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How old is 'too old' in programming?

 
Greenhorn
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I ask because I have been into python programming for the last year and enjoy it and want to spend more time learning it and other languages eventually to try and get work. Trouble is that age is not on my side anymore, I am 36 so by the time I have learned some more and am considered to be good enough for a job, I may be 28 or so. Is this simply too old to start in the programming industry? I really am not expecting to get a job in EA games writing the next call of duty game (lol) I am only wanting to work anywhere I can in any office doing any minor jobs no matter how big or small just ANYTHING and I don't care much if the pay is low which would likely be the case. I have no prior experience in IT either I have always worked in unskilled jobs upto now so yeh that does not help.

So what you guys think? I don't want to learn hard to program only for it all to be useless at the end because I can't get work.
 
Marshal
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I'm 57. Just saying.

I have been in the industry since 1978, so my experience is probably not that useful to you; but just wanted to point out that at 36, you're just a kid ¹ and thinking you are old at this point is kinda laughable.

Is there age discrimination in IT? Absolutely. It's really easy to spot (though usually impossible to prove) when you are on the receiving end. But if programming is where your passion lies, I'd pursue it. If, on the other hand, it's not something that you are actually interested in, and just thinking of it because it pays well or something like that, then I'd not be as supportive.





¹ Where kid is defined, by me, as "anyone more than 20 years younger than you are".

¹¹ Btw, old is defined as "anyone more than 20 years older than you are".
 
Bartender
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dave andrews wrote:... I may be 28 or so. Is this simply too old to start in the programming industry?


Well I started to learn programming when I was 30 years old. I am 44 today.

dave andrews wrote:
So what you guys think? I don't want to learn hard to program only for it all to be useless at the end because I can't get work.


I have always found this to be the wrong approach, in whatever vocation you are considering. The only question I asked myself ever was "am I enjoying it?" If the answer is yes, then nothing else matters.

Like Bear said, it has to be passion. Do not run behind money. Do not learn technologies just because there are more job openings in that field right now. You will just end up doing a job. Do what really makes you happy and you will enjoy every moment of it. Since you will be enjoying it so much, you will keep pushing yourself to be more and more better which will make you one of the best there is. And the money will flow in.
 
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Hi Dave,

Welcome to the Ranch!

I'm 40. I started self-learning HTML, CSS and PHP at 38. Then, I discovered Java and started concentrating on that last year. I've been doing a lot of networking as I prepare to move from academia to industry, so I'll tell you how hard that step is in a few months. I can tell you, so far, I've had several strong leads without really trying - just talking to people in industry. While I'm sure (as with most industries) there is some age-bias, based on the feedback I've received, when someone of our age chooses to commit to a major life altering change, people pick up on that passion. Plus, your age will have given you life experience outside of programming, the ability to communicate more clearly than most twenty-somethings and the skill sets to work effectively in teams.

But, as Bear suggested, before you jump full on, I do recommend you really sit down with some folks in industry. The time commitment I've made has been immense (relearning high school algebra, calculus, etc... was just part of it). Plus, I quickly realized that programming was only a small piece of being a programmer. There are all these other related coding parts (like learning SQL), plus many soft skills (understanding SDLC, project management terminology, UML, Agile methods, etc...) that I've had to pick up on, too.

My advice if you are not 100% sure? See if your community has a MeetUp programmer or polyglot group where you can talk to some real people in industry. Not just the HR staff. Then, start small with a part-time programming class at a local college and talk to those classmates who are your own age. You'll be surprised who you'll meet. In one entry level C++ class, I got to know a Technical Director from the company you mentioned (after 15 years of management, his C++ was rusty). In another class on System Design, I met a senior project manager from a local utility company that also happens to run a team of Java developers that build out our metering system. Opportunities are out there, you just need to research.

dave andrews wrote:I am 36 so by the time I have learned some more and am considered to be good enough for a job, I may be 28


On the hand, if you really are 36 going on 28, your time machine is worth WAY more than anything you'll ever make programming.

Cheers!
Chris
 
Bartender
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Lots of good advice above.

  • Definitely do all you can to make contacts in the industry via meet-ups, user groups etc, especially with smaller businesses who might be prepared to give you a chance e.g. working for free or low wages just to get some experience. Big corporations tend not to be so flexible.
  • Look for opportunities to broaden/deepen your skills and understanding e.g. look at web development, databases or other languages as well as Python.
  • There are masses of free online courses around computer science and technology on Coursera, Udacity and EdX and many of these are based on Python. Most of these courses offer a free option as well as a paid-for "certified"/"verified" version.
  • Talk to people in the industry about the kind of skills you'd like to learn or can already offer, and the kind of skills employers are looking for.
  • Public sector employers tend to be less concerned about age and usually have strong anti-discrimination policies, although pay rates are lower. This could be one way for you to break into the industry.

  • You can't do anything about your age (although the time machine looks promising!), so you might as well not worry about it. Employers are constantly complaining about the "IT skills shortage" (they've been whining about it constantly since I joined the industry over 25 years ago), but if they're dumb enough to exclude good candidates because of their age, then they're probably not worth working for anyway. Focus on building your skills and experience, with an eye on your target job market, and hopefully you'll find somebody out there willing to give you a chance.

    In the mean time, if you enjoy learning programming then at least you'll be having some fun along the way.
     
    Greenhorn
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    Hai!
    I started self teaching myself Visual Basic at 32 to get a job at where I work now. I then decided to learn Java at 34 (which made me a lot better at VB.NET)
    Along the way I also learned the basics of TSQL, PLSQL, ASP, ADO, and a few others.

    Also in the IT field, age isn't much of a factor. It's no longer 'common practice' to retire with the company you start at.
     
    dave andrews
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    Thanks for the replies all. And yes I don't own a time machine it was a typing error lol I obviously meant 38. I curious about something else also, why do some people here say they moved to Java? is it generally better than most languages? seems people favor it more. Why is this?
     
    Bear Bibeault
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    It's a matter of using the best tool for the job. I work in web applications, and Java is perfect for the backend processing. (Not to be confused with client-side Java Applets which are a cancer on the face of the Earth that needs to be surgically excised).

    There are many other project types for which Java is a good choice of tool.

    And then there are plenty for which Java would not be a good choice (OS internals, for example).

    One should never choose Java because they like the language, they should choose Java because it's a good tool for the job. This is why, as you grow as a developer, it will be important to learn new languages.


     
    Chris Barrett
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    dave andrews wrote:is it generally better than most languages?


    That's a debatable question that usually turns into a "my language is better than your language" fight. Also remember you are asking on a primarily Java oriented website, so you should expect most people here like and use Java.

    Bear is totally correct - you choose the best tool for the job. You don't drive a nail with a saw, you use a hammer. That said, you don't hire a chef to drive that nail - you hire a carpenter. So, if you are asking should you pursue Java as your language of choice to start your programming career, because others here have transitioned to Java, that really depends on you and your local market. Take some time to understand that market before making a decision on which language to pursue. The last thing you want is to spend a year learning enough Java to get hired as a Junior developer to only realize all the local jobs want .NET or C++. In time, you will learn more languages, which will increase your value (a carpenter who knows how to frame a house and build kitchen cabinets is more employable than one who can only frame).
     
    chris webster
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    If you're in the UK you might want to check out the civil service jobs site. Right now government departments are under great pressure to save money by using technology better and by reducing] their dependence on expensive contract IT staff. This means they may be open to recruiting people without much experience and train them up in the relevant skills. Public sector recruiters have strict policies against discrimination, including ageism, so your age should not be an issue. After all, you'll still be able to offer them some 30 years of working life, which is a lot longer than most young graduates stay in their first job.
     
    Consider Paul's rocket mass heater.
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