The origins of HowStuffWorks on the WebMasters podcast with Aaron Dinon

Had the chance to talk about HowStuffWorks with Aaron Dinon on his WebMasters podcast. It is available at a variety of podcast outlets:

https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/web-masters/id1530077719

https://podcasts.google.com/feed/aHR0cHM6Ly9mZWVkcy50cmFuc2lzdG9yLmZtL3dlYi1tYXN0ZXJz/episode/MDdmZGUzOGEtOTdiNS00ZjhjLWE2MmItNWUyNWE4YmRjMzJi

The Internet has always been a place to learn about new things. But, in the early days of the Web, one writer took that opportunity for learning to an extreme by creating an entire website devoted to explaining how stuff works. His name is Marshall Brain, and he named his website — quite appropriately — HowStuffWorks.com.

HowStuffWorks became a popular online destination for people to learn about the inner works behind everything from internal combustion engines to water towers. It eventually expanded from the Web into books, magazines, TV shows, and even podcasts. In fact, even now it remains a popular infotainment websites.

On this Web Masters episode, Marshall shares the story of building and growing HowStuffWorks, from writing his first article to leading the company to a successful acquisition.

“Getting a Good Job in America” Part 13 – Cybersecurity

There is an article today that shows one high-paying job category that has a lot of unfilled positions. That category is Cybersecurity and here is the article:

U.S. has almost 500,000 job openings in cybersecurity

From the article:

“There are about 465,000 open positions in cybersecurity nationwide as of May 2021, according to Cyber Seek — a tech job-tracking database from the U.S. Commerce Department — and the trade group CompTIA. The need for more web watchmen spans from private businesses to government agencies, experts say, and most of the job openings are in California, Florida, Texas and Virginia. That means for anyone looking to switch careers and considering a job in cybersecurity, there’s no greater time than now to find work, the job trackers said.”

It is fairly easy to learn to be a truck driver. Cybersecurity requires a little more brainpower, and it is best fitted to people who enjoy technology and computers. But if you are that kind of person, Cybersecurity is probably easier to learn that, say, software development. The article puts it this way:

“You don’t have to be a graduate of MIT to work in cybersecurity,” said Tim Herbert, executive vice president for research at CompTIA. “It just requires someone who has the proper training, proper certification and is certainly committed to the work.” Switching careers to cybersecurity could be as easy as grabbing a Network+ or Security+ certification, said Michelle Moore, who teaches cybersecurity operations at the University of San Diego. An  eight-week online course could help someone land an entry-level job as a “pen tester,” a network security engineer or an incident response analyst, Moore said. Those jobs pay between $60,000 to $90,000 a year, she added. 

There are many different ways to get the certifications. You could start with a Google search like this:

https://www.google.com/search?q=learn+cybersecurity

If you want to get a taste of what Cybersecurity is about, this 8-hour long (!) YouTube video is a free starting point:

Cyber Security Full Course – Learn Cyber Security In 8 Hours | Cyber Security Training |Simplilearn

Many other free options like this are available. Or if you prefer to pay for a course, lots of options are available there as well. Either way you will need to pay for the certification tests, and once you have passed you are ready to find a job.

More Jobs Articles

Easy directory of all of Marshall Brain’s Jobs-related blog posts:

  1. Introduction to “Getting a Good Job in America”
  2. “Getting a Good Job in America” Part 2 – How do you gain skills?
  3. “Getting a Good Job in America” Part 3 – Newsweek weighs in with 19 jobs
  4. “Getting a Good Job in America” Part 4 – Driving a Truck
  5. “Getting a Good Job in America” Part 5 – Information Technology (IT) and Cybersecurity jobs
  6. “Getting a Good Job in America” Part 6 – Google Career Certificates
  7. “Getting a Good Job in America” Part 7 – Becoming an Engineer
  8. “Getting a Good Job in America” Part 8 – Making the most of entry-level sales jobs
  9. “Getting a Good Job in America” Part 9 – Jobs to Avoid
  10. “Getting a Good Job in America” Part 10 – Medical jobs like Nurse Practitioner
  11. “Getting a Good Job in America” Part 11 – Electrical Lineworker
  12. “Getting a Good Job in America” Part 12 – Software Developer and “Getting a Good Job in America” Part 12.1 – Software Developer
  13. “Getting a Good Job in America” Part 13 – Cybersecurity

“Getting a Good Job in America” Part 12.1 – Software Developer

Let me add on to the previous post with a resource that may be useful to you if you think “Software Developer” is something that you might want to try. Take a look at this website:

https://www.freecodecamp.org/

This is a free site with many different offerings on tap. You can learn about:

The only problem here is that none of these are “beginner topics”. But if you are past the “beginner” phase, some of these are fantastic and can lead toward high-paying jobs. For example, anyone good at Machine Learning right now is in high demand.

If you ARE at the very beginning, this offering from Apple may be helpful:

https://www.apple.com/in/everyone-can-code/

It starts in an extremely simple way and then builds up to the more advanced concepts. Also free. Or try the beginner offerings here:

https://www.codecademy.com/

If none of these work for you, hop into Google with a search like this:

https://www.google.com/search?q=learn+to+code+for+free

You will find hundreds of resources – one of them will be right for you.

More Jobs Articles

Easy directory of all of Marshall Brain’s Jobs-related blog posts:

  1. Introduction to “Getting a Good Job in America”
  2. “Getting a Good Job in America” Part 2 – How do you gain skills?
  3. “Getting a Good Job in America” Part 3 – Newsweek weighs in with 19 jobs
  4. “Getting a Good Job in America” Part 4 – Driving a Truck
  5. “Getting a Good Job in America” Part 5 – Information Technology (IT) and Cybersecurity jobs
  6. “Getting a Good Job in America” Part 6 – Google Career Certificates
  7. “Getting a Good Job in America” Part 7 – Becoming an Engineer
  8. “Getting a Good Job in America” Part 8 – Making the most of entry-level sales jobs
  9. “Getting a Good Job in America” Part 9 – Jobs to Avoid
  10. “Getting a Good Job in America” Part 10 – Medical jobs like Nurse Practitioner
  11. “Getting a Good Job in America” Part 11 – Electrical Lineworker
  12. “Getting a Good Job in America” Part 12 – Software Developer and “Getting a Good Job in America” Part 12.1 – Software Developer
  13. “Getting a Good Job in America” Part 13 – Cybersecurity

“Getting a Good Job in America” Part 12 – Software Developer

One of the better jobs available in America today is a job where you “develop software” or “write code” for a company. These jobs tend to be higher-paying, and also tend to be jobs that have benefits. The code that write might:

  • Control the behavior of a web site
  • Control the functionality of an App
  • Control the actions of an embedded processor
  • Control business processes in a place like a bank or factory or small business
  • Help with data analytics or machine learning
  • And so on…

Software is used in so many different ways today that there are now thousands of ways to “develop software” and millions of companies/people who need software developed.

Ways to become a software developer

So how do you become a “software developer”?

  • One way is to get a 4-year degree at a traditional college. This is by far the most expensive and time-consuming route, but if you choose a school with a good reputation your chance of finding a job right now is approximately 100%. A good state school will have a lower price than a private school.
  • A community college will typically offer 2-year associates degrees that are nearly equivalent in some ways. These degrees are far less expensive, and take half the time.
  • You will hear a lot about “coding bootcamps” that might take 3 months or 6 months to complete and charge pretty high rates for that education. Some of these will make job placement promises, some won’t. We will come back to this idea below. It is possible for this path to go well or to go badly, depending on the program.
  • You can teach yourself. There is so much demand for talented software developers, and software development is such a meritocracy, that a self-taught person who can do the work is usually able to find a job. If you want to teach yourself, there are books, online courses, “micro-degrees”, free online classes (from famous places like Stanford and MIT down to much smaller schools), tutorials, etc. You can build a portfolio of projects and use them to get a job. A person with some drive and initiative could easily teach themselves using all of the resources available.

Your next question will be “what should I learn?” There are many, many different niches in the realm of software development. For example:

  • Do you want to write apps? Many apps are written in languages like Swift (Apple iOS) or Java (Android). So you would need to learn one of these languages and then the tools typically used to develop apps. There are lots of options besides those two as well.
  • Do you want to help companies create websites? You need to learn and become familiar with a “stack”, which can be much more involved. An article like this can help you learn about the possibilities.
  • Do you want to learn a starter language that can help you get your feet wet? You might start with something like Python or Javascript.

If you are now thinking, “wow, this is getting complicated”, you are right to a degree, and this is one reason why the pay can be high for software developers. This is not something you are going to learn in a week. In addition, you have to decide what you want to learn, and then go learn it.

The good news is that Google is your friend here. Just about any question you can think of, you can find answers in Google. For example, I asked Google, “what do i need to learn to be a software developer” and it gave me hundreds of articles to choose from. Here is one that seems appropriate:

11 Steps to Becoming a Software Engineer (Without a CS Degree)

It offers this optimistic motivational perspective:

According to US News, software developers have a median salary of $107,510 per year, and an unemployment rate of 1.4%, making it one of the most lucrative technology careers. Additionally, the profession offers an above-average work-life balance.  

Even more, the Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that between 2018-28 there will be a 21% growth rate. Meanwhile, the average growth for all occupations is 5 percent. This translates into 284,100 job openings.

And guess what? Despite the positive outlook and abundance in opportunities, only 3% of college grads study computer and information science. As you can see in the image below, in 2020 there were 1.4 million computing jobs versus the 400,000 CS students.  

If you read say 10 articles along this line, you will begin to see the lay of the land.

If you are thinking, “wow, I don’t want to have to do a bunch of Google searching and read a bunch of articles!”, then chances are that software development is NOT for you. You will have to be doing a lot of reading and searching to become a software developer.

A quick note on boot camps

As soon as you start using Google to learn about software development as a career, you will start seeing ads for boot camps and other educational services. Here is what I see today:

Are these kinds of programs, and especially “boot camps”, a good idea? You can find a thousand opinions on Google, and some good discussions on Reddit. Here is a typical discussion:

https://www.reddit.com/r/learnprogramming/comments/hfo9r4/do_coding_boot_camps_make_you_employable/

The first thing you discover is that there is a r/learnprogramming subreddit with a big community (2.2 million members today!). And there are subreddits for every language, stack, etc. where you can see thousands of questions being asked. Lots of advice to go around. If you go look at the 300 comments in that thread (and search for other similar threads in Google) you will learn a lot.

Take a week or two to read and learn the lay of the land. Look at job sites like Indeed and see what kinds of software jobs are available in your area. If there are meetups in your area for developers, consider attending. Think about what you might like to be doing in the software space. And then start learning, either with a formal program or on your own.

More Jobs Articles

Easy directory of all of Marshall Brain’s Jobs-related blog posts:

  1. Introduction to “Getting a Good Job in America”
  2. “Getting a Good Job in America” Part 2 – How do you gain skills?
  3. “Getting a Good Job in America” Part 3 – Newsweek weighs in with 19 jobs
  4. “Getting a Good Job in America” Part 4 – Driving a Truck
  5. “Getting a Good Job in America” Part 5 – Information Technology (IT) and Cybersecurity jobs
  6. “Getting a Good Job in America” Part 6 – Google Career Certificates
  7. “Getting a Good Job in America” Part 7 – Becoming an Engineer
  8. “Getting a Good Job in America” Part 8 – Making the most of entry-level sales jobs
  9. “Getting a Good Job in America” Part 9 – Jobs to Avoid
  10. “Getting a Good Job in America” Part 10 – Medical jobs like Nurse Practitioner
  11. “Getting a Good Job in America” Part 11 – Electrical Lineworker
  12. “Getting a Good Job in America” Part 12 – Software Developer and “Getting a Good Job in America” Part 12.1 – Software Developer
  13. “Getting a Good Job in America” Part 13 – Cybersecurity

The Official Site for Marshall Brain