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I've decided to pursue a degree in software engineering. Aside from relevant skills and the aptitude to pick new ones up, are certs such as CompTia, Cisco certs,etc in demand by employers?

I'm 34, have two 13 year old felonies(marijuana possession,cultivation) and basically want to
get my life together. I understand ones own opinion of one's self is usually biased but I am
definitely intelligent enough to thrive academically and am learning various programming skills
on my own already. I don't need to sit on a beanbag or bring my dog to work (although both are
cool perks :) ) what I want is a solid career change. Info Sec, AI ,IOT all fascinate me.
I really hope to win a few scholarships as getting financial aid let alone a Pell Grant may prove
difficult because of my record.
Thanks
#tech


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Marilyn’s Answer

First, congratulations on taking steps to get your life together. Identifying the need and making the decision is huge.
Have you considered starting by looking for an entry level (perhaps helpdesk/call center) job at a company that provides training and may even provide, in the benefits package, a tuition assitance program? At 34 years old you have time to grow in a career. Many companies prefer to groom their IT folks and bring them up through the ranks. If the growth requires certification and training they will assist with that. Though the initial salary may not be high, the training and experience may prove worthwhile.
I have found that collecting certifications without also matching those with hands on experience can devalue the time and money I put in so consider your options and get creative about how to fund your education.
Best of luck to you!


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Sean’s Answer

In my experience, certifications are not very helpful.

Some companies seem to value them (some of the biggest companies), but the companies I've worked at do not (startups in Silicon Valley).

If you're looking to make your way into the technology field, I would recommend spending time on the following areas:

1) Spend time _reading_ code

Code comprehension is so important and such a good indicator of skill level!

- once you have a programming job, more of your day will be spent reading code than writing it
- you can read the code for many open source projects on github
- I highly recommend reading Pull Requests on github -- these will give you a bit more context on what the person is changing about the code base and you can read exactly what code is being changed
- read up on projects in different languages (e.g. golang, ruby, node, rust)
- here's a list to get you started: https://github.com/MunGell/awesome-for-beginners

2) Contribute to open source projects on github

- this is great to add to your resume
- here's a list to get you started: https://github.com/MunGell/awesome-for-beginners

3) Spend time on your tools

If there is one thing I wish I prioritized sooner, its making sure my tools serve me.

When you are coding you'll always be in a feedback loop of reading, writing, and running code. As you progress, you'll find that your brain works faster than your fingers :) You'll know what code you want to write faster than you can write it. You'll know you want to re-run your automated tests before you're done writing them. You'll want to continuously find ways to 'tighten up' that feedback loop so that you can iterate faster. The best way to do this is make sure that your tools aren't something you're wrestling against, but are helping you work faster.

a) choose an editor (I highly recommend vim since you can use it anywhere, but emacs, atom, vscode are alternatives)

- customize it to work for you!
- there are many plugins for specific programming languages (https://opensource.com/article/20/2/how-install-vim-plugins)
- there are also plugins that help you navigate a code base
- e.g. vim's fuzzy finder helps you search a codebase quickly
- there's also helpers for autocomplete, or jump to definition, etc etc

b) get comfortable in bash

- spend time on your dotfile (examples here: https://github.com/webpro/awesome-dotfiles)
- you can modify your prompt, define shortcuts, etc
- protip: `direnv` is a great way to apply settings / shortcuts per folder / project


Other than that, to get started, you'll need a machine. If a mac is too expensive, that's ok. A lot of the newest tech works great on linux. I'd recommend getting a cheap laptop (nothing fancy) and installing ubuntu. You'll get familiar with the `apt-get` program (within bash) to install any languages or tools you need.

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Sonali’s Answer

Yes, additional skills like Cisco certs etc surely helps.


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