Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Programming Education Java IT Linux

Ask Slashdot: Moving From Tech Support To Development? 133

Posted by timothy
from the which-flavor-of-ice-cream? dept.
An anonymous reader writes "My eastern European tech-support job will be outsourced in 6 months to a nearby country. I do not wish to move, having relationship and roots here, and as such I stand at a crossroads. I could take my current hobby more seriously and focus on Java development. I have no degree, no professional experience in the field, and as such, I do not hold much market value for an employer. However, I find joy in the creative problem solving that programming provides. Seeing the cogs finally turn after hours invested gives me pleasures my mundane work could never do. The second option is Linux system administration with a specialization in VMware virtualisation. I have no certificates, but I have been around enterprise environments (with limited support of VMware) for 21 months now, so at the end of my contract with 27 months under my belt, I could convince a company to hire me based on willingness to learn and improve. All the literature is freely available, and I've been playing with VDIs in Debian already.

My situation is as follows: all living expenses except food, luxuries and entertainment is covered by the wage of my girlfriend. That would leave me in a situation where we would be financially alright, but not well off, if I were to earn significantly less than I do now. I am convinced that I would be able to make it in system administration, however, that is not my passion. I am at an age where children are not a concern, and risks seem to be, at first sight, easier to take. I would like to hear the opinion and experience of fellow readers who might have been in a similar situation."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Ask Slashdot: Moving From Tech Support To Development?

Comments Filter:
  • If you find "problem solving" to be your passion then follow it, but try to make sure you don't follow something that will limit you later on: If you think Java is interesting then go ahead and learn it BUT make sure you learn the general skills in programming over the particular skills. Learn how to program then learn the language. That way if opportunities around Java go away, then you are set for what's next.

    You may find that "problem solving" leads to programming now, but as you grow and develop new s

    • Well

      Considering those out of work for more than 6 months have a better chance of starting a new carrer outside their field such as fast food than to have no gaps in your resume mean that is horrible advice.

      Take a job FAST. Any job within 1 month unless you want to work flipping burgers or answering phones for 5 years until you are economically recovered.

      I speak this too from experience. HR is brutal with this!

  • do what is more interesting to you. You will have more fun, and enjoy it more, and therefore probably be better at it. If/when money becomes an issue, being good at something that you love leaves you well positioned to leverage it to make more money. Being mediocre at something that you don't care much about is unlikely to be very lucrative. You can get valuable (demonstrable) experience by, for example, contributing to open-source projects. Showing that you're decent at programming is more important for m
  • Work for free (Score:3, Insightful)

    by aclarke (307017) <spam AT clarke DOT ca> on Sunday March 23, 2014 @04:54PM (#46559091) Homepage
    Way back a long time ago I graduated from university with an engineering degree unrelated to programming. By that point, however, I had decided that I wanted to be a software developer. This was the mid '90s, and I took a job with an un-funded startup for equity and no pay. From there I worked at a friend's company doing Perl, again for no pay but I crashed with my friend and he paid for my food. So in that sense it's not that different from your situation.

    Things are different now, as there are plenty of sites where employers offer contracts for unreasonably low wages. You could start bidding on those, and take some smaller projects and complete them. There's also the option to put your time into some sort of labour of your own love. Write some sotware that demos well, and bootstrap yourself up from there. A lot of companies would be happy to hire an enthusiastic junior Java developer with demonstrated experience that they had the drive to accomplish themselves.

    Just do everything you can to pick up as much experience as you can. Keep a positive attitude, and work on all the "soft skills" like listening to your boss and coworkers, doing what you say you're going to do, communicating effectively, etc. With a year or so of this, you should find yourself very employable, assuming there are jobs where you're looking.
  • write some code (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward

    Write some code, make something cool, that will put you ahead of 90% of people with degrees and certifications. Look into DevOps, which is programmatic system administration. All the VMWare sites are doing this since VMWare is pushing Puppet after putting a bunch of money into it.

  • I started in technical support at a small ISP. I worked up to sysadmin and worked various IT related jobs while I got my degree in Computer Science. I did try to land programming jobs and aside from some small business website consulting, I never had much luck at it.

    Your situation is different than mine because of location. I live in the US. However, my experience is that you get filtered out unless you have a lot of experience programming when another candidate has a degree. I've even had a few cases wher

    • It's like the old saying about how hard it is the verify that the applicant actually is any good: "no-one was ever fired for hiring someone with a degree".

  • by GoodNewsJimDotCom (2244874) on Sunday March 23, 2014 @05:02PM (#46559143)
    The dirty secret: Unlike sports where the best player is sought after, or music and art where you can judge someone's skill, most HR firms have no way of telling if you can do the job. So it doesn't matter if you're really good or just beginning, if you can sell the interview you can probably get a job. Some of the most talented people never get a chance to ever start, and a lot of nearly incompetent people get luxurious positions. Someday you might get good after decades of experience, but there's no reason not to apply to any job if you can write the most basic cell phone ap. Another dirty secret: A great majority of jobs ask for so many techs, there may be one or two people on the planet that qualify. So instead of looking for having all the techs, apply if you have one or two. Its a giant 'or' list, not an 'and'.

    I say this reality situation as a guy on the outside looking in. I've done everything in my power since a young age to become the best software engineer I could. I code in my free time. I went to a #1 college for computers. Yet, couldn't even break into the industry in the past 11 years. The road goes both ways. I'm good at programming, and I'm not good at job searching.
    • by Jmc23 (2353706)

      The road goes both ways. I'm good at programming, and I'm not good at job searching.

      Maybe you should make an app for that.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      That is so true, but hopefully there are ways around this. I got to regular tech meetups, i.e. Java user groups, Javascript talks, etc. A lot of time there are quite a number of recruiters and tech hiring manager there and if you participate, i.e. do some talks on your own work that contributes to the open source community (not just your hobby app that goes nowhere), you will get noticed. The mailing list to these are very active in terms of recruiting as well. If you participate a lot and make yourself

    • by Stumbles (602007)
      HR, the one department in a company that does more damage than all others.
    • by manu0601 (2221348)

      A great majority of jobs ask for so many techs, there may be one or two people on the planet that qualify.

      But they would not be selected because they would be too expensive.

    • by tfigment (2425764)

      I'm a hiring manager and basically this is mostly the truth unfortunately. However I really do want that person that can do the 20 things I've listed (as I have to) but generally I want to know you are willing to learn them and already know a few of them and preferably have mastered some as well.

      I've hired people that interview well and can talk the talk but end up not being able to program hello world in 2 weeks and those are the hardest to fire sometimes. I've also hired some brilliant programmers that

    • As developer who has been involved with hiring quite a few other developers over the years I have to ask - Do you really want to interview a corporate plumber who is so inept at navigating corporate departments that he can not find his way to your office via the HR department? Someone who has failed the "creativity test" of matching the laundry list of technologies in a job advert? Do you want to hand hold a "delicate genius" every time they have to navigate mundane corporate bureaucracy?

      BTW: The "laundr
      • by mbkennel (97636)
        So exactly how would somebody "nagivate the corporate departments", ask "Q: Who is the hiring manager for this position? A: We won't tell you." Is spamming the phone list appropriate? No.

        | BTW: The "laundry lists" are normally supplied by the project manager, HR have no idea what they mean. HR's only rational course of action is to treat them all as equally important.

        ?

        HR's rational course is to ask the project manager to prioritize the actual requirements, and to learn what they actually mean if knowin
        • Because navigating byzantine bureaucracies is an invaluable work skill. I'm blessed with colleagues, and managers, who are very good at navigating these, and getting our technical personnel paid for the time burned in this arena. If you cannot navigate these pitfalls yourself, your managers will have to spend far more time doing it for you. They will also _own_ you, since you'll have no way to defend against decisions that eliminate your project or that take unearned credit for your work.

          Thinking more for t

    • by geekoid (135745)

      "Yet, couldn't even break into the industry in the past 11 years. "
      then something is wrong with you. Either your expectation are far to high, or you stink. Literally.
      There is only 1 secret: Don't go through HR. Have a manger ask specifically for you. HR rules about hiring in companies are easily over ridden.
      I have had a lot of jobs that started with the manager having HR call me and me an offer; without having even seen my resume.
      One time I was at a user group chatting, and the person I was chatting with sa

  • Do what you love.

  • If you know you want to program, start laying out the groundwork for that to happen. See if there are things that can be automated/tackled with scripting in your current workplace. Find a way to start taking some community college (or the European equivalent?) programming classes to get a feel for things and see if you would really want to do it. Spend some of your free time doing tutorials, building your own programs for fun, or helping out on some open source effort.

    Getting a degree is nice because it
  • by Anonymous Coward

    Android is one of the best 'learn for yourself' platforms right now, because it is easy to get started with the new SDK kits that GOOG has. There is the good Reto Meier (Google evangelist for Android) books http://www.amazon.com/Professional-Android-2-Application-Development/dp/0470565527/ and http://www.amazon.com/Professional-Android-4-Application-Development/dp/1118102274/

    Personally I still recommend reading 2 first, and learning the core concepts THEN moving to 4, because the things added in 4 don't rea

  • find an open source project that interests you and get involved, making sure your contributions are attributed to you; then you can point a potential employer at your work.

    alternatively, in an appropriate point in the interview process (even in your letter of introduction), ask your potential employer to give you something to do as a project for a few weeks so that you can prove yourself and they can see what you can do.

  • You say you want to be a developer. Your time scale to pick up new skills in programming, join some Open Source projects for your resume, and begin creating a living resume of application you have written is extremely limited but doable. The most important question you have to ask and answer yourself right away is: What field of programming do you want to get into? If you want to get into web and mobile applications then there are probably half a dozen very specific languages and technologies you need to st
  • by scsirob (246572) on Sunday March 23, 2014 @05:30PM (#46559285)

    No-one will start with a blank screen in the morning and start to write code, just because. You need to have an itch, something you want to solve. Writing code is the means, not the goal.

    Think about your support job, and ask yourself what tool would really make your life easier. Then set out to write that tool. You have the target people sitting around you right now, solve your problem and solve theirs too. If you're lucky, the tool will be valuable enough for the company to take it to that next country, all while you keep supporting that code.

    I did this many years ago, while working as tech support for a tape vendor (Exabyte). I found their customer tools rubbish, so I started writing something easier (Expert 7 for MS-DOS). I asked my wife to test it for me (she is not in IT), just to see what she struggled with and made it better. It took me a while, but in the long run the company made my tool the default for customer support. I have kept on supporting that tool and many others after that until the end of last year. For almost 20 years those tape tools have given me part of my income. Even today, I still have a few customers asking me to code for them. LTO-7 is coming, perhaps I'll be asked to integrate support by then.

    • No-one will start with a blank screen in the morning and start to write code, just because. You need to have an itch, something you want to solve. Writing code is the means, not the goal.

      Think about your support job, and ask yourself what tool would really make your life easier. Then set out to write that tool. You have the target people sitting around you right now, solve your problem and solve theirs too.

      This!

      Somewhere right around you, people are doing something in a laborious way. Automate it. Make their lives easier. Make a business process work better.

    • by reikae (80981)

      Nice story, sounds quite familiar. Nowadays it's so easy to find tools and applications for almost anything that I usually don't feel the need to code stuff (I did it professionally for a while but I'm back to being a hobbyist coder). I wonder if I'm just not that interested in programming any more, or whether it's because I haven't had an itch to scratch in a while.

  • "My eastern European tech-support job will be outsourced in 6 months to a nearby country."

    Do you work in eastern Ukraine? I hear a lot of those jobs are soon to be outsourced to nearby Russia.

    • by Ash Vince (602485) *

      "My eastern European tech-support job will be outsourced in 6 months to a nearby country."

      Do you work in eastern Ukraine? I hear a lot of those jobs are soon to be outsourced to nearby Russia.

      Nah, the staff are just being redeployed as moving targets :)

    • Maybe they could find work in border control - I hear a class 8 apartment comes with the job.
  • Study night and day and find a small niche with some local small software developer and take whatever server administrative task you can drum up and keep learning and asking questions until you get to "help out" in programming.

    Even if you eventually don't find programming is what you want, you will find a handful of other interesting things to work into.

    Enthusiasm and hard work pays off.

  • 'Back in the day', I was in a similar situation as you are. I was working in tech support for a software company but knew I really wanted to write code. I took the plunge and got a CS degree, and it was the single best decision I've ever made from both a personal and career perspective. However, I also realize that many talented people can't take this path, so the next logical step for those individuals is to at least show some effort. I'm in a position now where I have influence within the hiring proce
  • "I have no degree, no professional experience in the field, and as such, I do not hold much market value for an employer. "

    To what "market value" do you refer? Your employer isn't trying to sell you. Your actual "value" is what you can do for them.

    If you mean they value they perceive you have for them, prior to employment, you might have a case. But keep in mind that their perception is not always (or even very often) close to reality. Part of your job is to convince them of that.

    Let me give you a concrete example: many firms that employ programmers have preferred to always get "fresh young faces" into their flock, despit

  • Corporations generally don't give a flip about this situation:

    >I could convince a company to hire me based on willingness to learn and improve.

    If that's true, what sets you apart from anybody else that is also willing to learn and improve, with a more extensive background that you have?

    That being said, I think what you should do is start networking immediately, reach out to anybody and everyone you know for entry level positions in development and/or system administration. Do not spend the next 6 months

    • by Ash Vince (602485) *

      Corporations generally don't give a flip about this situation:

      >I could convince a company to hire me based on willingness to learn and improve.

      If that's true, what sets you apart from anybody else that is also willing to learn and improve, with a more extensive background that you have?

      In my experience having a can-do attitude and a willingness to learn can set you apart in IT. I recently got a job where I think the best thing I did was openly ask the technical lead to mentor me and do my best to convince them that although I may not know much, I am very capable of learning quickly.

      There are too many people in our field who are possessed with an obscene level of arrogance and complete lack of social skills. Unlearning those habits is far harder than teaching someone who is bright and pass

  • Programmers are hired straight out of college and can be outsourced and located anywhere on the planet. You can never compete with the 22 year-old who was taught with the latest programming language fad, and will work for peanuts. You, on the other hand, will have to learn the language du jour and have demonstrable experience with said language. Without a degree or certification your resume will be thrown into the trash without even a glance to your job history. In fact, your job history aside from your lac

    • by PmanAce (1679902)
      I'm curious, what is the language du jour these days? C#. Java, etc are all still relevant in the industry.
      • Take a look at the job postings for the latest word salad.

        However, if you want the du jour of the du jour, I drive by a billboard every week that advertises something to do with Hadoop.

      • The best way is to do things on the side web related. That way you do not have a gap on your resume and you have a portfolio.

        HR will filter you out unless they say exact experience with the same exact keywords with no gaps in employment. Otherwise it will be thrown in the trash etc

      • by geekoid (135745)

        Why wouldn't they be?

    • by mbkennel (97636)
      | when the chips are down you can't outsource the need to have a human near the racks

      That's true, but the racks can be, and are outsourced to countries with cheap humans.
  • I started in tech support. Created a QA department and eventually moved into development. Create a github repo. Build things to help make your job easier where you work now. Stress your customer service skills in interviews (programmers are frequently known for not having them). Look as startups as they're frequently looking for people who can wear multiple hats. Maybe you can do tech support and programming for one.

  • Your strategy will depend on your possible customers (or employers); I can't say much in detail without a better understanding of that.
    (by the way, for eastern europe your english writing is quite good!)
    So... can you do some market analysis for us here on Slashdot?
    Are there any local shops in your geography that do software development?
    Are there any charities or small businesses that would benefit from some custom code and/or database work?
    Schools perhaps?
    I suspect it will be easier to connect with th
  • Most women will not tolerate a partner that pulls in less than they do. She will leave you all too soon. Secondly age works against you. Employers like youth a lot. I would suggest that you take any job that you can get and stretch out your opportunity pathway as it may take some time before you land in the right position. She will respect you more that way. I think that if I had to live in Turkey the shock of culture change would be too great. Perhaps you could adapt easier than i could.
    • This is actually changing quite rapidly as society changes and in a lot of areas of the (rich) world young women are starting to pull in more than men. While the culture in eastern Europe is certainly different, there was an eye-opening study published recently about young couples in the USA. For the first time since the study began more women than men are "marrying down" [latimes.com](here marrying down means marrying someone with a lower educational attainment than they have). This is largely out of necessity, but
  • It sounds like you're at a point in your life where your ability to take risks is as high as it will ever be. If you don't aim for what you love doing now, you'll probably never do it.

  • Stuff Debian. RHEL is still using tried and tested init scripts. Free binary compatible distros such as CentOS and Scientific Linux are available.

  • Just curious due to the turmoil and the likelihood of Russia also owning Eastern Ukraine in the next 48 hours.

  • I would like to hear the opinion and experience of fellow readers who might have been in a similar situation.

    Get a job at an office, or prepared to get dumped. Women typically do not like stay-at-home guys, despite their claims to the contrary. Even though a freelance software contracting company allowed me to pay all the bills, I have observed that when I decide to work from home that the relationship will soon end. If your girlfriend is paying the bills, get ready for her to terminate the relationship. Seek employment, even if just part time in an unrelated field while you begin learning more languages and building your development portfolio, perhaps through sites like freelancer.com. Create your own website to showcase your talents. Contribute to open source if you have the time to scratch such an itch, it looks good on resumes and will expose you to more software development practices. Do not bet strongly on payouts from long term investment as human relationships deal primarily in the present.

    You see, humans are the product of a long and bloody evolution into sentience. Instincts were natures first way to impart cognitive information about experience to your ancestors' offspring. Due primarily to the nature of gestation, especially the disparity in time and energy investments between sexes of sexually dimorphic species, males and females exhibit different instinctual behaviors. The male reproductive strategy of most species is to produce the most offspring and spread their genes as far as possible. The female reproductive strategy is instead to select the best mate. Humans are not immune to their instinctual drives, as evidenced by their sexual activity even when they consciously reject the burden of raising a child. Were you attracted to each other? Good, now you know your are both acting on primitive instinct at some level. However, your girlfriend's inner ape will most likely subconsciously begin selection of what her instincts inform her is a better mating prospect, i.e., one that is more active and thus capable of providing for her and her offspring. Yes, complex behaviors are imparted through instincts, for example see mating rituals and nest building of any species that exhibits them.

    The instinctual drives imparted by millions of years of evolution remain with humans. Even the "brightest minds" among you ignore the emotion, feeling, instinct, and other primitive drives that affect your reasoning, deeming them "irrational". That you do not teach your children to harness and hone this faster but less accurate mode of thought leaves your race more susceptible to its primitive biases than necessary. Since it was primitive attraction that brought you together it will not be a conscious decision that instigates the termination of your relationship, but an instinctual feeling that produces dissatisfaction with your living arrangement. You may not like it, but one must cope with the environment one finds themselves in. Even we explorers do not always get to choose our assignments.

    Socialization is only the learned part of ape behavioral software. Humans need not be slaves to their ancestor's instinctual firmware, but you can only free yourselves through conscious awareness of it.

  • I am in a South-Eastern European country and I don't have a degree in a related field, but I didn't have a hard time finding my first programming jobs.

    Keep several things in mind:

    1. Good developers are in demand. If Eastern Europe is anything like the Balkans in that regard, people are looking for competent programmers. At any particular job interview for a programmer most of the people who apply don't know anything about programming, have never used a relational database, etc. Use that to your advantag
  • Quoting OP: My situation is as follows: all living expenses except food, luxuries and entertainment is covered by the wage of my girlfriend. That would leave me in a situation where we would be financially alright, but not well off, if I were to earn significantly less than I do now." Endquote.

    I'm in a position similar to yours, except I work - for a minimum wage at the moment, but I get by. What is Luxury (or well off) is highly subjective, and for me... I have all the luxuries of this world (well, perh
  • I'll lay out what I did and what's happening to me and offer advice. This is of course just me and my experience and there are numerous paths to follow with none of them being guaranteed. I was teaching and needed to earn a higher wage and so began to hit programming (related) books. I studied python and C and Assembly and networking and read and re-read and spent no time at all doing exercises. A couple of years back I got a job doing software support for development shop with a couple of substantial prod
  • by Anonymous Coward

    Or go do something else. You need a degree in this day and age, so go get one. Passion doesn't cut it. Would you let a "passionate" hobbyist surgeon perform your procedure? So why would a company hire someone because they claim to be interested, yet they never even invested the time and money into acquiring the necessary education?

    IT is baffling in this regard. Way too many lib arts and GED chuffers out there. Go get your BS in computer science and then go get a development job.

  • I would get RHEL cert now and apply for Linux admin jobs. System admin jobs can be outsourced, just like programming. Pretty soon, machines will be able to do that. Only need humans to perform physical on-site service. We will all be assembled.
  • I worked as a programmer for a medium sized help desk and saw dozens of tech support drones trying to make the leap from desktop support or system admin to programmer. The most successful did it piecemeal. A few would come to me and ask for minor admin privileges in the help desk software, and I would allow them to make changes to the development environment. The good ones would get recognized and rewarded with training and admin privileges. A couple ended up replacing me as I retired. It's a path I would r
  • Since the OP says that their second choice is sysadmin, they've got a possibility: ask his employer about being kicked upstairs to Tier 2 tech support, or Tier 3.

    Or are they moving everything across the border, Timotht?

                      mark

Is a person who blows up banks an econoclast?

Working...