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More on Career Paths

One thing has surprised me on this forum: the sheer amount of errr.... hmmm... "old timers" that suddenly left the tech sector and joined a law school.
How do you guys succeed? What do you expect to take from this? And is it the law sector that allows people to "drop in" at any time or is the entire market like that: you got the skills, we'll hire you.
I'm asking this because I'm 25 (ooooh, so old) and I am seeing myself trapped on the developer role forever. I don't want to be an enterpreneur (don't have the guts) and I don't want to fade slowly as a developer.

What career paths do you see for someone like me? Teacher? Manager? Going to med school and be set for life (impossible)?

RP
Thursday, February 26, 2004

Do it now.  It gets harder to alter your course every passing year.

Dan Brown
Thursday, February 26, 2004

Sales engineer.
Then later on you can even become a salesman, except you'll be one the rare breed that knows what they're talking about.

Yves
Thursday, February 26, 2004

I must confess I have never understood what a "sales engineer" does. Someone who visits the customers in overalls and after a sharp intake of breath says "Well, it'll be expensive guv, you can't get the bytes these days"?


Thursday, February 26, 2004

The impression I get is that when you ask a technical question, a look of terror creeps into the salesman's eyes and he says "Perhaps Bob can answer that.." - Bob's the sales engineer.

a cynic writes...
Thursday, February 26, 2004

I started my career as a sales engineer.  I was "promoted" to developer because I showed promise.  I sometimes wish I would've stayed on the sales side!  In my role I was the guy that knew the technical side of the product, which just happened to be a developer's toolkit.  I answered questions the sales guy couldn't answer, helped clients integrate the system, and provided general technical support.

Dan Brown
Thursday, February 26, 2004

Are there any 45 years old sales engineers?

RP
Thursday, February 26, 2004

Yes

Craig
Thursday, February 26, 2004

SE's usually do the implementation of the product.  In our corp, SE's get all the perks and respect that Sales do, without the backslapping and arrogance.  Our SE' s usually work a territory, like a salesperson would.

Sassy
Thursday, February 26, 2004

About law: the thing is, lawyers *have* to market themselves and promote their practices just as any other type of consultant does. Which is the red-hot poker up the @$$ that most techies fear the most. I've been to techie user group meetings that had a lawyer as the featured speaker.

I think a lot of IT and programmer types go into law because they believe that it's an assurance of an income, without considering that they will need to undergo personal transformation to succeed anyway.

You have to be well positioned and you still have to sell yourself in ANY field.

Bored Bystander
Thursday, February 26, 2004

Here's what I have observed about career paths leading to sales for engineers and programmers.

I know a friend from college who was technical for about 10 years in his career and then made the decision to go the sales engineer route - for IBM. IBM preens their sales people like no other. He did exceptionally well. I'm sure he's outearned me 2:1 or more for 10 years or more.

But, lately he's had a run of less than stellar luck. He left a small consultancy last year which went chapter 11 this winter, and he now works at a branch office as the only salesperson for an out of town company. Today, he is regretting being in IT altogether and is looking for a way out.

It turns out that he feels that *he* is a commodity of sorts, even though his pedigree is excellent.

Now, I thought sales guys *always* walked on water, but I think the actual truth of the matter is this: any specialty skill that doesn't adapt to changing circumstances is  toast, and any specialty is at risk of becoming marginalized and commoditized.

Also, my friend completely left technology for sales in the early 90s. His business card says "sales engineer" but he only knows tech in the overview/buzzword sense. So in a real way, "anyone" in sales could do his job. Someone in auto sales could conceivably do his job.

I read somewhere an aphorism that people don't like sales professionals, they prefer to deal with professionals... who happen to sell.

Bored Bystander
Thursday, February 26, 2004

I'm one of those guys that left programming for the law.  My main motive was to make more money.  As a patent attorney, I should be able to start off making somewhere between 110K and 125K.  After six years, my salary should approach 180K, and if I make partner, I should be able to pull down between 200K to 300K.  Experience is valued in the law, so generally the more experience you have, the more you are going to make.  Partners in law firms generally have more than six years experience and can work into their 70s if they want.

The downside is that I will probably have to work more hours per week and writing patents isn't as fun as writing code.  The upside is that I should be able to retire in 15 years. 

no longer a janitor
Thursday, February 26, 2004

If I left development for law, it wouldn't be because of the money, it's because I'd have a j.o.b.

RP
Thursday, February 26, 2004

"The upside is that I should be able to retire in 15 years." - janitor.

But see "What Should I Do with My Life?" on whether anyone in a position like yours will actually get rich and then quit (you can check out this book at http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/0375758984/qid=1077827760//ref=pd_ka_1/102-0941057-9063301?v=glance&s=books&n=507846 )

Exception guy
Thursday, February 26, 2004

Sales engineer is a subordinate job whose role is to fill in the gaps for the star, the salesman. Sales engineers generally get paid much less than the salesman does. They also do not get the satisfaction of creating things in the way developers do.

I find Bored's post about lawyers a bit strange. Most law graduates find jobs in firms or with corporates, to start with at least, so self marketing is no more important for them than for developers.

Second, for good developers, legal work is reasonably straightforward and has its interesting moments. Good developers can become superb analysts of legal issues. And, as someone above pointed out, law is a profession where the participants protect their own careers. It's no accident that there's no flood of H1-B's or offshoring in law.

x
Thursday, February 26, 2004

A number of my friends went the IP law route and it isn't pretty. Don't forget to factor in your $100K law school bill and the fact that you have to live in Manhattan when calculating your retirement date.

  traveler
Thursday, February 26, 2004

Have to live in Manhattan?  100K law school debt?  Maybe some people have to live in Manhattan after racking up 100K in law school debt, but I'll be living in Houston with about 30K total in debt after I graduate.

Some state schools only charge about 8K for a year's worth of tuition.  Additionally, if you're lucky enough to get a summer job with an IP (intellectual property) firm, you can make about $2,000 per week (some firms even pay $2500/wk).

no longer a janitor
Thursday, February 26, 2004

I was thinking of sole practitioner lawyers in their own practices when I remarked that law requires some self marketing.

I'd be surprised if the work just came to you even in a large practice. Maybe it does, with the right specialization.

Bored Bystander
Thursday, February 26, 2004

Selling is required for all law firms, not just small firms and sole proprietorships.  You're not required to bring in businesses when you're a first or second year, but you can't make partner in a firm unless you bring in business.  Law firms generally have an "up or out" rule so you usually can't just hang on and have work come to you - that's what paralegals are for. 

Dan Brown
Thursday, February 26, 2004

"Selling" is not hard if you're an established staffer at a profile law firm. The work comes to you.

x
Thursday, February 26, 2004

Uh, no longer - are you a 1L? You sound like it.

If you're going to law school in Texas, I recommend you give up EVERYTHING to make sure you get top 10% grades and law review, esp. if you're doing it for the money.

"If I make partner..." - just be sure you realize that's an if, and a big huge if. I also notice you toss around the idea of working long hours like you don't really understand what you're saying.

Yes, there's a reason I'm in sales and not in a law firm. ;-)

BTW, sales engineers *do* get to create things - that's their job.

Philo

Philo
Thursday, February 26, 2004

I'm a 2L.  Last summer I worked at a prosecution boutique and this summer I'll be working at a more litigation-oriented firm.  My grades put me in the top 20%.

The best firms still start their first-years out at 125K as far as I know.  Personally, I'm hoping to start out somewhere between 110K and 120K. 

I agree that it's tough to make partner at the big firms, but I think the smaller firms still bring people in with a good shot at partnership.  At the big firms, it's definitely churn and burn, though.

Did you try to get a job as an intellectual property attorney or did you just say "to heck with it" and charge into programming? 

no longer a janitor
Friday, February 27, 2004

I was already a programmer and would've had to take a pay cut to go work twice the hours at a law firm.

I took a pass.

Philo

Philo
Friday, February 27, 2004

Good for you.  What do you create as a "sales" engineer?  PowerPoint slides?

no longer a janitor
Friday, February 27, 2004

good luck getting a $125K 1st year job coming out of texas.

 
Friday, February 27, 2004

Heh. Yep on powerpoints, but I also build proofs of concept and demos. The fun part is that I always get to work in the current (and sometimes pre-release) technologies.

It's fun and I'm having a blast.

Philo

Philo
Friday, February 27, 2004

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