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Computer learning and job

Posted on 2000-04-27
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I just have a general knowledge of computer: build a simple computer and solve simple computer problems.

I majored in broadcasting and am curruntly working at a radio station as an anchor.I am interested in learning computer science (network, programming, or data base or whatever I'm capable of learning) and eventually getting a gob in that field. *I love a problem-solving subject.

The problem is though I am a 36 year-old man and losing my memory power as aging.

Can anyone help me with deciding whether or not I should go for it considering my age? If so, in what area (programming, network, MCSE, web development, etc.) I will be better off and learn faster that others to learn? Should I go to a community college, a master's degree in CS, a private institution for a certificate, or else?

Any generous and considerate comments will be appreciated.
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Question by:windowsdoors
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by:Lee W, MVP
ID: 2757885
I hate to tell you this, but 36 isn't old.  I'm 25.  But half the people I work with are in their 30's, 40's, and 50's.  And one person I knew was in his 90's and knew a fair amount about computers - more than the average home user.

That said, you should treat this decision as you would any other.  I would first look at what you enjoy doing the most - seeing computers work together [networking], seeing how your words (and typing) create things on screen that can be viewed by everyone [web design], seeing how your words (and typing) can make the computer do things [programming], controlling things [MCSE].  You should specialize in the area that most interests you.  Take some simple and relatively inexpensive courses and ask the instructor questions.

Then take courses in the area you like best.  Where you should take the  courses will depend on what you want to learn.  For MCSE, I'd recommend going to a place that offers courses that use the Microsoft Course material.  But these can be expensive - week long and $2000 each.  Ultimately, for MCSE, you need to pass exams and if you learn well from books, you'd be better suited to buy some home study books and test prep books then just book the exam.  For other things, networking, for example, it really depends on what kind of networking you want to do - Cisco is the biggest, best known maker of equipment and if you are a Cisco Certified Engineer you deman premium dollars right now.  But likewise, the training and exams aren't easy unless you really enjoy the stuff and it just "comes" to you.  Web and programming things you're probably best suited for college courses (and speaking of college courses, you can often find some technical schools and even the occasional local colleges offering discounted MSCE training - sometimes you can get the whole program (several classes) for something like $6000 - $8000 - Yes, it is a discount.
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Author Comment

by:windowsdoors
ID: 2758007
Thanks for the detailed answer.

I might still need further input from a few other experts including you. If possible, explian more about Networking, MSCE and Web design in terms of demand of the market 3 years later and chance a 36-year-old man can succeed: I might like programming but I feel like I won't do good in that field.

*My questions will sound like a test to you guys. But I'm really serious about changing my whole career.

Thanks in advance.
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by:pschwan
ID: 2759215
First let me agree with Leew that you are by no means too old to get started in this field.  My dad was 45 when he started working with computers...he was unhappy working as the manager of a paint store and saw how interested I was in computers, so I got him a job at the computer store where I worked and he's been at it ever since.  His experience, and mine as well, began by doing exactly what you described...building simple systems and doing simple troubleshooting.  I think it's very important for ANY IS/IT professional to have at least some basic hardware skills.  It can save you tons of time and headaches later on.  So, you might want to consider first achieving your CompTIA A+ certification.  This will show that you know hardware pretty well.  
As you work your way into the industry, you'll get a better idea of where you want to go and what you want to specialize in.  I originally wanted to be a programmer, until I started doing some programming in college courses and realize that, although it interested me, it's not what I wanted to do as a career.  Now I've only been working in this industry since about a year after I graduated from high school (I'm 23 now, by the way).  Next week I'm taking the final test to become an MCSE.  This was achieved almost exclusively through my own experience with my home network and self-study books.  My father is currently working towards the same end, although I have a year or two headstart on him:)
Web design is a very saturated market right now.  It involves a pretty good deal of programming experience, depending on what exactly you want to do.  It's still certainly possible to get a great-paying job, but there's a lot of competition.

Anyway, here's what has worked for me and what I recommend:

1. Study up on hardware.  Take a class or purchase some books on the A+ exam and try to get that
2. Set up a network at home.  By definition, that's as small as just two computers.  This is your lab.  The more time you spend tinkering with it, the better prepared you'll be
3. Try to get a job with a consulting company.  By doing this, you'll gain a wide range of experience because you'll often be sent to many different companies with very diverse networks.  Some will have an old Novell network with DOS clients, some will have the latest and greatest Compaq servers running a Windows2000 Server Cluster.  Never be afraid to ask your employer for experience...very few managers dislike ambitious and dedicated workers:)
4. Ask questions.  Nobody likes a guy who thinks they know everything, ESPECIALLY in the IT industry.  You can BS customers occasionally to avoid going into a detailed explanation that's way over their head, but if you try to BS your peers in the industry, you'll get called on it and gain a reputation you don't want:)  If you don't know it, ask somebody.  Take advantage of the pool of knowledge your peers provide.  Even the highest scoring people in E-E have posted questions they don't know the answers to.

Well, I hope that will at least give you a little more to think about.  You have plenty of time to learn this stuff.  Although there's an immeasurable amount to learn out there, you'll find it gets easier as you pick your path and find your niche.

Good luck!
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by:windowsdoors
ID: 2760788
I also appreciate pschwan's comments. They are very practical and useful. But although your answer is very helpful, I have to reject your comments here to see what others think. I might want answers from someone who's 35 years old or older.
About two more comments will be enough :-)
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pschwan earned 100 total points
ID: 2760897
I can have my father post:)
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by:windowsdoors
ID: 2761527
Please, do that.
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by:nbdyfool
ID: 2771719
Hi, Windowsdoors, I'm pschwan's father, and he's right on target!  I have had more fun and learned more in this field than I ever thought possible.  It's never too late to do what you want!  I'm 48 now, and worked my way up from a bench tech position to my current position as a Tech Support Specialist, troubleshooter, and lead technician for the company I work for.  I do a lot of tech support over the phone, and believe me, you gotta know your stuff to do that well!  Everything I know I learned from hands-on experience, and I highly recommend that.  I do a lot of reading to keep up on things also, and I'm gearing up to start into the MCSE program.  Problem solving skills are a must for this kind of work, and it sounds as though you have that, and the desire to go with it!  There are tons of opportunities out there, and getting your foot in the door is not hard to do.  Phil and I have honed each other's knowledge by constant contact and sharing of info, and it has not only helped me to get into the best career I could think of, it has really forged a bond between us not only as father and son, but as friends as well.  I agree with him about seeking out other IT people, and learning from them.  As you gain knowledge, you'll find yourself gravitating toward a specialty.  There's always more to learn, and no shortage of people that will help you.  This is a great industry, and you'll find a wealth of info to help you, as well as people to mentor you and help you advance.  I wish you the best of luck, and echo Phil and leew in saying "go for it!"  
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Author Comment

by:windowsdoors
ID: 2773939
Thanks for your info. You are a brave man and I admire you.

I'll go for it, first buying and reading a good book on A+, c(++)programing, possibly Java: an IT technitian told me it will be very useful to know (not master) c++ and Java for my "future" career.

thx everyone.
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