Author Topic: Advice for a SAHM former-software engineer looking to return to work  (Read 2366 times)

Tinnu

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Hi everyone out there in MMM forumland.  I've been rolling this question around in my mind for a long time without getting anywhere, so I thought I'd ask it here.

I currently have three children, ages 7, 5, and 22 months.  I left my software engineering position when the oldest was born.  Since then I have only done a tiny bit of open source work.  I always wanted to go back to work, at least part time, and I think the time has come to start taking steps in that direction.  I would love to be able to work from home and control my hours so that I can be with my kids outside of school hours (the little one would need some kind of childcare), even if that means a lower wage than I could get with a full time position.

As one would expect, I feel pretty rusty.  My previous full time work was mostly C++, but I'm wondering if I would have more luck with a freelance/part time role if I switched to something more web-related, e.g. Ruby on Rails, etc. I'd be up for doing a bootcamp to learn new skills/tools/languages/what have you. 

I have a B.S. and M.S. in computer science from pretty good schools - helpful if I wanted full time, but not so much for what I'm looking for?

I really appreciate your thoughts on some next steps I could take or stories of anyone who's been in a similar position.  Let me know if I can provide any more helpful info.  Thank you!!

Edited to add: I'm in the Chicago area, and I only had 3 years of work experience prior to having children - spent 3 years in grad school.
« Last Edit: July 24, 2019, 01:29:37 PM by Tinnu »

Arian

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Re: Advice for a SAHM former-software engineer looking to return to work
« Reply #1 on: July 24, 2019, 05:16:37 AM »
Not a software engineer, but in a similar position and wanted to wish you every success.

https://www.edx.org/course/subject/computer-science

https://www.codecademy.com/

There seems to be lots of free courses here. I'm sure there are other organisations that offer similar courses.

MayDay

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Re: Advice for a SAHM former-software engineer looking to return to work
« Reply #2 on: July 24, 2019, 05:24:31 AM »
How many years of experience did you have before staying home?

ctuser1

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Re: Advice for a SAHM former-software engineer looking to return to work
« Reply #3 on: July 24, 2019, 06:22:22 AM »
location?

The quickest bet is to approach your former colleagues and ask them to hire you. I'm sure some of them would be in good positions after these many years.

Recruiters may also be able to help. If in US, there are "body shops" that will likely place you in the bottom rung of hourly wage tech worker hierarchy pretty easily (if that is your thing).

Age discrimination is a thing in tech. You will have a "problem" where your age will not be commensurate with your # of years of experience that will both show up in your resume AND in interview. You will need to figure out how to overcome this.

You can use your opensource work, connections etc to overcome this. Or maybe just start from the bottom rung of the hourly wage hierarchy and then quickly advance after!!

The above is very US specific. It may not work exactly the same way in other markets.

dogboyslim

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Re: Advice for a SAHM former-software engineer looking to return to work
« Reply #4 on: July 24, 2019, 10:56:03 AM »
Mrs. DBS was SAHM for 7 years.  She now has a work from home gig in her field (technical but not IT).  Here is what she did:

1.  Talk with friends still in the workplace about what they are seeing as currently needed skills and letting them know she was going to go back "on the market" looking for a position.  This led to many position leads.

2.  Reach out to professional women in leadership positions with a similar intent to #1.  She would send her resume, state that she'd been SAHM for 7 years, the things she did prior to that (for 15 years), and that she would like to have a 10-15 min chat about needed skills or any advice they may have.  This got a 1/5 response rate and a 1/10 meeting (all phone).

3.  Match volunteer efforts with needed skills and update your resume to fill holes.  Mrs. DBS was an active volunteer, and many of the leadership examples are similar to work leadership items.  This is not as relevant for pure tech roles, but for any role looking for leadership, it makes a good match with prior experience to show you are still active.

4.  Make Linkedin, indeed and any career specific job sites in your favorites and check them frequently.  Apply to anything that is close to what you are looking for.  Mrs. DBS got several phone screens but no initial on site interviews.

5.  Understand that not getting a job doesn't mean you are a bad candidate or that you will never get a job.  Stay positive, but keep your expectations low.  It is hard to get back in.

6.  All those new skills you learned about in 1/2?  Start trying to fill your skill gaps.  MOOCs are great for this.  edx, coursera, udacity, I'm sure there are more that are probably relevant to your career.  Mrs. DBS used this to get intro to r since all her prior programming was in an ancient language no one has ever heard of that was used by the company where she worked previously.

After about 4 months of searching, Mrs DBS found a position posted that met her criteria, but for a more junior position.  She applied, explained the situation and that while she was prepared to start the role she applied for, a more senior role would be good for them and gave them a business case to hire her at the senior level.  They did and she's been working since the beginning of this year.

TLDR: Talk to people to get leads.  Follow up on leads.  Apply to lots of jobs.  Don't get discouraged.  Work on your professional skills.  Repeat until you find a job.

Good luck!

Tinnu

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Re: Advice for a SAHM former-software engineer looking to return to work
« Reply #5 on: July 24, 2019, 01:39:16 PM »
Thanks for the responses so far!

How many years of experience did you have before staying home?

Just 3 years, and I'm in the Chicago area.

Maybe I'm being too specific for this board, but I can ask my question a little more clearly in light of the responses I've gotten.  I'm really wondering
1. if moving from SAHM to freelance developer of some kind is feasible without a full time position in between, but with spending significant time updating my skills, and
2. if it would behoove me to change my focus from C++ (where my previous experience is but where there doesn't seem to be a lot of need for freelancers/part timers) to something else, like some kind of web development, and any suggestions about what that something else might be.

I feel confident that I could (eventually) get a full time developer position given my background and knowing that I interview reasonably well, but that's not what I'm looking for currently.
« Last Edit: July 24, 2019, 01:45:31 PM by Tinnu »

MayDay

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Re: Advice for a SAHM former-software engineer looking to return to work
« Reply #6 on: July 24, 2019, 03:10:25 PM »
So honestly, 3 years of work + 22 off means you are looking at entry level jobs. At best.

Check out SWE's STEM Re-entry program. We are working on a program at my company but we are requiring 4 years work experience, which is comparable with what many companies want to see.

If say you definitely need to either work through your network, go through a contracting company, or refresh your credentials in some way.

It sounds like you aren't necessarily looking for a FT role, though, so if you can get some recent work experience through freelancing, you'll be fine.


Tinnu

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Re: Advice for a SAHM former-software engineer looking to return to work
« Reply #7 on: July 24, 2019, 03:31:49 PM »
It's about 7 years without working (the 22 in my original post was 22 months), but I agree with you that I'd be aiming for a more junior role.

I hadn't heard of SWE's STEM re-entry program, but that sounds like a great idea, thank you, MayDay!

katsiki

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Re: Advice for a SAHM former-software engineer looking to return to work
« Reply #8 on: July 24, 2019, 07:17:01 PM »
Are you set on software engineering again?  You might find a lot of interest in related areas with your background: technical writing, project management, QA, automated testing, system analysis, etc.

Good luck!!

Tinnu

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Re: Advice for a SAHM former-software engineer looking to return to work
« Reply #9 on: July 24, 2019, 09:08:46 PM »
Are you set on software engineering again?  You might find a lot of interest in related areas with your background: technical writing, project management, QA, automated testing, system analysis, etc.

Good luck!!

I'm not totally set on software engineering, that's a great question.  The part-time/freelance aspect is more important to me right now, along with a wage that would (significantly) more than cover the cost of childcare for my youngest who's almost 2 now.  Do you feel like those other areas might be more part-time/freelance friendly?  My only anecdotal experience there is a friend who was a "part time" project manager of developers, and she ended up working more than 40 hours a week, just on an odd schedule so she could spend time with her young kids.

MayDay

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Re: Advice for a SAHM former-software engineer looking to return to work
« Reply #10 on: July 25, 2019, 04:58:54 AM »
Are you set on software engineering again?  You might find a lot of interest in related areas with your background: technical writing, project management, QA, automated testing, system analysis, etc.

Good luck!!

Haha, I totally misread that!

Definitely check out the swe stuff. There are PT/alternative schedule options from what I've heard.  With 7 years off your experience is a lot more fresh! Personally I had 4 years of work, 6 years off from engineering, and found a half time job through contacts, and switched to FT after 6 months (my choice). It worked out great in the end but it was hard to get that first job

katsiki

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Re: Advice for a SAHM former-software engineer looking to return to work
« Reply #11 on: July 25, 2019, 06:30:21 AM »
Are you set on software engineering again?  You might find a lot of interest in related areas with your background: technical writing, project management, QA, automated testing, system analysis, etc.

Good luck!!

I'm not totally set on software engineering, that's a great question.  The part-time/freelance aspect is more important to me right now, along with a wage that would (significantly) more than cover the cost of childcare for my youngest who's almost 2 now.  Do you feel like those other areas might be more part-time/freelance friendly?  My only anecdotal experience there is a friend who was a "part time" project manager of developers, and she ended up working more than 40 hours a week, just on an odd schedule so she could spend time with her young kids.

I am thinking some of those would be more pt/freelance friendly, yes.  If I had the budget, I would kill for a pt/fl person in a couple of those areas especially PM and system analysis.

Hope this helps!

SwordGuy

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Re: Advice for a SAHM former-software engineer looking to return to work
« Reply #12 on: July 25, 2019, 06:33:29 AM »
I currently have three children, ages 7, 5, and 22 months. 

Did you multiple wives or did you just have really short pregnancies?

As a software engineer I thought you might appreciate the ambiguity in the specifications you've given us to work with... :)
« Last Edit: July 25, 2019, 06:49:34 AM by SwordGuy »

SwordGuy

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Re: Advice for a SAHM former-software engineer looking to return to work
« Reply #13 on: July 25, 2019, 06:55:57 AM »
On a serious note, hiring managers really care about two things:  1) can we all get along with this person and 2) can they do the job.

A weak resume makes it harder to get in front of someone who can decide you match those criteria.

More connections makes it easier to do so.

So, work on those skills.   Join local user groups and actually meet people.   Ask good questions during presentations.   Smart developers recognize a smart developer -- even if that developer doesn't know their particular technology. 

Join online user group communities and read the questions others have and the answers they get.  As you learn more about the technology, answer the questions you can.  It's practice for the interview questions!

As you learn something, write a how-to article about it and publish it.   Do that lots of times.   You'll learn the material better and have proof you know it that will make your resume stronger.

Write stuff in the languages you want to work in.   Write documentation in the code and as separate documents.  Write specifications.   You can use it as proof you know what you're doing when you get an interview.


Best of luck!

reeshau

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Re: Advice for a SAHM former-software engineer looking to return to work
« Reply #14 on: July 25, 2019, 07:51:18 AM »
As an even more narrow thought, you might look for job opportunities with companies that are re-coding / re-platforming their software.  To do it right, you need to know the old stuff and the newer stuff, and it's a lot more likely for you to get on the Ruby / Python / Java / whatever track than for a new grad to learn C  (maybe C#).  There is still a lot of hay to be made for COBOL programmers because of this.

mozar

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Re: Advice for a SAHM former-software engineer looking to return to work
« Reply #15 on: July 25, 2019, 11:09:16 AM »
If you are a woman there are women in tech associations and meetups. Those people have lots of leads.

MayDay

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Re: Advice for a SAHM former-software engineer looking to return to work
« Reply #16 on: July 25, 2019, 11:36:15 AM »
If you are a woman there are women in tech associations and meetups. Those people have lots of leads.

Also a good point. Look for Facebook groups- just search stuff like engineering working mom's or women engineering or whatever, even national groups will be helpful, especially in a larger metro like Chicago.

Tinnu

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Re: Advice for a SAHM former-software engineer looking to return to work
« Reply #17 on: July 25, 2019, 01:38:45 PM »
I currently have three children, ages 7, 5, and 22 months. 

Did you multiple wives or did you just have really short pregnancies?

As a software engineer I thought you might appreciate the ambiguity in the specifications you've given us to work with... :)

I clearly did not pick the best way to phrase their ages - another commenter read the 22 as 22 years and thought I'd been out of work for that long!  I didn't want to say 1 year, because there's a big difference between a 1 and a 2 year old, in my mind, anyway, point taken :)

Tinnu

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Re: Advice for a SAHM former-software engineer looking to return to work
« Reply #18 on: July 25, 2019, 01:57:40 PM »
If you are a woman there are women in tech associations and meetups. Those people have lots of leads.

Also a good point. Look for Facebook groups- just search stuff like engineering working mom's or women engineering or whatever, even national groups will be helpful, especially in a larger metro like Chicago.

Thanks mozar, and MayDay - I hadn't thought of checking Facebook.  My developer friends and former coworkers are kind of a dead end for PT work - they haven't ever worked with anyone who's part time and don't really think they'd like to, so some other networking sounds key.  I know there's a Meetup group that has an "Open hack" night once a month that's about 45 minutes from me, that's something I could check out.

thesis

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Re: Advice for a SAHM former-software engineer looking to return to work
« Reply #19 on: July 25, 2019, 02:24:58 PM »
Focus on a core language. At least in my experience, this has been key. And what SwordGuy said - can they get along and with you, and can you do the job? (C# is extremely versatile, you could probably pick it up pretty quickly. Personal bias. Ruby is largely going to box you to web apps, and probably doesn't flow with your prior C++ experience)

Frameworks come and go. Learning a framework without fully understanding the language itself is a good way to shoot yourself in the foot. If you can prove yourself with the language, and maybe have some knowledge of appropriate libraries (like an ORM), then likely you can get a job.

Also, there's no shortage of SAHMs looking for part-time work-from-home work, so try to paint yourself as someone who is seriously interested in programming again. Better yet, hopefully you are seriously interested in programming again :). Explain that you are busy and are looking for ways to increase yours hours and find the proper balance of work. I feel like there is no shortage of shops who could use an extra developer who will code their grunt work for them for 20 hours a week at lower pay, so don't be afraid to reach out to places directly (not that I can say I've ever done this...). Most people looking for jobs want full time, so most companies don't really advertise for those positions.

Tinnu

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Re: Advice for a SAHM former-software engineer looking to return to work
« Reply #20 on: July 26, 2019, 05:18:37 AM »
Focus on a core language. At least in my experience, this has been key. And what SwordGuy said - can they get along and with you, and can you do the job? (C# is extremely versatile, you could probably pick it up pretty quickly. Personal bias. Ruby is largely going to box you to web apps, and probably doesn't flow with your prior C++ experience)


I hadn't really considered C#, I appreciate you suggesting it.  Ruby is definitely more restrictive, I hear about freelance "web developers" quite a bit, that's what piqued my interest in it.

Do you have a favorite book on C#? :)

I think I generally do fine on the getting along with people side of interviews, but I need to do some catching up on the actual doing the work side before I'd be ready to interview, for sure.  And I know I can do that, once I figure out a direction to go in.  The direction/language is what I'm struggling with, but I could be overthinking it... I've done a little bit with Python since I've been at home, too.

Edited to fix quoting.
« Last Edit: July 26, 2019, 01:10:17 PM by Tinnu »

thesis

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Re: Advice for a SAHM former-software engineer looking to return to work
« Reply #21 on: July 26, 2019, 08:30:58 AM »
Yeah, I guess I've never heard of freelance embedded programming :). It might be out there, but I think web is definitely the most common. Some people get into Data Science (often heavy in Python) and love it, but yeah, I think web development still has the greatest need for freelance.

When I first got serious about C# and had not done much object oriented programming, I found an older edition of what is now called "Pro C# 7: With .NET and .NET Core" to be very useful. It's massive, but large sections of the book cover large topics, and you likely won't need all of them, but you'll have a great reference that explains things. I am also a fan of Pluralsight, which is a monthly subscription to a whole host of programming/technology tutorials that all follow the same basic format. There's a lot on there, so maybe don't dive too deep at this point, but it's been great for exploring areas of programming that I maybe want to know about but am not interested in committing to learn. It's also good for those things you decide to commit to. $35 a month, I've kind of gotten my fill and may not keep it much longer, but I'd say the 3-4 months I've had it have been totally worth it.

I would advise applying some of the MMM/ERE strategizing to your goals here. What I appreciate about C#, though it applies to some other languages, too, is that it is so directly connected to so many types of programming (web, desktop, services, mobile apps, etc). It's in relatively high demand because it has the backing of Microsoft and therefore, for better or worse, more companies trust it. There have been major changes to allow it to run on other operating systems, so you can still program it on a Mac, for example, and it tends to have a better reputation than it's nearest neighbor Java (no flaming here, some people love Java and that's fine). I'm not particularly familiar with the desktop and mobile side of things, but I like knowing that with a little time I could probably build something for myself. IMO, it's a sad thing to be, say, a backend database programmer who can...well...only program databases. Which you would probably never do outside of a job situation, so it's really of no personal benefit to you, unless you simply really enjoy it. I don't know, I think you're building resilience into your system of approach if you keep these things in mind. If you had, say, 10 years of solid experience, hey study whatever you want. But your primary goal is being able to do freelance work while still being a SAHM, so it makes economic sense to appeal to the most number of employers you can to increase your chances of attaining this goal. Since your time is limited, too, it makes sense to make sure it is spent in the most versatile manner that gets you farther along on that path. Just some thoughts :)


Tinnu

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Re: Advice for a SAHM former-software engineer looking to return to work
« Reply #22 on: July 26, 2019, 01:17:05 PM »
Thanks for your thoughts, thesis, I appreciate you taking the time to share them!  Along similar lines to what you were saying about building in resilience, I would guess that a C# dev would be more employable for a full time position should I need to go that route in the future.  I hadn't been seriously considering that aspect of my situation, but it's definitely a good thing to keep in mind.

cloudsail

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Re: Advice for a SAHM former-software engineer looking to return to work
« Reply #23 on: July 26, 2019, 01:50:24 PM »
I hate to say this but I think it's going to be very hard to find what you are looking for, especially with having to pay for childcare for the 22-month-old. When my younger one was 2 and I was laid off, I spent a decent amount of effort trying to find a part time job so that I could spend more time with her. Note that I had just gotten laid off and had over 8 years of work experience under my belt, and I was also located in one of the biggest tech hubs in the world. It just didn't happen. I eventually found a full-time job that allowed remote work, so I was able to do stuff like drop off and pick up, but still had to have full-time care for my kids.

I think if you really want to go back to work, you should mentally prepare yourself to get a regular 9-5 job and find full-time care for all three kids, and in the beginning you might be lucky to just break even on care costs. Once you have some good solid experience under your belt, you might have more options.

Tinnu

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Re: Advice for a SAHM former-software engineer looking to return to work
« Reply #24 on: July 26, 2019, 02:07:05 PM »
I think that you are right that it is going to be difficult, cloudsail, and finding a part time position or freelance work may not pan out.  It's good to have a reality check.  I hope that anything I can do now to update my skills will end up being beneficial, even if things don't work out as I would ideally like them to.

I would really like to avoid full time care for all three kids - the older two are school aged, but would need care during the summer and before/after school - so at this point it makes sense to me to spend time working on my skills/networking/etc. so even if I end up with a FT position, I'll be in a better spot than where I am now.

Thanks a lot for your comment!

Zamboni

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Re: Advice for a SAHM former-software engineer looking to return to work
« Reply #25 on: July 26, 2019, 02:36:07 PM »
I think you should look for a full time job now with the idea that it would likely start up with the beginning of the next school year. That would give you 9 months of working while the kids are in school. You might be able to work flexible hours so that you are home earlier (like get to work at 7am so you can leave at 3:30 pm or something, or get to work later after you drop your kids and school and have hubs be the one who is home earlier.) If not, then there might be a great after school program that your older kids would enjoy. The two year old might do better in preschool than you think . . . and you can always quit if it is a train wreck.

Practically every Mom wants to work from home part time. It's actually easier to get something like that which also pays decently after you've proven yourself in full time work at an employer for awhile. Even just a year of showing you are great at a company will probably give you a better option to work more from home. Then you have your pay anchored at closer to what you are worth, and you are negotiating from a better position. Just my $0.02.

cloudsail

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Re: Advice for a SAHM former-software engineer looking to return to work
« Reply #26 on: July 26, 2019, 07:21:23 PM »
Practically every Mom wants to work from home part time. It's actually easier to get something like that which also pays decently after you've proven yourself in full time work at an employer for awhile. Even just a year of showing you are great at a company will probably give you a better option to work more from home. Then you have your pay anchored at closer to what you are worth, and you are negotiating from a better position. Just my $0.02.

This is very good advice. When I gave notice at my last job after working there for a year and told them that I wanted to be a SAHM, my boss actually brought up the option of part time work. It is REALLY hard to hire good people, so if you make yourself valuable, they will try to keep you on even if the terms aren't ideal for them.

Tinnu

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Re: Advice for a SAHM former-software engineer looking to return to work
« Reply #27 on: July 27, 2019, 05:45:38 AM »
I think you should look for a full time job now with the idea that it would likely start up with the beginning of the next school year. That would give you 9 months of working while the kids are in school. You might be able to work flexible hours so that you are home earlier (like get to work at 7am so you can leave at 3:30 pm or something, or get to work later after you drop your kids and school and have hubs be the one who is home earlier.) If not, then there might be a great after school program that your older kids would enjoy. The two year old might do better in preschool than you think . . . and you can always quit if it is a train wreck.

Practically every Mom wants to work from home part time. It's actually easier to get something like that which also pays decently after you've proven yourself in full time work at an employer for awhile. Even just a year of showing you are great at a company will probably give you a better option to work more from home. Then you have your pay anchored at closer to what you are worth, and you are negotiating from a better position. Just my $0.02.

Thanks a lot for bringing this up, Zamboni, it makes a lot of sense.  However things play out, I think my first step is to start refreshing my technical skills ASAP.  At this point, I wouldn't exude enough confidence in an interview to overcome the gap in my resume.

OurFirstFire

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Re: Advice for a SAHM former-software engineer looking to return to work
« Reply #28 on: July 27, 2019, 10:42:17 AM »
I switched careers two years ago and am a freelance/contract embedded software engineer. . . but agree web programming would offer more opportunities for remote work (I generally have to be in the client's office to work with their systems).  I was lucky to have a contact who pulled me into his contract work and guaranteed my work to our client.

My piece of advice for finding the right kind of network is to look for local startup weekend / hackathons to attend.  These are full of freelancers and people who have an entrepreneurial mindset, who will vet your abilities.  A company with one freelancer is the most likely type to want more, so recommendations from this group is huge.

Tinnu

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Re: Advice for a SAHM former-software engineer looking to return to work
« Reply #29 on: July 27, 2019, 01:42:38 PM »
I switched careers two years ago and am a freelance/contract embedded software engineer. . . but agree web programming would offer more opportunities for remote work (I generally have to be in the client's office to work with their systems).  I was lucky to have a contact who pulled me into his contract work and guaranteed my work to our client.

My piece of advice for finding the right kind of network is to look for local startup weekend / hackathons to attend.  These are full of freelancers and people who have an entrepreneurial mindset, who will vet your abilities.  A company with one freelancer is the most likely type to want more, so recommendations from this group is huge.

That's a great tip, thank you!  I hadn't realized those events would be a good place to find freelancers, but it makes sense.

As someone who is an actual freelancer/contract developer, do you think I'm being unrealistic hoping to be able to work just while the kids are in school (plus an hour or two in the early morning), including not taking work in the summer to be home with them?  That would be my ideal end goal, I understand I probably wouldn't be able to start out that way.

OurFirstFire

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Re: Advice for a SAHM former-software engineer looking to return to work
« Reply #30 on: July 28, 2019, 08:14:36 AM »
As someone who is an actual freelancer/contract developer, do you think I'm being unrealistic hoping to be able to work just while the kids are in school (plus an hour or two in the early morning), including not taking work in the summer to be home with them?  That would be my ideal end goal, I understand I probably wouldn't be able to start out that way.

Working 20-30 hours a week has not been a problem.  It seems to be the expectation that a contract developer has multiple clients, or needs that flexibility to not have all our eggs in one basket.  You could even have an independent project and vaugely refer to "my other work" in good faith to come across as a full-time professional.  But I'd imagine most managers would respect the working mom angle as well.

Summers off would be fine in theory, but may exclude you from long-running projects, and you'd have to be comfortable that they may not have work for you when you next want it. 

I wish for both of our sakes that I had a formula for getting these kind of contracts - I feel lucky to have found mine.  But I feel my network growing, since each project is a new group of people who know my work, and so I guess networking is the key.

MayDay

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Re: Advice for a SAHM former-software engineer looking to return to work
« Reply #31 on: July 29, 2019, 06:04:29 AM »
Regarding summer: If you are serious about working, Ive found it best to bite the bullet and hire a summer sitter. (Not right this minute but once you've got work). Unless you want to go into education or something seasonal, yes it is unrealistic to have Summers off. You might manage part of the summer if you are doing freelance, but it's not realistic that projects will end and start at the exact right times.

That said, it won't have to be full time, and you and your kids may love it. You can divide and conquer the kids, spend special 1:1 time with them, send the sitter to do errands or vice versa, etc.

I subbed for a year because I seriously considered getting certified to teach high school math instead of going back to engineering, in part because of the summers off.  Hahaha no. I am way too much of an introvert. Now my kids have a summer sitter with boundless energy who loves going to noisy museums and hot pools and playgrounds. It's great! I send her to do all the summer stuff I dislike and I do the stuff with the kids that I like. Win win.

HerselftheElf

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Re: Advice for a SAHM former-software engineer looking to return to work
« Reply #32 on: July 29, 2019, 07:43:22 AM »
After having my first this year, I heavily contemplated becoming a SAHM.  Given where I'm at in my career, that started me thinking (and researching!) how I would handle re-entry at a later date and one option stuck out to me.....doing volunteer work in your career field that you can add to your resume.  I also do a fair amount of interviews/hiring for my organization and I have to admit that if I interviewed a former SAHP I would be absolutely impressed by their willingness to keep their skills fresh by making their community better. 

There are several websites like this out there that match up devs and not-for-profits...sign up for a few then add these experiences to your portfolio.  It could even lead to new job opportunities!

https://socialcoder.org/Home/Index

Tinnu

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Re: Advice for a SAHM former-software engineer looking to return to work
« Reply #33 on: July 30, 2019, 05:48:35 AM »
Working 20-30 hours a week has not been a problem.  It seems to be the expectation that a contract developer has multiple clients, or needs that flexibility to not have all our eggs in one basket.  You could even have an independent project and vaugely refer to "my other work" in good faith to come across as a full-time professional.  But I'd imagine most managers would respect the working mom angle as well.

Summers off would be fine in theory, but may exclude you from long-running projects, and you'd have to be comfortable that they may not have work for you when you next want it. 

I wish for both of our sakes that I had a formula for getting these kind of contracts - I feel lucky to have found mine.  But I feel my network growing, since each project is a new group of people who know my work, and so I guess networking is the key.

Thank you for giving me some hope about the hours I have in mind.  I could imagine working half time over the summers, especially if I could do it remotely/early in the morning while the kids are sleeping or possibly with a sitter for a few hours.

If it was easy, more people would be doing it! :)

Tinnu

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Re: Advice for a SAHM former-software engineer looking to return to work
« Reply #34 on: July 30, 2019, 06:10:05 AM »
Regarding summer: If you are serious about working, Ive found it best to bite the bullet and hire a summer sitter. (Not right this minute but once you've got work). Unless you want to go into education or something seasonal, yes it is unrealistic to have Summers off. You might manage part of the summer if you are doing freelance, but it's not realistic that projects will end and start at the exact right times.

That said, it won't have to be full time, and you and your kids may love it. You can divide and conquer the kids, spend special 1:1 time with them, send the sitter to do errands or vice versa, etc.

I subbed for a year because I seriously considered getting certified to teach high school math instead of going back to engineering, in part because of the summers off.  Hahaha no. I am way too much of an introvert. Now my kids have a summer sitter with boundless energy who loves going to noisy museums and hot pools and playgrounds. It's great! I send her to do all the summer stuff I dislike and I do the stuff with the kids that I like. Win win.

This just brought up a great question that I don't know the answer to yet - how long is a typical freelance engagement for a developer?  My husband was a freelancer/consultant in the finance space in the past, and his projects typically were only 4-6 weeks.  With that length of project, I could have most of the summer off, but I have a feeling that the projects I'd be looking at might be longer.  My first guess is that web development would have shorter projects than other areas of software engineering, but I need to look in to that for sure.  I understand that shorter projects means more overhead searching for work, too, but I can work with that.

HerselftheElf, volunteering is a great idea!  Once I figure out the direction I want to go in, since I'm essentially at a position where I need a different focus than the C++ I did before I had kids, I think that might be the first way I look for some experience.

ctuser1

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Re: Advice for a SAHM former-software engineer looking to return to work
« Reply #35 on: July 30, 2019, 06:55:56 AM »
OP,

Some big organizations have a policy of NOT letting "contractors" (i.e. hourly workers) work longer than 18 months at a stretch without a 6 month break in between.

In my previous job as a management consultant, I have worked with several such organizations. During that, I have heard of people (mostly working moms) who has this arrangement with a hiring manager where she would work 18 months, spend 6 months at home, and then come back to work for another 18 months.

To be fair, the managers hate this!! They dislike the disruption this brings to their teams. However, they tend to place the entire blame on the "stupid policy".

I doubt managers will actually like the idea of letting you off every summer. However, it should be possible for you to time the thing in such a way that you get every other summer off.

In IT teams, QA work lends itself to such arrangements most naturally (letting a good dev off is just too much knowledge loss, managers rather jump through the hoops to try to get him/her in as an FTE instead). QA could also be a good on-ramp (automated QA perhaps) for you to get back into IT.

Look for organizations headquartered in MPLS or CLT. All of them that I know of has strong Chicago presence.
« Last Edit: July 30, 2019, 07:02:59 AM by ctuser1 »

ctuser1

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Re: Advice for a SAHM former-software engineer looking to return to work
« Reply #36 on: July 30, 2019, 07:01:40 AM »
On another note, technologies/jobs that are easy and quick, and has a lot of jobs include:
1. Anything with the word "support" (or "devops") in the name.
2. Automated QA. Selenium is quick and easy to pick up.
3. Business Intelligence tools - not the big-data-ai variety, but the old school cognos/crystal etc. You would be producing professional grade reports within 2 weeks tops if you have previous dev experience.
4. Python if you are set on becoming a developer.

All of them have downsides. But you can worry about those downsides once you are actually in a job.

Tinnu

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Re: Advice for a SAHM former-software engineer looking to return to work
« Reply #37 on: July 30, 2019, 02:51:50 PM »
Thanks, for your comments, ctuser1!

I definitely wouldn't expect to have the summers off and return to the same job afterwards - to have the summers off I think I would have to be freelancing for multiple clients.

I'm a little worried that "support" would involve being on-call, and devops isn't a good fit for me personally, but automated QA is something that sounds interesting to me and could make use of my previous dev experience.  The consensus that I'm starting to feel is that straight up development is going to be the hardest way to find what I'm looking for (although I think there may still be some hope with web development), and there might be more options with something related like QA or project managment, etc.

I also think now that if I'm hoping for summers off, part-time isn't really a good fit, and I should focus on freelancing instead?

ctuser1

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Re: Advice for a SAHM former-software engineer looking to return to work
« Reply #38 on: July 30, 2019, 07:16:04 PM »
I also think now that if I'm hoping for summers off, part-time isn't really a good fit, and I should focus on freelancing instead?

I am not exactly sure what exactly you mean by freelancing. Is it about doing TaskRabbit kind of things? If so, that is a wastage of your time if you are based out of the US - since workers from other places have driven down the prices there to insane levels from the very beginning.

If you mean "body shop"/"hourly" kind of work, then a reasonable Tech worker should bill anywhere from $40/hour (straight out of college, no experience) to $110/hour (proficient in the technology being hired for). My numbers may be slightly off since I have not been involved in budgeting process for a few years now.

Special niches (AI/Big Data etc) can attract an order of magnitude higher pay, but I have no experience with budgeting process for those types of work and can't comment.

In the second variety, building your resume up to tell a good story is quite important - just as important as if you were a full time employee. If you were "freelancing" in this sense, and had a gap every summer in your resume, that would tell a story of a professional who is less than 100% committed. I'm not sure that is a great idea. For good or for bad, the US Tech culture does not welcome that.

If, however, it shows you go back to the same place after a 6 month gap - it becomes an easy explanation about corporate policy AND the fact that your old manager/company hires you back vouches for your abilities way more than any recommendation would!!

Fru-Gal

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Re: Advice for a SAHM former-software engineer looking to return to work
« Reply #39 on: July 30, 2019, 07:42:15 PM »
My advice, based on my experience: You are not a SAHM (no one wants to hire a mom/dad/hobbyist/volunteer/grandpa/etc.). You are an entrepreneur and/or president of your own consultancy. You are running a business of one. Name your business. Start your blog. Put it on LinkedIn. Get clients. Do work for them. Create a portfolio. Repeat. I did this & it really really worked out for me & my family.

Python is hot, and it's easy to learn. Get involved in the Python community (including perhaps the women-focused groups), check out where you can contribute to the Python open source project.

https://www.python.org/success-stories/

Also, learning Java after C++ is generally considered not difficult at all, and you may find some rewarding ease to programming with Java, which is the language of a lot of solid enterprise programming (companies with budget, endless projects and many parents/remote workers like you).

But of course start with something you *know* you can charge for (or add to your resume) right now. Is there some kind of basic whitebox testing of C++ code you could do for someone you know, then have them praise it on your LinkedIn?

Also you might be surprised at how much the big tech companies are looking to add women to the ranks.

Tinnu

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Re: Advice for a SAHM former-software engineer looking to return to work
« Reply #40 on: July 31, 2019, 10:06:08 AM »
I am not exactly sure what exactly you mean by freelancing. Is it about doing TaskRabbit kind of things? If so, that is a wastage of your time if you are based out of the US - since workers from other places have driven down the prices there to insane levels from the very beginning.


It's good to hear your feedback about what's confusing.  I'm not really looking for work at a big corporation, and I think that's where you're coming from?  What I mean by freelancing, and maybe consulting is a better word, is like what my husband has done: He created financial models for small companies on a short-term basis (usually less than 6 weeks), easily charged $100-$150/hr and found work on sites like hourlynerd.com because he has a fancy pants business degree :)

Maybe those kind of opportunities just aren't out there in the tech world, and that's something that would be great to know!
 I certainly wouldn't expect to charge at a great rate while I'm "recovering" from the gap in my resume.  In my husband's experience, no one cared about gaps in his work experience, they were just looking for someone to complete a short term project.

Tinnu

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Re: Advice for a SAHM former-software engineer looking to return to work
« Reply #41 on: July 31, 2019, 10:13:39 AM »
My advice, based on my experience: You are not a SAHM (no one wants to hire a mom/dad/hobbyist/volunteer/grandpa/etc.). You are an entrepreneur and/or president of your own consultancy. You are running a business of one. Name your business. Start your blog. Put it on LinkedIn. Get clients. Do work for them. Create a portfolio. Repeat. I did this & it really really worked out for me & my family.

I would love to hear more about your story, Fru-Gal!  You can feel free to PM me if you'd like.  I'm curious about your background, if you were transitioning from full time to working for yourself, how it's been able to make this work out for your family, what kind of work you do specifically, what your schedule's like?  Basically your whole life (j/k, don't want to be creepy)!  I'm struggling with where to find examples of people who've made this lifestyle work.

Re: C++  There have been some big changes with C++11 and afterwards that I would really need to study up on, and I'm not sure the opportunities are there for the kind of consulting/freelancing work I'm looking for in C++ - it seems a little more enterprise-y these days, like Java, and I don't necessarily think that's a good fit with the schedule I'm hoping for.  That's all to say I'm not married to C++, and I like your suggestion of Python (I've done a little Python since I stopped working) or another poster's suggestion of C#
« Last Edit: July 31, 2019, 10:18:32 AM by Tinnu »

toganet

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Re: Advice for a SAHM former-software engineer looking to return to work
« Reply #42 on: July 31, 2019, 10:50:16 AM »
Lots of good advice here already, but I want to add from another perspective.  In a prior life I was on the hiring side, looking for freelancers for web and app development.  Let me explain a little about how that works.

Typically the agency hiring a freelancer has taken on work for a client, and needs additional developer-hours to get the work done on time.  They have a budget to adhere to, and need to maximize the probability that the the work will be completed in the time they've committed to, and that they turn a profit (by spending less on development than the client paid them).  When hiring a freelancer, they will be looking for indications that that person can, a) complete the work required with little oversight, b) deliver it within the agreed-upon windows, and c) be trusted to communicate progress (or lack thereof) during the process.

What this means concretely is that I would want to see something tangible from the freelancer that gives evidence of A & B above, and do some sort of interview (ideally F2F but phone/facetime is ok) to gauge their communications ability.

The first gig is always a test -- the freelancer needs to demonstrate they can do the job and that they are worth their rate.  Ideally they do such a good job that I'd be able to continue feeding them work, as it makes it easier to plan out projects in the future if you've got a group of trusted freelancers you can turn to when need arises.

From the freelancer side you need to cultivate relationships with multiple sources of work, as it's usually the case that the ebb and flow is uneven across agencies, but will smooth out in your favor with a big enough network.  Get to the know the seasonal patterns of the industries you serve, too. For example, I did a lot of work for Advertising clients, who basically check out for the summer but then come roaring back with fat wallets and short timeframes after Labor Day.  So Sept-Dec were high times, and everyone was competing for the same pool of freelancers.

If you're starting from square one, consider picking up some simpler tasks on Fivrr, UpWork, etc., and view those as opportunities to apply what you are learning and build a rudimentary portfolio.  The pay on those sites is not great (you're competing with eager folks in the 3rd world, whose tech skills are "good enough" to get the work done, but whose language and soft skills keep them out of the higher-paying freelance market).  Try to identify "buyers" who have a good record and who might be doing more complex/longer term work outside that ecosystem.  Impress them and it could lead to more work.  (This is a low risk/low likelihood/high return strategy).

Finally, I want to add some links to specific resources that can help you.  First among these is community -- as others have said, you are now the only person to have followed this path; others who have walked it can help, and it never hurts to have friends on the journey. 

https://www.girldevelopit.com/chapters/chicago

https://www.freecodecamp.org/  <-- I've worked through this myself and learned a bit, and I've read many success stories of folks getting into web development this way.  (ex: https://medium.com/free-code-camp/how-i-went-from-newbie-to-software-engineer-in-9-months-while-working-full-time-460bd8485847)

Mentioned in that last link but worth a call-out is Harvard's CS50 class, reviewed here: https://medium.com/@austintackaberry/my-review-of-harvard-cs50-221d00d95de5

Feel free to message me with any other questions.  If you are open to developer-adjacent roles like project management, I can help understand what's out there and what works as a freelancer, as I have first-hand experience.

Good luck!