I’m 47 And Now I Want to be a Programmer


John: Hey, John Sonmez from simpleprogrammer.com.
I’ve gotten a few questions about age and programming and wanting to be a programmer.
I’m just going to answer one of these here, one particular email that I got from Chris
but the advice is the same. This email says, “Hi, I’m 47 and I want to be a programmer.”
By the way I’ve gotten like 60, 67 was I think probably the oldest that I’ve seen,
so you’re still—you got 20 years on the dude that sent me an email that was 67, Chris.
Anyway, he says, “Having a technical background I think I understand the scope that the work
needs to be successful. Here’s my real concern: Is there a stigma attached with being new
in middle age, if so, how can I overcome this? I live in the Seattle area and it seems that
nearly everyone I know is working on Microsoft/Amazon and some other companies as a developer. I’m
starting at the later stage of life. Most people my age are team leads or senior dev
leads with many years of experience. My age and being new seems to be a contradiction.
The good news is that I’m able to do nothing but learn about programming until I’m functional.
I have the time and the financial means, more importantly I have a dogged determination
to succeed. My immediate goal is to learn and to become somewhat proficient then I want
to be able to get some sort of entry level position just to gain experience. Money is
not the priority. Your thoughts any insights is greatly appreciated. Regards, Chris. PS
I enjoy your blog videos. Thank you for the time and effort.”
All right Chris, so like I said, I mean you’re not the youngest but you’re not the oldest
person who has asked me whether or not they can be a programmer. Believe it or not I get
emails from someone who’s 27 who says, “Am I too old to be a programmer?” and same
like I said from someone who’s 67. For some reason people whose ages end at 7 is a point
where you have a—when the digit of your age ends with a 7 that’s the point where
you reflect on life and decide whether or not you can be a programmer. It just seems
to be that. Anyway in your particular case I don’t think
there’s a huge concern here at all. I’ve actually worked with programmers who have
switched careers in their 40s and have come in and actually been excellent employees,
have done excellent work because—and they were in a totally different field. One gentleman
in particular I remember was working in the wild life, like fishing game department and
decided to become a programmer and the dude was just phenomenal because he had a whole
bunch of life experience and work ethics. It’s really weird—you wouldn’t think
that that particular experience and the things that he had done in life in his previous job
had any kind of carryover in the software development field but what he brought with
him was a lot of work ethic and I think what you described already this dogged determination
to succeed. I think that was the critical component there. He was successful—I think
really in life if you’re successful in one area you’re going to be successful in multiple
areas. I think you see that a lot where someone has success in one area and then they have
success in other areas and so—even though they’re unrelated fields. If you’ve been
successful I think you’ll continue to be successful and I wouldn’t be too concerned.
Now obviously there’s a large learning curve. Obviously coming in as a middle aged person
into the software development field which is full of young people is going to be a little
bit different but I don’t think it’s going to put you at a distinct disadvantage. Obviously
there’s going to be a little bit of prejudice and bias there. You’re going to have to
overcome that. But if you’re so excellent, if you do such a good job, if you’re so
dedicated to learning and you do have that dogged determination like you said then that’s
not going to be a problem for you at all because the right company, the right people will realize
the value that you bring. I don’t know if you even need to come in
as an entry level developer. I think that you could use this bias to your advantage
which is basically or the stereotype which is people are going to assume that you are
more experienced than you are. So if you’re devoting your time to learning you said you
don’t have any time pressure, it sounds like you’ve got some kind of amount of financial
independence and you can just spend your time learning as you see fit, you can probably
come in and jump right over to a medium or high level position as a developer after you’ve
learned on your own even without a lot of experiences because you’re going to have
other experiences. That might not be the case, I mean maybe you’ll
have to come in as an entry level position, but if you do start as an entry level position
you’re not going to stay there very long. I can tell you that. A lot of people will
be afraid that they’re going to be age discriminated against. I’m not going to say that that
never happens and that you’re not going to have to face that. I mean we’re all going
to get discriminated for some reason or another, but a lot of people let that stop them and
they say, “Oh, well, I’m too old” and they make excuses for themselves. I don’t
like to hear that. I prefer that you just try as hard as you can and it’s not a perfect
mediocrity, right? We don’t—never mind. Is it mediocrity? I don’t know what the
word is, but anyway. It’s not a perfectly fair level based on
skill, right? It’s based on stereotypes and biases and stuff but if you become so
good that you overcome that then you’re going to have success regardless of age. It’s
hard to hold someone down regardless of what they look like or what their background is
or how old they are if they have that—I’ll keep using that word that you said that dogged
determination. So if you’ve got it you’re going to succeed no matter what. I have faith
in you. Have faith in yourself and thanks for the email.
If you’d like me to answer a question for you just email me at [email protected]
and if you liked this video, subscribe.

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