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Ask Slashdot: Best Training To Rekindle a Long Tech Career? 162

Posted by timothy
from the choose-his-own-adventure dept.
New submitter SouthSeaDragon writes "I'm a computer professional who has performed most of the functions that could be expected over a 39 year career, including hardware maintenance and repair, sitting on a 800 support line, developing a help desk application from the ground up (terminal-based), writing a software manual, plus developing and teaching software courses. In recent years, I've worked for computer software vendors doing pre-sales support generally for infrastructure products including applications, app servers, integration with Java based messaging and ESB product and most recently a Business Rules product. I was laid off recently due to a restructuring and am now trying to figure out the next phase. With the WIA displaced worker grants now available I am attempting to figure out what training would be good to pursue. I am hearing that 'the Cloud' is the next big thing, but I'm also looking into increasing my development skills with a current language. I wonder what the readers might suggest for new directions."
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Ask Slashdot: Best Training To Rekindle a Long Tech Career?

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  • Android Development (Score:5, Interesting)

    by eljefe6a (2289776) on Sunday June 10, 2012 @02:18PM (#40276249) Homepage
    Since you already know Java, give Android development a try. I know a few people who have rekindled their love of programming by doing some mobile apps.
  • by DoofusOfDeath (636671) on Sunday June 10, 2012 @02:19PM (#40276255)

    Unless you're unusually gifted, you're probably learning new things, and thinking, a somewhat more slowly than you were when you were 25.

    On the other hand, if you have good hygiene, nice manners, aren't creepy, and are efficient, people might welcome you into their homes.

    So how about being self-employed, going to people's homes and small businesses to help them with configuration / purchase / maintenance of computers and simple networks?

    It wouldn't pay great, but you may have to live with that anyway, given that you're competing with hungry recent-graduates in a depressed labor market.

  • Teach (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday June 10, 2012 @02:32PM (#40276377)

    Java is still a very popular language - Could you get a job teaching the basics? You can't beat the perks of being a professor.

    If development classes don't float your boat, how about teaching a Systems Analysis and Design course? You've got experience with requirements gathering, project management, System Design, etc.. you could make a great Professor with that experience.

  • by vlm (69642) on Sunday June 10, 2012 @02:47PM (#40276519)

    Unless you're unusually gifted, you're probably learning new things, and thinking, a somewhat more slowly than you were when you were 25.

    Only in a law of averages. My observations of old people are they either give up intentionally, the brain freezes up, and they're hopeless, or they keep using the brain and they're more focused than a 20-something. It seems much like muscle mass and health in general as people age.

    The percentage of those who give up in a population increases pretty much linear with age. Look out for the ancient wizard, those guys tend to have scary elite skills. Unless they gave up on tech and went into soft skills and are there just because of schmooze power, the schmooze guys tend toward being a laughingstock.

    People tend to romanticize their youth a bit. At 25 I was trying to date the intern, had no idea what was going on although I thought I was an expert, still wasted time occasionally drinking, basically was an idiot with a huge surplus of energy and motivation. Which is all SOME jobs need, but most need actual skill.

  • Five years (Score:4, Interesting)

    by kenh (9056) on Sunday June 10, 2012 @02:55PM (#40276579) Homepage Journal

    Are you honestly looking for suggestions on training to take that will be good for the next 5 years?

    First off, in this job market, don't expect to sail into an upper-level position, so you are likely looking at a grunt-level job.

    My advice would be to learn either network security OR virtualization - your diverse skill set will augment either of those two areas, and in security you may have an advantage not being a twenty-something with dubious credentials (AKA self-taught). I think you are honestly at the end of your career, or at least, you can see it from where you are - your greatest strengths are your previous experiences, look for a way to build on them in a growing segment of the industry.

  • by Salgak1 (20136) <salgak@speak[ ]y.net ['eas' in gap]> on Sunday June 10, 2012 @03:21PM (#40276775) Homepage
    . . . .you obviously know IT, can code, and like being productive. You've got both experience and maturity, and likely a good work ethic. Might I suggest a different tack ? Get into CNC Machining [wikipedia.org]. Consider it the industrial end of the Maker movement, industrial-style. People are needed, it pays well, and if they need you to work overtime. . . .you get paid for it. Plus, at the end of the day, you'll have a tangible result of your work. And, with the depth and breadth of experience you already have, picking up CAD/CAM shouldn't be a problem, and you'll likely become a floor lead or shop chief in a relatively short time after attaining mastery of your new skills. . . .
  • Re:Be realistic (Score:5, Interesting)

    by shmlco (594907) on Sunday June 10, 2012 @04:11PM (#40277207) Homepage

    Most of people who've put you into this mess are ex-CEOs who've since bailed and retired on their multi-million-dollar golden parachutes.

    Cut expenses, Profit. Cut jobs. Profit. Offshore. More profits. Cut quality. More profits. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat...

    What? People are no longer buying the mass-produced junk we're importing from China? Sorry about that. Guess it's time for me to bail...

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday June 10, 2012 @04:21PM (#40277277)

    Age discrimination sucks, but people will take a 20-something a lot more seriously than anyone 35+. It is just how the business goes.

    Only a 20-something or younger would say such a thing.

    I'm 28.. I've run a couple of internet businesses over the last 10 years, and I've met _A LOT_ of 20-something year olds. Most of them are--and I cannot stress this enough--fucking idiots.

    Their SINGLE advantage is that they are cheap. As long as you can prevent them from fucking up too badly, you'll be able to save some money.

  • by hot soldering iron (800102) on Sunday June 10, 2012 @05:29PM (#40277757)

    Very true words the parent wrote. My father just retired from a long, well-paid, career as a CNC programmer in the aerospace industry and I'm currently doing electro-mechanical R&D at a start up (and being paid decently with benefits!) partly because of my diverse skill set. They commented that you don't often see Electronics Tech, Java Programmer, Network Admin, and CNC Machinist on the same resume. I've heard that some idiots ask "What's your vertical?", like everyone needs to be a super specialist in something. I've found that having a broad range of skills makes me valuable to quite a few people, some that are more than willing to pay a consulting fee.

    Check out consulting while going through classes. It looks like you already know your stuff well enough that people would be willing to pay you. If you live in an area that isn't "tech heavy" like the coastal areas of the US, you may find people doing start ups that need tech explanations and guidance. My wife does a lot of that for her bosses (she's the IT Director for a multi-million dollar start up).

    Going back to school is also a good move, in the meanwhile. Most schools (especially tech schools) have people whose role is to build relationships with local businesses and place appropriate students with them. They love older students with high tech backgrounds and experience. They are easier to place, and more likely to get other students from the school in the door of where ever they go.

  • by plopez (54068) on Sunday June 10, 2012 @06:42PM (#40278143) Journal

    First answer that question. What do *you* really want to do? The proceed from there. Don't just chase after the latest fad, they come and go and have the shelf life of fresh fruit. And fads can often end up as dead ends. Find out what you would be happiest doing. Even if it means a career change. Get career counseling if you have to but explore that question first.

  • Re:Be realistic (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday June 10, 2012 @07:21PM (#40278331)

    Our country is more willing to spend money on its criminals than its elders, might as well take advantage of that.

    Wrong.

    I don't know about you, but I've been in jail.

    Three hot meals is correct, if you can manage to swallow it. The food has to be as bland as possible, because they don't cook with any salt or spices or anything tasty in case someone has heart issues or is diabetic, etc. Trust me, putting salt on your food after it is cooked makes a huge difference (i.e. it doesn't help). Most people mix all of the meal together in one big pile in order to get even a modicum of flavor. If you want something tasty you have to use the canteen, which is usually a vending machine where ramen noodles are $0.75 and a candy bar is $2.00.

    The gym was crap. You could play basketball, or just run around.

    The library was a little bit bigger than a dorm room and consisted of books that were donated because no one bought them at the library sale. So basically a book has to be so crappy that a library tries to hawk it, and then be even crappier because it doesn't sell for a quarter. There were a few gems if you looked hard (ended up reading a few torn up Dostoevsky novels).

    Yes, I am sure that there more pleasant jails/prisons out there, but the two I stayed in and probably the majority of the rest are far from what you think.

    Oh, and at the end of your tenure you are tendered a nice fat bill to pay for your stay (~$30 a night). Pretty sure a $900/month retirement home would be a better choice.

    I understand your post was a cutesy facetious post, but it is hard to excuse ignorance.

  • by Fished (574624) <amphigory@ g m ail.com> on Sunday June 10, 2012 @08:15PM (#40278621)

    Preach it.

    I recently turned 40, and I work with a number of people in their twenties. I consistently finish project faster than they do ... however, this is often obscured by the fact that I give longer (and more accurate) estimates for projects. I've learned a new programming language every year for the past 10 years or so (this year was Haskell; my brain is still blown) and my employer highly values my skills and experience. I have another friend who works as a "project troubleshooter". He is brought in, as a contractor, to save projects that aren't getting completed or whose performance is so bad that they're unusable. He primarily does coding, not management, and makes about $500,000 a year as a consultant in his late 50's.

    The other thing I'd observe is that most of the newer graduates never REALLY learned the fundamentals. They think of memory in "gigabytes", not "megabytes", and they tend to have slept through basic ideas like evaluating algorithms. (I recently had to explain to a computer science major from an Ivy League school with a rep for computer science the significance of "big O" and why an algorithm with O(n!) was a bad idea. He was a smart kid, but apparently that concept was just never hammered home.) Likewise for memory management -- all most recent graduates know about memory management is that the garbage collector does it. Likewise, for them machine language is hopefully obscure, and if they were ever confronted with a selector panel their brains would freeze up.

    Don't count us old farts out yet. There are advantages to having first learned programming on a computer whose memory was only 5Kb, with a 1 Megahertz processor. (A Vic 20.)

  • by sg_oneill (159032) on Sunday June 10, 2012 @10:27PM (#40279167)

    Yep. Doing IOS apps rekindled my love of programming at a time when the endless treadmill of web-dev was pushing me towards contemplating a career change into something not-computers.

    I'm sure I'll grow disillusioned again, but for now, I'm actually enjoying my job for the first time in a decade.

  • by Beetle B. (516615) <beetle_b@[ ]il.com ['ema' in gap]> on Sunday June 10, 2012 @10:46PM (#40279287)

    That's pretty much the ultimate ""your own fault" approach. There is a fairly widespread subset of th epopulation that thinks that any ailment is the sick person's fault.

    I don't know if there's a formal term for it, but I've heard it referred to as the "Just World Fallacy". People assume the world is fair, and thus if something bad happens to someone, it's his fault - either he took actions that led to his misfortune, or he failed to take actions to prevent it.

    Basically, people who invoke it need to feel secure about the world. They want to believe such stuff won't happen to them.

    Anyway, as for the GP's theories, I've seen research that shows that things like taking care of your health, aerobics, etc are far more likely to help older folks' brains solve problems than keeping them active with technical stuff (mathematics, puzzles, etc).

  • by arth1 (260657) on Sunday June 10, 2012 @10:59PM (#40279337) Homepage Journal

    A manager I knew once asked me if I knew someone who I could recommend for an open position. I asked what his dream candidate would be like, and he said ten years supervisor experience, early thirties, good school, like Ivy League.

    I had to pull Gershwin's Law[*] on him, and told him that basically, he wanted a daddy's boy who's overpaid and never had to prove himself. To have ten years supervisor experience in your early thirties, you have to have been hired directly after school, which is unlikely unless daddy pulled strings. An Ivy League degree in this case would just increase the risk of this being the case.
    So we sat down with a couple of pints and I found out what he really wanted - which turned out to be someone who had experience and could be depended on. I recommended hiring someone 40+ who was a victim of a structural lay-off.

    IIRC he hired a 20-something who jumped ship after less than a year, just as he was starting to become useful. You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make it drink.

    [*]: "It ain't necessarily so."

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