T Nation

Change of Career Advice

Iâ??m looking to get some basic knowledge on how to go from being a Mechanical Engineer to a computer programmer without going back to college.

My goal is to develop websites & android applications.
To do this I will need to learn the following languages as a minimum: HTML, CSS, Javascript & Java.
Through books & the internet over the last four months I have a basic understanding of HTML & CSS and right now I am currently teaching myself javascript. I have no doubt that I can gain expertise in these languages through self-learning given enough time, as I absolutely love this stuff and secondly there are plenty of amazing free resources online.

My question is that will anyone recognise my skills without an IT qualification? I have heard in rare cases of employers accepting a mechanical engineering degree combined with a general interest in programming as enough qualification, given the broad range of subjects covered & evidence of commitment to a mathematics heavy course.

Overall I think that I will probably need to pay the crazy fees and take an oracle certification course in order for anyone to take me seriously & also to show â??proofâ?? of my skills.

I would love to hear feedback on my plan.
Has anyone ever done anything like this?

Thanks.

If i were you this is what i would do:

Learn coding…which you’re doing. Here’s another website that I found helpful: www.w3schools.com/

It has javascript, CSS and some other stuff that you might be interested in. I started off on Python as a hobby FYI. It’s a good language to get started with overall if you don’t have any prior knowledge in the field, but being a M.E., I would assume (probably not right with this one) that you have some programming skills.

Get some mini-projects done that you can show to your prospective employers. Then, I would e-mail all the companies you want to work for (and some that you don’t want to) and tell them that you’ll work for free for a little bit and if they like what you do you can arrange for a more “formal arrangement”.

Then, you show em your stuff. They allow you to work on any project for free, and if they like your work, then they will employ you. EASY!

[quote]Pinyony wrote:
If i were you this is what i would do:

Learn coding…which you’re doing. Here’s another website that I found helpful: www.w3schools.com/

It has javascript, CSS and some other stuff that you might be interested in. I started off on Python as a hobby FYI. It’s a good language to get started with overall if you don’t have any prior knowledge in the field, but being a M.E., I would assume (probably not right with this one) that you have some programming skills.

Get some mini-projects done that you can show to your prospective employers. Then, I would e-mail all the companies you want to work for (and some that you don’t want to) and tell them that you’ll work for free for a little bit and if they like what you do you can arrange for a more “formal arrangement”.

Then, you show em your stuff. They allow you to work on any project for free, and if they like your work, then they will employ you. EASY! [/quote]

I agree with most of this. My brother went to college for a semester and never went back. Is completely self taught and very respected in his area. One thing I can tell you and this is straight from the horses mouth. There are mounds of resume’s similar to yours piling up at tech companies. One easy way in: become a salesman for a period, then after your network is solid, talk to management about switching responsibilities. This worked out well for me. We ended up with me becoming a re-seller and adding my own “features”.

[quote]Pinyony wrote:
If i were you this is what i would do:

Learn coding…which you’re doing. Here’s another website that I found helpful: www.w3schools.com/

It has javascript, CSS and some other stuff that you might be interested in. I started off on Python as a hobby FYI. It’s a good language to get started with overall if you don’t have any prior knowledge in the field, but being a M.E., I would assume (probably not right with this one) that you have some programming skills.

Get some mini-projects done that you can show to your prospective employers. Then, I would e-mail all the companies you want to work for (and some that you don’t want to) and tell them that you’ll work for free for a little bit and if they like what you do you can arrange for a more “formal arrangement”.

Then, you show em your stuff. They allow you to work on any project for free, and if they like your work, then they will employ you. EASY! [/quote]

To start, no you do not need a certification, but it does help to weed through the piles of resumes. I have done the hiring here at my company for helpdesk support, the lowest IT level, and while I do not particularly care that they have one specific certification, it does help you to stand out if you have some experience/certification/other demonstrable skill level in what the job entails.

As far as which certification, it is completely up to you. The position I have hired for needs database/SQL knowledge, Java, JavaScript, CSS, HTML, XML, FreeMarker, and some PHP. But that is what it eventually needs, and no one comes in with all that knowledge as it is expected you learn some/most of it on the job, so the single most important skill I look for is a desire to learn/better yourself, which is partly where the certifications come into play because if you did it on your own, it is pretty clear you are serious and have the ability, if not the drive, to learn. We have hired people with only CS degrees, people with CompTIA degrees, and even people who only took a course or two in undergrad in some computer-related field.

Personally, I graduated college with no IT background as my degree was a major in Communication and a minor in Sociology with a focus on criminology. However, I decided to pursue IT and applied to grad school which certainly helped to show I was serious. I also knew what I was talking about, which helped tremendously. You wouldn’t believe the number of applicants I interviewed who said they knew something like HTML on their resume and then couldn’t answer a simple question. So definitely make sure you know what you say you know as those candidates were immediately put into the “No” pile.

Sounds like you are off to a good start and have several options for advanced learning, if you choose to pursue that. For me personally, if you want to move to a developing/consulting role, the absolute best position is helpdesk as you learn not only how to troubleshoot and solve problems, but you gain real world experience in how people actually use software, which helps tremendously down the road even if you don’t use the position to leverage a promotion within the company.

I do want to point out how bad of a resource w3schools is though: http://www.w3fools.com Plenty of good resources and tutorials on the web, such as stackoverflow, which is great for answering questions as well as linking to other resources as well. Good luck to you and let me know if you want any more information.

StackOverflow and CodeProject will teach you tons of stuff.

Since you’re looking at Android applications, you’ll need to get a solid basis in Java, as well as the rest of the Android platform. I’m not an Android developer, but that’s basically how that works when you’re building for a device.

As far as web work, you should probably make sure you’re familiar with everything from the design side (CSS, HTML, JavaScript and whatever the current popular libraries are for those [it changes every 6-12 months]), to the server side (JSP, PHP, ASP.NET) to the databases themselves (MySQL, PostgreSQL, SQL Server, Oracle), and the web server installation and configuration (Apache, IIS).

I recommend learning how to configure and host everything from your own machine, even if that’s not how you’ll actually run things. It can (will) be a pain in the ass to set up, but just about everything you learn from that process is worth it.

There’s a good chunk of programming that comes down to just learning how to research and exchange ideas. It’s worth it to learn how to get good at searching, RTFM, reading source code (esp. open source projects), and asking questions. Not copy/paste work, but studying other people’s ideas and learning to implement them in a way that solves your own problems.

Even more so, it comes down to becoming very good at learning things quickly.

As far as a certification… it’ll help getting in the door initially. Without sufficient experience, your pay will suffer no matter your academic qualifications and certifications. But put in the time, get good at what you do, and the paperwork doesn’t really matter anymore. It’s a lot more about what you can do, and what you can teach yourself, than it is about how you learned how to do it.

About the Oracle certification specifically… most people persuade their company to pay for that, once they’re already in the job.

And, last thing, it will be worth talking to some software consulting companies in your local area to get an idea of what people are really looking for. If you can find a company that actually has a training budget, that will definitely work in your best interest. The better consulting companies will make sure their employees are educated and on top of the current trends, and they often hold/host/sponsor regular meetings of developers who give presentations.

You should look into what your local resources are. There are most likely regular Android developer meetings and web developer meetings. You can look on Meetup or something, but most likely you can just find out about them by asking around. Networking is really useful here.

Oh, as far as learning things. Just work through a bunch of basic projects and tutorials. Do things as they say first, and then tweak it and expand on it.

Learn to make some very basic games for your Android phone. Learn to make some basic e-commerce websites. Do all of it mostly from scratch.

You learn 30% of it or so by reading articles and following tutorials. The other 70% – the REAL education – you learn by tinkering with things, running into roadblocks, and finding your way around them.

This is a goldmine of info!
Thank you guys, I really appreciate it.

Given your username, I’d say you’d be better off in local government, and I’d recommend the planning department. Seriously, you’ll be in the money. Every waste of space agricultural contractor in the area will load you down with brown envelopes full of cash, and you get to torment legitimate businessmen.