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Quick background - I work in a bank doing financial modelling where I need to do some domain specific programming, but otherwise it's only statistics and presentations.

Situation - Software has always been my first "love", but due to various circumstances I did not take up a career in the software industry. I have a very good graduate degree in Theoretical Computer Science - so I understand what it means when people talk about traveling salesmen, lambda calculus or whether P=NP (examples). I intend to get into programming full time in the next couple of years.

Chosen path

  1. Get really good at something - I have chosen the HTML5 "ecosystem" comprising HTML, Javascript and CSS. Over the years I have programmed in C, Haskell, Erlang, C++, Javascript, Common Lisp, Basic and Logo but not sufficiently proficient in any of them.
  2. Establish myself as an expert in the community primarily through blogging and participating in projects / forums / events related to the same. Then I can try and establish some freelancing business or convince a startup to hire me.

Questions - Are there any well known examples of people who have taken a similar path after working in a completely unrelated field for years (7, in my case)? Am I completely delusional and two years is too short a time?

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Why you chosen html5 and CSS, if you have background in C++? –  Nikolay Fominyh Jul 27 '12 at 11:19
    
@NikolayFominyh, Because I am not sure C++ has a very good future as a freelancer. At least I have never heard of one, unless you are of the stature of a Linux kernel developer or someone like that. –  Mozan Sykol Jul 27 '12 at 11:31
    
Yes, but you must understand that for HTML5 and CSS you must understand UX and design a little. And you already have experience to be backend developer. Stop this kinder-garden with html and move, move, move! Python, Java, Javascript - you can be cool here. –  Nikolay Fominyh Jul 27 '12 at 11:51
    
@Nikolay: IS it possible to get a freelance job just with python,java,javascript? HTML,CSS,Jquery....these things are mandatory...no? –  Kaushik Mar 28 '13 at 22:08

2 Answers 2

up vote 3 down vote accepted

Is blogging a good platform to get into freelancing from a completely unrelated job?

Yes, but the open source community may be the best platform.

To improve your candidacy for a job in a completely unrelated field, you must demonstrate expertise. It's true: Blogging & Educated Commentary about an unrelated field may demonstrate expertise, but nothing beats working code.

If you managed to either start your own open source project or make meaningful contributions to an existing open source project, then you'd be in the driver's seat. Your resume would signal "expertise" to a prospective employer before you even reached the in-person interview. And when you reached the in-person interview, you could discuss interesting problems that you solved with your code.

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I accepted this answer as it looks the more practical option for me. I am not a big fan of the Open Source community unless there is a strong central control (like the Linux Kernel) AND commitment. But I can start researching on potential projects - or try and write some free apps / games which people like and use. –  Mozan Sykol Jul 27 '12 at 16:34

The web is full of bloggers who share their "expert opinion" on whatever subject, software development included.

Software developers are hired to build working software in a dialogue with their clients/customers/users. Nothing that is ever written in a blog has to work, and everything ever written there is a monologue.

Some experienced developers who're not to bad at writing, share great thoughts. I won't deny that. But what you need is experience to start with, and by that I mean experience in the new field you're about to embark, if that's really where you want to go.

So personally, I suggest just trying to get hired. There's quite a high demand for people with strong theoretical backgrounds, such as yourself. Thinking is much harder to teach than APIs or specific programming concepts. For junior programmers (which is probably a suitable position for you right now), interviews usually have a lot of emphasis on algorithms, and you shouldn't have much trouble with that.

Having freelanced for the most time over the past six years, I would also like to point out, that freelancing entails a lot more than just pure technical skills. So going to a new field and starting to freelance at the same time might be very hard on you. Since you seem to be able to arrange yourself with a regular employment, I think that's what you should be looking for to make your transition.

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+1 for those "expert opinions" :D –  Vain Fellowman Jul 27 '12 at 12:33
    
Extremely good points, but I think it is too late for me to "get hired" as a junior programmer - cultural perceptions in Asia do not help too. Yes, I agree that freelancing is not easy unless your first few clients are friends or you are willing to work for free. –  Mozan Sykol Jul 27 '12 at 16:28
    
@MozanSykol: There's a difference between what you think and what you know. Apply. Taking two years to try to make it as a freelancer is a huge commitment. Taking two hours to file a couple of applications isn't. I really don't know about Asia, but if your profile is half as good as you make it sound, you wouldn't have trouble getting a junior position in Europe/USA, nor to move up the latter after 6-12 months. –  back2dos Jul 27 '12 at 16:40

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