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Career Dilemma

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Hi, I have just started college and am currently studying Maths, Computing and Business Studies, I am starting to think about what career I want in the future. I have shortlisted 4 career options and now I'm stuck on which one to pursue, if anyone is in any of the following options could they please tell me the pro's and con's and whether or not they like it: .: Games Developer (Programmer) .: General Programmer (Non-game related) .: Web Site Designer (MySQL, XML etc.) .: Network Admin (Maintaining networks, network security) .: Computer Forensic Investigator (Tracing hackers, not learnt anything on this ATM) Thanks in Advance TomX PS. I wasn't sure which forum this should have been posted in so I just posted in general.

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Guest Anonymous Poster
Hi, allow me to offer some opinions. Take them as you want, I am not claiming any of it to be the objective truth.

Quote:
Original post by TomX
.: Games Developer (Programmer)


If you like game programming that might be something to pursue. Keep in mind that pay in general is actually lower than for a general programmer who does even boring, easy work - and there is a lot of competition from aspiring game programmers.
Quote:

.: General Programmer (Non-game related)


Might not always be as fun as game programming. Often pays more than game programming. Don't have much else to say.

Quote:

.: Web Site Designer (MySQL, XML etc.)


If that's your cup of tea. I would find it a tad boring, though.

Quote:

.: Network Admin (Maintaining networks, network security)


Decent job, decent pay. Might be a little boring.

Quote:

.: Computer Forensic Investigator (Tracing hackers, not learnt anything on this ATM)


Hunting hackers is probably the rock bottom of all of these if you look at it in terms of "fun". Searching logs for IP addresses day in and day out, looking at hex dumps of hard-drive images - not at all as exciting as it might sound. Don't know if it pays well, though.

Obviously, I have not actually tried all of these jobs, but I know what most of them amount up to. I have enough knowledge of most of them to get at least some kind of job doing each.

As I was typing this, there were no other replies yet. Hope someone has something better to say than me :)

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Thanks for the reply :)

I don't think I could decide what career I wish to pursue at the moment because it's hard to tell what will be needed most in about 6 years time when I'm ready for that job.

I've shortlisted down to three after reading through a few things:

.: Games Programmer - Still here, despite how hard it seems in the industry
.: General Programmer - It's a not so fancy as a Games Programmer job, like a second choice in terms of fun
.: Network Admin - Its here because I like the idea of knowing the computer inside out and making sure it's totally safe.

Thanks for advice, I may just take a generic computing course in university rather than taking the games development course. What's peoples opinions on the above?

Thanks in Advance
TomX

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nice choice of college courses, mine are exactly the same, lets hope they take us somewhere ;)

Without any professional experience in your choices:

Game Developer: Could be a lot of fun, the pay is anywhere from good to marginal, and quite frankly, I would not like to bet that any of the current game genres, platforms, or even industries will still be here in six years. Who knows if it will all return to slot-machine type embedded platforms, only developed by huge firms? (This is a very cynical view, I know, but quite frankly the whole thing seems rather volatile).

Network/Web admin: Good solid job, good pay, work relatively easy, but liable to become tedious (about the the time you install the 10,000th+ security update from microsoft on the entire network).

General Programmer: Another solid choice, payscale seems to vary wildly from the salary of a lead programmed to the wages of an assistant tools programmer, so I suggest very good coding skills for this one, and jobs seem widely available (though not as many as Network Admin).

That said, I am not really knocking game development, it just seems an awfully small industry, with an oversupply of wannabes.

I personally an considering the approach of general coder/net admin as a career, and either joining or starting a small part time game studio (probably producing shareware titles at least in the beginning), if the game dev takes off, just ditch the other job, and (with a little luck) you can have the best of both worlds.

SwiftCoder

[Edited by - swiftcoder on September 19, 2004 5:31:55 AM]

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Quote:

.: Computer Forensic Investigator (Tracing hackers, not learnt anything on this ATM)

Quote:

Hunting hackers is probably the rock bottom of all of these if you look at it in terms of "fun". Searching logs for IP addresses day in and day out, looking at hex dumps of hard-drive images - not at all as exciting as it might sound. Don't know if it pays well, though.


I work for an information security company. I will start off by saying that the work can be tedious, but not boring. The analysis takes a long time, but when you see a pedophile go to jail because of the work you do it is incredibly rewarding.

If you find work with a firm which is worthwhile you will likely have a huge amount of freedom in your job, and you will likely have an accelerated career development cycle.

Some of the highlights of my career in information security:


  • Am allowed as much as 25% of my paid time to spend on projects of my own determination

  • Am teaching components of an information security class at a university despite being a two time university dropout
  • I get paid to hack into computer systems;for someonw like me this essentially allows me to do what I like to odo without the pesky criminal record and lengthy prison sentences

  • If you get good enough you get to work on incredibly *cool* projects. You have to qualify for high enough clearance though, and this means no criminal record, no drug use (you can+will get tested), no real privacy.



Some of the negatives

  • You are in an arms race; you MUST keep learning constantly or you will fail.

  • If you choose a forensics role you will be exposed to some pretty horrible stuff. Make sure that you are prepared for it.

  • If you are in an incident response role then you will have annoying 72 hour days. I.e. You go to the bar Friday night and get a phone call saying to pack a suitcase and report to the airport whereupon you will fly to another city and help rebuild networks, restore backups, oversee reintegration of systems before world+dog finds out that there was a major incident at a large company. Good for networking, bad for relationships, bad if you like sleeping.

  • Every time you present an opinion or idea you will be challenged by every uber-1337 hax0r, computer programmer, systems analyst, CISSP, or anyone remotely convinced of their own expertise. Regardless of how often you are right.

  • People will go out of their way to damage your professional reputation.

  • If called upon to testify in court your reputation, etc must be unquestionable. if something comes up that you forgot about it can be devastating to your career; this happened to a friend of mine.



I love my job ,and I love what I do. I would not give it up, but I also know it is very high stress.

I don't know about others, but my pay is very good. I also have excellent vacation time, and outside of emergency response, my hours and schedule are very flexible.

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Okay, well the new shortlist is:

.: General Programmer - As swiftcoder said game development has a small market and a high supply of workers but general programming has a much bigger market, plus I aren't forced to learn 3D engines :)
.: Network Admin - This seems the most solid one, easiest you may call it, from what I've heard, I'd like to hear about what people think about it from people have been in or are currently in that job.

ChaoticCanuck: Thanks for your view on your job, much appreciated :) Could you tell me how you learnt all what you needed and what courses you took in college?

Thanks in Advance
TomX

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Before you discard the possiblity of becoming a games programmer completely, just something that i think needs clearing up. The belief that there are excessive numbers of games programmer wannabes queued up for every entry-level position is an exaggeration. If anything, when I was job-hunting I found the general junior programmer job market much more saturated. As an example, there were approximately 250 people on my Comp Sci degree at Uni. Of those a maximum of 10 have actually pursued a games programming career, the majority of the rest have gone into general programming. The truth is that given the choice, most junior programmers don't actually want to work in games - they just don't feel the desire.

Of course, this is only based on my experiences on my course, and in the UK games industry as it currently is. In 3-5 years it could all be completely different. :P

OP, I thoroughly enjoy working as a games programmer and would recommend it to anyone with an interest in programming.

Kyle

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Hello,

I believe the trends we are seing are actualy more along a division in the gaming industry. Larger companys will focus on what they can do and others cant, IE big cinimatic like productions filling the traditional template, perhaps with a twist or two, but that is all. Small companies will dominate the "innovation" market, creating skilled new ideas and concepts, and continue to allow expansion in that market. This will continue untill the smaller companies fill up every little niche market. If the niche is big enough, the company will tend to stick with that template, and probably incorporate. So I dont believe that the industry is as volitile persae as it is just mearly changing.

Cheers,
Ricky

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It took me almost exactly a year to get in as a entry-level game programmer in the U.S. ... more if you count the time I spent searching prior to graduation. There are entry-level/junior jobs but they come in batches. This seems to be a pretty incestuous industry so people with experience will probably be given priority over a fresh-out-of-college grad eight or nine times out of ten.

You will probably need a lot on your resume over and above a college degree to get hired. This could obviously change over the time you're in school, but you should still spend your time with hobbyist projects, making demos, etc. to give you a better chance over other applicants if you really want to get in.

It's maybe a lot of work doing demos and things, but if you don't enjoy the work you won't enjoy being a game programmer anyway.

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Guest Anonymous Poster
Well, it is a bit incestuous. Put yourself in the shoes of the guy hiring for a minute though. Would you rather hire an unknown or someone that you or someone you work with knows?

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Hmm, interesting.
BTW, I intended to spark some discussion with that post, and appreciate receiving constructive replys, instead of the usual opinion war.
I agree that there are many game development jobs out there, after all, I didn't say how many of those wannabes knew how to code Hello, World! in c++ :)
And, with a little elbow-grease, who knows where we might all end up?

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Quote:
Original post by TomX

ChaoticCanuck: Thanks for your view on your job, much appreciated :) Could you tell me how you learnt all what you needed and what courses you took in college?

Thanks in Advance
TomX


Officially I am a high-school graduate, who has dropped out of University twice. I completed one (1) university level high school class. I started learning to program when I was 5, wrote my first game when I was 7. Since then I have learned alot ;)

When I was 16 (about 11 years ago) I started learning about "hacking" after an encounter with a real one. This progressed for many years until I realized that I was doing something that was fundamentally wrong (in my particular ethical paradigm). I stopped completely however one of the people that I had taught kept up and eventually got hired at a security firm. He brought me on board for contract work and eventually the owner of the company was sufficiently impressed and hired me full time.

I should note that it is a combination of luck and extremely hard work that got me where I am. You should not plan to follow the path I did!

If you are interested in this path acquire a degree in business such as commerce or an MBA. This way you can acquire a degree that will be more valuable in the industry than a comp sci degree. Take the courses from computer science that you cannot learn on your own as electives.

Write some open source projects and release them, preferably for an operating system *other* than linux. Try really hard to locate flaws in software and follow an ethical approach for reporting them.

Study security (alot) by reading real security books such as The Shell Coders handbook, The handbook of Applied Cryptography, Bruce Schneiers Applied Cryptography, Secure Programming (Viega, McGraw), Official (ISC)2 Guide to the CISSP Exam, etc. Avoid the "learn hacking in (21|7|30) (seconds|days|weeks|months)" books. Study operating system design, memory models, network communications, authentication and credential management. Learn multiple programming languages, especially C, C++, Perl, Java, Visual C#, and Visual Basic. These are the languags you will encounter most frequently. Specialize in one of C or C++, and one of Visual C# and Visual Basic. Make sure you know what POSIX is and a little about it.

Read non-fiction about real computer crimes. Learn about forensics. Studying a little criminology and psychology would be an asset (even if it is not on paper). Learn the criminal code in your area as it pertains to your areas of interest, but also specifically computer crime, child pornography, conspiracy, privacy, disclosure (i.e. responsibilities of victims of crime).

Form relationships with police and lawyers in your area; do volunteer work with them. Get to know them; if you want a career in the field they can be an asset. Get a criminal record check.

This will give you the following:

1. A solid foundation in business; most infosec professionals operate as consultants; being able to understand and explain the issues you are reporting is critical.

2. A background in computer science (not software engineering which is what most universities teach)

3. A beginning to a network of professionals (i.e. police and lawyers) who you will work with for the rest of your life.

Any more questions feel free to drop me an email.

Yvan

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