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.
- Do both courses (they're less than 20 hours together).
- 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 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:
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:http://norvig.com/21-days.html
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.