Picture of a classic Silicon Valley startup: A group of 22-year-olds, with minimal or no social skills, code until late into the night to launch an app that might change the world. Fortunately, that picture is far from real life and it may be related to a smaller number of startups in California. In the rest of the world, in ‘normal’ IT companies, it looks a little different. There are younger and older people, men and women, programmers and other non-IT employees, etc. This mentioned pattern from startups may have been popular a long time ago in some companies, but don’t worry, such startups are not for those who are just setting off programming careers.
What we are dealing with in this text is – is it too late to start programming when you turn 30? Or 40? Is this the age when you can enter the world of technology and make a career in programming? Spoiler alert – you can. It is never too late to start programming and learning a skill that is paid today in ‘gold’. There are also stories of people who started programming in the seventh decade of their lives. So can you with your 30 or more. In fact, this even has some advantages, but more on that below.
Why Are People in IT Firms So Young?
This question is difficult to answer unequivocally. Many young people start programming at the end of high school or during college. These are people who, by the age of 25, already possess a couple of years of experience. These are mostly young people who are full of energy, who have a lot of time, like to experiment, and programming is like a game for them, but they don’t waste time on nonsense – they invest in a valuable skill that will make them get a job easily. That is why you have a bunch of companies around the world where programming is mostly done by those in their 20s, while employees whose age starts with numbers 3, 4, 5… are on some other job positions. But that is not the rule.
Companies are increasingly trying to hire older ones with some other experience. Don’t be intimidated by the fact that your neighbor started programming at the age of 8 and that by his 18th birthday he learned to develop a mobile app on his own or create a beautiful and functional website. You don’t compete with him for a job. There are enough jobs in the IT industry for anyone who learns to program.
Advantages and Disadvantages of Those Who Start Programming After the Age of 30
If you get the impression you are in trouble because there is a bunch of young developers around, don’t worry. Being 30+ or 40+ years old is not terrible, you can still start programming and change your career. You still have time to invest a couple of years of your life and replace what you are currently doing with programming and potentially much higher annual earnings.
Entering the IT sector can be relatively quick
Unlike many other high-paying professions, entering the world of programming can be surprisingly quick. You can master the basics of programming relatively quickly. Imagine professions that require expensive education, certificates, long schools… You probably don’t have the will or desire to do so. Programming is something you can learn with the help of the Internet, forums, and a couple of good books. And, of course – with a lot of practice. Literally every night, instead of binging Netflix show or gambling on games of chance on one of the casino sites located by the link, you can program and change your career already by the end of this year. In fact, we consider this the biggest plus in programming. The ‘entry price’ is very low, so you can ‘pay’ it by working at home.
No one says learning to program is easy. Don’t be fooled. You will have to learn a lot, you will have to struggle, you will be very frustrated… but it is part of the process. When you master a programming language or framework and make a couple of (smaller) projects, you will get a better picture of what programming is and how it works.
You have experience and some knowledge
No matter what you have been doing so far, you have gained some knowledge and skills, whether it was customer interaction, leading teams, working in accounting, or something else. You have what 22-year-olds don’t have. And don’t forget that these are years of experience they have not had a chance to gain. On the other hand, they have advanced technical knowledge that you don’t have. But what you got is gained with age and experience. So don’t pay too much attention and think how great it would be if you were 10 years younger. Age is just a number.
You may have knowledge related to laws, education, science, real estate… If you get a job at an IT company that, say, works for law firms, and you worked in the same – you will bring them the non-IT knowledge they need. Developers will only know how to do exactly what they are told.
You’ve had time to develop ‘soft’ skills
While many think they can be successful developers if they have purely technological knowledge, this is not true. Being a good programmer is much more than that. You have to have certain so-called soft skills, you have to know how to talk to people, to be able to talk to people about software, manage people, coordinate between teams, etc. Of course, this does not apply if you want to be a ‘code monkey’. But we will assume that your ambitions are much bigger than that – that you want to be a ‘complete’ programmer.
In any case, soft skills are what many developers lack to take a step forward. You, with your experience, may have had the opportunity to develop the same and it will be a big plus for you.
More life experience means more unique projects
One thing (young) developers have to do to get a job is – show the code. These can be hobby projects, code from programming competitions, and the like. The employer must see that you know how to write code, that you understand the programming language you use, and that you can solve a practical problem, i.e. a problem related to the ‘real’ world.
Your advantage is that you have gone through life more than a 20-year-old. You have an experience that cannot be learned from books. So you can create a website that, say, promotes an event because you know how it is done. You may be a parent, so you can put together an app that will be useful to all parents. The point is to have unique experiences that you can turn to your advantage. And you will have a broader view of it than young developers because you have experienced many situations. Not to mention those who are over, say, 40 years of age.
If you also have some team management or project management skills, even better, these are all ‘bonus’ points that will come in handy when you are looking for a job. The wider the range of skills, the more companies will prefer to hire you, maybe even give you some hybrid roles in the company until you become an ‘independent’ programmer.
Various obligations can stand in your way
One of the things you may have less than your young colleagues is free time. Maybe you have a partner, maybe you have kids too. You may have a full-time job that takes up a lot of your time and energy. All of this results in you having less time to devote to yourself and learning to program.
Coding, or programming, requires concentration and consistency. You need to have time periods where no one is bothering you and where you can dedicate yourself to learning. Especially if you want to see results in a few months. Needless to say, the beginning is the hardest. Every technology you learn has a certain learning curve and until you ‘cross’ it, you will not be productive. And that takes time and will.
Maybe your boss will be someone (noticeably) younger than you
If your goal is to find a job in the technology sector, you have to come to terms with the fact that you may be interviewed by people younger than you. It is possible that your superior will be a programmer who is a decade younger than you. This can be a shock to many, especially when they come from traditional industries where the bosses are people with 20-30 years of experience.
IT companies often do not have this classic hierarchy and you climb it with your skills, not years of experience. You have to come to terms with that or you will not be able to work in IT companies.
Certain companies are not fit for you
There is a general rule – the bigger the company, the bigger the age range of employees, that is, in smaller companies, especially startups, young people are the majority. Many times it is friends or colleagues who have decided to start their own company. There is probably a “hustle” culture and work is from morning to night, often on weekends. In addition, there is no certainty because today the startup exists, and tomorrow it may face bankruptcy. You will most likely not work in such companies if you are 15 years older than the CEO. On the other hand, large companies do not have these problems. They have employees from 18 to 65 years old. They are safer to work, the pay range is different, the culture is different, communication is different, and so on. Not to mention more stable working hours, better policy towards parents and those who have families, more annual leave…
Our recommendation is to look for a job in larger companies if you are just starting to code and you are over 30 or 35 years old. Of course, that does not mean you cannot find a job in smaller companies. We are just talking about real chances and statistics.
You’ll likely find out what “ageism” means
The technology sector and the IT industry, in general, employ people of all ages and specializations. But “ageism” still happens sometimes. We don’t know what the official statistics are, but all companies have certain problems. Some have issues with all those in their 20s or 30s.
This is, of course, illegal and should be fought, and one should not close eyes to it. It is just that sometimes it is easier to leave a ‘toxic’ company than to try to fight it. But companies that have problems with older employees will also find a reason not to hire them, so many dodges that bullet by filtering who they hire. Maybe that is even better. There are many other companies where there is no such discrimination.
Tips for Those Starting to Program After the Age of 30
If you are trying to program and you like it, don’t care how old you are. You always have a chance to learn enough to be hired by a particular company. Here are our tips for you, which you may or may not listen to:
Set a time to study whether it is a break from work or two to three hours in the evening while your family gets ready for bed. Organize your life so that you have a certain amount of time in one piece that you can dedicate to yourself and your learning. Preferably, physically separate yourself from the rest of the family to have peace and quiet.
Network with other developers of your age. Do you have a friend who also wants to learn to program? Great, learn with him/her and share experiences. Or find an online community of developers who have the same problem as you. Talk to them, learn from them. We believe you have a similar mindset and it will be easier for you.
Don’t compare yourself to others. Learning to program is not a competition. If you think it is, then you will ‘lose’ in the long run. This will, of course, discourage you, and you don’t want that. Focus on yourself, your unique experience, and the path you are taking. Focus on the positive things and you will see where it will lead you in 6 or 12 months.
Target established companies. When you think you have learned enough and could get a job, start looking for a job in established and stable companies, preferably, the larger ones. We are not saying you cannot work in a startup, but you are more likely to get a job in a corporation than in a startup. In the text, we also mentioned the differences between a startup and a large company. When you get your first job, then you can think about some other options later.