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Ask Slashdot: How Do I Change Tech Careers At 30? 451

First time accepted submitter possiblybored writes "I'm 30, and I am a technology teacher and the school's technology coordinator. I like my job, but I have been having thoughts about switching careers and focusing more on technology in the private sector. I like Microsoft products and would head in that direction, probably. Is it too late for me to think about this? What is the best way to get started on this path? I'm not so much interested in programming (though I'd like to learn a language some day) as much as I am intrigued by topics like setting up e-mail servers, reading about cloud stuff like Office 365, and looking at information on collaborative technology. I'm a good teacher and excel at explaining things as well. Any advice the community could offer would be greatly appreciated!"
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Ask Slashdot: How Do I Change Tech Careers At 30?

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  • Ok (Score:1, Interesting)

    by The Cat ( 19816 ) on Thursday March 06, 2014 @02:47PM (#46421337)

    Whatever you do, do it as an independent consultant. DO NOT take a job with a boss. You will be fired when you can least afford it. American "employers" are not grown-ups. They are not emotionally or mentally capable of employing adults.

    Have many clients so if one becomes a douchebag, you can fire them and rely on the others until they are replaced.

    Be aware of the fact that if you ignore my advice and take a job, you will be fired, and it will be done in such a way so as to maximize your hardship.

    Be your own boss. It is the only option in 2014 America.

  • by DigiShaman ( 671371 ) on Thursday March 06, 2014 @02:47PM (#46421341) Homepage

    If I was in your situation given your experience and passion, I would focus more on private home and SMB side of things. Consulting, sales, and perhaps some end-user support. I doubt system and network infrastructure administration is your thing. Perhaps later on, but now.

  • Re:Troll (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Em Adespoton ( 792954 ) <> on Thursday March 06, 2014 @03:11PM (#46421647) Homepage Journal

    Somewhere in Oklahoma there is a school district that needs to review its hiring practices.

    I have been having thoughts about switching careers and focusing more on technology in the private sector.

    I'm wondering if those thoughts were prompted by others.

    I've changed directions in the generic "IT" field a few times, and it all boiled down to "What do I actually WANT to be doing? What am I doing in my spare time in IT that is distracting me from my day job?" I then enter that field, already having experience and connections in the sub-field that I want to be working in.

    So for him, I think the question is, "What am I enjoying teaching right now? What do I dig into in more detail at home after I've done my prep work? What do I spend extra time helping students with?" In those areas, start hanging out on online forums and discussing your passion areas with likeminded techies. Find out about what's happening there in the private sector.

    Leverage what you know and what you like; if you don't like what you're doing (that doesn't seem to be the case), then retrain yourself. This is important: in IT, you need to be constantly learning new things; taking courses and getting credentials comes at the end, after you've got some experience under your belt -- the creds are to prove you know what you're doing, not to train you how to do it.

    Since you don't have any programming languages, you obviously haven't got a CompSci degree, so you're looking at "lower" IT work (services, not design). This means that you'll likely be working for lower wages, and need a lot of on-the-job training.

    So, start at helpdesk, find out what you like and don't, and work your way up inside a company once you've got the experience under your belt. As you have teacher training, working with customers and explaining things in simple terms shouldn't be difficult -- working from a script may bore you to death however.

  • Re:Apply to jobs (Score:4, Interesting)

    by NoImNotNineVolt ( 832851 ) on Thursday March 06, 2014 @03:29PM (#46421811) Homepage
    I can't handle 40 hours of sedation every week for the rest of my life. I chose to work in the defense industry specifically because I thought it would afford me opportunities to work on exciting high-tech shit. That bubble's been burst for some time now.
  • by Spazmania ( 174582 ) on Thursday March 06, 2014 @03:34PM (#46421869) Homepage

    Sounds to me like you're looking in the wrong places.

    I live in the Washington DC area where virtually every fast food cashier is hispanic and most speak around 10 words of English. During a McDonalds lunch some time ago, I happened to overhear a job interview. The kid was clearly unmotivated but his allowance wasn't cutting it. Towards the end, the manager ask to see paperwork with his social security number or a birth certificate or whatever, the documents on the government list for proof of citizenship. The kid didn't have any. The manager asked what his social security number was. The kid didn't know. So the manager told him to go get those things from his parents and come back.

    When the kid left, the manager called over one of the assistant managers and began filling him in on the interview. He explained: "if the kid comes back, we'll probably hire him because he can speak English."

    You wanna compete with the day laborers hanging out by the highway, of course you're going to lose. The day bosses in the pickup trucks aren't looking for white guys. Apply to a company that isn't in the 10% of the bottom feeders.

  • Re:Apply to jobs (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Mark of the North ( 19760 ) on Thursday March 06, 2014 @03:57PM (#46422137)

    Quit the soul-crushing job as soon as you are able. If you use phrases like soul-crushing to describe what you do for 40+ hours of work, you need a change.

    I'm 40 and struggling with the aftermath of a similar situation. My last job as director of tech for a school division came to an end when a new superintendent came in with strong opinions about what technology in a school should be (Apple TVs and Ipads) but didn't have a clue what it took to support those technologies (like a secure network) or an understanding of the regulations we worked under. Being thrown under the bus was pretty painful. Can't say that I have fully recovered, physically or emotionally.

    One thing is for sure, I never want to be stuck in a job where my supervisor is an opinionated moron again. Not unless the job has a short time-frame. This pretty much rules out working directly for government. Even if you are lucky to get in with a good group, it can change in a hurry.

    Now, I'm doing tech consulting, raising sheep, building a green home, and being a dad again. Two months in and I can't see myself ever going back.

  • Re:Troll (Score:4, Interesting)

    by cayenne8 ( 626475 ) on Thursday March 06, 2014 @04:09PM (#46422233) Homepage Journal

    I've changed directions in the generic "IT" field a few times, and it all boiled down to "What do I actually WANT to be doing?

    Hey, it's never too late really, if you are quick to pick up things, and smart enough. It doesn't have to be confined to only ONE field.

    I'm over the mid 40's, and I still don't know what I want to be when I grow up.

    My degree was in chemistry, never worked in that field, almost did medical school, shy of that I fell in to medical research, started learning databases for that way back in the stone age, did some grad school in IT to try to bring my gpa up (I had a great party life in college)...from there fell into GUI design with a company that was primarily mainframes, but moving interfaces to windows, fell into learning Oracle, and did some DBA work at places, I've designed database driven web apps, played with a few languages, but never really mastering any one. I've worked in restaurants, been a head chef, sold retail, and frankly, I'm looking maybe at some point to see what I can do in the arts maybe. I dunno yet.

    I have mostly been a jack of all trades but likely master of none. However, doing that, learning enough to get through anything (fake it till you make it), having some people skills, I've just gone in different directions where the wind took me and my interests.

    I think Aerosmith said it best "Life's a journey, not a destination".

    I still don't know what I wanna be when I grow can be a lifestyle and philosophy that you go with. I keeps life from being boring, and yes, you can make a VERY comfortable living doing it if you're smart, and do what you set your mind to and don't let things get in the way.

  • Serious answer (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Dcnjoe60 ( 682885 ) on Thursday March 06, 2014 @04:23PM (#46422359)

    A lot of people are assuming this is a troll or some sort of joke. That says a lot about how helpful people are! It sounds like you have familiarity with a number of software products, most likely all Microsoft. To strengthen that, you could take some courses at a community college. You could also volunteer some of your services for your local church or other nonprofit to build a resume.

    However, you might want to consider that instead of IT support, in the private sector, going the training route. With your teaching background, many corporations would hire you. In addition, with your current computer background, they could hire you to teach software classes to their employees. Even if you are wanting to get out of teaching and into support, such a path would get your foot in the door and allow you to establish connections, gain experience and pick up additional skills before making the switch.

Karl's version of Parkinson's Law: Work expands to exceed the time alloted it.