Entering tech at 40. What's my best option?

New ftdY12
Oct 9 28 Comments

I'm retiring from the Navy (submarine officer) in a few months, and am about to finish up with my Masters in Data Science from JHU. I have an old BS in Computer Science, and another Masters in Eng Mgmt (Old Dominion). I am looking at a few different options and want to know how I should best spend my last 4 months in the Navy preparing for the transition.

My potential options:

1) Senior Program Manager cleared role with Azure. I'm not entirely sure if I would classify it as a tech role though. I think it's more PM, but the people I spoke to about the job said I would need to understand cloud architecture (which I do). I estimate the TC would be around 180-220k in Seattle.

2) Software Dev Role (probably entry level). I've been doing leetcode problems for a few months now, and am pretty confident I would do alright at an interview. I have a pretty strong work ethic, and believe that I would eventually be good at this sort of thing. I'm guessing my TC would be somewhere around new grad levels (~160k in Seattle?)

3) Some derivative of software development. For example, a Microsoft recruiter has said I would be very competitive for an cleared SRE role with either the O365 or Azure teams. I think the TC would be somewhere between 160-180k.

4) Another contact at Microsoft said I would be competitive for some sort of hardware PM role. He did say that these jobs were kind of a grind, but that they were fun and involved lots of travel.

Despite having a Masters in DS, I am ruling out any ML/AI/DS jobs from the start. I think most of my education has been theoretically based, and am not confident I would do well in this field considering that I don't have a PHD, and don't have any real experience. It's not that I don't like it; I just feel there are so many better candidates out there and that I wouldn't be as competitive.

So what I'm thinking right now is that I should try and land the cleared position at Microsoft doing PM. I've almost finished with my PMP, and the work sounds like something I would be good at right from the start. But I think I would be happier with dev work, just not sure how many years I'd have to put into it before hitting the same TC I would start at with the PM job. If I were going to go the dev route, I would apply for something like the Amazon Engineering Apprenticeship program, or do the HackReactor bootcamp in Seattle while on terminal leave (there is a class starting in mid-February that lines up nicely).

If my goal is just max TC over the next 5 years, what role do you think would be my best bet? Would a short term sacrifice of 3-4 months in a boot camp or 9-12 month apprenticeship be worth it in the long run? Is there some other position that I should be looking at? Some other certification (CISP or CCSP maybe)? Are there TPM roles that I would be competitive for that involve both PM and development?

Sorry for the long rant. Thanks for reading this far, and thanks for any advice you can offer!

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TOP 28 Comments
  • Oracle albumiafu
    Thanks for your service
    Oct 9 4
  • New zFCU53
    Interesting background, I would go into management and try to quickly move up a few ranks. Use your military leadership skills and you’ll stand shoulders above most “leaders” in tech
    Oct 9 2
    • New ftdY12
      OP
      Thanks for the advice. I'm a bit hesitant about leadership positions when I don't have any real experience to speak of with tech. What is an example position for a management role?
      Oct 9
    • New zFCU53
      Engineer manager, data science manager, I think those places are good places to start, good comp and growth. PM Could work, if you like politics more than leader ship
      Oct 9
  • Avanade / Product 1l1l
    How do you think you can lead teams O365 or azure or any other tech without any tech experience?
    Oct 9 2
    • Qualtrics / Other bjmnnushmt
      There is a bit of tech on nuclear subs
      Oct 9
    • New ftdY12
      OP
      Sorry, I didn't mean to imply I was leading anyone on those teams. The SRE role was a team member position, not a management. The PM role is also not a manager/leadership role (to my knowledge).
      Oct 9
  • Microsoft 2ws6rb
    Microsoft is very short staffed on cleared resources for azure. Look at Reston area
    Oct 9 5
    • New ftdY12
      OP
      Thanks! I am very excited about the cleared positions at AWS and Microsoft (prefer Microsoft to be honest). Only issue is I have never taken a polygraph. I have a TS/SCI, but have never been administered a poly. I would pass one, just that employers have to take a risk not knowing I'm cleared. My security office has told me to pack sand and that they don't just recommend polygraphs for people without a job attached to it (and civilian job doesn't count as far as they're concerned).
      Oct 9
    • Microsoft 2ws6rb
      There are no absolutes but if you were forward about the desire to take on cleared work, you would get a sponsorship
      Oct 9
    • Microsoft australig
      What is cleared resources?
      Oct 9
    • New ftdY12
      OP
      Hey Australig. By cleared he/she means jobs that require a govt security clearance
      Oct 9
    • Microsoft australig
      Anyone with US Citizenship can get that government security clearance, right?
      Oct 9
  • Qualtrics / Other bjmnnushmt
    I lead our veterans group at Qualtrics and would love to chat about roles at Qualtrics if you're open to Seattle, or Utah.

    Usually I would say you can do anything non technical like program/operations. That said you could be a fit for tech program manager or engineering Management if you have done some coding.
    Oct 9 1
    • New ftdY12
      OP
      Sweet, thanks! I'll drop you a line now!
      Oct 9
  • Tableau rPTF00
    MSFT likes hiring vets and you’ll do well there comp wise. Ping me if you’re interested in Tableau given your data science background.
    Oct 9 4
    • Axtria racers
      Are you open to referring other people too?
      Oct 9
    • Tableau rPTF00
      Yup, if you’re awesome ;) DM me and we can connect about what you’re looking for, etc.
      Oct 9
    • New ftdY12
      OP
      Awesome. Very interested!
      Oct 9
    • Axtria racers
      Is it's hiring same as Salesforce, or has it been retained as a separate entity? I ask so because I applied to Salesforce few days ago.
      Oct 10
  • I’d say option 1 is the best fit. It may sound nice to do a boot camp, but I met many such boot campers who found early on that it wasn’t their interest and they basically checked but continued to do the bare minimum in order to collect GI bill benefits.

    I would say go for option 1 and do the boot camp as the last resort backup.
    Oct 9 1
    • New ftdY12
      OP
      Aye, pretty much what I am thinking as well. Appreciate the feedback on bootcamps!
      Oct 9
  • Google / Ops Huhf13
    Data centers. Huge number of ex nukes in Microsoft, Google, FB, Amazon data centers.
    Nov 3 0
  • Chase / IT jedibong
    Both JPMC and RBC have specialized programs for Veterans.. and lot of Vets have risen quickly enough in program management roles.. given that you are good in tech/ML it would be even easier.. apply to those companies as well.. JPMC is hiring in Seattle.. Bay area apart from the usual NYC and Dallas
    Oct 9 0

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