Point A (architect) to point B (working for Autodesk): what will it take?
May 25, 2011 11:16 AM   Subscribe

I'm considering changing careers. Help me figure out a plan.

I'm trained and work as an architectural designer, but for a variety of reasons I don't think it is my lifetime career. However, I'd like to leverage my existing knowledge instead of starting over from 0 (and I'd like to avoid going back to school, but I'm expecting to do some self-learning or technical training). I've always been technically inclined, so I started thinking about working at a place like Autodesk, as a developer (or something?) for their architectural products.
  1. What are the different roles at a big software development company like that? What would be a good fit for someone who knows the products very well from a user's perspective? Would I be suited for a UX design role, or would I also need formal training in that field?
  2. Whatever the role, how do I get there in the next... 3 years? I'd consider myself a power user of their products and I'm not a total stranger to programming (played with autoLISP, wrote an interactive website in JS, made a conway game of life in C) but I don't have formal CS training or anything like it. What equals competency for a beginning developer, product designer, etc.?
  3. Where is the growth? I feel like it is time for Autodesk to push Revit to the OSX and iOS platforms, for example. Should I learn Obj-C with the goal of getting on to an OSX development team, or will I be missing the next big thing?
I know the question is a bit unfocused; any kind of feedback would be helpful. Thanks!
posted by Chris4d to Grab Bag (7 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
It sounds to me like you're asking how to get a job for which you have no training or experience without getting some training or experience first. Short answer: you can't.

Software development is a place where it is possible to get entry level positions without a B.S. It is not easy to do, however, if you lack both a B.S. and professional experience. From the sounds of things, you don't just lack professional experience but any meaningful experience at all.

You need to spend some time learning to program. Not just "interactive website" programming or tutorial programs, but actual full-fledged applications in whatever environment you want to work on. Contribute to (or start) open-source projects. Especially if they exist in the general area of software you're wanting to work.

In terms of "how do I do that without going back to school", check out MIT's OpenCourseware for EECS as a starting point.

There's no magic that will turn you from a power user of software into a software developer. Being a pilot doesn't confer the knowledge required to design airplanes. Eating a lot doesn't make you a chef (even if you made yourself a grilled cheese once).

Odds are, even if you do those things, unless you go back for a degree, Autodesk isn't going to be your first stop.

Also, this: "I feel like it is time for Autodesk to push Revit to the OSX and iOS platforms, for example. Should I learn Obj-C . . ."

It doesn't matter what time you think it is. If Autodesk doesn't have plans to push Revit onto OSX/iOS it doesn't matter how good of an idea it may be, they won't be hiring developers to do it.

If you live near Autodesk headquarters, you might try getting in touch with managers there, buy one of them lunch, and talk to them about careers.
posted by toomuchpete at 11:36 AM on May 25, 2011

A friend of mine, a construction engineer, went to work for a CAD software company. He helps working out the requirements, basically as a sort of in-house customer.
posted by dhoe at 11:51 AM on May 25, 2011

Response by poster: dhoe: I thought about that; they have a lot of people working with user requirements, beta feedback etc. Any idea how your friend ended up in that job -- training, experience, luck?
posted by Chris4d at 1:29 PM on May 25, 2011

Consider a role in PLM if you know the products exceptionally well.

If your heart is set on SW development, I think the answer is go back to school. It's a stiff market if you don't have either experience or a degree.
posted by rr at 6:36 PM on May 25, 2011

I believe he got in through an internship. He didn't have that much working experience before that. I think this is really very dependent on the individual company.
posted by dhoe at 4:03 AM on May 26, 2011

Response by poster: thanks! SW development was my initial thought but I'm not married to it and don't know enough about the ecosystem of a SW company to know what other roles would be available. Maybe I should have asked that question instead :)
posted by Chris4d at 11:24 AM on May 26, 2011

Best answer: Since you're open to a lot of possible roles and paths, I suggest doing a bit of research on your own to home in on the roles that sound best to you.

You can find both job listings and openings for interns at the Autodesk Careers page. I just did a search using the keyword "software" and the location "California" and got 107 results, including User Researcher, Technical Consultant, Localization Specialist, Customer Support Rep, Admin Assistant, and Technical Writer.

Assuming you live close to one of their offices, you may be able to find people with some of those jobs - or any jobs at Autodesk, really - and set up informational interviews. You're actually in an ideal position for informational interviews - you aren't actively looking for a job at the point, but you think you'd like to work with Autodesk software in some way, and you're trying to figure out what kind of job might suit you best.

Ask your friends and colleagues if they know anyone who works at Autodesk, or any other companies you'd like to work for. Try LinkedIn, if you're a member. Set up some informational interviews and ask people about their work. That'll give you much more concrete ideas about what you might like to do ... and then MeFites can probably give you more specific answers.
posted by kristi at 11:08 AM on May 27, 2011

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