.

For example, someone with lots of physics experience and some CS experience is probably a better candidate to do physics programming than someone with just a CS degree - though, obviously, not always...

If you don't have relivant experience... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27270549)

...then get relivant certification.

If you can't get relivant certification then bullshit.

It's what all the Indian coders do and it works for them.

what kind of development are you looking into? (1)

hellfire (86129) | more than 5 years ago | (#27270565)

I'm probably going to get modded as a troll, particularly amongst the linux elite, but depending on what you are interested in, what about iPhone development? Right now it seems the application waiting list is a bit long and delayed, but if, at some point you get in, would you consider creating a project on your own for the general consumer populace? Taking the initiative and creating applications on your own which can be readily identified in the market space might be a good thing to add to your resume, and there are more than just linux developers out there.

I'm not a code developer per se. My baliwick is SQL and I love it. I look at some languages and cringe a little, or just get annoyed. SQL is a query language, but it's just as much a development language as anything else, it just has a different use.

There are also plenty of developers out there using Perl, PHP and others and other things who design web applications and websites. And then there's python...

You did say you you knew some C/C++ and were looking to get into development. Most developers know multiple languages, but when picking something you enjoy, it's important to make sure you enjoy that particular type of programming. You may enjoy C++ coding for a business application, but the moment someone shows you LISP you may run scream from the building (most people do ;)).

I just want to bring up the question of what do you see yourself developing for? That's something a lot of employers ask. You could love coding for the sake of creation, but if you are like me, you may prefer database development over something else. If you think that might concern you, come up with a vision for yourself.

Re:what kind of development are you looking into? (1)

Trillan (597339) | more than 5 years ago | (#27270839)

Actually, the wait time for an individual is still about two days. As a company, you'd likely face a longer wait.

I think this is a great idea. The iPhone SDK is simple to develop for compared to desktop environments, and the Objective-C language is close enough to C++ to have a bit of a head start, but far enough away to be something new.

If you [submitter] own an iPhone and a Mac, the cost to get in is $100. Even if you don't, a new 2nd generation iPod touch will cost about $230, and a low-end Mac mini is about $600. $930 is not exactly a huge barrier. You don't even need the iPod until you have something you want to sell, as Xcode includes an iPhone simulator you can use for development (the simulator is not 100% accurate, though, so you'll need to test on real hardware before submitting to the store).

Keep your existing job (stable income!) and spend a couple hours in an evening a few times a week, and one day of the weekend to get learn Objective-C and Cocoa touch. It isn't hard to pick up, and an application in the store will serve as a good point on a resume if you want a "real job" later.

Sure, Objective-C and Cocoa is probably not what you'll need at a real job, but if you're any good with it you can probably learn other things too. C++, Objective-C, iPhone development and a shipping product looks better than just C++ on a resume.

The other thing worth looking into would be web programming.

My advice: focus on project management (2, Informative)

TheSync (5291) | more than 5 years ago | (#27270571)

I can't recommend becoming a "coder" given the current business conditions.

What is in desperate need is process-oriented software project managers. The good news is that you can come at this with a bit of coding background if you combine it with rigorous project management training on the PMP [] track. I'll admit that half of employers won't look at you as a project manager if you don't have "10 years coding experience," but the other half will be willing to overlook a depth of coding experience if you have a solid process-oriented project management training and attitude. And once you've landed a job as a software project manager and get a project or two under your belt, you will have the cred to work anywhere.

Even if you do move forward with a "coder" career, I suggest you bone up on your software project management processes, and point out in resumes and interviews that you are serious about project process.

There are 100 million potential coders on the planet, but if you are the kind of coder who can also gather requirements (in English, on site in the US ;), create work breakdown structures, generate project plans and test plans, track the project, and demonstrate successful testing, you will shine a bit above folks who can't, even if you have not ever written a compiler in class.

Hospitals and Universities (1)

technomom (444378) | more than 5 years ago | (#27270599)

Check in with your local hospital or community college. Those institutions are notorious for having lots of small fiefdoms of IT rather than the monolithic, highly structured corporate IT world. In some of these fiefdoms you'll find that anyone who can hack an Excel macro will be considered a programming god. Hospitals are also much more willing to hire people with unproven or short time experience because they can't afford much more. If you are in any way competent, you may make yourself a nice niche.

Demonstrate Success (1)

noctuvigilus (924102) | more than 5 years ago | (#27270643)

I personally don't have degrees that match to my current responsibilities as a software engineer, so I can understand where you are coming from. However, I consider software, computers, and technology _my life_ - rather than _my career_.

Much like being good at any job; if you have good communications skills, the drive to work to and complete goals, and the discipline to be diligent and thorough - you will succeed.

For short-term technical experience - Write your own code. Write your own app. If you can figure out how to find a compiler/linker, edit source, and build something that does something useful - put it out on the interwebs and reference it. Go the extra mile and make is cross-platform. If you want group experience - sign up with an open source project or other project looking for free help. Both of these aren't easy options - but they serve the purpose of exposing you to what software development tastes like (often bitter) and building experience. Do something related to the area you are interested in. A Human Resources axiom that I hear often is the phrase "the candidate was able to demonstrate success."

Finally, interviewing is a different skill than software development. If you do get to interview, be warned that the questions they may ask and the way that they are posed sometimes have no relation to the work you would be doing. It is frustrating and funny at the same time. Smile a lot, be professional, ask a lot of questions, and come prepared.

A friend of mine did this (1)

TibbonZero (571809) | more than 5 years ago | (#27270689)

One of my friends here in Boston/Cambridge did this. He went to Harvard and hold a PhD in Political Science. I'd say that's pretty far from a programming-related field.

Then one day he thought that he wanted to be a developer instead. He taught himself Ruby and Rails and started hanging out with the right people (this is a really key part of things). He makes continuous learning a priority. In a relatively short period of time he turned himself into a wonderful developer. I've had some people do code review of his stuff and its apparent that he's not a CS major, but he does a good job nontheless and commands a decent hourly rate.

One other thing he did that was pretty important was just jumping in and started making sites and contributing to things that people around him cared about. This got him pretty far quickly.

I've considered doing similar, but I'm headed more into project/product management side of it I think as there continues to be something about programming that I'm just 'not getting' overall (I used to be good at C++ but Rails hurts my head for other reasons).

First step (1)

mynickwastaken (690966) | more than 5 years ago | (#27270729)

get rid of your girlfriend/wife

Why bother? (1)

cj5 (795058) | more than 5 years ago | (#27270739)

Yeah! Why don't you go get a computer science degree, major in JavaScript, HTML, and XML along with some PHP, Python, Java, a little bit of Linux, and Windows Server, as well as Novell, then some Perl, with some Shell scripting, and when you're done with that learn some XML, then do a thesis on database management, as well as modeling, with some object oriented programming. Ajax is fun too, learn that. Oh and there's this thing called Photoshop, it's fantastic, with Flex, and meld that with some Mashups. Don't forget you'll need to know a lot of CSS. That should do it. When you're all done with your degree in "computer science" bend over, put your head between your legs, and kiss your sustainable ass goodbye, because you just spent a fortune on courses that won't get you a job worth crap. I hope that helped.

Classes? (1)

elashish14 (1302231) | more than 5 years ago | (#27270745)

Why not just take some classes (possibly online courses) to show some background experience? Maybe even get a degree? Not sure how cost effective it may be, but whatever helps can't hurt if you're willing to pay for it.

Wrong way (1)

Hogwash McFly (678207) | more than 5 years ago | (#27270755)

Christ, I've been working in IT for just shy of a year, and I already feel burnt out. Of course, that is working in more of a user-focused area, namely the helpdesk, so I can't speak for the coding or development-oriented jobs although I imagine they are far cushier. If want to retain your sanity, do not go into anything resembling support if you can help it, although without any prior experience it might be tricky.

We Don't Want You (1)

s31523 (926314) | more than 5 years ago | (#27270881)

Sorry, I wish I could say "Sounds great, here is how you do it". Good developers are educated and experienced. With niche industries (aerospace, medical, etc.) where there is oversight one needs to understand engineering practices (design principles) and process practices (XP, Configuraion Management, ISO, DO-178B, MISRA, etc.). Programming skill requires understanding other aspects like cost, information hiding and best practices for architecting code. The good developers that have spent years educating themselves in their discipline and their trade do not want a weekend warrior that just decided to get into the field. There are exceptions but in general, we do not want you. If you are serious about a career change then educate yourself, take on some internships and look for entry level positions and work on some open-source projects.

Position yourself (1)

thethibs (882667) | more than 5 years ago | (#27270891)

Assuming it's your intent to get paid to do something you enjoy rather than getting rich in the next two months, you can establish credibility by getting code included in a non-trivial open-source project.

Combine that with networking to meet programmers who have jobs and could recommend you to their firms.

Also, sign up with a few local IT consulting firms who can get you contract work while you are waiting for something substantial (who knows--you may enjoy contracting).

Personal projects (1)

Fastolfe (1470) | more than 5 years ago | (#27270897)

Every single computer nerd has at least the skill level you've stated. If you want an entry-level programming position, you are competing with hundreds of thousands of kids right out of high school, every year. The only thing that's going to set you apart is your experience, and if that experience isn't programming-related, you need to get some.

Contributing to personal or open-source projects is a great way to start. If you can describe some of the work you've done (the nature of your contributions), this is the best thing to see on a resume. You don't even have to release the software. Just write it, explain what it does, how you designed it, why you designed it that way, and, ideally, be able to provide some code samples.

If you're interested in a job in an IT shop of a non-software company, this should be sufficient to get your foot in the door. The bar isn't high there, but that also means the skill level of your peers there will be below-average, so your opportunity (incentive) for mentoring and growth will be limited. If you're interested in a job at a real software company (Microsoft, Google), your personal projects and a healthy enthusiasm for your desired occupation will probably get you an interview, but all of the algorithms, data structures, math, and boring crap that you probably didn't learn in college suddenly becomes important, so expect to do a lot of reading (studying) if you hope to get past the interviews.

No Experience? No Problem (1)

damn_registrars (1103043) | more than 5 years ago | (#27270903)

If you are willing to promise to never, ever, test your code on anything other than your own workstation before unleashing it on the general public, you will be perfect to work here. []

Large egos, poor communication skills, and inability to take criticism are a bonus as well [] , it appears.

Just send your application in to /dev/null for prompt processing.

This is how I did it (3, Informative)

elloGov (1217998) | more than 5 years ago | (#27270907)

Yes, relevant experience is important. Everyone wants x years of experience. Well, how do you get that experience if no one is hiring at entry-level?

You like to program, want to get into it. You are certain that you will be able to get the job done only if someone gives you a chance. Someone taking a chance on you is exactly what you need. To get to that point, you have to start programming.

Read object oriented programming principles, a book on JAVA would do to get an idea on things. Pick a project you are interested in. For me, it was to build a site from ground up. This exposed me to the whole picture of web development and how it all tied together.

Database modeling and administration
Back-end programming
Front-end JavaScript GUI development
Session handling
Communications between the different layers
Web Server Administration/Configuration

Granted I didn't become an expert of any of those technologies, it did however give me an understanding of the priceless big picture, a taste of programming. Thereupon, with confidence I applied for positions. With such exposure you can have a better idea in which direction you want to go in.

You might not be able to go for hardcore software engineering jobs at first, but there are jobs for all levels in the field. Slowly with time, education and experience, you can as you did with your first job determine your future.

Start programming for a project of your own and/or open-source.

Programming has its ups and downs as with any other profession. Programming gives you an element of autonomy. Casual clothes, Flexible work schedule, working remotely, and best of all good pay are usually among many other pros. Programming heavy logic will work your brain to the limit, so it is fatiguing. You will face the computer screen quite often and it is mostly a anti-social job. Therefore it is vital that you compliment this with exercise and social activities to balance things out. Often, you will be asked to do things by business but how you do it often will be up to you. Therefore, creativity at the workplace is a fuzzy thing. But in time with technical skills you can move to management or architecture and design.

Sincerely wishing you much success.
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