I am trying to change career from a very narrow field of IT (GIS) into mainstream IT. I have done a course in writing ANSI C programs as part of an MSc in GIS, but a large amount of my programming experience is in proprietary languages of specific GIS software. These have introduced me to object oriented concepts but clearly this is no substitute for being able to write Visual Basic or C++ code. I have been trying to think of ways to gain entry into a programming career. What do you suggest?
One step back, two steps forward
To get a Visual Basic or C++ programming position, most applicants will need at least six months' commercial experience of that software.
If this is the area in which you wish to specialise, I suggest you take a long-term view and look for a permanent role. This can then be used as a platform to move into a more lucrative contract career.
There are fewer barriers to entering permanent jobs, and it is not uncommon for applicants to obtain Visual Basic/C++ roles without experience. For example, you might find that the defence industry would employ someone with your skills, or perhaps you could consider software houses and consultancies that have some connection with this area - start off on GIS, with the understanding you will be trained up and moved into other areas.
Such roles tend to be of graduate level, but, looking at your details, a higher level of entry would not be out of the question. In conjunction with a permanent role, training and evening classes in programming would be very beneficial and would speed up progress to a contracting career. Most employers would look at this "self-teaching" and your enthusiasm very favourably.
As is often the case it is well worth taking one step back to move two steps forward.
Solution by Tom O'Shea, divisional director, MSB International
The panel: Apex, MSB International, Best International Group, Computer Futures, Computer People, Elan, E-skills NTO, Monarch Recruitment, Reed Computing, Prince Training