How to start a career in software from scratch?

I would like to tell you a story that might be helpful for you if you would like to try elevating your life standard or try helping your relatives to do so. This is not going to be yet another story like a “how to make a living of Forex”, but rather a meaningful and proven action plan to start a career in software with almost nothing down.

I have a cousin who lives with her husband and two kids in Novosibirsk. She is an accountant and he is sort of economist who has been sitting his ass off on a large state-operated factory producing some fighting jets where all he was doing was ‘thinking how to make it more efficient’. Needless to say that the factory has its best and peak production years many decades ago and sitting there was the same type of trap as sitting in any entry-level jobs on other state-operated enterprises. It also goes without saying that this family has always been in a need for higher income.

My cousin has always had an open mindset when it comes to earning money, but this normally led to some crazy ideas really difficult to implement (she always reaches me out for advice and I rarely find anything of help for her).

This was even a subject of jokes among me and my wife.. until recently. A 3 or 4 months ago my cousin asked me for some advice for her husband to start career in IT/software. I must say this was the easiest idea to implement comparing to other stuff she had been coming up with and I drafted a plan for her and her husband Max where and how to start.

So as you see, Max has no special IT or computer science education and getting such education was not among viable options for him. He and his family needed to get started quickly! They started looking at entry-level programming positions and initially Java programming caught their attention. No wonder why: it pays off quite well, there are many opportunities in Java, but the problem is: it required lots of skills that are difficult to acquire for a complete newbie with no programming background. They found some courses that claimed to get people started on Java in couple months, but they also required a good understanding of object-oriented programming basics and programming experience. That was something that puzzled my cousin so she asked for my assistance here.

Together we defined a few steps for Max to succeed with a very limited budget they had (less than $1000 USD):

  • He needs to begin with software testing as much less competitive area of software industry while at the same time a much easier career to get started.
  • He starts with 2 months software testing courses from Sukhorukov, an HR agency and IT-training company ($500 USD).
  • On these evening courses he is trying hard to extract as much knowledge as possible and the goal is to get his first entry job after 3 months (one month after he finishes these courses).
  • Once he is done with courses he asks his trainer for a reference and probably for an employment advice (basically to check out if his firm is hiring good students of his). But more importantly, he makes a new resume and starts looking for open positions on the Internet with his tutor as a reference (as he has no experience).
  • To get his first job, he keeps his expectations low: don’t demand any high salary, accept prolonged trial period, and even accept free internship if offered by a reputable company. He just needs to put his foot in a door.
  • Once he gets his first software testing job, he starts learning real stuff. How things work in IT industry. A first year will be the most important for his new career. After the first year is over, Max is going either for a raise or change his job for a better pay to capitalize on his hands-on experience.
  • On his software testing jobs he learns things and goes on programming courses while he builds his software testing resume. At some point he tries to enter programming position within the same company he now works for.

This is basically it. A plan to switch a shitty career to an IT career for less than a $1000 worth of money. Yes, it requires a lot of work, but it is possible.

P.S. Today my cousin wrote me that her husband has found a testing job in Novosibirsk and he works there for almost a month now. A very good start! He found his first job in 3 weeks after he finished his testing courses. He could do this according to the plan described, so could you or your cousin’s husband or wife. You just need to do it smartly: set realistic goals, don’t throw your money on courses left and right, keep it very up-to-the-point, make at least one reference, build a value for employer and aggressively look for an entry position and then capitalize on your experience.

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