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Ask HN: If you have moved from “bits” to “atoms” careers, what is/was it like?
4 points by sf_rob 8 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 5 comments
I'm curious to hear from those who have moved from the world of "bits" (information jobs) to "atoms" (physical outcomes).

What did you go to/from?

What are the pros/cons?

How did you pivot? Experience vs structured education? in parallel vs sequential?






I encourage anyone at the start of their career, or even while still in university to consider studying -- in parallel, on the side, just as an interest -- another skill or trade, such as building, electrics, or plumbing. These practical professions cannot be off-shored, or machine-learned out of existence, and the country is crying out for well-qualified practitioners.

Not only will you have a better (than zero) understanding of the trade, you'll know what to look for when hiring others to work on your property, be able to do some jobs yourself (subject to local building codes and regulations), and you'll at least have something in mind as a possible alternative when you get sick of computers and / or computing jobs, instead of starting looking for alternatives from a standing start.

Aside from all that, you might find it more interesting and enjoyable than you first imagine, and it does the mind a power of good to think about something else in a different way for a change, so win/win... :-)


I went from IT to making gears in a job shop. The pay and commute sucked, but it was something that I could do with my hands that turned out a tangible product.

Working in a job shop means you frequently have to turn a blank into a gear under deadlines because something broke at a production line, and it's costing them money every day that gear isn't delivered. You get to learn a wide variety of things, but most of all, you're exposed to a world where stuff has to work, no matter how quick or dirty the fix, stuff just has to work.

Once you've been in that environment, working with machine tool older than you, you understand intuitively why people are still running MS-DOS based software, and can't upgrade it no matter what the price. Knowing where your code is being used, and why, makes things far more fulfilling on the IT/programming end.

IT pays more than twice what I was getting making gears. However, you don't have the vague worry that you're not actually helping the world, you have physical products out the door that those doubts can't argue with.

Most of the Marvel 8" bandsaws made between 2015 and 2019 have bevel gears I cut the teeth on in them. It's a bit of trivia, but it makes me happy.

I suspect that this knowledge will help once I'm well enough to return to the land of IT. (Long Covid sucks)


Being able to apply or adapt one's thinking from one field to a new one is a pleasant experience, which often leads to fresh insights.

Get well soon!


What are your symptoms from long covid?

Exertional Dysmia(sp?) If I walk a block, climb stairs, go grocery shopping, etc... I then need to rest for a few hours to recover. Prior to this I was on my feet 8 hours/day working.

I went through all the test I could back in 2020, including a probe inserted into my heart to check pressures there... they couldn't figure it out. My doctor recently agreed that it's likely Long Covid, but there really isn't anything to diagnose it, other than a specialty program that I can't afford.




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