I need advice on changing careers in computers

I’ve been a Basic programmer for 20 years, first in other versions of Basic, and then in Visual Basic for the past 8 years. I got laid off in 10/02, and haven’t been able to find any full-time jobs since. I’m going to keep looking, but there are two other directions that I’m thinking of looking:

One idea is to go into teaching. I am a very patient teacher, and I really love teaching people, and I think that I could be a pretty decent teacher or tutor for math or computers. But there’s not much money in that, and I’ve got a family to take care of.

The other idea some people have been pushing on me is to take some courses to learn another programming language, like C++ or Java or some other hot language. I’ve been resisting that for two reasons: (a) It would at best get me an entry-level position, and (b) in today’s market I think that I’d be wasting my time even looking for an entry level position. Lots of computer jobs are going overseas or simply vanishing altogether.

My question is: Should I invest time and money learning another language? Or try changing careers entirely? All advice is welcome. Thanx.

From my point of view, as a college student, I’d still suggest learning another language. It will give you a safety net in the future, and I suspect it will help you locate a job. Concerning the position…it would seem to me that since you are quite an experienced programmer that you should be able to expect more than an entry level position. After twenty-eight years you certainly know program design and algorithm creation! :slight_smile: That’s a huge advantage over someone just starting out and should help you get a better job, I’d think.

Hope that helps somewhat

I have been out of the loop for awhile, but I worked as a contract programmer for about 20 years. I started out only knowing Basic and Assembler. Then C got hot, so I became a C expert. Then I realized I was being asked to use SQL on many projects, so I became an SQL expert. I got stung on a couple ventures, like chasing Pascal when it got real hot and mastering other PC operating systems (other than MS-DOS and Windows), but the time wasn’t totally wasted learning those things. It looks like Java and/or C# are the places to be now. Just go to the Monster.com cite and do searches on those keywords, you will see what I mean. I would also suggest coming up to speed on VB in the .NET environment.

Man, I never thought there would come a day when I couldn’t name my rate and working hours. Looks like that day has finally come.

Good luck :slight_smile:

With all that VB experience, I trust you have some experience working with the back end? Even entry level Oracle guys get good money. Aside from Oracle, you could probably slide over to SQL Server (Sybase, MS, whatever) without too much trouble, hopefully drawing on actual work experience.

As a 15 year programmer, 7 of which spent with (Visual) Basic, I always felt the DBAs got more money and had an easier job.

Well, if you really want to be employed in computers in the U.S., now, arrange to be born in India 20 years after you were born in the U.S.

However, if that proves impractical, I’d definitely suggest picking up C++ or Java. If you can find the cash to invest in a good C++ (or Java) course, there should be no reason for you to have to start as a beginning programmer (aside from all the unnecessary H-1B competition). With 20 years of experience, you should be selling your analysis skills instead of your coding skills, anyway, and the specific language should not drive the compensation. (There will be some loss due to not having the experence on your resume, but if you know the language, you should be able to get something.)

How are your database skills? A grounding in Oracle might let you make a smooth transition to Cognos applications. (So could MS SQL and some others, but most of the Cognos shops I know are Oracle driven.) With VB, I’m guessing you are not a Sybase guru, but then, if they keep screwing up, that could be a dead end, anyway, but there may be Crystal Reports and similar applications floating around. Similarly, I doubt that VB gave you much DB2 exposure. COBOL is easy to learn, but MVS (or OS390) and VSE are quite a bit more intricate.

I agree with the other posters, you should pick up another language like C++ or Java. No matter what you decide to do, you’ll not only demonstrate that you’re willing to learn new things, but you’ll also get great experience with object-oriented methodologies (a big, big thing now, and something I feel VB doesn’t effectively convey).

Moderator’s Note: This is more of an IMHO thread, so I’m moving it to that forum.

Was your job coding, or was it a bit more? Do you want to keep programming, or do you want to do other things?

C++ and Java are good (and maybe C#, since there are fewer experienced programmers in that, but I don’t know how much it is being used). However, since you’ll have to learn something, my advice is to search for want ads, count the applications and languages desired, and learn whatever is most in demand.

Frankly, you want a job in a market that’s not overcrowded? COBOL. People are still working with it, and it’s getting harder and harder to get good programmers.

I think Ellis Dee had the best idea yet. As a VB programmer, you should be very good at database construction and maintenance by now. I’ve done several VB projects in the past, and they all required heavy use of SQL.

Repackage yourself as a SQL guru with VB experience. Learn the maintenance side of Oracle and SQL server, and make sure your database design skills are up to snuff.

Transitioning from VB to a language like C++ or Java is not easy - they are very, very different. Moving to database analyst should feel quite natural.

I think you should teach if at all possible. You say you “love” teaching — maybe that’s what you should be doing — even with the pay cut. At the same time you’ve been “resisting” learning new languages and you seem to have a rather unenthusiastic outlook on the future of the industry. Sounds like you really don’t enjoy writing code. So, my personal opinion is that you should look into teaching.

Thanks for all the great advice!

I should have added that most of my coding has been “full-life-cycle” stuff, from talking to the users and manager, through designing, coding, installing, training, and being the phone contact. So while I have had a lot of SQL exposure, it’s all on the front end – all sorts of queries and not much else.

Still, from what most of you have said, I guess the easiest transition would be towards an SQL DBA, or perhaps something with Oracle, rather than a whole 'nother language.

Thanks for the comments, and I’ll be watching for more.

(PS to Carcosa: My desire for teaching is amply fulfilled with showing my customers to to use the program etc, so as much as I like teaching, programming is okay too, thanks)

Have you considered changing tack and doing something else entirely?

Keeve you might also consider searching for Business Analyst positions. If you’ve worked in the industry 28 years and never learned more than Basic and a little SQL, odds are you spent more time dealing with system analysis and customers, and possibly enjoy that better than actually coding.

C++, Java and C# programmers have a tough time find jobs now too - and you will be competing with people who have real life experience coding in those languages. Actually, the COBOL suggestion also sounded interesting but at my company at least it seems like the Mainframe groups spend all their time explaining why they can’t make any system changes.

I’m totally convinced you should be a BA. Most BA positions where I work don’t even require experience or business knowledge, they just want technical-savvy people who can learn the business environment and users and fill that space between coders and customers.

Good luck.

I agree with Cooper – I’m a veteran Windows C++ programmer (10+ years) and C++ jobs on any platform are almost non-existent right now. Java & C# seem a bit better off, but such jobs usually require demonstrable experience and you’ll probably be tested. FWIW, I see more VB/VB.Net jobs than anything else other than HTML (I’m in Atlanta, not NYC, so that may be a factor).

I’ve been looking for almost a year now – I’m lucky to find one new position per week, and that’s just to submit a resume; interviews are much more rare (I’ve had 3 in the last year). Unfortunately, I don’t have any other marketable skills, so I’m a bit stuck, as are many of us in the software biz.