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smacintush
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Jan 23, 2010, 04:59 AM
 
I have been considering a career change, maybe to something in IT. Perhaps network administration? I was wondering what you all thought, if you have any advice or comments etc.. Does trying to break into the field at forty-ish pose any problems? Any good web sites for information that you can recommend?
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dcmacdaddy
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Jan 23, 2010, 11:38 AM
 
What is your current career and what skill-sets could you bring to the IT field from your current career?
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smacintush  (op)
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Jan 23, 2010, 02:49 PM
 
Very little.

I work with computerized machines…I use a computer for email, excel etc.…I'd like to think that I am a good learner and technically inclined.

That's about it.
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shifuimam
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Jan 23, 2010, 03:17 PM
 
Not to be a downer, but if you don't already have extensive experience working in IT, you're probably not going to find a job unless you look at really small businesses.

Lots and lots of people who graduated from college in the last five years have gotten IT-related educations, and businesses are far more likely to hire a young person who (a) has recent education, (b) keeps up on current technology, and (c) won't be retiring in 15 or 20 years.

If you've never done anything related to network administration, you're not going to be able to just jump into it and suddenly find a job as a network admin. It's a fairly complex industry that requires a lot of education.

Not to mention that you'd be looking at a beginner's salary, which I'm guessing is going to be a lot less than whatever you're making now. Being able to "use a computer" doesn't necessarily translate into making a career as an IT professional, and the odds are even further against you because of your age. Sucks, but that's how it is. My mother lost her job in her mid-40s and has a hell of a time find a decent job with livable wage and benefits ever since - and she hasn't attempted a career change; the employment opportunities she's looking for are in a field where she has 15+ years of experience.
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mduell
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Jan 23, 2010, 04:19 PM
 
With your skillset the best you can do is going to be like a helpdesk.
     
dcmacdaddy
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Jan 23, 2010, 05:43 PM
 
Originally Posted by smacintush View Post
I work with computerized machines…I use a computer for email, excel etc.…I'd like to think that I am a good learner and technically inclined.
When you say "work with computerized machines" how much of your work has been with configuring said machines? In other words, are you just pushing buttons on a pre-programmed machine to make it work or are you setting up and configuring the machines for production and then running them (say like with a commercial CNC machine)?

With the former choice you wouldn't have a lot of transferable skills to the IT world, with the latter choice you could become a field technician for the company that makes the machines or do other types of IT-related work that requires physical configuration/assembly skills (like being a field-tech for a printer install/repair company).


Overall, as others have said, with no skills you will a) find it very hard to compete with the "young whippersnappers" out there and b) any job you do get will be entry level.
(In my area, entry-level IT jobs on a help desk start at $8-10/hour. So, in this area, you would have to be able to live on $16,000-20,000 a years for 3-5 years while you gained more experience that would allow you to a) move up in your current organization or b) get hired by another organization.)

Besides that, the job market for everything, everywhere is hella tight right now. I have been applying for jobs in IT operations/management and have been offered a couple part-time jobs in the $8-12 range. Granted, I am in the upper Midwest and I used to work back east, but when I was back East I had 13 years of experience in IT operations for the federal government. I had spent the last 4+ years of my federal career running the IT operations for a small federal department. I was the boss responsible for making sure all the technology worked all the time--we had a 10/7/364 schedule--for one of the smaller Smithsonian museums. I have experience you literally can't get anywhere else and I am getting passed over for similar jobs at half my previous salary.

The job market is just that tight. The only areas in the IT field where I have seen consistent openings is in programming and database operations. But again, those skills cannot be trained (easily) and any work you get would be entry-level for a long, long time.
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smacintush  (op)
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Jan 23, 2010, 08:47 PM
 
Originally Posted by shifuimam View Post
Not to be a downer, but if you don't already have extensive experience working in IT, you're probably not going to find a job unless you look at really small businesses.

Lots and lots of people who graduated from college in the last five years have gotten IT-related educations, and businesses are far more likely to hire a young person who (a) has recent education, (b) keeps up on current technology, and (c) won't be retiring in 15 or 20 years.

If you've never done anything related to network administration, you're not going to be able to just jump into it and suddenly find a job as a network admin. It's a fairly complex industry that requires a lot of education.

Not to mention that you'd be looking at a beginner's salary, which I'm guessing is going to be a lot less than whatever you're making now. Being able to "use a computer" doesn't necessarily translate into making a career as an IT professional, and the odds are even further against you because of your age. Sucks, but that's how it is. My mother lost her job in her mid-40s and has a hell of a time find a decent job with livable wage and benefits ever since - and she hasn't attempted a career change; the employment opportunities she's looking for are in a field where she has 15+ years of experience.
I don't know that much about the industry, but I'm not a total idiot. I would be looking at GETTING an education. I am 36 now and am assuming I would be finished with schooling in my 40's. I also assumed keeping fresh on new tech is a part of the deal. I'm looking for a real change.

That being said, I also assumed that my age might still be a consideration. This isn't something I have my heart set on, I'm still spitballing.
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Phileas
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Jan 23, 2010, 08:57 PM
 
Originally Posted by smacintush View Post
This isn't something I have my heart set on, I'm still spitballing.
Then why bother? Find something you're passionate about, then figure out how to make money out of that passion. Otherwise life will just turn to shit, sooner or later.
     
besson3c
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Jan 23, 2010, 08:58 PM
 
You could always teach yourself, which is what I did, and start your own business. I wouldn't necessarily suggest a generic sort of computer consulting business since this market is probably pretty saturated, but with a little creativity maybe you could think of an idea that involves having a strong IT infrastructure and start building that?
     
Big Mac
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Jan 23, 2010, 08:59 PM
 
Originally Posted by dcmacdaddy View Post
Besides that, the job market for everything, everywhere is hella tight right now. I have been applying for jobs in IT operations/management and have been offered a couple part-time jobs in the $8-12 range. Granted, I am in the upper Midwest and I used to work back east, but when I was back East I had 13 years of experience in IT operations for the federal government. I had spent the last 4+ years of my federal career running the IT operations for a small federal department. I was the boss responsible for making sure all the technology worked all the time--we had a 10/7/364 schedule--for one of the smaller Smithsonian museums. I have experience you literally can't get anywhere else and I am getting passed over for similar jobs at half my previous salary.
Out of curiosity, what led you to the midwest when you could have stayed in the east with its more IT-friendly atmosphere (and obviously a political climate much closer to your outlook)?

In response to smac, I agree that IT may not be the best choice to transition to. Competition is fierce, and unless you have the commitment to get a relevant degree and technical certifications, your new career will be limited. It also appears that many successful IT people are going freelance.
( Last edited by Big Mac; Jan 23, 2010 at 09:07 PM. )

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smacintush  (op)
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Jan 23, 2010, 09:00 PM
 
Originally Posted by dcmacdaddy View Post
When you say "work with computerized machines" how much of your work has been with configuring said machines? In other words, are you just pushing buttons on a pre-programmed machine to make it work or are you setting up and configuring the machines for production and then running them (say like with a commercial CNC machine)?
I am a Machining Process Technician for an automotive parts maker. I set-up and troubleshoot CNC machines used for machining pistons. I don't actually write programs, we have a CADCAM and engineers for that, but I have been trained in programming and I do understand and edit the programs.

With the former choice you wouldn't have a lot of transferable skills to the IT world, with the latter choice you could become a field technician for the company that makes the machines or do other types of IT-related work that requires physical configuration/assembly skills (like being a field-tech for a printer install/repair company).


Overall, as others have said, with no skills you will a) find it very hard to compete with the "young whippersnappers" out there and b) any job you do get will be entry level.
(In my area, entry-level IT jobs on a help desk start at $8-10/hour. So, in this area, you would have to be able to live on $16,000-20,000 a years for 3-5 years while you gained more experience that would allow you to a) move up in your current organization or b) get hired by another organization.)

Besides that, the job market for everything, everywhere is hella tight right now. I have been applying for jobs in IT operations/management and have been offered a couple part-time jobs in the $8-12 range. Granted, I am in the upper Midwest and I used to work back east, but when I was back East I had 13 years of experience in IT operations for the federal government. I had spent the last 4+ years of my federal career running the IT operations for a small federal department. I was the boss responsible for making sure all the technology worked all the time--we had a 10/7/364 schedule--for one of the smaller Smithsonian museums. I have experience you literally can't get anywhere else and I am getting passed over for similar jobs at half my previous salary.

The job market is just that tight. The only areas in the IT field where I have seen consistent openings is in programming and database operations. But again, those skills cannot be trained (easily) and any work you get would be entry-level for a long, long time.
As I said above, I'm looking at several years from now.
Being in debt and celebrating a lower deficit is like being on a diet and celebrating the fact you gained two pounds this week instead of five.
     
Cold Warrior
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Jan 23, 2010, 09:06 PM
 
If you do go to school, try to get some defense internships. They may set you up with a security clearance in the process and you could command a slightly higher salary with that plus a degree and some skills and certifications in Microsoft and Cisco stuff. If you're single and don't mind danger, you could make a lot overseas. (I say single because, presumably, you would not want to be gone for 6-12 months or more.)
     
smacintush  (op)
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Jan 23, 2010, 09:10 PM
 
Originally Posted by Phileas View Post
Then why bother? Find something you're passionate about, then figure out how to make money out of that passion. Otherwise life will just turn to shit, sooner or later.
Because I'm not really passionate about much of anything.

I have some artistic talent, and I like writing sometimes. I don't think I'm very good at those things and they are pretty hard to make money at.
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milhous
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Jan 23, 2010, 11:35 PM
 
I've been out of school for almost 5 years and have been in various IT roles. I also have a CCNA so it's been fun learning how to troubleshoot networks, in addition to configuring switches and routers. The downside is putting out fires and doing break/fix stuff. If you work for a small company, you'll be forced to wear many hats and be everything to everyone. In larger companies, you'll have your designated role, but have to deal with the bureaucracy and bullshit.

But I'm tired of IT and want to become a developer instead. So in my spare time, I fool around with Python, as well as learning how to write proper HTML/CSS. I also have a spare PC running FreeBSD that I use for various things, but I'm learning and reading constantly. I took a few introductory programming and database classes in school, but that was the extent of my programming knowledge.

I recently spoke with someone who has done many successful startups and was recently hiring Jr. Software Developers. I sent him my resume and told him what I presently did, and that I'd relocate, take a paycut, and learn on the job. He wrote back that I had a lot of the right skills as a Systems Administrator, but that I needed more programming experience before I could be hired. His suggestion? Either work for a large software company and learn the process of writing/shipping code, or preferably, write an iPhone application and get it in the App store. That was all the experience he needed to see to show that I was serious and had a certain baseline of skills.

So this is one avenue to consider. If you're in the right area, you'll find a lot of people that can help you get the information and help you need in your learning. If you're not tied down to anything, consider moving to where there's a lot of tech companies and techies. Here's a good essay by Eric Raymond on becoming a hacker.

How To Become A Hacker

If I had the knowledge to program and operate CNC machines, I'd be making all kinds of stuff, and trying to sell them.

But most importantly, regardless of what you decide to learn and do, learn to read and write well, and improve continuously.

I enjoyed The Fountainhead very much. Roark was one of my inspirations for making this transition because he took great pride in designing buildings by himself regardless of the consequences. For me, I think I would enjoy making things for a change rather than supporting other people's stuff.

I'll get around to reading Atlas Shrugged someday, it's in my library.
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dcmacdaddy
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Jan 24, 2010, 12:02 AM
 
Originally Posted by smacintush View Post
I am a Machining Process Technician for an automotive parts maker. I set-up and troubleshoot CNC machines used for machining pistons.
OK. This skill-set would make you much more appealing to a potential employer than just being a button-pusher. I think you could easily transition into being a field repair technician for an IT hardware manufacturer with this kind of skill-set.


Originally Posted by smacintush View Post
I don't actually write programs, we have a CADCAM and engineers for that, but I have been trained in programming and I do understand and edit the programs.
This is a Good Thing™. Having a basic background in programming will go a long way towards getting your foot in the door of an IT shop. However, since you said you would be making the transition in a few years, I would use your time now to really learn a couple of programming languages. Others on here that are more knowledgeable would be able to recommend what languages to pursue, but I think you have a decent shot at transitioning to the IT field as a programmer with your background and a few years of self-directed study/practice.
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dcmacdaddy
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Jan 24, 2010, 12:13 AM
 
Originally Posted by Big Mac View Post
Out of curiosity, what led you to the midwest when you could have stayed in the east with its more IT-friendly atmosphere (and obviously a political climate much closer to your outlook)?
You can't leave politics out of your thinking, can you?

As for why the Midwest, there are IT jobs all over the country, so why not. But the main reason is that I absolutely LOVE living in Madison. It is a "little" big city with just about everything I could want. It's not perfect but it is just right for me.



PS: And what exactly do you think is my "outlook" when it comes to a political climate?
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Big Mac
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Jan 24, 2010, 04:48 AM
 
Originally Posted by dcmacdaddy View Post
You can't leave politics out of your thinking, can you?

As for why the Midwest, there are IT jobs all over the country, so why not. But the main reason is that I absolutely LOVE living in Madison. It is a "little" big city with just about everything I could want. It's not perfect but it is just right for me.

PS: And what exactly do you think is my "outlook" when it comes to a political climate?
I don't want to turn this into a PWL derail, but it's hard to ignore your politics when you have it in your signature.

You seemed to be complaining about the lack of IT employment opportunities in the Midwest.

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dcmacdaddy
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Jan 24, 2010, 12:13 PM
 
Originally Posted by Big Mac View Post
You seemed to be complaining about the lack of IT employment opportunities in the Midwest.
I was offering my own experiences findings employment--as someone who transitioned from one locale to another, but stayed in the same job field--as a caution to Smacintush about some of the challenges he might face--as someone who wants to transitions from one job field to another, but, presumably, in the same location. Drawing parallels, as it were, between my experience of transitioning within the IT field to his likely experiences transitioning into the IT field.


But, as Smacintush explained, he won't be doing this transitions for a couple years which gives him time to improve his skill-set and gives the IT field time to improve (in terms of hiring options). I think he's got a decent chance to transition into the IT field if he uses his time wisely in the next few years to improve his existing technical and (minimal) programming skills. Age will be a detriment to him--no doubt about it--but I don't see his goals as impossible; They'll just require work, and a lot more work than some fresh-faced kid coming out of college with a CS degree or an A+/Network+ certification. But it is by no means impossible.

I think we need to get more of our programmers on here to offer up suggestions on languages for him to learn. That could be a big help in terms of helping Smacintush focus his energies on learning practical, hireable skills over the next few years.
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Jan 24, 2010, 01:31 PM
 
It depends if you go the MS route with C#, WCF, ASP.NET MS.SQL or the linux route with Java, PHP, perl, MySQL. Head over to Monster etc and look at the job listings. But thats for programmers, as a IT or admin role its not so much about programming skills, being comfortable with the CLI and scripting language of the platform is fine. You would be writing anything over a couple hundred lines not the hundreds of thousands that programmers can.
     
besson3c
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Jan 24, 2010, 03:34 PM
 
I agree with Blaze. The skill sets of being a full fledged programmer vs. being a sys admin are different enough that jobs usually don't expect both. However, *some* programming chops are often required for a sys admin job, usually in a language like Perl or a Unix shell (for writing shell scripts) for maintaining systems. So, knowing what languages are good for what tasks and having a good idea what sorts of responsibilities and tasks would be typical to a sys admin in an enterprise environment would be useful, so you can brush up on all of this if this is something you are interested in.

If you are interested in being a Unix sys admin I'm happy to help give you an idea as to what sorts of things would be good to learn.
     
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Jan 25, 2010, 07:30 AM
 
Being a 'beginner' in IT at 40 is going to be tough. I've been doing this IT sh1te for over 10 years and probably wouldn't recommend it as a career unless you were young free single and have no home life. Why? Well its probably different for developers but working in a production environment means on-call, working holidays, weekends etc etc. A lot of IT can be done from anywhere in the world now, which means out-sourcable. The number of people graduating in IT in India and China every year is enormous. Yes, I'm negative about the future of IT posts.

If after considering all this, you still want to get into IT, I'd recommend Networks/Telecomms as the area that would be best for the future.

So, what to do ? Get some old PCs running some form of Linux communicating. Setup a firewall, web server, proxy. Create a router. Buy a used router off Ebay. Learn about packets, sniffing, protocols, RFCs, ssh, encryption etc.

Good luck.
     
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Jan 25, 2010, 10:41 AM
 
I'd also recommend learning as much as you possibly can about the various virtualization options and sys admin for this, as this would also be on my list of most valuable skills for the future.

This entails learning about ESXi, Xen/XenServer, iSCSI, ethernet bonding, etc.
     
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Jan 25, 2010, 12:28 PM
 
If you are interested in working in IT you should try to become acquinted with it before you think about a career change. You should already know how to configure the computer and network.

If I were you I would think of a careerchange that doesn't involve loads of education and skills. perhaps you have a nice hobby that can turn into a career
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Jan 25, 2010, 01:26 PM
 
n.a
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Doofy
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Jan 25, 2010, 01:34 PM
 
Originally Posted by Phileas View Post
Find something you're passionate about, then figure out how to make money out of that passion. Otherwise life will just turn to shit, sooner or later.
Slight mod to that advice. Find two things you're passionate about. Then turn the second choice into a career - keep the first one for pure pleasure.

This is why Doof isn't a bra designer.
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