Hi all --

I'm so glad to have found this site. I hope I'm able to learn and (once I get some experience) help those on this board.

My question.....

I'm a stay at home mom currently and started going to school for computer (Information Technology). When I worked in insurance 5 years ago, I knew I wanted to get into this field but didn't. I now have 3 children (last one will be going to school in 2 years) and am going to school at DeVry. I will complete my degree in IT in April of next year (2005).

I learn quickly and would like to get into programming. I know it may be boring and monotonous but I like the opportunity to create something that (hopefully) works. I know it's frustrating but I enjoy mathematics and problem solving a lot!

My question is that I see positions for application developer / programmer but right now they all want experience. How do I break into this field? I'm looking for co-op work but they all seem to want to get someone who's had more experience than just a student. I love programming in Java, C#, ASP.NET, VB. I've done javascripting (in class.....all of this is in class), haven't learned any other scripting languages. I don't really feel like I "own" these languages yet but would like to become a kick a$$ object oriented programmer. I want to certify in Java and .NET when I graduate and in addition though, I need to get some experience.

I spoken to some folks at Robert Half Technology and they said I would need to start out in a help desk role. Would this take me where I want to go or will this just lead me to a dead end position?

Any suggestions you all could give would be very much appreciated!!

-- CoderWannaBe

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All 11 Replies

Well I got a job by following that old saying "It's not what you know but WHO you know". Many companies will forgo the experiance requirement if a perspective employee has the backing of well regarded one in the company. I had 0 experiance and no degree, but the VP of IT knew me from church, and knew I wrote and maintained their custom office applications.

I'm also a current student at DeVry (Computer Engineering) but I'm also an Applications Developer for a financial firm that I've been with for a year and a half. So I don't have that much experiance, but I can deffinantly tell you that at least in the corporation I work for help desk is help desk. It's not a stepping stone to another position. If to any position it's to help desk manager.

Low level positions are typically Junior Developer, Level I ect... Another way to get into programming is to get in with the web group (if you have a knack for web graphics, UI, ect...) You can apply your programming skills to interal applications as well as the public web site. Plenty of databasing, dlls, and COM+ to go around.

Also, work with DeVry co-op, many of my friends have had good experiance with that program.

Hope that helps.

"I know it may be boring and monotonous .."

What? This can be the most fun you've had since changing diapers!

Seriously, I've been coding for 25 years now and its still fun. Why? Because you work with people, and working with people can be fun. Can be MADE to be fun. You can code some stuff and have dozens, hundreds, maybe thousands of people using your code to get something done. Programming is puzzle solving and talking with people.

How to get in? One way is to be a QA tester. Companies need QA folks and the entrance bar is lower. In fact, they may be looking for someone to do 'whitebox testing', where you write code to test out modules. Since the code is being written in QA and is not for customer use, their needs for programmers are less stringent than those for the engineering department.

Once in QA, you will quickly be seen as a star and either go up in management or over to engineering or whatever.

The advantage of QA over the help desk folks is that QA already works with the engineers and they share a lot of the same tools and processes.

Good luck!

Thanks so much for your suggestions.....

C#Coder: I just started working with the Co-op people at DeVry. Hope to get some experience there soon.......
I'm also looking at internship opportunities where I use to work.

Chainsaw: I didn't think about the QA idea.......I'll follow up on that!
Thanks for shedding some light on how it is after 25 years of coding. Sounds like this is really right up my alley and with decent money to boot!!!

I'll take both of your suggestions under advisement and try them out. I look forward to being a contributing part of this community.

-- CoderWannaBe

I got a job through my co-op with my college as a trainer at a well known financial firm. It was the proverbial foot in the door.

I applied for jobs in my senior year, everywhere. I got a call from a commuter railroad and 11 years later am still there.

I can't stress this enough. Civil and federal jobs are a great way to get a foot in the door. It only pays to stay on for 20 years because of the pension and benefits so the 5 year experience bar is easily attainable. Dont expect great salaries or the latest and greatest. What you will get is experience. They typically can't offer the competitive salaries so they don't get the cream of the crop. Well thats not always true, they start with a high starting salary (usually 5K over the normal starting salary range) but are slow to get raises because it is directly linked to the local economy. Where as the private firms would raise the salary quicker. Thats why I recommend it as a starter Job.

If you want to get info on those job opportunities, send me an email and I will forward the web address to you.

Good luck!

I know it may be boring and monotonous but I like the opportunity to create something that (hopefully) works. I know it's frustrating but I enjoy mathematics and problem solving a lot!

I have only found this the case when I have been made to do a task that someone else should do. and totally the wrong attitude to go into a life long commitment, my wife used to say how boring it was and I didn't understand why she thought that, now she has started he own web development soul trader business because she loves writing simple web sites in dreamweaver,fireworks and flash (arhhhh - I hate dreamweaver why create a 2000 line HTML mess when you can write a lovely little equivant page using DHTML and XML)

I had half an apprenticeship at BAe when I left school at 17 (1988), made a big mistake and took more money elsewhere. ended up unemployed and in 1994 took 9k as a trainee programmer, still at the same company. if you get a proper job expect absolute rubbish pay for a year or so, and don't compare yourself after a year to the guy next to you earning £45K, it might seem like it is only because he has been there for 10 years, but there is a lot of knowledge and experience there.

I think graduates usually get about 16K starting, do that but make sure the company is small enough for you to have your say as far as career path goes, and write PC based applications and stay away from oracle forms they are a road to nowhere (as far as I am concerned- anyways ;))

thats my advise anyway... :rolleyes:

Thank you both for the advice (Venjense and Clartsonly).

Here's another question for you all......

I've read about the distinction between a Computer Science major vs a Computer Information Systems major (I know that an information technology (IT) major doesn't even come close AND that's what I'm currently working on.....the IT that is). After reading much on the subject, I'm finding that I don't know squat (surprise, surprise). I'm finding out I know nothing of hash tables or algorithims (gasp) BUT, I would like to learn. Could someone point me to a good book that I could maybe pick up at my local library? Also, could someone maybe give me some information about what other topics I might need to become "well versed" in before I could get an interview let alone land a programming/application development job? I know that I would need to be a life long learner in order to survive in this field but it would help to know what basics I would need to get under my belt before I get into an interview and open my mouth and insert a foot. I would like to be a java programmer as well as get certified in the .NET platform. I know I'll eventually run into databases and have taken a couple of those classes. But any suggestions would be appreciated.......

I don't even want to get into hardware yet........

-- CoderWannaBe

ha ha I left school at 17... I know 0 about degree courses...

sorry I didn't read your post properly...

you need to decide what "YOU" want to do, other people are happy spending 20 years, coding Oracle Forms.. other people feel they need to constantly learn new things..

I said before you need to specialize in something(s), rather than just having a knowledge of all subjects..

It is not a minefield.... I am on my first courses at my company for 10 years, one for Oracle 9ias administration and one for Oracle 9i DBA ( I have been doing DBA for 10 years???!! )

Incidently why do you want to be a java developer, that was originally supposed to be a tidy version of c++, but has gone down the same route now anyway. if you know "How To" program properly the syntax is the only thing that requires learning for a new application.. and why all the required degrees / courses before you apply for a job, if you leave working for much longer you will be demanding 35K for your first job, take a trainee position in a company and make sure you don't get stuck doing testing or something like that be enthusiastic learn the skills to pay the bills, stay late make the programs "better" than required, and work your way up through the company by showing how their existing employees are lazy and irresponsible.

then you will make your own path, oh and don't be frightened, there is no point in "knowing" how to do things if you never use them. you just become a stuck up "I am better than you", graduate that is f***ing useless when it comes to the crunch.

I would be happy just building applications for a company or teaking the old ones. I don't know where you are but jobs over here seem to be wanting so much experience before they'll look at you......(although that's for the moment). I went to school so I can know a little "something" before I step in there. I know that programming is mostly teach yourself and I'm willing to do that but I've talked to so many managers that are rushing off to school when the economy gets bad and I don't want to be one of them. I want to enjoy my children when they get older and just concentrate on "paying the bills" and not something in addition to school. Of course, when the children get a little older, I might try and get the paper for project management (but that's years down the line and who knows what will have happened by then....). I am scared that I don't know enough especially since most people may look at you to know the answers when you're in IT. That scares me. I just want to be well prepared and get an opportunity to learn from others like yourself and hopefully help others along the way. I might love to do DB work but I hear it takes a lot of time away from family. I'll do OT but for the most part, I'll have to work smart while I'm in the office because I need to help my children with homework, cook, baths/showers, etc. Until my children become more independent and older, I probably won't be able to do a lot of OT unless they'll hook me up to do work at home. I guess my children mean a lot to me and I hope that it won't be a downfall in this field (I think it may be a downfall in any field though). Any views on that from those who are older and have or have had children?

wtf.... why do children come into it. why do you think you need to do so much overtime..

I don't know who you have been talking to, but I have 4 children and don't do hours and hours of overtime.

look somewhere else for a job. DBA's are especially hard to get hold of, and they keep their secrets close to their hearts, a good DBA is one that doesn't need to do much as they have been pro-active from the start. and everything is working a treat.

please don't get this impression that you have to work your arse off to get anywhere, it really is not true. but also don't think because you have 1 years experience you deserve £50K a year.

it pays well, it is different and fun, it is hard work but not 80 hours per week. you don't have to teach yourself all the time, it totally depends on your own personal preference, I have worked with oracle forms developers who have done oracle forms development for 20 years. it is not my cup of tea, but I am not them.

and on a more personal note, enjoy your children throughout your whole life, not just when they are older.

wtf.... why do children come into it. why do you think you need to do so much overtime..

I'm thinking a lot about how this will affect my children because I don't have any family members close by and my husband travels for a living.

Anyways, I'm glad to hear that I won't have to do a lot of overtime. I really do enjoy my children a lot and don't want to miss out. I enjoy so much the challenges of programming and the way it makes me feel when I solve a problem (I can see how that can become addictive). I think a programmer role is really right up my alley.

The reason I thought I might have to work a bit of overtime is because a friend of mine is a COBOL programmer and she was telling me that when you're "on call", you might have to go out in the middle of the night (or most likely get set up to program from home) when something is going on ..... I just don't want to get into a situation where I'm short changing my future employer and/ or my children. I know you can't always have it all work out but I'd like to try real hard to make this happen. I really enjoy programming.

Thanks all for the insights!! I'd better get out of here since I can barely keep my eyes open. Forgive me if some things don't make sense.

-- CoderWannaBe

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