How to break into IT without a computer science degree?

This is based on my experience. In 1999 I made a career change from being a mechanical engineer to a Java developer. It was much easier then because it was the "Dot com boom" time and if you knew the mainstream language fundamentals, basic SQL, and HTTP basics with how to write a simple web application, you can easily bag a job. That is how I transitioned within 9 months by self-studying "Beginning Java" by Ivor Horton and a Servlet programming book for writing web applications. Now a days, it is much more competitive, and can take more than 15 months.

What do you need to know?

  1. A mainstream programming language of your choice like Java, C++, C#, PHP, etc.
  2. HTTP paradigm knowledge and an enterprise web development framework like JEE, .NET, Rails framework, etc.
  3. RESTful and SOAP web services knowledge and experience.
  4. HTML(5), CSS(3), and JavaScript to build rich internet applications.
  5. sought-after frameworks and tools relevant to your mainstream  language -- development and build tools.
  6. SQL language to query the database and regular expression to match patterns in text.
  7. XML and JSON to transfer data between disparate systems.  
  8. Scripting languages like Shell, Ruby, Python, etc.

How would you go about acquiring the skills & experience?

The key is to to get hands-on experience along with good working knowledge. Don't get too hung up on getting certified.  Some professionals do stigmatize those who expend too much time on academic qualifications as opposed to hands-on experience. So, your focus must be on 

  1. learning the basics via good books, blogs, and articles
  2. applying the basics by writing code via good tutorials
  3. starting self-taught projects and expanding on them with sought-after frameworks and tools.
  4. uploading your project to Git hub 
  5. blogging about your experience
  6. contributing to open-source projects with a view to learning and expanding your horizons
  7. contributing your skills on a voluntary basis -- start with charity and community projects
  8. adding your hands-on experience to your resume and online portfolio with the links to your work in Git hub and your blog articles that share your experience.

Where do you research what to learn, how popular it is, etc?
  1. Industry sites like,, etc where industry experts provide some insights.
  2. Online job advertisements to see what the the prospective employers are looking for.
  3. to look for the trends. For example, type "Java", "C#", etc.
  4. and select your mainstream language. GitHub is a social coding website and source-code hosting service that uses Git as its version control system. Launched in 2008, GitHub already boasts nearly 1.7 million people hosting nearly 3 million repositories. Like most social networks, GitHub allows users to create and follow feeds associated with each other's projects.
  5. TIOBE index, and search for programming languages.

What tips do you give to break into IT?

  1. Good technical skills must be complemented with good soft skills like communication, problem solving, and analytic skills and right attitude like "I can do", "I am part of a team", "motivated to learn", etc without being negative or having "I know it all"
  2. Good resume writing, interviewing, networking and overall job hunting skills.
  3. Shifting  your mindset from acquiring certificates to gaining the much needed hands on experience and sharing your skills & experience via social networking like Git Hub, blogging, Facebook, Google+, etc and resume.  
  4. Be realistic – Your 6-9 months of self-study is not likely to get you the dream job, and also be willing to start towards the bottom end of the pay, but within 2 years you can fast track your career. 
  5. Getting a good handle on the 16 technical key areas and applying them to solve business and technical challenges.
  6. Make getting good hands-on experience in sought-after technologies/frameworks and 16 technical key areas your #1 job search or career fast-tracking criteria.

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