If you’ve ever found yourself at a crossroads in your career or your studies, or simply a junction in your life where you begin to question the path you’re taking, feeling insecure about your past decisions, questioning your judgement, congratulations- you’re human.
So, to answer the initial question- you’re too old when you think you’re too old.
What can be said with certainty, however, is that in this world of constantly evolving technology, coding is a worthwhile pursuit. It challenges the mind in so many ways, demanding not just intense focus within very strict, linear structures, but also so many aspects of creative, outside-the-box thinking. Those wide-eyed twenty-somethings leaving university or technical institutes haven’t seen what you’ve seen nor do they share your life experience. For many of them, not only are they heading towards their first job, but potentially their very first interview.
It all boils down to one question – are you curious and passionate about the world of computers and technology? If you are willing to put in the time, effort and dedication it takes to learn coding as not just a craft, but as a viable marketable skill for yourself in the future, you’re never too old.
In March 2014, The New York Times Magazine discussed a fascinating gulf developing in Silicon Valley between two generations of software engineers and developers- the young and the… well, young but slightly older, but for the sake of the understanding the divide, they were viewed as the ‘old’.
Much of the problem could be distilled down to the fact that the experience of the older developers was being disregarded and ignored by the younger techies, chastising it as ‘outdated,’ which is one step away from using the word ‘obsolete’. In such a central hub of technological creativity, with thousands upon thousands of capable coders, millions of hours of shared experience, billions upon billions of lines of code being written, a very juvenile feud had developed.
The one thing we as humans universally invest with, the one inescapable currency which we all pay with, is our time, and as such, time is the most valuable commodity on earth. With technology becoming a bigger and bigger part of our everyday lives, across all generations, it’s easy to feel left behind when you encounter an unfamiliar term, or a new technology, or even a career you never knew existed.
There are natural pre-requisites to a potential coder. Obviously, there’s the abstract personal qualities- your ambition, your creativity, your focus, among countless other traits, but it’s how you translate those qualities into learning the skills, the languages, the software, to meet the expectations of a modern programmer.
‘Older developers have always had the stigma of staleness attached to them as well. I think this stems from the long tenure at large corporations. The internet changed a lot of that as well. Now, older developers are starting companies of their own. Technology is significantly easier to learn today because of the wealth of information available. 15 years ago, your ability to learn a new technology depended upon how many books you could read and whether your company would send you to training.’
It has been proven by countless studies that one of the most successful methods of learning a second language is to immerse yourself in an environment where the language is frequently spoken. Programming languages are no different. They demand fluency, and fluency comes with time. I know that diving straight in entails you exiting your comfort zone, but the idea is not to throw yourself into an intellectual deep-end which will inevitably drown you. It can’t be disguised that coding, well, intelligent, well-designed coding, is going to be difficult to learn, but as many people say, it takes 10,000 hours to become an expert at something, so don’t expect to be hired as a UI developer within your first week, let alone construct the next Facebook.
The worst thing an individual in this situation can do is immediately dismiss themselves as too old. If they look over the shoulder of a modern coder and see a black screen dotted with fleeting numbers and unknown symbols, it can be incredibly daunting to come to terms with the process of how code is constructed to become an end-product. When they check their emails, the local weather, or play an interactive game on their iPhone or Android device, very little thought goes into the volume of labour and concentration that went into providing that technology. So, if you feel that age isn’t an issue, and are curious about how the machine works, coding might be perfect for you, regardless of age.
We at Code Institute understand that, in this day and age, time is a luxury few can afford. Between our personal and our professional lives, it can seem like there are very few hours in the day, which is why the educational model of the Code Institute is tailored to the modern-day individual. If you are curious about up-skilling yourself with the capacity to code, you can learn more about this educational model and philosophy from one of our open evenings.
This article was originally published by our friends at the Code Institute. Many of our consultants have given talks to their community members on how to improve their job search. They are one of the leaders in code education in Ireland, check them out!