I started on a journey a few years ago, to learn Houdini and a more technical and procedural approach to the work I have doing. I have to say that while the learning curve is higher than the traditional 3D programs I have used (Maya, 3DsMax, Modo, Zbrush), Houdini makes me the most excited for the future of my career in CG and Teaching.
I have always been a tech guy, I have fiddled with tech from my childhood of building remote control cars, to later building my own PC's. I thought myself pretty knowledgeable about CG artists needs, but when I started down the VFX learning path, I found that my previous needs on a PC where pretty "middle-of-the-road" compared to what would be needed to create higher end simulations and renders. On my own PC (which is fairly powerful, (I thought)), I ran problems with "insufficient RAM" on some volume simulations I was trying to create. I had been working with 32GB of RAM for years now, and I don't think I ever maxed out, but apparently I wasn't pushing the envelope hard enough! To make a long story short, I just ordered more RAM for my home PC (128GB). What I have found out is that while the CPU speed is important for loading the scene faster, rendering faster and creating simulations faster, in many cases the CPU speed can just mean slower progress. BUT, not enough RAM will literally make it so certain simulations cannot even run, because there is not enough "system memory" for the simulation's data to load into. This has changed my outlook on what is more important when buying a computer. At this point I have to put a priority on getting at least 128GB of RAM in my next laptop; that being said, the AMD APEX 15 (16 core) laptop I was looking at can only have 64GB of RAM. So I may have to switch to a slower Intel 10 core chip, but with support for 128GB of RAM. I found a video by a VFX guy that used to work at ILM that shows how to build a relatively inexpensive desktop pc for VFX: https://youtu.be/dDyh2FnohdA One thing I found out was that for VFX freelance artist 256GB of RAM is the starting point for a good personal computer. This is overwhelming for many I am sure, but I don't want you guys thinking you have to go out and spend 6K on a computer, but be aware that you will have limitations to the level of quality of work you can do on a lesser machine. All that being said, making use of little resources but still kicking out an innovative and dynamic demo reel is where it is at for young artists at this stage of the game want to be. Later, if you are working at a VFX house, they will supply you with the hardware you need, or if you are freelancing, you may need to make a little investment into your "home business".
Daniel Triplett, is an artist that worked in game development for over 6 years, and now teaches in the Computer Graphics Technology department (CGT) at Purdue University.