How I became a developer at age 36

How I became a developer at age 36
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This ended up being way longer than I anticipated, so here’s the TL;DR version:

• Think about if what type of projects you want to work on before trying to learn everything (Front-end, back-end, web, mobile, data-science, VR, etc)

• Learn the fundamentals of one language before diving into frameworks & libraries; once you are decent with one language, you can always learn another depending on what’s needed

• Everyone has imposter syndrome! Don’t let it stop you from continuing your code journey, just try to learn a little bit more every day.

• Participate in the developer community; you will learn a lot more when not in isolation, and you may help others along the way

After working a variety of restaurant, retail, and customer service jobs since age 18, ranging from pizza delivery to assistant manager at Blockbuster Video, I decided to go back to school at 33. I chose Computer Science because I’ve always been interested in technology and there seemed to be a lot of job opportunities in the field.

I got my Associate’s degree, but after finishing those two years, I didn’t really feel like I knew how to actually make anything. We did a lot of algorithms and theory in school, but didn’t really build anything useful for real life. We wrote some programs in Java and Assembly which did some calculations or lit up some LEDs, but I didn’t feel like these skills were going to get me a job once I got out of school.

Looking back now, I should have been more proactive during my time in school, and become more familiar with what developer jobs in my area wanted in an employee. But I was busy with classes and I naively thought I would just get an entry-level job after finishing school.

After getting the Associate’s degree and realizing I wasn’t very familiar with front-end technologies that many potential employers wanted experience with, like HTML, CSS, and JavaScript. I felt a little discouraged and started thinking about pursuing my Bachelor’s degree.

The real issue there was that I needed money sooner than later! I started looking around for inexpensive resources to make myself more marketable.

I came across freeCodeCamp, and the curriculum seemed way more geared towards real-life development. It was amazing to me also that it really was free! No trial periods or anything, but actually free.

I also realized that I didn’t really know anything when it actually came to building web apps! After a lot of trial and error, some confusion, and help from the community, I ended up finishing the front-end certification, and decided I was ready to apply for some jobs. I got turned down for all of them :slight_smile:

I ended up getting my current job through my fiancee. She is a barber, and one of her clients had a friend who worked at CustomWeather, and they were looking for a developer for a contract position.

I hate to say it, but for me getting a job, it was all about who you know and a bit of luck. I felt like a fraud the whole time, and sometimes still do, but I was able to complete the contract, learned a whole bunch of stuff about APIs, PHP, jQuery, PostgreSQL, and shell scripts along the way, and they offered me a full time position after that!

I think the key for me was not that I was a great developer, which I am far from, but that I tried to be ok with being confused a lot and just keep on learning. it’s impossible to know the ins and outs of all programming languages, or even one of them, but being confident in your ability to learn what is needed to get the job done.

So I owe a lot to freeCodeCamp for helping me acquire skills that I felt like were more useful in real-world situations than most of what I learned in my two years of Computer Science classes, and giving me the confidence to put myself out there and build things! I’m not saying school was a waste of time, far from it actually, but for the work I was interested in doing, freeCodeCamp was much more useful.

I’m still learning every day and hopefully improving every day also, but I’ve been employed for 2 1/2 years now as a developer and can’t believe how great things have been going. So a big thanks for everything Quincy and the community have set up and grown. It’s a HUGELY important resource for helping people learn, be creative, and make some money!

Thanks for reading this; hopefully it didn’t get too self-indulgent!

Here’s a nice article from Business Insider back in 2014, where a reporter wrote about Quincy’s imposter syndrome:

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And here I am, I have an Associate in Library, with Customer Service/Retail experience; I’m my early 30s, and on my way to become a Full-Stack Developer. Thank you for sharing! I really needed it. Loaded with wisdom that will serve within my time. AND CONGRATS FOR YOU!

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Thanks! I really appreciate you taking the time to read this, and I’m glad it helped!

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Hi Jong, Congrats for your job and It’s really inspiring. Keep Learning

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jong649,

Nice story. I’m 63, and I’ve been self-teaching myself computer science and programming languages for over 5 years. Getting a job is a pipe dream for me that I know will never happen. I was an ER/Flight Nurse/paramedic. I had to step away from it after 24 years, as I just got burnt out on it. However, in the ‘real world’ facts speak the truth in the tech industry; old age == no thanks. So, I have relegated myself to the reality that in tech business an “older person” , as oppossed to the a younger one, will not get the job. I read stories like yours from time-to-time and think, humm…maybe?

Cheers mate!
TC

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I am 34 and I thought about what to do. I came across a video about programming, it became interesting to me. I read a couple of articles (I was particularly impressed with the article about the python developer salary.), started watching different videos. And now I practice and self-develop in a company that develops software. Age is not a problem, I met people who started doing this at a more mature age.

Nice story!

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Nice to read this today being 35 and about 6 months into learning and just having a good time with the code itself but less with finding my way into touch with other developers.

Any thoughts on how to get more involved in the devel community? I have been active in learning primarily kotlin over the last 7 months while attending lambda school – lambda was… Less than great at inspiring or fostering community.

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Hi Tim,

Thanks for reading and sharing your story also! I think learning to code is beneficial at any age, and I’m sure you have skills from your time in medicine that would help you stand out as a developer; I would imagine you can handle stressful situations much better than me! I think you should definitely keep coding & learning; different aged developers bring different perspective when working on a team, so I wouldn’t throw in the towel just yet!

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Thanks for the read!

One way that helped me get a little more involved in the dev community was participating in the #100DaysOfCode challenge; you can read a little more about it here:


I rarely used Twitter up until my first round of the challenge, but I have found lots of genuinely helpful people there. Most people I’ve run into there are friendly and share useful links and tips; I’d check it out if you haven’t already.

Also, you can contribute to the freeCodeCamp in a variety of ways, some of which are listed here:
https://contribute.freecodecamp.org/home/

Good luck and feel free to look me up on Twitter also, I’m jong649 there also

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I love your story! It is very similar to my own story, you can see mine on Level Up Dev if interested. Thanks

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Thanks for the concrete suggestions, I’ll add you to my essentially unused twitter accounts. I am attracted to the model here and having done a couple of random exercises definitely can see some value here both in doing the exercises and perhaps helping others (with what small amount I really know and can help with at this point)

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The idea that people over 60 should be retired or otherwise not in the work force is an outdated concept. Few of us have the money to retire. We work to an older age now because we have to. There will always be age discrimination that exists just as there is racial and gender discrimination. Can’t let it stop you from pursuing your goals and objectives. I ran into a guy working at a county job who was in his 80s. I asked him about himself and he said he came back to work part time after retiring. He was bored. Certainly Professors that reach a ripe mature age can still teach. I am around your age and I am not stopping for anyone. If I stop I don’t want to even think about where my mind will go.

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**Tim,
I’m 58 and am running into the same conundrum. It really stinks because I really love IT (Networks) and am good at what I do.

I’m energetic, resourceful, and perseverant, and yet I feel a certain ageism ‘vibe’ when interviewing.

Currently, I’m pursuing my Cisco CCNA and learning Python; As network programmability is the new scope. **

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