So, I graduated with a BSBA in Management Information Systems with honors almost 2 years ago which is more of a business degree. As of right now, I do have a job title of "Programmer", but it's more of a report writing position in an arbitrary, proprietary language called PowerOn with the occasional interesting project using more mainstream technologies like .Net and Java. I am also somewhat isoloated being the only programmer in the workplace, which I beleive is a detriment to my career path. The only people I have to bounce ideas against are those on the various SE sites.

I don't regret going MIS, but over the past couple of years I have discovered my passion for coding, even though I have been doing some form of coding profesionally and as an enthusiast for years. I do want to persue my Masters in CS (at a later time), but I am not sure if I necessarily need a CS degree to get in with a team of programmers. In addition, I do have a number classes I have taken for different laguanges on the way (C++, Java, SQL, and VB.Net) I beleive my strength is in problem solving where code is just a tool to tackling to problem if needed.

My question: How do I best sell myself as a programmer? Should I continue pounding out reports and wait till I have my masters in CS? Or am I viable to be a programmer as I stand?

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    This is very likely to be closed as being to localized. It sounds like you really do need actual working experience in other programming languages before you make up your mind up your future educational goals. Furthermore I wouldn't considering PowerOn a programming language. – Ramhound Sep 11 '12 at 14:29
  • @Ramhound PowerOn is much like SQL becuase it's a DB query language. I had to learn it on the fly, it is core to a financial company I am working for, and there a couple of products/services that we provide to several thousand customers developed in that 'language'. Should I still dismiss PowerOn in my experience? – Chad Harrison Sep 11 '12 at 14:45
  • @hydroparadise If I can chime in, it's probably safe to say that most teams wouldn't hire somebody who only knows a DB querying language. It's important to know one, but it won't expose you to a lot of other aspects of software development. – KChaloux Sep 11 '12 at 14:51
  • I think this question just got saved. Even though the question is pretty narrow, I beleive the answers given can be widely applied for people who have different flavors on my problem. – Chad Harrison Sep 11 '12 at 15:35
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    I don't think a CS masters is a good investment, especially if you're going to go into student loan debt to do it and not attending a top 10 university. You would have a better ROI with your money by investing it properly in a secondary income stream, such as real estate or stocks. – jfrankcarr Sep 11 '12 at 17:21

How do I best sell myself as a programmer? Should I continue pounding out reports and wait till I have my masters in CS?

Start with your resume and reflect projects that you have accomplished. Creating your own little projects, creating new things everyday would help you gain confidence and hand-on practice. Your report building skills might also be useful, so include them as well.

You may present your MIS degree as the way would wanted better understand how IT and software development should be organized and worked.

Even-though you are a lonely programmer, you may get up-to speed on what skills are in demand for programmers. I would recommend to attend local community events to help with that. You may find some of these groups in communitymegaphone.com.

Talk with your local buddy programmers, they are mostly good people who would not mind to help a college.

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If you want to sell yourself as a programmer, program something. Something you can share. Then you'll have something concrete to demonstrate your ability to do the job.

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I feel your pain. I went through the same discovery process over this decision and decided to write about it- hoping to connect with like-minded people.

I have taken a semester off to study web development (technical) and returned to Commerce to major in MIS. Having the perspective and experience with real life software development has provided me with a extremely real appreciation for all those charts you learn doing MIS. This stuff is super powerful.

I think you will find yourself in very high demand in any new venture / tech startup company if not in a larger firm. Look for 'incubators' and 'accelerators' in your community and they will connect you with people that are thirsting for your perspective and skills.


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While more experience with mainstream languages will certainly help you get a programming job with a team of other programmers, it should not be necessary to complete a Masters in CS first. Some companies may have a hard requirement that you have a CS degree of some variety, but experience and the ability to learn will count for a lot.

For the past few years, at career fairs my employer has been advertising that they are specifically looking for CS majors. While I was in college, a lot of other companies did this as well. I don't actually have a CS major, though. I also graduated with MIS major, and a CS minor. I had an internship in the past, and was able to show them that I had the ability to program.

While you aren't really in the position to do an internship now, the same principle applies - if you show that you can program, companies will be more willing to hire you as a programmer. As many others have said here, the best way is to just program. Since you rarely get to use mainstream languages in your job, try writing some programs of your own. Or better, see if there is an open source project your could contribute to - that has the added advantage that some employers may check github or other such sites for examples of people's coding (or at least that is the impression I have gotten).

You mentioned that you are isolated in your current position. Try checking if there are any user groups in your area. That would give you more exposure to other programmers, which helps spark ideas and enthusiasm.

If you sell yourself well, though, you have all the tools you need to start looking for a programming job now. You said you believe your strength is problem solving, and code is just a tool. There will always be new languages to learn - it is harder to learn how to troubleshoot issues. Because of your MIS degree, you may have a wider perspective on business than programmers who are more narrowly focused on code. If you haven't seen it before, you might want to take a look at Patrick McKenzie's article "Don't Call Yourself A Programmer, And Other Career Advice". There are a number of relevant points in that article. One is general good advice - your resume should show how you have created value for your former/current employers (highlighting how you can create value for your potential employer), and the broader business knowledge from an MIS degree can help here.

In short, go for it now. Showing potential employers that you have programming ability and are quick to learn will do as much good as having a degree to wave around.

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You have a degree with honors - you have proved that you are not a twit and can learn. You also have skills sadly lacking in many companies. How I would approach this is fill in my resume, and start applying for junior programmer jobs.

While waiting, read up on a language that is most commonly advertised in your town - usually Java or C#, and start coding something useful in it. Ideally find something at work that needs to be done and do that.

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