Surprisingly, one of the most common questions I get in my inbox from people who are starting to learn to code is “Am I too old to learn to code?”. Usually the people who ask me this question are in their 30s, 40s, and even 50s, but today I got this question from a 24 year old!
The tech industry depicted in movies and tech blogs is that of young 20 or even 17 year olds who started coding at 6 years old and are now doing cool startups, raising MILLIONS, and getting sold to Yahoo or Google or Facebook for BILLIONS!
The story of “middle age programmer who goes to work every day and does his job” is just not as sexy for the media, but it’s a lot more realistic. Of course, ageism does exist in the industry. Here is a depressing article on the topic that was published recently. However, if you’re letting your age stop you from learning and making the career switch, you’re thinking in a very narrow-minded way about what learning to code could do for you.
Here are five reasons you should learn to code regardless of your age:
It’s Like Reading
Coding is becoming a skill similar to reading. Other jobs that had nothing to do with coding, such as marketing for example, are now emerging new titles such as “growth hacker” – someone who can market and code. At Twitter and Google, and other tech companies, technical recruiters need to know how to code so they can look at candidate’s Github profiles and StackOverlow answers.
A lot of more technical startups hire tech writers and developer evangelists to promote their technical products. When you combine coding skills (even if they’re new) with your current job and expertise, think of what you could accomplish.
A Different Perspective
A 20-year-old coder who’s been coding all his life has a very narrow perspective on life. That’s why they make things like SnapChat. Yes they’re popular, but they’re all targeting other young people. As an “older” person with more life experience and friends in your own age group, you have a great unique perspective into what your age group needs and will even pay for.
Think of all those baby boomers who are starting to retire and are using the web and smartphones. In fact, the last YCombinator batch had products targeted toward baby boomers – check out Amulyte and TrueLink. Think of your age as an asset, not a liability!
Take a look at the Dev Bootcamp blog, where you can read about all the people from different backgrounds entering coding. Think of what a former chef or a former comedian would create with coding skills that a 20-year-old socially awkward coder would not even consider.
Friends With Money
If you’re older, you probably have friends who have money and influence and are respected in their fields. Think of how you can use your network to get leads for jobs and possibly freelance projects. Maybe they need Project Management to help outsource development to other countries, or maybe they want to have a prototype built for testing. As an older person, you have the advantage of having high-value connections, so use them!
You’re Not Dead Yet
If you’re 40, you still likely have more than a half of your life to live. Now, you can continue what you’re doing now, or you can expand your skills for the uncertain future. Coding skills could be something that keeps your job around the next time layoffs come around.
Think of what skills your company will need in the next 20 or 30 years (before you retire), and make sure you have them. 20 or 30 years of additional work life is a long time, and you have to prepare for the future. Being 40 is not a very good excuse to stop learning anything.
It’s Fun And Challenging
Think about the worst case scenario. You learn a new skill, challenge yourself, have some fun, and feel a sense of personal accomplishment. So you don’t get a job, but you still have a super power that you can use in any way you choose personally.
If you’re only learning to code just to get a job, then you’re less likely to be successful in getting one. You should learn to code because you think it’s fun and you want a bigger challenge in your life (see “you’re not dead yet”).
Now, what would you do if you weren’t afraid?
If you’d like to learn more about how to make the most out of a bootcamp experience, read more in my book: How To… Learn To Code. Get Your Dream Job. Change Your Life.