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Career advice, please. With all the outsourcing in tech jobs I am confused as to whether or not to pursue any IT certifications.

Like so many others, I have had to make a career change in mid-life.  I always enjoyed programming, and took a number of evening courses (Assembler, Cobol, Basic----I know this really dates me) as well as a course in PC repair and networking.  Before I could obtain my A+ certification,  I became ill with Chronic Fatigue, and my life was put on hold for several years.  Now that I have somewhat recovered,  I would like to resume my studies.  However,  I know some very skilled and high-level software architects who are having problems finding jobs.  

I guess what I'm asking if anyone would be kind enough to offer some guidance as to whether or not I should pursue a technology career and go for the certs or additional degree (I have a B.A. in Music).  Also,  I have been approached by companies such as Smart Certify to sign-up for certification preparation.  Does anyone know anything about the quality of this training?  At this point in my life,  I need to focus my energies in something that will bring me an income, especially in light of the fact that my energies are limited due to my illness.  

Thanks in advance to any kind soul who can share some insights and help me with a very important decision.
7 Solutions
Life is still tough out there in IT Land, money is not being spent as much as it used to be, so especially in consulting, jobs are fewer and rates are lower

But saying that, if your heart is on IT, then do it, there are still plenty of jobs out there, with a lot, I noticed offering not so good salary, hence the experienced people tend to not go for these jobs. Competition for the better jobs is extremely high.

You just need a foot in the door to the industry,

But if you are just half hearted about IT, but have other interests, maybe u should follow that

Its a case of you having to work for several years but to enjoy what you are doing and get a decent wage packet

I once had a highly paid job, company car etc but I left that, took over 10K paycut because I used to wake up in the mornings feeling depressed - u see I didnt enjoy the job, I wanted job satisfaction

With regards to your certification, Im not sure about that, some employers are happy with basic courses (though salary might not be good), if you get a job, you can always study part time, but then having a certification does sometimes help

With IT, it does not really matter what degree you have, I know plenty of non IT degree people doing well, I know someone who studied law and is now a successful designer, you just need to show logic, people skills etc

just a few thoughts
I don't know the situation in the country you live in, but here in Belgium there are 3 groups of programmers who don't have had any problem finding a job in IT, C++, Java (more specific J2EE) and strangely the Cobol-programmers.

On behalf of the certification, I can say that my certification has never played a decisive role in hiring me. But is was a great plus for receiving invitations for a first interview. What I want to say is this, don't see the certification as the most important thing to be hired, but as an advertissement on your CV saying "Look i've done a great effort to become an expert, invite me and I will convice you".
Hi sheana11,

I admire that you are wanting to change your career, and that you are interested in pursuing a career in the Tech industry. I'd like to tell you that this is a very competitive industry where success and failure is as clear as black and white. Nothing can substitute for a proven track record of success in delivering a product on schedule. And please keep in mind that the quality of the deliverable is HIGHLY quantifiable.

A certfication will get you the first interview, jsut like VOSJ said. But during the interview, expect questions that you cannot prepare for by achieving certification alone. Those questions and hte likely discussion that will follow needs to come from solid experience, and the certification will not help you there.

I would advise you to talk with a friend, or someone in the IT industry that you know, who has a job similar to the one you would like. And ask that person if he would share his hard won experience with you about what it is a programmer REALLY does on teh job, and how to write a resume / Coverletter that can show you have relevant experience.

Good luck!

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Hey sheana11 i feel your anxieties, but to be really honest it always tend to work out. So here are my thougts based on my experience and beliefs. I sincerely hope they'll be helpful.

I studied Computer Science and then Economics ('cause Yahoo wasn't around and there ain't any girls in Comp Science back then). After col. i was Market Researcher (international trading) > Assistant to Project Manager in a Software & Multimedia firm > Web Designer & Programmer > Graphic Design to Art Director in a Graphic Design Company > Now... working from home lab on Research and Programming for others.

LEVERAGE what you have On Paper and In Your Mind.
B.A. in Music is a wonderful thing to have, often a beautiful thing to have because it allows you to see the world, issues and problems differently. Education is not of what is on the paper for two reasons: The hardcore knowledge like knowing COBOL. The Second is the elusive analytical and finding logical paths in solving problems, some call it lateral thinking. For example my Graphic Design helps me create better user interface,  Market Research helps me in negotiation. If i'm correct, You got an Analytical Left with programming and Music with the Right. Highlight to an employer: You're a MUSICIAN and a PROGRAMMER... the result is a GREAT problem solver. CERTIFICATION can be useful but not always important. My previous employer had plenty guys without any decent certificates but darn good at what they do.

FOCUS is key on IT
Without it, it is difficult to be more than average. Ask yourself what does people do with programs and application. Then ask who are paying the most for them; are they end users or businesses? People INFORMATION from RAW Data. However here's the first real path of separation: Do you want to focus developing Appz for the Web & Internet or Desktop and Client-Server? I think the latter has to come first.

   Focus on one or two languages first:
    - VB.NET is a Rapid Application Development language, classified as a 4th Generation Language in Soft. Eng. It originated from BASIC. VERY good to know.
    - C\C++ is a dead solid 3rd Generation Language, slower to develop apps but can dig deeper into machines.
    - PHP is a Web-based  programming language. Pretty decent and handy.
    - ASP.NET if you know VB.NET, it is VERY easy to learn ASP.NET making a short learning.

   At least two types of database DESKTOP and SERVER:
    - MS ACCESS, small business uses them and is the easiest thing to learn about Database.
    - MySQL it is an open source Database. It has a very good future [Read Bottom of Post]. It's good to learn.
    - MS SQL it's one of the easiest large Database to manage as oppose to Oracle.

Others may have their opinions. But in short, we can't learn everything from networking, database management to programming and hardware integration. Focus on one or two languages is a fantastic foundation.

Normal decent work has an ability to move anyones' life at a set path. It will create certain lifestyle. I can testify that Deadlines or System Failures are real madness in IT. Once in a while we get a call at 3 am or work 18 hours straight. So work is not about money, it's a lifestyle. The cash is part of the process not the goal. In this lifestyle, an ability to learn very quickly and see commonalities across oceans of diversities is an Asset for employer and customers. Once they see you as an asset, you can dictate your terms of working with them.

For example. I incorporated myself as a business. I establish a limited network of various IT firms where my skills will be valued. They sometimes employ me like normal employee, but they pay my company and negotiated terms that allow me to work with them in their office for 20 hours per week. The rest, i do it at home or in the park. I occasional get end users hiring me and i establish a workspace at their premise for the duration of my work. It's like setting up an temporary IT Department for small firm by grouping various specialist then disband upon finishing a special project. They save the cost of long-term hiring.

OPPORTUNITIES are as abundant as unemployment
In hard economic times, businesses wants flexibility and manage cost. The single biggest cost in a business is overhead, and IT has a huge expenses. How i work through bad employment period is to convince my clients that they will save so much more investment in money hiring and time training new guys. Use their existing staff, i'll gather a crack team with purple hairs and solve problems. I did a project for SONY using XML for some data conversions for their Surface Mounting Technology Machines.

NETWORK with others and tap into a larger network of customers, or employer.
Join a team online or offline. Meet some IT firms and say you are interesting to work with them on the things you are good at, maybe as a contract employee. The good thing is you have a chance to TRAVEL though various companies. Then leverage that TRAVEL experience to advice what is a better way of doing things. Build trusts and friends. They are the best people to bring you ideas and comfort.


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How many programmers are tone deaf? Too many....

How about getting a job at some IT companies working with Audio...
Whatever you do, try not to learn scheme / LISP. =]

To address the issue of outsourcing.. it's a reality. You know, a guy from our team in India was over in our office for the last two weeks, he sat right next to me. He's a real nice guy, and got really strong skills to boot. Not only that, but cost of living is cheaper in India, which is why he can afford to be paid less... but relatively the same amount as us over here. Given that the quality of workers abroad is good, outsourcing is not going to stop.

How can you be sure you will have a good job in a few years? You can't! You have to always strive to be so good that no matter how high they raise the bar, you will be in hot pursuit. If you can't make this kind of a commitment, then this industry will likely leave you high and dry.

Also, let's not forget that the next generation of kids is weaned on the internet... not like us, who began programming on TI calculators in highschool or maybe even QBasic on 8088 XT machines... these little kids are programming from day one and on the internet with all those resource at their disposal...

The competition is coming from left and right.

Follow your heart and should you decide to commit to being a software engineer, I wish you the best of luck.

The best bet and arguably highly paid for software development is by doing Java, J2EE and J2ME. Also by learning and using open source frameworks, libs and tools you will be better off.:)
sheana11Author Commented:
Thank you so much for all your help.  I split the points because everyone had such good suggestions.  You all presented the realities and possibilities in IT, and how my background and situation fit in.  Again, thanks so very much!

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