Am I too old to start programming?

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#16 Craig328  Icon User is offline

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Re: Am I too old to start programming?

Posted 20 December 2010 - 01:12 PM

By way of comparison, I didn't touch web app development until I was 32. I spent the previous 10 years in the insurance industry and got as high as managing a work comp TPA office that covered 11 states. I was making good money, the hours weren't too bad...and I had to drink a 6 pack per night to compensate for the effects of the day. I was good at what I did but there are some careers where you come to a point where you realize that your soul (and possibly your liver) are more important...so you walk away from the career progress you've made and start something new.

In my case, it was a gift job from God himself: I was hired to learn CF development OTJ because the company that hired me needed someone to write an insurance application. They figured it would be easier to teach an insurance person how to code than to teach a coder about insurance. It was probably a lower suicide risk as well.

That all said, you don't need a CS degree or even formal schooling to be a dev. I do what I do with a history degree and a grand total of one wasted "Into To" class under my belt. What you need is an IQ, an ability to do the mental Rubik's Cube that dev work sometimes demands and an iron ass. If you do well, it pays well, is always in demand...and it can be quite rewarding to see something you made work and be happily used by lots of people.

Good luck!

This post has been edited by Craig328: 20 December 2010 - 01:13 PM

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#17 Phyrepower  Icon User is offline

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Re: Am I too old to start programming?

Posted 20 December 2010 - 04:23 PM

I really appreciate all the great responses. It is refreshing to hear that I'm not too old to give this a go. At the very least I intend to make a hobby out of programming if I cannot find full time work.

Thanks for the good reply Blueline. I was thinking that if I wasn't able to catch up with my peers in sheer programming know-how, I could at the very least learn enough to find the right talent and put together a good team to perhaps bring some of my projects to fruition. I'm sure everyone has worked for some manager with a business degree and no technical knowledge, who makes all sorts of unreasonable demands with no respect to realistic time-lines, and I don't want to be "that guy". I'm hoping that in a worst case scenario once I get going on this I can at least learn enough to be an effective team leader.

@hookiethe1 That is surprising. I really expected to hear more people tell me I was a bit too old to be getting into this. You hear about all these teenagers getting into coding and when you think of just getting going in your 30's it seems unusual to me. Glad I was wrong.

Great post tlhIn'toq. I read it and copied the whole thing for future reference. I'm going to get my hands on some of the material you recommended and get going soon.

To everyone else...Thanks for all the good responses. I have been fortunate enough to have my hands in a lot of different industries coming from a business and sales background and really there are very few industries (IMHO) that have a strong future in the US. I would name finance, health care, IT/programming to be about it. And as I mentioned I am hoping that having some ability to actually create something new and exciting will fill a void for me. Schlepping other people's creations or fixing their broken crap for a living can get tiring.

The only odd thing I find about programming is how so many people consider programmers a commodity. I've heard it before "we just need to find a coder" from non-techie types. But really how many projects actually go well when non-techies try and hire the cheapest coders they can find to create something? Is that actually doable? Every really successful software company I know of was founded and run by actual techs, not by business people, at least initially.

Question: Do any of you feel that there is a hard wall you will hit at a certain age as a programmer where employment will be difficult to find? I have always wondered about age discrimination in this industry and if that is a reality or just something the Silicon Valley crowd perpetuates, that doesn't really hold true. Thoughts?

Last question: I can afford to only work about 30 hours a week and go back to school about 3/4 time, and not have a big gap in my career. I have to use that $50k from my military experience or I'm going to lose it in the next few years. So what are your thoughts on going into computer science? I know many of you said it is unnecessary. I understand that I could learn all this for free, but would I move quicker going to college? Can anyone recommend any schools in the Orange County, or Los Angeles area?

Thanks.
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#18 Phyrepower  Icon User is offline

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Re: Am I too old to start programming?

Posted 20 December 2010 - 04:29 PM

View PostCraig328, on 20 December 2010 - 12:12 PM, said:

By way of comparison, I didn't touch web app development until I was 32. I spent the previous 10 years in the insurance industry and got as high as managing a work comp TPA office that covered 11 states. I was making good money, the hours weren't too bad...and I had to drink a 6 pack per night to compensate for the effects of the day. I was good at what I did but there are some careers where you come to a point where you realize that your soul (and possibly your liver) are more important...so you walk away from the career progress you've made and start something new.

In my case, it was a gift job from God himself: I was hired to learn CF development OTJ because the company that hired me needed someone to write an insurance application. They figured it would be easier to teach an insurance person how to code than to teach a coder about insurance. It was probably a lower suicide risk as well.

That all said, you don't need a CS degree or even formal schooling to be a dev. I do what I do with a history degree and a grand total of one wasted "Into To" class under my belt. What you need is an IQ, an ability to do the mental Rubik's Cube that dev work sometimes demands and an iron ass. If you do well, it pays well, is always in demand...and it can be quite rewarding to see something you made work and be happily used by lots of people.

Good luck!



That is awesome to hear. It sounds in some ways you were in the same boat as me. I think if I had some knowledge I could make some nice simple applications in a variety of industries I have experience in, that the average non-techie could easily use and greatly benefit from.

Lol, glad to hear you're off suicide watch.
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#19 Nakor  Icon User is offline

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Re: Am I too old to start programming?

Posted 20 December 2010 - 05:01 PM

I came from a background in communications from the Army and then later doing line work for a couple of different phone and cable companies. I started learning programming about two years ago at 31 and just got my first programming job a few months ago. Took about a year and a half of a mix of junior college courses and a lot of self-learning (and lots of resume's sent in) but I am really enjoying what I do. If you think programming is for you then I definitely say go for it.
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#20 AlbuquerqueApache  Icon User is offline

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Re: Am I too old to start programming?

Posted 20 December 2010 - 06:00 PM

since when is 32 old???!??!?!?! :helpsmilie:


I know people in their 50s and 60s getting into I.T. at my organization. Granted their not programmers, but its happening.

Anyway, I don't think your age has anything to do with it and a true interest is fuel for the fire.

Plus, if you have 50k in education funds, heck yeah, I'd say go find yourself a decent school or program and start taking courses (if you want to). I think the advantage of college is that they have a game plan which builds a foundation for you, its up to you ultimately to build upon that. It's not the end all be all unless your planning a trip to MIT/Caltech.

I always get discouraged when I hear older people putting themselves down because they think they CANT learn something or do something. I'm also annoyed by people who use it as an excuse for entitlement.

Anyway, some of the best programmers (as I think baavgai mentioned) become programmers by happenstance. A lot of the good old C hackers I know of are in this group and these dudes are bright.
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#21 Phyrepower  Icon User is offline

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Re: Am I too old to start programming?

Posted 20 December 2010 - 07:38 PM

View PostAlbuquerqueApache, on 20 December 2010 - 05:00 PM, said:

since when is 32 old???!??!?!?! :helpsmilie:


I know people in their 50s and 60s getting into I.T. at my organization. Granted their not programmers, but its happening.

Anyway, I don't think your age has anything to do with it and a true interest is fuel for the fire.

Plus, if you have 50k in education funds, heck yeah, I'd say go find yourself a decent school or program and start taking courses (if you want to). I think the advantage of college is that they have a game plan which builds a foundation for you, its up to you ultimately to build upon that. It's not the end all be all unless your planning a trip to MIT/Caltech.

I always get discouraged when I hear older people putting themselves down because they think they CANT learn something or do something. I'm also annoyed by people who use it as an excuse for entitlement.

Anyway, some of the best programmers (as I think baavgai mentioned) become programmers by happenstance. A lot of the good old C hackers I know of are in this group and these dudes are bright.


Thanks for the response. I've heard a few people mention that you can seek employment as a programmer after even a year and a half of learning, if you are diligent. That is good to know. I don't think I am off my mark where a lot of people consider programming and IT a young man's game. It's good to know they were wrong.

What are the worst things about this field? Are there a lot of unrealistic demands, long hours, or stupid managers (in abundance)? I guess I'm just wondering what the norm is.

Have you seen many of your jobs disappear overseas? I haven't heard much talk about outsourcing since the dot-com bust.

This years Occupational Outlook Handbook from the Bureau of Labor Statistics has good things to say about growth and pay for Computer Software Engineers and Computer Programmers : http://www.bls.gov/o...303.htm#outlook
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#22 k1ngcor3y  Icon User is offline

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Re: Am I too old to start programming?

Posted 20 December 2010 - 10:17 PM

There are tons of dustbags in my classes... on average 32 is young for my programming classes.

you wouldn't believe the amount of times I've heard "My son/daughter did my homework " or "Ugh! my son/daughter had this instructor before"
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#23 macosxnerd101  Icon User is offline

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Re: Am I too old to start programming?

Posted 20 December 2010 - 10:52 PM

My dad got into programming 10 or so years ago to modernize the family business. To give you an idea of the employee age range, more than half of them are on social security and were afraid of computers. So he picked up Corel Paradox and ran with it b/c Access wasn't on the shelf at the store that day. He was ~40 when he started. Today, 10 years later, he still has that same program running the business, and he's still maintaining it. And perhaps more impressively, he taught a lot of retirement-age people how to effectively use a computer about as well as the average user.

So moral of the story, if these guys aren't too old to learn how to use a computer, and my dad isn't too old to pick it up, you should be in good shape. :)
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#24 Sergio Tapia  Icon User is offline

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Re: Am I too old to start programming?

Posted 21 December 2010 - 05:37 AM

*
POPULAR

Whatever you do, please don't be that guy during class. You know the guy.

The 40 year old that constantly interrupts the lecturer about the smallest of things, always has to chime in and start his opinion with, 'in my experience...'.

It's like those annoying mothers that decide they want to get a psychology degree and always mess up class by interrupting. How many times have I heard a woman say, 'as a mother..'.

Just some advice if you don't want your classmates to loathe you. ;)
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#25 hookiethe1  Icon User is offline

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Re: Am I too old to start programming?

Posted 21 December 2010 - 06:21 AM

I HATE that guy!
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#26 Craig328  Icon User is offline

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Re: Am I too old to start programming?

Posted 21 December 2010 - 07:11 AM

Well, one of the things you need to decide is what it is you actually want to be involved building. If you're looking to build installable desktop apps then somewhat more learning is involved and the languages used somewhat less easy to learn (although by no means impossible). If you're looking to build web apps or websites then the hill is a lot less steep and the languages and concepts not quite so arcane. I wouldn't suggest any formal education is needed to get into coding for browsers.

You might should consider the "goal" job you'd like and then look to see who does that kind of work now and what their qualifications are.
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#27 gwmatt  Icon User is offline

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Re: Am I too old to start programming?

Posted 21 December 2010 - 09:23 AM

Short answer: no, you're not too old to start programming.

Longer answer: If you have the ability (and it sounds like you do), then you can have your cake and eat it. What do I mean? Simply this: if you are a natural problem solver and have the ability to translate problem solutions into code then learning to program can be done on the side WHILE you keep your current job. Boring though it may be, the economy is tough right now and you'd be a fool to walk away from a 6 figure income.

There are TONS of excellent textbooks on programming out there, and those plus the many programming oriented web sites (including this one) can enable any self starter to learn as much as they need to as quickly as they need to. If you're willing to devote your evenings and weekends to it, you can keep doing what you're doing while you learn. It's pretty much risk free because even if you decide you hate it you haven't really lost anything except time. And even if you don't like it or aren't cut out for it some knowledge of programming can come in handy in almost any career path you decide on down the road.

Pick an "environment" that you feel comfortable with and stick to that environment because it's virtually impossible to get competent in all of them. For example, Microsoft (.Net, C#, VB, SQL Server, Windows Server, etc) vs. Java vs. LAMP (Linux, Apache, MySQL, Perl/PHP/Python, etc). If you're talking web based applications, these are the main environments you might have to deal with.

Languages like Java, C# and VB are easy to learn and widely used and you can be productive in them fairly quickly. A language like C++ is quite a bit harder to learn but it's the language of choice for serious software (as opposed to application) development.

Avoid wasting your time on obviously dead or dying technologies. VB6 is a prime example. Yes, it's still widely used (I still work with it occasionally myself), but clearly it's winding down and will disappear altogether before much longer.

Regardless of choices of environment and language, one language you'll need to know in addition to any others is Javascript. It's used in so many environments in so many ways that you'll find it a necessity. You'll also need to know at least a little about HTML and CSS. You won't need to be an expert, but you should at least know the basics. The same applies to XML - it's ubiquitous so you'll need to at least know the basics.

I've been a programmer since 1978 - about as long as you've been alive - so I know what I'm talking about. I've actually left jobs and declined promotions to management positions because I enjoy slinging code and know that I'd hate being a manager. If you stick with it, make sure you stay current and don't let your skills stagnate. Follow tech web sites and publications. Read a few of those huge text books every year - don't let more than one release pass you by. Never stop learning because once you do then you really WILL be too old.
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#28 Choscura  Icon User is offline

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Re: Am I too old to start programming?

Posted 21 December 2010 - 10:19 AM

View PosttlhIn, on 20 December 2010 - 09:08 AM, said:

Spoiler


I have to disagree a bit: programming on your own is most certainly the most effective way to learn, however, if you begin learning in the classroom (any classroom) you will not only have somebody who has to answer your questions, but you will have some structure that pushes you to try new things in relatively short order, and offers some explanation on how the things you're doing actually work.

@OP: if you are looking for a challenge as a businessman, then your best bet might be to start and operate a full-time business. There is infinitely better advice than I can give you available everywhere, but the one thing that I will say is do what you love, and the money will follow.
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#29 Phyrepower  Icon User is offline

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Re: Am I too old to start programming?

Posted 21 December 2010 - 01:33 PM

View PostSergio Tapia, on 21 December 2010 - 04:37 AM, said:

Whatever you do, please don't be that guy during class. You know the guy.

The 40 year old that constantly interrupts the lecturer about the smallest of things, always has to chime in and start his opinion with, 'in my experience...'.

It's like those annoying mothers that decide they want to get a psychology degree and always mess up class by interrupting. How many times have I heard a woman say, 'as a mother..'.

Just some advice if you don't want your classmates to loathe you. ;)


WELL Sergio, In my experience.... :stuart:


Haha no kidding. Those people are aggravating, especially the mom's who chime in about how every topic relates in some way to raising children. Come to think of it my mom does this. Aggravating is an understatement on second thought. :sarcasm:
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#30 Phyrepower  Icon User is offline

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Re: Am I too old to start programming?

Posted 21 December 2010 - 01:44 PM

View Postgwmatt, on 21 December 2010 - 08:23 AM, said:

Short answer: no, you're not too old to start programming.

Longer answer: If you have the ability (and it sounds like you do), then you can have your cake and eat it. What do I mean? Simply this: if you are a natural problem solver and have the ability to translate problem solutions into code then learning to program can be done on the side WHILE you keep your current job. Boring though it may be, the economy is tough right now and you'd be a fool to walk away from a 6 figure income.

There are TONS of excellent textbooks on programming out there, and those plus the many programming oriented web sites (including this one) can enable any self starter to learn as much as they need to as quickly as they need to. If you're willing to devote your evenings and weekends to it, you can keep doing what you're doing while you learn. It's pretty much risk free because even if you decide you hate it you haven't really lost anything except time. And even if you don't like it or aren't cut out for it some knowledge of programming can come in handy in almost any career path you decide on down the road.

Pick an "environment" that you feel comfortable with and stick to that environment because it's virtually impossible to get competent in all of them. For example, Microsoft (.Net, C#, VB, SQL Server, Windows Server, etc) vs. Java vs. LAMP (Linux, Apache, MySQL, Perl/PHP/Python, etc). If you're talking web based applications, these are the main environments you might have to deal with.

Languages like Java, C# and VB are easy to learn and widely used and you can be productive in them fairly quickly. A language like C++ is quite a bit harder to learn but it's the language of choice for serious software (as opposed to application) development.

Avoid wasting your time on obviously dead or dying technologies. VB6 is a prime example. Yes, it's still widely used (I still work with it occasionally myself), but clearly it's winding down and will disappear altogether before much longer.

Regardless of choices of environment and language, one language you'll need to know in addition to any others is Javascript. It's used in so many environments in so many ways that you'll find it a necessity. You'll also need to know at least a little about HTML and CSS. You won't need to be an expert, but you should at least know the basics. The same applies to XML - it's ubiquitous so you'll need to at least know the basics.

I've been a programmer since 1978 - about as long as you've been alive - so I know what I'm talking about. I've actually left jobs and declined promotions to management positions because I enjoy slinging code and know that I'd hate being a manager. If you stick with it, make sure you stay current and don't let your skills stagnate. Follow tech web sites and publications. Read a few of those huge text books every year - don't let more than one release pass you by. Never stop learning because once you do then you really WILL be too old.



This is a great post. I actually copied the whole thing for future reference. I think any noobie would want to read that to get some idea of where to start. I am definitely leaning towards LAMP/WAMP for the moment. I have some opportunities that involve web based programming and e-commerce stuff, and as many have mentioned web programming is a smaller hill to climb initially.

Thanks!

Thanks for the reply Craig. Good stuff.

@Choscura: I would love to do something full time again. But I'm going to get at least modestly experienced first to make sure I like it, and so that I'm not "one of those managers" who is clueless about how to go about accomplishing something programming related. I figure if I try programming and either don't like it or am just not good at it, I will at least add some additional ability to manage those who are. That way in the worst case this won't be a wasted effort any way you slice it.
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