I can't decide which would be a more useful field in
which to gain skills to be more competitive in my job
hunt...computers/IT or electronics. I like both, so
which would be best for me?
Computers and Information Technology
Something in IT would be a nice complement to my existing
skillset. I've been working on the software end for
a while, though I have some interests at the hardware
I've been doing web design since 1999; that's over
10 years now. I enjoy the visual element of placing
things on the screen, laying things out just right,
and working with soothing colors and images. You can
check out my design
portfolio for some examples of my work.
I haven't been doing this much since there is one big
thing missing from pure web design, and that's the science/research
aspect. Clients come from all different fields, not
necessarily science, and thus it becomes difficult to
develop content when I don't have a good understanding
of their field. It is possible to do, just not preferable
when I have a scientific background and want to be doing
science in some way.
Also, pure web design jobs are extremely difficult
to find. Almost every position involving web design
is actually for web development, and the list of languages
that one is required to have experience in is far greater
than mine. So even if I did want to do pure web design,
there are no jobs.
Web Development and Computer
I've thought about increasing my skills as a web developer.
not yet proficient at writing my own code as I am with
I have experience with C++, Java, and some Python and
Visual Basic. I like the satisfaction when my code is
working, and I love the idea of making computers do
new things. I'm not sure if I would rather work with
non-web vs. web-based applications, which would dictate
which set of programming languages I should concentrate
on. However, I'm trying to decide whether I should concentrate
on them at all.
My main operating styles are the following:
- to compile huge amounts of information about something
and summarize it in some way (i.e. research), or
- to change something and observe what happens (i.e.
It is more of a stretch for me to take a problem and
envision a full-blown solution to it (i.e. problem-solving
in programming). I solve complex problems through trying
something, seeing how close I am to the solution, then
making a change and seeing how much closer I am (i.e.
experimentation). A programmer seems to be able to envision
the big picture of code, filling in the details as time
passes. I can do that too, but it's much more automatic
for me to start with a set of details, and find some
description that summarizes them (i.e. research).
My local community college, Durham Tech, offers a 2-year
degree in computer programming. It would provide
some useful skills, even if I find a job before then.
They also have a degree
in Web Technologies, but I don't think it will be
as useful to me coming from a web design background
Working with Electronics
If I knew more about electronics, I'd get my computer
to do even cooler things. Like working on human-computer
interfaces, or having my computer remotely control my
house. Such a backlog of ideas and no time.
My whole experience with electronics comes from working
at HiViz.com. I assemble flash trigger circuits for
high-speed photography, solder cables, perform testing/troubleshooting
of circuits and cables, and package everything up for
shipping. However, I've often wanted to be able to design
circuits from scratch (i.e. electrical/electronics engineering)
or to take any broken piece of electronic equipment
and be able to fix it.
The following two degrees from Durham Tech would give
me some hands-on, practical experience with circuitry
at very low cost.
If I had more money to spend, there's the following:
of Engineering (NC State) - an online program
that is the only local program in engineering whose
prerequisites I meet. I could do courses in electrical
and computer engineering, or even try some in mechanical
engineering where I could get some exposure to fluid
That's it, 2 years for a hands-on AAS or 2 years for
a virtual Master of Engineering. If I did the latter,
I'd have two master's degrees but would I have the experience
to design/troubleshoot my own circuits? On the other
hand, I could get more exposure to computer science
while learning electrical engineering.
Conclusion - What's Right For
Nothing beats solar power! It's what I'm doing right
now, and alternative energy will be a good compliment
to my M.S. in Ecology. I'll be taking some classes in
Electrical/Electronics Technology from Durham Tech anyhow
in 2011, so it looks like I won't be choosing between
computers and electronics after all. The solar field
is where I'll be headed, which will require electrical
knowledge, something different altogether.