Hi, everyone. I'm looking at making a career change and trying to figure out the best way to go about it. Right now I'm a postdoc in a life sciences field. I've done a half dozen projects in Python and Matlab for my work over the last 5 years or so (small scripts up to a 1000+ line program with a WXPython GUI), and I really enjoyed it each time. I've completely lost my passion for the bulk of my other bio work, and I desperately want to get out of academia and start building marketable skills and contacts. I have a idea for a web-based startup that I think would provide major time and cost savings to my field, as well as several other verticals. I've done the market research to feel pretty comfortable that it looks promising. (I have a few other ideas that look promising, out of dozens I've generated, behind that.)
I guess the question is how to get there from here. Learning the business side seems more straightforward. I have a decent number of contacts in the software industry and related businesses in SF from college and grad school. I nearly majored in economics in college, and I've always read publications like BusinessWeek and The Economist for fun. I'm growing comfortable with the business side of things after doing a lot of reading, market/competition research, funding research etc., but I don't have practical experience. There are several mini-MBA courses I can target *if I move*, and I'd see myself as focusing primarily on product and business development long term.
My current job eats 60+ hours a week, no programming on the horizon other than a small Python script I might do for my current project in a few weeks. I think I can get a remote contract specialist writing job that would pay about the same for half the hours and let me move to SF and work on my project more, basically treating the next year as a web design/startup internship. However, if my startups didn't pan out, I would have a good portfolio piece or two, but I don't have a great sense how that would be looked at by industry HR and/or how easy it would be to network into consulting gigs. If I leave academia there's basically no way back in; publication gaps = career death. I do have other backups, such as management consulting (yes, my academic background would make me competitive), law school, or med school. But I'd still have to explain a couple years of trying startups and failing on my resume.
I'm still trying to figure out if there's a better way to do this. If there were some sort of *credible*, intensive 1-2 year program for someone in my position that would let me build my project on the side and give me other coding career options if I failed, it would be a perfect fit. But I'm not sure that program exists.