Maybe I want a new job. What's out there?
January 19, 2021 12:00 PM   Subscribe

I feel like I'm at a crossroads with my career - Java developer (client and server-side). It's probably time to get a new workplace. But I'm also interested in figuring out my endgame. I'm 40. I love to learn. There's so much to choose from. What could be a good lateral jump that would pay well and ring my bells?

I'm likely to leave my job soon (I wrote this question). I have a promotion in the works and at the same time I likely have an interview for a new job next week. But I don't have a larger plan or goal in mind when it comes to my career. Manager? Nope. Architect? Probably not fulfilling enough to justify the amount of education I'd have to complete.

Is there a vaguely-associated job out there that would pay me enough (let's say starting at or quickly getting to 70k which is what I make now) that would make it worthwhile to take some time to do courses towards? I love to learn new things, so that would be a pleasure if it was something I found really interesting. I'm also not afraid to jump into new things. I have high confidence in my ability to land jobs and be successful. Honestly, this job I've had for the last number of years has eroded that confidence and I want it back.

That said I'm a woman in her 40's with small kids, so I'm not doing a degree. Anything I choose would have to be certificate/diploma. Luckily we have a local trades school with a lot of options and the ability to take things one course at a time.

Anything involving more hardware/electronics types of stuff could really float my boat. Also, working a bit more hands on and with more human interaction. Instrumentation? Some kind of electronics engineer? Automation? Fibre Optics?

This question is extremely loose. What I'm looking for is ideas of where a software developer who is looking for a career change might go, where the development background would be or at least be perceived to be an asset.
posted by kitcat to Work & Money (9 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
How's your project management skills? You can take courses on that. Become a PMP (project management pro), even get certified. Become an certified SCRUM master. So you lead or guide teams, but not actual coding. That'd give you more human, less machines.
posted by kschang at 12:45 PM on January 19 [2 favorites]

Off the top of my head, solutions engineer and software sales would be lateral moves that value development experience. Both of those would put you closer to the human interaction side. I knew someone who went from software development to a solutions engineer position as part of an ordinary job change, no additional education or certification needed. Quality assurance (QA) positions would value dev experience as well.

Does it have to be an entirely different field? If you're still open to software development but looking for a different environment, a differently-sized company, bigger or smaller, than your current one might actually be enough of a change to feel good.

You mention a number for salary, 70k. Are you open to moving to a tech hub? I moved to Seattle from San Diego for a new job and now I make more than the median according to this software salary aggregator site.

I don't have a computer science degree (I have a BS in chemistry) and at the time I moved I had 1 year of software development experience. I think that you could definitely find a job 70k+ within or nearby your field that could have a good manager and great coworkers without getting additional education. The hardest part would be doing the research around what you'd need to work on to prepare for the interview.

Finding a new job sounds like the right step for you, after I read your linked post. I think your current company is no longer ideal for your growth and satisfaction.
posted by Iron Carbide at 1:19 PM on January 19

I'd encourage you to find a role you want to do at your current company, it is hard to find a company that's willing to take on someone in a new role. Move out of your company after you have experience even if it is just on paper.

I rarely see good PMs last very long, there's a high degree of burnout in that job.

For some reason "cloud" is super hot right now, can you get AWS certified at your current job or find something AWS/Azure related to work on?

We can also debate all day about whether or not Java is a good language but I'd look at getting away from that too. Due to the prevalence of cloud tech backend work is largely being perceived as a commodity at a lot of places.

The market is also really bad right now due to covid. I'm guessing by Java you're doing something enterprise-y and companies are being weird about hiring. I've had some really, really weird experiences lately. It might just be me personally trying to transition, but I think a lot of companies in the US at least don't know how things are going to shake out after covid so a lot of roles are "remote is great we think but we still might maybe want you in the office?"
posted by geoff. at 2:38 PM on January 19

👋I'm also a woman who has worked in tech for a long time. I have a couple of ideas for you:

* Product management: more about defining features and audience instead of the actual programming work; this field is growing now as more companies realise how important it is to know what you're building and why. I see it gaining traction in many industries, even news.

* Applying tech: this is what I've done most of my career. I personally found the straight up coding jobs a bit unfulfilling, but I'm not sure how much that's true for you. I've worked in public health and media and my coding skills have been an asset in both. I've also had to learn a lot for both fields, which I see as a positive. What are you interested in?

* Learn tech built on Java - not sure what exactly you're doing with Java, but I think there's some exciting platforms built on top of the JVM. For example clojure; also elasticsearch, which has been a gamechanger of a database and search platform for me on many projects, is also built on Java and I know their team is globally distributed/remote friendly. I'm thinking this would expand your skillset, always a good thing, keep things more interesting for you, and probably get you paid more.
posted by jacquilinala at 5:16 PM on January 19 [1 favorite]

I'd nth Product Management. Specifically, Technical Product Management. Most Product Managers come from a marketing or business background, and have trouble truly understanding how technology is built. If you're not someone who wants to get into marketing or interfacing directly with customers, it can be difficult to find the right position, but it's out there. Difficult not because companies don't need you; most companies desperately need someone who is able to take executives' ideas and break them down into buildable chunks. It's difficult because most Product Managers don't understand that there are many sorts of Product Managers, and just hire people like them. But put yourself out there as a technical product manager and read a couple of books on the basics of writing agile stories, and I'd be comfortable saying you could pull in more than 100k within a couple of years.
posted by Pacrand at 8:17 PM on January 19

Co-signing @Pacrand -- 1) I work in a company where technical product management is a defined role, and the people in it are generally incredibly valuable, 2) but that's no guarantee anyone recognizes it. If you think navigating that cross-current is good for you.
posted by away for regrooving at 1:16 AM on January 20

You have to factor in job satisfaction etc, but in most cases being a mediocre software engineer will pay more than being a pretty good program manager or hardware engineer or anything else you can conveniently move to from your current role. If you're a *great* program manager or hardware engineer, it's a different story, but you should factor in a 20-40% discount on salary for equivalent ability. (The exception to this is if you want to move into management, but it sounds like you don't think you do.)

I don't know anything about the job scene in Edmonton, but in general my experience is at your level there is a lot of variance between different companies in terms of how much work there is, how the work is done, what kind of subject area the company is in, and what the salary is. It's totally possible you could shift to a different company and do the same amount of hours/week but have it be more pleasant company culture and get paid 25% more. Certainly not guaranteed, but that amount of variance is not at all unusual.
posted by inkyz at 9:15 AM on January 20

Nthing product management since you mentioned human interaction. Also, if you have people skills, user research.

But if you don't mind staying on as a developer and just looking for a better job, there are plenty out there that pay over 70k, and thanks to Covid, more and more jobs are hiring remote workers. You may want to test the waters a bit.
posted by redlines at 10:10 PM on January 20

I’ve been a contract (woman) developer for the last 5 years. A great thing about contracting, especially short-term contracts, is that every role makes you learn new skills, new frameworks, new libraries.

IME, the hiring process is much less rigid for contractors than it is for FTEs so it can be easier to leverage your dev skills to apply for roles that are dev jobs but have a hardware, electronics, automation aspect if you can take that route.

Other thoughts: there are a ton of online courses you can take, Arduino and other IoT frameworks have lots of tutorials. LinkedIn Learning and Udemy have certification courses and skills “badges” that are good resume-fodder. Check out meetups nearby - where I am we have Women Who Code, PDX Women in Tech and others. Hackathons are fantastic and more resume-fodder.

The best thing I’ve done career-wise is to have learned from every job what I *don’t* want to do and discovered what I’m best at and what work I enjoy. Once you get there you’ll feel comfortable turning down jobs that don’t jibe with what you enjoy. The more you learn the more accurate your filter becomes.
posted by bendy at 8:26 AM on January 21 [1 favorite]

« Older Is there 300,000+ psi, low temp hydraulic fluid?   |   Probate in state with only probatable asset, not... Newer »

You are not logged in, either login or create an account to post comments