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#371078 - 10/07/2018 16:01 Figuring out how to re-enter the tech industry
JBjorgen
carpal tunnel

Registered: 19/01/2002
Posts: 3494
Loc: Guadalajara, MX
So after spending 10 years living abroad and ministering to people's spiritual needs, I'm facing some big changes in the upcoming year.

My 6 year old son has cerebral palsy. Spastic quadriplegia if that means anything to you. Part of the reason that we chose Guadalajara for our second term was because of the excellent medical care available here. We've been very satisfied after two major hip surgeries and countless therapy sessions, etc. Unfortunately we're finding that as he gets older, we're unable to meet his cognitive, emotional and behavioral needs here, mostly because of the language barrier. Because of this, we've made the decision to return to living in the US.

Because our healthcare system is so screwed up in the US, I'm stuck in the weird position that to provide for my son's needs, I need to either make a decent salary, or be poor enough to be dependent on the government to meet all his needs. I can't be in the in-between land or we will go broke and he will suffer. This means that most religious ministry positions are not an option for me, because contrary to what many believe, most of these positions come with very modest salaries and require a fair amount of self-denial. I'm ok with the self-denial, but refuse to sacrifice my son's future because I can't provide for his needs.

If you're still with me, hang in there...I'm coming around the the request for advice (or just skip to the last paragraph).

So this means that I'll most likely be rejoining the tech sector after a 10 year absence. Honestly, I'm not sure where to start. I spent my time as a developer doing database app development for school management, but due to circumstances beyond my control, that was primarily in MS Access as a front end and MySQL back end. Ain't no one looking for MS Access 2000 developers smile. Also did a fair amount of web development using a LAMP platform and a bit in the early days of AJAX. Primarily using the ExtJS toolkit, which is now Sencha. Also did the server setup and maintenance, both Windows and Linux for a small office, but nothing special and I don't have any special skills there other than Linux literacy. I have a little experience with setting up our IP telephony system with Asterisk server and SIP clients around the country. I've done a fair amount of network installations including long-distance wireless links. So all of that to say I know a bit about a lot of things, but I don't specialize in anything, and I've been out of the industry for 10 years, so I'm really stale and behind the times. I'm not interested in getting into developing blockchain or AI stuff. I'm just not that hardcore of a programmer.

I'm not moving back until next April, and I'll have at least a couple months after my return to transition, so I have 8-9 months before I'll be hitting the job market in earnest, although I'll probably start applying selectively earlier. I'm going to be living in Columbus, OH, which has a very healthy job market, so there are plenty of positions available. But my resume needs some work, since I've only worked for 2 companies in the last 18 years, and the last 10 were as a missionary. Doesn't really wow the HR folks.

So I'm looking for some advice on what I can do to make myself more marketable. Perhaps courses or certifications that I can take online. In the old days, it was MCSE or Cisco or Redhat, but I have no idea where to start these days. I'm not a real creative type but I like solving problems and research, so I think I'd like to end up more in server administration, networking, helpdesk or something along those lines, but I'm really open to pretty much anything to get my foot back in the door. So do you guys have any suggestions on where to start?
_________________________
~ John

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#371080 - 10/07/2018 20:45 Re: Figuring out how to re-enter the tech industry [Re: JBjorgen]
Dignan
carpal tunnel

Registered: 08/03/2000
Posts: 12037
Loc: Sterling, VA
I don't know how/if it would help, but I know someone at Redhat in NC. Sorry, it's the only thing I can think of. I'm doing pretty low level stuff as my own business. I don't know if that interests you though, and I absolutely could never do it if my wife didn't get health insurance through her job.

I'm sorry to hear that our stupid healthcare system is hurting your family.
_________________________
Matt

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#371087 - 11/07/2018 19:14 Re: Figuring out how to re-enter the tech industry [Re: JBjorgen]
Phoenix42
veteran

Registered: 21/03/2002
Posts: 1383
Loc: MA but Irish born
Have you considered an AWS Certification. Not only is it growing, but it should matter less where you are geographically. If you'd prefer to go more old school with on-premises hardware, get your head around VMware vSphere, in particular their vSAN which they are pushing a lot, or NSX if you're strong in networking. Any of these should get your résumé at least a second look.

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#371089 - 11/07/2018 19:34 Re: Figuring out how to re-enter the tech industry [Re: JBjorgen]
tfabris
carpal tunnel

Registered: 20/12/1999
Posts: 31160
Loc: Seattle, WA
You're in a great position to take your career in a different direction if you want. Either slightly or massively. With the known lead-time to get some education under your belt, you could get to choose. For instance, if you enjoyed database development, you could get some education in SQL and go from there. If you decided you didn't like database development, you could get educated in other stuff, like Python, C++ or C# coding, etc. Personally, if I had an opportunity to do it all over again I'd probably drive a truck. smile

I moved to Seattle thinking I was going to continue in the network admin field, and ended up changing career paths and doing software QA instead, and became an SDET. I like it much more than network administration. I'm noticing that it's hard to find good SDET/QA candidates in the current market, so if you're interested in that field then I could give more details.

Something HUGE that occurred during your 10-year absence was the move to cloud-based infrastructures like Azure and AWS. Many companies (including my own) don't have server rooms any more, and simply pay for space on Azure. Getting educated on those kinds of environments and understanding the pitfalls and benefits will help you. You need some cloud computing stuff on your resume to be hirable. Also, in networking and cloud computing, there's a ton of Windows Powershell-based stuff these days. For instance, if your company has an Azure infrastructure, they probably have a ton of automation tasks related to Azure that are written in Powershell.

I recommend looking through LinkedIn at the job listings for the career path you want, and looking at the things those job listings require, and then getting your education in those areas so that you can put them honestly on your resume.

Finally, when the time comes that you've got your education and you're looking for work, spend a few bucks to have a session or two with a career consultant. I worked with this guy for example, and he did a great job, showing me exactly how to format my resume and exactly what keywords needed to be in it, in order for it to show up at the top of automated searches. His tips on tweaking my linkedin profile and other profiles were very useful.

Also, another tip: If you search for your field on LinkedIn (for instance, if I search for SDETs on LinkedIn) then your own profile will show up on the first page of the search if you're logged in to that account. It's LinkedIn's way of making you think your profile is great. If you're trying to SEO your profile, you need to make a "Henry the 5th" account so that you can see where you rank in the search results realistically.
_________________________
Tony Fabris

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#371090 - 11/07/2018 19:37 Re: Figuring out how to re-enter the tech industry [Re: Phoenix42]
tfabris
carpal tunnel

Registered: 20/12/1999
Posts: 31160
Loc: Seattle, WA
Phoenix42 brings up a good point, posting about AWS while I was posting about Azure. Whether you concentrate on getting educated in Azure or AWS is probably a choice you're going to have to make. You could do both, but it would split your focus in the limited time you have. I'm not sure if one is bigger than the other, I don't know which one would be the better choice for maximum hireability.
_________________________
Tony Fabris

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#371094 - 12/07/2018 01:37 Re: Figuring out how to re-enter the tech industry [Re: JBjorgen]
JBjorgen
carpal tunnel

Registered: 19/01/2002
Posts: 3494
Loc: Guadalajara, MX
Thanks guys. That's exactly the kind of advice I was looking for.

And you're right, I completely missed the entire cloud revolution. When I was around, even as a small shop we had our own T1 lines and mix of Linux and Microsoft servers. If the company was still around, I'm sure by now they'd be cloud based for all their hosting needs.

And I know it's here to stay, but I still maintain that "cloud" is a dumb name for it.
_________________________
~ John

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#371095 - 12/07/2018 02:54 Re: Figuring out how to re-enter the tech industry [Re: JBjorgen]
matthew_k
pooh-bah

Registered: 12/02/2002
Posts: 2296
Loc: Berkeley, California
I'd say you've got a choice to aim towards development or IT. Tony already touched on "The Cloud" which is true for either dev or IT - get yourself AWS and GCP accounts and play around. You can do this now from anywhere. Spin up a linux server hosting a simple web site. Set up DNS, load balancers and a database. It's not rocket surgery, it's the same thing you did with real hardware, there's just an API or CLI in front of it and someone else to fix it when it breaks. The pacific northwest has a Microsoft distortion field - AWS and Linux are the defacto standards in most of the rest of the world, and since you've already got linux admin skills I'd focus there.

Either IT or development are viable, but I've got direct hiring experience with developers, so I'll focus on that. Coming from a non-traditional background your best bet for getting your resume looked at is going to be a bootcamp. Some companies are more willing to hire bootcamp grads than others, but it's a way for them to know they're not going to be teaching you the basics of a modern software stack. I'm skeptical that bootcamps can take someone with no experience and turn them into a developer, but they can take someone with proximate experience and teach them the parts they don't know - and that's where it sounds like you are. Do your research here and talk to people. The bootcamp gold rush is winding down but there are still scams out there.

In either IT or development I'd recommend focusing on places that are willing to hire generalists. You're not going to become an expert in one specific thing in six months.

When you get to applying spend some time writing a good cover letter. Convey who you are (like the story you wrote above) and why you're interested in the company you're applying for. This might not be important if you're a direct pattern match for a job, but you probably won't be so spend some time explaining what you'll bring to the organization.

Your mileage will vary, good luck.

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#371096 - 12/07/2018 07:35 Re: Figuring out how to re-enter the tech industry [Re: JBjorgen]
Roger
carpal tunnel

Registered: 18/01/2000
Posts: 5572
Loc: London, UK
(quick thought before I take the kids to school)

You've been "ministering to people's spiritual needs". I assume this means that you've got higher levels of empathy than the average person in the tech industry. That's a positive, and you should consider emphasising it in your cover letters. There are roles within tech where that's important: UX design, technical documentation, technical project management, customer representative, etc.

Maybe that leaves you cold, or maybe that's something you want to build into your thinking.
_________________________
-- roger

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#371098 - 12/07/2018 12:37 Re: Figuring out how to re-enter the tech industry [Re: JBjorgen]
tahir
pooh-bah

Registered: 27/02/2004
Posts: 1740
Loc: London
We have just had a new Access 2016/SQL app developed by a freelancer on PPH, we've now been working with the developer for 15 months, he gets all his work through there and is happy with how it works.

We had cheaper offers from guys in Ukraine, Pakistan, India etc. he's UK based and although he wasn't anywhere near the offshore prices I thought we'd benefit by him being local. Worked well for us.

Might be worth a go.

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#371099 - 12/07/2018 12:38 Re: Figuring out how to re-enter the tech industry [Re: Roger]
tahir
pooh-bah

Registered: 27/02/2004
Posts: 1740
Loc: London
Originally Posted By: Roger
(quick thought before I take the kids to school)

You've been "ministering to people's spiritual needs". I assume this means that you've got higher levels of empathy than the average person in the tech industry. That's a positive, and you should consider emphasising it in your cover letters. There are roles within tech where that's important: UX design, technical documentation, technical project management, customer representative, etc.

Maybe that leaves you cold, or maybe that's something you want to build into your thinking.


Do big tech firms have counselling available? Maybe there's a gap there?

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#371100 - 12/07/2018 13:23 Re: Figuring out how to re-enter the tech industry [Re: tahir]
Phoenix42
veteran

Registered: 21/03/2002
Posts: 1383
Loc: MA but Irish born
Originally Posted By: tahir
Do big tech firms have counselling available? Maybe there's a gap there?


Every company is going to be different, and different countries within the one company are going to be different. But, in the US in my experience with three different employers over the past 18 years, two large, one small, counselling would be available as part of Employee assistance program. Which in my limit experience has boiled down to; "here is a hotline number you can call" and "them covering the co-pay for the first X visits". Remember healthcare in the US is an industry and a profit center.

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#371101 - 12/07/2018 17:19 Re: Figuring out how to re-enter the tech industry [Re: JBjorgen]
tahir
pooh-bah

Registered: 27/02/2004
Posts: 1740
Loc: London
I think if it were me I'd try the freelancing route first, if it doesn't work out then seek employment. Of course whatever you do is going to mean retraining but I guess with the skills you akready have you could easily jump into java, .net etc and as I say Access still has users out there.

I think I'd just prefer having a client base I can actually talk to rather than work for a big corp. But then I've never worked for a big corp, and we're now down to 6 people from a peak of 250 in our business. The last decade or so our customers were all big corps and we hated every minute of it, never felt in charge of our destiny.

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