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New Career?

Hi everyone.
I believe I've reached my limit. I'm 25 and my career is quietly being destroyed. I've been writing software professionaly since I was 19. Began with ASP and Visual Basic, moved to PHP and now I'm doing Java/J2EE and C++.

But current events, especially that entry on the NYTimes has made me think twice about where we're going. So I decided to switch careers. Or at least I began to think about it.

How do you guys feel about it? Going to college all over again and retrain myself. I had health care in mind, because it's an area that has had a lack of professionals since ever.

Any ideas? Opinions? Something.

Sunday, December 7, 2003

Do you have a passion for something?

Go do that. You'll get by, somehow, and you'll be doing something you like.

Ori Berger
Sunday, December 7, 2003


If you're thinking of being a registered nurse you should definitely talk to a few of them first and make sure you know what you're getting in to. Used to date one and their troubles seem worse than ours -- very stressful and low pay and you're stretched so far that people are dying because you can't give them the care they deserve because the administrators would rather make you work overtime till you're dead exhausted than hire another nurse. Well, at least in the city I lived at the time. Perhaps more rural areas of the country are better for nurses. Be real careful you don't get into debt going back to school. If you can get a  full ride scholarship, it'd be worth it though.

If I had it to do again, maybe I'd get a commercial license and fly 747s. But I hear times are real bad for pilots right now too, though how bad can it be really?

Dennis Atkins
Sunday, December 7, 2003

Be a radiographer. Seriously. I'm considering it myself.

Sunday, December 7, 2003

I would say that if you have a passion for something new then by all means, go ahead. But if you're planning to start all over just because times are changing for software developers, I would advise you to think twice.
Andrew Hunt and Dave Thomas spoke about this topic at JAOO (the slides are here: ). Their point is that if you want to keep your job, you should invest in yourself and not just rely on the technologies and methodologies that you are familiar with. Keep up to date all the time and look around for new things.
I am also 25 years old. Having worked with software development for some 7 years professionally, I feel that I am only getting started. There is so much software out there waiting to be developed and I am not worried a bit. Am I being naive? :)

Kristian Dupont
Sunday, December 7, 2003

And how are you?

Ori Berger, that happens everywhere, but nowadays the only jobs not going to India and China are the health care related ones.
You got paralegal jobs, accounting jobs, development jobs... hell, that NYTimes story made me open my eyes. We're commodities. We're not needed anymore.

Sunday, December 7, 2003

Well, they are outsourcing some medical jobs -- evaluating xrays and ultrasounds is now done in india.

But you've got the right idea that not all medicine can be outsourced.

You might have the right idea if looking into nursing -- times have changed since I last was in touch with it. This article from today's paper says that nurses are naming their own hours and forcing hospitals to bid on their services, to the tune of $30/hr:

Dennis Atkins
Sunday, December 7, 2003

Don't pick PC repair as a career or you'll end up like this unfortunate fellow:

> Perry Vona works five days a week on a busy stretch of 43rd Street between Fifth Avenue and the Avenue of the Americas, which is not to say that he keeps an office there. Mr. Vona, who is homeless, works on 43rd Street — literally — repairing laptops, hard drives, keyboards, scanners, monitors and whatever other detritus of the digital age he can scavenge from the trash.

>He is a common sight amid the pedestrians in Midtown, who might encounter him at 8 a.m. on a weekday sitting in a swivel chair, hunched over a stubborn piece of computer hardware plugged into the base of a public light pole. Working curbside with a fully stocked toolbox, he claims to sell his products to wholesale buyers and bargain hunters for as little as $60 to $80 apiece.

>"I get them running, then I get them out the door," said Mr. Vona, whose open-air repair shop has no door. "I don't care what shape they come in, I can fix them."

>"I do the upgrades, everything," he continued. "When I get done with a computer, it'll work."

... I wonder if network administrators will be next?

Dennis Atkins
Sunday, December 7, 2003

I don't get that guy. What happened that has a man with that obviously expert level of skill out on the streets? A person that can honestly claim "If its computer hardware, I can probably fix it" should be able to get a job, somewhere.

And #2, why doesn't he get out of NYC? Sure, he may not be able to make much money doing that in another city, but there are places that are far cheaper to live in, and for the cost of one of those products he can take a bus to pretty much any location in North America, and in all likelyhood have money left over for food.

I just don't understand this. This happens a lot: skilled people with no ties to their location (if he had family there, they should have helped him, or at least spotted him bus fare. You've burned a lot of bridges if you can't scrape together bus fare from your friends and family) choose to stay in an expensive place as homeless, when they could live - with an apartment, or roof at least - elsewhere on the salaries and wages they are quite capable of earning.

Can someone please explain this to me?

Mike Swieton
Sunday, December 7, 2003

For what I read, that guy was a metal worker who suffered an accident and spent some time in a coma. When he woke up he had mental problems.

Oh, and he lost his parent when he was 4 months old. He grew up in several foster homes and was probably abused in some of them (or so he says).

Basically, I don't think he's salvageable. He has deep problems that basically stop him from entering mainstream society.

Sunday, December 7, 2003


I feel your pain buddy, I am 25 in a few days, have a similar work history, and it is apparent that this is the 'settle zone'. 

Your experiencing pain as you realise that continuing on this course will not take you to your goals, yet changing course means much pain and uncertainty.  You feel cheated.

On one side you have your dreams and hopes, your plan, on the other hand the effort required to advance is increasing dramatically, and at present life doesn't seem to have delivered on it's promises.

I have a feeling that a bitter computing person will only become a bitter health care professional or a bitter journalist etc....  ALL problems exist within.

The few things I have learned from direct life experience, as opposed to reading or hearing them are :

- you wont get rich working for somone else.

- you wont get as much freedom and control as you need working for somone else.

- it's always more subjective than you think, when your mood changes the whole universe will literally become a different place.

The simple conclusion seems to be life is harder than we thought it would be....  we can either settle for what we have or up the effort and go for what we want.

You have made the first step in admiting you are not happy, next define what you want, work out what you would have to do to get it, decide if you are prepared to do that, do it, or settle.

Also, I think it is worthwhile to realise that a lot of people put a lot of effort into making you feel unhappy and unfulfilled.  They want you to feel inadequate unless you buy their product, they want you to long for the success that will drive you to show up to a silly job for 30 years.

My plan is to double the work rate and go for it.  Try new things, fail, learn, keep motivating myself... 

Sunday, December 7, 2003

Being a few years older and finding myself in the same position, I can say that you need to find something you enjoy doing.  I dropped out of the software industry because of burnout.  A couple of years working in other fields brought me back, at least partially.  I'm doing contract work now, and honestly finding it a whole lot more fulfilling than working for a company.

But I've also started building the bridges that will let me do other things.  I love beer, and I really love brewing beer.  So I wrote letters to any brewery within a couple of hours of my house (there are a lot of them) and asked if they could teach me more.  A solid ten percent called back, and I've worked for them brewing beer and learning the business.  It gives me a direction I can move in when a) I don't want to make my money in front of the computer and b) all the programming jobs pay too little to keep a roof over my head.

So start finding out what you can do to build bridges out, and see if you like doing other things.  I couldn't be happier making beer on the weekends.  Maybe you want to try out bricklaying or cabinetry.  You'll be suprised at the options that turn up.

Clay Dowling
Sunday, December 7, 2003

>  very stressful and low pay and you're stretched so far that people are dying because you can't give them the care they deserve because the administrators would rather make you work overtime

Cool.  Put in your 40 hours in 3 calendar days.  (Or like firemen, who do it in 2 calendar days)  Spend the rest of your week as you please, or building a THIRD career.

Sunday, December 7, 2003

Um, the poster says people are dying, and your response is "cool, maybe I'll have time to build a third career"?

Thank god you're not in nursing.

Sum Dum Gai
Sunday, December 7, 2003

If you can't beat them, join them.  You can to offshore even when you consider yourself a small fish.  Find a good market niche in software market and then make contacts in the third world to have the code written. 
You can initially start by doing small gigs and posting them to your contact. After establishing a successful partnership, you can then consider developing a full product and investing more money in it.

A Guy in Nairobi
Monday, December 8, 2003

The advice constantly given to people to move into the medical field just floors me. Where do you think all the money is going to come from to pay those high medical salaries, if we're outsourcing our professional class?

The medical industry is overhead in any given country (with a few small exceptions such as prescription drug production). It can only draw in what the professional classes can afford to pay - if our middle class shrinks, so will the demand for expensive health care.

Monday, December 8, 2003

Yes, but they will be the last ones to hold a job...

Monday, December 8, 2003

Given that the head of R&D at Smith Kline Beacham said over the weekend or at the end of last week that 90% of drugs were effective for only 30-50% of those taking them the pharmaceutical, and by extension the medical, industry may not be good career options.

By the way, this is known as 'doing a Ratner'.

Simon Lucy
Monday, December 8, 2003

Well, one factor you might consider, to avoid the outsourcing problem, is to look for jobs where the worker generally needs to be in physical proximity to the work. E.g. doctor or plumber.

Bill Tomlinson
Monday, December 8, 2003

RP - it may look catastrophic, and it sure ain't easy, but it can't be as bad as you extrapolate:

If all jobs except some medical care jobs are outsourced, then .. no one will be able to afford medical care, and those jobs will be lost as well.

And if everyone's unemployed, who is going to outsource?

Some jobs are gone forever from the western world, and programming might soon be one of them (My crystal ball is not working at the moment, sorry....). New areas with new jobs are created all the time, though no one can tell in advance what areas are going to make you well off, or what areas will even survive in 20 years for that matter.

Widen the scope of your search. Have you considered Teaching? Cooking? Construction?

Some form of equilibrium will be reached eventually (and I doubt it will take more than 10 years). Looking at it from here (in Israel) - just 3 years ago, outsourcing to India looked like a real cost saver. These days, it's only marginally cheaper (if at all), and the language/culture/timezone barriers make it much less desirable.

Ori Berger
Monday, December 8, 2003

New jobs are always being created.  Wallmart is growing rapidly and always hiring ;)

Monday, December 8, 2003

Hey there boy, you want a job? I need a few gardeners for my estate.

CEO On the Take
Monday, December 8, 2003

Does your garden run in DOS? Is it LGPL'd? I need to know more.

Tuesday, December 9, 2003

I’m pretty tired of staring at my computer for 9 hours a day (like Peter in Office Space said: “We’re not meant to live like this!”) and since programming has ceased to be ‘fun’ am ready to move out of software development.

Assuming you're in the US try working for the Federal Government.

If you're in good shape the FBI is hiring Special Agents with Computer Science backgrounds (degree/certification + job experience) in droves.  The pay isn't spectacular but the job is quite interesting and worth it; this is the route I am taking.

You could also work as a computer forensic examiner for any branch of law enforcement (Federal and local) who goes through wiped/encrypted drives and tries to get the info off for a trial.

The CIA/NSA are always looking for smart people with computer backgrounds, although this would most likely be more 8-to-5 desk work.

If you're tired of being behind a desk all day you could join a branch of the armed service; I have a friend who left his high-paying consultancy gig and is now an Army Special Forces medic.  Says it’s the greatest thing he’s ever done in his life.

Tuesday, December 9, 2003

Actually I think the quote was something like "... aren't meant to live like this."

Tuesday, December 9, 2003

Don't join the medical profession, unless you want to become a gov't employee. 
If the Hilldabeast's plan goes as scheduled she'll be in office in 2008 and we'll all be forced to subscribe to her national healthcare plan, quickly eliminating private practice and forcing the doctors and nurses  to become gov't lackeys.

Assuming you live in the US of course :)

Tuesday, December 9, 2003

MR, I went through the FBI interview process, and in the end, the only thing they wanted to hire me for was to produce visio diagrams in a basement in suburban virginia.

Is it really possible to move from a CS background into a field agent background? Because as far as I can tell, if you have a technical background, the feds want to shuffle you into a desk job. The last thing I want to do is the same thing I'm doing now, but for 1/3 my salary and in a basement in an office park out on the beltway.

If you figured out how to get a More Exciting(tm) job, let me know!

Tuesday, December 9, 2003


Yes, you have to apply for the Special Agent position on the website, though.  Chances are you applied for a Technical Specialist or other Support position. 

Here's what is required of a Special Agent applicant to go in under the "Computer Science" critical skill:

With the combination of 9/11 patriotism and the bubble-bursting the Special Agent recruiter for my area said they are seeing a *lot* of CS applicants.  Given they only hired a couple hundred agents last year if you are not a fantastic applicant the chances of you making it all the way through are slim.  Make sure you are in tip-top physical shape, have a clean background, stay out of trouble, and don't do drugs.

Note that as this is a law enforcement position you need to be in excellent shape and not have any problems carrying a firearm etc.  The problem with a many CS applicants is that they are out of shape and think that an exception will be made -- which is false.

Tuesday, December 9, 2003


Send me the link to that nytimes story you're referring to, will ya?

Utopia is a place where no moron exists
Tuesday, December 9, 2003

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