What advice can you give a 47 year old technology worker who would like to enter the workplace part-time?

Joseph Videtto June 28, 2013
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My name is Joe – 5 years ago I switched from my software quality assurance and testing job to become an Occupational Therapist, currently working with elementary school kids that have fine motor and mental disabilities. But I still love technology, and would like to work part-time with it to make a little extra money to more easily make ends meet. I have reason to use it a little bit in my new job, but not enough to satisfy my geekys side.

I’ve learned that once you’re in a profession with a particular title, say “Occupational Therapist” – it’s very easy to step on the toes of the IT department if you try to get involved by suggesting something inconsistent with their plans or visions. Then again, with or without the appropriate title, anything ‘out of the box’ is often likely to ruffle somebody’s feathers. I had tried to become involved in swapping parts and re-imaging the school’s antiquated computers (7 to 10 years old), maybe switching to Linux. The IT department didn’t like this idea at all and were rather unsupportive – I’m sure, for many good reasons from their perspective (for example, just plain lack of horsepower to run their standard configs, including their standard antivirus software).

But back to the question at hand…

I am pretty familiar with installing, configuring, and using new software, and doing some software hardware/administration on Windows. I’m also familiar with some scripting languages, but not to the developer’ level. I don’t have much mac experience, and am just getting familiar now with the Android operating system. I’ve also purchased and use and Ipad, though mostly my wife monopolizes it (hints for a good marriage – the wife has priority !!!). Though I’ve thought of trying to write apps for the iPad – I’ve learned that one should do this for fun more than the expectation of making money with it. My priority is to make some side money in a more steady, reliable way.

I really love the idea of helping people learn to use computers to make their day-to-day administrative tasks easier, and I am flexible on the type of tools/products I work with – but I like the idea of working a bit ‘out of the box’ – like finding new ways to make things simpler using software. Actually, this is exactly what the MakeUseOf website is for.

So my question is,

What areas do you current tech people see as being a good fit for my goal of PART-time tech work – e.g. what particular companies, technologies, freelance work ? I’m willing to spend some time learning new technology things – but certainly not in going back to a full time school program again. Before my career switch to OT (much due to the difficulty in staying gainfully employed as a tech person), my original degrees were in Electrical Engineering (graduated in 88) with a Master’s in Computer Science (in 92) – so I know the basics and have an eye for technical detail.

I believe certifications might make some sense – but I’m not sure which might be most useful in the current marketplace given my goals. Any particular recommendations are appreciated.

Thanks in advance,

  1. Giuseppe C
    July 16, 2013 at 8:20 am

    Hello, there are some great opportuinities on-line: for volunteering the best is: https://www.sparked.com/welcome/volunteers#1
    for the commercial opportunities on-line you may want to consider sites like: http://www.donanza.com/ or http://www.zintro.com there a bunch of them.

    Let me know if you will go to sparked we'll meet you there for some partnership if you'd like :)

  2. Leland Whitlock
    June 30, 2013 at 3:30 am

    You made it sound like your goal was to make some money on the side. The best way to do that part time is as a consultant. Or you might fix people's computers part time in your study/garage. If your plan is to make money with minimal investment this could work. Also, you could do some of the free coding classes around and then start some project on your own that could lead to a good resume item and start programming part time. The possibilities are endless but you really need to look at what you want before you decide a direction to go. For some free coding resources look at some of the following:


  3. PseudoChris
    June 30, 2013 at 3:05 am

    If you're going to volunteer, you might as well try to get an internship. Seattle is great because we have MS, Google, and Amazon in the area. But if you don't live around major "tech" companies you might have to search a little harder for an opportunity near you. Otherwise, bring your ideas to local Computer businesses and see if they need an extra hand somewhere or if you can bring something they don't have to the table. Personally, I just started my own PC repair service and am learning a lot about both entrepreneurship as well as a variety of software/hardware that I run into with each client.

    Also, look at job description requirements for jobs in IT fields and you'll find which certifications will prove useful when seeking a better job later on.

  4. DalSan M
    June 28, 2013 at 11:14 pm

    Volunteering could help get a foot in the door for job placement opportunities, much more than what many of us can recommend. Creating a blog for computer tips, help, and whatnot can give an opportunity to make a little money if you use something like Google Ads abd such. Of course, the more popular the site, the more you can make. You could also check out http://www.rhok.com (Random Hacks of Kindness) and see if you can help their team (it is volunteer work, but can look good on a resume). CompTIA certifications could help depending, depending on the area of IT you wish to enter into.

    • Jack Giebel
      June 30, 2013 at 12:54 pm

      The url you meant is http://www.rhok.org/

    • DalSan M
      June 30, 2013 at 5:37 pm

      Thanks for the correction, Jack.

  5. dragonmouth
    June 28, 2013 at 9:09 pm

    "I’ve learned that once you’re in a profession with a particular title, say “Occupational Therapist” – it’s very easy to step on the toes of the IT department if you try to get involved by suggesting something inconsistent with their plans or visions. "

    How would you feel if a Software Architect or the Network Administrator started making suggestions on what therapy the kids in your care needed? Even if at one time they had the required training? You have a long-term therapy program planned for each of the kids you take care of. IT department has a long range plans, too.

    As Matt Smith says, you can volunteer. Also, depending on your level of expertise, you can become a consultant. You can open up a small PC repair shop in your garage. You can be a part time contract programmer.

    • Bruce Epper
      June 29, 2013 at 5:32 am

      Tempted to down-vote this one because of your second paragraph. Most IT workers lose sight of what their job really is - supporting the end user and implementing the technologies that make the END USER more productive, not just the stuff to make it easier for the IT department. And if it makes the job harder for IT, they just need to suck it up because that is the damn job.

      Most end users know what will make their jobs easier and more productive and most IT department employees tend to be completely clueless about what the end user even does on their systems to accomplish their daily tasks. Who do you really think is in a better place to try to improve their processes and suggest alternative means to accomplish these tasks?

      This is one of the two reasons that I no longer work in a company's IT department - the arrogance of IT management and other employees about their ideas of what was needed, ignoring what was said by many users, and the stranglehold they maintained on the technologies that would be used without exception. (The other reason was all of the time I had to put in with zero compensation.)

    • dragonmouth
      June 29, 2013 at 1:44 pm

      You do what you feel you must but I think you might have misunderstood what I said. Occupational Therapy is a long process that follows some sort of a plan. Running an IT installation also requires a long range plan; it cannot be done ad hoc. I'm sure Mr. Videtto would not appreciate if a member of IT made suggestions, no matter how well intentioned, about the treatment of his patients. Similarly the IT staff may not appreciate Mr. Videtto's suggestions, no matter how well intentioned. Would you tell a mechanic how to fix your car? Would you want him to tell you how to write a program or set up a network? None of us want our toes to be stepped on.

      You make it sound like IT is nothing more than a bunch of servants whose only purpose in life is to clean up the users' messes. I spent many years as one of those "arrogant members of IT", most of them either developing applications for the users or supporting the users technologically. I can match any of your "arrogant IT" stories with a "stupid user" story. But this is not the venue for that kind of shin kicking.

  6. Matt Smith
    June 28, 2013 at 8:00 pm

    Perhaps see if there are any volunteer organizations that would suit you. For example, there's a series of computer hardware thrift stores in major U.S. cities called Free Geek that takes volunteers to help them test and re-build donated systems, as well as install Ubuntu on them.

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