I am 40 years old. Is it too late to start a career in software development?

I am 40 years old. Is it too late to start a career in software development?
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#42

NEVER TOO LATE @jaytsecan ! You can use your experience in the music and build cool stuff :smiley:
I’m sure you’re going to enjoy this!! :smile:


#43

I’m 44 and am also getting my BS in computer science. Go for it :slight_smile:


#44

I’m 28. And I have this same fear as you.

I recently finished up working with a start up (as an environmental engineer/biologist doing specific product design) and I was working with a lot of coder guys who were 5+ years younger than me.

I was fascinated watching them work, but figured I had missed the boat on learning to code. How could I ever catch up to them?
But you and I both are wrong - this fear is irrational. It’s not about catching up to other people, it’s about getting good enough to to build things. As an older person, you have a different sense of society and what constitutes a good thing to build than the MIT grads I was working with.

I have two pieces of evidence on why our fear is irrational.

  1. My aunty started studying nursing when she turned 50, and now works delivering babies at 55. Her profession is much more physically demanding than coding is, and she does it anyway. She was a school teacher prior.

  2. There is a screaming need for older programmers. In Boston, where I was working, I started attending programming and design talks. I went to one series about ‘designing for the elderly’. Not that you are elderly, but you can consider this perspective better than a 21 year old frat boy with limited worldly experience.
    In the tech world, web dev and design for the demographic of the elderly is grossly overlooked - despite this demographic holding roughly THREE QUARTERS of the purchasing power in the US economy. This is a large frontier in web design that requires much more attention, and businesses are becoming aware of this. One of the reasons the demographic has been neglected is that the ‘perspective of the elderly’ that product developers need to consider is a tricky one to consider for an inexperienced (at life) coding work force.

There is absolutely a place for you in this profession.

Like a previous reply stated, your age is your strength. It makes you MORE hirable to many companies, (even if your spine isn’t aligned, you get oesteoporosis and your legs fall off). What freedom you have in this new field that not only interests you, but will benefit from your life experience and gives you the ability to work in all sorts of future scenarios. All you have to do is make sure you do the work to get good at the skills. Your age is no barrier to that :slight_smile:


#45

I’m in my 50’s and working in IT.

The advantage that an older programmer brings is the ability to combine domain knowledge and life skills with programming.

Domain knowledge can get you a foot in the door. For example employers might employ a dev who is also an accountant to work on a product or billing system over a CS grad with no experience. This can also work the other way. eg who would you employ to write the next Pokemon Go game.

Life skills will help you once you have the job. If you can find it “the inmates are running the asylum” is a great read. It has a section on the maturity of the typical programmer which is enlightening.

Good luck with learning to code. :slight_smile:

Cheers EB


#46

This thread cemented it, i’m not too old at 21 ! I was incredibly dumb to think that. It just shows how our brains are bad at certain things, one person is 20, the other is 50 and they both think they are too old for something!


#47

It just shows how our brains are bad at certain things, one person is 20, the other is 50 and they both think they are too old for something!

Lol, I thought I was too old when I became serious about coding at 14… :confounded: As Abe Lincoln said

Its not the years of life that count, but the life in those years

Good luck starting the new career.


#48

There’s a ton of blog posts like these, but here y’all go:

http://www.inc.com/bill-murphy-jr/14-inspiring-people-who-found-crazy-success-later-in-life.html


#49

Actually at first, my brain had a different excuse, “I just wasn’t born to be a programmer”. It’s really just excuses after excuses. Gotta ignore the brain sometimes.


#50

Jay

Let me chime in as well. I really hope not.

I’m 44, I have a masters degree I’ve never used, I’ve had only two jobs that have nothing to do with tech and i’ve been trying to learn this for a very long time. I’m more of a ‘back end’ person working on ruby on rails (see my blog and read it Here ). I started codecamp just a couple days ago because I really need to work on my UI / design skills, plus i was at a standstill on most of my github project

The hardest part I’ve found, even with meetup.com is ‘support’. I’d love to find other 40 somethings with NO tech job experience out there and maybe we could work together on things like portfolio, resume, etc…I mean I work 45+ hours a week at my normal job and have lunch hours, microbreaks, after work, and weekends to try and get there, and man is it sometimes daunting.

Harslandy mentioned an ERP - one of my backburner projects is something i call minimrp - an open source manufacturing resource project that I Haven’t really gotten moving on because of my front end nightmare.

I think finding people to work with has been my hardest thing.


#51

I’ve never heard anyone caring about age in this line of business, just being a good programmer/developer. That would be the short answer.


#52

There are other concerns if this is a new career choice for you - and when you see a resume with 20+ years experience but not in tech looking for a junior developer job - trust me - people are going to have a ‘care’ even if they don’t mention it out loud (as legally they aren’t allowed to)

People who are teaching themselves trying to get a new start are at a disadvantage against the children who could study this in school and don’t have to worry about supporting a family or a life…it’s not something one should just dismiss


#53

Hello fellow boat-mate! (That was a “we’re in the same boat” joke…)

I am 46 and I come from TV/Film! I’ve done everything from directing Live TV news for a local affiliate to location scout to editing documentaries for National Geographic. After we adopted our daughter, I took off 4 years to stay at home with her. Then, trying to get back into entertainment proved to be a bit more difficult than I had imagined. After doing extensive research and introspection, I started teaching myself coding.

If you’re passionate about it, love learning new things and feel driven to code, there’s no reason you can’t do it. You’ll get stuck from time to time but so does everyone! If it were easy, everyone would be doing it! It’s those of us who keep pushing and love the process that will make it. Most of the people you’ll be working with (and for) will be younger than you. (Just remember, that will be the case most anywhere else too!) I have found that if you don’t make an issue of age, they (for the most part) won’t either.

I have actually recently started a blog about my experience learning to code. https://dongallagher.wordpress.com/

If you need any encouragement, don’t hesitate to write me back!


#54

I’m 56, rickstewart :slight_smile: No fear here - I like re-inventing myself. I’ve gone from mental health to education to telephony networks. Now I will code….


#55

I’m in a similar situation (Judging from this thread alone, clearly being somewhere beyond 30 when taking this step isn’t actually all that uncommon).
I have just started my first full-time developer job this week and I can tell you that, working with much younger, and yet much more experienced colleagues, can be something of a humbling exercise. Especially if you have had a successful career for over a decade or two (which reminds me: do not be one of those people who need to let that fact slip in casual conversation, or serious meetings!). But if you don’t mind that, and are happy to roll up your sleeves and learn hard, you’ll be fine.

Be the newbie they take you to be. Try to be helpful when appropriate, but not for the sake of pretending that you have seniority just because you’re older (You don’t! Only skills and enthusiasm for technology matter.), and most of all: always be learning!


#56

Thanks zk433 for that inspiration !


#57

41 here! Age is like most things. A tool to be used as advantage you can draw from or an excuse you can fall from. I rather perceive the advantage of being able to pull on the toughness, fortitude, motivation, and overall insight that usually comes with time. Even if there are some younger hiring bone heads, this field is uniquely suited for entrepreneurial endeavors which I personally think is the way to go every time if possible.


#58

There have been loads of responses here and it’s great to see that we’re not alone in this quest for knowledge or a new career.

I’m in a great job (non-web dev) at the moment but was looking for some additional income so I turned to FCC and over about 6 months last year earned the Front End Web Developer Certificate. I’m 47 now with 2 kids and a full-time job so it’s not impossible to do it.

I now do part-time freelance work developing websites for clients and although I’m not getting paid a huge sum, but each job that I do gives me more experience, a portfolio and maybe, more importantly, the confidence to keep going and learning more.

So far, the biggest things I’ve learned over the last 6-9 months is:

  • I don’t know everything
  • You need a thick skin (to take criticism of your 5-hour masterpiece for a client)
  • You have to be flexible
  • jQuery is awesome
  • CSS is more powerful than you can imagine
  • I can code web pages from memory (mostly)

So, if you’re just starting out, or thinking about it - GO FOR IT!


#59

Hi Jay,

40 is not old at all, this will be just another tool in your skill-set that you can use or not.

Think about this, when you are 65 and you retire how big is your pension going to be? Is it going to sustain your day to day life, maybe yours will, but I see a lot of 70-80+ year old people still working in shops and some doing manual low paid jobs to just keep the money coming in.

If you learn software development, after you retire at say 68 or sooner, you can have a cushy relaxed part time freelance careen working from home in your PJ’s 3 days a week with a 30 year dev careen experience behind you, and because of that experience your part time work will be earning you a full time pay!


#60

Thanks @gnovakov, those are important questions to consider.

As things currently stand, I have no pension or savings, so I’m probably going to be working till 70 (at least). Considering that I’ll be working to an old age, a physical (or manual) career would make that difficult. That’s one of the advantages of software development. If my mind hasn’t deteriorated much by then, then software is something I can definitely do to an old age.

So maybe if I’m lucky, work full-time till 68 and than start working part-time (or consulting or contracting) till 75 or so. By that time, I (hopefully) would have gained enough technical knowledge to be well qualified.

I may not be as fast as younger developers, but I’m hoping my experience will allow me to make fewer mistakes, thus saving me time in the long run. (I have heard of super experienced people accomplishing somethinig in a day that would take a younger or less experienced developer 2 weeks!).

Some people tell me that what one knows (deep technical knowldege) and how one analyzes things (logic and thinking) can be the most important skills to have as a software developer. Technologies will come and go, programming languages will come and go, databases will come and go, etc. But what will remain the same is - trouble-shooting, problem-solving, picking up new technologies, etc.

One thing that I (and every person that wants to be successful in software) need to keep in mind is that “Software Development” is an industry where you have to continuously keep learning new things, reading, experimentation, etc. all the way until the end of your career.

In that sense, it is different from other careers like being a doctor, etc. in that the human body does not change. But technology does! (or at least faster than the human body does :slight_smile:). So, I have to be willing to commit to a life-long process of learning.

IMHO, a career in software may be a deal breaker for those that do not like continuously learning new skills. Yes, it is a tough price to pay. Hopefully the rewards are worth it!

  • Jay

#61

There’s a popular meme going around the boot-camp world: “I’m a 3-month-old fetus. Is that too old to become a developer?”

Listen up, all you 40-somethings! You’re still a kid, as far as your career is concerned. I started learning to code way after 60, and I am NOT too old to become a developer. I’m doing exactly what Gnavakov said, above.

The tech world needs a ton more diversity (along with gender equality), and that means more brown & black skin, more GLBT’s, and definitely more older folks. So, I’m doing my part in two of those areas (gays and grays).