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Tell HN: I just wanted to say: thank you, Hacker News
799 points by d33d33 on Mar 21, 2018 | hide | past | web | favorite | 131 comments
a few years ago i posted a question:

Ask HN: Chances for Restarting a Career in CS @ 30+ ? ( https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=7997624 )

after reading all the answers and recommendations, i decided to study CS in 2015.

it was quite challenging in every sense: time/money management, high drop-out rates (~80% fail or stop studying cs at my university), lack of math skills - school was far far away.

now, i finished it and i can say, i definitely don't regret it. it sharpened my mind and changed my mindset in a positive way. i've got absolutely no problems finding job offers (mainly as consultat or junior software engineers (i.e. IBM)) although i am now in my mid-thirties.

thank you, hn community

I am finishing my bachelors in CompSci at Harvard Extension and just got hired by Google. And I've got about 20 years on you. So yeah, absolutely, this can work!

It was fun and challenging competing with top computer science students. In the long run, my organizational skills, focus, determination and world experience outweighed their raw brainpower and better memory.

It's an ultramarathon, not a sprint.

> just got hired by Google. And I've got about 20 years on you.

As impressive as your achievement is, I'm equally impressed that Google finally started addressing their perceived ageism problem.

Google must be doing something right in their candidate triage algorithms. I applied for one job and they suggested another that was a better fit, which I hadn't even considered.

I applied to a bunch of places and only Google seemed to perceive the whole package instead of myopically focusing on my recent education or last job. The whole process was much smarter than any other company in the interview cycle.

Just to clarify, this is a fulltime SW eng position at Google? If so, that's a phenomenal achievement and career change.

Do they still weed out candidates who don't have a background in math and algorithms for roles as SRE ones? When I read about your improved triage experience, it's the first question that pops to my mind.

I had studied a lot of ML but all the technical questions were focused on traditional algorithms, so this was still a little retro. The math requirement was minimal but I had more than enough from the ML coursework.

Bamberg's Math 23a / 23c is phenomenal set of classes at Harvard. You will work like a dog but learn almost all the math you need for ML.

Also, this shows (again) that Google-like interviews are tailored for fresh grads. Basically, your studies were preps for these interviews.

I think that's true for the technical portion, or more precisely someone who has recently refreshed their knowledge in college junior level algorithms and data structures. (equivalent of Harvard CS121 at minimum, ideally CS124).

Could you please share more about your application process? I applied for couple of jobs and in their career portal... never received even an acknowledgement.

There was Data Analytics Career Fair at Harvard, which is another advantage of being a student here. You get invited to the career fairs.

Thank you. Long time ago, someone informed me that their career site is merely an eyewash.

Yeah one anecdote, ageism must be solved! Good job Google, we did it!

You see why people criticize the orange site for worshiping corporate a bit too much?

>> As impressive as your achievement is, I'm equally impressed that Google finally started addressing their perceived ageism problem.

>>> Yeah one anecdote, ageism must be solved! Good job Google, we did it!

It's posters like you that turn people off HN.

Counterargument: the commenter was buried into oblivion, which I suspect might turn a few people onto HN :D

> n the long run, my organizational skills, focus, determination and world experience outweighed their raw brainpower and better memory.

Great. Would love to hear more of the story.

A lot of it was stuff that is basic to someone with years of work experience:

* Start assignments as soon as they are given out. Stupid, right?

* Don't be shy about asking lots of questions. Don't be egotistical or afraid about asking for clarification.

* Build personal relationships with the professors and TAs. They are there to help. This is not an adversarial relationship. Show genuine passion for the material.

* Find real-world analogies or applications of the theory. An intuitive understanding is far more important memorization. It is also far more motivational. By seeing how a technique can be used to solve a real problem, the value becomes tangible.

* Be curious. You are there to learn, which means digging beyond the provided material. So many students are sadly focused on the grade or assignment, not on the learning.

I could probably write a book about this...

Edit: formatting

This is great stuff!

I am a CS professor and these are exactly the kind of things my undergraduate students struggle with!

Especially these two points:

* Start assignments as soon as they are given out. Stupid, right?

* Be curious. You are there to learn, which means digging beyond the provided material. So many students are sadly focused on the grade or assignment, not on the learning.

You should definitely write a book!

I was recently and undergrad (now a grad student)---I've done research, work, taught classes, led competition teams, etc... and I still struggle with this.

You should definitely write a book!

How did you deal with the financial issues about returning to college? Non-STEM graduate here, looking to work in places that have more deeply engineering related backgrounds. I'd prefer getting a CS or ECE degree.

My situation is especially complicated.

I have been unemployed (save a few short freelance gigs) since early 2015. I cannot interview effectively anymore. This, I think, is my biggest problem

I live with my mom because I can no longer make ends meet, but she is retiring and moving countries soon so I too have to eventually move out.

I have no friends or relatives with whom I can stay living with.

Because I already have a previous degree, financial aid opportunities for me are more limited, I hear.

If I were to register for the fall and aim to get into a university with a decent to great engineering background, how would you lay out a plan?

Not long ago I was "self-employed" (just work, no money), and had to go back to interviewing for a job after I ran out of money.

My biggest issue was gathering as much will as I could to start doing it. After the first 2 or 3 interviews, which were utterly terrible, I realized that the hardest thing was bearing those first rejections and shameful (to me) interviews. After that things got a bit easier each time until I landed a job.

So I would truly advice you to start with the process as soon as you can. Tomorrow if possible.

Keep in mind that you will almost for sure, blow the first few ones. Don't sweat it and keep going.

Of course, I would also advice you to do interview-type exercises at the same time. Again, the first few programs will feel terrible. You will definitely feel the pain. But just try doing 10 minutes at least. Then rest, even for a full day. Then try again.

Sooner than you think you will be back on track.

I get interview rejections left and right (usually in the phone interview round), and since I have been in the same period of unemployment since 2015 I feel like I haven't really learned much or improved much with interviewing.

It's pretty terrible to get little feedback but expect to introspect for fix it (My introspection itself needs work- I don't know what I don't know).

I highly recommend taking a look at and following https://www.reddit.com/r/cscareerquestions/ ...they're very supportive and there's such a range of experiences along yours (and mine), and you'll no doubt get some good pointers. Today is "Interview Questions" day, so you can post your interview experiences in that thread and often someone will respond with some tips and/or pointers.

I already go to that sub regularly, and a lot of the time, interview advice that I read or get is very company specific, or not applied in a very active, personalized way. For something involving soft skills like interviewing, I learn better by watching, or someone taking an active role in correcting my mistakes. A lot of interviewing advice is situation specific. It needs to be more personalized, more "you-specific".

Ask A Manager has a lot of interviewing advice, and I think they're pretty good. Here's a thing she did for interviewing: http://www.askamanager.org/how-to-guide

I thought there was also a video part of this where a person on the screen would ask you questions, but I can't find it right now.

I'm sorry that the advice didn't fit with your situation.

Since I don't know more about your particulars it's hard to give more useful tips or suggestions and don't want to come across as condescending or rude.

But if there is indeed something I could help you out with, please reach out through my Keybase in my profile.

At the very least, I would call the local community college and talk to a counselor. You could get a two-year CS degree that will give you the important concepts and plenty of programming exposure for not a lot of money. If you really want to transfer for a full bachelor's, the community college can still give you cheap units for everything you need up until you switch schools, and it may just be that your previous degree can help out here (NB: IANA couselor).

I can think of a few local community colleges I can go to for starting. And then ask about housing options, or perhaps get into a campus job. If the campus job can waive most of your tuition, do you think just having that would suffice?

Also, do you recommend more on transferring out of the CC later to go to a very reputable CS university (UC Berkeley for example)? I'd like to be one of those people who can land an internship at Jet Propulsion Labs (I'd like to combine my interests in computing and space exploration).

Like the OP said in his old topic, I have a passion for coding (check my username for Github), but I can't interview worth a damn anymore. So I don't know if it's delusional to think that a CS degree (and the education that comes with it) will automatically open up many doors for me.

I wish I can maximize my utility for a business or an org even if I can't pass most interviews, because failing interviews is just making my skills go to waste.

A local job recruiter (a specialized one, not from a big agency) once told me to seek companies that offer SWE apprenticeships as a refresher. But those sorts of companies are hard to come by here.

I can definitely relate to your position and I imagine a lot of other engineers would also relate as our skills sets tend to mean the engineering part comes more naturally but the soft skills take a lot of work. I would recommend reading books or forums about non CS specific interviews, body language and soft skills.

I'm in my mod thirties now so have had quite a lot of experience interviewing and recently being the interviewer so have noticing a lot of patterns. It is amazing how often the questions get repeated, if you spend an hour writing down all the likely questions I am sure you will cover 80% of the questions of any interview. Then spend a few hours writing two or three ideal answers to each of the above questions. Such questions would include : -what has been the proudest project you have worked on? -what have you been doing the last few years with your time while not working? (I'd, recommend referring to your open source contributions or doing background learning here) -what are your goals? - how do you deal with confrontation? - how do you deal with pressure etc?

You could say all boring questions but you are very likely to come across them in an interview and crafting a positive response to each one and practicing it out loud, ideally with a friend or two in the mirror will help tremendously.

Also get an experienced friend to review your resume, it is amazing how many talented engineers get overlooked because of lack of attention to detail on their resume.

It was good advice above by @saganus about interviewing a lot as it is definitely a skill which takes practice . After each interview push for feedback, some will say they can't say but a lot will give you honest feedback which is very helpful. You can also try this with a friend or someone online over video chat.

Finally I would consider getting a less glamorous CS job in the interim to help pay the bills through school and get back in the industry. Tons of web agencies are crying out for engineers and while it may not be your long term goal, a role like that could help you get your foot back in the door, pay the bills and give you time to get setup for your end game or save for more expensive university.

I've thrown a lot of advice here but hope some helps, as mentioned above getting interview and career ready is an ultra marathon not a sprint. :)

All I can say is to keep interviewing and reflecting on your experiences (take notes!), which will tune you in to the kinds of preparation you have to do in order to pass through the process successfully. You can do it!

It is correct that you don't qualify for federal aid for a second undergraduate degree. You can still receive financial aid as a graduate student. I'd strongly advise you to consider getting an MS. This may require taking on loans, but in the current climate this shouldn't be a concern if you're a good student.

Might I suggest getting an clerical or administrative job at local State or Private University? Most benefit packages provide tuition assistance to their staff. That is what I did, though it was a bitch trying to get a sysadmin position at my desired schools.

Glad to know students haven't changed w.r.t. meeting professors. I graduated in '04 and it astonished me how empty most professor's office hours were (modulo a particularly tricky homework question or an upcoming test).

I can learn from a textbook just fine; there are accomplished researchers in various fields who are literally paid to sit in an office and talk to you if you show up. And almost nobody took advantage of it!

I'm in my mid-thirties who has graduated years ago but still struggling with motivation and maintaining updates with technological advancements.

Your points were really motivating to me.

Will you announce it here when you have that book ready? I'm looking forward to buy it!

What kind of a role were you hired for? Is it a pure SDE role or a product/solutions engineer kinda role? I've seen Google largely prefers people with 6 ~ 12 yrs exp for SDE roles.

Really great achievement and welcome to Google. If you're based in Cambridge, we should try to grab lunch sometime. My ldap is kbolton.

I’d love to hear more about this. You feel it was worth the cost?

Did you do all classes online or did you go in person for some / all?

Did you work in technology previously?

>You feel it was worth the cost?

Harvard Extension is a bargain compared to most colleges. $1500-$2500 for most 4 credit classes. Don't tell those smart college students that you are getting the same class for less than half the price. I tried the online thing (Coursera, edX, Udemy, etc.) but was never as motivated as competing against real students in a real class with deadlines that have consequences. Fear of failure is a great motivator :)

> Did you do all classes online or did you go in person for some / all?

It was a mix. The online classes were more time efficient. The person classes built rewarding personal relationships with faculty and older students.

> Did you work in technology previously?

Yes, was primarily self taught. Only had access to a lousy community college in my teens. Turned me off school then.

Thanks for sharing your experience. I myself on a new quest to self-teach CS and change my career. I have been in the Technology field for the past 13 years or so but am pivoting to a software engineering career. CS50x is my first stop. I am intrigued by your experience with HarvardX. THe CS50x path now offers 3 more courses beyond the CS50x which i hope to take over the year or so to build my portfolio. Very inspiring to see someone achieve the impossible.

I'm actually not a fan of CS50. I never took the course, but I went through the online material did the first few weeks of assignments. It is very broad and very shallow. It is also very hard and discouraging without some guided assistance. The students who take it for credit get a lot of help.

For a first CompSci course, the edX Python course is better, IMO.


Thanks for your feedback. I could see your point about the course being broad. With 6.0.0 the whole focus is on Python and CS. Congrats on "Getting the Google job", at which many a might folk have failed; https://medium.com/@googleyasheck/i-didnt-get-hired-here-s-w... https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=9695102

Are you able to share the role that you got hired in to? Was it a SRE?


Also, I got rejected twice (!) at Microsoft and didn't even get an interview at Amazon, so I can sympathize with "GoogleyAsHeck." Clearly hiring is a very noisy process with a lot of randomness. A lot of it is beyond your control no matter how much preparation is done.

I'm trying to stay anonymous and am concerned I may have already revealed too much. Let's just say it is a technical role that involves coding and leave it at that.

perfectly understand your concerns. Thanks again and wish you well on your journey!!!

I’ve looked into the extension school a few times but never went forward due to lack of good first hand success stories. Mind if I drop you an email in the future? Anonymous email is fine if you prefer (saw your below comment).

Or you can ping me (in profile).

I'm also a grad of the Extension School, although not in CS. In-class instruction is fantastic for certain programs, with access to Harvard faculty, instructors, and other resources. I've blogged about it extensively here: http://harvardextended.blogspot.com/

Some undergraduate and graduate programs enable Extension students to attend Harvard College or GSAS classes. I don't remember the requirements/restrictions, but look up "special student" status on the HES website for details.

Yeah, I got special student status which allowed me to take grad level CS classes. Requirements:

* min 64 credits, 32 of which from HES, 12 of which must be in the relevant field, i.e. CompSci

* >= 3.33 GPA

* The hardest part: two recommendations, hence the value of building personal relationships with the professors.


Were you working while you got your degree, or did you pursue it full-time?

I was fortunate enough to be in a situation where I could pursue it full time. I started part time, really liked it, and decided to complete it full time.

Awesome, did you have health insurance/coverage? When I think of going back to school as a slightly older person, this is one of the only things that scares me.

If you are in MA, students enrolled in 12 credits or more (3 classes) per semester are required to have health insurance.


feel free to ignore me: does this mean a plan was available to you, or you couldn’t enroll without your own plan? Going to assume the former, in which case, awesome!

if you follow the above link, you'll see that you could join the Harvard health plan, even as a family. If you had your own, your could opt out. You can't be a 3/4 or above time student without health care coverage in MA. It's the law.

Wow. Amazing thanks!

I didn't realize that this was even an option - are there any other well regarded online Masters programs in CS, infosec, or software development I should be aware of?

I don't why Coursera gets so much attention for an online CS masters when it has been available for years at Harvard. Even Stanford relaxed the prior constraint of being in a member company for their online masters in CompSci.


Yes! The Georgia Tech online master's is priced at their cost to deliver the courses: ~$7k.


How long did this take you? I was considering something like this and would love it if you could tell us about your experience doing this remotely.

It took three years. As I mentioned elsewhere, I tested out of a semester of work. Unlike undergrads, I was used to working year round, so I took January term and summer classes to reduce elapsed time.

While some remote students have been able to build quality relationships with professors, it is far easier if you are local.

Awesome! I’m considering doing the same - Harvard Extension.

Is there a reason you chose to do the bachelors program over the masters?

I didn't have any prior degree so I couldn't go straight to masters. Not even any transfer credits. But I was able to test out (via CLEP) for the equivalent of 4 classes including the language requirement, which saved me a semester.

Awesome! I'm still unsure as to whether I'll pursue the program, or whether I'd aim for the Master's of the Bachelor's level. I definitely want a strong grounding in the basics before pursuing more advanced studies though.

Thank you for your time!

This is so great to hear! I don't know who you are but I'm proud of you.

Can you provide a link to this program? Is it on campus or online? Thanks

It was the standard Harvard Extension ALB [0]. You can optionally choose a Field of Study, which was CompSci in my case. And then if you qualify as a special student you can take almost any course in the college or grad school. It's a very flexible program. You get out what you put in.

[0] https://www.extension.harvard.edu/academics/undergraduate-de...

That is inspiring!

You did something way bolder but I wanted to share another successful career restart story. I worked in tech startups in business roles (ops & product management) but was always excited about the engineering side. I decided to do a career restart at 32 and taught myself the basics of web development using Udacity and other web tutorials. I then went through a coding bootcamp and joined a mid size company.

It's been a great ride, I've worked for about 3 years on both the front end and back end. I've been promoted twice and have started becoming assigned as lead developer on some projects. Overall, I think I'm about 6 - 12 months away from being promoted to a senior developer. As others mentioned, my strong soft skills (being able to project manage myself, communicate effectively, estimate tasks well and honor my estimates) have made me very attractive in comparison to other candidates who have been programming since they were 12 but are much more difficult to work with. The ability to "get stuff done" is underrated.

Anyways, the main point is I am so happy with my career restart into programming at 32. I would do it again in a heartbeat.

I am someone who has been 'programming since they were 12' and I worry about perhaps not being as well-rounded as you describe yourself. What kind of experiences that taught you the soft skills you mentioned would you recommend to someone like myself to become a more attractive engineer?

My suggestions would be to:

* take as many opportunities as you can in presenting to others. Public speaking skills are important * refine your skills in creating good product demos of your work * spend time writing concise and well structured documentation * Do some self reflection every time you get into a heated argument with a co-worker. Think about what you could have done better to prevent emotions from flaring up. The best engineers at my company are the ones who are really good at managing discussions * Make sure that any meeting you attend flows well. If people (including yourself) are meandering from the main point of the meeting then lead the group back to the main point. Take good notes. Make sure the meeting has an agenda. If it ends early then tell people they can leave rather so you can give back attendees time. If you have a shy person in the group pro-actively ask their opinion. On the same end if you have a verbose person in the group make sure to end their discussion if they are meandering. * Put yourself in your user's shoes as much as possible. Don't just evaluate a feature from a technical standpoint, but also a user standpoint. Your product manager will be happy that they can trust you to wear a "product manager" hat

Really great points here! Really liked the points about public speaking and dealing with meetings and asking questions to shy engineers.

Is this age and sex bias a silicon valley problem?

I am nearly 40 and most of the developers I have worked with in the past 10+ years have always been older than me (aside from college new hires). They have also been 20-40% female. I have spent this time working in the Westlake, Irving, Plano technology corridor of north DFW.

I would like to hear what kind of demographics people encounter by geographic location. I always hear about age and sex bias online, but I simply don't see it in my area.

SV skews young due to startups with low seed outlay. The risk and reward tends to attract young men[1], and then the culture that results continues that bias.

Established companies with good work-life balance, solid benefits, and internal advancement opportunities are much closer to your experience.

1 - Edit because I've been hammered for saying this before. Many studies have shown significantly increased financial, business, and physical risk taking in men. That's the type I'm referring to.

46 here, well employed and not worried. There are a lot of positions in Silicon Valley for older engineers. On the bias- most of the engineers who are my peers are men. The female engineers I've worked with in my 15 years in California have mostly been in project management, product management and test. Over 40 you may not get hired by any underfunded startups, but the 'old money' is still here and values experience over alma mater and 'dumb enough to work cheap'.

> Is this age and sex bias a silicon valley problem?

From my experiences a lot of SV's ageism is not really that they won't hire older workers on principle, it is just that most of their worker are young due to local conditions and like attracts like. By 'local conditions' I mostly mean cost of living, everyone I know who has lived in SV moved away when they got older and wanted to start a family.

Probably. I would say it's possibly just the market. Companies outside of the SVs/NYCs/Austins can't afford to be as picky because the talent pool isn't as large. Also probably because the SV culture isn't as pervasive in the industry as those in the HN bubble would have you believe.

For all intents and purposes, I "restarted" my software career in 2008 when I was 34. I had been at one company nine years and stop learning in 2001.

When I went back on the market in 2008, I basically had to look for junior developer jobs even though I had 12 years experience on paper - and a degree.

Fortunately(?), by then I waa so underpaid, even junior developers were making more than I was so it was still a slight raise.

It took 10 years, a lot of humility, and a lot of job hopping to get to an architect role and to get to the 50th-60th percentile of lead/senior developer for my local market. (After awhile your experience doesn't mean more pay if you're not a manager)

This is my story too. I dropped learning and got laid off. I spent 4 months looking for a job. I joined a team that did j2ee but couldn't handle the complexity of it. Got laid off again. Spent 4 months looking for a job. Now I got production support job. I want to get back in programming but I find all the new technology so hard.

Just a life tip here, make sure you work your way up the ranks. Which means studying and learning how to manage people not learning the obscure computer language. Tech is very tough on old guys. Programmers and CS jobs start to disappear as you get older. The happy stories you'll read here are the exception, not the rule. You need to cover your bases. Good luck.

This depends on where you live. I only really read about ageism being a problem in the valley. Locally (US Northwest) I've never seen any sign of it.

Same here (I'm in the UK).

It really depends on the age of what you know.

Being in a similar situation (before degree), I totally agree that I need a solid CS education.

BUT, given that resources like https://teachyourselfcs.com/ are available for free why should I waste money and time and energy on courses of a probable lesser quality, at least at my local university.

The way I see it the problem is not the education itself but your credentials or reputation in front of a possible employer.

So I noted down 3 ideas for myself:

   - build an Open Source reputation, by own projects and contributions - a stellar github account

   - get good at competitive programming - win kaggle competitions, hackerrank, top coder etc.

   - get a CS degree
To me either one of the first two seem better than a degree (given that I learn CS on my own).

That worked for me until I wanted a visa. Now I am getting a CS degree.

In the US, the skilled worker visa (the infamous h1b) requires a bachelor's or masters, or 12y relevant work experience, or a mix of the two.

Was it that you needed any degree or did you specifically need a CS degree for your visa? Which country was the visa for?

USA. I'm currently on an L1B (which is difficult to get and renew, and only renews once). To get an H1B I need that degree, and it helps if it's related to the field.

fair point, something to think about for me

HN is easily one of the most valuable "tools" I have in my toolchest. 20-30 minutes a day of front page browsing and the occasional post is like having a secret weapon in my tech arsenal. The number of times topics (not just tech) have come up in my professional life that I heard about first, and usually only, on HN...and then my ability to engage reasonably intelligently on those topics because of HN is countless.

Hi, I'm longtime lurker and was compelled to create a HN account for this topic. I'm in a similar position in my mid thirties; currently struggling with a heavy course load while working full time. Most weeks I seem to get most of my work done on the weekends and a occasional week night, struggling with the math classes though. I think I'm about thirty units away from transferring to the University I work for tuition free as 3rd year student.

As a sysadmin with tons of experience (rhcsa and aws certified by end of year) I'm tempted to just give up my studies and go work remote somewhere in a developing country since I love to travel. Though I remind myself an education is invaluable and that my university alumni is connected and full of prestige, I just imagine myself in Thailand making half of what I make and having a more enjoyable life as opposed to one I here in States.

Most of my lower division classes have been online at my local community college, but the math classes are not online and I have a hard time following the professor's lectures and getting to class early. Youtube lectures helps with some concepts, but I think I need to supplement my college math classes with an online program of some sort or a private math tutor.

Can anyone recommend some math online math courses that cover Algebra to Calculus please? Any tips that help with time management, focus and staying motivated?

Please do finish your education... there seems to be an anti-college sentiment on HN, but you've put in so much work, it just makes sense to get it over with, get the damn certificate. It may not seem like much when working for private companies, but when you work with Governments (either on contracts or for immigration etc.) more paper education does matter, alumni networks are helpful. And you can go to thailand even after you get the degree :).

For Algebra and Calculus have you tried Khan Academy? Their only downside is that they don't apply the concepts enough to real-world problems, but I found Sal's explanations clear enough.

I also liked http://www.mathsisfun.com/ and https://brilliant.org/ although you need to pay for the Calculus content.

I used Khan Academy for 2-3 months while I had a full-time job. I worked my way up from College Algebra to Calculus I before I took community college courses in Calculus I and Calculus II. It definitely prepared me for the college courses.

That's great. I suggest keep going and finish it. Not sure if you already have a family but free time evaporates once you decide to have one.

Interesting. Here I am trying to figure out what I can do to get out of technology at 40+.

Congrats on finishing school!

I have just gone opposite route. I turn 42 this year and just started job in a more technical role having spent 8 years in management. I moved into management because I was a very good developer. I don't think I was a bad manager, my teams did well and won awards. However, I couldn't stomach the endless meetings and admin tasks that came with being a manager. I carried on reading Hacker News trying to keep up with the latest trends instead of moving on to reading management and finance sites. In the end, despite the ageism stories abound I decided to go back to technology. Its been 3 weeks into the new job. I am appreciating the time I have to immerse myself in the technology. Good luck with your quest.

What's your story?

That's awesome, and an inspiration.

And I really encourage you to find a good team (rather than just focusing on salary), it'll really level you up quickly — and set you up for lots of good opportunities as the years go by.

I'm 35 and have been working in web development since 2007, but I feel like my career has went completely off the tracks since 2015. You see, I have been under-employed or unemployed for three years and I cannot convert any interviews into job offers anymore.

I also have a non-STEM degree and the prospect of going to grad school for CS or Math related courses seems tempting. I don't want to work for local small web shops forever, and prefer to see myself in the long run working at a big semiconductor firm or aerospace firm. However, time and financial issues are holding me back from trying out college again.

If OP's experience is more the norm, where tons of doors open for you simply for having the right degree and preparation, what should I do to make ends meet in the interim? How can I get a job to support myself while I'm attending college, when I can't interview worth a damn? I'm hoping I can get by with a campus job, waive part of my tuition (I've also worked on campus last time I was in college).

See my point I added today bait internet interview skills to @ccajas. It is a whole different skill set to learn and not necessarily taught through traditional schooling but worth the effort so that your skill set can be shown in the best light. Good luck!

Glad to hear it worked out for you! I think there's a lot of potential for people who non-traditional students who are capable of focusing on science, math, logic, getting retrained into CS and have a good career. We definitely need more people in the field, and I'm sure you bring a slightly different perspective coming in at a little bit later age.

Well done you! Though 30 is not that old, I've never believed that old adage about old dogs. Grit, determination, self belief and a positive outlook are some of the main ingredients required to change course in life. Sacrifice will most likely be required too if the change of course is more than 45 degrees.

I love how pure Hacker News is. It's like Digg or Slashdot 10 years ago.

> it was quite challenging in every sense: time/money management, high drop-out rates (~80% fail or stop studying cs at my university), lack of math skills - school was far far away.

This is where a mentor I believe does a great job. I know people that had a hard time learning because they don't have someone guiding them. Some aspects, like say, async programming or memory management could be hard to grasp by yourself but when someone explains it well, then it everything starts to come together. That's why when I'm teaching I always tell people to understand the concepts first cause you'll only learn it once and it will help you understand the pieces better.

Any tips on finding a good mentor?

Personally, the best mentor I had was my first manager at my first job. He did really well for himself now and probably could retire (he's in his mid 30's).

But how I found mentors naturally was hang out at a place called Hacker Dojo here in Silicon Valley. Since they often had free JavaScript classes and meetups, I took advantage of that to make connections and eventually found mentors/friends and people in general that help you out.

Cool! Hacker Dojo was created by my brother David. :)

I find it interesting that you are not having a problem finding Jr SWE roles. I co-run a computer science career community (CS Career Hackers) and I often get a lot of complaints by new grads about the lack of Jr roles.

Congratulations on your new career.

On a side note, anyone else a bit worried that there being a tech or economic bubble? Reading this thread, I can't help but be reminded of the dotcom bubble when everyone was getting into tech or the "I just became a realtor" craze before the housing bubble crash.

Anyone maintain a list of indicators other than S&P 500 PE ratio or the interest rate?

I'm generally optimistic on the economy because of the tax cuts and the expected infrastructure spending, but still, don't wait to be caught with my pants down like the 2008 financial disaster.

I'm always worried about that but have been since about 2012 so it is hard to know what the future holds. Best hedge plan is to live well within means and save lots so if/when there is another big crash have savings to last until the economy gathers steam again.

I remember that question/conversation. So pleased it worked out.

Mind sharing a few thoughts about your experience as an "older" student? Any surprises about the coursework/assignments/fellow students?

Comparing my oldest child's recent university experience to mine (in the 70s) it's like a different world. Much more paper submission & grading online, much more 'handholding' and support from the instructors, more teamwork assignments, less reading.

Thanks again for the followup, and congrats!!!

It is so much easier being a student now, mostly because of the amazing resources available online. In the bad old days, if you didn't understand a topic and had a bad professor, you were screwed. Today, a two second search will find lectures, articles, blog posts, free books, SO answers... It's amazingly better.

The tradeoff of ease is the huge variety and diversity of knowledge to learn. A CS degree in ML can have a completely different curriculum than a CS degree in algorithms or web design or OS/systems/databases. There is much more to learn.

I"m working on a BS in Software Development at 27. I 100% agree with the hand holding statement. It feels to me like universities are lowering expectations so students pass rather than fail them. I know one individual who is a senior in this Software Development program who doesn't understand basic concepts but his professors have been passing him. I don't think this benefits the student, school, or society. In fact, if anything it devalues education.

I am curious if this is an isolated situation at my university or if this trend is more secular.

I've also noticed this trend, at my university and from what I hear many from the region I'm in. I don't think that it is an isolated event.

In many classes attendance makes up a comparable portion of grades as tests, which means in order to pass classes you need attendance points and class assignments, many of which are "effort based", so in most cases one can fail 75% of tests and still pass with decent grades.

To play devil’s advocate, degrees are getting more and more expensive, making it less and less acceptable for customers to not get something for their money. If I pay $100K and dont drop out, and still don’t get the degree, I’m going to be enraged.

Reading this made my day. Thank you for sharing!

I made the same moves last year and have no regrets. I was 28 when I quit my career in finance in May 2017. It's definitely been the hardest thing I've ever done (System's Architecture and Computer Networks) but it's been the most rewarding. I'll be finishing Year 1 of 3 this June.

You have no idea how helpful to me it was reading your post. Congratulations my dude, godspeed!

Congratulations! Did you work full time while in school? Is this in the US or Germany? I've thought about school, I'd love to get a formal education, but I just landed my first job and I probably won't end up doing it.

Thanks for coming back and sharing your success! It's very inspiring for me. I just graduated with a Mechanical Engineering degree and debating going back for a CSE Bachelor's degree but unsure if it would be worth it.

I don't know how it is in other schools, but at mine you can get a masters in CS even if you didn't do your undergrad in CS. They just have you take the core undergrad CS courses, which is about 1-1.5 years of work. With an ME, it might not even be that long. You should look into that before going for a second bachelor's.

Which school?

University of Hawaii at Manoa. I'm finishing up an undergrad degrees in CS and Business (started school at 30 after time in the military, so another success story for this thread), but I have a few friends in the masters program who came from other disciplines, which is how I know about this, though it's also listed on their site.


Nice job, comp sci degree is not easy but man does it set you up for success

Good job. I received a degree in finance and ended up not wanting to go into banking so I went back and got my CS degree. Like you said, looking back it was definitely worth all the time and effort.

Awesome. Congrats!

That said, it was kind of clear from your original post that you were headed in the right direction! Hell, just reading/asking Hacker news meant you already had two feet in the community :-)

If you don't mind me asking, where did you get your degree?

I'd rather think about an interesting problem than think about career building. I thought this was a common problem, but this thread is sure different.

Thanks for sharing this, I just turned 30 and started a CompSci Master's track 1.5 years ago. Very encouraging to hear your success!

How do you find offers when every resume submission is met with automated replies?

You want to avoid those channels all together. Anytime you find a company that you want to work for or one with an interesting opening try to get in direct contact with someone at the company. Either at the manager level or in HR.

Simply asking for time to talk about the position is enough to bypass any automated process

This made my day, thank you! I am currently working on changing careers to CS.

Way to go, my friend! Best of luck in your career and life!

Love this. Thank you for sharing. It is an inspiration!

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