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Returning to Programming after 8 year break: Any advice?

Douglas Graham
Greenhorn

Joined: Jul 06, 2009
Posts: 10
In 2001 I was laid off from programming in Seattle. I was 51 at the time. Every recruiter I talked to at the time said I should go back to my first career because to find work in tech at that moment was nearly impossible. So I did go back to OR nursing. Paid good as a traveler but definitely not what I want to do. Now I'm leaving the OR and trying to get back in software here in Albuquerque. I've been out of work for >10 weeks. My new wife completely supports me in my efforts. I'm very fortunate to have such a support system, which will help because not only have I been out of programming for 8 years, I'm also in my late 50's. I've called 3 recruiters and the first thing they said without even seeing my resume was that I hardly have a chance of finding any work.

So here's my experience:
5 yrs Java 1995 - 2001 Lots of Swing, JDBC, RMI.
2 yrs C++ with certificate from UW
VB 1992 - 1996
Lots of Oracle, Linux, Windows.
Working now with Objective-C, Mac OSX, iPhone, SQLite, PostgreSQL, and of course Java

I seriously don't think things are as impossible as the recruiters are saying. Once I get some iPhone and Java apps going so that recruiters can see what I'm capable of I should be able to find an entry level position. That's all I need. I just want to enjoy the balance of my working life.

If you have any advice it would certainly be appreciated.

Thank you, Doug

PS Apologies for long post!


If you don't do data, you don't do diddly!
K. Tsang
Bartender

Joined: Sep 13, 2007
Posts: 2598
    
    9

Hello Doug, welcome to the Ranch.

It looks like you had quite a career with IT before OR. Anyway the real questions to ask yourself are:
Can you still perform programming?
How fast can you pick up new technologies?

Looking back with OR experience, were there any IT related things? I ask this because with nursing background you possibly can get programming jobs with hospitals and clinics focusing on heath related software. This way you could use your nursing know-how blending with IT/programming. Of course getting in is a hard thing in this economy.

A friend of mine used to be working on usability stuff with health companies few years back. And now he's heading back to health again. Of course he much younger and not as technical.

Hope this helps and good luck.


K. Tsang JavaRanch SCJP5 SCJD/OCM-JD OCPJP7 OCPWCD5 OCPBCD5
arulk pillai
Author
Ranch Hand

Joined: May 31, 2007
Posts: 3263
You may have better chances

-- Through networking. Especially through user groups (e.g. JUG) or contacts in your domain as suggested by K, Tsang. You can do some research and approach companies in the domain of health.

-- You can try starting on a volunteer basis. You can prove yourself in a first few months for potential paid openings. Smaller companies are more likely to take this on. By volunteering, you will also start to expand your network by meeting people in the same field, which could open more doors for you. You may even start doing this part-time 1-3 days a week. You will also gain much needed hands-on experience in the recent developments.

-- Try brushing up on some of the recent and sought-after technologies/frameworks to keep yourself as current as possible. You can try this via self-taught projects, open-source contributions, and volunteer work.

-- Keep sprucing up your resume to current market conditions where possible and make them targeted. You can have multiple resumes targeting health system domain, volunteer work, etc. Include a cover letter and add a few bullet points as to what you can offer based on your past accomplishments. Also draw on some of the soft-skills, domain knowledge, and any other relevant perpectives that you can bring from your nursing career.

-- Finally, make it a point to send a few applications each day. Tap into the unadvertised market as well. Not all potential openings are advertised.


Good luck.



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Douglas Graham
Greenhorn

Joined: Jul 06, 2009
Posts: 10
Thank you both for the reply and advice. Except for the volunteering I have done what you've suggested, even to the point of driving around writing down corp names (i.e. Northrop) and researching them from home.

I have signed up with the local JUG (I was always a faithful SEAJUG member) and am waiting for a reply now.

Although tomorrow I will follow up on their very old employment ads. Just getting my name out there.

If you think of anything else, please let me know. Just can't give up.

Thank you,
Doug
Tim Holloway
Saloon Keeper

Joined: Jun 25, 2001
Posts: 16250
    
  21

You definitely have your work cut out for you. Between age discrimination, serious changes in technology, a depressed job market it would be bad enough, but on top of that, you'd probably find that the OR job pays better than entry-level Java these days.

If you're seriously interested in volunteering on something that might help regain technical credibility, I can suggest the MTSDraw project (http://mtsdraw.mousetech.com). It's basically a Java-based clone of Microsoft's Visio. I say "clone", although in fact Visio has some annoyances I'd like to address, and besides a little competition would restore some creativity to the field.

Most of the people on the project are employed, and overworked, so we make progress only slowly. If this is something you could devote some time to, it would definitely be helpful. It's useful to be fluent in Swing and Java's Draw2D, but there's lots of stuff in addition to the graphical engine that needs doing, too.


Customer surveys are for companies who didn't pay proper attention to begin with.
K. Tsang
Bartender

Joined: Sep 13, 2007
Posts: 2598
    
    9

Tim Holloway wrote:I can suggest the MTSDraw project (http://mtsdraw.mousetech.com). It's basically a Java-based clone of Microsoft's Visio. I say "clone", although in fact Visio has some annoyances I'd like to address, and besides a little competition would restore some creativity to the field.

Most of the people on the project are employed, and overworked, so we make progress only slowly. If this is something you could devote some time to, it would definitely be helpful. It's useful to be fluent in Swing and Java's Draw2D, but there's lots of stuff in addition to the graphical engine that needs doing, too.


Woo java version of Visio. I like. Maybe I should have a look too thanks Tim.
Tim Holloway
Saloon Keeper

Joined: Jun 25, 2001
Posts: 16250
    
  21

K. Tsang wrote:
Tim Holloway wrote:I can suggest the MTSDraw project (http://mtsdraw.mousetech.com). It's basically a Java-based clone of Microsoft's Visio. I say "clone", although in fact Visio has some annoyances I'd like to address, and besides a little competition would restore some creativity to the field.

Most of the people on the project are employed, and overworked, so we make progress only slowly. If this is something you could devote some time to, it would definitely be helpful. It's useful to be fluent in Swing and Java's Draw2D, but there's lots of stuff in addition to the graphical engine that needs doing, too.


Woo java version of Visio. I like. Maybe I should have a look too thanks Tim.


If you want to see the latest version, there's a (cryptic) link somewhere near the bottom of the home page at http://www.mousetech.com. I think I added one on the mtsdraw.mousetech.com page as well, but I forget. Be forewarned: it's crude with a capital "K", but that's how projects start.

I really could use some help on this. In addition to not having a lot of free time, most of the current team members are fairly inexperienced and not too brave. And they're the second set I recuited - the first all had to drop out due to overwork on their so-called paying jobs. But there really is a crying need for a true relational-object-based platform-independent structured drawing program, and as explained on the mtsdraw site, the current crop of imitators doesn't even come close.
Vikas Kapoor
Ranch Hand

Joined: Aug 16, 2007
Posts: 1374
What does OR job mean?
Paul Clapham
Bartender

Joined: Oct 14, 2005
Posts: 18911
    
    8

Vishal Pandya wrote:What does OR job mean?

Operating Room.
Douglas Graham
Greenhorn

Joined: Jul 06, 2009
Posts: 10
Tim Holloway wrote:...If you're seriously interested in volunteering on something that might help regain technical credibility, I can suggest the MTSDraw project (http://mtsdraw.mousetech.com).....


Tim,

Thank you for the offer, it sounds good. How do I get started. I'll send you a PM also.

Doug
Jimmy Clark
Ranch Hand

Joined: Apr 16, 2008
Posts: 2187
Douglas, you might benefit from joining the closest Project Management Institute (PMI) chapter. All chapters typically host a variety of networking events. These events will provide you with opportunities to make "real" face-to-face connections with individuals and organizations that are geographically close to where you live.

Good luck!
 
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subject: Returning to Programming after 8 year break: Any advice?