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150 posts

Master Geek

#129253 8-Sep-2013 22:30
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Apologies in advance, but this might get a bit lengthy.

For the last 8 years I've worked in the computer retail & servicing sector, and during that time I've handled various tasks, including contact with customers and product distributors, building and fixing desktops and laptops, and Web site maintenance on the side.

But two big events have happened since I started at my current job, which have forced me to consider my future.

Firstly, the proliferation of online resellers has ramped up industry competition to the point where bricks & mortar outlets have been left in the dust. To rub it in, a regional downturn aggravated by public sector cuts hasn't helped. We've been doing our best to keep our heads above water, and knowing that we can't always compete on price, we aim for actual customer service and to give people a reason to do repeat business. I've been working 6 days a week and I've hardly ever taken annual leave except over the Xmas break, since there aren't enough of us to cover for at any other time of the year. I've effectively joined the club known as the precariat - a club that no one wants to join - and now that I'm in my mid-30s, I feel the need to jump to a bigger ship before I miss the boat.

Secondly, I've been diagnosed with a rare dental condition that is slowly but surely destroying my teeth from the root, despite a regimen of regular teeth cleaning, and my dentist has not been able to find any obvious causes. Unless the local health board and/or my father can foot the bill, the cost of getting dentures could potentially drive me to bankruptcy or otherwise a lifetime of involuntary debt. I feel for those Americans who can't afford even the most basic of healthcare, and that's just the middle classes.

I definitely know there's a skill shortage in the Wellington ICT sector, the trick is which specific disciplines. I do know that helpdesk operators aren't one of them, which is what my father suggested if I quit my current job. In any case, I've been back to square one before, and I'm hoping not to go there again.

I studied Info Science at Otago years back - mostly on database theory and development - but didn't finish after flunking out on a major final-year paper twice in a row. That paper involved distributed computing with Java and CORBA - the latter I especially found harder to grasp than a greasy pole - and the tutors weren't particularly helpful. I was on and off the scrapheap for a short while, taking odd jobs and temp work at a time when the fallout from the Tech Wreck was still radiating. I subsequently had a crack at studying electrical & electronics trades at WelTec, and finding out the hard way that the trades weren't for me.

As my current workplace is too small to pay for any formal upskilling, I'm looking at 3 possible options within Wellington where I can study part-time while my job still lasts.

The first option is the 1-year Web development course at Yoobee, but I'm not sure how seriously the job market takes it. I've long had an interest in both design and computing, although the design side has been a bit neglected for a while.

The second option is the Bachelor of Applied Science, also at Yoobee, which has a broader and more advanced focus. Again, I'm not sure how seriously it's taken, although I do recall one of my former workmates went there while it was still known as Natcoll, and he landed some decent Web work at a major IT firm across town.

The third option is a BInfoSci major at Massey, which has only recently been implemented for distance learning. They accept cross-credits from other universities, but making an application doesn't come cheap, and last time I checked the student loan system doesn't cover such an application. Also, it's been more than 10 years since I dropped out of Otago, and ICT has advanced rather a lot since then, so there may be no guarantee what I did at Otago will be accepted. Otago doesn't offer distance learning for InfoSci, and I can't justify the expense and inconvenience of uprooting myself (again) to complete it in Dunedin.

I still know how to draw up a many-to-many ERD, and a vague idea of how dev projects work and to avoid debacles like INCIS. I've worked in PHP, ASP and Visual C#.NET - the latter of which I had a crash course in my current job, due to the need to smooth out the imperfections of a poorly-written web catalogue system. I can admit to being a bit rusty in those, but I wouldn't mind getting back up to speed as well as picking up new languages.

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  #891831 9-Sep-2013 01:37
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I can't speak for Yoobee , but know that the BBS - information systems and mgmt (double major) I did at Massey was very week on the technical side of things. Ie didn't come close to prepare me for the real world. Friends in computer science courses seemed to be OK.

I'd find an ICT provider who's happy to take on an intern, even if you have to volunteer your time as you'll get far more out of that. I volunteered at a web design / SEO company and did all their bum jobs on Fridays during my third year of Uni, has proved to be far more useful in my professional career than my degree so far.

When starting out, attitude counts for more than knowledge, show you want to learn, and can learn and others will only be too happy to help and give you opportunity.

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  #892334 9-Sep-2013 19:48
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When I was first starting out I advertised myself in the news paper as software developer even though I had no experience in software development I eventually managed to get work because I was much cheaper than I.T. companies. Don't waste money on qualifications they won't get you work my only qualification is a diploma in software engineering but I'm still getting work.

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  #892502 10-Sep-2013 08:48
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You have 8 years experience ... what do you need a degree for ?

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  #892769 10-Sep-2013 14:51
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Mark: You have 8 years experience ... what do you need a degree for ?

Sounds like he wants to change from technical services eg: PC builder, server/network/sysadmin type work to development services eg web/software programming/development, which would require re-training.


Have you looked for a new job suited to your current skills?

Given your pre existing skills in technical services and the time it would take to re-train as a dev I think you are first better off approaching successful ICT companies.

There are some big ones with Wellington offices: Intergen, DataCom, Gen-i, HP, Microsoft, Fujitsu etc etc that have large tech services teams. Also get in touch with IT recruitment companies like HaysIT, RecruitIT, KnowledgeIT and see what they have. Cheek!

Regarding your dental problem, I would get a 2nd and 3rd opinion and more opinons till you get a treatment plan you are happy with... try to find a specialists. Uni dental clinics often are keen to can research/investigate weird cases.

No Individual knows everything, extra opinions on something serious are definitely worth it imo.


150 posts

Master Geek

  #893000 10-Sep-2013 23:29
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Thanks for the replies so far. I'm having second thoughts about cross-crediting to Massey now, given my Otago academic experiences were similar to Insane's above. Even though it had real-life dev work, it still didn't prepare adequately for real life - it seemed a bit dated even at the time - and I'd grown increasingly disillusioned with the course part of the way through. In an interview years back - not in ICT, for the record - I was caught utterly off guard when asked why my Otago degree was unfinished, which is why for a long time I feared that prospective employers would use it against me like a criminal record. Now with my current experience, it's probably less of an issue now.

My current experience is roughly equivalent to an A+ Cert, even though I've never officially sat for one. Even so, I feel the need to reinforce my experience with something more formal like at Yoobee or ComputerPower, and again I'd prefer not to reinvent the wheel and throw away more time and money with nothing to show for it. I know exactly what a wasted effort feels like - just look at all the "hikikomori" in Japan.

To complicate matters further, I'm quite possibly a borderline autistic, if self-testing is anything to go by, or otherwise having some other kind of PDD. On the plus side I'm fascinated with details (as one can probably tell by my writing in a forum like this), on the minus side it puts me at an inherent disadvantage in job interviews and social situations due to poor sense of eye contact and body language, among other factors. And the last time I dealt with recruitment co's after I had dropped out of university, they didn't seem interested in trainees, they seemingly wanted people with 5+ years dev experience (ie hard coding) under their belt. I'm not sure if it's much different now.

As of writing this reply, another one of our competitors across town has announced it's shutting down. It's a double-edged sword for us - we'll probably be picking up their customer base, but it also speaks volumes of the state of our industry segment. Hence why I'm tempted to migrate to a more "weightless" and less "bricks & mortar" kind of segment.

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  #894482 11-Sep-2013 21:24
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I am also autistic so I know how difficult it is to get work being autistic. If you tell what makes you think you are autistic I can probably tell you for definite.


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Master Geek

  #899555 21-Sep-2013 22:13
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BoredNerd: I am also autistic so I know how difficult it is to get work being autistic. If you tell what makes you think you are autistic I can probably tell you for definite.


  • Scoring approx 32-36 in the Baron-Cohen test, among others
  • Perfectionism and fascination with details
  • Poor sense of eye contact
  • Poor sense of body language
  • History of social awkwardness and risk aversion
  • Being told in school by my peers, "you shouldn't take it so seriously"
  • Annoyance at having to break daily routines, like when the phone rings while working on critical tasks
  • Tendency to focus on a very small number of things at a time

Just yesterday, the "another one of our competitors" I mentioned previously had their closing down sale this week.

I'm still leaning towards Yoobee since it looks the most adaptable and up-to-date. On balance I now think it'll be throwing good money after bad to apply for cross-credits to Massey, given the uniqueness of what I studied at Otago.

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  #900844 22-Sep-2013 20:45
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Those are definitely autistic traits you do seem to be autistic. Don't go to Massey there courses are crap I know I've been there. You're right about the cross crediting I tried cross crediting at Massey I still had to start at the first year none of what I had done seemed to count for anything.

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  #900880 22-Sep-2013 22:22
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insane: I can't speak for Yoobee , but know that the BBS - information systems and mgmt (double major) I did at Massey was very week on the technical side of things. Ie didn't come close to prepare me for the real world. Friends in computer science courses seemed to be OK.

University is great for learning computer SCIENCE. Relevant to programming and theoretical study in and related to that area. The IS component in a BBS was interesting but as you found nowhere near technical enough to prepare you for a technical role. I had 5-6 years IT experience when I did my IS papers at uni and they were laughable from a tech perspective, but I was doing a BBus(Mgmt) so I wasn't expecting to learn about IT.

IT support/engineering is better considered a TRADE. Experience, work experience and relevant industry training is the way to go.

Source: 10 years in IT Support - now Project Delivery and Design.

If you are interested in the design side of things (which I believe you are) be prepared for the creative side of things. I strongly doubt you will get a job based on your web development course - you will need a portfolio. This will mean doing work either on your own (for pet projects) or for small clients (for low money) so that you have some examples of your work. This will give you experience and a chance to learn the ropes and will give you something to show to potential employers. At the end of the day you will be in a creative industry, you need evidence of your competence.

The upside is noone hires a web developer because they have a Bachelor's Degree, so you don't need 3-4 years to do one.


150 posts

Master Geek

  #965233 11-Jan-2014 20:54
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Another year bites the dust, and I'm back to work next week. I've come to the realisation that my current job isn't so much an ICT position, but more like a retail position that happens to have ICT in it. And I'm keen to step back from customer service roles for once, as it was never a natural fit for a possible autistic like me to begin with, and also because I'm heartily sick of dealing with customers with an unrealistic sense of entitlement who hold us responsible for events outside our control.

Since the last post, the people behind DevBootAcademy have set up a Wellington franchise. It sounds like the kind of thing that would suit me perfectly, were it not for some not-so-small problems: enrolling for Welly DevAcademy is about the price of a 1st class airline ticket, and it's not eligible for student loans as it's not NZQA certified. Also gave Yoobee a miss, as ICT industry insiders tell me it was a rebranding fiasco - they basically say that on a CV it would look like the 'Mickey Mouse Design School'. And last I heard the design school changed hands after its parent company Renaissance fell on hard times.

Yet I feel I still need to retrain somehow, if I don't want to be stuck in the dead-end precariat for the rest of my life. As I mentioned in the opening post, I'm not going to reinvent the wheel all over again, and 1 year is more than long enough if I do go back to formal study at an institution.

I'm tempted to do some free MOOCs on the Web, especially in dotNet and Ruby on Rails - any that are recommended, especially something that's officially recognised? I'm also looking at getting up to speed with some SAMS Teach Yourself books in due course.

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  #965240 11-Jan-2014 21:20
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Sorry, I can't help you... but I wish I'd never done that test!!!!

deepred: the Baron-Cohen test, .

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  #965247 11-Jan-2014 21:56
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That paper involved distributed computing with Java and CORBA

That is okay - CORBA is no longer used widely today and thank God for that. as for Java, well there are still organisations that do that and quite well albeit offshore arrangements for larger corporations

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  #965248 11-Jan-2014 21:57
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University isn't there to give you practical skills, it's to give you theoretical backgrounds and the theory you need to learn in practice. Out of university you're a grad, grads think they know everything but really know nothing of any practical use.

I suspect autistic people could do well as programmers, and as a bonus poor people skills is more accepted. Web developers are a dime a dozen, go for something that there's a good demand for.

What area of IT are you most interested in?


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Master Geek

  #965283 12-Jan-2014 02:49
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timmmay: University isn't there to give you practical skills, it's to give you theoretical backgrounds and the theory you need to learn in practice. Out of university you're a grad, grads think they know everything but really know nothing of any practical use.

I suspect autistic people could do well as programmers, and as a bonus poor people skills is more accepted. Web developers are a dime a dozen, go for something that there's a good demand for.

What area of IT are you most interested in?

Indeed, autistics seem inclined towards anything involving logic and detail. That is, if they can scale the slippery pole that is the job interview, which inherently needs a good supply of neuro-typicality and social competence that autistics and other PDD-NOS people are inherently disadvantaged in. I read somewhere that in the UK & US, the unemployment rate among those diagnosed autistic is in the double digits - and if they're in work, they're often in jobs that insult their intelligence. Wasted potential and tunnel-visioned human resources if I ever heard of it. I recommend seeing the documentary about Russell Brown's autistic son Jimmy, and his quest for work.

Aside from the possible autism spectrum, the other big issue for me is that the rungs in the middle of the skill ladder are missing. While I know there's a dire skills shortage in the ICT sector, the areas reporting dire shortages seem beyond my current skills and experience - as I've mentioned before, my existing job is basically more retail than ICT, and retail as we know it is being aped by the Internet. With my current skills I'm largely limited to dead-end helpdesk roles, and I'm keen to see the back of that.

I've always been interested in creating and building stuff - building & testing PCs is a case in point, while such an industry still exists - so Web dev & design seems the closest fit. Web dev is among the 'dire shortage' list right now, and I had an informal crack at Web coding in the deep dark past. Pretty rusty at the moment though, so it's something I'll need to get up to speed on.
The trick is how to get there - it's like having a road map with the destination marked out, but not being able to drive a car yet. I'd have to win Lotto before I can take up DevBootCamp, and no one seems to take Yoobee seriously any more, and I can't think of anyone else in Wellington who seriously teaches today's in-demand Web coding. Which is why I'm interested in free online courses, or even an internship that can provide on-the-job code training. I got my current job through a supported employment trust, and maybe it's time to re-visit them.

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  #965429 12-Jan-2014 13:18
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Just a few random observations for you. (Background - I have been working in IT for over 30 years mostly as an indy contractor and I have worked for many of the biggest names in the business. I am a developer and I have been involved in recruiting for dev roles too.)

If you try to get work as a developer, you will find that your age is working against you. Recruiters expect junior programmers to be in their early to mid twenties. That is not to say that it is impossible but I am trying to give you a heads up.

The role in IT that is most suited to folks on the Autism spectrum is testing. In Europe there are test houses that actively seek out aspies for these roles. Testing may not be glamorous but that has its advantages when it comes to applying for - and getting - jobs.

Your current experience may be enough to get you work for a company that needs a junior test engineer.

Employers like qualifications from traditional universities. Qualifications from other bodies are much less likely to be valued.

Recruitment companies are only interested in people who they can place for a large fee and that means people who are hard to find and who will be paid a lot of money when they are employed.

Very few employers will be prepared to pay a recruitment company thousands of dollars for a junior developer with no experience because all they have to do is contact a uni careers office and they will be flooded with applications.

Good luck

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