Does IT/programming facilitate an international lifestyle?

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Re: Does IT/programming facilitate an international lifestyle?

Postby emk » Sat Apr 09, 2016 12:00 pm

PeterMollenburg wrote:Is freelancing from home (wherever one might be) a realistic possibility in the field? I'm thinking if your work is quality and you're not 40 years old+ in plain sight you could potentially work around that issue.

Freelancing from home can be done—and it's definitely one way that people with a few gray hairs remain relevant—but it's a lot easier if you have experience and contacts.

PeterMollenburg wrote:I guess the best thing would be to try and learn some programming myself to simply see what I think if it. Any good French teach yourself programming books you know of emk?

If you're interested in doing web programming, I'd recommend the CodeAcademy Ruby course, which is available in French. Ruby is one of the more popular "backend" languages that's used to write the "server" half of web applications, and it allows you to produce interesting applications very quickly thanks to Ruby on Rails. Lots of companies use it, and its relatively easy find a job at the moment even for novice Ruby on Rails developers.

Many modern web applications also have a piece that runs in the browser. This is normally written in JavaScript. If you want to find out if programming is for you, my recommendation would be:

  1. Do both courses (they're less than 20 hours together).
  2. Try to build a very basic web application that does something like count words in a sentence or conjugate -er verbs. This will involve struggling at first! But if you have the right kind of masochism, you'll enjoy the process of looking up lots of stuff, puzzling it out, and making it work. And then finally, your program will work, and it will feel great, because you'll have overcome all different sorts of obstacles, and you'll have made an actual thing. If your reaction is, "That was actually really fun, in a twisted sort of way," then build something else.
If you enjoy making stuff—and if you enjoy the struggle of making stuff—then it's probably worth continuing to make stuff. If nothing else, it's a fun hobby, and if you keep your eyes open, there are a lot of chances for even non-programmers to write "little" programs that help out at work. Even in medicine, there are lot of doctors who have an idea for some simple office-management software or whatever who would love to work with somebody to build it.

If you enjoy building your first several programs, there are various coding schools out there that are happy to provide an intensive immersion experience. But these tend to be really expensive, and I've seen too many people wind up with a US$20K tuition bill and no job. One exception might be the Recurse Center, which has a selective admission process, but which is free, and which has an online "RC Start" program for novice programmers. This used to be called "Hacker School", and it's a really excellent environment by all accounts. I recommend Julia Evan's day-by-day blog of her experiences there. I'd be happy to interview a Recurse Center graduate, even if their skills were pretty basic when they started. But before looking into something like this, I'd definitely attempt (1) and (2) above.

PeterMollenburg wrote:Thus, the other thing I've considered is freelance translating BUT my French is waaaay too poor, I lack credentials and I haven't exactly taken to reading like a pig in mud.

Unfortunately, nobody wants to hire translators with weak French, or programmers who can't program. In both cases, you need to keep your nose to the grindstone until you reach a certain minimum skill level, and your first job won't necessarily be ideal—you might have to take any job in French, and use that to brush up on your skills, or you might need to find some kind of some kind of basic programming job where you can develop and prove your skills.

The self-help writer Seth Godin wrote a book titled The Dip, about that awkward part in every endeavor when things get hard and there's no obvious way through. I haven't read the book, but I've heard that some people like it, and this part seems relevant:

the-dip.png (113.25 KiB) Viewed 1354 times

Montmorency wrote:Well, those and other programming languages and text editors depend on something called "regular expressions" which is a fascinating subject in itself, and a book I'd like to recommend is Mastering Regular Expressions by Jeffrey Friedl. It's now in its 3rd edition.

If you're interested in writing language-related software, this is an excellent book. It's also massive overkill—everything you need to know about regular expressions could easily be fit into 10 pages—but the editions I've flipped through were excellent.

Xmmm wrote:"The [false] conclusion is ... that programming is somehow fabulously easier to learn than anything else"

Teach Yourself Programming in Ten Years:

This is absolutely true, of course, in same the way that truly mastering a language is the work of a lifetime. But if all you want to do is read books, watch TV and chat with people, you can get by with a few hundred hours of work. Similarly, becoming a truly good senior programmer requires a lot work and a lot of experience—but if all you want to do is build a basic Ruby on Rails app to automate something for your employer, you can muddle your way through even as a novice.

dampingwire wrote:"Programming" is a bit like "medicine" in that there are lots of different types of programmer. Are you planning to work on websites, embedded systems, billing systems? I've worked in networking and embedded systems and thoroughly enjoyed it. I can tell you, however, that at least in the companies I've worked in, you aren't likely to get a foot in the door without some experience.

Another way to get into the field is to build something small and useful for an existing employer. Just as with languages, translators may be a dime-a-dozen (sadly), but people with another valuable skill—such as medicine—who also happen to speak a second language well may be able to find a valuable niche.

At the moment, plenty of employers are still desperate enough for talent that they're willing to hire random "coding-school" graduates who have a couple months of intense experience. I suspect that there a very good chance that this will change sharply in a couple of years, unfortunately, as the late-stage private capital market goes bust and large numbers of startups fail. So I'm reluctant to advise a 40-year-old with no experience to place all their hopes on the field—I remember the last big purge in 2001 when the dotcom bubble collapsed, and there was another rough period before that in the late 80s/early 90s. During these times, it's possible to have several very ugly years, where even impressively experienced senior people may be unable to find a job for 6 months.

But if you love messing around with programs, and if you like building things, then it's possible to weather the worst years, to wait around for the next boom, and to keep your skills cutting edge even as your hair gets grey. :-)
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Re: Does IT/programming facilitate an international lifestyle?

Postby rdearman » Sat Apr 09, 2016 12:50 pm

To be honest, if I was in your situation I would look at becoming a Prince2 certified project manager. Project managers make good money, they can work in any industry although IT seems to have a lot more of them than say construction or other field. Because project management is applicable across a lot of different industries and skills you've probably got a some experience already running projects related to your medical job. You can take the course and the certification for Prince2 online. A person with good organisational skills and a working knowledge of Prince2 is almost worth their weight in gold.

Had a quick look on a job site I've used and they had 24 jobs listed for Project managers or (Chef de projet) in Paris alone. That was in IT, but you can find others soon.
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briefly, back to regular expressions for a moment...

Postby Montmorency » Sat Apr 09, 2016 11:42 pm

Back to regular expressions for a moment...

...there is a tutorial in French here:

(link found here: ... xpressions ).

(Yes, Jeffrey Friedl's book probably is a bit overkill; I think of him as a likeable obsessive. I found his blog a while back and he seemed to have stopped writing about RE's and seemed to be spending a lot of time cycling; much healthier probably).
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Re: Does IT/programming facilitate an international lifestyle?

Postby arthaey » Sun Apr 10, 2016 1:33 am

emk wrote:If you're interested in doing web programming, I'd recommend the CodeAcademy Ruby course, which is available in French.

I already program Ruby professionally... but I'm still working on my French. So this looks like a pretty awesome way of coming at the language-learning issue sideways. I like it. :) Thanks for the suggestion!
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Re: Does IT/programming facilitate an international lifestyle?

Postby aabram » Thu Apr 14, 2016 9:31 am

Are we talking about finding work abroad or working for domestic clients from abroad? These are totally different usecases. In my opinion the latter would be vastly easier because you don't have to leave your network of clients or coworkers behind.

I used to do development work somewhat remotely by contracts. I didn't live abroad at that time, but looking back I couldn't have (thus 'somewhat') even if I wanted because clients insisted on meetings every now and then. Some things are hard to explain remotely, especially for a new project. At times they wanted to show me that "but in my browser it doesn't work! at all! see!" It can work out though depending on the project and I know several programmers or designers who work remotely and just fly back and forth every few months.

I've since moved from my home country twice and kept my clients back home instead of looking for work in destination country. I don't do IT anymore though (just got sick of it, ugh), I'm doing translating and editing and lately a bit of project management-ish stuff as well. I've been lucky enough to have teams that can operate on full speed using just virtual meetings - Skype group calls and Fleep group chat. We use Google Docs, Dropbox etc. I've only been required to fly back for super-super important decision making meetings. Actually, come to think of it, it's not luck, it's picking right people and projects.
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Re: Does IT/programming facilitate an international lifestyle?

Postby jeffers » Tue May 10, 2016 11:07 pm

PM hasn't touched this thread for a couple of weeks, so this ship may have sailed, but I'll mention another good tutorial which is also available in French, as well as German, Dutch and (I think) Lithuanian.

The tutorial is Computer Science Circles,, from Canada. It teaches Python 3 which is a fairly straightforward starter language, and it has a more interesting tutorial method than Codecademy and some other tutorial websites. Each lesson has exercise boxes embedded within the lesson page in which you type answers or write code. The code you write in these pages is run and checked on the website itself. I did find a few of the exercises to be a bit mathematically taxing (I had to dig back and review trigonometry to complete one), but really that's a good thing because it reminds you that programming can be challenging.

Codecademy is probably the best known website for free tutorials, but I don't like the style of the lessons. They tend to have a lot of instructions and then, "type these 2 things and see what happens". However, they do have a lot of tutorials available in French (and Spanish).
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Re: Does IT/programming facilitate an international lifestyle?

Postby Tomás » Thu May 12, 2016 9:52 pm

Anyone studying programming while learning Spanish as a foreign language should check out "Aplicaciones de la Teoría de Grafos a la vida real" on EdX. It's a nice MOOC on graph theory with a Spanish transcription scrolling to the side of the screen as the lecturer speaks.

I am loving Spanish-language MOOCs. For me they are much more engaging than dumb telenovelas. Re this thread, I am currently studying Javascript and R in Spanish (although I have no desire to be a professional programmer).
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