Career change?

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Career change?

by ExcitableBoy » Wed Jan 20, 2010 12:25 am

So I have done a number of things in my life to earn my keep including being a guide, scientist, carpenter and currently software developer. The software gig is pretty cushy - 10 weeks paid leave a year, ok health benefits, and good pay. The only down side to writing software is I don't like it and am not good at it.

IN considering a midlife career change the only jobs that appeal to me are carpentry and owning a mountaineering store. So the question I have is has ANYONE made a nickel off of selling climbing gear? Yvon Chouinard himself claimed he made almost no money at manufacturing climbing equipment.



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Re: Career change?

by MoapaPk » Wed Jan 20, 2010 12:49 am

ExcitibleBoy wrote: The only down side to writing software is I don't like it and am not good at it.

Have you considered a job with Microsoft?

Seriously, maybe you should just refocus on what is meant by "writing software." A lot of people in IT don't get much higher than writing scripts and html derivative code, and seem pretty happy.

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by fossana » Wed Jan 20, 2010 1:35 am

Interesting choices. It seems like you've got a cushy situation. I took a 9 month hiatus from the corp world to explore other options, but ended up back in IT partly b/c I find it interesting and partly b/c the private health insurance thing was grim. Would becoming better at your work make you more happy about the situation?

I've spoken recently with some friends that do construction related work on the E Side and they feel very fortunate to have jobs. Another thing to consider is how psyched you'll be to put in a long day of climbing after pounding nails all week. Also, I suspect you'd be putting in some long hours at the mountaineering store with much less time to climb. With the age of online climbing stores times are tough for the brick and mortar retailer.

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by phydeux » Wed Jan 20, 2010 2:13 am

What's your experience in carpentry, and what's the market like for it right now in your area? While the new housing market sucks (I'm in Southern California), I know specialty areas are keeping some guys in the black - custom cabinetry &/or furniture pieces, custom molding installation, decks and gazebos, etc. Since a lot is 'finish' stuff you'd need your own tools, maybe even a small shop. Like fossana mentions, it might be tough to get motivated for weekend climbs after you've been hoofing lumber all week long, too.

Better idea since your employed right now might be to plan your 'escape' from the IT world. You've got some ideas of what you like to do, so investigate what you'd need to start your own business when the economy turns around. Put together a realistic business plan, upgrade it a few times, and you'll be ready to jump when the economy turns around. You might also come to the conclusion you should stay where you are, maybe upgrade your software skills, or maybe change jobs to another company. Just an idea . . . .

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by JHH60 » Wed Jan 20, 2010 3:21 am

I haven't sold climbing gear, but worked part time as an instructor at a dive shop for ten years and learned something about the sporting gear sales business (I did it for fun, and to get pro deals on gear, but it wouldn't have supported me in SF without a day job).

Although few retailers make much money in that business, the guy who owned the shop I worked for was pretty successful. One of his secrets was that he bought the rights to several well-known scuba equipment brand names, and then manufactured inexpensive (and low quality) gear overseas which he sold under those brands at his shop, and eventually at many other shops. He specifically targetted items which every student is required to buy to take a dive class, and which you can't rent (masks, fins, snorkel), but eventually branched out into other gear areas, as long as they didn't require a lot of engineering R&D. His manufacturing costs were very low and so his brands were always the low priced choice. His thinking was that a large percentage of people who take dive classes go diving once or twice on tropical vacations, and never dive again, so won't care that their gear is poorly made and falls apart. On the other hand, most people are very sensitive to price, and if they're new to the sport don't know the difference between good gear and crap, so will often buy whatever is cheapest, especially if the shop staff use that gear when teaching. The instructional staff were required to use that gear when teaching, but since we got it free or very, very cheap, and could write off any cost on taxes, most didn't care if it was POS. Instructional dives are never cutting edge, and we were free to use better quality brands, which we also got at cost, for our own serious dives.

If you can find a cheap crap niche in the mountaineering gear business, I'm sure there's lots of money to be made. 8)
Last edited by JHH60 on Wed Jan 20, 2010 6:37 am, edited 2 times in total.

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by xDoogiex » Wed Jan 20, 2010 5:49 am

Have em hire me

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by hellroaring » Wed Jan 20, 2010 6:28 am

I think that owning a shop is more about a lifestyle choice vs. becoming wealthy.

Even with all the online shopping I bet someone with imagination or vision could run a mountain shop and with some luck stay afloat. I always thought the true essence of a mountain shop was one that fostered the culture & lifestyle of climbing. Like a community thing where you could bring in a few cold ones and watch a cool slide show & bullshit with fellow climbers.

Of course, you still have to sell stuff. There would be nothing stopping you from running internet sales out of your physical business either? If you could create that special place you might build loyalty from the actual people who walk into your shop.

Owning it with others (employee owned perhaps) might let you work out some sort of agreement where everyone gets a fairly flexible schedule and time enough to play that all us outdoor junkies need in order to thrive...oh and having all this in some cool, older, somehow unique building always helps as opposed to some sterile strip mall.

Maybe I am taking a romantic viewpoint because the old time true mountain shop like all those cool indy bookstores seem to be a dying could though still work.

What ever your leap is, good luck.........

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by tanneyman13 » Wed Jan 20, 2010 6:32 am

with 10 weeks of paid leave a year who cares what your actual job is. thats more vacation than most people could dream of.

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by RayMondo » Wed Jan 20, 2010 9:57 am

You are gifted to have both those carpentry skills and able to write software. Like said above, if you can become better at it, it's a highly paid field. Still, one has to watch out to get job satisfaction compared to the pay. Though, software can be creative and give satisfaction.

I've done the woodwork, there is scope to do special pieces, made to order. Tables, especially coffee tables are a good line with endless variants, some real arty ones (curves, inserts, multiple woods and colours all routed in). Try Googling images "designer woodwork" etc, to throw some light on it. It's very creative, rewarding and no stress. Good pieces sell for big bucks, despite any problems with economies. Then your time is your own.

Most of all, I reckon to follow ones intuition. That's the part inside telling us where we should or shouldn't be heading.

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by CBakwin » Wed Jan 20, 2010 2:27 pm

The Construction business is pretty rough right now even for those that are well established. Perhaps if the government decides to hire US contractors to rebuild Haiti (rather than just giving them the money), there might be an opportunity......however I'm not so sure about the climbing in Haiti??? Otherwise, you seem to have a pretty good gig going now....

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Re: Career change?

by moonspots » Wed Jan 20, 2010 2:45 pm

ExcitibleBoy wrote:...The only down side to writing software is I don't like it and am not good at it.

Thoughts? EB

You need a challenge, something to REALLY tax your capabilities, something to put a LOT of responsibility in your lap. Something that scares you.....

Are you married, have kids? THAT fact will help greatly in defining these boundaries. If so, then it's "suck it up" time and stick with whatever keeps food on the table and snow off your heads. If not, then go for it, man....whatever "it" is....

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by tigerlilly » Wed Jan 20, 2010 3:24 pm

"Work is WORK. That is why it is called WORK. If it were fun, it would be called Play. But it's not fun, so they call it WORK." -my old Greek landlord

Software jobs rot. People have this fantasy that they are awesome. There is a reason why they give you all that pay and vacation time....otherwise no one would do them. On the other hand, my 15 year experience in software taught me that I'm self motivated in that job IF the boss 1) doesn't interrupt you constantly 2) lets you set your own hours 3) lets you pick what projects from a list you want to do 4) gives you a day during the month when you can work on anything you want (work related though) 5) lets you hand down projects that are too easy to a Jr. person.

That might make the job better, until you find your new path.
Good luck.

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by fossana » Wed Jan 20, 2010 3:57 pm

You can quit and I will take your old job ;)

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by rpc » Wed Jan 20, 2010 4:37 pm

I offer no advice but sympathy from someone in a similar situation (w/o the 10 weeks to climb though - G-DAMN!). Long ago I've taken on the advice mentioned by someone above (paraphrasing):

I hold on real tight to my ankles & then grin & bear.

Sorry, I just don't think shit gets better (it's a job, it's not supposed to be fun or fulfilling).


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