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Mid life career change (crisis)?

Discussion in 'Mac Programming' started by woland8816, Feb 5, 2012.

  1. macrumors newbie


    So I've spent the lat 20 years in a successful career that no longer interests me at all. Though it sounds crazy, I have always been interested in software development. My question is, given that my degrees are not in math and science, let alone computer science, is there any possibility of becoming a programer or engineer without going for a BA in computer science at least?

    Feel free to convince to stop thinking about this. However, if there is some practical advice you might have about actually making this change, I would appreciate it.
  2. Guest

    Yes, it is possible, anything is possible. However, it will depend on your abilities. Are you already writing code, or are you talking about trying to start now?

    If you have no coding experience then you really don't know what it is like and may find that it is not what you thought it would be like once you start.
  3. macrumors newbie

    I did take a couple of programming classes in college, and I taught myself HTML. I also know a bit about the industry so I'm not entirely naive to the realities, or maybe I am, in which case I would appreciate "real world" perspectives.
  4. Moderator


    Staff Member

    Changing careers is always a challenge, but it can be done.

    I'd suggest taking it on as a serious hobby first to see if there is a real "fit" there and see where it goes from there. (Presuming your current employment allows you to spend some real time away from work).

    Network: Look for a local users' group, e.g. http://cocoaheads.org/ (if Mac/iOS programming is what floats your boat).

  5. Guest

    If it isn't HTML 5 then you are likely looking at more scripting than programming. As B said, you may want to start doing it as a hobby to see if this is the direction you want to go. I am a C# programmer and school helped, but it didn't really give me the advanced skill set I needed in the real world. It simply taught me the basics and got me in the right frame of mind for it.

    There are a lot of directions to go so you will need to figure out what you want to do. I don't know anything about programming for Mac and if you are looking for work, I would suggest looking at a Windows platform as there is likely to be more work available.
  6. macrumors newbie

    Grateful for the responses. What are some of the other resources for the hobbyist programmer?

    Huge thanks
  7. Moderator


    Staff Member

    This, I actually disagree with, because there will also be a lot more competition from younger/cheaper "talent."

    IMHO a mid-career person needs to create a niche where their value is more than just writing code. e.g. bring code to an area where you already have expertise, or bring your expertise to the code. Random example: If you've been working as a restaurant manager, what tools would have made that job easier?

  8. Guest

    Fair enough, but out of many of the programming jobs that I have recently looked at none of them were OSx. There were, however, a lot of windows programmer slots out there and if he is going to swap jobs, it will be entry level. If he is waning to jump into a new career, it will not be as a senior, especially in this market.
  9. balamw, Feb 5, 2012
    Last edited: Feb 5, 2012



    Staff Member

    Fair enough, but as a hiring manager why would I hire woland8816 over someone fresh out of school that is more likely to be willing to work 80+ hours a week for peanuts or simply a Rent-A-Coder in India?

    This should not be seen as a quick/easy process, and one of the challenges a mid-career person always faces is that jobs have to made not found. (More about who you know and your past experience than what you can do today).

    That really depends on what kind of programming you intend to do.

    You've already say you do not have a STEM (Science/Technology/Engineering/Math) background and have some background in HTML. Maybe focus on learning how to make iOS apps using HTML5/Javascript?

    e.g. http://shop.oreilly.com/product/9780596805791.do

  10. macrumors newbie

    The age thing is of real concern for me,but I like the suggestion of writing something for my industry.

    In terms of the age question, is it a moot point in an age of global sourcing? I mean, there's always someone willing to do it cheaper somewhere. Still people work and are well compensated. Or is there a youth bias in general?
  11. balamw, Feb 5, 2012
    Last edited: Feb 5, 2012



    Staff Member

    In my experience it's really more that those willing to hire really underestimate or undervalue what it takes to do things right. Ultimately, this tends to bite them in the behind, because in the end it ends up costing more and/or taking longer by the time you are done.

    It's this undervaluing that provides the youth/outsourcing bias. EDIT: and why you need to try and add value by bringing your own experience into the mix.

  12. macrumors 6502a

    Yes there is an age bias. Younger people are willing to start at lower wages and cost less to provide health insurance for. They likely don't have the distraction of wife and family taking their minds from the task at hand making for better concentration to the task.
  13. Moderator


    Staff Member

    In this case concentration just means more time, but it doesn't mean more productivity/effectiveness.

    More life experience = more mistakes = more learning from said mistakes and not taking those paths again. Even if you are entering another field some learning from your mistakes will carry over.


  14. macrumors 6502a

    Nothing I don't already know. But here in the shadow of Redmond HR departments are staffed by HR people with this thinking. Boeing is particularly bad in my opinion. Then there are all the startups of ex Microsoft employee ...
  15. macrumors 68040

    So Boeing is staffed with cheap unexperienced labour? I'll make sure I travel with Airbus the next time. :D
  16. macrumors 6502a

    New hires in their computer related fields are being replaced as the they retire with nearly only recent college graduates. So in a way yes!
  17. macrumors 68040

    But then there is all the others, you know, between college grads and retirement. In my experience it's not uncommon at all that developer job ads look something like this: "solid knowledge of x and y with at least five years experience of z."
  18. macrumors 6502a

    Politics and legal requirements ...

    Of course this will vary by area and availability of possible applicants.
  19. macrumors 603

    For engineering, you'll need a degree.

    For programming, you always have the option to ignore employers and start your own software business. If it's successful (a small, but non-zero chance), a bigger company might buy your software company and thus potentially employ you as a software type as part of the buyout.
  20. macrumors 68030


    I got a software engineering job on a very good team at a good company with no degree. Thousands of hours of open source experience counts for a lot.
  21. macrumors 6502a

    But that doesn't make you an engineer.
  22. Moderator


    Staff Member

    Neither does a degree, on it's own. ;)

  23. ytk
    macrumors regular

    Scripting is programming. HTML is not scripting. HTML is (as the name implies) a markup language, used for laying out documents.

    To the OP: Don't make the mistake of thinking you need to learn a really "advanced" language like Java or C (or any C derivative). JavaScript would be a good starting choice (it's a completely different language from Java), as would Ruby or Python. These languages will allow you to get a strong grasp on the fundamental concepts of programming before you have to deal with the messy guts of the computer itself that a statically typed language throws you right into from the outset. Ruby is my personal language of choice (and it's a good one if you want to develop Mac applications), mainly because it's powerful, incredibly flexible, and just plain fun to write code in. But if you're more interested in Web based stuff JavaScript is probably a better bet.

    At some point in your career, you will need to understand at least the basics of C. Not necessarily enough to write entire applications with it, but enough to be able to hold a conversation about "returning floats" and "dereferencing pointers" without sounding like a jackass. This is mainly because C is pretty much the "common denominator" programming language, and is often the baseline which functionality in other languages is compared to. But don't worry too much about it when you're just starting out. If you try to throw yourself headlong into learning, say, C#, simply because that's what someone told you you have to do to be an engineer, you'll probably just get discouraged and frustrated. I know, because I know several people who have fallen into that trap. Learn the basics first, then worry about where you go from there—the path will be clear when you get there.
  24. firestarter, Feb 6, 2012
    Last edited: Feb 6, 2012

    macrumors 603


    Can I ask what your speciality is at the moment?

    I don't think this is going to work out for you. It's not the fact that you don't have the education (formal qualifications keep HR people happy, but they're not where most programmers get their skills from).

    The big problem is that you're coming from zero, and up to this point you seem to have had little interest in the subject. There's a lot of sense behind the theory that it takes 10000 hours to master a discipline, and many good coders have put those 10000 hours in during their teen years. You're not going to have the deep background exposure to different problems and methods that most decent graduate-age programmers have.

    Secondly, are you sure you want to spend your days doing that sort of detailed work? I started off as a programmer, but over time moved into management... as coding became a bit same-y and it became more interesting to 'hack' people. If you've spent 20 years doing people oriented work, you may find it very difficult to sit in a corner and code all day.

    Finally, I think you'll have problems getting hired. Junior programmer to senior programmer/team lead to management from 20-35 or so is a standard career path... except these days a lot of low grade programming is outsourced (to India and the like). As a newbie low grade programmer appearing on the scene at 40yrs old (I'm making assumptions based on your 20 year career) you're going to be hard to manage... and you probably won't get hired by a 35 year old team lead. Ageist? Probably. Realistic? Yes. In my experience most older coders are contract staff with deep skills (and as a contractor, they're not in the politics or progression game).

    A prospective manager will see you as bringing too much experience to the table to be a placid code-head, sitting getting stuff done and meeting deadlines.

    If you're interested in coding, why aren't you?

    Spend a hundred bucks, join the iOS developer program, learn Objective C (loads of good resources around... the O'Reilly 'Head First' books are great; there's a free Stanford university iOS course on iTunes U in video). In a year's time if you've produced a high quality app that's getting some sales on the app store - and you're driven to program more, then you might have the beginnings of something. If you can't concentrate on it, you can't learn on your own or you just plain hate it - then you're only down some time and a couple of hundred bucks.

    (Don't get too hung up on languages at this point. If you learn to program using a language that's reminiscent of C, then your skills will be transferrable).

    Good luck!
  25. macrumors regular

    +1 to Ruby for simplicity. I wouldn't start with JavaScript though, it's not nearly as refined as some other languages and may lead to some confusion unless you know that's what you want to do, then by all means jump right in.

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