I am a 33 year old English teacher and I’m in a bit of a dilemma. When I was a young child I always had a great interest in computers and coding but my parents were quite traditional and encouraged me to do a ‘proper’ job. Long story short, I ended up a teacher in a tough school. It can be rewarding but it’s a bloody tough job - (kids are crazy)
I think I started having a Quarter Life Crisis and said to myself at 31, that I wanted to do something that I fulfilled me and started to learn coding on and off in 2015 mainly online.
Now I have a baby on the way (due in September) and I can start progressing in my teaching role. My dilemma is do I continue to go forward with this? I hear many stories where people say they “learnt to code in 3 months” and landed a junior Front End Dev job and although and fairly well educated, I feel like my wheels are spinning a bit.
Is coding a young man/woman’s game? Realistically how long did it take for you guys to hone your craft? Sorry if it sounds like a moan but are there any tips you can give me? Or should I throw in the towel? Life is too short & I feel like maybe I missed my window…
Thank you in advance and I look forward to hearing from you.
Don’t throw in the towel. I’m 32, been working for the same company for 10 years. Going back to school full time is out of the question, so I’m learning coding in my spare time as well.
The people who “coded for 3 months and got a dev job” are usually outliers. Learning and mastering this stuff takes time. Do an hour a day if you can. It’s normal to feel a bit frustrated though. Hang in there!
No 33 is not too old to get started. (I started at 29, and now am 49). It may take about a couple of years of constant practice to be really good at it. Web Development is a weird career… in the sense that it’s a NEVER-ENDING cycle of learning. Things go obsolete in a few years, and you either start/pick some new things to learn again, or stay put and just work the niche jobs, maintain the “old technology” that nobody wants to touch anymore. So if you don’t like this kind of situation (where things you learned a few years ago may now be obsolete, or not in demand anymore), then web dev career may not be for you.
The ILLUSION that video tutorials give you is it seems you’ve learned and you “know” how to do something, because you’ve watched somebody do it. Watch the video a few more times, and you can memorize the steps and replicate it… as if you know how to do it. But when presented with a different problem, or starting from scratch… that’s when the brakes are applied. Even I experience this. And it’s very frustrating. Video tutorials aren’t bad, (they can show you how to do some thing), but the learning video tutorials produces is very “shallow”… and the only way to actually cement the thing you learned and implant it in your brain is to USE it. i.e. apply it in your own project, or try it out yourself in a little playground code, just to verify and see it works… make changes, see how it affects the output.
Somebody learning how to paint or draw does not produce a masterpiece… no matter how many hours of video they’ve watched on “How to Paint” or “How to Draw” series. Same thing with web design/development. It takes practice, lots of practice. In the same way, You can’t learn how to ride a bike watching a video. You have to go out there and pedal, and fall, and get up again. In web dev, you have to make your own code, start from scratch, code, fail, debug, code some more.
No 33 is not too old to get started. (I started at 29, and now am 49).
That’s great to know! Again it seems like it’s the 20 somethings that are reigning in tech
So if you don’t like this kind of situation (where things you learned a few years ago may now be obsolete, or not in demand anymore), then web dev career may not be for you.
I love learning new things so I don’t mind that at all.
The ILLUSION that video tutorials give you is it seems you’ve learned and you “know” how to do something, because you’ve watched somebody do it.
That’s EXACTLY where I am now! I can watch a video, do the code challenge and think I have it down. Then a couple of challenges later, I feel like i have forgotten what I have just done! I think like i have code amnesia or something.
Thank you for the reply. From what you have said, I feel that I have build more personal projects and try to add my new skills to them. I’m scared because I know that they will ‘suck’ but now I know that’s the only way I can improve! Thank you so much for your honest and detailed response!
I keep this article on my bookmark bar for those occasions when I am stuck on a programming problem. I think you will find it most enlightening.
In a nutshell programming is hard. Like really hard. And those websites that tell you otherwise aren’t doing you a favor. They are decent at introducing you to the basics, but I do not recommend sticking to them for a long time.
In my experience consistency is perhaps the single most important thing that helped me get better at programming. Whether it is 1 or 3 hours a day try to program every day of the week.
Once you get the basics, think of some small problems that you can solve with your programming skills (this website has a lot of those). Also being passionate about a problem helps quite a bit in the beginning as it is far more rewarding when you complete the solution.
I’d imagine that all of those 3 months success stories are people, who end up configuring CMS and e-commerce systems like Wordpress and Magento. There really isn’t that much programming in that kind of a job. I’d probably compare it to the effort you need to put in order to become an advanced Microsoft Office user.
On average the good educational programs that help you become a decent full-stack developer capable of using frameworks such as AngularJS and React takes about 9-12 months and you need to put around 20-25 hours a week into it. I think that is a good reference as too how long it would take to become good at web development and it certainly reflects my experience.
It isn’t necessarily a “young man/woman’s game”, but I would say the youth typically have an easier time learning new concepts.
Understanding how to program requires a lot of abstract thinking and problem solving, things which some of us are born with it, and others have to work a little hard towards.
The more you are able to solve these simple problems without looking up references, the better you are becoming at coding. Reversing a string, filtering an array, looping through an array, defining functions, etc are difficult at first, but after you solve enough problems, you start to see that all of these problems are basically the same thing with slight variations.
People who pretend they learned to code in 3 months are not from this world or are more simply liars.
I mean coding and not html and css (those are not real languages, but description code, even if css3 is easy to learn but hard to master).
So yes indeed, some people learn to code faster than others, but that said, every dev must work constantly to reach or to maintain the level. I wish you the very best in coding (and in life of course) !
100% agreed. You are absolutely right. one of my biggest crimes is that over the years, I have spent 3 hours a day learning to code then went 5 months not doing anything because life got in the way. Setting down for an hour a day seems to be realistic for me.
On average the good educational programs that help you become a decent full-stack developer capable of using frameworks such as AngularJS and React takes about 9-12 months and you need to put around 20-25 hours a week into it.
Thank you for this. it’s really valuable info! I know I need to put in the time… Thank you so much for the response.
Bro, I did 15 years in the Army, got out, went broke while selling cars, and I’m married with 5 children. Someone gave me a chance, now I commute 2 hours to work at Microsoft everyday. I also run a growing YouTube channel at http://bit.ly/TheRealCasadaroYouTube and an online store at writecodedrinkcoffee.com
There are people with horrible stories that have made it. People that have learned to program and have become developers and didn’t even own a computer. There is someone out there right now writing computer code in a notebook just praying for the opportunity to sit in front of a computer for 5 minutes. You better believe that when and if they get the opportunity they are going to be ready.
Col Sanders founded Kentucky Fried Chicken when he was 62 years old! Jack Ma of Ali baba didn’t start his company until he was in his late 30s and even then he almost failed. He just worked harder, now he’s the richest man in Asia, valued at 35 billion dollars.
I Joined the army when I was 17 and got out in 2015, doing the math will give you an idea of how old I might be.
The point is this. If you want it go get it. 10 years from now you’re going to wake up, go the the bathroom and look in the mirror. Who do you want to see? What kind of bathroom do you want to be standing in? What kind of house do you want this bathroom to be in? What kind of land do you want this house to be sitting on?
There’s your answer. You got this, if you want this that is.
I’ve been picking up and dropping the ball on this for a while now. I know how easy it is to lose motivation when you’re tired or you encounter a problem that doesn’t quite click. But I also know how demotivating it can be in the rest of your life when you give up on something you find interesting.
My suggestions are
Get involved. This can be intimidating when you’re trying to get in on something as obscure and technical as coding, but you can have fun doing almost anything if you’ve got friendly people around you, on or offline.
Complete creative freedom can be overwhelming. Try to come up with some small, achievable projects, particularly ones that intersect with what’s happening in your life anyway.
You’re an English teacher? How much leeway does your school give you? Could you assign a creative writing project to publish on a blog for the kids’ parents to read? Designing and setting up the blog will give you practice and the results can motivate your class and make you look good in the job you already have.
(In the long term, the insight you have into education will give you an advantage on educational projects, so keep looking for ways to apply coding solutions to even tiny workplace problems.)
Baby on the way? Set up an email account and figure out how to send them an automated message every year at the exact time of their birth. Send them special messages on their mile stone birthdays like “Things I wish I knew when I turned 18”.
Try to think of projects connected to your life and hopefully life will provide the motivation, and the rewards will be much closer and more tangible than the idea of a development job at some unknown point in the future.
It’s ok to be tired. If you don’t feel like coding sometimes that’s fine, but keep your eye in. Get on Youtube and spend 5-10 minutes watching dev videos instead, not necessarily tutorials, just general tech and computer science stuff. Even if you’re too tired to make sense of the actual topics you’ll get familiar with the jargon which is a big barrier to newcomers in any field.
Anyway, try to stick with it! It’s tough. I know. I’m pretty bad at following my own advice. Even now I’m actually just procrastinating, but I found a way to combine it with suggestion 1.
Thank you for the feedback! I was worried about the same issue. I am 48 and also a teacher. I will be retiring in a few years, which is why I started training with FreeCodeCamp. I too was getting frustrated hearing about how quickly people were understanding coding languages. You have provided some very helpful hints, and I feel much better. Thank you.
I’m 35. Just started learning web dev and I’m also struggling with JS. I don’t think it’s a young person’s game, but it’s harder to learn something when you’re juggling life commitments. On top of that, learning is simply harder when you’re older. The brain is less of a sponge. Just means we have to really want it
freeCodeCamp is full of people in similar positions! I think I see a new thread pop up every week asking the same questions you’re asking.
These stories are exciting, which is why they get the most play/shares. As everyone else here has said, these 3-month success stories are flukes and the majority of folks take a lot longer than 3 months to learn code. I’ve also found that a lot of these 3-month people started with some sort of programming or computer science or some other related background, so they didn’t have to build any sort of foundation first. The concepts aren’t as alien to them starting out, so they’re able to progress a lot faster. I sure would like my story to be like their’s though .
I turned 30 early this year, and with a bachelor’s and a master’s degree under my belt (unrelated subject to coding, unfortunately), I’ve realized a few things:
I had so much free time before. Until I was out of college for good (maybe), I had so much extra time. Even when I was busy, when I was in grad school working during the day and going to class at night, my schedule had at least some flexibility. That made it a lot easier to pursue any new interests and learn new things. Along with that…
…I had a lot more energy just a few years ago. I have a full-time job managing an e-learning team at a university, and when I get home from work, I have maybe an hour or two I can use for learning. Often less. Usually I’m pretty tired, and even when I try to learn code after work, I’m not at my best. Things don’t stick in my brain as well after 5. Mental exhaustion is a big problem for me, and I know a lot people my age and older don’t have as much of an energy problem as I do (various reasons), but I’m pretty sure most people don’t have as much energy in their 30’s as they did in their 20’s.
There are no windows. Not when it comes to learning new things, unless an extreme circumstance has befallen you. It’s never too late to learn something new, to follow a new interest, etc. For every story about a young person who learned to code in 3 months there a ton more stories about people in their 30’s - 50’s who took a year, maybe longer, but reached the same endpoint as the 3-month’er. However, you may not have the same amount of time or energy to devote to the pursuit of new interests. It might take you a little longer, like a year instead of 3 months, or longer than that. You’ll need patience, determination, and being kind to yourself when your progress doesn’t meet your desired pace. This is something I’m finally learning now. It’s always been hard for me to focus on the race instead of the finish line. Maybe the problem is I just need a different analogy .
What’s working for me now is to focus on the work of learning coding instead of the end goal of getting a job or building a successful app or something. I’ve decided to relax and treat this learning as a hobby, and my progress has since improved. I used get bogged down with wanting to progress faster than I’m able, and that took the joy out of it. I try to focus on finding that joy in the learning and holding onto it. Otherwise, I know I’ll keep stalling out. I’ll put unrealistic pressure on myself and take the fun out of it, and the only way I can stick with something is to keep making it fun.
My favorite stories on this forum are the ones where the camper took months or even a couple of years to finish a single freeCodeCamp project. They took all that time, but they still came back! They still did it! That’s more amazing and inspiring to me than someone who learned to code in 3 months.
I hope this rambling was helpful in some way . If you enjoy coding, keep that towel right where it is. Keep it fun while you’re learning and be kind to yourself along the way .
The initial parts of FCC were good for giving you an introduction to certain concepts, but you (at least I) don’t have an easy time learning unless I am creating something.
The FCC hand holding drops off way too soon, but this is designed to get you into shape being self reliant.
Read documentation, that will be the major component of your time should you wish to be proficient.
I have to learn 2 languages next term (Java for real, not the patchwork stuff that Intried to teach myself… and R, for statistics) so my activity here probably won’t pick up until after that, but then I will learn more fundamental programming concepts and will hopefully be able to take down a few more algorithm challenges.
I’m 49 and drive a truck for a living… I am in no rush thinking there is a dev job at the end of the journey, I want to learn the stuff right and maybe create something one day that will be worth creating a startup. Time will tell.
It is difficult however, and it seems you will never be done learning because every time you turn around there is a new “hot” technology. Learn to program, write programs, solve problems on your own, then try to get past the coding here… it might be a bit easier that way