This is an Ask a Geek Feminist question for our commenters. This is the last post from round 4. Round 5 will run in the second half of 2011.
I have a 24 year old niece who is currently working as a fashion designer but is thinking about changing careers and getting a Computer Science degree. After two years in her job she has discovered that she doesn’t fit in very well with the culture or with her co-workers. She does really well with the graphic design programs (while all her co-workers are computer phobic), and she took some programming classes back in high school, so I think she can do it.
Since I’m an old geek feminist myself I’d like to encourage her in whatever way I can. Unfortunately, I’ve been unable to work for more than 10 years due to health issues so my knowledge of what skills are needed, and what job opportunities exist out there, is pretty outdated. My question is this (and I hope it can be phrased in a way that provides general help for anyone in this situation, not just my niece) –
Any advice on how to make this career change easier? She’s looking at going back to get a master’s in computer science (she would have to take a lot of basic math/science first) but I’d love to hear other suggestions. Are there informal venues where she could learn? Conferences or clubs or something like that? What are the best online places where newbies can hang out and learn? What programming projects could a beginner work on to get some hands-on experience that would make them more employable? What would help to give her confidence in her ability?
For example, back when I got my own degree (1978–1982), I worked at several different programming jobs on campus, mostly to pay my way through school, but it turned out that the work experience was invaluable when I started looking for a full-time job. Is this type of thing still relevant or is it hopelessly old fashioned?