How do I pivot careers?
June 13, 2014 4:46 PM   Subscribe

I went to university for Architecture. I've been in the field for 8 years, never got my license, and I really don't see my future in it. I'd like to switch to computer science / programming. Is this realistic? How do I do it?

I have a decent job, but it's getting more stressful every day. Even a promotion (Project Manager) would probably mean a lot more stress, only slightly more pay, a more serious emphasis on me getting my license, and having a lot more interaction with the clients. I'm quite introverted, and I really have very little interest in schmoozing clients or with the business end of architecture, which is basically mostly what my bosses do. I'm fairly good at what I do, but I feel like that I just don't really care to develop my skills in the way that would further my career, so I don't feel like the answer is "just change firms."

I've been programming as a hobby for a long time, but didn't consider it as a profession (I wanted to get into something "more creative"). Since it's just been a hobby though, I just went wherever my heart lead me, so I know a smattering of various programming languages and platforms and computer related skills. I've written android apps, websites, programs. I'm not a beginner by any means, but my skills don't really add up to marketability.

Is this the sort of thing that I'll need to go back to school for a masters? Or do I just go out and cold call people? Masters might be a deal-breaker.

Have you made a similar transition from your previous job to a hobby?

If it helps, I'm in Northern California (extended Bay Area), divorced but definitely not open to relocating, and I'm not willing to take on the stress of being a full time freelancer (but contract-to-hire would be okay, I guess).
posted by Llamadog-dad to Work & Money (11 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
You definitely do not need a CS degree to make it in development. Look at startups: there are a million companies past the 'lets be poor and eat ramen' stage, with good teams and real products that are looking for developers. (By startups I mean 'small technology focused companies', be they trendy p2p-social-mobile-payment-apps, or just doing 'boring' stuff like making alarm system software.) They tend to be far less picky about the things on your resume and care a lot more about how much you want to learn and accomplish. Feel free to memail me, I know the space pretty well.

You might also consider moving in a more technical direction with your architecture experience. My wife works at a specialized architecture firm that employs a handful of programmers. Some scripting and modeling, and a good bit of building custom tools. So there's that also.
posted by wrok at 4:56 PM on June 13, 2014 [2 favorites]

Well, I have been working in the IT for almost 40 years with just a combo Math/CompSci degree. I wish I had paid better attention to Numerical Analysis, I sorely feel the lack there. But what I do day to day does not use much of my original education. And some of the sharpest people I work with did not have IT degrees, but are good at logical thinking, have a very good memory, and a talent for programming.

That said, there's a difference between what do you need to do a job, and what do you need to get past the small minded people doing the hiring, and/or set yourself apart from so many other resumes.

Just my 2 cents.
posted by forthright at 5:38 PM on June 13, 2014 [2 favorites]

I think my comment here from the other day is very relevant to you. I have a BA in Psych.
posted by drjimmy11 at 5:48 PM on June 13, 2014

My brother was in advertising, and did Dev Bootcamp last year and now works as a junior developer. That or a similar coding bootcamp would be just what you need! One of the real benefits of Dev is their name recognition and extended network of prospective employers among start-ups. Alternatively, you could start applying and see what happens.
posted by amileighs at 5:53 PM on June 13, 2014

I don't know if you need a bootcamp. I have hired many non-CS degreed programmers. In fact, I got a lot of grief in this thread, for saying that I found people who contributed to open source slightly more attractive candidates than those who don't. Mostly, I like programmers to like programming so much that they want to do it even when they are not being paid - not to take advantage, but more because in my experience that goes hand in hand with people who are intellectually curious about programming. I would say that 50% of my current team does not have a CS degree (and my grades were so bad I might as well not have a CS degree). It is not a big factor in my hiring anyway, as most CS degrees that come out of college that aren't programming in their spare time or for fun can't code anyway.
posted by ill3 at 5:59 PM on June 13, 2014

I have a liberal arts bachelors degree and I've worked as a software engineer at some of the most famous tech companies in the world. I'm primarily self-taught in programming (lots of reading and learning from other people over the years, but very little in the way of classes). I have also been a manager and hired lots of software engineers. A CS degree is nice, but at the end of the day, what really matters if you can do the work. Once you have the skills, however you gain them, the biggest hurdle is going to be getting past the resume screen for your first job. With no CS degree and no job experience, it may be tough to convince recruiters to let you interview. But if you can get past that, just prove that you have the chops in the interview and you'll be able to get a job.
posted by primethyme at 6:04 PM on June 13, 2014 [1 favorite]

On the introversion point, being a software engineer doesn't completely get you out of having to deal with people, unfortunately, or at least nowhere I've worked. The field also has a lot of problems such as idolization of having no work-life balance, and brogrammer culture unfortunately permiating more and more.
posted by Joe Chip at 6:50 PM on June 13, 2014

The software developers at my firm spend a lot of time interacting with clients. And if you aren't doing client project type of work, you will be interacting with marketing, product development, product management, etc. If you think a career in software development will cut back on the amount of people interaction you have to deal with you may end up quite disappointed.
posted by COD at 6:15 AM on June 14, 2014

"Programming" is a very broad field with many niches and variations. I'm sure there is a place for you, but finding it could be hard. I agree with the previous comments to the effect that IT has many of the same requirements and stressors that you don't like about your present job.

I assume you have CAD skills. That is a potential competitive advantage. That plus programming might get you into 3D printing or CC manufacturing.
posted by SemiSalt at 6:50 AM on June 14, 2014 [1 favorite]

Thanks everyone for the input.

I know that any job is going to be work and dealing with people, and that's going to mean escaping my comfort zone. There aren't many jobs where you totally get away from dealing with people (nor would I want one) and they don't call it work for nothing. I might as well get into something I already have an interest in.

The worst that can happen is I'll spend a few years in a field that I end up also dissatisfied in, and that's not so bad either.

Time to hone my resume and pound the pavement, metaphorically.
posted by Llamadog-dad at 9:19 AM on June 14, 2014

It may be worth reading Cal Newport's So Good They Can't Ignore You. You don't sound like you're in the same boat as some people who decide they want to change courses and follow what interests them, but IMHO there is good advice in that book for anyone thinking about changing careers.
posted by StrawberryPie at 2:35 PM on June 14, 2014

« Older Photographing indoors, need lens recommendations   |   Seattle area it is... can you help me find a... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.