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sold out

Annie Weaver
Ranch Hand

Joined: Apr 17, 2001
Posts: 50
I guess I am one of the lucky ones ... or am I?
I had a fulltime java coding job, then moved to XML and some other nontech stuff, liaison to a committee of CIOs and some writng. Gradually the nontech stuff grew. I haven't written java since the end of 2000. I did a four month project with Zope and Python in 2002, but other than that, I've been sitting in meetings and doing odd non-tech jobs for the same company. Now I'm in this odd subsidiary start-up branch of the same company, supposedly helping to set up classes in Photoshop and such. So I'm still employed, and my three year anniversary was the other day, but my programming skills are evaporating. I have to go to a marketing seminar today in Customer Relations Management. What a bizarre world.
I'm taking a masters in Computer Science online at http://www.capitol-college.edu
because my Bachelors is actually in French Lit. It's the only Comp Sci degree I've seen that doesn't require C, and is approved for Veteran's financial aid.
I wouldn't call this job part of a career path. But the nice thing is that they include lunch hour inside the weekly forty, so if I went anywhere else, I'd work longer hours. It's a trap! but until I get the degree, another year or so, I guess I should be thankful.
what do you think?
John Summers
Ranch Hand

Joined: Oct 06, 2003
Posts: 125
Annie,
what do you ultimately want to do? Development or 'other'. I will assume development. In the UK a degree is almost mandatory, even with lots of experience. You are definitely doing a good thing getting one.
It will be a real struggle doing it, too. those 5 extra hours a week will make a big difference. One thing, though. make sure the qualification is respsected before you do it. There are univresities (in uk) that can break a one year Msc into 2 years p/t or 3 years night classes.
I would recommend you do a "Conversion course" degree. I completed one in sept 2002. It has a 'Masters' degree status, but is a 3 year undegrad BSC compressed into one year. I would look for an establishment that does this with distance learning or night classes.
Yep, if you don't program you lose your edge. the solution? start coding again. give yourself a project to do, and start tinkering in your own time or at work.
john
Al Newman
Ranch Hand

Joined: Mar 30, 2003
Posts: 716
I'm not sure what it is, but women tend to get sidetracked off the geek career track, at least in the US.
I remember a really bright lady who practically kissed my feet in gratitude a few years ago when I took her on as assistant designer on a gig where I was the lead designer. She was clearly qualified and likely better than anyone else they would give me, so it was obvious.....
I didn't get it until I learned that she'd been pigeonholed as a tester for 3 years! Not to denigrate testers, but there is a reason why I minimize testing experience on my CV and refuse specialist testing gigs. Testing is something I do, not what I am....
The other side is that women seem to have a definate advantage getting into management jobs (in the US). I've been on gigs where half the middle managers were women while the foot soldiers were 10-1 male. At least 10-1.
I'm not sure about the UK. Up till recently I haven't seen any woman in a geek track job in more than 4 years over here. Until recently. There is one women on my current project I think is doing a geekjob. But my new company is unusually enlightened I think.
Hmmmm, come to think of it I've seen a couple in network admin. Does that count?
[ October 27, 2003: Message edited by: Alfred Neumann ]

SCJP1.4, SCWCD
Al Newman
Ranch Hand

Joined: Mar 30, 2003
Posts: 716
Originally posted by Annie Weaver:
I guess I am one of the lucky ones ... or am I?
I had a fulltime java coding job, then moved to XML and some other nontech stuff, liaison to a committee of CIOs and some writng. Gradually the nontech stuff grew. I haven't written java since the end of 2000. I did a four month project with Zope and Python in 2002, but other than that, I've been sitting in meetings and doing odd non-tech jobs for the same company. Now I'm in this odd subsidiary start-up branch of the same company, supposedly helping to set up classes in Photoshop and such. So I'm still employed, and my three year anniversary was the other day, but my programming skills are evaporating. I have to go to a marketing seminar today in Customer Relations Management. What a bizarre world.
I'm taking a masters in Computer Science online at http://www.capitol-college.edu
because my Bachelors is actually in French Lit. It's the only Comp Sci degree I've seen that doesn't require C, and is approved for Veteran's financial aid.
what do you think?

I think you have two choices here. Either pull every string you have to get back into programming, up to and including preparing a lawsuit (for leverage). Right now. It may be too late already. Java has moved on in 3 years. Do you know Struts/JSP/EJB/blah blah blah? The comp-sci degree won't help you that much.
Or punt, and go for management-track. This is probably the easier way to go, and it looks like the company is pushing you this way, if they aren't pushing you out the door. I'm not sure. Photoshop classes seems pretty marginal to me, but I could be wrong.....
Mark Herschberg
Sheriff

Joined: Dec 04, 2000
Posts: 6037
Well, Annie, today I just started my first job in which I will not write a single line of code. Have I sold out?
The question is, selling out to whom? To yourself? What do you want to do? If you only want to program, then there are certain risks in this job. On the other hand, as I often comment on this board, the better developers are those who posses non-technical business skills, in addition to programming ability. Use this job as a chance to leverage those skills.
I hope this company has annual reviews (or maybe even more frequent reviews). Use that as an opportunity to discuss your career plans with your manager, to make sure you can stay focused, even if somewhat side tracked, in your skill development.
--Mark
Jeroen Wenting
Ranch Hand

Joined: Oct 12, 2000
Posts: 5093
Originally posted by Alfred Neumann:
The other side is that women seem to have a definate advantage getting into management jobs (in the US). I've been on gigs where half the middle managers were women while the foot soldiers were 10-1 male. At least 10-1.

That's what you get for "equal opportunity" employers.
I've seen teams myself where all the top jobs were held by women and black (or otherwise non-caucasian) people, yet the footfolk were all white males.
Especially government agencies here have a tendency to work like that, one police department for several years even had an official policy to ONLY hire non-white people (preferably female).
If a white person applied he was automatically turned down unless no non-white person applied (no matter the respective skills, even if the non-white person had no education and the job required a university degree the white person had the non-white was hired instead).
This is of course an extreme case, but the principle holds out in many places (there's even a law here that dictates the minimum percentages of non-whites and females in each function grade for companies...).


42
Annie Weaver
Ranch Hand

Joined: Apr 17, 2001
Posts: 50
Thanks for all the good advice. Management is a possibility, I've been team leader and such. Maybe project management, when I'm ready for longer hours. As long as I can keep it intellectually challenging. I'm not tied to total programming, and the prospects seemed pretty dismal for a while there. But I do need intellectual stimulation at work, and there's not much in business meetings these days, (unless you start scheming, but doing that out of boredom is catty ). I think two years of programming is skimpy to head into tech management, but there are certainly managers with less...and there's room for all kinds.
[aside - I have the MBA. I went to night school in Las Vegas because it was a better place to meet guys than the bars. But they were all married! ]
And you are right. It's my own fault that I don't know struts or web services middleware other than in the vaguest generalities. I'm going to start by learning eclipse today. I have to write some snippets for class anyway.

Thanks again,
Annie
John Summers
Ranch Hand

Joined: Oct 06, 2003
Posts: 125
Eclipse is great!
I like it much more than JBuilder.
Annie I advise you to fit the JUnit plugin to Eclipse, too. Really really helpful. I would also advise you to learn how to use JUnit, it will improve your coding mindset no end to start properly unit testing your own stuff.
john
Al Newman
Ranch Hand

Joined: Mar 30, 2003
Posts: 716
Originally posted by Mark Herschberg:
Well, Annie, today I just started my first job in which I will not write a single line of code. Have I sold out?
The question is, selling out to whom? To yourself? What do you want to do? If you only want to program, then there are certain risks in this job. On the other hand, as I often comment on this board, the better developers are those who posses non-technical business skills, in addition to programming ability. Use this job as a chance to leverage those skills.
I hope this company has annual reviews (or maybe even more frequent reviews). Use that as an opportunity to discuss your career plans with your manager, to make sure you can stay focused, even if somewhat side tracked, in your skill development.
--Mark

Mark, Annie is a 'programmer' who hasn't written a line of Java code on a project since 2000. You are hiring right now. Would you hire her? Perhaps, for her 'business skills'. But would you hire her for a job which requires up-to-date J2EE skills with no time to ramp up? I doubt it.
Your point about programmers being more valuable with 'non-technical business skills' is well-taken. I've been known to do the odd presentation or business case, and am a helluva technical writer for a working coder/designer and itinerant Software Engineer. I've also been primary on-site customer liason (aka troubleshooter) for an overseas software company (a job which will burn one out in 6 months).
I'm at least twice as effective with the communications skills as I would be without them. But I always come back to the technical skills, because those skills are what keep you up to date in the field. Three years away is too long, IMHO.
Fred Grott
Ranch Hand

Joined: Oct 05, 2002
Posts: 346
Annie, to keep your programming skills current get involved in opensource java


MobileBytes blog - Sharing Technology - My Programming Knols
Mark Herschberg
Sheriff

Joined: Dec 04, 2000
Posts: 6037
Originally posted by Alfred Neumann:

Mark, Annie is a 'programmer' who hasn't written a line of Java code on a project since 2000. You are hiring right now. Would you hire her? Perhaps, for her 'business skills'. But would you hire her for a job which requires up-to-date J2EE skills with no time to ramp up? I doubt it.

Probably not--although since I hire for the long term, I will often take a smarter candidate with little or rusty skills over an up-to-date mediocre candidate.
In any case, it's not clear she wants me to hire her. It's may be implied (or maybe not), but not explicitly stated, that she wants to program. Do you want to program Annie? Most programmers don't get MBAs. (And while the dating aspect is a perhaps non-trivial factor in deciding to get an MBA, I can't imagine that it was the primary one.)
Annie, what do you want to do? What is your desired career path? Where do you want to be in 2 years? 5? 10? 20?

Originally posted by Alfred Neumann:

Your point about programmers being more valuable with 'non-technical business skills' is well-taken.
...
I'm at least twice as effective with the communications skills as I would be without them.

Spread the word! Together we can stamp out communications ignorance among software engineers. :-p
--Mark
Al Newman
Ranch Hand

Joined: Mar 30, 2003
Posts: 716
Originally posted by Mark Herschberg:

Spread the word! Together we can stamp out communications ignorance among software engineers. :-p
--Mark

Mark, there is only one way to accomplish this. Hire, pay, and promote people for their communications skills rather than for the length of their skills list. Hire people with little or no Java background (C++???) if that is what it takes.
Hire people who will 'take a bullet for the company' like I did when I took on an 'on-fire' Perl project (knowing little Perl beforehand) because that is what the company desperately needed at that time. Unfortunately that project made me much more cynical because the only rewards for success were negative rewards. In retrospect I believe I should have behaved more selfishly, at least for that company!
You seem to be the exception rather than the rule among managers. Good luck.
Mark Herschberg
Sheriff

Joined: Dec 04, 2000
Posts: 6037
Originally posted by Alfred Neumann:

Mark, there is only one way to accomplish this. Hire, pay, and promote people for their communications skills rather than for the length of their skills list. Hire people with little or no Java background (C++???) if that is what it takes.

Well, I wouldn't totally negate experience, and it's more than just communication skill (raw intelligence has a lot to do with it, too). But yes, I hire based on what I think you can do, not on what you did (although often the latter is an indirect indication of the former, when you read between the lines).

Originally posted by Alfred Neumann:

Hire people who will 'take a bullet for the company' like I did when I took on an 'on-fire' Perl project (knowing little Perl beforehand) because that is what the company desperately needed at that time.

I'm not quite sure what you mean by this. Definately don't put the company's needs above yours unless they have shown a willingness to do the same. One of the reasons I left my old job was because my manager was harming the careers of the junior engineers--the more recent hires would get stuck as build engineers for 6-12 months. While I think it's a good skill to pick up, I also know that if those people apply for jobs and half of their experience is as a build engineer, future employers won't want them.
Originally posted by Alfred Neumann:

You seem to be the exception rather than the rule among managers. Good luck.

Thanks. I credit Peopleware for enlightening me.
--Mark
Matt Cao
Ranch Hand

Joined: Apr 03, 2003
Posts: 715
Hi,
Mark H-- recent hires junior engineers would get stuck as build engineers for 6-12 months. If those people apply for jobs & half of their experience is as a build engineer, future employers won't want them.
I never thought of it. I assume it was from Japanese management model or from military background. I have had companies like that in the past.
Thanks,
MCao
Mark Herschberg
Sheriff

Joined: Dec 04, 2000
Posts: 6037
Originally posted by Matt Cao:

Mark H-- recent hires junior engineers would get stuck as build engineers for 6-12 months. If those people apply for jobs & half of their experience is as a build engineer, future employers won't want them.
I never thought of it. I assume it was from Japanese management model or from military background. I have had companies like that in the past.

How do you mean? I'm guessing in the military it's that the lowest on the totem pole gets the worst job. What's the Japanese model?
Just to be on record, I think large departments should rotate developers through being full time on QA (2-4 month rotations) and other tasks (depends on difficuty). This will give the developer better appreciation for the task and help them better relate to the others who do it (e.g. developers who spent time in QA will be less likely to throw garabage over the wall).
However, when I have a developer with 1-2 years of experience, and half of that is doing non-development work, then chances are I can find someone with an extra 6-12 months who is better.

--Mark
 
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