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Ask Slashdot: Job Search Or More Education?

Soulskill posted about a year and a half ago | from the can't-it-be-both dept.

Businesses 182

Matt Steelblade writes "I've been in love with computers since my early teens. I took out books from the library and just started messing around until I had learned QBasic, then Visual Basic 5, and how to take apart a computer. Fast forward 10 years. I'm a very recent college graduate with a BA in philosophy (because of seminary, which I recently left). I want to get into IT work, but am not sure where to start. I have about four years experience working at a grade/high school (about 350 computers) in which I did a lot of desktop maintenance and some work on their AD and website. At college (Loyola University Chicago) I tried to get my hands on whatever computer courses I could. I ended up taking a python course, a C# course, and data structures (with python). I received either perfect scores or higher in these courses. I feel comfortable in what I know about computers, and know all too well what I don't. I think my greatest strength is in troubleshooting. With that being said, do I need more schooling? If so, should I try for an associate degree (I have easy access to a Gateway technical college) or should I go for an undergraduate degree (I think my best bet there would be UW-Madison)? If not, should I try to get certified with CompTIA, or someone else? Or, would the best bet be to try to find a job or an internship?"

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182 comments

Find a job (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42696327)

You should work on finding a job first. Academia tends to be very different then the work environment. A lot of companies also offer money for further training and certifications so you can always build up on that.

Try a COBOL job for an insurance company (0, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42696349)

A lot of companies that develop in COBOL like to hire graduates with out a formal CS degree so they can mold the programmer. You would be working on older green screen technology, but its not going any where.

Re:Try a COBOL job for an insurance company (1)

AwesomeMcgee (2437070) | about a year and a half ago | (#42696779)

but its not going any where

Just like the job. He better be ready to be done progressing altogether if he takes a job like that.

this is 21st century, let me update that for you (2)

rubycodez (864176) | about a year and a half ago | (#42697691)

A lot of the companies that develop in Java like to hire graduates without formal CS degree so they can mold the programmer, you will be working on older bloated Java EE servers such as websphere, but its not going anywhere in a couple senses of the phrase. Java, the COBOL of the 1990s, still around.

How do you get better than perfect? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42696353)

I received either perfect scores or higher in these courses.

Re:How do you get better than perfect? (2)

rohan972 (880586) | about a year and a half ago | (#42696705)

Didn't you read? He was in a seminary, he obviously had God's help.

Re:How do you get better than perfect? (2)

dintech (998802) | about a year and a half ago | (#42696999)

How do you get better than perfect?

With an integer overflow. Interviewers take note. ;)

Or... (5, Funny)

robably (1044462) | about a year and a half ago | (#42696361)

With your name, have you considered becoming a crime-fighter, or super-hero?

Re:Or... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42696479)

Captain Matt Steelmaster would be the manliest name and title since Staff Sergeant Max Fightmaster

Re:Or... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42696593)

I think "Gunnery Sergeant Matt Steelmaster" would be better.

Runners up:
Master Chief Matt Steelmaster.
Master Sergeant Matt Steelmaster

(Where "Master Sergeant" is pronounced with typical army drawl, "Master Sarn't.")

Aww crap, I just came in my pants.

Re:Or... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42696971)

Sergeant Major Major Major Major Steelmaster in the military networking thriller: "Cache 22"

Re:Or... (1)

rubycodez (864176) | about a year and a half ago | (#42697705)

or porn star, if in possession of suitable appendage

Yes (5, Interesting)

rwa2 (4391) | about a year and a half ago | (#42696365)

Get a job, and make them pay for more education / training / certifications. It's tax-deductible if it's relevant to your job.

It'll also help you maintain your sanity a bit, since the work and projects you do and how you approach things are very different between work and school. You'll also end up less frustrated with the work projects that you don't have complete control over, and more motivated with the school projects that would probably be pointless if you were just doing them for a grade.

And don't worry too much about the BA in Philosophy bit... a lot of the good IT folks I know have bachelor's degrees in English or other stuff. And they're great, because they can communicate with people a bit better sometimes. Certs and perhaps an MS degree in your field will help you later secure more pay and promotion opportunities with the HR of larger companies, though. But to get in the door, you just need demonstrable skills and experience, which sounds like you're on track for.

Re:Yes (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42696667)

I think he needs to understand that code-monkeys are different from IT workers. Programmers make the products. IT workers use the products and keep them going. Yes, there's a lot of overlap, and everyone in IT programs a little, and all the code monkeys know a thing or two about computer systems. But the work is different.

Certs are almost a negative when looking at a programmer's resume. They're awefully niche, but can be useful for an IT worker. Sysadmin or network engineer stuff. I'd say they're usually for contractors whose owner wants to argue for a bigger wage.

Re:Yes (2)

Snotnose (212196) | about a year and a half ago | (#42696693)

This. It's how I did it. Self taught, got a job, worked full time whilst going to college part time with the company paying the bills.

Re:Yes (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42696911)

experience over formal training. any day of any week.,

Re:Yes (1)

MacGyver2210 (1053110) | about a year and a half ago | (#42697951)

Get a job, and make them pay for more education / training / certifications. It's tax-deductible if it's relevant to your job.

This is a pretty good idea. If nothing else, you can hang out and party with us in Madison until you get your degree.

I know of several top-500 companies in Madison that would hire you in something entry-level and push you through the ranks if you're good at it. Several of them definitely offer education assistance/reimbursement.

Get a Job (4, Informative)

kramer2718 (598033) | about a year and a half ago | (#42697973)

Numero Uno: get a job. Get more experience in the real world.

How best to do that?

Well, you are lucky in that the job market is pretty good for tech skills. Companies would like to hire more experienced people, but can't always find them. Put your resume together as well as you can and prep for interviews by Googling potential questions and working on them.

Better yet, if you know anyone in IT, have them grill you.

If you are going for a programming job, make sure that you know and can apply basic procedural program concepts such as working with arrays, lists, queues, stacks, iteration, and recursion. Understand the basics of object oriented design. Write programs to practice these things. Find a good CS course online and do the homework.

Wrox's Programming Interviews Exposed [wrox.com] is great practice for programming interviews.

If you want to move up, learn more advanced algorithms concepts.

If you are going for a sys admin job, install Linux on your home machine and manually manage it. Ubuntu is great, but learn about partition, booting, permissions, sudo privileges. A Linux admin handbook can teach you a lot.

Don't sweat the philosophy degree.

I do a lot of interviewing/hiring technical types, and have no problem with an non tech degree. Just know your shit.

Professional languages (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42696369)

C or C++

How many years of C or C++ do you have?

What projects have you completed?

If you want to do website development thats different.

But real computer programming tends to use C or C++ or obj C

Re:Professional languages (3, Informative)

hawguy (1600213) | about a year and a half ago | (#42696437)

C or C++

How many years of C or C++ do you have?

What projects have you completed?

If you want to do website development thats different.

But real computer programming tends to use C or C++ or obj C

I haven't hired a C/C++ programmer for nearly 10 years, and have managed some large business application development projects (one project is deployed to around 800 locations with about 20,000 users). What is your definition of "real" programming?

Re:Professional languages (2)

ThorGod (456163) | about a year and a half ago | (#42696567)

I haven't hired a C/C++ programmer for nearly 10 years, and have managed some large business application development projects (one project is deployed to around 800 locations with about 20,000 users). What is your definition of "real" programming?

In OP's case, I bet "real programming" is anything that involves C or C++ programming. Holy circular definition, Batman.

Re:Professional languages (5, Insightful)

iguana (8083) | about a year and a half ago | (#42696631)

Knowing C, IMO, is a litmus test for someone who knows how computers work. Pointers, memory, file I/O, etc, aren't directly useful in higher level languages these days. But knowing they exist would help someone write smarter code.

Re:Professional languages (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42696805)

Knowing C, IMO, is a litmus test for someone who knows how computers work. Pointers, memory, file I/O, etc, aren't directly useful in higher level languages these days. But knowing they exist would help someone write smarter code.

I did an algorithms course a few years ago. The course was about how to write highly optimised searching/sorting/graph-traversin algorithms. Basically the kind of computation jobs that take a long time to complete and where optimisation that yields even a few percent increase in speed get you significant monetary savings. On day some students asked the teacher whether they could write assignments in Python rather than C/C++. The teacher just stood there without knowing what to say, then overcame the urge to humiliate the student and an long and awkward silence just said, NO. Scripting languages are nice but you can't solve everything with scripts.

Re:Professional languages (1)

hawguy (1600213) | about a year and a half ago | (#42697061)

Knowing C, IMO, is a litmus test for someone who knows how computers work. Pointers, memory, file I/O, etc, aren't directly useful in higher level languages these days. But knowing they exist would help someone write smarter code.

I did an algorithms course a few years ago. The course was about how to write highly optimised searching/sorting/graph-traversin algorithms. Basically the kind of computation jobs that take a long time to complete and where optimisation that yields even a few percent increase in speed get you significant monetary savings. On day some students asked the teacher whether they could write assignments in Python rather than C/C++. The teacher just stood there without knowing what to say, then overcame the urge to humiliate the student and an long and awkward silence just said, NO. Scripting languages are nice but you can't solve everything with scripts.

That's funny, when I took an algorithms class, my instructor said we could use whatever language we are most comfortable with (of course, at the time, that was pretty much just C, Pascal, or FORTRAN). He wasn't looking for a production-release ready algorithm, he was just looking to see if we understood how to write the algorithm.

Re:Professional languages (2)

darkwing_bmf (178021) | about a year and a half ago | (#42697115)

Why can't you use a scripting language to implement optimized algorithms?

I think perhaps you missed the point of the course. The value is in the algorithm itself, not the implementation details.

Re:Professional languages (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42697745)

whoosh!

Re:Professional languages (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42697207)

efficient code that doesn't depend on gigabytes of middleware libraries, runtimes, and VMs just to generate some html?

Re:Professional languages (1)

the eric conspiracy (20178) | about a year and a half ago | (#42697227)

Real programming is when you write code in a space and time constrained execution environment, and you find yourself scouring CS literature for the latest algorithms. And anything worse than O(n) is too damn slow.

Non-real programming is when you are creating input boxes on a screen, and calling stored procedures because the DBA doesn't want you messing with the actual tables. And none of the meetings you are in discuss the order of the algorithms being used.

Re:Professional languages (0)

MacGyver2210 (1053110) | about a year and a half ago | (#42697971)

I at least partly agree. "Real" programming, to me, is programming a binary executable that is compiled as machine code and runs natively in an OS. That means no web scripting languages, no LUA, no SQL, no Python, etc. Nothing interpreted or pseudo-compiled at runtime.

C/C++ isn't always the best language to do something in, but it is certainly the best language with which to learn the way a computer/memory/code structure/OOP and Polymorphism/IDE/etc work. Java also offers some of that, but it is one level too abstracted from the machine to really teach properly how the code is converted and run for the machine.

Re:Professional languages (1)

NotBorg (829820) | about a year and a half ago | (#42696777)

He said "I want to get into IT work" not "I want to be a professional developer." IT work is generally support, maintenance, and management. While some programming can come in handy, it's generally not the primary focus of the field. Python and other scripting languages are well suited for IT work, IMO.

Get the piece of paper. (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42696375)

I "only" have an AA degree, and it automatically eliminates me from most positions.

It doesn't matter that I have over 20 years of professional experience, that I've developed everything from embedded systems used in commercial and general aviation, to a major Point-of-Sale system, a hotel reservation system, two financial trading systems and numerous business and accounting systems.

Most H/R departments and recruiting companies won't even talk to me, because I don't have a Bachelor's degree, even though they would talk to me if I had a BA in basket-weaving.

Re:Get the piece of paper. (1)

binarylarry (1338699) | about a year and a half ago | (#42696601)

With a winning attitude like that I'm surprised they aren't knocking your door down!

I think you need to examine what you did to get those other jobs for 20 years and repeat that.

Re:Get the piece of paper. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42696739)

I'm willing to bet that the companies he's worked for either weren't big enough to have a dedicated HR department, or he knew someone on the inside in the departments he would be working that was able to circumvent the whole HR requirements red tape.

Re:Get the piece of paper. (1)

AwesomeMcgee (2437070) | about a year and a half ago | (#42696819)

I have no degree and have contiguously worked at large (tens of thousands) companies. These types have to fight to get their hands on someone who seems to know anything so they look at degrees less. They have to fight so hard because good engineers know better, these places are terribly inefficient wastes of time with 10 year old technology implemented backwards to begin with, good engineers get jobs at places using proper modern technologies and techniques. Those of us with less degrees are relegated to these dregs where the majority of your colleagues hardly know how a CD works and do have degrees in basket-weaving.

If I had it to do over again I would totally get a degree just because without it I am immediately ignored by any company doing anything cool (because they have good engineers who do have degrees lining up to work there).

Re:Get the piece of paper. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42696885)

I'm the GP poster.

There's a lot of truth to your assumption. The big problem from my point of view is that it's gotten harder to get past the H/R and Recruiters, who don't understand what we do, and rely on buzz-word bingo.

Once I get to the technical people, I do very well (probably get offers more than 25% of the time). However, it's become very difficult to get far enough to get the technical interview. You have to be able to impress the people who are clueless about what technical people actually do. The way to do that is to have the buzz words that they do understand: degrees and certifications.

well we need more hands on training / apprenticesh (1)

Joe_Dragon (2206452) | about a year and a half ago | (#42696813)

well we need more hands on training / apprenticeships.

The college system is kind of out of date and comes with the full load of fluff and filler classes. Tech schools are roped into the college system as well.

There is lot's stuff that is poor fit into a 2 year or 4 year plan and other stuff that needs a lot more hands on training that is a poor fit for a collgle class room. When more of a community College setting is better. Yes community College offer classes non degree.

Also the cost of college is getting to high and by cutting down what is now 4-5 years down to say 1-3 years can save alot and make it quicker to learn skills.

ALSO THERE IS lot's of IT / tech work that is not even application development or CS that get lumped into CS as the tech schools get no respect.

Re:Get the piece of paper. (1)

rubycodez (864176) | about a year and a half ago | (#42697723)

nonsense, I have friends with AA pulling down serious monies. experience and accomplishment are much more valuable than the sheepskin.

What do you want to do? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42696385)

There are jobs out there in supporting IT for all kinds of businesses, either directly as an employee or through IT service companies. There are entry level jobs for sharp people who will work hard in those kinds of situations. If you want to code, you should be coding now, building things and building up a github profile. You probably just need to pick some direction and specialize if you want to get good enough at anything to be useful to a company.

School doesn't get you jobs, being awesome and interviewing well gets you jobs. So get good at something and wow someone, don't sponge off school hoping it will make you into an employee somewhere.

Give it up! (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42696389)

Fast forward 10 years. I'm a very recent college graduate with a BA in philosophy...

I stopped reading right there. As a philosophy graduate, I'm sure you will appreciate a little Kafka:

Give it up!

It was very early in the morning, the streets clean and deserted, I was walking to the station. As I compared the tower clock with my watch I realized that it was already much later than I had thought, I had to hurry, the shock of this discovery made me unsure of the way, I did not yet know my way very well in this town; luckily, a policeman was nearby, I ran up to him and breathlessly asked him the way. He smiled and said: “From me you want to know the way?”“Yes,” I said, “since I cannot find it myself.”“Give it up! Give it up,” he said, and turned away with a sudden jerk, like people who want to be alone with their laughter.

where to begin... (0)

zeldor (180716) | about a year and a half ago | (#42696399)

at this point you are well trained to work in the repair section of best buy. if that is the kind of career path you would like by all means go for it.
but basically with your education and the economy/job market the way it is you will be in low paying menial jobs for a long time.
If however you have some concept of another field you would like to do that you can 'use' computers in go back for some more education
in that field. the tech school wouldnt be too bad of a choice but you might also find something useful at a state school.
holding out hope for the perfect job that pays well and you love will just fall into your lap is a lot like winning the lottery.

if you have the ability and desire a good applied sciences degree is always useful.

Re:where to begin... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42696561)

at this point you are well trained to work in the repair section of best buy.

Don't be an ass. He'd do just fine in a QA role at dozens or maybe hundreds of places, if that is the sort of thing that would make him happy. If he prefers, he's probably do just fine in user support. My employer has open listings that he would qualify for - and that would be a full time job with a salary and full benefits. I'll leave it up to him to find that posting though...

Stick with hardware certs (4, Informative)

Raskolnikov42 (1197829) | about a year and a half ago | (#42696409)

It depends on what track you want to get into IT on. If you want to start in programming then yes, you most likely need more schooling. With the glut of applications most companies are seeing these days you will have trouble even getting an interview without a BS in EE/CS or something similar. That said it sounds like you are comfortable with the hardware end of things, and if you would like to pursue that track the degree requirements tend not to be as stringent. Most of the network engineers/ops positions at my company are people with certifications, be they CompTIA, Cisco, M$, etc. They aren't any less skilled at their positions, but the networking world tends to place more value on results than degrees, in my experience. So assuming you want to stay on this track I would suggest starting with certs. You can always work your way sideways into a dev position if that's what you want to do, but that's the easiest way to get your foot in the door AFAIK.

What do you want to do? (1)

gQuigs (913879) | about a year and a half ago | (#42696423)

"IT work" is quite vaque. It covers running a supercomputer cluster to maintaining systems for small businesses. What would you like to be doing in the IT field?

Re:What do you want to do? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42696525)

Replying as AC because I've moderated on this thread. But my question exactly. If you don't know where you want to go (i.e. what type of work in IT you want to do), how do figure out how to get there?

A question (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42696429)

If you were so deeply in love with computers, why did you get a BA in philosophy?

History Of the World, Part 1.1 (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42696441)

Stay the course.
    The world needs fewer Code Monkeys and more Standup Philosophers.
    Soon you could become an Able Bodied Seminarian.
    And then...
    Woof!

= perfect? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42696471)

"I received either perfect scores or higher..." how can you get higher than perfect?

you seem to be in love with school...school is good, school is helpful...but honestly?...get a job, any job...

Re:= perfect? (1)

twistofsin (718250) | about a year and a half ago | (#42696505)

I'm assuming perfect is 100%. If you ace everything and do extra credit work your grade will be "higher than perfect."

Certs (4, Informative)

tom229 (1640685) | about a year and a half ago | (#42696481)

I'd go the certification path. Going to university or college for IT isn't a terrible idea, but in my experience it's not necessary and probably a waste of money. I've had many co-workers that come out of university and college programs that don't know anything, or worse, memorized how to do something in one particular controlled environment and think they know everything.

IT is about experience, confidence, and skill. If you already think you have good troubleshooting skills then you're well on your way. I'd get some core certifications like CompTIA A+, and CCENT and then look for an entry level job. Consulting companies that provide helpdesk support or managed services for small/medium businesses are a great start. From there you'll build contacts, start to specialize, they'll pay to get your more certs, and before you know it you'll be a lazy sysadmin on someones payroll.

Re:Certs (1)

aheath (628369) | about a year and a half ago | (#42697291)

I value hands on experience much more than certifications when interviewing candidates for any IT job. A certification tells me that the job candidate has the ability to study a body of knowledge and pass a test. A certification doesn't tell me if the job candidate has any real world experience that they can apply on the job. I use a behavioral interviewing technique and ask questions such as:

What approach do you take to troubleshooting problems?

Can you give me example of a problem that you investigated and resolved?

What do you do when you can't resolve a problem on your own?

What do you do when you have to learn how to use a new piece of equipment?

What is your preferred learning style?

The original poster seems like the type of person who is self motivated and willing to learn new skills. This is the type of person that I look for when interviewing a job candidate.

review your priorities (0)

ruir (2709173) | about a year and a half ago | (#42696507)

Hardware qualifications nowadays is akin to janitor work, and coding is an ungrateful job, and good luck finding one hacking some code without formal training and no UML or data structures background. I agree with whoever said you will be needing more schooling.

Re:review your priorities (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42696867)

Lol. You said UML.

Re:review your priorities (1)

ruir (2709173) | about a year and a half ago | (#42697647)

Whats the thing about saying UML?

ChiPy.org (4, Informative)

stox (131684) | about a year and a half ago | (#42696513)

If you feel comfortable with Python, come out to the Chicago Python Users Group meetings, hone your skills and network. There is a lot of Python work in Chicago these days.

Re:ChiPy.org (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42696683)

+1

Re:ChiPy.org (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42697193)

This is a great way to both network and show off your skills to the people who can make authoritative recommendations on who to hire.

Specificity needed (1)

Bobfrankly1 (1043848) | about a year and a half ago | (#42696521)

"IT work" is roughly the same as "I like computers". If you go into an interview with "I want to do IT work" you'll end up grinding your years away on the help desk. You mention that you worked with multiple desktops and AD, did you enjoy it? Do you prefer working on end user machines, or would you prefer to control them at a higher level from central servers? Do you gravitate to systems architecture and building out data centers, or would you rather be programming? If programming, are there languages you hate? If you want useful advice, where you've been is just as important as where specifically do you WANT to go?

Location (1)

ZombieBraintrust (1685608) | about a year and a half ago | (#42696649)

Also where do you want to work? Are you willing to move to California? Do you need to stay in the midwest or southeast? Are you willing to move to Mexico City?

Re:Location (1)

ganjadude (952775) | about a year and a half ago | (#42697319)

no one is willing to move to cali, some have to, but no one is willing to

First, write a useful application. (2)

gestalt_n_pepper (991155) | about a year and a half ago | (#42696533)

Then start peddling it. Then start working for the organizations that become dependent on it. Finding the application to write is the hard part.

Forget UW-Madison (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42696539)

You are better off at UW-Plat they have a much better computer engineering degree. If you are in the Madison area try looking for some networking events and see if EPIC would give you a chance. My understanding is they are having a hard time filling positions in programming.

Get the hell out of IT (5, Insightful)

rsilvergun (571051) | about a year and a half ago | (#42696547)

dying business. The core of IT is viruses, failing hardware and codemonkying (e.g. simple, lego style programming as opposed to the stuff that's basically just really hard math). Assuming you're not a math guy that just happens to have a Philosophy degree, you're looking at one of those 3 core things. Now let me explain why they're dead ends.

The bot nets got too big for their britches. Microsoft started tracking them (cheap) and sending the American DOJ (expensive, but free for Microsoft) out to get them. Virus removal work has been plummeting ever since. Hardware is about 50 to 70% longer lived than 10 years ago, due mostly to cooler running chips. As for codemonkying, good luck competing with cheap offshore labor.

There are still jobs, but they're few and far between, and many go to Visa applicants. Your wages will be low, your hours long and you'll be on call for the rest of your life.

IT as a profession is dead unless the gov't steps in for some protection. I thought of running a lobbying group (god knows Unions are dead), but there's too many "independent thinkers" and they're basically divided and conquered. For your own well being get the hell out of IT.

Re:Get the hell out of IT (3, Informative)

RoknrolZombie (2504888) | about a year and a half ago | (#42696597)

I wish I could mod this up. I've been doing the computer thing for about 20 years, been doing IT work for about 15 of that. The industry is dying and being replaced by carbon-copy morons, businesses don't want to pay fair value for experience, so experienced people who know the value of their skills can't get paid for them.

Re:Get the hell out of IT (1)

AwesomeMcgee (2437070) | about a year and a half ago | (#42696943)

Yep. Just, yep. I really really wish I had gone to school and gotten a PhD in math/cs, the hardcore math stuff *is* truly awesome to see, I just had no idea it existed until I was already in the game of life and past college season. So I'm relegated to being asked to monkey plate code from A to B with an extra textbox in B, and competing with less skilled workers who ask much less money, to which companies don't see value in skill when they can save money.

Yep.

Re:Get the hell out of IT (1)

DigiShaman (671371) | about a year and a half ago | (#42696871)

Try a MSP (Managed Service Provider). It's basically a single IT service company that provides local support with anything ranging from printers, workstations, servers, networking, to overall IT consultation. The problem with an MSP is that it's only good as its employees. Many MSP companies rise an fall primarly because of ego. And lord knows that IT is way over inflated with inflated heads so large that it's any wonder the fit into the door in the morning. That shit causes all sorts of problems unless the company has proper leadership and management. Other then that, it's a pretty secure sector of the IT industry to be in under the right social circumstances.

Re:Get the hell out of IT (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42696935)

ya lobbying is the solution. is it? or is it the reason the country is so fu**ed right now? hrmm?

Re:Get the hell out of IT (1)

DarthVaderDave (978825) | about a year and a half ago | (#42697395)

Don't be so quick to despair. One of the best ways I think you could differentiate yourself, and trust me you'll have to do that, is to improve on what I assume are strong communication skills. Probably one of the most valuable skills I have is playing referee between business and IT, or rewriting a guide to be more 'customer friendly'. It's beyond counting the number of times that that skill shooed me into a job that would have fallen to someone else. Also, apply to Google. They love people who have strong non-IT backgrounds. The theory is: anyone who can do a deep dive into Greek Literature, Linguistics, or Philosophy must be capable of understanding...well I don't know...it's Google.

Re:Get the hell out of IT (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42697505)

My experience is that the software development industry is quite lucrative and enjoyable. Moved to a major tech region this past year, and have found job hunting to resemble the guy's experience in The Firm as he was graduating from college.

Re:Get the hell out of IT (4, Funny)

Velex (120469) | about a year and a half ago | (#42697517)

This. A million times this, a billion times this, a googol-plex times this. (That's a lot of this!)

The problem is that a lay person has absolutely no gut instinct for what a properly functioning network infrastructure looks like or what a properly built API looks like. They say that if we built buildings like we build software, the first woodpecker that came along would destroy civilization. There's wisdom to be had there. Any lay person who's not a total moron has a gut instinct for what constitutes a solid building and what's going to burn down, fall over, and sink into a swamp in 3 years.

I started to think about why that should be. When I started working at the call center I'm working at (got referred by my roommate who was also working there at the time), bringing up notepad or calc was viewed as misuse of our workstations. Notepad! Calc! Knowing to press win+R and type fscking calc was enough to be branded a hacker! (Of course, the only thing that's changed in that regard is I'm now part of the IT team, so I may now press win+R to my heart's content and draw forth the deep magic of the Run dialog. The problem was never some draconian IT policy; the problem has been and is the kinds of individuals who become successful supervisors in a call center environment and their utter, willful technical illiteracy. That being said, a lot of our supervisors are good people who are well intentioned, it's just that they absolutely cannot abandon their superstitious beliefs about computers.)

So what? How does a lay person get a gut instinct for whether a building is solid or ramshackle? He learns how to kick bricks, and he learns that if kicking a brick causes a wall to come down, there was something wrong with the wall to begin with. We recognize that as a society. If I'm buying a house, of course it's within my rights to poke a wall here or there to look for water damage and kick a brick or two.

Except what do we do to people who do the "cyber" equivalent of kicking bricks? As was noted in another discussion, read this in a dalek voice: PROSECUTE, PROSECUTE, PROSECUTE.

Shitty code that crumbles to pieces is legally protected because we as a society haven't figured out the "cyber" difference between kicking a brick and causing the whole thing to implode and launching an RPG or two at the structure. All we see is evil mastermind hacker did SOMETHING and it FELL APART, so HE MUST HAVE BEEN DOING SOMETHING BAD!!!eleven1!1

In other words, if we viewed architechts of buildings that are so easily toppled that the first woodpecker that comes along would destroy civilization the same way we view the individuals and especially companies and corporate entities that pay these individuals who are responsible for such unsound software, then our entire military-industrial complex would be researching the latest anti-woodpecker weaponry.

This is what you're asking to be in the middle of when you want to get into IT. Institutionalized incompetence. Parent is correct, there needs to be some kind of government intervention or else some kind of buy-in with the IT community as a whole for some kind of bar association or certification process that allows one to call oneself a capital P Programmer like there is for capital E Engineers.

Personally, I think the best way forward is targeting individuals instead of corporations for poor software. Hear me out for a second. I used to be a trucker so I know some things about going after individuals (not everything, it's been years since I was out on the big road, my own mistakes I freely admit, I write software better than I can back up a big rig). As a truck driver, I was legally required to keep a log and track when I was behind the wheel, when I was on-duty, when I was off-duty, and when I was sleeping. If I was behind the wheel too much, it was my ass. So if my dispatcher was asking me to drive too much, I had a choice: either I could go cowboy and keep two logbooks or I could politely refuse and try to do everything I could within the law. Going cowboy used to be the option, but in the era of GPS tracking, as they say on the CB "them days are over." If your truck is moving when you're on the sleeping line, it's your ass even more than if you were on the driving line an hour or two more than you were supposed to be. These days if you want to go cowboy and be a hero to get the load there on time, you at least have to log it honestly, but it's still your ass and your license on the line. Not as much as if you'd lied, but you're taking a bullet for your employer. How many people will put themselves out of work for their employer? None. That's how many.

I think the same thing could work for software. Make individual programmers responsible for their actions, no matter how much a PHB is frothing at the mouth, and suddenly that PHB is going to find he's going to be told no over and over and over again. Sure, he might find the odd cowboy that's going to code up a PHP abomination full of SQL injection to meet the deadline, but that's probably the last thing or two that cowboy will be doing as a capital P Programmer.

This pattern is also seen in other places. I remember I overheard a few guys from the electric company were going back and forth the other day over whether something was up to code, and the comment one of the guys made was "It's your builder's permit!"

Just not in programming, not today at least. Corporations might be on the line for *oh noes* a fine of some insignificant amount like GBP 250k. Oh noes! But put individual guys on the line with the threat that if you screw up, no matter how hard your employer was pressuing you to screw up, your family goes hungry and you go homeless, and you get a lot more guys saying "no" when "no" is the right thing to say.

Anyway, this turned out to be more tl;dr than I'd intended, so I'm going to hit submit before this delicious blueberry wine I have makes me rant more. I blame any typos on the pink elephant.

Re:Get the hell out of IT (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42697667)

Well said. After several failed startups I returned to school (community college) to get a diploma in Instrumentation (Industrial Control). This led to a job that cannot be send offshore (local personnel required). I recommend that you consider a trade that cannot be sent offshore (electrician, plumber, HVAC tech). Note that many trades incorporate automated equipment (PLCs). Good luck and keep us posted.

Perfect Scores or Higher? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42696555)

Poster: "I received either perfect scores or higher in these courses."

Do tell how you managed to score higher than perfect! You would be a shoe-in with any job with this skill!

Computer Techs are a dime a dozen (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42696579)

Get all the certs you want. You'll still be a $10/hr computer tech.

If you want to be a programmer, (4, Insightful)

iguana (8083) | about a year and a half ago | (#42696583)

get a degree. Programming jobs are heavily resume/GPA filtered. Unless you have someone on the inside ("who you know"), what you know will only get you so far. The great jobs, IMO, for a newbie, are best approached with a great GPA and transcript.

There is so much more to programming than just banging on a keyboard. Get a good discrete mathematical background, algorithms, data structures. Study the hardware level as well (don't sleep through Comp Arch like I did). For the best bang for your buck, dual degree CS with something else engineering related (mechanical, chemical, physics, etc). STEM is the big thing these days.

Do NOT bankrupt yourself or your future with crazy loans. Yes, "get a degree" and "don't bankrupt your future" are almost mutually exclusive these days. But even from a smaller college, a great GPA and transcript will get you in more doors.

Get an education (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42696585)

From someone who has been a dev manager for 10 years and hires developers on a regular basis, this is what I (this is my opinion, not everyone is like me) would do and get old farts (like me) that was once in love with computer programming interested in my resume.
1) get a computer science degree. (Bachelor's). Focus on computer science basics (algorithms, data structures, functional vs imperative programming, data base fundamentals)
2) while getting your degree, involve yourself in an open source framework project (jQuery comes to mind, but that ship has sailed) that you can get excited about and contribute meaningfully to
3) start a blog where you write about the new cool stuff you develop for 2) (you will have some amazing stories to ell since you're so excited about it)
4) become a great contributor on stack overflow

list 1-4 on your resume if you have to look for a job, chances are that people will seek you out to hire you if you do 2-4 well. Who knows, once you have your bachelors you might love CompSci so much that you decide to do a PhD which will not get you more money but certainly be rewarding.

Good luck and sorry about the advice on getting into more debt.

Re:Get an education (0)

AwesomeMcgee (2437070) | about a year and a half ago | (#42696995)

I'm sorry but you're a dunce and a crappy hiring manager it sounds like. How is a fresh college grad going to do 2 or 4? No freeging way, fresh college grads only write garbage code; sorry we all know it's true. They need the job with the mentoring before they can become good programmers, if you think you saw something written by a fresh undergrad that was good you need to get your own technical skills rechecked. Fresh undergrads don't know enough to contribute meaningfully or even correctly to SO, moreover no one in their right mind lets a fresh undergrad work on their open-source project with them unless it's some throw-away trash.

What do you want to do? (4, Insightful)

magic maverick (2615475) | about a year and a half ago | (#42696589)

I finished my first degree, and after some futzing around decided to do a masters. While I think I could have continued to get good jobs with my BA and hobbies (I too learnt QBasic, and then downloaded QuickBasic from the net, when I was young), the second degree will get me to where I want to go faster. That's the thing, I have a direction I want to go to (which I didn't have when I finished my first degree).

With a BA and computer skills you should be able to find a varied number of jobs, including in communications type situations (you can read and write, and you can do (or learn to do) web stuff? that's all you really need). My advice, get into the work force for a couple of years and see if you can cope with the sort of jobs you are getting. If you want something extra, go and do more study.

Do both (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42696611)

A lot of big companies pay for job-relevant education. Join as entry-level, get your degree working in parallel, then switch to a job with higher requirements/better pay

Through determination (2)

briankotch (2824741) | about a year and a half ago | (#42696627)

Step 1: Teach yourself how to code. This can only help and there is plenty of resources. Kahnacademy, MIT's Opencourse ware, Python the hard way. The key to getting any IT job is the ability to develop the skills required.

Step 2: Work on the cheap and be humble. There's plenty of non IT shops in dire need of a little bit of HTML, a little bit of maintenance, a little bit of what have you. Offer to be paid in beer and you will not only develop real world skills, you will make connections.

Step 3: Specialize. A college degree in X and the ability to do the requisite skills should be able land you a junior role / internship. The work may not be glorious, but you will be able to get a job, get the experience, get the certs and grow professionally.

Step 4: Don't settle. Don't try to promote your way up through an organization until you have chosen your path. Do good work and pursue new opportunities. If you don't see an opening, move on. IT, more than most careers, values diverse experience and self-development

As an English major from Podunkvilles who works in SF, I can attest to this path. Your desire will get your skills, your skills at any level will be invaluable and you will be able to make a career out it.

Formal or Symbolic logic? (1)

alexander_686 (957440) | about a year and a half ago | (#42696681)

Fast forward 10 years. I'm a very recent college graduate with a BA in philosophy (because of seminary, which I recently left).

Question – did you take advance courses in logic? Did you enjoy it? If you answered yes to both then I would suggest finding something that would mold those skills – something more theoretical and abstract. Technical and practical gigs will pay the bills today but tend to stagnate fast.

Formal / Symbolic logic can have the same level of rigorous thought patterns as upper level math courses – and are highly prized skills in IT. The 2 best programmers I knew both had philosophy degrees. (one double majored in Mathematics, the other fell short by a few credits in getting a triple in math/physics.)

Hackathon (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42696685)

Hacker School (sometimes called dev bootcamps) is the new Computer Science degree.

Here are links to some Hacker Schools:
http://natashatherobot.com/hacker-school-the-new-cs-degree/

In Chicago they have "Starter League" (http://www.starterleague.com/).
Hacker School is very economical and many graduates (for one school it was 88%)
get jobs.

Also, go to "Hackatons" and find some tech meetups (meetup.com) in your area.
Hackathons are marathon programming sessions.
Groups give a presentations at the end. You'll be able to network with
people working at many companies.

school! (1)

genericmk (2767843) | about a year and a half ago | (#42696687)

You'll find that not getting a degree will hold you back down the road even if you manage to find a low level job now. If you can afford it, go to school, transfer as many credits as you can toward a 4 year degree, with summer school, etc., you should be out in 2 years. You have no job experience, which works to your advantage when you graduate a 4 year program. Try to get an internship while in school. That may be better time spent than summer school. You would be in worse shape if you were laid off, then went back to school. I see these types of people struggling to get hired.

about the uw (1)

ubergeek09 (1412177) | about a year and a half ago | (#42696691)

UW Madison is a good school (ok, I'll cine clean, I go there) although I'm not a cs student I can tell you that their programming courses are fun although the introductory ones with bore you half to death.

School hands down (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42696701)

I don't care how many people come out of the woodworks to say "You don't need a degree to get a job in IT, cause look at me, I got one 20 years ago and am still working in IT and never had a degree". To them I would say the times have changed and almost every company out there either requires or strongly prefers a 4 year degree. Unless it's a start up (i.e. like a younger version of Facebook or Zynga or insert latest startup to go public and lose everyone a bunch of money here) in which case you either have to REALLY know what your doing or know someone in the company that is willing to tolerate your lack of experience and wants to teach you how they want things done.

If you already have college credit towards certain classes, just finish up your degree and you're opportunities will open up a lot more than just using the "cast the widest net and see what happens" approach. Other options that have been mentioned here are "write your own app and sell it" or "start your own start up". This works for such a small percentage of people and in many cases it isn't enough to make a living off of that to me, it's as likely as being an undiscovered musical talent in LA.

I graduated from UW-Oshkosh which is by far a much cheaper school than UW-Madison and came out of it with about $40K in debt. I had 0 experience in IT but had a 4 year degree and still managed to get a job that paid $17/hr as an intern which turned into a $50K/yr job. I've been working for 3 years here now, have had several raises and 1 promotion and am now down to $24K in debt. If you're ok with working a mundane corporate job to pay the bills and don't care about being the next Mark Zuckerberg then stick with school. On the other hand I can't argue the idea of following your dreams, if a corporate job makes you want to puke, I wouldn't bother with school, just be prepared to fight a long uphill battle to get recognized in the sea of talent that's out there.

Re:School hands down (1)

AwesomeMcgee (2437070) | about a year and a half ago | (#42697075)

shit, corporate jobs are easy without a degree with just skills, it's the fun ones that have engineers lining up outside the doors that you really need a degree for (hint, corporate jobs aren't the fun ones engineers jump at). He's already got his undergrad, great; go get that masters and or PhD in crazy math and become a quant or work for google. The money you'll make with the PhD will pay off the cost of the extra education more quickly than the money made off an undergrad cs pays off an undergrad cs.

Already been said but (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42696723)

Want to you want to do. IT is not a job. I never wanted to be in IT. I wanted to be a programmer. Matter of fact I hate IT at most companies. I love programming.

More school is never the right answer (2)

poached (1123673) | about a year and a half ago | (#42696749)

I just recently received my masters (not in computer science) and I regret my decision to go to school, a bit. Sure I learned things but it is also 2 years away from the fast moving technology world. My experience and skills are ancient, relatively speaking, to those who have worked the last two years. Only go to school if you want to switch fields or if you cannot advance your career without a more advanced degree. Plus, the education may not be that great, considering professors (at large research universities) are there to do research and not teach; you could be getting shitty professors who do not care about providing good instructions and its not like you can get a refund. Try networking, go to career fairs, and whatever you can to get interviews before you give up and go to school. I suspect you will be able to find something before you need to go to school.

Re:More school is never the right answer (1)

servognome (738846) | about a year and a half ago | (#42697099)

Don't go to school if you only plan on going to class and get good grades. Like you say, classroom information is usually a few steps behind industry.
If you are motivated then big research universities are amazing places to get experience and network. Sign on doing research with a professor, and instead of being behind the technology curve, you'll be ahead of it. Join a competition team (robotics, programming, solar car, etc), to challenge yourself, build new skills, and demonstrate your ability to solve real world problems. There's also no better networking than a few summer months as an intern.

Fist magnet statement (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42696757)

If you had not heard this already, here goes. One can never have too much education because the academic sector can never have too much money.

Get a job (1)

theRunicBard (2662581) | about a year and a half ago | (#42696769)

That's what I'm doing. It seems to teach you much more practical matters and how the real world works. My least favorite part of college is the idealistic (and incidentally, philosophical) arguments people have. I will however, also recommend you learn more along the way. Not to sound like an ass, but you do have some gaps in knowledge as you yourself pointed out. I'm seeing no mention of C, which is pretty huge, or Java (although you know C# which might even be better at this point). Also, as much as I hated this subject, some theory might be required in CS. Final verdict: get a job and if you don't love it, go back to school after you make some money. If you love it, ... game over, huh?

If you have a BA, go for a master's (1)

damn_registrars (1103043) | about a year and a half ago | (#42696829)

You shouldn't have much trouble passing the GRE; see if you can find a graduate program where you can get a master's degree. That should only take ~2 years and then you have something to show for your efforts. The CompTIA certs are a joke, the MS certs change all the time, and the rest are too poorly defined to be worth the testing fees.

Don't waste your time on school (1)

asmkm22 (1902712) | about a year and a half ago | (#42696961)

Any time spent in school just to get some extra paper would be better spent expanding your network while looking for the right job. In the mean time, there are probably quite a few IT consulting companies in your area that are always looking to fill entry-level positions (basic network administration and desktop support). The pay isn't usually that great, but it's much better than retail, and gets you good working experience with the industry. Not to mention contacts.

Just be honest and upfront about your skill set and don't try and pass yourself off as someone you're not. You could probably expect $15-20 an hour, not to mention the free "education" and work experience.

Or, you could spend 20-50k (or more) learning "best practices" with how to configure WSUS and what an OU is. Your choice.

Degree and non-tech skills are critical (3, Informative)

hendersj (720767) | about a year and a half ago | (#42696975)

70% of IT professionals these days have some sort of degree.

Tech skills on their own won't get you far - back in the late 80's and early 90's when I got started in the field, it was sufficient. I dropped out of college to pursue an IT career and did very well for 15 years in the field before moving on to other stuff.

Then I got laid off, and the lack of degree has really hurt my ability to get a job in this economy. I currently do contract writing for software companies, and that pays well enough - when there's work to do.

My advice would be to pursue the degree while working full-time, either as an intern or other full-time position. The degree, sadly, will be more valuable than the experience.

In the IT field, things that help are the ability to solve business problems (IOW, don't focus strictly on technology) and to manage projects. PMP certification will get you farther than any technical certification (the tech certification market has been in decline for years). Companies don't want to hire someone with specific technical skills - they want people who can function independently and can manage IT projects. Being able to do that will really help you.

A CS degree in combination with project management skills, familiarity with Agile/SCRUMM development methodologies, and business skills will take you farther these days than tech skills alone.

Jim

MS at University of Chicago (1)

Yeechang Lee (3429) | about a year and a half ago | (#42697035)

If you want to become a professional software developer as opposed to being locked into IT support, the Masters program at the University of Chicago sounds ideal for you. It is specifically designed for those with little or no formal programming experience [uchicago.edu] before beginning the degree.

here comes mr. cynic (1)

TheGratefulNet (143330) | about a year and a half ago | (#42697049)

yes, me. I'm going to try to convince you to pick another field.

(enable GOML mode)
it used to be that having a thinking-based job was good in the US. outsourcing was not in vogue and the social contract was about you studying, working hard, moving up in the corp world and as long as you can still work, there would be a job for you.

fast forward to today and extrapolate to today+n. do you really think that the trend we see (outsourcing and the local race-to-the-bottom) is going to reverse? what chance do you think you'll have to compete with someone who works for a fraction of your income and can live on less since it costs less over there?

think hard before you take on a vocation that can be outsourced.

re-think vocations that -require- you to be there. electrician, construction, car repair. whatever - but its important to find something that they can't just 'do remotely'. if they can, they *will*.

they didn't used to outsource software devel. they sure as hell do, now. and what they don't outsource, they hire h1b's for. locals are squeezed out.

thinking arts, whatever the subject, are not a good investment for your own future.

how 'funny' that is. how sad, actually. its our western race to the bottom. class warfare. whatever you want to call it; but if you think for a living, forget about. they can replace you for less and they WILL.

What's your age? (3, Interesting)

MindPrison (864299) | about a year and a half ago | (#42697077)

Your post sends me mixed messages. First you are telling us that you started out with Qbasic (that's pretty old-school, that's from when I was a kid, and I'm no youngin anymore I can tell ya)...and then you're asking about internship. From where I come from, internship is for the kids right out of school, not for 40-50 year old computer dinosaurs like you and me (if ...you're around my age). I've been around since Pong and Zx-80(81) days, democoder on C-64, Amiga, Atari etc...In fact, I know that if I where to start all over again, I'd go the education way today....back in the days, things where different, you could just take any computer and code stuff from scratch, no libraries, no pre defined variables, no gazillion calls to various OS related libraries and locales.

If you're indeed in my age group, then I can offer a little advice, it may not be right for you, but chances are - if you're like me, then you're better off following your passion instead of trying to start off where the kids today are starting, they'll rip you apart and probably reverse engineer your soul (not kidding about that) before you can say DirectX.

Find a special niche instead, use your "old school" abilities where it'll do you real good, that's what I do. Even though I have all the latest gear, latest ARM microcontroller kits from TI and whatnot and love to play with my toys, I'll be no match for any kid around 20 today that knows his worth in salt.

You have to weigh in the choices of what you REALLY want do do. After 30+ years in IT, I've toned things down, trying to find real meaning in life instead, discover new places, see where my ready-knowledge can be put to good use, repair arcade machines perhaps? Old retro collectors items can be worth a fortune, not to mention the old mainframe systems no young person seem to know, who's going to repair and maintain those? Etc...find a niche, and you'll find happiness.

 

QBasic (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42697287)

was commonly used when I was in high school in the 90s, so I would imagine he could be anywhere from 25 to 35 with some level of accuracy.

Assuming that age I can also vouch that he's still probably going to have a hard time getting a foot in the door, and might consider doing some networking or social engineering to get him into his introductory job.

You will just be training your h1b replacement (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42697419)

Sorry, that is just the way things are.

46,000 about to get the chop at the Pentagon. Most in IT.
"We simply have to make room for the 115,000 Indian H1Bs coming in next year under the
Immigration Innovation Act of 2013" Marco Rubio (R-Fla).
  http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2013-01-25/pentagon-s-46-000-temporary-workers-may-face-immediate-job-cuts.html?cmpid=yhoo

Senators Seek H-1B Cap That Can Reach 300,000
http://yro.slashdot.org/story/13/01/25/187203/senators-seek-h-1b-cap-that-can-reach-300000

Be An Evangelical Preacher - Forget Programming... (1, Funny)

littlewink (996298) | about a year and a half ago | (#42697639)

computers. You'll be much happier and richer re-programming humans.

Honestly with your background you'll go broke in no time trying to be a programmer.

how about open source? (1)

ruir (2709173) | about a year and a half ago | (#42697655)

Change your legal name to Linus Torvalds and wrote a Unix-like kernel...

Real skills (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42697657)

Learn real skills welding, woodworking something that can't be outsourced

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