Am I too old to start programming?

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#1 Phyrepower  Icon User is offline

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Am I too old to start programming?

Posted 20 December 2010 - 01:29 AM

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The title says it all...Hopefully I won't get in trouble as I consider this primarily a career question.

Long story short, I'm bored to tears with what has become my career. I did an enlistment in the military where I got into IT doing the typical Microsoft Certified Engineer and Cisco stuff for a few years, and then eventually got into technology sales. I'm a very good salesman and the money is good (low six figures), but the truth is it is mind numbing work, and frankly not very challenging at this point. I have run a couple of side business successfully and feel I'm a pretty well rounded businessman.

After having done all that I have finally realized that I was happiest doing IT because of the constant challenge and problem solving that was part of the job. I have also recently realized that my entire career has really been about service, and what I want is to be able to actually create. Between science, engineering and programming I think I would enjoy programming the most. I have what I believe to be some very good ideas for software and web sites and I would like to attempt to learn how to bring those ideas to fruition.

So at the ripe old age of 32 could I take up programming as a career?


I have something like $50,000 of education money from my military career that is untouched, so school isn't completely out of the question.

Feel free to be brutal.

PS I would honestly be happy making $65,000 a year for awhile if it meant doing something interesting again. I've bought all the stupid toys I thought would make me happy, and they are only a minor diversion for a truly boring career.

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#2 hawkysu  Icon User is offline

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Re: Am I too old to start programming?

Posted 20 December 2010 - 01:46 AM

As someone who isn't actually in the industry, I can't really answer. From what I've heard, though, it would be hard to join the force at 32 unless you are truly gifted. That said, I believe it is never too late to pick up a new skill. At least learn some programming stuff and see.
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#3 dorknexus  Icon User is offline

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Re: Am I too old to start programming?

Posted 20 December 2010 - 02:38 AM

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Who cares how old you are? You have to be able to sit in front of a computer all day and write code. You must be that tall to ride the ride.
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#4 Blueline  Icon User is offline

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Re: Am I too old to start programming?

Posted 20 December 2010 - 03:10 AM

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View PostPhyrepower, on 20 December 2010 - 12:29 AM, said:

The title says it all...Hopefully I won't get in trouble as I consider this primarily a career question.

Long story short, I'm bored to tears with what has become my career. I did an enlistment in the military where I got into IT doing the typical Microsoft Certified Engineer and Cisco stuff for a few years, and then eventually got into technology sales. I'm a very good salesman and the money is good (low six figures), but the truth is it is mind numbing work, and frankly not very challenging at this point. I have run a couple of side business successfully and feel I'm a pretty well rounded businessman.

After having done all that I have finally realized that I was happiest doing IT because of the constant challenge and problem solving that was part of the job. I have also recently realized that my entire career has really been about service, and what I want is to be able to actually create. Between science, engineering and programming I think I would enjoy programming the most. I have what I believe to be some very good ideas for software and web sites and I would like to attempt to learn how to bring those ideas to fruition.

So at the ripe old age of 32 could I take up programming as a career?


I have something like $50,000 of education money from my military career that is untouched, so school isn't completely out of the question.

Feel free to be brutal.

PS I would honestly be happy making $65,000 a year for awhile if it meant doing something interesting again. I've bought all the stupid toys I thought would make me happy, and they are only a minor diversion for a truly boring career.


Hey this is a really good post and I'm sure you'll get a few answers.

I think, since you said you are a good businessman which btw is not nothing but indeed a very valuable talent, instead of going after the romance of living on a mediocre salary and doing what you love, change your outlook a bit and see what you could do and love and still rake in the money.

The world has no shortage of programmers. Yes there is a shortage of truly great programmers but since idiot MBA's with no technical background are doing the hiring, programmers are a commodity like wheat, copper, or hog-bellies. If you have a technical orientation and are a natural businessman you can be a CTO, you can create startups, you can manage technical people and learn to identify, hire, and then support truly great programmers. Let the megacorps of the world hire the H1B's and save a few bucks. Take an idea, or somebody else's idea, find great staff, build a team, and be the next success story in tech.

Even a boring job that pays well is nothing to sneeze at in this crappy economy. If you were already making 65K you would have almost no chance to make you dreams come true. Save your money and live skinny and get your funding and ideas together. Save all you can because things are going to get worse before (if) they ever get better. And don't forget the little people when you become successful ;) Last, there is always a choice to be the best or be the biggest. Most companies today care about nothing but ruthless growth. But I remember what it was like working for a place that treated me like family and I can tell you who I did the best work for. Be loyal to your guys and they will be loyal to you. Strive to be the best at whatever you do, and you will succeed. You may not be the next Bill Gates but you can still make a ton of money for yourself and your guys and make a positive difference in the world.

One last thing...technical managers are a double-edged sword. Many times they become meddlers. Find the best guys you can and pay them whatever you have to, find guys smarter than you who you can trust, and trust them to do their job. Don't tell your guys *how* to do what you want, tell them *what* you want. Don't meddle! Hired qualified people and then get out of the way.

This post has been edited by Blueline: 20 December 2010 - 03:14 AM

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#5 hookiethe1  Icon User is offline

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Re: Am I too old to start programming?

Posted 20 December 2010 - 05:29 AM

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I think that at the "ripe old age of 32" you shouldn't need to ask a bunch of strangers on the internet (many of whom are schoolkids, btw) for career advice. I'll be 32 when I graduate computer science next year, and even older by the time I get my master's degree. If you want to do it then do it, I don't think your age will be a deterring factor in your finding employment. I just started an internship a few months back with a very large and successful company, beating plenty of much younger people largely because of the fact that I am older, I have a work history, and it is often assumed that the older person will be more reliable than a typical college-aged person.

This post has been edited by hookiethe1: 20 December 2010 - 05:31 AM

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#6 Blueline  Icon User is offline

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Re: Am I too old to start programming?

Posted 20 December 2010 - 05:44 AM

That's funny. Usually people laugh at us old guys. That's a new one on me. I thought schoolkids knew it all ;)
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#7 Sergio Tapia  Icon User is offline

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Re: Am I too old to start programming?

Posted 20 December 2010 - 06:14 AM

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Quote

(many of whom are schoolkids, btw)


:lol: A+ post, would read again.

Now to answer your question OP, you aren't too old. In fact, you have a very strong upper hand on many guys graduating from college. Experience trumps textbook academics every day of the year. Since you already have a strong IT background, learning programming things will round you off nicely and you'll understand things easier than someone who just got into school without no prior knowledge.

Your mileage will vary of course, how bad do you want it?

I got into college without a single iota of programming knowledge. In fact I had no idea where to even begin with programming, but here I am, 6 months away from my degree and can confidently say I'm in the top 5 programmers at my school.

Everything depends how bad you want it.
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#8 gabehabe  Icon User is offline

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Re: Am I too old to start programming?

Posted 20 December 2010 - 06:15 AM

View PostBlueline, on 20 December 2010 - 11:44 AM, said:

That's funny. Usually people laugh at us old guys. That's a new one on me. I thought schoolkids knew it all ;)

haha, you old.
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#9 NickDMax  Icon User is offline

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Re: Am I too old to start programming?

Posted 20 December 2010 - 09:38 AM

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I was older than you when I got my first Programming Job. I got out of the Navy and went to school got a degree in Mathematics and then went to work. It was not easy but it also was not terribly hard. I don't think age really has much to do with it. I know plenty of developers that started out doing other things. For example a friend of mine has a degree in counseling. He began to write software to help out with that, soon found that he was making money at it, then found he didn't have time for his day job and went back to school and now he is a CTO for a technology company.

Age really has very very very little do with it.

Don't look at your age as a disadvantage because then it becomes one. Look at it as an advantage.

Some lessons learned from my experiences:
  • Despite what the popular media says a "career gap" always looks bad on your resume and school is a "career gap". So try to find some way to mitigate this, internships, open source projects etc. -- i.e. "concentrating on school" is just NOT the answer they want to hear when they ask what you were doing in that time (even though, honestly I think concentrating on school really IS what you should be doing).
  • DO PROGRAMMING! -- and keep a log/notes of all the various projects you work on. Experience is King and being able to show that you have experience is important. I was asked a lot of questions about various projects I had done, but I didn't keep any kind of notes so I found answering the questions very difficult. But when your resume says you know X they will want to know where you have used it. "I did some perl scripts in school" far less valuable then, "In my bioinformatics class we used perl to integrate mass spectronomy data with..." Specific use case/examples much better than "oh I used it some".
  • Add some business classes to your electives. If for no other reason than getting the vocabulary down. It STILL irritates my manager when I don't know when the quarter ends or pause over common business acronyms.
  • Keep up on general industry news (CNET, Slashdot etc.) because knowledge is power and gossip gives us all something to talk about.


Take these or leave them they are just things that I wish I had done a little better.
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#10 tlhIn`toq  Icon User is offline

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Re: Am I too old to start programming?

Posted 20 December 2010 - 10:08 AM

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As everyone else has urged to do it, I won't repeat that wonderful advice.
Don't waste a ton of money on formal classes. At least at the start. The people I know that actually *comprehend* what they are doing are self-taught. I've listed a lot of self-education resources below to start with. If they make sense to you then you probably have a mind for coding. If you are totally lost and bamboozled with the "My first program resources", then maybe a good intro to coding course would help you out. A couple $50 books is a lot cheaper than a $2500 course, just to find out you don't like it.

Below is my copy/paste response to the typical beginner who posts here without doing any research. I don't think you are that kind of person, but the links and references are already embedded in it.



Sometimes just knowing where to look can make all the difference. Google is your friend.
Search with either "C#" or "MSDN" as the first word: "MSDN Picturebox", "C# Custom Events", "MSDN timer" etc.

But honestly, just typing away and seeing what pops up in Intellisense is going to make your self-education take 20 years. You can learn by trying to reverse engineer the language through banging on the keyboard - or you can learn by doing the tutorials and following a good "How to learn C#" book.

May I suggest picking up a basic C# introductory book? There are so many great "How do I build my first application" tutorials on the web... There are dozens of "Learn C# in 21 days", "My first C# program" books at your local book seller or even public library...

Build a Program Now! in Visual C# by Microsoft Press, ISBN 0-7356-2542-5
is a terrific book that has you build a Windows Forms application, a WPF app, a database application, your own web browser.

C# Cookbooks
Are a great place to get good code, broken down by need, written by coding professionals. You can use the code as-is, but take the time to actually study it. These professionals write in a certain style for a reason developed by years of experience and heartache.

Microsoft Visual Studio Tips, 251 ways to improve your productivity, Microsoft press, ISBN 0-7356-2640-5
Has many, many great, real-world tips that I use all the time.

The tutorials below walk through making an application including inheritance, custom events and custom controls.
Quick and easy custom events
Bulding an application - Part 1
Building an application - Part 2
Debugging tutorial
Working with environmental variables

Writing a text file is always one of the first things people want to do, in order to store data like high-scores, preferences and so on
Writing a text file tutorial.

These are just good every-day references to put in your bookmarks.
MSDN C# Developers Center with tutorials
Welcome to Visual Studio

Have you seen the MSDN Code Samples? They spent a lot of time creating samples and demos. It seems a shame to not use them.

  • Anonymous Delegates: Demonstrates the use of unnamed delegates to reduce application complexity.
  • Arrays: Shows how to use arrays.
  • Attributes: Shows how to create custom attribute classes, use them in code, and query them through reflection.
  • Collection Classes: Shows how to make non-generic collection classes that can be used with the foreach statement.
  • COM Interop Part I: Shows how to use C# to interoperate with COM objects.
  • COM Interop Part II: Shows how to a use a C# server together with a C++ COM client.
  • Commandline: Demonstrates simple command-line processing and array indexing.
  • Condiational Methods: Demonstrates conditional methods, which provide a powerful mechanism by which calls to methods can be included or omitted depending on whether a symbol is defined.
  • Delegates: Shows how delegates are declared, mapped to static and instance methods, and combined into multicast delegates.
  • Events: Shows how to declare, invoke, and configure events in C#.
  • Explicit Interface: Demonstrates how to explicitly implement interface members and how to access those members from interface instances.
  • Generics: Shows how to make generic collection classes that can be used with the foreach statement.
  • Hello World: A Hello World application.
  • Indexers Part I: Shows how C# classes can declare indexers to provide array-like access to objects.
  • Indexers Part II: Shows how to implement a class that uses indexed properties. Indexed properties enable you to use a class that represents an array-like collection.
  • Libraries: Shows how to use compiler options to create a DLL from multiple source files; also, how to use the library in other programs
  • Named and Optional (C# 4.0): Demonstrates Named and Optional parameters, an alternative to method overloads
  • Nullable: Demonstrates value types, such as double and bool, that can be set to null
  • Office Sample (C# 4.0): Demonstrates how Dynamic and COM Interop make it easy to call Microsoft Office in C# 4.0
  • OLEDB: Demonstrates how to use a Microsoft Access database from C# by creating a dataset and adding tables to it.
  • Operator Overloading: Shows how user-defined classes can overload operators
  • Partial Types: Demonstrates how classes and structures can be defined in multiple C# source-code files
  • PInvoke: Shows how to call exported DLL functions from C#
  • Properties: Shows how properties are declared and used; also demonstrates abstract properties
  • Python Sample (C# 4.0): Learn how to call a Python script by using the Dynamic feature in C# 4.0
  • Security: Discusses .NET Framework security and shows how to modify security permissions in C# by using permission classes and permission attributes
  • Simple Variance (C# 4.0): See how Covariance and Contravariance are supported in generic interfaces and delegates
  • Structs: Shows how to use structs in C#.
  • Threading: Demonstrates various thread activities such as creating and executing a thread, synchronizing threads, interacting between threads, and using a thread pool
  • Unsafe: Shows how to use unmanaged code (code that uses pointers) in C#
  • User Conversions: Shows how to define conversions to and from user-defined types
  • Versioning: Demonstrates versioning in C# by using the override and new keywords
  • XML Documents: Shows how to document code by using XML
  • Yield: Demonstrates how to use the yield keyword to filter items in a collection

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#11 baavgai  Icon User is offline

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Re: Am I too old to start programming?

Posted 20 December 2010 - 10:33 AM

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Programming is a weird gig. A lot of people come at it sideways. ( I know the CS students don't want to hear this. )

I've known people who worked a myriad of other careers, from network analyses to accountants, who end up being the programmer because of their other skill sets. Or even just being in the right place at the right time.

I'm a full time programmer, but technically I'm the DBA and got here by being a consultant. I did have a CS minor, but it really didn't matter. If you're in a position to solve a problem and seem to know what you're doing, people will pay you for it and ask you to do it again.

Old at 32? Ouch. Honestly, if you've been working in any form of IT, you're fine. You have a technical customer base? If a customer needs some work done and you think you're up for it, do it! Keep an eye out for what's around you. For every serious programming challenge out there, theres actually a ton of stuff that anyone with enough confidence could do, given a chance.
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#12 lordofduct  Icon User is offline

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Re: Am I too old to start programming?

Posted 20 December 2010 - 10:53 AM

View PostDark_Nexus, on 20 December 2010 - 01:38 AM, said:

Who cares how old you are? You have to be able to sit in front of a computer all day and write code. You must be that tall to ride the ride.


I usually have long winded responses (like a lot in the thread so far)... but Dark_Nexus put it in a nice tiny container that I actually would have as well for this topic.

Why not? Go do it! School isn't necessary...

This post has been edited by lordofduct: 20 December 2010 - 10:56 AM

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#13 Blueline  Icon User is offline

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Re: Am I too old to start programming?

Posted 20 December 2010 - 11:33 AM

View PostDark_Nexus, on 20 December 2010 - 01:38 AM, said:

Who cares how old you are? You have to be able to sit in front of a computer all day and write code. You must be that tall to ride the ride.


LOL yeah, we call it the "ass of steel".
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#14 SixOfEleven  Icon User is offline

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Re: Am I too old to start programming?

Posted 20 December 2010 - 11:49 AM

You're never too old to start over. I've decided I don't want to program professionally. Instead I've decided to make the move to IT support. All those years at the computer taught me a lot about IT support but there is always more to learn. I'm 41, at this time, and am going back to school to take courses that lead to a couple industry certifications. If you have the passion and you like it then it will be an excellent ride. Go for it!
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#15 15yearoldCoder  Icon User is offline

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Re: Am I too old to start programming?

Posted 20 December 2010 - 12:51 PM

Does it really matter how old you are? We are all bound to learn something at some point no matter how old we are. I know some people who got a MBA with a IT focus and they don't even use their business degree because they love programming. Another thing is you don't have to waste all that money on going back to school to learn programming. There is something called the internet where you can find lots of helpful tutorials that teach you programming, but there are a lot that are also crap so you just need to find the good ones. Point is its not too late for you to learn.
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