Career change help needed
October 16, 2014 6:22 PM   Subscribe

[Posting for a friend] I am trying to make a career change from finance to tech. Lots of special snowflake details inside.

I am in the middle of trying to make a career change. My work history is in finance / real estate. Until recently I worked for a large real estate investment fund. I was really unhappy at that job, and the stress of it triggered at least one, maybe two, major depressive episodes. After seven years doing it, I have no interest returning to finance / RE.

I have spent a long time contemplating my next career move. I think the tech field is where I will be happiest. Ever since I was little I've had a strong interest in technology. In high school I dabbled in learning C I was very interested in reverse engineering. I had bootlegged copies of Numega Soft Ice and IDA installed. Technical manuals from Intel on the x86 instruction set, from Microsoft on the PE file format. I was, in short, a huge nerd. And I was very lonely.

In college I decided to be someone else. I discontinued my hobby and I pretended to be ignorant in computers. I had conflated being interested in computers with being lonely. As I had wished, I did form some great friendships.

Wall Street at the time was on fire, so I imitated one of my good friends and decided that I wanted to be an investment banker. Nevermind that I don't care that much about money and hate long hours.

After college I resumed my tech hobby. I wrote some small programs in Python. I experimented with Haskell for a short period of time. I now am writing a webapp in Clojure. All of these things I did for me and me alone, primarily as learning exercises.

This brings me to today. As I said, I feel like I would be happiest in the tech field. I feel stuck though. My ideal job is one that would be 50/50 tech and business. I enjoy programming but I have no way of knowing whether I would enjoy doing it 100% of the time. Probably I wouldn't. Further, I hate the idea of being pigeonholed into any role. I don't want to be just Programmer, or just Business Drone.

I've considered project manager and product manager positions, thinking they might provide the mix of business and tech that I'm looking for. I have reservations about these roles though; as, to me, they feel like middlemen who don't actually do anything. E.g. on an informational interview, one project manager estimated to me that he spends a fifth of his time "traffic copping" his email.

Hopefully there are people reading this that were in a similar position at some point. If so, I would love to hear your story and get your advice.
posted by jenbo1 to Work & Money (2 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Pigeonholing is basically mostly a thing in larger companies; smaller places seem to have less role division. Is doing a boot camp a financially feasible thing? Because that's absolutely what I would have done if I had the money just now. I think PMs do plenty, but they don't do things I would personally find satisfying. As an eventual goal, freelancing or smaller consulting shops or startups might be a good fit.
posted by Sequence at 6:38 PM on October 16, 2014

I think you've giving project management short shrift here. (Spoken as a career tech PM.)

Go read some Rands and see if that resonates with you. Particularly Entropy Crushers.

What would happen if you were able to turn around the idea of 'a pm doesn't do anything'? Because you're describing something more like a business analyst, which does exist in tech as well. Take what a customer actually wants, and turn that into something actionable.
posted by msamye at 8:33 PM on October 16, 2014 [1 favorite]

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