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Career Change Advice

Career Change Advice

Career Change Advice


I've read some of the threads and found them very useful. Hopefully some of you could give me some feedback on my situation.

I have been working as an architect for 20 years, but want to go into hi-tech arena; probably software. Very proficient in using computer for usual stuff and do 3D/CAD/Animation etc. Have dabbled a bit in learning some BASIC and have taken a 2 day course in using it to customize my CAD program.

Also, have run my own business for last 10 years in Silicon Valley. So surrounded by techies and have gotten very interested in getting into 'hi-tech' world.

1.  If I want to get into software world, should I

a. get a university degree or

b. take some univ extension courses and get a certificate or

c. self study with books or ???

2. Is there a way to get my foot in the door with a hi-tech company while I'm learning or is it better to wait till I have finished whatever course of study I have done??

3. Is it realistic to think about doing this at 45??

Thanks in advance for any advice you may give.


RE: Career Change Advice


The advice I have to give is a bit controversial, but hopefully I won't get flamed too bad....

First off, the key in your whole problem is age.  At 45 you're too old for any company to pick you up unless they have a clear need for the skills you've built in the last 25.  If you've had your own company for the last 10 years that's a problem too as every company looking at you will be wondering "gee, if he can't make it on his own that why should he make it here".  And, the level of scrutiny only goes up the more you move off the core work competencies you've built in your career --  i.e. moving from being an architect to being a programmer.

Now for the advice:

The key to your move can be found in one word "acceleration".  Moving into a new area, you will be forced to compete with people who are younger and also have no experience.  They will be cheaper, making them better investments for their clients and employers.  It's just an economic fact.

So, look at options which could leverage upon what you've learned the last 25 years and once you start in them you can QUICKLY accelerate past others who are not as mature, can't handle a hard client, etc...

Possibly there are vertical software manufacturers that serve the architectural industry?  A few phone calls to some software company HR managers should give you a clue pretty quick if this is a good "fishin' hole" for you.

Getting "into software" like you asked doesn't require a degree,  Even if you went full time you'd be almost 50 before your resume hit the street with the degree on it...  You will also want to watch out for those programs that make lots of promises.  You know the ones... "Gee, I used to be a trucker, but now I make $60,000/year as a network engineer because I got my MCSE/CNE..."  Not that those programs are bad, they just have lots of folks sucked into spending big $ for big promises.

So, hopefully the young people, old people, degreed people, truckers, MCSE's and CNE's I've offended with this post won't flame me too much.  It's just my opinion.  :-)


RE: Career Change Advice


Thanks a lot for your candid reply. All of what you say makes sense and confirmed some of my suspicions.

The irony is being in Silicon Valley I know that many companies here can't find enough people.

You're right about leveraging some of skills. That's part of what I hoped to do. I know how to manage projects(even multiple projects), meet deadlines, work with others, present ideas to large and small groups, market, negotiate and write contracts, run a business, etc. Actually I've been quite successful financially the last few years so money is not the issue for my interest in changing careers.

I have thought about contacting some software companies that are involved with architectural related software.

In the meantime, I need to determine then what would be quickest route to getting knowledgeable enough to be employable.


RE: Career Change Advice

Hi Mark,

From what you say I think that you should consider project management in the IT area. I think its too late for you to start as a developer and the money in the support area will not be enough (it sounds like you are used to the $$$!!).

I know that most software companies are stuck for PMs so I think thats how you should approach it. Maybe take an evening course in the computer area you are thinking of entering.


Nobody told me that the price of shares could fall... :-(

RE: Career Change Advice

(joining a bit late in the conversation)

I agree with Calahans, use what you have rather than ditching it in favour of technical skills. Try project management, particularly for the same companies your company uses now. Stay within the architect arena and stress the understanding of their BUSINESS. It is the value added service of understanding the way they work as well as your new found technical skills that will swing the jobs. But you also have to think whether at this time of life (no offence :-)) that no matter how interested you are in broadening your skill set, are you realistically going to offer someone enough of a service to live?

RE: Career Change Advice

If your firm has been successful, than step into your existing clients with a value added service of "repping" software packages in the architectural market.  If those packages have resellers that's even better.  You can recommend, install, train and support.

If you have a staff of 4 people, consider taking one of them and pull them off to be a computer consultant in this area or hire one outright.  You'll learn from "managing the doing".  Like the other folks above have aptly pointed out, you're better off at the high-end project management where you aren't trashing the business skills you have.

My initial post assumed you were on your own, and financially not in a position to "invest your way into learning".....


RE: Career Change Advice

To Ghost, Calahans, Zelandakh

THANKS A MILLION for the honest, thoughtful advice. It is incredibly helpful to have this kind of input when trying to make some major decisions.

Leveraging off my current career makes a lot of sense. I need to investigate where this might lead and take action based upon that focus.

Thanks again.


RE: Career Change Advice

I applogize in advance, this post is kind of long, and somewhat disorganized.

1. Age is not a factor in an industry that can find enough qualified candidates to hire.

2. Age can be a real plus. Experience is akin to location (for real estate).

3. Money could be an issue; but if you can survive the first few years at less than you'd like you can make up a lot of ground after the first year or two.

4. Experience can be used in lieu of a degree; consider a certification program. I would suggest that you go after the specific skills you need, opposed to a degree program. You can still work while acquiring skills.

5. Project management might be good way to get in a door. Once inside maneuver.

6. Find two I/T placement firms (that place people with your level of experience, and to the type of place youd like to work at). Agencies are very effective; they can assit you with your resume and cover letter (never underestimate the impact of a resume and coverletter. I know from experience that if you submit a poor resume or coverletter that you may never get considered. I've seen many applications thrown away by employers just because they didn't like the resume and or cover letter. Also, consider that the agency is paid by the employer, the agency does the leg work, and might even negotiate salary. DO NOT UNDERESTIMATE THE EFFECTIVENESS OF AN AGENCY. ALSO DON'T FORGET THAT THE AGENCY REPRESENTS THE EMPLOYER, NOT THE EMPLOYEE. BUT THE AGENCY NEEDS QUALIFIED CANDIDATES TO SELL.

7. Continue to job search through other means, such as the internet, word of mouth, and sending resumes cold. MOST JOB OPENING ARE NOT ADVERTISED. Make a list of all the companies that you think that you would like to work for, and send resumes with coverletter (always with a coverletter).

8. Make a list of every concievable job skill that you have; don't worry if it is a technical or administrative skill. This is very useful, especially when drafting your resume and coverletter, as-well-as for any interviews that you may obtain.

9. Be prepared for an interview. Especially, be understand and be able to articulate why you are seeking a new position. THIS COULD BE THE MOST IMPORTANT QUESTION THAT IS ASKED DURING AN INTERVIEW. Try to have an indepth understanding of your job skills and the market. Do research. EFFECTIVE JOB SEARCHING IS A FULL TIME JOB.

10. Find a job that will provide the ability to learn more than you already know.

11. I would definately either ask for a raise from your current employer, or wait until review time and see if the raise you receive is worthwhile. You may want to wait until your job search is producing interviews before asking for a raise, but that's your call.

12. Be prepared. Know the market for your skills. Try to understand the difference working for different type of employers (large coporation v. small; tech company v. non-tech, etc.) There are major differences between employers. Talk to people.

13. Resume tips: Be consise. Don't tell the employers that you're hardworking, that you will benefit the company, that your looking for a challenging new position. DON'T include an objective on your resumen unless you have some special or diverse talent that you want to highlight. For ex: Don't say that you're looking for a challenging new postion as a programmer where I can use my skills, blah, blah, blah. On the other hand if you have programming skills and administrative or project leader experience that you'd like to combine, that might be worth mentioning. DON'T include references in your resume or coverletter. References are supplied upon request. DON'T include hobby or other interests that are not related to the position for which you are applying. You should include professional associations, not personal affiliations.

14. Tailor your resume and coverletter to the job you are applying for. If you're applying for positions that require different skills, then you tailor your resume, and more importantly, your coverletter accordingly.

15. Very important. Make sure that after you write your resume and coverletter, please allow others to read it before you send it.(try to find people who understand what a coverletter and resume should contain, plus ask people to review these docs for spelling, grammer, etc.)

16. Make sure that your resume (especially) and coverletter are printed on white paper (no color - ever) with bold black print. The reason for this is that many companies scan resumes. If the resume is on color paper or fancy small type it won't scan clean and you're out of luck. (Assuming of course that you're not responding by e-mail.)

17. Do not bring up the salary or benefits during an interview, unless brought up by the interviewer, or requested by an ad. (This is bad form, and can be counteproductive. Employers want to know that you're interested in the job.)

Good luck!

Gary (akbryer)

Good deeds do not go unrewarded!

RE: Career Change Advice

Don't think small and try to become a 45-year old trainee. Business analysts and project managers are also in demand, and age isn't an issue there. I have been hired time and time again based on my strong business skills, with my meager technical skills just thrown in as a bonus. This is about good judgement, and business judgement impoves with age if was any good to start out with.

I was at one company where we paid consultants $100+ per hour to do JAD. The guy didn't know squat technically; whenever a technical question came up (infrequently), he just nodded at the technical type that came with him and sat in the back of the room. It was the presentation and business skills that we were paying for!

Something I've considered: start your own contract agency, and recruit people to work at home over the net. There's scads of IT people willing to put in extra hours at good wages. This is an idea who's time has come, but there aren't enough people with strong enough business and project management skills to pull it off!

Finally, I've also considered working part-time as an instructor. Way to make a LOT of contacts. Good luck :)

RE: Career Change Advice

Gary & Elizabeth

Thanks to you both for adding more wisdom to the growing list of great advice.

It's this kind of sharing that reminds me why the web is so great.

As an aside, I'm reading a great book on this subject called 'The Complete Idiot's Guide to A Career in Computer Programming" by Jesse Liberty. Very helpful for a newcomer to the field, gives a clear overview and orientation of the various aspects of the field.

More and more, I'm realizing that I should probably aim at utilizing more of my existing skillset in knowing how to run projects and a business than in becoming an expert programmer.

The research continues....meeting with some various people in Silicon Valley over the next few weeks who can further illuminate and clarify questions I have.

Thanks again to all.


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