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CPA to IT

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CPA to IT

CPAGuy
Everyone -

I would like honest advice as to the plausibility of making a career change, at 38, from public tax accounting to IT. I am a licensed CPA and have been trained in tax accounting since the beginning of my career, but am at this point burned out and have voluntarily been unemployed for a few months now.

Fortunately, I am in the position to be able to self-study, for maybe a year, and am considering either A) studying a relevant programming language such as C++, or B) studying a relevant network certification course such as CCNA. While a year is not a terribly long time, I plan to spend a minimum of 40 hours per week, and possibly more, training myself in the new field. If I choose to do programming, then I will begin to contribute to open source projects as soon as I have acquired the basic skill level to do so. If I choose networking, I will do my best to find an internship or otherwise non-paid position to gain relevant experience; alternatively, and secondarily, I will do as much hands-on "at home" network building and trouble shooting. Of course, I recognize there will be a considerable difference in the type of hardware I can get my hands on at home as opposed to the actual Cisco hardware I would work on in a live office environment.

I would like to know the feasibility of my idea from any experienced IT professionals on this board. Questions to consider are as follows:

1) Is a 4 year college degree in accounting, and CPA license, further supplemented by programming/networking certifications, and very limited experience, enough to get me in the door of the IT job world? I understand that a 4 year degree in IT would be best, but finances and time are not on my side. Furthermore, if I consider the masters route, the preparatory electives to get ready for school, coupled with the further time of the degree program, and expense, make the endeavour virtually impossible (It is possible that I could pursue this, on-the-job, as a mid-life career enhancement, however.).

2) Which path would you choose? I have limited experience in C programming now, and I know I have the skill-set to be good at it. I have no networking experience besides building networks at home. It seems from the job boards that programming jobs are more abundant, but I have also read that most people don't want to be "code monkeys" at 50; and that is a much more real consideration for me at age 38. It also seems that a networking job would ultimately be a more "relaxing" and a somewhat "easier" career; however, I am in no way implying that a skilled network or system administrator is unintelligent or unlearned - I am merely emphasizing that the demand of having to spend 40 hours a week in code, for the rest of one's working career, as opposed to what appears to be a more flexible work environment in networking (e.g., interacting with internal clients; various types of networking projects; not thinking in terms of code constantly; in a smaller office environment, once the network is up and running, some of an IT person's time may be spent in "maintenance mode" which could translate, honestly, in to more "free time" on the job), seems to be a tad more stressful.

3) If programming is chosen, what are your best recommendations to prepare oneself from a self-study standpoint (e.g., which language to study; which projects to work on; etc.)? Alternatively, if networking is chosen, what is the best way to approach preparation for that (e.g., which certifications; in what order; etc.)?

Finally, it has been my observation in CPA office environments that there is usually one IT guy, one firm bookkeeper, and one firm manager. If all else fails, and I am unable to really break into IT in the purist sense possible, it may very well be that I could go to work for a smaller firm and sell myself as a three-in-one employee. Obviously, I have the necessary training to handle the firm's books and to generally manage the day-to-day administrative tasks, and with a network certification such as MCSE I could sell myself as having the necessary networking capabilities. Again, I do hope I can break into a purely IT role but this could be a fall back position if I am unable to get there, or if I get there and get burned out on the job (e.g., programming for example).

Thank you for taking time to read this lengthy posting, and for any thoughtful replies.

CPAGuy
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    OurITLady

    I can't speak about the programming side, but I can give you some limited insight into the networking side. I'm a "jack of all trades" which does include a fair amount of networking and the last thing I'd call it is flexible or relaxed. The reality is that a significant amount of the implementation and changes you make must be done out of hours, so if you are wanting a standard Mon-Fri, 9-5 career then networking is definitely not the way to go. I can also say I get a very limited amount of maintenance time, I've never worked anywhere that has enough staff to cover properly which means you often spend more time fire-fighting rather than maintaining (which is self-defeating since if you got chance to maintain there'd be less fires). It's can be difficult to break directly into networking, most of the people I know who do network admin full time worked their way through the some sort of support role, gained experience working with existing network admins and then managed to transition into that department. From your comment about MCSE it also depends on whether you mean network admin or systems admin (MCSE would be more systems or server admin), for network admin you'd be better off taking some form of Cisco certification - but both of those are unlikely to get you into the admin role immediately For either systems/server admin or network admin you'd probably still need to pay your dues in some form of helpdesk or support role as most managers don't like employing someone with no industry experience, for most experience trumps certs (the certs help prove experience to some but you can check out some of the other discussions on the site for more general opinions on certs vs experience, there's plenty of them on this site alone).

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    CPAGuy

    Thank you for providing a glimpse into your work day. Also, you have confirmed my suspicion about having to work one's way into an admin role. I will read up on the more general discussions about cert vs. experience, as you suggested. Thank you again.

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    CharlieSpencer

    "Is a 4 year college degree in accounting, and CPA license, further supplemented by programming/networking certifications, and very limited experience, enough to get me in the door of the IT job world?"

    That depends on where you want to work. It would probably be enough to get you in the door in a financial firm. I've found that an understanding of what a company does is often at least as important as IT skills.

    On the other hand, if you're completely burned out on all forms of bean counting, then it may not be enough. You'll be ahead of those people with just certificates and no degree, but behind those with IT degrees or those with substantial IT experience.

    Search around here at TR; there are several recent articles on current and projected marketable IT skills. OurITLady's advice is excellent. There are so many aspects of IT now that there's no reason to move into a field you don't enjoy. That's what you're running from now, isn't it?

    Good luck.

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    keshky

    I just joined this forum to give you a hand,(would you accept it :D), one thing i learned know a thing about every thing and know every thing about a thing (means you have to know a little about programming, networking, Databases, and web.... but to have a deep knowledge in the field you want to take as your career).

    If my words gave you depression that means i missed to say you some thing, you have to draw your route to reach your goal, i think you have the needed motivation to reach it.

    I want to help you would you please add me on Facebook and we could prepare a video conference on Skype to talk to each other my Account is :(https://www.facebook.com/MahmoudGamaaal) waiting for your message.

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    Clendanielc

    Hi CPAGuy:

    First off I want to say kudos in considering moving or at least acquiring skills in the IT industry. Especially at the age of 38. Many people find it hard to self teach themselves a new set of skills after they've done something for many years. Kudos to you!

    I recently came from a small service bureau where I was the one man IT Guy. They had a niche market providing household payroll to household employers. Their big referral partners were CPA's.

    The reason I bring this up is because you could fit into this niche market. There are "special" programs that this small market uses to provide payroll provider type of service. The only problem that this market has is that the business is large enough to need a IT Guy but too small to afford a full-time let alone a part-time one. What do they do? They usually use a third party consultant for big type of projects or they usually have someone with tech savyness to fix IT issues. It's usually someone in customer service.

    Though many would say this would be a bad position for you since you have little skills and no experience, but I think it would be perfect fit for you. Majority of the time you would be doing CPA stuff and a small portion of time to help desk. This small niche is growing since businesses are looking to go for local businesses than a business that is out of state. I know at least 40 - 50 small businesses that need a full-time IT Guy but can't afford one. However, they would be willing to hire a CPA / IT Guy full-time.

    Take this in consideration when making this type of move. When you get into the 'IT Admin' realm or be the only IT Guy, you have agreed to an unwritten oath that many of us would wish we could change the fine print. I'm talking about 24/7 thing. When you become that guy, everyone assumes that you are available 24x7x365. It doesn't matter if its Christmas or your birthday. If the systems go down, its your responsibility to get it up and running.

    The other part of the responsibility is keeping up with technology. You looked in the right place for that. TechRepublic is by far the best for news and discussions on existing and new technology coming out. Sign up for alerts and read as many articles as you can. Depending on the size of the organization you are in, you are going to be facing with a wide variety of technology.

    There are many other unwritten oaths when it comes to becoming a IT Professional. I couldn't list them all if you asked me to. That would probably be a good discussion thread to start.

    Good Luck in your journeys!

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    0 Votes
    OurITLady

    I can't speak about the programming side, but I can give you some limited insight into the networking side. I'm a "jack of all trades" which does include a fair amount of networking and the last thing I'd call it is flexible or relaxed. The reality is that a significant amount of the implementation and changes you make must be done out of hours, so if you are wanting a standard Mon-Fri, 9-5 career then networking is definitely not the way to go. I can also say I get a very limited amount of maintenance time, I've never worked anywhere that has enough staff to cover properly which means you often spend more time fire-fighting rather than maintaining (which is self-defeating since if you got chance to maintain there'd be less fires). It's can be difficult to break directly into networking, most of the people I know who do network admin full time worked their way through the some sort of support role, gained experience working with existing network admins and then managed to transition into that department. From your comment about MCSE it also depends on whether you mean network admin or systems admin (MCSE would be more systems or server admin), for network admin you'd be better off taking some form of Cisco certification - but both of those are unlikely to get you into the admin role immediately For either systems/server admin or network admin you'd probably still need to pay your dues in some form of helpdesk or support role as most managers don't like employing someone with no industry experience, for most experience trumps certs (the certs help prove experience to some but you can check out some of the other discussions on the site for more general opinions on certs vs experience, there's plenty of them on this site alone).

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    0 Votes
    CPAGuy

    Thank you for providing a glimpse into your work day. Also, you have confirmed my suspicion about having to work one's way into an admin role. I will read up on the more general discussions about cert vs. experience, as you suggested. Thank you again.

    +
    0 Votes
    CharlieSpencer

    "Is a 4 year college degree in accounting, and CPA license, further supplemented by programming/networking certifications, and very limited experience, enough to get me in the door of the IT job world?"

    That depends on where you want to work. It would probably be enough to get you in the door in a financial firm. I've found that an understanding of what a company does is often at least as important as IT skills.

    On the other hand, if you're completely burned out on all forms of bean counting, then it may not be enough. You'll be ahead of those people with just certificates and no degree, but behind those with IT degrees or those with substantial IT experience.

    Search around here at TR; there are several recent articles on current and projected marketable IT skills. OurITLady's advice is excellent. There are so many aspects of IT now that there's no reason to move into a field you don't enjoy. That's what you're running from now, isn't it?

    Good luck.

    +
    0 Votes
    keshky

    I just joined this forum to give you a hand,(would you accept it :D), one thing i learned know a thing about every thing and know every thing about a thing (means you have to know a little about programming, networking, Databases, and web.... but to have a deep knowledge in the field you want to take as your career).

    If my words gave you depression that means i missed to say you some thing, you have to draw your route to reach your goal, i think you have the needed motivation to reach it.

    I want to help you would you please add me on Facebook and we could prepare a video conference on Skype to talk to each other my Account is :(https://www.facebook.com/MahmoudGamaaal) waiting for your message.

    +
    0 Votes
    Clendanielc

    Hi CPAGuy:

    First off I want to say kudos in considering moving or at least acquiring skills in the IT industry. Especially at the age of 38. Many people find it hard to self teach themselves a new set of skills after they've done something for many years. Kudos to you!

    I recently came from a small service bureau where I was the one man IT Guy. They had a niche market providing household payroll to household employers. Their big referral partners were CPA's.

    The reason I bring this up is because you could fit into this niche market. There are "special" programs that this small market uses to provide payroll provider type of service. The only problem that this market has is that the business is large enough to need a IT Guy but too small to afford a full-time let alone a part-time one. What do they do? They usually use a third party consultant for big type of projects or they usually have someone with tech savyness to fix IT issues. It's usually someone in customer service.

    Though many would say this would be a bad position for you since you have little skills and no experience, but I think it would be perfect fit for you. Majority of the time you would be doing CPA stuff and a small portion of time to help desk. This small niche is growing since businesses are looking to go for local businesses than a business that is out of state. I know at least 40 - 50 small businesses that need a full-time IT Guy but can't afford one. However, they would be willing to hire a CPA / IT Guy full-time.

    Take this in consideration when making this type of move. When you get into the 'IT Admin' realm or be the only IT Guy, you have agreed to an unwritten oath that many of us would wish we could change the fine print. I'm talking about 24/7 thing. When you become that guy, everyone assumes that you are available 24x7x365. It doesn't matter if its Christmas or your birthday. If the systems go down, its your responsibility to get it up and running.

    The other part of the responsibility is keeping up with technology. You looked in the right place for that. TechRepublic is by far the best for news and discussions on existing and new technology coming out. Sign up for alerts and read as many articles as you can. Depending on the size of the organization you are in, you are going to be facing with a wide variety of technology.

    There are many other unwritten oaths when it comes to becoming a IT Professional. I couldn't list them all if you asked me to. That would probably be a good discussion thread to start.

    Good Luck in your journeys!