An acquaintance and a friend called recently. We used to catch up in-person, but those times seem like so long ago. After some catching up and chitchat the conversation drifted into a desire to switch from making a living as a salesperson to a technical programming role.
The discussion was ‘is it wise to switch to a technical role?’
This is always a tough question to answer. It is doubly difficult when someone is putting food on the table and is gainfully employed as a salesperson.
My generic answer, of course, is that a life spent not pursuing what you really want to do is a life wasted. That is simplistic perhaps, but absolutely true. Secondly, the old adage that you won’t do a good job if your heart is not into it probably applies too. The opposite may also stand. You will do a good job if you have a passion for your work programming.
Either way, kudos for the introspective question and honesty to explore a more desirable life.
With that said, past the above, here is my advice:
Firstly, do you have the skills to be competitive? Are you as good as the average next person out there with whom you have to compete? If not, do you have the time and financial wherewithal to get there? There are plenty of courses and programs out there if you are not where you need to be today.
Secondly, writing and applying software, as well as changing careers, require both someone to sell the application to users and explain the career change respectively to buyers and employers. Taken as such, the sales experience becomes a useful skill (again). Moreover, the best programmers have business and people acumen and can speak to and understand that aspect of technology as well. It is likely that a (former) salesperson could tick that box.
Every business has a lifecycle requiring someone to build something (an engineer or, in this case, a programmer), someone to sell it and someone to account for and keep track of both sides of the ledger i.e. revenue and expenditures. In the context of these needs, one could make a more rational decision.
Individual circumstances vary and one size does not fit all, but the above should be a good starting point. What do you think?
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