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Great Jumpin’ Career Paths

Our Man Stan recently posed these questions:

…first, what would you do if you needed to make a parallel change in careers? Meaning, same industry, different role; like moving from waiter to cook in a restaurant. Second, what if you had to make a perpendicular jump and get out of your industry all together? Meaning, different industry, different role; like moving from rodeo clown to encyclopedia salesman.

The first question is actually a little tougher to answer, because the answer depends on what you consider to be “the same industry”.  If we’re talking the web industry, I’d probably move to project coordination, since at this point I think I have a pretty good handle on all the technical pieces.  If we’re talking the computer-programming/human-computer system industry, I’d love to get into virtual-scene modeling and CAVE systems.  If we’re talking the general technology field, I would definitely love a chance to work in the field of self-organizing microsensor networks (I’ve written about that before).

Were I to switch fields entirely, I think I’d become a meteorologist; weather systems have long fascinated me, and I did consider that career path at one point in my life.  Failing meteorology, it wouldn’t be much of a radical shift to be a climatologist, which seem a lot like being a meteorologist except in terms of the geographical and temporal scales of study.  Besides, both fields do a lot of computer-based simulation, so my existing skills wouldn’t be completely useless.

I do have to admit that both are practical choices: they’re fields in which I could very likely get a job.  Those would be in contrast to my absolute top choice, which is to be an astronaut.  That was always my dream as a youngster.  I can still hope that the orbital tourism industry will get up to speed just fast enough for me to make it up there before I’m too old to survive the trip… but reality has a way of squashing those sorts of dreams.

How about you?  What would you do?

14 Responses»

    • #1
    • Comment
    • Mon 23 May 2005
    • 1939
    patrick h. lauke wrote in to say...

    well, in the unlikely event that you ever find yourself in the manchester/uk area, i’ll get you a ride on our university’s modest CAVE system :)

    • #2
    • Comment
    • Mon 23 May 2005
    • 2208
    Stewart C. Russell wrote in to say...

    What would I do? Well, as I went from wind energy development to dictionary typesetting, on to financial systems web development, then back again to being a windfarm designer, I don’t think I’d do it any differently. Especially as I trained as a mechanical engineer; it basically teaches you not to panic when confronted with complex system.

    I don’t think you’d enjoy programming for climatology/meteorology. A lot of it is heavy duty Fortran; readable and elegant it ain’t!

    • #3
    • Comment
    • Mon 23 May 2005
    • 2217
    Roy Schestowitz wrote in to say...

    Patrick, that CAVE system is only a couple dozen yards from my office. While on the issue of Manchester, it is also worth mentioning the computational servers where I can run my experiments over a large cluster of Pentium 4′s.

    • #4
    • Comment
    • Tue 24 May 2005
    • 0403
    paul haine wrote in to say...

    I’d become a young loner on a crusade to champion the cause of the innocent,the helpless, the powerless, in a world of criminals who operate above the law.

    • #5
    • Comment
    • Tue 24 May 2005
    • 0807
    Richard Wright wrote in to say...

    I use to work in Bondi, Australia. My office overlooked Sydney Harbour. I often thought in summer, that I would like to be a tug boat driver. In winter I was happy to stay a computer programmer.

    • #6
    • Comment
    • Tue 24 May 2005
    • 1337
    Dmitri Zagidulin wrote in to say...

    Within the industry? A professor of Computer Science at a small liberal-arts college. Maybe, if I was really crazy, a game programmer.

    Outside? A truck driver.
    I never knew this, until my father started working as a truck dispatcher, but the smart and motivated ones make over $200k-300k a year. You get to travel a lot, and that’s a loooot of audiobook time.

    • #7
    • Comment
    • Tue 24 May 2005
    • 1506
    Small Paul wrote in to say...

    Hmm. Within web stuff, I’d like to be a Unix server admin. To know all the insane little nooks and crannies, and make everything really work like it’s supposed to.

    Outside web stuff, I’d like to be some sort of statistician. The world is so complex that you can’t make any sort of really informed decision on big, important matters without some seriously good statistics. In that way, I’d be doing a little bit to save the world.

    • #8
    • Comment
    • Tue 24 May 2005
    • 1855
    Noah Tye wrote in to say...

    Outside web stuff, I”d like to be some sort of statistician. The world is so complex that you can”t make any sort of really informed decision on big, important matters without some seriously good statistics. In that way, I”d be doing a little bit to save the world.

    No, statisticians don’t get informed themselves. They form an opinion and then use their numbers to *cough* inform the rest of the world.

    • #9
    • Comment
    • Wed 25 May 2005
    • 1234
    Dave Marks wrote in to say...

    For a different industry, I would be a carpenter… I’ve always loved working with wood and i like building things. Somehow building something from Wood, Metal etc is more satisfying though than building say an Ecomerce shop… even if that lump of wood does nothing, and that ecom shop makes lots of money. Being an astronaut sure would be cool though!

    As for the same industry, this ones a little tougher, hence doing this thing backward… I work for myself, so I pretty much have to have a dabble at everything… but if i could chose, I’d do whatever got me out of the office, around people and on the beach more… what job in the web/computer industry would offer me that??

    • #10
    • Comment
    • Wed 25 May 2005
    • 1730
    Meri wrote in to say...

    Inside the industry (which I’ll define as “anything to do with computers”, like my grandparents do), I’d probably move from being a project manager to something more along the lines of a designer. Either systems architecture or web apps.

    Outside, I at one stage seriously considered joining the army and becoming a sniper. Having since gotten engaged, probably not a great option anymore! Instead I’d probably move to something practical, like carpentry. Not sure it would fund my lifestyle particularly well tho!

    • #11
    • Comment
    • Thu 26 May 2005
    • 1539
    derek wrote in to say...

    Hmmm…a toughy.

    I would probably become a programmer. As of now, I am way more a sysadmin than a web developer (though I have to do a bit).

    If I jumped fields, I would become a high school math teacher or a mass transportation planner. I have always wanted to correct math’s PR problem and work on making bus systems more friendly.

    • #12
    • Comment
    • Thu 26 May 2005
    • 2214
    Joey wrote in to say...

    Ha- you don’t know how cool it is to have more than one thing in common with an idol. I’m just a student in High School (ending my sophmore year) and I’m probably going to go into meteorology. I even have gone as far to purchase a weather station. (Not a consumer-grade one but a heavy duty more pro- one. It’s a bit old but it works.) I love technology and working with web standards. If my school didn’t have such a lacking web technology program, then maybe I would get more involved. (It’s so lacking in fact, I took web design this semster just so I could make my final project on how my school’s web design program fails. It’s a bit harsh but all factual.)

    As for switching, as a student I’m pretty limited, but I suppose I could take this as switching my social class. Right now I’m a bando- I’m in my schools drumline and marching band, and love it. Spend time not online playing drums. But if I could switch, I think I’d want to be more of a guitar player type than marching band/drumline type. Though going to Dayton, OH for world championships for WGI is pretty cool. They also have an awesomely compliant site. So yea- more of a harcore guitat player.

    • #13
    • Comment
    • Fri 27 May 2005
    • 1509
    Tobias Parent wrote in to say...

    Oddly enough, I’ve done both. More than once, actually. I mean, way beyond the “I worked at the Taco Shack in high school, but now I’m a dairy farmer!” kind of thing – since becoming a husband and father, I’ve done the lateral shift within a company (not all that rare) from a graphic design geek to a pseudo-IS/IT to full-time IT manager.

    Then, I got tired of the Bull**** and decided to follow a personal ambition (same career, different location) – I became a full-time clown. I still consult on the side for friends and mom-and-pops in the computer field, but my full-time income is from being a family entertainer. And I’ll tell you – Megatrends had it right! High-tech/High-touch is the wave of the future (they said in 1982), and it’s pretty close to right!

    Now, I work with my family, for my family. I earn a respectable income (higher than as an IT grunt, even an IT manager). My ulcer is gone, and I’m my own boss. Don’t be paralyzed about making the move – if you believe in you, and you’ve got a support network of friends to remind you why you did it, the non-sequitur jump can really change your life perspective!

    • #14
    • Trackback
    • Mon 11 Jul 2005
    • 1801
    Received from Petroglyphs

    Dilbert vu

    Dilbert vu, n. An illusory feeling of having previously experienced a situation parodied in a Dilbert comic strip

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