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I'm trying to decide what I want to be when I grow up. Actually, I'm 29 years old and am about to make a career change kind of late in the game. I'm going to go back to college and get a second major in CIS. I don't know if this is the best plan, but I figure it's a least a good start if I want to be an IT/IS Professional.

My question involves what kind of computer professional to I want to be. The school I'm going to offers 3 main CIS disciplines to study, and I'm trying to decide between 2 of those: either Programming or Network Engineering. One of my friends drew an analogy beteen this and the building of houses. He said a house architect would be like a Programmer and the Land Developer would be like the Network Engineer. Then he said, neither is better than the other, but that they are quite different and so the decision in choosing one over the other is important. I need help deciding whether to be a Programmer or a Network guy.

To help me to decide what major I should concentrate on, and ultimately what career path I will take, could any of you give me some guidance as to which major to go into? I'm not sure which I would enjoy doing more, but I think I could decide which I would enjoy more if I knew more about the differences between Programming and Networking. For instance, what kind of person does well in Programming and Networking, which kind of person doesn't do so well. Job prospects for each discipline, chances of gettting Entry-Level jobs for each discipline, that sort of thing. Which one is harder?

Thank you for any help you can offer. I'm going to post this message on different boards to better my chances of getting replies.
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I'm not sure I can totally picture what a Network Engineer does, but I can say that a Programmer is the person that writes tools usually as a way of automating how to get things or perform a task, eg writing a tool to extract the data from a database and have it return a web page based on what a person specifies by a web form. So, most of the time is spent planning out what the program looks like, writing it and then tweaking it so it works and testing it.

I'd suspect part of the Network Engineering involves setting up routers, hubs and other networking stuff.

JB
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I'm trying to decide what I want to be when I grow up. Actually, I'm 29 years old and am about to make a career change kind of late in the game. I'm going to go back to college and get a second major in CIS. I don't know if this is the best plan, but I figure it's a least a good start if I want to be an IT/IS Professional.

My question involves what kind of computer professional to I want to be. The school I'm going to offers 3 main CIS disciplines to study, and I'm trying to decide between 2 of those: either Programming or Network Engineering. One of my friends drew an analogy beteen this and the building of houses. He said a house architect would be like a Programmer and the Land Developer would be like the Network Engineer. Then he said, neither is better than the other, but that they are quite different and so the decision in choosing one over the other is important. I need help deciding whether to be a Programmer or a Network guy.

To help me to decide what major I should concentrate on, and ultimately what career path I will take, could any of you give me some guidance as to which major to go into? I'm not sure which I would enjoy doing more, but I think I could decide which I would enjoy more if I knew more about the differences between Programming and Networking. For instance, what kind of person does well in Programming and Networking, which kind of person doesn't do so well. Job prospects for each discipline, chances of gettting Entry-Level jobs for each discipline, that sort of thing. Which one is harder?

Thank you for any help you can offer. I'm going to post this message on different boards to better my chances of getting replies


Dear Gray,

Be sure to post your question in the 'Ask the Headhunter' board. That's the best place to get career advice. You can get there by typing the board name in the center space of the navigational bar below and pressing 'enter.'

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No. of Recommendations: 23
My question involves what kind of computer professional to I want to be. The school I'm going to offers 3 main CIS disciplines to study, and I'm trying to decide between 2 of those: either Programming or Network Engineering.

Hi Gray..

Hate to say it, but really only you can answer this question.

I am a "REAL" programmer and have been for going on 17 years now. What I mean by real programmer is I write code for financial applications, utilities, user interface systems, you just about name it (always did want to learn how to code those games)**smile**.
I know and work with a number of compter languages from Cobol, RPG, Assembler, C++, Unix Scrips bla bla bla..
I'm not trying to impress anyone, only to insure you that I am in one of the professions you are inquiring about.

Programming takes a special kind of person, and weather you can actually do the job or not depends on you. When I first went to school for programming Cobol 101, almost 20 years ago, I started in a class of 43 students. By the end of the semester when it came time to go onto the next level of cobol, there were only 2 of us left. Within the first 3 weeks we had about 50 percent quit because they relized that programming wasn't for them, some tried to hang in there, but just couldn't get it. Some really wanted to get it and failed, took the class again, then went on to the second level of Cobol and finally quit. The rest hung in there till the end of the semester, and we never saw them return again to computers, but had moved into other interest, some electrical, some carpentry, etc..

I am in no way stating that you couldn't do the job. Progamming has changed alot over the years. Punch Cards, removable disk, mag tape are leaving the main strem as alot of companies have "downsized" their systems to NT boxes, Unix, running Oracle, or Informix databases etc.

In my experience, Programming is a lonely business. I don't mind that, but people don't understand alot of times when you do something really great that may have taken you days to figure out how to have a program react exactly like you wanted it to, you get so excited, turn around to "brag" (laughing) and no ones there..

But then there's the passion of what I do.. I love mind games. I love to solve problems, and find ways around things, or ways to improve the way things are done. I enjoy making the users job more efficient. Programming allows me to think ... constantly and another benefit of programming is you don't have spell.. LOL... Cause I'm terriable at it..

I was sold on progamming the very first day of class based on what my instructor (who worked and still works in the real world and didn't only teach) **nothing against teachers BTW** . But he was able to show programming to me in a different way, other insturctors who hadn't actually been in a "shop" could do.

Ultimatly, only you can answer that question. I personally wouldn't enjoy the networking or enginering part, but thats just me, I know 100's of network admins, and enginering people who have as much passion for what they do as I do for my job. But I also know alot of people in this business that are burnt out, mainly because it wasn't their passion, in which case these people do poorly in their jobs, and constantly complain about the smallest program change they may get.

Well, that's my 2 cents worth. I do wish you the best of luck..

-Rob
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No. of Recommendations: 0
My question involves what kind of computer professional to I want to be. The school I'm going to offers 3 main CIS
disciplines to study, and I'm trying to decide between 2 of those: either Programming or Network Engineering.

Hi Gray..

Hate to say it, but really only you can answer this question.

I am a "REAL" programmer and have been for going on 17 years now. What I mean by real programmer is I write code for
financial applications, utilities, user interface systems, you just about name it (always did want to learn how to code those
games)**smile**.
I know and work with a number of compter languages from Cobol, RPG, Assembler, C++, Unix Scrips bla bla bla..
I'm not trying to impress anyone, only to insure you that I am in one of the professions you are inquiring about.

Programming takes a special kind of person, and weather you can actually do the job or not depends on you. When I first
went to school for programming Cobol 101, almost 20 years ago, I started in a class of 43 students. By the end of the
semester when it came time to go onto the next level of cobol, there were only 2 of us left. Within the first 3 weeks we had
about 50 percent quit because they relized that programming wasn't for them, some tried to hang in there, but just couldn't get
it. Some really wanted to get it and failed, took the class again, then went on to the second level of Cobol and finally quit. The
rest hung in there till the end of the semester, and we never saw them return again to computers, but had moved into other
interest, some electrical, some carpentry, etc..

I am in no way stating that you couldn't do the job. Progamming has changed alot over the years. Punch Cards, removable
disk, mag tape are leaving the main strem as alot of companies have "downsized" their systems to NT boxes, Unix, running
Oracle, or Informix databases etc.

In my experience, Programming is a lonely business. I don't mind that, but people don't understand alot of times when you do
something really great that may have taken you days to figure out how to have a program react exactly like you wanted it to,
you get so excited, turn around to "brag" (laughing) and no ones there..

But then there's the passion of what I do.. I love mind games. I love to solve problems, and find ways around things, or ways
to improve the way things are done. I enjoy making the users job more efficient. Programming allows me to think ... constantly
and another benefit of programming is you don't have spell.. LOL... Cause I'm terriable at it..

I was sold on progamming the very first day of class based on what my instructor (who worked and still works in the real
world and didn't only teach) **nothing against teachers BTW** . But he was able to show programming to me in a different
way, other insturctors who hadn't actually been in a "shop" could do.

Ultimatly, only you can answer that question. I personally wouldn't enjoy the networking or enginering part, but thats just me, I
know 100's of network admins, and enginering people who have as much passion for what they do as I do for my job. But I
also know alot of people in this business that are burnt out, mainly because it wasn't their passion, in which case these people
do poorly in their jobs, and constantly complain about the smallest program change they may get.

Well, that's my 2 cents worth. I do wish you the best of luck..

I'm a network engineer. Been in the computer industry for about 30 years now. During those years I've been mid-frame field service engineer (a break-fix person), test engineer, software integration engineer, programmer, hardware integration engineer, technical support engineer, and now a network engineer. The point is that no matter where you start today, you may not be in the same place in the future. The industry is changing very rapidly and most folks are constantly moving along the food chain to try and maintain their credentials/salability. I liked the first reply (by a programmer) to this question and think it's as true as the one I'm providing you.

The networking side of the business is very interesting but often results in work hours that are similar to those of a Dr. You are likely to have a beeper (or a cell phone or both) and are likely to be asked to be on call a lot of the time. Networks are the lifeblood of many businesses so there's lots of pressure whenever the network goes down. On the other hand, most network engineers are a bit wacky so there's usually fun and friendship as well. Just remember that those crazy work hours that don't bother you when you are starting a career have a way of becoming tiresome when you have a couple of children, a wife, and other commitments that come as you progress through life.

The best advice I can give you is to ask yourself if you enjoy a puzzle (both programming and troubleshooting involve problem solving so you better enjoy that), whether or not you are able to deal with stress in a positive manner, and whether or not you enjoy constantly having to learn (the industry changes rapidly and you better change with it or you will have problems remaining employed).

One other item that you might hear debate over: the industry believes there is a shortage of technical talent and incomes HAVE gone up over the last couple of years. On the other hand many folks in the industry don't believe there is any shortage of talent-they believe that industry would rather have more foreign workers that are already trained instead of investing in their older workers and helping them remain productive by providing opportunities for training or to work on more current projects. You should probably investigate this issue on your own.

For myself, I've enjoyed most of my career but there have been some difficult spots. Like the first person to reply, I enjoy problem solving and pretty much know how to work on my own, with little or no supervision. If this sounds like fun to you, I'd say go for it in either field!
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