How do I find a mentor in a field in which I have no background?

I am looking for a mentor in the field of computer programming/network administration.

I was a professional pilot for fifteen years and lost my job 18 months ago. I have a B.S. but that is pretty much what it is so I  went back to school and started taking programming courses. I have academic knowledge of C++ and Java. I am currently studying Linux network administration.

I have no background in computer science or technology. I am drinking from the fire hose, as it were, and teaching myself. I don't want to reinvent the wheel at every step and just need some guidance. I guess I don't know what I don't know. I also don't know what I don't need to know so I might be trying to know it...

I am starting over and fully prepared to do so but I don't have the common core of experience to make sound decisions in this field. I have met with career counselors and they tell me I would be great in sales. Nice to know I have a calling but just not answering my question.

Internships tell me I am too old or have too much experience as a professional (when did that become a negative?). I don't attend school full-time so that disqualifies me from the rest. Entry-level jobs look for years of programming experience and tell me, while I apparently have the one-eye in this particular land of the blind, it is on the wrong side of my head.

I have asked this on Hacker News and StackOverflow but suggestions lean toward languages to study or books to read. All helpful but not relevant. Unless they are and I just don't know enough to recognize it.

Any advice is appreciated.

Kind regards.


maura's picture

To become a pilot you had to do book work and then log a certain amount of time "in the air" with an instructor, right?   Now, in the programming field you've done the book work, but you still need the flight hours before you'll be taken seriously in the field.  You have to show you can actually "land a plane" in the real world before someone's going to pay you to do it.

How about building a shareware program, website, or iPhone app and putting it out here on the interwebs for general use? (Bonus, that's part sales, and even if the career counsellor misread your area of interest, having that skill can come in handy).  How about jumping in and contributing to some open source work using the language or skills you'd like to later use in a paid position? Getting active in the open source world can also help you build your professional network.

Build your reputation by putting out successful, working products, and it will be a lot easier to get your foot in the door. 


mpnikolic's picture

Thank you. I started doing some documentation for open source projects. I am also teaching myself android app development, in order to create something.

Thanks again.

M Nikolic