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How to Prepare for Software Managment Training Program?

What are some good ways to prepare for applying to Fogcreek's Software Management Training Program?

When I read about the program yesterday, I was very excited about it. It sounds like job preparation for a career I would really enjoy. However, I don't really feel prepared to apply at the moment. I feel I need to write some specs, design some GUIs, take on more management duties at work, and read some books on the reading list in order to have a competitive advantage.

It would really help if there were profiles of real graduates of the program, what their qualifications were, and what they're doing now. This way, I could get a real feel for if this career path is right for me and what I need to do to prepare.

Here's some relevant background on where I am coming from and where I am now:

I was initially an English major in college. In my second year, I switched to CS and learned basic programming. However, I learned through this experience that although programming was fun, I didn't see myself as a programmer after I graduated. I was much more interested in HCI, UI design, usability testing, software design, writing documentation, and so on. I also minored in business and learned some valuable skills there, particularly in management.

During my fourth year of college, my parents told me that I had to graduate within 5 years total or they wouldn't financially support me anymore. At that time, I was set to graduate within 6 years with a CS degree. So, to my chagrin, I found myself graduating with an English degree. Now I am working in sales at a big-name retailer, among other things. It pays the bills, but it doesn't satisfy my technology itch. I really want to change careers.
Morgan Landry Send private email
Sunday, June 24, 2007
Great. I can't spell. It should be Management.
Morgan Landry Send private email
Sunday, June 24, 2007
Pretty sure there aren't any graduates yet -- my understanding is that it's a 3-year program, and I don't think it started more than a year or a year and a half ago.
Sunday, June 24, 2007
I've worked in software development with some good English major/CS minor people.  I don't know where you're living, but  in most tech hubs (Boston, SF, Seattle, Austin, etc) it would be enough to at least get your foot in the door in tech writing or QA or BA.  It may not have been the case when you graduated mid-recession but I think things are changing - if I were you and wanted to work in IT, I'd seriously consider refocusing the resume and shopping it out.  At the very least you could probably get hired by one of the megacorporations who then train you in what you need to know.  For what you're trying to do, I think you can do it without the BSCS and without another 3 years of school unless that's something you really want to do.

Sunday, June 24, 2007
Ah! Apparently, I can't add, either: 2006 + 3 = 2009. Perhaps I am so brilliant that I should get my MBA instead. I seem qualified. ;-)

How about profiles of people who were accepted? If that is too much, perhaps some statistics on the class of 2009 or 2010? For example: How large is each class and what business and educational backgrounds they have would be a great start. If they were 90% CS majors in college, for example, or generally 40+ years old, I would be less likely to apply, as I am a member of neither group.

"Why can't you just be different, and not worry about it?" you may ask. It was very useful to know, for example, that many students at MIT had to study 12 to 14 hours a day outside of class just to keep up, according to someone whom I've read graduated from that school. Due to my disability, I simply can't keep up with that -- I need to eat and sleep to stay functional. If this job requires that kind of stress, I can't do it, and I wouldn't want to waste my time applying.
Morgan Landry Send private email
Sunday, June 24, 2007
Keep in mind, Joel isn't running a college where he takes money to give you experience.  He's running a BUSINESS, and students in the fog creek management thingee are actually employees with an expectation of three years of employement and some impressive experience they can leverage on a resume.

... and Fog Creek has something like 22 employees, perhaps a little more with the summer interns.  So Joel is only going to hire as many management trainees as he actually needs to help his business.  That tells me one or two people a year.  (At two a year, that's six in the pipeline at any one time, so probably one person a year.)

At that level, the 'game' changes in nature.  (I am not trying to be a jerk or disrespectful, but there is an entire branch of mathmematics about how to improve your odds in such things, and it's called game theory.)

At the "hire one" level, odds are about 50/50 that it's about relationships.  After all, if you are only hiring one person for three years, you want to hire the one you are certain will succeed - and that's best done with either someone you KNOW can do the work, or the strong reference of someon you know can evaluate the work.

I am not saying it's impossible, but I am saying think different.  For example, check out Joel's travelling schedule (or demo schedule), go to a session with him, and ask the guy in person what you should be doing.  Then try to find ways that those 'things you should be doing' will have touchpoints with FogCreek-ers.  Posting to JoS might be a way to do it, if you can avoid coming off like a FanBoy.

That's just my $0.02; seriously, good luck.  I think Joel's program is great, but another approach is to use the guidance on his site to roll your own training program.  That's what I've done - I earned a MS in CIS at night first, which got me in the habit of studying, but really the self-directed study has had more benefit for me.

Again, good luck ...
Matthew Heusser Send private email
Monday, June 25, 2007
Mr. or Ms. Landry:

I'm in the software management training program now.  Before I arrived here, I'd never designed a GUI or written a spec.  I was a political science major in college and knew basically no programming (aside from smatterings of Scheme and HTML).

No one has yet graduated from the program; I'm the first and I will graduate in early 2009.  Currently there are 4 people in the program; Eric and I started last year and Dan and Jason started this year.  We blog at

so you can at least see pictures of us.

I'll ask my fellow trainees to post about their backgrounds so you can judge for yourself.  We are in our twenties and thirties.

The training program, even when we're working full time and going to night/weekend classes for the Master's, does allow us to eat and sleep.  We get vacation, no one expects us to burn the midnight oil for work duties, and we get a free lunch every day and the time to eat it. :-)  We do get very busy during the school semesters, and have little free time.  Columbia's class schedule has us attending classes for eight months and off for four, and the Columbia program in technology management is a two-year Master's.  Given that the Fog Creek program is for three years, that means we're studying and working at the same time for 16 months out of 36, which is less than half of the 3 years.

For others who don't know much about the program:

I hope I've answered some of your questions.
Sumana Harihareswara Send private email
Monday, June 25, 2007

Thanks for the advice about altering my strategy. I will see what I can do to network and possibly meet with Joel.
Morgan Landry Send private email
Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Thanks for the links and the information. I also appreciate the fact that you did not automatically assume that I am a male. It's not easy being a female in IT.

Thanks again.
Morgan Landry Send private email
Tuesday, June 26, 2007

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