[RndTbl] User to Super-user to career change

Adam Thompson athompso at athompso.net
Wed Oct 20 11:32:49 CDT 2021

[not using your numbering scheme] 

1. Unless you move to a different city, (Silicon Valley, Boston,
Toronto, _maybe_ Vancouver) you will - VERY generally speaking - never
even come close to reaching what you could theoretically make as a
self-employed red seal electrician.  (If you're a non-union employee
right now, then it's a lot closer.) 

There are specific niches where you can make more, but good luck finding
them and getting into them.  Alternately, there are some very
high-pressure networking jobs that make really good money here, I
wouldn't touch them with a 10' pole. 

Switching careers mid-life is HARD, and very financially painful for up
to 5 years on average (AFAIK).  I don't know any way around that.  What
I've read suggests you take a up-to-10-year hit to get back to where you
were, unless you get lucky. 

If you have your LPIC-1 and some sort of certification as a programmer,
that gets you a junior programmer job.  It _might_ get you a junior
sysadmin job, but there's not that much Linux sysadmin work in Winnipeg
- and definitely not at the junior level.  All the jobs I've heard of in
the last 5yrs are mostly-Windows with some Linux and some networking. 

The place I left 2yrs ago was paying junior sysadmins somewhere between
$40k and $50k, intermediate ~$50-55k, and senior ~$60k.  Granted, the
owner was a !@#$% scrooge, but from what I can tell, that's about normal
for small shops in Winnipeg.  (Ther are a lot of them.)  I don't know
what they paid the programmers, but I do know that everyone who left
that firm, left to get a substantial raise from much-larger employers. 
I've heard BOLD pays well, but no actual numbers. 

2. Programming and sysadmin are classically an either/or choice, but...
I'm a network engineer who still does a ton of sysadmin stuff, who used
to be a programmer for the first half of his career.  That used to be a
fairly common career path. 

Nowadays, though, programming + sysadmin = DevOps, which has been the
buzzword-du-jour for most of the last decade.  The focus is still on
programming, essentially it's programming while being expected to know
how to do your own deployments and manage the servers your code runs on.
 (There's no single definition of DevOps.  Google for yourself, it's a

Everyone and their dog claims to be doing DevOps now, and ... almost
no-one really is.  IMHO.  Kind like everyone's "Agile" now, and it's
mostly just B.S., a new word to slap onto existing processes to make the
VPs feel better. 

But DevOps would potentially give you a slight advantage if you go the
programming route.  And being DevOps, IMHO, lets you delay choosing one
path or the other as long as you want. 

3. Restating what I said in #1, differently:  DO NOT go into tech, at
least in Manitoba, to make money.  Go into it because you love
technology, and programming/sysadmin/networking makes your brain happy. 
Aim for the largest employers you can (typically insurance companies) if
salary is important.  Those big employers will kill your soul and your
brain and your skills, but they'll pay you reasonably while they do it

YMMV, that's just my experience. 

Just a thought: what about more slowly pivoting from electrical to
network cabling, then to network switching/routing/firewalling?  I don't
really know if that's feasible here or not. 


On 2021-10-20 10:41, Chris Schick wrote:

> Good day, 
> I'm interested in making a drastic career change and want to get a better feel for where I fit. I'm a Red Seal electrician and an instructor at RRC but have always wanted to work in tech. The tricky part is that I'm 42, married with 2 kids, 2 cats and a mortgage. And the cats eat a LOT. I either need to get in at an intermediate position or at least have the opportunity to rise to that point fairly quickly. 
> I've been studying Linux Sys Admin courses in my evenings and am close to getting my LPIC-1 certification. I also have a strong programming background. At this point I could go either way, towards software development or system administration. The friends I have spoken to suggest that it is either-or, that programming and sysadmin do not go together in most regular jobs. 
> I'm putting together a portfolio of projects I've worked on at home, raspberry pi stuff, messing with my network, and also my GitHub profile. 
> My two questions are: 
> * What's available to me and what is a reasonable expectation for a first job?
> * What else can I do to add business value to my skills?
> Thanks in advance, I feel awkward  asking this here but after slow-burning this idea for 3 years I need to make a change before I spend another 25 in the wrong job. 
> CS 
> _______________________________________________
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