Author Topic: Talk to me about your tech careers  (Read 2961 times)

Cwadda

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 2182
  • Age: 25
Talk to me about your tech careers
« on: June 18, 2018, 01:40:26 PM »
23 years old, looking to boost my income and speed up progress to FIRE.

I keep hearing about how tech is booming, how there is a growing number of jobs with high pay scales. But when I log on to the MMM forums each day, I notice topics weekly, if not daily, about how much people can't wait to leave their high paying tech jobs and move on with their lives.

I believe I understand what it would take to learn programming to a marketable level (starting out knowing almost nothing about programming), and to secure an entry level tech job in 6-12 months. But my question is, is it really worth it? Would it be a good move?


Your comments about your experiences are highly appreciated. I've provided a loose questionnaire that is by no means exhaustive, so feel free to elaborate as you see fit. Thanks!


Code: [Select]
1. What do you do in your tech job?



2. Would you recommend it? Why or why not?



3. Is it a good time to get in, or perhaps avoid like the plague?



4. Any other thoughts you might want to mention.




formerlydivorcedmom

  • Pencil Stache
  • ****
  • Posts: 628
  • Location: Texas
Re: Talk to me about your tech careers
« Reply #1 on: June 18, 2018, 02:39:45 PM »
Some tech jobs require crazy hours, either because you're supporting something critical or your group is understaffed/lacking in skillsets or management expectations are unreasonable.  Those jobs can burn you out pretty quickly.

Programming is a creative endeavor.  It really is.  When you do it day in and day out for years....it's not hard to get burned out.  Your creativity seems to dry up.

Tech is constantly changing.  The tools and languages I use today weren't invented when I graduated from college 18 years ago.  When I was young, it was so much fun to learn all these new technologies.  At some point, I got tired of learning the latest and greatest version...especially since I was also doing a lot of support of the LAST version of the latest and greatest and the version before that AND the one before that one.

On the flip side...after 15 years, a good developer should have an excellent foundation in the basics.  I know how to solve problems A, B, C, D, E, and X.  It doesn't matter what technology I use to craft that solution...the problems are not that difficult to solve anymore.  So I'm bored.

I've worked in IT for 18 years.  I've done database development, .NET development, SharePoint development (NEVER EVER AGAIN), and now I'm a report and dashboard developer (Tableau).  I am a certified project manager, I offer training classes and lead internal user groups, and I mentor other developers.  It's somewhat challenging, exciting, very in-demand work, and I hate every minute of it, but I make way too much money to walk away.  Plus I get to work from home a few days a week, and that is a terrific benefit!

On the other hand, my husband spent 20 years as a mechanic, graduated last month with an IT degree, and is thrilled to be starting an entry-level job tech job.  I envy him, because for him it is all fresh and exciting.

At 23?  If you have an aptitude for coding, if you have good skills at problem solving and troubleshooting, and if you can get a solid foundation (including in how databases work), then go for it.  Work with smart, nice people and bosses who value work-life balance.  Make $$$, and save a ton (that was the missing piece in my 20s).  That way if you get burned out in your mid-30s, you can walk away. 

Cwadda

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 2182
  • Age: 25
Re: Talk to me about your tech careers
« Reply #2 on: June 18, 2018, 03:25:31 PM »
Hey @formerlydivorcedmom , thanks for your response.

Quote
Some tech jobs require crazy hours, either because you're supporting something critical or your group is understaffed/lacking in skillsets or management expectations are unreasonable.  Those jobs can burn you out pretty quickly.
Is finding a good company just a trial and error kind of process? Just look for the employers that value work life balance?

Quote
Programming is a creative endeavor.  It really is.  When you do it day in and day out for years....it's not hard to get burned out.  Your creativity seems to dry up.
I'm a classically trained pianist and music arranager, and have known music for most of my life. I understand programming is much like learning another language, and if it's anything like learning to read music and using creativity in music, I think that'd help.

Quote
Tech is constantly changing.  The tools and languages I use today weren't invented when I graduated from college 18 years ago.  When I was young, it was so much fun to learn all these new technologies.  At some point, I got tired of learning the latest and greatest version...especially since I was also doing a lot of support of the LAST version of the latest and greatest and the version before that AND the one before that one.
This is also what I've heard quite a bit. You always need to be learning. Seems to be a good selling point about tech careers because you're always learning something new. Does it ever become annoying or cumbersome?

Quote
On the flip side...after 15 years, a good developer should have an excellent foundation in the basics.  I know how to solve problems A, B, C, D, E, and X.  It doesn't matter what technology I use to craft that solution...the problems are not that difficult to solve anymore.  So I'm bored.
To my understanding, fundamentals are best learned by doing projects and challenges of your own that hold a degree of practicality. It seems to be the most effective way to learn. Does this sound accurate?

Quote
It's somewhat challenging, exciting, very in-demand work, and I hate every minute of it
If it's challenging and exciting, what part of it do you hate? Can you expand on this? Is it because the work has become stale and too easy for you to solve the most complex problems?

Quote
At 23?  If you have an aptitude for coding, if you have good skills at problem solving and troubleshooting, and if you can get a solid foundation (including in how databases work), then go for it
I'm extremely detail oriented and have always liked doing jigsaw puzzles. I'm very good with basic computer skills (fast typing, organizing files into folders, editing photos) but have very little knowledge of coding. I have a high average IQ (115) if that means anything. Not the smartest person by any means...I've only taken up to Calculus II.

I have started working on the first module at FreeCodeCamp.org. The first module focuses on HTML and CSS, and there are several other modules afterwards that deal with databases. I've heard it's a really good curriculum, plus projects to go along with what you're learning. A lot of people I've talked to do not recommend bootcamps with all the free online resources.

FINate

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 1371
Re: Talk to me about your tech careers
« Reply #3 on: June 18, 2018, 03:43:49 PM »
TL;DR - You can get a job in tech with minimal experience/formal training, but to really make good money at it you need to nurture a long-term career. It's not something you'll make a quick buck over a short amount of time.

I worked for ~20 years in tech: technical support, QA, technical writing, R&D, software engineering, management. B.S. Comp Sci, M.S. Engineering and MBA. Have interviewed well over 300 candidates, participated on numerous hiring committees, very familiar with comp in the industry.

I believe I understand what it would take to learn programming to a marketable level (starting out knowing almost nothing about programming), and to secure an entry level tech job in 6-12 months. But my question is, is it really worth it? Would it be a good move?

The big money you hear about is in the large Silicon Valley firms: Apple, Google, Facebook, etc. Unlikely you will land a software engineering entry level job there unless a) you have a Comp Sci degree (essentially a special type of math degree) from a decent university and/or b) you have 5 years of real-world coding experience. There are exceptions, if you are extraordinarily talented, a true genius along with innate programming talent, then it's possible to get picked up by one of the big guys. I've worked with a lot of people who were geniuses i their own minds...over ~20 years, I've had the honor of working along side maybe 2-3 bonafide genius programmers.

Entry level pay is pretty good but not fantastic, especially after factoring in the stupidly high cost of living in SV. The goal is to get promoted to a level where base+bonus+equity provides enough surplus disposable income that one can save a large amount quickly.

Getting promotions in the big SV corps is a full contact sport...being good at coding is necessary but insufficient in itself for promo. You also have to be competent when it comes to politics and dealing with people. Can't tell you how many extremely smart people I saw go down in flames because they couldn't figure out the political calculus.

Software engineering is part science, part art. Data centers are expensive to build and operate - no one wants programmers doing boneheaded things like running inefficient O(n^2) algorithms or trashing memory or other such nonsense. That's the science part of it. There's also a huge art component which takes time and trial and error to learn. It takes years to get a sense for how to conceptualize a problem, break it down into smaller more manageable abstractions. And to get a feel for which design patters are appropriate in different situations. There's also a huge learning curve to pick up best practices, and strategies for how to manage often overwhelming complexity, and how to coordinate said complexity in the context of a team. Those who figure out how to do these things well, and can work well with others and manage the politics, are the ones making the big bucks.

With little experience and no CS degree it's still possible to get picked up at a smaller firm, or in an axillary role in one of the big corps. Pay will be much lower and you will have to work harder to get ahead. If you're doing SWE work in a smaller firm, even if the pay is not great, you'll build experience, which can be beneficial if you're learning good practices and getting solid real-world programming work. Can work against you if you're learning bad patterns/practices. This can be a path to the bigger corps 3-5 years down the road, but don't dawdle - you'll need to put in extra effort to better yourself and your skills to move up over time. I don't recommend going for an axillary role (support, contracting, etc.) unless it's something you want to be in long-term.

In case you haven't noticed, whether you go to school for CS or work your way up, you're looking at 3-5 years (or even longer) before you're making really good money. IMO, if you're really interested in SWE, then get the CS degree. The tech industry is cyclical  (I've lived through 3 cycles now)...those without the degree are often first on the chopping block and the last hired.
« Last Edit: June 18, 2018, 03:46:33 PM by FINate »

formerlydivorcedmom

  • Pencil Stache
  • ****
  • Posts: 628
  • Location: Texas
Re: Talk to me about your tech careers
« Reply #4 on: June 18, 2018, 04:40:20 PM »
In case you haven't noticed, whether you go to school for CS or work your way up, you're looking at 3-5 years (or even longer) before you're making really good money. IMO, if you're really interested in SWE, then get the CS degree. The tech industry is cyclical  (I've lived through 3 cycles now)...those without the degree are often first on the chopping block and the last hired.

Either a CS degree or an MIS degree.  I didn't hire very many entry-level developers, but I would have looked for the degree first.  For an IT-centered role, I was even looking within the degree to ensure that the person had a solid background in data, because a lot of the programmers without that background caused me to do a lot of rework.

I am just bored.  Bored with learning new technologies (because it's just a new facade on the same old thing).  Bored with solving the same types of problems week in and week out.  Bored with answering X support question for the 15th time. 

I've about maxed out on salary for my role ~ $120k.  It took me 10 years to get to the six-figure range.

getwiththeprogrammer

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 11
Re: Talk to me about your tech careers
« Reply #5 on: June 18, 2018, 06:28:24 PM »
I'm at one of those big SV companies, but not actually in SV. I'm about 7 years in. To get in you'd need either a degree or experience on paper. Though in practice you need the knowledge from both. If you don't have a degree you better have put in some significant time studying data structures and algorithms on your own. Conversely, if you don't have experience you better have built some side projects so you know how to get stuff done.

It's one of those fields where if you are really good you can get paid really well, but often those high paying jobs are going to people who aren't in it for the money. The kind of person who would code whether they were paid or not. I wouldn't try to guess whether you are one of those people, I'd just try and see if it sticks (assuming you don't need to sign up for a degree this second). The high paying jobs also tend to be in high cost areas. It's also a field that doesn't seem to have figured out it's specializations yet, so people get treated as interchangeable that really aren't.

To actually answer your questions:
1. I write Android apps. Or more accurately, I make incremental refinements to a single Android app. Scope is smaller than you might think.

2. I would recommend it, on the whole it is a good job. Especially the part that actually involves code, which is less than you might think. I'd obviously prefer to be free to do what I wanted, but I'd probably still write code if that were the case.

3. It's maybe a bit bubbly, but I haven't been in long enough to really say.

4. I'd add that at least where I am at, a lot of the compensation is stock. It's better than options (they just give you shares in the company) but it means that a lot of your compensation is from work you did up to 4 years ago. Great after it has ramped up, not so great before. As others have said, a tech job is no quick fix for your net worth, but I think it can be a good long term strategy.

Cwadda

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 2182
  • Age: 25
Re: Talk to me about your tech careers
« Reply #6 on: June 18, 2018, 07:29:30 PM »
FINate: Thank you for your thorough response.

Quote
You can get a job in tech with minimal experience/formal training, but to really make good money at it you need to nurture a long-term career. It's not something you'll make a quick buck over a short amount of time.
I'm not interested in making it into one of the big Silicon Valley companies. I.e. I'd be happy with a $50k starting salary, plus some benefits. Honestly, health insurance is a big one because I'm currently self employed and health insurance is damned expensive.

Quote
Entry level pay is pretty good but not fantastic, especially after factoring in the stupidly high cost of living in SV. The goal is to get promoted to a level where base+bonus+equity provides enough surplus disposable income that one can save a large amount quickly.
I live in the northeast, but not in a major city with high COL. Would $50k-60k be plausible for an entry level position?

Quote
With little experience and no CS degree it's still possible to get picked up at a smaller firm, or in an axillary role in one of the big corps. Pay will be much lower and you will have to work harder to get ahead.
For all intents and purposes, I have zero experience and no CS degree. Though I do have a degree in the physical sciences and have done research projects (isotope geochemistry). So I have a science background with technical writing for example, but definitely not a programming background. I took math through Calc II. Most CS programs have the entire math sequence.

Quote
The tech industry is cyclical  (I've lived through 3 cycles now)
Does the industry tend to have a lot of lay offs? In other words, how tough are the actual cycles?

Cwadda

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 2182
  • Age: 25
Re: Talk to me about your tech careers
« Reply #7 on: June 18, 2018, 07:49:30 PM »
getwiththeprogrammer - thank you also for your response. I'm finding all of these helpful.

Quote
As others have said, a tech job is no quick fix for your net worth, but I think it can be a good long term strategy.
I was wondering if there's any way of figuring out whether it would be an enjoyable career? Like, is there a series of tests one could do to see if the career is a good fit? Or would you recommend just jumping into coding as a first timer and see if it sticks?

formerlydivorcedmom -
Quote
Either a CS degree or an MIS degree.  I didn't hire very many entry-level developers, but I would have looked for the degree first.  For an IT-centered role, I was even looking within the degree to ensure that the person had a solid background in data, because a lot of the programmers without that background caused me to do a lot of rework.
Possibly a dumb question, but would you recommend a career in IT (data management) over a career in software development (primarily programming focused)? Hoping I'm not conflating the two careers.

Paul der Krake

  • Magnum Stache
  • ******
  • Posts: 4615
  • Age: 11
  • Location: USA
Re: Talk to me about your tech careers
« Reply #8 on: June 18, 2018, 09:19:05 PM »
Possibly a dumb question, but would you recommend a career in IT (data management) over a career in software development (primarily programming focused)? Hoping I'm not conflating the two careers.
Completely different, think taxi driver vs mechanic. Even in pure software development, there are tons of fields: UI, web, database, systems, architects, mobile, embedded, platforms, networking, etc.

letired

  • Pencil Stache
  • ****
  • Posts: 823
  • Location: Texas
    • Needs More Glitter
Re: Talk to me about your tech careers
« Reply #9 on: June 18, 2018, 09:30:29 PM »
For a slightly different perspective:

1. What do you do in your tech job?
I'm a 'Software Engineer'. I'm in my 5th year in the field. I did my masters degree in ecology, and a few years later did a "bootcamp" program to learn how to code. If I had done the switch a few years later, I'd have probably tried for a data science sort of thing probably, and I'm not ruling it out at this point. Taking this sort of path is highly dependent on how hard you are willing to work, both on learning and on developing your career. Most people I talk to are extremely dubious about 'bootcamp grads', and with good reason. The skills of folks coming out of programs is highly variable. I got a lot of credit for my masters degree that my fellow bootcampers didn't get when we were searching for our first jobs.

2. Would you recommend it? Why or why not?
Generally, yes. I like the work, and the money and perks are good. But it's not all sunshine and candy. Do you like solving problems? Are you good at solving problems? Do you mind that you will spend 90% of your time failing to solve the problem, and then once you've solved it, you don't get go enjoy it, because you're working on the next problem? It takes a certain temperament to handle that kind of work.

3. Is it a good time to get in, or perhaps avoid like the plague?
Probably strongly depends on your local market and career aspirations. Working in SV is sort of my personal nightmare, but I'm pretty happy with where I'm at with a company that actually supports some amount of work life balance and actually supports career development to a large extent. In my market, junior devs are having a really hard time finding that first job in my market, but you can just about name your price if you're DevOps with some experience. Definitely use the salary report websites to get a realistic idea about money, and talk to folks locally about the job market in terms of what's available, etc.

For me, it was like a bit of a gamble and it's largely paying off at this point. On the other hand, I'm realistic (or pessimistic, depending on your perspective) about the length of my possible career here. I'm a woman who is no longer in her 20s in a field that overall is highly sexist and also ageist to some extent. I figure worst case, I get 10 years, better case, I get 20, though hopefully I'll be FIRE well before I hit 20 years.

In addition to that, I don't have the background in CS fundamentals, which I think limits me in terms of my next job.  I'm currently exploring to see what my market value looks like, and that will inform how much I focus on learning that stuff vs the next language/framework/new hotness.

4. Any other thoughts you might want to mention.
Knowing how to write code that does the thing is only half of it. The other half is the career development and people skills, especially without the CS degree.  Go to meetups/user groups, make friends, give presentations, write blog posts, ask for help and help others when you can. And if you don't already, buff up your interview skills. I interview well with my grad school/teaching experience which means I am decent at both thinking on my feet and articulating my thought process under pressure, which is what people are going to be looking for if they are willing to overlook the lack of CS degree.

formerlydivorcedmom

  • Pencil Stache
  • ****
  • Posts: 628
  • Location: Texas
Re: Talk to me about your tech careers
« Reply #10 on: June 19, 2018, 07:26:27 AM »
Possibly a dumb question, but would you recommend a career in IT (data management) over a career in software development (primarily programming focused)? Hoping I'm not conflating the two careers.
Completely different, think taxi driver vs mechanic. Even in pure software development, there are tons of fields: UI, web, database, systems, architects, mobile, embedded, platforms, networking, etc.

IT is internal-focused development and is not limited to just data management.  Most people use "software development" to think of customer-focused development (e.g., I'm building something to sell/building something to market to others).  There are programming-centered jobs in both fields.   IT programming is often - but not always - programming lite.  One isn't expected to know machine language, for example.

You'll find many of the same skill sets within both IT and software dev.  For IT jobs, companies tend to look for people who have both the tech skills and have some experience within a business function (e.g., Finance, Manufacturing, R&D).  You work with internal users to build something to fill a gap that they have.  For example, I worked for a large chemical company and was responsible for the team that built their R&D budgeting software. Our skill sets included building databases, managing database servers, writing .NET code, writing Java code, writing shell scripts to move data around, etc. 

I've been recruited by both software dev companies and for internal IT roles.   I prefer IT - I like being more embedded in a business.

Coming from a science background can be an advantage.  I knew several people who worked for the chemical company who transitioned from an R&D role to IT.  They built up their IT skills on their own, and leveraged their knowledge of the company and the core business.

justchristine

  • Bristles
  • ***
  • Posts: 389
Re: Talk to me about your tech careers
« Reply #11 on: June 19, 2018, 07:50:09 AM »
Possibly a dumb question, but would you recommend a career in IT (data management) over a career in software development (primarily programming focused)? Hoping I'm not conflating the two careers.
Completely different, think taxi driver vs mechanic. Even in pure software development, there are tons of fields: UI, web, database, systems, architects, mobile, embedded, platforms, networking, etc.

IT is internal-focused development and is not limited to just data management.  Most people use "software development" to think of customer-focused development (e.g., I'm building something to sell/building something to market to others).  There are programming-centered jobs in both fields.   IT programming is often - but not always - programming lite.  One isn't expected to know machine language, for example.

You'll find many of the same skill sets within both IT and software dev.  For IT jobs, companies tend to look for people who have both the tech skills and have some experience within a business function (e.g., Finance, Manufacturing, R&D).  You work with internal users to build something to fill a gap that they have.  For example, I worked for a large chemical company and was responsible for the team that built their R&D budgeting software. Our skill sets included building databases, managing database servers, writing .NET code, writing Java code, writing shell scripts to move data around, etc. 

I've been recruited by both software dev companies and for internal IT roles.   I prefer IT - I like being more embedded in a business.

Coming from a science background can be an advantage.  I knew several people who worked for the chemical company who transitioned from an R&D role to IT.  They built up their IT skills on their own, and leveraged their knowledge of the company and the core business.

I would add to this by saying that getting into the IT development side of things is probably easier.  I'm a developer with almost 20years of experience of programming for non-tech companies.  I've been part of the hiring process for several companies and all of them were very open to hiring developers with little to no experience.  If you can demonstrate a willingness to learn and good communication skills, they figure you can figure out the rest or can be trained easily.

Padonak

  • Bristles
  • ***
  • Posts: 486
Re: Talk to me about your tech careers
« Reply #12 on: June 19, 2018, 08:13:44 AM »
Some tech jobs require crazy hours, either because you're supporting something critical or your group is understaffed/lacking in skillsets or management expectations are unreasonable.  Those jobs can burn you out pretty quickly.

Programming is a creative endeavor.  It really is.  When you do it day in and day out for years....it's not hard to get burned out.  Your creativity seems to dry up.

Tech is constantly changing.  The tools and languages I use today weren't invented when I graduated from college 18 years ago.  When I was young, it was so much fun to learn all these new technologies.  At some point, I got tired of learning the latest and greatest version...especially since I was also doing a lot of support of the LAST version of the latest and greatest and the version before that AND the one before that one.

On the flip side...after 15 years, a good developer should have an excellent foundation in the basics.  I know how to solve problems A, B, C, D, E, and X.  It doesn't matter what technology I use to craft that solution...the problems are not that difficult to solve anymore.  So I'm bored.

I've worked in IT for 18 years.  I've done database development, .NET development, SharePoint development (NEVER EVER AGAIN), and now I'm a report and dashboard developer (Tableau).  I am a certified project manager, I offer training classes and lead internal user groups, and I mentor other developers.  It's somewhat challenging, exciting, very in-demand work, and I hate every minute of it, but I make way too much money to walk away.  Plus I get to work from home a few days a week, and that is a terrific benefit!

On the other hand, my husband spent 20 years as a mechanic, graduated last month with an IT degree, and is thrilled to be starting an entry-level job tech job.  I envy him, because for him it is all fresh and exciting.

At 23?  If you have an aptitude for coding, if you have good skills at problem solving and troubleshooting, and if you can get a solid foundation (including in how databases work), then go for it.  Work with smart, nice people and bosses who value work-life balance.  Make $$$, and save a ton (that was the missing piece in my 20s).  That way if you get burned out in your mid-30s, you can walk away.
How hard is it to learn Tableau dashboard/report development for a data analyst who uses tools like SQL and sas? Any particular resources that you would recommend? How hard is it to find 100% remote work in this field?

formerlydivorcedmom

  • Pencil Stache
  • ****
  • Posts: 628
  • Location: Texas
Re: Talk to me about your tech careers
« Reply #13 on: June 19, 2018, 08:26:46 AM »
How hard is it to learn Tableau dashboard/report development for a data analyst who uses tools like SQL and sas? Any particular resources that you would recommend? How hard is it to find 100% remote work in this field?
With a background in SQL and SAS, learning Tableau will be fairly easy.  There are a lot of videos on the Tableau website, or you can go to a week-long class offered by one of their partners.  (The week covers both beginner and intermediate.)  The class agendas are available on the Tableau website, so you know what you need to work on.

Most large cities have Tableau user groups, so you can learn from others and network!

I'm currently working 100% remote (because my company ran out of space) and I've seen a few other jobs that were fully remote.  I've also known people who negotiated a 100% or 80% remote work arrangement when they got their offer. 

Many companies are also offering self-service Tableau communities; you hire in as a data analyst or BA and their IT will teach you Tableau/get you started with Tableau projects.  I've trained a few self-service clients like this to be just about as good as I am at it.

bacchi

  • Magnum Stache
  • ******
  • Posts: 3952
Re: Talk to me about your tech careers
« Reply #14 on: June 19, 2018, 10:59:26 AM »
Quote
Entry level pay is pretty good but not fantastic, especially after factoring in the stupidly high cost of living in SV. The goal is to get promoted to a level where base+bonus+equity provides enough surplus disposable income that one can save a large amount quickly.

I live in the northeast, but not in a major city with high COL. Would $50k-60k be plausible for an entry level position?

Salary.com has Web Apps Developers in Portland, ME with a median salary of $60k and experience from 0-5 years (50% have 0-1 years experience). Most have Bachelor's degrees, though the pie chart doesn't show what kind of degree. I'd guess that $60k is probably ambitious but $50k is achievable.

FINate

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 1371
Re: Talk to me about your tech careers
« Reply #15 on: June 19, 2018, 01:25:17 PM »
I live in the northeast, but not in a major city with high COL. Would $50k-60k be plausible for an entry level position?

Depends on your exact location, the companies there, and whether or not they are hiring. The major job centers are HCOL cities: SV/SF Bay Area, SoCal, Seattle, Portland, NYC, Boston/Cambridge, maybe include Denver/Boulder and a few other smaller cities in the list (sure I'll offend someone for missing their fav city).

Beyond these, there are tech jobs, but the market is much less active, way fewer employers. So if you don't get an employment offer from the one of the small handful of local companies then you're out of luck unless willing to relocate. It's doable, but much less to choose from. Adding to this is less employee turnover...people with these jobs hold onto them longer, less job hopping, because they know there are few options and are making good money for the area.

Then, when there are openings you're likely competing with other locals who've been waiting for an opening and don't want a long commute. And perhaps the experienced SWE from SV who has grown tired of being priced out of the housing market even though they make $150k+.

Does the industry tend to have a lot of lay offs? In other words, how tough are the actual cycles?

Oh yes, they have layoffs. Long history of this, though not in recent memory because tech has had a very long running boom. (IMO, the current tech expansion is getting long in the tooth.) Especially in the less profitable companies. Tech is absolutely feast or famine. When times are good, they are really good. When things are bad, layoffs, hiring freezes, and cutbacks all around. I've lived through it many times, have been extremely fortunate to have never been laid off myself, but everyone else I know with >10 years experience has been RIF'd. 

Just to be clear, not trying to discourage you. Can be a great career if you enjoy the work (though it will end up being less "coding" and more "other stuff" than most people realize). But it's a career, something that needs nurturing over the long haul. The science degree helps, but you also need to be writing lots of code and doing a bunch of self study. Algorithms and data structures, CS fundamentals, along with common technologies and practices. Can you achieve this in 6-12 months? It's possible, though I don't know how likely. Again, it depends very much on your local tech environment and how desperate they are to hire. 

thesis

  • Stubble
  • **
  • Posts: 186
Re: Talk to me about your tech careers
« Reply #16 on: June 19, 2018, 01:29:34 PM »
1. What do you do in your tech job?
I currently work mostly as a database developer, writing complex scripts to clean up data.
Most of my work on the side is web-based, which is my forte and the direction I'll eventually head. I may get some chances to build desktop apps here for internal use.

2. Would you recommend it? Why or why not?
Yes, it is a good solid field with plenty of space for career advancement. There are ways to avoid the coding sweatshops, just keep your eyes open. Meet people who work for good businesses, etc.

3. Is it a good time to get in, or perhaps avoid like the plague?
If you have aptitude and enjoy coding, by all means get into it. People get paranoid about the market being oversaturated, but coding and database knowledge are skills you can use in so many jobs, and it doesn't hurt to be a go-to technology person in your current role. Before programming, I worked in records and made some great connections in four departments thanks to a database I built that had implications for all of them. If you like coding, keep learning it, and it very realistically may lead to a job. Tech is never going away. If you throw your hands up and walk out on it, you may regret it when your current role + programming could have lead to another job. This happens more often than you might think, and somebody who just went from their CS degree to programming may have absolutely no domain knowledge in any other field, so if you like where are currently, leverage that.

4. Any other thoughts you might want to mention.
Be prepared to learn. The money is good, but there hasn't been one day over the past five years that I have not been aware just how much more I still need to learn. Most people can't handle this, but so many people "want to get into coding" because they saw the average salary. Don't be one of those people. I will probably always maintain a connection to programming, but I will probably shift careers in 5-10 years. There's nothing wrong with that, making good money at a job you even decently enjoy is a great way to start your FIRE journey. I guess my dream "jobs" pay very little so the idea is to FIRE before then, but then I actually do enjoy programming :)

Oh, and the ageism is real. Some guys are so good at what they do they stay in developer roles until they are much older, but in general it will be harder past a certain point. You're expected to move into management roles because moving up is "natural" and how else can you enjoy the even more expensive toys you are supposed to treat yourself to? *mustachian snicker*

neo von retorch

  • Magnum Stache
  • ******
  • Posts: 3372
  • Location: SE PA
    • Fi@retorch - personal finance tracking
Re: Talk to me about your tech careers
« Reply #17 on: June 19, 2018, 02:15:28 PM »
I live in the NE, close enough to Philly to get some of the "big business" overflow.

I'm a "temporary" contractor (one of four still here 9 months in... out of about ten originally hired for 5-6 months). Right now I'm doing some weird Handlebars .NET template writing, alongside writing C# that builds a model of the data needed for each template. Because of my experience, ability to gain understanding of the system, ability to communicate, and rapport with the architect and other contractors, I've also taken on a sort of intermediary team lead role. Basically that means business folks come to me to grease the wheels and get the things moving that will make them happy, and the contractors (and full-time developers that have been here for years) come to me with questions about the architecture, why things work a certain way, how to troubleshoot a bug or get a certain feature working. I still crank out more completed feature requests than any other developer, but I spend more time typing up requirements and asking the business folks for clarification than I do solving tough coding problems. (Also in this role, I've written some C# action filters that make it easy to apply common behaviors to API endpoints, track down exceptions, and generate reports on API activity. I also wrote a C#/Mongo web app that accesses MongoDB records, lets you filter/search, and create some of the desired reports.)

I didn't get a clear picture of what you do now, what you're interested in, or what skills you hope to acquire, develop and master. Depending on role, you may need to be meticulous and wildly patient. You will likely need to learn how to read code, create complex models in your head, and think through how a compiler will interpret code, what state the moving parts are in, and how the code will change those states. You will almost certainly need to get good at reading people, interpreting what they say they want, and thinking ahead to what will make the software do what they really want, even if the user behavior varies wildly.

I've been on LinkedIn for a long time, and it has been a solid provider of connections to recruiters and job leads. Usually too solid. I'm going to have to admit that at this point, I'm a chiseled veteran (though not yet 40), so my experience does have value in the corporate/enterprise world. (It likely has a lot less value in the startup, social media, design and megaCorp world, especially say Silicon Valley.) As mentioned by many here, there is a very wide variety of work, and jobs can either be very focused (implement single classes of code to the exact requirements of your architect, with a given performance profile) to very broad (our insurance company is converting part of our user notification system to email and want you to write some app to help us get there). This isn't changing. What changes, always, is what's "hot" but also what's perhaps more relevant. When I started nearly 20 years ago, just building a web site was the big craze. Knowing HTML, JavaScript and a little server-side language (I went through ColdFusion, classic VB-based ASP, PHP and the whole evolution of VB .NET and C#...) made you massively employable. Then the initial wave of web page building (and DIY e-commerce) died down some, but from the ashes, some more serious software-based web-facing businesses arose, and many traditional businesses learned new ways to use software to automate and streamline ancient (you know, paper pushing from the 80s) processes. If you're going to be flexible and interested in learning (code and how to deal with the business side, as well as user needs), you'll always find work. (Now is a good time to learn big data/machine learning, but whether it interests you is all in your court.)

Oh, now do I have a degree? Oh no - I do not. I did start to study C.S., but I'm a full-fledged college dropout. But I started learning code when I was around 7, both in a special program at my elementary school, and with a second-hand discarded Commodore 64. I didn't keep learning code my entire childhood/teen years, but when I picked it back up in college, it seemed to come more naturally to me. I think the exposure at a young age helped. I was very interested in making web pages for fun, especially as I learned JavaScript and server-side / database programming. I had a ton of fun in 2006 when I really started to dig into Ajax for the first time! I haven't done as much for fun lately, but I wrote https://fi.retorch.com over the course of about 4 weeks last winter, and a few months earlier, I did all 50 puzzles of the first www.adventofcode.com using JavaScript. Do something fun with code, and you'll learn real quick if you enjoy all the problems... and the solving of those problems.

mucchad

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 21
  • Age: 44
Re: Talk to me about your tech careers
« Reply #18 on: June 19, 2018, 02:59:37 PM »
Get into tech if you want to stay relevant 20 years from now.

Sure the entry threshold may be low, and there may be great promise of many ways to get more pay, and there may be the risk of burnout. However, the future is tech, in any field of work. If you are not a part of the future, you will get left behind.

You may not need the money, you may be FI, you will still need tech. You can be a consumer, or a creator. Your choice.

Scortius

  • Bristles
  • ***
  • Posts: 460
Re: Talk to me about your tech careers
« Reply #19 on: June 20, 2018, 12:23:49 AM »
I'll bite, I have a slightly different path that many here. Not necessarily for better or worse.

I went the long way through. I have a PhD in CS with a focus on algorithms and complex systems modeling and a dash of machine learning and all that jazz that everyone is doing these days (it's so hot right now). My work is more focused on developing and applying new methods of analysis to solve difficult questions. In general, it's a lot of fun with the potential for very large scale impact and I feel very lucky. My job is very stable and I have a lot of freedom to go and find people who need help answering a question, or maybe a group that needs a computational prototype to give their design process a jump-start. It pays pretty well too and doesn't require long hours. Oh, and I'm in a LCOL city to boot! There are a lot of good tech jobs that aren't limited to FAANG if you know where to look.

I'm certainly not where I expected to be. I always assumed I'd end up in the game industry (I love games). It turns out that the work environment in the gaming industry is toxic. Oops. Instead, I got the PhD to be a professor at a 4-year undergrad college, but by the time I finished, those jobs had vanished and everyone was being forced into adjunct positions. Oops again and no thank you.  Well, times change, when I started I was all about writing my own data structures in C++ and now I spend most of my programming time either in Python or optimizing SQL queries to help Python load data in faster. I think it shows the strength of the industry that you can (and need to) pick up new skills so quickly. I have no idea what I'll be doing 5 years from now other than it will probably be something very different. I think that's great and it's a great reason why someone new can break into the industry and have a large impact quickly.

Would I recommend it? Absolutely if you think you'd enjoy this kind of work. Programming is solving puzzles constructing intricate programmatic machinery. I think most people can recognize the beauty in that, but if that doesn't work for you I'd look elsewhere. You don't have to always like your work, but you certainly do have to sometimes like your work, so I would recommend maybe trying a few simple exercises to see how you feel about them before you dig deeper.

Is it a good time to get in? Absolutely. The demand for my services is only increasing and there's just so many problems to be solved and so few people who have the computational knowledge and the creativity to do the work. There will be opportunities for you, but you'll need to be self-motivated enough to dig deeper. You can get entry level jobs by going through a bootcamp and learning some combination of React, Rails, or Node or whatever the flavor of the month is. You'll need to push yourself to dig into algorithms, machine learning, data analytics, or one of a countless number of more in depth topics if you want to land a more interesting job that affords you more freedom and creativity (and better pay). Those jobs are plenty, but they require you to demonstrate true understanding beyond the current popular library or framework. Don't be content with the basics and you should be fine.

Any other thoughts? Yes, I should point out that I often regret the decision to get the full PhD. It worked out in the end but the opportunity cost was huge. That said, I would think about pursuing education (self directed or no) up to a master's level at some point (at least a BS to get started). You get use a bootcamp to get the ball rolling and hopefully get a entry-level job, but if you want to be successful (both financially and in terms of job satisfaction), you'll need to push yourself to really understand the deeper concepts such as algorithms, data structures, machine learning and optimization, graphics, databases, etc. Also, one thing that has helped me in my own career has been the ability to bridge disciplines such as bioinformatics, electrical engineering, and even epidemiology. For example, I see huge opportunities arising in bioinformatics over the next 10-20 years. Smart energy microgrids is another area that may see a huge rise in demand. A third, computer informed health care prediction and diagnosis. All will need people who can bridge the gap between their field and the computational realm. So, don't limit yourself to just websites and apps (not to say that modern websites and apps don't have all this cool stuff behind the screen as well), just know that the opportunities will be there if you can position yourself appropriately.

Best of luck!


Cwadda

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 2182
  • Age: 25
Re: Talk to me about your tech careers
« Reply #20 on: June 20, 2018, 09:44:54 AM »
Thank you everyone for the responses. I am still reading them through and thinking of more questions.

grandep

  • Stubble
  • **
  • Posts: 107
  • Location: New Mexico
Re: Talk to me about your tech careers
« Reply #21 on: June 20, 2018, 10:20:46 AM »
I have a BS in Electrical Engineering and an MS in Aerospace Engineering. After I graduated with my BS (before going to grad school) I got a job as a technology consultant. This was a great gig and I highly recommend it. I was basically a software developer but my official title was "technology consultant". Being in consulting means you get to work on a lot of different projects with a lot of variety. You also have the chance to develop other skills such as business development and client interaction, which will be useful if you ever want to start a business or go into management. You also get to travel a lot in consulting, and being fresh out of school I loved getting to fly, eat, and stay in hotels for free (plus I crushed the credit card spend bonuses and got tons of free miles).

I went into that job with almost no programming experience outside of the little bit of C/C++ and HTML I did in school and for part-time jobs I had while in school. The company I worked for was more concerned with my ability to learn quickly rather than how much I knew coming in the door. I learned Java, Javascript, CSS, SQL, and many other things on the job.

I did leave after about a year and a half because I personally wanted to do something a little more "meaningful" than rebuilding public-facing websites for companies, so I went to grad school to get an advanced degree. I now work at one of the national labs in space flight systems. Unfortunately, working at a national lab means that most of our work is classified or need-to-know, so I can't discuss what exactly I do.

I love working in technology, and in engineering specifically because I feel like I am working to solve real problems that impact people's lives, whether they realize it or not. Programming is so fun because you can create something by yourself in a matter of minutes and see it work. It combines creativity with rational, left-brain problem solving. The turnaround (especially with web development) is so quick and can be very satisfying. Generally the people I work with are very smart, but as in every job you find people that make you wonder how they got their job.

Both my consulting gig and my current position place a high premium on work-life balance. I have never had to work more than maybe 44 hours in a week and both positions gave me 3 weeks of paid vacation starting out. You can afford to be picky, so be picky. Read reviews on Glassdoor and only apply somewhere where the culture aligns with what you want. If you are competent and capable, it is not hard to get hired.

AZDude

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 1298
Re: Talk to me about your tech careers
« Reply #22 on: June 20, 2018, 11:58:48 AM »
I've worked in software development for 12 years and in IT for about 15 years.

There are good things. You make good money, you have reasonable work/life balance most of the time, and you tend to work indoors in a comfortable environment. You can often work remotely.

There are bad things. In the wrong situation you can get a boss who demands long hours to fix a failing project, or you can end up working on something relatively important that just demands long hours. You can get called at 4AM to fix fake emergencies or real emergencies. You often have to listen to non-technical people who either promise difficult/impossible things, promise difficult/impossible timelines, or who make poor short-sighted decisions while ignoring your technical expertise.

Generally, you get little credit and all of the blame for successful/unsuccessful projects. You deal with BAs who make good money to get in the way, give you unreliable data, and slow down the project.

You also are constantly faced with new technologies, new methodologies, etc...

Its not all bad, but it feels like a career that wears on you.

mozar

  • Magnum Stache
  • ******
  • Posts: 3009
Re: Talk to me about your tech careers
« Reply #23 on: June 20, 2018, 01:03:20 PM »
First of all, why is your healthcare so expensive? If you live in the NE you should have access to "obamacare." I have it and I only pay $60 a month.

I had a job in high school building websites using html, and I've considered going into IT as a career a couple times. Things I have learned from researching:

1. Coding is not like a language. It's more like a science/ math combo. If you like solving mathematical equations you will like coding.
2. Freecodecamp.org gives you a legitimate experience. Once you finish the whole thing you will have a pretty good idea of whether you like it.
3. If you do a bootcamp do one that has a paid internship attached. This will differentiate you from all the other boot camp graduates who just did the boot camp and have no real experience.
4. Start participating in Github. You can participate in other people's projects and get real time feedback. Employers are also sometimes interested in this as it can serve as a resume.
5. You can get certificates online from the Harvard Extension school and MIT that will have Intro to CS, and other classes you can take on Udacity and Edx.

6. There are different types of IT jobs with lots of different salary ranges.
a. UX designer - 20-30k a year
b. Front end developer (html, css, javascript) 30-40k a year
c. Back end developer (databases/algorithms) 40k+
d. machine learning/ natural language processing (this is where the crazy money is right now) 75k+

7. There are websites that can help you learn how to whiteboard which is important for back end developer interviews
8. Join your local meetup, I have ones for front end/ back end etc and they have regular classes and a slack channel where they post jobs
9. Consider "IT adjacent" jobs: Wordpress specialist, SEO specialist, website content manager etc.

You can make any job work for you. The question is what are you willing to hustle for?
« Last Edit: June 20, 2018, 01:06:09 PM by mozar »

COEE

  • Pencil Stache
  • ****
  • Posts: 612
Re: Talk to me about your tech careers
« Reply #24 on: June 20, 2018, 09:31:17 PM »
I have a BS in Electrical Engineering.  I'm putting in a vote for hardware engineering (this has all been way too centralized around IT and software)

I think being a code jockey is so boring.  I much prefer to design circuits, layout boards, AND develop firmware.  I try to do it all because most (but not all) software engineers don't understand the big picture or the hardware at all.  I try to understand the entire system and design and develop system solutions.  I could make a LOT more money if I turned into a strict code jockey - It's the hot thing right now.  I just find it gets old staring at a screen, change a line of code and see if it works, change another line of code, see if it works.  Having said that, I do enjoy doing it about 1/3 of the time, but I'm not as efficient at coding as a dedicated software engineer either.  I have to look up things a lot, and I forget important minute details when I code.

Do it cause you love it - not because you want to make a ton of money.  The really good engineers do it because they love it - the money follows - and right now the money is REALLY flowing.

I live and work in the Denver/Boulder area.  I have 11 years of experience.  I turned down a job last week that was a remote opportunity located in SV.  Offer was for $140k with an additional 6% bonus.  Travel about 20% of the time.  Let's just say I wanted the job but they weren't offering enough to get me excited to be away from my family 1/5 of the year.  I think this was on the lower end for SV hardware engineering jobs despite glassdoor saying it was on the high side.  I've also had 4 job offers in the last 12 months.

I'm not saying these things to brag.  It's to let you know that 1) there is GOOD money to be made 2) It's taken me over a decade to refine my skills so that I see these kind of job offers and 3) The big bucks don't come without significant family and life risks.  Living in SV houses start at 1M - or about a $8k/mo house payment.  A studio apartment starts at $3k/mo.  Sure, the income is good there but the expenses are insane.  My quality of life is much better than someone living in SV making $140k (I'm not sure how people live there).  And I have significantly less risk in event that I'm laid off.

Speaking of laid off.  I was laid off about 15 months ago in one of the lowest unemployment rate areas of the US during one of the best economic times in human history.  I spent nearly 6 months looking for my next job.  Granted, I was looking for a great job, and I found one, but it still took me 6 months to find it.  Sending out 2-5 resumes a week.  As you climb the rungs of the ladder finding the right job becomes more difficult as well.

My advice - do a year of undergrad studies.  You'll get a good mix of hardware and software engineering and you can see if you have a passion for it while under some stress.  You might also try finding a hardware job without a BS, but you probably won't break the six-figure club any time soon.  You really need the education as well when doing hardware.  But to find a 50k-60k hardware engineering job, sure you might find someone willing to take a chance on you at that price.  Target startups and smaller companies where they have more flexibility in the hiring process.

YMMV.

zarfus

  • Stubble
  • **
  • Posts: 101
Re: Talk to me about your tech careers
« Reply #25 on: June 21, 2018, 09:49:20 AM »
I have a BS in Electrical Engineering.  I'm putting in a vote for hardware engineering (this has all been way too centralized around IT and software)

I think being a code jockey is so boring. ...

Sounds like you have bad experiences working with embedded software engineers, but a good one should understand a lot of the hardware design as well.

I'm a full stack engineer, from low level firmware to javascript UI.  The worst part is that most companies have the "rank" structure.  There are bosses, and bosses for your bosses.  The actual work is great, but I absolutely hate "working for the man".

I would recommend the career path, however, just understand the structure of most big companies (there are always alternatives out there).  The barrier to entry is pretty low, and the growth potential is very high.  Cheers!

Mgmny

  • Pencil Stache
  • ****
  • Posts: 583
  • Age: 29
  • Location: Northwest 'Burbs of MSP
Re: Talk to me about your tech careers
« Reply #26 on: June 21, 2018, 10:52:48 AM »
In tech industry with limited tech requirements for job

1. What do you do in your tech job?

Project manager for IT/Business Software Consulting company



2. Would you recommend it? Why or why not?

Highly recommend.


3. Is it a good time to get in, or perhaps avoid like the plague?

Probably a good time to get in.

One thing I'm reasonably concerned about is all these young kids knowing how to use computers. I'm only 27 myself, but in 15 years when i'm 42 those young whippersnappers will come out of the womb holding a pc and programming, so the skills that I have that make me a desirable candidate (things like "MS Office" experience) literally everyone will have - not just 95% of the population under 40.


4. Any other thoughts you might want to mention.

As a PM, i need to understand what the developers/engineers are doing, and i need to understand how the process works, but i don't actually have to DO the work. As such, my education in the tech field is limited (I have a chemistry degree, but that is more or less worthless in computer science field). PM-ing is an easy way for a non-tech person to get into the tech field with tech pay.

drachma

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 69
Re: Talk to me about your tech careers
« Reply #27 on: June 21, 2018, 12:03:32 PM »
1. What do you do in your tech job?

I am a "hardware engineer" but it is for integrated circuits. So 95% of my job is on a computer screen drawing circuits and layouts and running simulations and debugging simulator code. The other 5% is evaluating the hardware but usually other people do most of that work and it's under a microscope anyway. There's a good chunk of project management as well since the designers are usually the technical leads on the projects and the only people capable of/in a position to conceptualize the entire design in the context of its use. So we have a lot of influence over design decisions, specifications, staffing & scheduling, and resolving customer issues.

2. Would you recommend it? Why or why not?

Pros:
- Very stable jobs with smart and professional coworkers,
- high paying (at 7 years in I am earning almost $120k, started at $80k and this is in a Low-Med COL area).
- Opportunity to use the creative side of your brain as well as the logical.
- opportunity to publish, either company backed whitepapers or patents.

Cons:
- Limited to huge megacorps; the industry is perpetually consolidating. Making silicon just requires a huge amount of physical capital (unlike software) so most of the companies have to be big enough to own multi-billion dollar fabs. My CAD software suite costs about $1mm per year to license (although licenses are shared among employees).

- nearly 100% sedentary. always work behind a screen.
- less opportunity for remote work than IT/software simply due to the hardware-facing aspect of the job as well as the old-school corporate culture (most of the big companies were founded in the 50s-60s)
- requires a large amount of education (MS+)
- somewhat niche skillset; most of my technical skills are very specific to this industry so pivoting to e.g. software would be quite difficult.
- CAD software is built on ancient, proprietary programming languages. (proprietary versions of LISP... oh god) so that's not very transferable either
- megacorp locations mostly limited to suburban-hell areas of the country, Austin, Boston, literal Silicon Valley, Phoenix.

3. Is it a good time to get in, or perhaps avoid like the plague?

These jobs are in pretty high demand and aren't going to be automated any time soon. The supply is low but because it's specialized it's hard to find qualified applicants, when you do find one you snap them up.

4. Any other thoughts you might want to mention.

It's a very stable and lucrative career but overall I hate it. For all the Cons mentioned above. I like the pay, but hate being locked indoors all day learning proprietary and niche skills that arent applicable outside of this industry. If I was going to do "tech" again I would pick software simply for the flexibility in locations to work, opportunity for remote work, more variety in company sizes and cultures, and the tranferability of skills to self-employment, entrepreneurship, or just general problem-solving across many domains of life. If you have a question or an idea, software skills can often help you research and answer it or express that idea. Circuit skills let you build circuits.

But those objections are perhaps related to my personal priorities of wanting to live a more nomadic, rural life.

nkt0

  • Stubble
  • **
  • Posts: 192
Re: Talk to me about your tech careers
« Reply #28 on: June 21, 2018, 12:04:40 PM »
1. What do you do in your tech job?
I'm a software developer at a small firm (~20 people) doing web development. I primarily handle database and API development.


2. Would you recommend it? Why or why not?
I think it depends. You have to have the mindset that someone mentioned above. If you are easily frustrated or have trouble with focus or can't handle occasionally working on menial tasks, then software development isn't for you. Other the other hand, if you enjoy the dopamine hit you get when you solve problems, coding can be really fun.

But the key is to find the right environment for you. Coding is just a small part of being a software developer. I've worked at startups, small privately-held companies, medium-sized publicly-held companies, and in academia. I've learned from each job what i don't like. And finally i've settled on the fact that i like a small, privately-held company with good people at the top who respect their employees. Those places are hard to find, though. Many firms are bad to their employees, exploit them to the point of burning them out, or otherwise require them to eat, breath, and live code. You are also often encouraged to train yourself in new, emerging technologies outside of work to stay relevant.


3. Is it a good time to get in, or perhaps avoid like the plague?
I think it's an excellent time to get in. Pay is good for the amount of skills you need to get started. There are TONS of resources for learning that didn't exist when i was learning. And even if there's a bubble, these jobs are going to required to manage our future under our AI overlords.


4. Any other thoughts you might want to mention.
One other thing that really frustrates me about tech is the hiring process. Many firms do not understand what makes a good candidate. You can usually tell from the first 10 minutes of an interview if the company will respect you as a human, or really just wants someone who is going to sit all day at their computer and do whatever they are told. Often you'll be subjected to very detailed and rigorous examinations or coding exercises which are mostly designed to embarrass you and project a degree of superiority from your interviewers. I usually excuse myself from those types of interviews rather than waste everyone's time.

In short, it can be a really fun job if you find a place to work that matches your personality and expectations; it can be a total nightmare if you don't.

COEE

  • Pencil Stache
  • ****
  • Posts: 612
Re: Talk to me about your tech careers
« Reply #29 on: June 21, 2018, 06:19:52 PM »
I have a BS in Electrical Engineering.  I'm putting in a vote for hardware engineering (this has all been way too centralized around IT and software)

I think being a code jockey is so boring. ...

Sounds like you have bad experiences working with embedded software engineers, but a good one should understand a lot of the hardware design as well.

Somewhat Off Topic:

I've worked with one really good SW engineer.  And you're right.  He was an absolute joy to work with.  It was always fun to go back and fourth with him blaming each other for bugs that were in hardware or software until we figured out who was ultimately at fault.  A friendly game because we both realized how good an engineer the other was and how lucky we were to work together.  He understood the hardware well enough that he knew what each section was supposed to do.  And I coded enough that I could speak enough of his language to bounce ideas with him if something wasn't quite working the way we imagined.

He could code circles around me and was a genuinely nice guy.

The guy had 25+ years of experience.  He came to work not because he needed the money, but because he enjoyed the challenge, the people, and the job.  He was saving for his wife's dream home - but they had already won the game - they were just spreading the icing.

I want to be (and will be) that guy someday.

I need to call him.

littlebird

  • Stubble
  • **
  • Posts: 119
Re: Talk to me about your tech careers
« Reply #30 on: June 22, 2018, 11:17:30 AM »
I retrained as a software developer after I burned out working in biomedical research, and honestly I don't enjoy it. I've been working in tech for about 2.5 years and I'm planning on quitting in a few weeks. I did Oregon State University's online post-bacc BS to get a BS in Computer Science on top of the other degrees I already held. That was a few years ago so maybe they've changed but that program was not good and I don't recommend it. I had to have a lot of private tutoring to get through it.

1. What do you do in your tech job?
I write java and scala code for a big health tech software company (10,000+ people). I guess I'm a backend developer. We're "Agile" so I also spend time in daily standups and monthly planning sessions. As a junior developer I sit around a lot waiting for direction and most of the code I write gets code-reviewed out of existence.

2. Would you recommend it? Why or why not?
For most people, no. It's a really hard job and the majority of the people in it are not good at mentoring and are not interested in helping you. So, it's a lot of trying to learn on your own. There are long periods of frustration trying to solve difficult problems or searching for bugs. My favorite part of being a developer is that feeling right after you solve a tough problem. My least favorite part is the feeling right before you solve a tough problem. There is a lot more of the latter feeling than the former.

3. Is it a good time to get in, or perhaps avoid like the plague?
I think now is a good time to get into it if you have a relevant degree. Don't do a coding bootcamp. From what I've heard the market for bootcamp grads is saturated and people are not finding jobs.

4. Any other thoughts you might want to mention.
I'll echo what others have said about the hiring process; it sucks. For a developer job you almost always have to write code on the whiteboard in front of the room, which is quite stressful and difficult. They usually ask you algorithm questions that you'll never use on the job and haven't thought about since college. I think they miss out on a lot of good candidates doing hiring this way, but they're more concerned about false positives than they are false negatives.

Sorry if I sound really bitter about the whole thing. I guess if you're the kind of person who thrives in a sink or swim environment with a lot of uncertainty than you could do well.

bacchi

  • Magnum Stache
  • ******
  • Posts: 3952
Re: Talk to me about your tech careers
« Reply #31 on: June 22, 2018, 11:32:57 AM »
1. What do you do in your tech job?
I write java and scala code for a big health tech software company (10,000+ people). I guess I'm a backend developer. We're "Agile" so I also spend time in daily standups and monthly planning sessions. As a junior developer I sit around a lot waiting for direction and most of the code I write gets code-reviewed out of existence.

I think I worked for this company. I probably did 15% coding and 85% administrivia there. We'd have releases on Sunday with 100 people on the phone; I'd just use mute and play a game on the other computer. I was an hourly contractor so it didn't burn me too much. What drove me away was the lack of real work. As I recall, there was a lot of bike-shedding in the code reviews.

The good news is that there are better companies out there.

bluemarie

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 18
  • Age: 36
  • Location: Brooklyn, NY
Re: Talk to me about your tech careers
« Reply #32 on: June 23, 2018, 02:06:19 PM »
IT is internal-focused development and is not limited to just data management.  Most people use "software development" to think of customer-focused development (e.g., I'm building something to sell/building something to market to others).  There are programming-centered jobs in both fields.   IT programming is often - but not always - programming lite.  One isn't expected to know machine language, for example.

You'll find many of the same skill sets within both IT and software dev.  For IT jobs, companies tend to look for people who have both the tech skills and have some experience within a business function (e.g., Finance, Manufacturing, R&D).  You work with internal users to build something to fill a gap that they have.  For example, I worked for a large chemical company and was responsible for the team that built their R&D budgeting software. Our skill sets included building databases, managing database servers, writing .NET code, writing Java code, writing shell scripts to move data around, etc. 

I've been recruited by both software dev companies and for internal IT roles.   I prefer IT - I like being more embedded in a business.

Coming from a science background can be an advantage.  I knew several people who worked for the chemical company who transitioned from an R&D role to IT.  They built up their IT skills on their own, and leveraged their knowledge of the company and the core business.

Just jumping in to echo some of these points as a person with a non-technical IT career.  Cwadda, your background caught my eye because I graduated with a Music Theory and Composition major.  In a way, learning how to read and analyze music, understanding the 'rules' of various systems and how to follow or break them to achieve a certain effect, was great preparation for me.  I'm a Business Analyst - the person who embeds within all sorts of teams to understand and come up with solutions for their problems.  I ask a lot of questions; listen, observe, and document; present and propose ideas; eventually pass a completed set of functional requirements to internal or external developers; test the end result (along with my Business partners); and roll it out when everyone's satisfied (well, mostly).  I don't know a thing about programming, but I can think logically and document clearly.  I'm able to translate the vague ideas of very creative people into "if a then b, else c" instructions that developers can follow without having to intuit what the users might have intended. 

I would 1000% recommend my job because it changes all the time depending on what team I'm working with and what tools they use.  This also means I can jump industries fairly easily if things slow down where I am.  I agree strongly with those above who mentioned that soft skills are highly valued along with technical capability.  People request to work with me because I can communicate well with both devs and designers, and deal respectfully with colleagues at every level.  I got into this pretty much by accident, by being willing to take notes in meetings, so if I could do it I'm sure you could as well!