Giving career advices to friends: now and then

Last week, at the private party one programmer I know for years approached me and said, “I “m planning to enroll in your class at NYU next month rdquo;. I was surprised and asked, “Why? rdquo; This guy is a well rounded programmer employed by a large firm for years.

“I need more money rdquo;, he said.

Well, lots of people need more money, but only a small group of people is actually doing something about it…

A guy comes to a rabbi saying, “Our family is so poor, I dream of winning in the lottery. Can you ask God to gelp me? ”

The rabbi say, “OK, I ‘l ask God ”

In a month, the guy comes back to the rabbi and says, “Nothing changed, I ‘m still poor. Have you talked to God about me? ”

“I did, but have you bought a lottery ticket? ”

Anyway, this programmer has already earned my respect just for thinking about going back to school (not the same as going to school).

I answered, “Sure, will be happy to see you in class rdquo;. I “ll start teaching my fourth (already!) Adobe Flex evening class at NYU in October. But then I thought to myself, “Will my class help this person to achieve his goal? rdquo; The answer is, “I do not know rdquo;.

Now let “s go 10 years back in time. In the ninetieth, I was teaching PowerBuilder and Java and was absolutely sure that everyone has to be a programmer. Programming was super hot ten years ago. Just think about it, my students with absolutely different backgrounds (engineers, musicians, hairdressers) where often getting 2-3 offers after studying programming for six months.

I had a friend who was working in a restaurant, one block from home. He started washing dishes there, then became a waiter, then a cook and then a bartender. This was the time when I was giving the same advice to everyone, “Go to school and become a programmer. It “s a no brainer! rdquo; When I gave this advice to my cooking friend, he simply said, “Why? I work three days a week, one block from home, no pressure, and free food. Why should I become a programmer? rdquo;

He was the first guy that asked my “Why? rdquo; After that day I stopped suggesting programmer “s career to everything that moves. Just for the record, one year later my cooking friend came to my class and works as a programmer as we speak.

But it “s 2007, and the situation with employment is different for several reasons:

1. Ten years ago some smart people invented the Y2K problem. They made a career for themselves by spreading FUD and hiring like crazy huge teams (30-40 mainframe programmers on a projects was a norm) to save the mankind from the Y2K disaster.

2. Internet and dot com were flourishing and investors would pour the money into any startup that was able to present a business plan without spelling errors. Java ruled back then.

3. Outsourcing to India was not a major trend.

4. Americans just started to being afraid of going into software muddy waters. In some enterprises you could have seen teams with as many as 50% of programmers who were born in the USA. No kidding.

5.My past students were happy to stat their career with a $50K annual salary.

6. Knowledge of one (!) programming language and one(!) DBMS and playing a nice guy during the job interview was enough to get a job.

But the person who is about to enroll in my class next month is about to enter a lot more competitive world.

1. He needs a six figure income while hitting the ground running.

2. He needs to know about 10 programming languages and tools to secure a good job today.

3. He already has stable programming job, so motivation is kinda low.

4. I don “t know if this person will be able to find an extra four hours a day for studying.

5. On the positive note, outsourcing does not affect the six figure market that much. No excuses there

I just do not want to take any responsibility and promise success to anyone anymore. Yes, I still know how to teach well. Yes, I still can give an advice about what “s important to learn and what “s not. Yes, I still know how to prepare a person to a job interview. But I do not want to promise anything anyone any longer.

I “ll do my best, but you are on your own, my friend. If you won “t succeed in this career move, look in the mirror and say, “This is not the end of the world. I still have a job rdquo;. But if three years from now you “ll decide to try to make a move again, you know where to find me. I do not know what “s going to be hot three years from now, but I “ll master the next big thing in advance. Trust me on this one and welcome to the class.


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