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With a Computer Science Degree, an Old Man At 35?

timothy posted more than 5 years ago | from the logan's-run-time dept.

Businesses 918

GrApHiX42 writes "I pissed away my 20s and now I want to go to school and get a bachelor's degree in computer science. The thing is, I'll be 35 when I get out of school, and I've read on numerous sites that there seems to be some ageism going on in the IT industry when it comes to older geeks. What have some of the 'older' Slashdot readers experienced as far as being replaced or just plain not getting hired because IT is a 'young man's game'?"

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Yes, go for it. (5, Insightful)

KingSkippus (799657) | more than 5 years ago | (#27352215)

To paraphrase what someone once told me, in four years (more or less), you're going to be 35 anyway. There's not a damn thing you can do about that, except die. if you don't go to school and get your bachelor's degree, then will it be any easier for you if you're an "old man" without a CS degree?

If you don't have a degree at all, then jump through the hoops and get one. My personal experience is that my salary almost doubled literally the day after I got my CS degree. If you do have one but not in computer science, then I'd suggest that you might be better off pursuing certifications relevant to the field you're working in.

If you're not currently in a computer-related field and you're asking if you should get the degree and go into it in an entry-level position, that's your call. You'll probably need that degree to break in, even at 35. If it's worth starting over from scratch, go for it.

Fortunately, I got hired by the company I'm currently at when I was 27. Unfortunately, they're going through the RFP process to outsource all of our jobs. If I'm lucky, I'll be spared. If I'm not, I'll be working as a contracter doing the same job I'm doing now. If I'm really shit outta luck, I'll be a 37-year-old in the job market in the worst economy I've ever known. It won't be easy, but at least I do have my CS degree to help me stand out from, with all due respect, people like you who don't. I don't mean to be cruel, but if it means the difference between whether or not I'm eating cat food, I'll use every advantage I can to beat you out in the aforementioned job market, including the fact that I have a CS degree.

So knowing only what you've asked in your question, my advice is that yes, it is worthwhile having the piece of paper.

Re:Yes, go for it. (5, Informative)

qw0ntum (831414) | more than 5 years ago | (#27352367)

Great, great, response. I know the poster is not asking whether or not he/she should do it, and I'm not really an "older" reader (currently trying not to piss my 20's away), but perhaps they'll find this useful as well.

You have a blessing in front of you in having a strong desire to do something, namely, to go to school and get your CS degree. If that's what you are passionate about right now then you need to take advantage of that energy and do it, because you'll make the most effective use of your effort by doing so. I am at a top CS program and many of my classmates are so-called "non-traditional" (read: have more life experience than your average student) students, and not only are they often the ones setting the curve, they ask the best questions, they are motivated, they take advantage of the opportunities available to them better than most, and all in all they enrich the quality of our program.

Some advice I might offer as a young student. Most of my friends who are older students tend to be a bit disconnected from the rest of the University. Don't make that mistake: as much as you might think so, you're not a graduate student, even if you're the same age as them, and your academic life does not only revolve around your department. At the very least, you'll have to fill gen ed requirements. More importantly, as an undergraduate, the university has resources that can be very helpful and enriching to your education. Make friends with some (highly motivated) younger students (even outside your dept) who tend to be more aware of these things and can help you get more connected.

You should be focused on your objective. But undergraduate college years are an excellent time to take some risks and go different directions than you may have previously seen yourself going. Do that: universities are breeding grounds for opportunity, and you might be surprised at what doors you might open for yourself by trying something new.

Good luck!

Re:Yes, go for it. (5, Informative)

Skreems (598317) | more than 5 years ago | (#27352579)

Speaking as someone who interviews candidates at a technology company, I can tell you we don't give a damn how old someone is if they're good at the job. Make sure you take on large projects and/or internships during school so you have usable experience once you get out and you'll be fine.

Re:Yes, go for it. (4, Insightful)

gwait (179005) | more than 5 years ago | (#27352655)

Actually, it's a decent natural filter, any company that wouldn't hire you for such a reason is one you don't want to work for anyways.

I also work at a tech firm, age is not a problem for our office either. If someone is passionate about their career, they will stay up to date and relevant their whole life.

Re:Yes, go for it. (3, Interesting)

timinkc (799488) | more than 5 years ago | (#27352627)

I'm talking to you from the future... Well, not exactly, but sort of. I decided to go back to school and finish my degree 3 years ago, and in 44 days I'll be graduating with my CIS degree... And I'll be 33. Do your best, college seems way easier to me the second time around, but don't be lax, go for the A. Get good grades, and try to find internships, employers seem to love them. I did both of those things, and I had the top 3 IT companies in my area recruiting me last November. I had 3 great offers before I even started my last semester. I eventually accepted one with a salary of 60k and 3 weeks paid vacation /year, and that's great for my area.(there were other offers higher, but they seemed to expect more than 40hrs/wk) I was worried about the age issue as well, but I just used it as an advantage. Not only did I have the education of my younger "peers", I also had the maturity and real world work experience of a 33 year old. It made me more marketable. It was the best choice I've ever made. And as one commenter said, if hadn't done it I'd still be 33, but I'd still be wondering what would have been. If you love it do it, if you're just doing it to get a job, or you think it might be cool it'll be really hard to make it through. The sad truth is if you're not in the top 10% it's nearly impossible to find a job, but if you are the jobs find you.

Re:Yes, go for it. (4, Interesting)

fyngyrz (762201) | more than 5 years ago | (#27352405)

In my experience - which is considerable, I'm oooold - at 35, he won't have an age problem. That's not old enough to trigger the insurance companies to really mess with the company's expense of keeping him around under the current insurance setup. And who knows, by then, health care may look somewhat different.

A lot of ageism in tech companies is not being willing to pay for the experience an older employee usually brings to the table; but he's fresh out of school, so that doesn't apply to him. It seems to me that the odds are he'll do ok. He'll also have to accept starting wages, of course.

Re:Yes, go for it. (5, Insightful)

SQLGuru (980662) | more than 5 years ago | (#27352541)

The problem he *WILL* have is that there will be a lot of 35+ year olds that have had their CS degree for several years and have years of experience (like me, graduated in 94, so 15 years of real experience). You'd like to think that he'd be lumped in with the other fresh-outs, but his age will make people want to lump him in with the experienced people. He'll need to find a good mentor and take to the real learning quickly (school doesn't really teach you how to work in the real world). The faster you catch up to those in your age bracket, the better.

Is 35+ too old? No, I'm almost 37 and by far the best developer in my area (very large company). The people I see being squeezed out are the ones that are over 50 with no upward there's plenty of time to make good on the degree.

Re:Yes, go for it. (1)

Gorobei (127755) | more than 5 years ago | (#27352667)

"IT job" covers a lot of space.

If it's "code monkey," you have a problem if you are older: you just cost more and are higher risk: simply old-cog versus new-cog.

If it's an intellectually challenging role, then age hardly matters. Getting the job done is what counts and that's what people pay for.

So, take a breath, take a step back, and ask yourself which of the two categories you aim to be in. If you're not sure, here's one question to help you decide: "what's a closure?"

Heck, at the higher levels, academic credentials become unimportant: understanding of the field, real achievements, etc, because the critical factors.

Re:Yes, go for it. (1)

isthisnametaken (1468337) | more than 5 years ago | (#27352523)

You also have to consider that, since the economy is in such rough shape, wouldn't pursuing a 4 year CS degree be a pretty nice place to hide out until the economic storm blows over? Personally I plan to finally go to law school for the next three years, since I'm not going to be making any money in the current situation...hopefully I emerge form the wreckage in a decent career. Go for it and good luck.

Re:Yes, go for it. (4, Informative)

GuyverDH (232921) | more than 5 years ago | (#27352571)

When it comes down to it, experience will trump a degree anyday... Let's face it... A degree means you were taught how things *should* work. Real world experience teaches you how things *really* work. The only way to get that real world experience is to do it.

If you don't have the experience, or just want the degree, then the degree is worth it.
However, please don't wave the degree around saying that "I, who have a degree, will trump you, who doesn't, every time". It's just not going to work out that way.
Now, if you have your degree, and experience then it's a more equal footing, and let the best person win. If a place only looks at the degree, then chances are, they're missing out on some of the most talented people in the field.

In 24 years, I've received job offers for every job I've interviewed for, and that's without any kind of degree, unless you count real world experience. I was lucky in that I was able to pick the job I wanted, and do the things I want to do. I work in a field that I've chosen as a hobby, as well as where my aptitude and interests are. It's fun to go to work on most days, and a learning experience, even on the days that aren't so fun.

No, don't go for it. (4, Interesting)

wonkavader (605434) | more than 5 years ago | (#27352643)

The above post is great except for this one line: "If you're not currently in a computer-related field and you're asking if you should get the degree and go into it in an entry-level position, that's your call. You'll probably need that degree to break in, even at 35. If it's worth starting over from scratch, go for it."

If you're already programming, but are not employed, getting a degree to reinforce what you know is a good idea and will help you with salary.

On the other hand, if you're not already programming, you're wasting your time. Programmers are (mostly) like writers or artists. You can't help it. You get sucked into it even if you fight it. If you didn't get sucked into it, you'll be a crappy programmer when you get out of college no matter how good an education you get, because you've already proven that you're not, at core, a programmer. You were handed the test and you failed. LUCKY YOU, REALLY.

Furthermore, 35 year olds usually have a life. 20 year olds don't. You really need to do something for 10,000 hours before you get fantastic at it. 20 year olds can accomplish that in three years. A 35 year old with a wife and a family won't accomplish that in a decade.

What DID you get sucked into? What did you spend your 20's on? Dig through that time and figure out what you loved. Do THAT. You'll be good at that. If you weren't a programmer, you won't get hired as a 35 year old programmer not because you're old, but because you're BAD. If you don't fail the first fizz-buzz question you get, you'll fail the second follow-up.

Set yourself up to succeed, not fail.

Re:Yes, go for it. (4, Interesting)

Eric Smith (4379) | more than 5 years ago | (#27352657)

Heck, I'm working on a BSCS, and I'll probably be 47 or 48 when I complete it (depending on whether I double-major in Math), and then I plan to apply to either an MSEE or PhD CS program, so I'll have another two or more years after that.

And after all that, it probably wouldn't even get me a better-paying job, assuming that I could find anyone that wants to hire an engineer in their early 50s at all.

But I don't care, because I'm doing it for my own enjoyment and satisfaction. I quit my day job in December, and I'm hoping not to ever have a day job (other than working for myself) again. I'm much happier now that I'm trying to do entrepreneurial things, even though I'm not (yet) bringing in as much income as I got from the day job.

When I was in my late 20s through my early 40s, I found that experience was much more of a factor in getting hired and getting a good salary than having a degree. I'm sure there are some exceptions to that, i.e., employers that are idiots, but who would want to work for those employers anyhow?

For anyone that doesn't have a degree, AND doesn't have industry experience, I'd recommend getting the degree and doing some summer internships to get experience. When I've been involved in interviewing candidates, I've found that even candidates with an MSCS but no real experience are often not adequately prepared for a software developer position. CS programs tend to be heavy on theory (and there's nothing wrong with that), but almost entirely lacking in practice.

Re:Yes, go for it. I did. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27352703)


I got my first degree in music, and when I realized that I wasn't going anywhere with it, I went back to school when I was 30 and got a B.A. in Comp Scie. That was the smartest move I ever made. I did well at school because I was ten years more mature than my classmates, and I loved what I was learning. I graduated in '94 and have been doing well in it ever since.

If I were you I would do it, but only if you love programming and are willing to work hard.

I dunno `bout the rest of the world.. (4, Insightful)

Anrego (830717) | more than 5 years ago | (#27352231)

but I've seen the opposite when it comes to age and programmers.

People have grown tired of these "young whippersnappers" fresh outa college with their executable UML and agile methodologies.

Where I am experience is huge.. especially just plain familiarity with software in the real world and not some acedemic fantasy land. Someone in their 50's with 30 years of dev experience is pure gold .. and companies will fight tooth and nail to recruit the old veterans... assuming they arn't off "consulting" for serious money.

Now obviously this doesn't apply in your case.. it's the experience not the age employers are looking at.. but I can't see a company turning you down based on age.. unless you're in your 50's and/or only plan on working for a few more years. Even though you may not have any programming background.. you are probably going to have more social and team skills then most people coming out of school. Just the ability to communicate ideas is massive... and a skill that just doesn't seem to be taught any more.

I think I'll make tacos for dinner tonight.. havn't had them in a while.

And I need to get my hair cut this weekend.. starting to look like a hippy.

Re:I dunno `bout the rest of the world.. (5, Insightful)

Threni (635302) | more than 5 years ago | (#27352255)

Some companies want younger people because they're cheap, and they'll work extra hours for a USB key or a pizza or something. If you have the skills, you're useful, and companies want someone useful. Most companies are shit, run by fucking idiots in suits anyway. Don't worry about it.

Re:I dunno `bout the rest of the world.. (2, Interesting)

slasher999 (513533) | more than 5 years ago | (#27352389)

I agree here completely. I'm not a programmer, but I'm in a high level Windows/UNIX engineering group doing systems design mostly. At 39 I'm the youngest in my group of seven engineers. The caveat is we are all very experienced in the field, which is why we are in the high level group to start with. Our more entry level positions are populated mostly - not all - by those in their late 20's and very early 30's.

Age is just a number (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27352247)

And in base 17, you'll be 21.

Being honest (1)

rachit (163465) | more than 5 years ago | (#27352257)

The honest thing to say here is that ageism is very real in *most* (not all) software firms. Its just the reality. If you are older, people will expect you to be experienced and thus fulfill a more architectural or managerial role.

You can succeed, but its going to be more difficult for you. If your heart is set for it and you really enjoy software development, go for it.

Age and job roles (3, Insightful)

qbzzt (11136) | more than 5 years ago | (#27352531)

If you are older, people will expect you to be experienced and thus fulfill a more architectural or managerial role.

He's likely to get a managerial role relatively quickly anyway. Unless he spent the last ten years in a coma, he should have more mature people skills. It's not something that you can easily shortcut.

Just for men (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27352259)

Takes care of the gray.

Say dude frequently.

Don't let high-fives go hanging.

Keep up with the paris hilton and the new-fangled rock and/or roll music.

Don't use the urinal as the slow starting and stopping of your stream will give the secret away. And then you will experience the horror of the point along with the alien screeching and then the gig is up and they force you to have a retirement party with cake.

Whatever your age is ... (1)

phoxix (161744) | more than 5 years ago | (#27352261)

... going to school and getting your degree is nothing short of an awesome experience. Best of luck to you!

Re:Whatever your age is ... (2, Insightful)

ElectricTurtle (1171201) | more than 5 years ago | (#27352313)

If by awesome you mean tediously pandering to professors' subjective biases, then yes, always awesome.

Re:Whatever your age is ... (3, Insightful)

binarylarry (1338699) | more than 5 years ago | (#27352369)

Not to mention extremely expensive with little real pay off.

Colleges have become diploma mills... where you go so you can get Real Good Jobs (R) in the future.

They are becoming less and less the places where new ideas are born and old ideas are challenged.

My opinion (1)

scorp1us (235526) | more than 5 years ago | (#27352281)

I am 32. I don't think ageism is a problem yet. My boss is 38. It's a about the quality of person you are and the quality of your work. Namely, communication skills.

The one concern I would have is that you're set in your ways. Younger guys have the "right way" built in. But of course, what you learn in college rarely applies in the real world.

I also have several friends who have no degree. They are well-paid. In the end it is about results.

I would do it (4, Insightful)

east coast (590680) | more than 5 years ago | (#27352285)

How long do you plan on staying in the field? Much do you think you're going to gain per year from having it?

Personally, I'm 36 and I plan on working until I'm around 70. It might sound dismal but I'm guessing 70 will be retirement age when I get up there. That's nearly 35 years in the field. How much would I have to get paid extra in those years to make it worth my time? Not very much. That's the same reason I wonder why so many scoff at certifications.... for the couple hundred dollars most base certification cost you're going to make that back so fast as an entry level geek. It sounds cheesy but it's a little bit extra you can put down on a resume that will help you get up the ladder a bit faster. It's worth it.

Obvious (4, Funny)

afxgrin (208686) | more than 5 years ago | (#27352289)

Tell them to get off of your grass.

Re:Obvious (1)

TuaAmin13 (1359435) | more than 5 years ago | (#27352415)

It's a finely manicured lawn, you insensitive clod!

Depends on you (3, Insightful)

plover (150551) | more than 5 years ago | (#27352293)

Do you have confidence in your ability to learn? Will you stick to a four year commitment? You need to answer both of those questions honestly before you head down this road.

The other question is "what will your opportunities be like when you get out?" and that is going to depend in part on what you do during these four years. You might consider trying to get into a company now that might need your skills later. It's sometimes* easier to move around from within a company than to get your foot in the door.

* Guarantee not included.

As a current Comp Sci Freshman... (1)

sleeping123 (1109587) | more than 5 years ago | (#27352299)

It's not unusual for me to have guys in their late 20s or early 30s in my class. Everyone likes the older guys. Plus, offer to buy beer = instant study group (as long as you can keep those 18-year-olds sober DURING the study sessions).

I vote "do it."

Go into Marketing (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27352301)


There's always a party in marketing. And the chicks are MUCH hotter....

Re:Go into Marketing (1)

creimer (824291) | more than 5 years ago | (#27352393)

Unless you're much hotter than the chicks, you're still a techie dweeb.

Just go for it (5, Interesting)

Lysol (11150) | more than 5 years ago | (#27352303)

I'm pushing 40 this year. Been programming most of my life. Never completed my CS degree. Worked on some fairly high profile projects in NYC, Chicago, San Francisco. I would say tho, at this point in my life, I'm definitely at the Sr. level and if I was to apply for a 'real' job it would be a Director or VP/CTO position - probably in a small startup.

I know of friends consulting companies that have guys in their 20's-40's. Other friends work for big software companies and have similar age groups. In the end, if you're a good programmer and not over 50 ;) then you shouldn't have a problem. But at some point, you're going to probably start your own company or be at a level above 'straight out of schoole 20-something coder'.

I wouldn't worry about the ageism thing at 35.

Re:Just go for it (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27352447)

I was building binary circuits before computers came along. Now at 62, I'm a help desk specialists, web designer, graphics artist and company photographer. My pears think I'm really 26 dressed up like a 62. THEY, have a hard time keeping up with me! I love it.

No matter what you do (4, Insightful)

rolfwind (528248) | more than 5 years ago | (#27352305)

there will be naysayers. You could listen to them forever and be paralyzed and always do nothing.

So there are rules of thumb. There are always exceptions, work on being an exception. The shelves of libraries are littered with biographies of successful people, almost none of them achieved it "by the book" or had the ideal life, pedigree, grades, what not.

Perhaps something like Napoleon Hill's Lessons of Success may be an inspiring read, although if you understand "I think I can" story, it gets you as much content.

Look at it this way: you'll only be 35. With 30 more years to retirement ON AN OPTIMISTIC note, assuming SS hasn't forced everyone to work till their 70th birthday.

Do what you want. Invest the hours to get good at it and stop having regrets. Having read numerous times about how it takes 10,000 hours to get world class great at something, I'm more convinced now that many of the great people are the ones that started young are because they're the ones without responsibilities and have the time. Not their youth alone. So it isn't too late, just start it and stick with it.

Re:No matter what you do (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27352503)

There are always exceptions, work on being an exception.

Exactly. I "pissed away" my 20's in manufacturing -- it was hard physical work which also required thinking. But, I gained a lot of useful experience. I started in IT at 39. Because of my previous experience, no one at my company can equal my knowledge of hardware, power, and cooling. Also, having worked in an industry with REAL measurable quality requirements, I have the ability to deliver on time and budget like no one else in the entire IT department at my company.

For quite few years, the "real IT" people ignored my advice. They implemented crap; I did not. I am now technical lead and people listen to my opinion. I am rising, they are stagnating.

Be an exception; work to be an exception. Especially when getting your CS degree.

Since I am now in the position of hiring new IT techs, I base my decisions on my experience. Young people with no experience outside of IT I consider least qualified. Older people with well rounded experience are my first choice. Don't let your experience gained in your 20's go to waste.

Re:No matter what you do (1)

glitch23 (557124) | more than 5 years ago | (#27352673)

Look at it this way: you'll only be 35. With 30 more years to retirement ON AN OPTIMISTIC note, assuming SS hasn't forced everyone to work till their 70th birthday.

You are being optimistic if you think someone could live on SS alone (assuming that is what you implied). Given the relatively small amount most people get each month from SS payments and inflation (yes I know they are adjusted for inflation) you basically have to plan for your own retirement, which you should be doing anyway to not feel crunched to pay your bills when you are 70. You should be viewing SS payments as merely supplemental income. Don't ever plan on someone else paying for you to live but then again we now have the "me too" society that expects to get an allowance from Big Daddy (the gov't) for every little thing.

Huh? (1)

Firemouth (1360899) | more than 5 years ago | (#27352307)

People over 30 use computers?? I thought it was just a myth...

Re:Huh? (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27352341)

Get off my lawn!

Re:Huh? (1)

creimer (824291) | more than 5 years ago | (#27352483)

When I was a lead tester at Atari (Infogrames), I had the young know-it-all testers met a senior tester who tested board games in the 1970's. Nothing more enjoyable to hear their head explode when they figured out that video games existed before the PlayStation AND people played board games at the kitchen table long before video games existed.

On that note, I was often assigned to "manage" the older testers since the younger testers had no clue how to deal with them. The older guys wanted to take the joystick and run with it. (Now think about that for a few minutes.) They wanted to work rather waste time talking about their girlfriends, drinking buddies, new cool tech, and IM'ing the whole world. When old guys work, they make the young guys look bad.

Re:Huh? (1)

GaryOlson (737642) | more than 5 years ago | (#27352521)

Once you remove all the useless electronics inside, those computer make excellent modular planters for my begonias.

Get the degree (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27352309)

I'm pushing 60 and only recently left the technical-production field (I'm still "technical" but more as an expert consultant than producer). Even when you're so long in an industry that the degree itself no longer matters for your day-to-day work, it will still open avenues for you.

Play up your wisdom (2, Insightful)

erroneus (253617) | more than 5 years ago | (#27352311)

You'll find you may be managing those same younger competitors. While you're at it, throw in some business management courses to help ensure you are positioned to mature in the industry.

Suppliment not substitute. (1, Insightful)

B5_geek (638928) | more than 5 years ago | (#27352323)

Education is not a substitute for experience. Remember ISA cards, IRQ settings and COM 1,3 vs 2,4 problems, and how to work around it? Kids today don't. They depend on PnP to magically make it work. A lot of hiring monkeys don't get this but it is true. Show me any snort-nosed kid that can build a network using printer cables or old-school DOS hacks to get something to work in WindowsXP.
You will not find it, because experience teaches us 'old farts' how to work around a problem. If you have no previous experience and are starting from scratch then it might be tricky, but if you have the skills don't worry about it. Social networking is your foot in the door.

Re:Suppliment not substitute. (1)

hamster_nz (656572) | more than 5 years ago | (#27352475)

I agree, but you have to remember back in the 80s and early 90s there was a lot less people doing IT work, so those that did it were usually those with a natural talent for it. Nowdays there are so many IT staff that it half of them don't have a deep talent for it... for them it is just a job. We can't expect everybody to be brilliant.

You and I may know how to assign IRQs, or maybe even real mode x86 assembler, but it doesn't really prove much other than we have a lot of outdated skills. Perhaps you and I are the equivalent of "Coach builders", practicing soon to be forgotten skills.

Re:Suppliment not substitute. (2, Insightful)

Cimexus (1355033) | more than 5 years ago | (#27352561)

Education is not a substitute for experience. Remember ISA cards, IRQ settings and COM 1,3 vs 2,4 problems, and how to work around it? Kids today don't. They depend on PnP to magically make it work.

Quoted for truth.

I remember that stuff (but I don't really miss it), and I'm 'only' 25. Had to fiddle around with those kind of problems (and making 9 different variations of autoexec.bat) to get various software even working back when I was aged 13-16. Would have been in MSDOS 5, 6 and 6.22.

But I reckon I'm in the very youngest group of people who had to hack around a bit on the command line and deal with that kind of stuff, and even I'm no guru compared to those a few years older. I'm just on that 'edge' of the generation that grew up with the command line and config files etc (in the MSDOS/Windows world at least - Linux people even today have to dabble in it still).

People just a couple of years after me though would have grown up starting with at least Win 95 which did have rudimentary plug-n-play and largely avoided all those problems. Even some of my similarly-aged peers raise an eyebrow at me sometimes when I go into a command prompt in XP to do things instead of using the GUI method (e.g. ipconfig /renew * is a lot quicker than doing it via the control panel)

Re:Suppliment not substitute. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27352675)

I'm 25, and I actually know how to do all that stuff you mentioned. When I was just a small lad I had to deal with all that stuff on the computers I built myself. The truth here is, I don't think I will every use that in my life again, and if I ever have to do that at work, I would probably be looking for a new job very quickly.

Lots of OVERSEAS work (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27352327)

I think it's great you're thinking of going to school for a degree, but I could NEVER agree with studying IT. A good bit of IT, almost everything except the on-site support, is being off-shored, be it INDIA or FAR EAST. If you want work, get into something that simply can't be offshored -- HVAC, Plumbing, Electrical, Construction in general, particularly remodeling, given state of new housing starts.

Not all that old - go for it (3, Interesting)

realsablewing (742065) | more than 5 years ago | (#27352339)

My husband was 36 when he got his Computer Science degree. It was a few months before getting his job but this was also at a time when the job market was in a slide. Once he got his first computer science job and some experience he had no problem getting other positions as follow up. Plus, he met me and have been relatively happy together now for 23 years so his degree helped in other areas as well, at least in my opinion and my husband is smart enough to agree with me. So I would definitely say go for it

Re:Not all that old - go for it (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27352425)

I don't believe it, I'd heard the rumors & the myths before but I just shrugged it off; a real live female on slashdot!

Or is it one of those new fangled bots from another slashdot story...

Don't be a stupid old man... (2, Insightful)

creimer (824291) | more than 5 years ago | (#27352343)

The key thing is to keep your skills up-to-date with whatever training and certification you can get once you have a degree. I had a roommate who did nothing to keep his skills up-to-date, took a six-month long unemployment vacation when he got laid off, and found out that no one wanted to hire him because his skill set was obsolete. He ended up fixing cash registers at Longs Drugs and still has no clue on how to restart his career because he won't listen to anyone.

Non-compete + severance (1)

tepples (727027) | more than 5 years ago | (#27352545)

took a six-month long unemployment vacation when he got laid off

Some employers contractually require such a vacation of all terminated employees. Was this the case of your roommate?

Re:Non-compete + severance (1)

creimer (824291) | more than 5 years ago | (#27352591)

Nope. It was more of a "I deserved to have a vacation because I'm such an awesome programmer!" attitude. He later claimed that he was going through a mid-life crisis.

Re:Don't be a stupid old man... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27352617)

Getting training and certifications are useless.. It's what you do with your skills that count.

I've seen too many *certified* people that couldn't think their way out of a soggy cardboard box, if their life (or their career) depended on it.

I also know people who have walls covered in certifications who ask "Welcome to McDonald's, may I take your order please?" just because of this.

Yes, you are old but get the degree if you want it (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27352345)

Yes, you will be treated differently at software firms/corps. You have until you are about 40 though to really put in the time, after that you will be treated as crufty unless you stay current with the younger crowds and stay sharp on new skills. For example, at this point a lot of older devs are still using C++, when they should be looking at Ruby and newer languages for rapid development. But you'll still find a huge swell for C++ because people don't like change, and it is the most useful for a few very particular things (ie. drivers, operating system kernels, etc). I like older devs because they have the wisdom and skills to ask the right questions.

I know a guy who still does database testing at a local company, and he is approaching 60, but he puts in the long hours and keeps himself contributing. He would never expect to advance or get ahead at that age though, even if he performed like a kid.

The other alternative is to do contract work over the Internet where age won't be quite so noticeable, especially where you won't meet in person until later in the contract and at that point it won't matter.

The corollary to this is: if you care about ageism, then pick a field where age is valued such as medical doctor, juris doctor (law), or Ph.D. But almost all of those paths are long and hard and you'll be 38+ by the time you complete them.

Actually, it's rather the opposite (4, Insightful)

cstec (521534) | more than 5 years ago | (#27352361)

It depends on who you work for. In many shops, it's become increasing clear that you don't want to hire anyone under 35 or so, though without the experience you'd be right there with the kids.

The sad truth of it is many of the grads for the last 15 years are junk. Not as people - fortunately, the career still attracts a great crowd - but the curriculums now create people who think that the compiler, the runtime, and the OS are a black box. They rather literally think in terms of South Park's gnomes .. Step 1) write code, Step 3) Profit! And that mindless dependence creates people who have no idea how or why their code works or more often doesn't.

That's fine for school, but you can't ship a product writing code like that, which means we've turned out a legion of coders who are fit for writing reports for accounting instead of firmware for an engine controller or a new comm protocol. And even then, that only works because the penalty for failure in accounting reports is so low. On any meaningful project, assigning work to this generation is like building in bugs, bugs that take a loooong time to fix because the team simply doesn't understand what the machine really does.

Not to worry, there are still plenty of businesses that basically have no idea of how the software sausage is made and will merrily hire anyone with a degree, but in businesses with more experience [and more on the line] it's more the exact opposite is true. They only want the previous generation of coders, and use CS grads for tech support, or if they're lucky, to apprentice.

Re:Actually, it's rather the opposite (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27352581)

Okay, I'll bite. How does someone who doesn't think the OS, runtime, and compiler are black boxes convince these companies otherwise?

I'm writing this as a graduate student who wrote a simple compiler last semester, is implementing system calls in MINIX this semester, and is sick of having to do group projects with people who couldn't code their way out of a paper bag.

It's easy (3, Funny)

GodfatherofSoul (174979) | more than 5 years ago | (#27352365)

  • Grow a pony tail
  • Smear some Cheetos dust on your shirt
  • Memorize Monty Python quotes
  • ???
  • Profit!

Honestly, I've worked with guys in their 40s and 50s relatively new to IT. I've never heard of ageism in my experiences. Hell, the fact that you posted to Slashdot probably is enough reason to hire you!

I've not seen any bias in favor of youth (2, Interesting)

davidsheckler (45018) | more than 5 years ago | (#27352371)

Just the opposite. At 40, I'm not as quick as I was at 25. On the other hand I recall every moronic stupid mistake I made, in design, in code and I don't repeat them. I deliver software that is consistent and reproducible. Maybe not bug free, but with a good deal less bugs than someone who's not made the same mistakes.

So, there my be ageism out there. Screw'em, they're the the same idiots who keep the business people in peoria and outsource the development to VietNam (because India costs too much). You don't want to work for that company. This recession has an upside in that it will get rid of those companies that are run by morons. Too bad we can't build a mini death camp for our captains of industry (idiocy?)

Re:I've not seen any bias in favor of youth (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27352553)

At 35 my brain is actually quicker than when I was 25. Ahh the stoner years. I do miss the munchies, though that's probably a good thing now I'm not burning off as many calories as back then.

Do you want to piss away your 30's too? (2, Interesting)

geber22 (1342241) | more than 5 years ago | (#27352387)

Honestly, this is something I have never, never, never understood. Why do you want to run the race in high heels? Go get some sneakers and run it right. My only suggestion to you is to treat this as an investment, an investment in yourself. Please for the love of god don't go to some school and pay 25,000 a year in tuition, find a deal, you can even do degrees online now so shop around, even better start off at community college. When you are done you will be much better off, and don't forget to enjoy the experience, school can be a lot of fun, obviously working full time it's harder, but try.

Go for it (3, Interesting)

ElectricRook (264648) | more than 5 years ago | (#27352399)

I say go for it. Consider that we live in a generation that will probably live to be 100. And you'll likely work till 70+. You'll have 35 years doing what you want, to earn enough money to support you for the following 30 years.

I'm 47 and going back for Geology. I'll probably finish at 55, but I'll still have 15+ years to work. My motivation, is that I don't see my career in Electronics being able to warm down to retirement. You're either in or out, nothing in between. But I see Geology as being something you can take on smaller jobs, and slow down to retirement. From what I see, it's much broader than Electronics. Hey, but that's my rainbow...

CS used to be an old man's degree anyways (1)

Tyrannicalposter (1347903) | more than 5 years ago | (#27352417)

CS used to be an old man's degree anyways.

When I was in college in the mid-90's, a lot of my upper level CS classes were filled with "old people". In fact, traditional students were the minority in the CS program.

Look at the reality... (1)

javab0y (708376) | more than 5 years ago | (#27352419)

If you are through your 20s and have the experience under your belt, exiting college at 35, with many years of experience won't hurt you. You still bring knowlege and real work experience that your "younger" counterparts won't have. This immediately makes you more valuable. I also think the 'IT being a young mans game' is sincerely a misnomer. Although, you probably are right and would be at a loss if you were considered a "junior developer" at 35, having your experience should not put you in that realm. As you get older, your technical kungf00 leads you into bigger and better positions in IT, such as architecture and team leads. The older you get with more experience, your management kungf00 begins to show itself and you are given more responsibilities and teams to take care. I still have yet to run into 20-something architects whose management and technical/architectural skills are outstanding. That generally takes many years of experience to be able to get right. How many "real" CTOs and CIOs do you know who are in their 20s (or even early 30s). I mean real by folks who actually move up a big corporate ladder and rub elbows with some powerful folks. Stick with your path, do your best and build on your kungf00 and you will do fine.

young man's pay (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27352421)

There are two things that make mid-age workers hard to employee. First, due to their experience, they usually demand a higher rate of pay. That would not be a problem for you, assuming you are willing to market yourself as entry level at the age of 35+.

Second, there is a common belief that young people haven't learned the work habits of more mature people. Some see this as bad, others see this as good, but on the whole, it is a myth. However it is true that many young people will take a job and work 60 hrs a week, while more mature individuals tend to pace themselves and divide their time between family and work. Productivity is the goal, whether you achieve it by skill or dedication. Young people with no family don't have as many demands outside of work.

Truth is, entry level positions in computer science pay well for and individual, though they might not meet your expectations to support a family. The economy now is a drag on everyone, and entry level positions might be hard to find unless you have a niche skill or a little bit of luck. Presumably 2+ years down the road, the job market will be very different. Just don't spend $30k/year at an expensive school -- it's not worth it in this discipline. You'll get good returns at a cheaper college.

In the end, you usually doing "something" and use computers as a tool. Surely you haven't reached the age of 30 with no experience in anything. Finance? Shoot for J2EE and Oracle. Enjoy tinkering? Try embedded technologies. Enjoy Linux? Try system administration. Looking for job in a small(ish) town? Cisco and network administration are everywhere. The tools you learn are going to determine your job possibilities.

Best of luck.

Age is just a number (1)

pembo13 (770295) | more than 5 years ago | (#27352423)

Assuming agism, I of the opinion that companies don't engage in agism just for the hell of it, but because they see some correlation between increased age and employee attributes that they prefer not to have. If that is true, your actual performance will probably be more important than your age.

Re:Age is just a number (1)

Cimexus (1355033) | more than 5 years ago | (#27352619)

I think the ageism thing might also be a somewhat bigger issue in the US than some other countries, due to their (rather unique) practice of tying health care to employment (i.e. as part of your salary and benefits package). Older people are more expensive to insure, health-wise (although that probably only matters once you're 45 or 50, rather than 35).

OTOH in my country (Australia) and ~most~ other countries, health insurance is like car insurance. You buy it yourself with your own money, and can choose whichever provider you want to. So companies don't have to worry about it, from a financial or administrative perspective.

aas (2, Insightful)

Nemi (627009) | more than 5 years ago | (#27352437)

I went back to school when I was 31. I went to a trade school and graduated with an Associates when I was 33. I got a job for about 35k a year (midwest). I am now 41 and make 80k a year.

The main reason I did not get a four year degree is the same reason you are having concerns - at my age I felt I was too old. However, by being ambitious and working hard I feel I am doing as well as I would if I had a bachelors degree.

If IT is what you truly love, then learning on your own is what will drive your career. The degree just gets you your first job. After that it is experience that matters most. There is no job I could not get now even though I don't have a bachelors.

I was in a similar situation (2, Informative)

mcsporran (832624) | more than 5 years ago | (#27352439)

i.e. Spent my 20's....experimenting.
I'm not sure it was pissed away, as I did learn a lot that isn't really taught anywhere, and keeping your head, while all about you are losing theirs, is a excellent ability that I feel my life experiences has given me. Early 30's decided I needed more direction, and of course I wanted to earn more than unskilled pay.
Cisco certs were the answer for me, easier than a degree, but still requires a certain level of self discipline.

They gave me the leverage to enter the internetworking field, in my 30's, and now with a decade of experience, I still look fairly secure even in these tough times.
I don't even want to think about where I may be if I hadn't got those pieces of paper.
It's almost impossible that you will be facepalming "If only I didn't have that pesky degree", and almost certain that it will be an advantage.

The correct piece of paper, will open doors.

I'm 35 and youngest in my department (2, Informative)

Caste11an (898046) | more than 5 years ago | (#27352443)

I'm working for a leading worldwide business software provider in their SaaS division. I'm 35. I'm the youngest person on the team. While I have no doubt that ageism exists in IT, I'm very encouraged that the folks I work with are dedicated geeks of varying ages. This is also the best job I've ever had.

Go for the degree and keep a positive attitude.

Did ya really? (2, Interesting)

wytcld (179112) | more than 5 years ago | (#27352459)

When you say you "pissed away" your 20s, were you doing something where you got to know part of the world that kids who went straight through college in IT generally are ignorant of? Years ago, I could say "I work with computers" and it meant something. Now, to say "I work with computers" merely means you have a job. They're in everything. For most businesses, computers are not an end, they're a tool. Nobody hires somebody for their degree in hammers. But if you've learned a special sort of carpentry, and can demonstrate your ability, it will be assumed you know how to swing a hammer well. That's not to say you don't want to study the tools, even get the degree in them. But focus on the craft, on what you'd love to build, because that's what people really get hired for, not their tool collection. Not except for truly hack work.

Anyway, if you've gotten to know some part of the world well while pissing away those years, can you leverage it? Have you seen some aspects of life that can be improved with the right computer tech? If so, start studying how to do that. Make your own niche. Take advantage of where you already uniquely are. It can be your strength.

Would I like fries with that? (-1, Troll)

gavron (1300111) | more than 5 years ago | (#27352471)

You're too late because you don't get it. You didn't get it when you "pissed away" your 20s. You don't get it because you're already whining about why you likely won't get a job in your 30s.

Meanwhile all the people in their 50s, 40s, 30s, and 20s who aren't pissing and moaning will take the jobs.

No, you're not an old man at 35. You're the same pisser and moaner you were in your 20s.

Let me know when you're ready to ask if I want fries with that.


Re:Would I like fries with that? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27352573)

Dick comment, uncalled for. People can change. Happens every day. He seems to want to try.

Who shit in your ceral this morning?

Got to School (1)

kramulous (977841) | more than 5 years ago | (#27352477)

Jsut don't be one of those really annoying fuckers that think they know everything about anything. They piss me off ... limit the number of questions or everyone will think you're a douche ... not brilliant.

Old as you think you are... (1)

GuyverDH (232921) | more than 5 years ago | (#27352481)

You're only as old as you think you are... I started working with UNIX at 17, 24 years ago, and am still at the bleeding edge, working with many up and coming technologies. I skipped college in favor of real world experience, and it has served me very well.

If you want to go to school, then go. If you run into ageism at a place of employment, you don't want to work there. At 35, you'll hardly be old, and you'll have more experience and knowledge under your belt.

I try and teach myself something new everyday, just to stay abreast of this field and several others. Science periodicals, journals, a little experimentation on the side.. It's all good. It keeps your mind active and able to learn and adapt.

Do you want to be a developer, or be in IT? (2, Informative)

CatOne (655161) | more than 5 years ago | (#27352485)

I don't know that Computer Science classes really prepare you for IT... one is developing applications and writing code, and the other is managing computers. Many, many people in lower-level IT positions don't even have bachelors degrees... they have associates or often less than that, but have gone to trade colleges or done some studying and gotten their MSCEs or other certifications.

If your heart is in computer science, then go for it. Go to college for 4 years, write a lot of code (really... many places when interviewing for entry-level positions with bachelors candidates will ask you how many lines of code you've written), really understand CS and a couple key langagues or paradigms (e.g. OOP or REST or whatever they're teaching now... I'm older than you ;-) and don't worry about it too much.

Again, IT is different, and who knows how IT in 4 years will look compared to IT today. I don't think 35 is too old for an entry level position... the key concern about age is desire and the ability to work. Few people at 25 have a wife and kids and other associated "lifestyle influences" to prevent them from regularly working 10-12 hours a day. People in their late 30s have all manner of excuses or other distractions they may deal with in entry level positions.

Ageism Probably Comes Later Than You Think (1)

Chysn (898420) | more than 5 years ago | (#27352493)

I'll be 38 next month, and I'm a way better programmer than I was when I was 25. I just can't write code after about 11:30 any more.

I've got coworkers between 26 and mid-40s, and my non-coworker programmer friends are around my age. I see some evidence of ageism, but it seems to be in force more for fifty-ish than forty-ish.

If what you want to do requires a CS degree, or you're trying to hide from a high-unemployment economy for a while, then do it.

At 35 (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27352511)

Start up a business and hire employees, it's time to become the man.

Computer Science != IT (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27352517)

Don't get a BS in Computer Science if you want to work in IT

Dating myself. (1)

Jane Q. Public (1010737) | more than 5 years ago | (#27352533)

To the original poster:

I quit a decent (in many ways) programming job because I discovered the company was stealing from me and reneging on some contract terms. I felt that with my experience (though I had no degree) I could find something else, no problem. My timing was bad... this was literally just before the "web bubble" burst and the economy went sour, right after the turn of the millennium.

Despite my experience, jobs in my area of expertise became impossible to find. I ended up getting two separate menial jobs, and even those didn't quite pay the bills. I finally said "Screw it... if I'm not finding decent work anyway, I might as well go back to school."

So I got some student loans to cover the gaps, and went back to school. It was a struggle, with two jobs and school too, and I had some other life setbacks. But eventually I did get my degree, and shortly after that (actually before I graduated), I started finding some pretty good work. This was in the same field I had been in (programming), but in school I had learned the "latest and greatest", and I found myself working at bleeding-edge projects, with skills that were in demand.

And I am, let's just say, a bit older than you are.

Young and Smart vs Old and Tricky (1)

drtomc (1516709) | more than 5 years ago | (#27352539)

My observation is that smart as lots of young programmers are, experience counts! Not just programming experience - life experience too. In the card game bridge, people refer to LOLs - Little Old Ladies. The term arises because although they might appear to be naive, soft, and quite possibly silly, they are often fearsome opponents precisely because they've seen it all before and know how to deal with it. I see much the same thing happening in the places I've worked. A bright young thing puts up a clever idea, only to have a gray-bearded old-timer politely ask an apparently simple question which shows a subtle flaw. Tom. DISCLAIMER: I'm in the no-man's-land 'twixt being young-and-bright and old-and-wise. :-)

Don't over analyze (2, Insightful)

outermost guy (1418537) | more than 5 years ago | (#27352549)

After being out of programming for 25 years (I was and am a lawyer) I went back and earned a MS in computer engineering at age 57. Now I am out of the lawyer work 3,000 hours a year rat race. I now make a decent living consulting and managing a number of small systems while working less than half as much. Breadth of experience, business skills and people skills are all essential additions (but not a substitute for) programming competence, all of which comes with age. Don't analyze this to death, just do it.

Become a specialist to avoid ageism (1)

blahbooboo (839709) | more than 5 years ago | (#27352551)

Seriously, if you want to avoid ageism become a sub-specialist. Becoming yet another programmer, network engineer, etc is a doomed career path as you age (well without luck).

But, become an expert in a sub-specialty field is a "real" profession. For example, security experts are worth their weight in gold no matter what the age, or experts in financial IT systems, etc etc.

Not enough information... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27352563)

to give good advice. You don't indicate if you currently have any experience or skills in the computer science area or give any idea of what you have been doing. If you have been successfully working productively in the area, you should do what you can to keep your skills current. Read books. Develop your own reference library and USE it. Be sure to have your own copy of Knuth. If you don't know what I am referring to, maybe you should get a degree first.

35 is definitely not too old to be in IT. I'm in my 50's and have been programming since 1970. I've written assembly code in more architectures than the kids today can even find. Despite having programmed assembly code on classic machines like the CDC 1604 and IBM 1401, today I write C and C++ (occasionally with inline assembly instructions) and Perl.

You will have a somewhat easier time getting hired if you have a degree. There are just too many potential employers that just won't even give an interview without one. With high unemployment numbers, you will be at a disadvantage if you do not have one.

All that said, if you are currently employed in the field and are pretty confident that your position is secure, you may do ok just spending some time improving your skills and keeping up-to-date. If your situation is different, you should pursue the degree for sure.

You pissed away your twenties... (1)

actionbastard (1206160) | more than 5 years ago | (#27352577)

Doing what? Surfing? Waiting tables? Cleaning pools? Reading /.? On 4chan?

If you haven't been in IT for the last twelve years working your ass off somewhere in the 'real' world, your fancy 'book-learning' and 'college degree' is going to get you, at best, -especially in this 'down' economy- an entry level position in a cubicle doing TPS reports all day. You won't be coding on the 'big' project, you'll just be putting up with all the 'Lumberghs' in the office.

If you do get a job, just get used to hearing, "You can just go ahead and move a little bit to the left. Yeah, that's it. Great."

You likely have a one-up on my generation (1)

Wiplash07 (1515509) | more than 5 years ago | (#27352587)

This may come off as a little odd, but bear with me. I will soon be one of those "20-something-fresh-outta-school-coders" in two years, assuming everything goes well. I am willing to bet you have several things that most of my generation is lacking: respect for your employer, a good work ethic, excellent communication skills, and most importantly - the ability to think independently. Seriously, I can't get over how many of my fellow students are essentially programmed robots. They can't think on their own, instead they would rather their boss told them everything to do and how to do it. Also, I'm willing to bet you haven't been babied and spoiled like most of my generation has and therefore you won't whine about everything and demand the same benefits from day one as someone who has been with the company for 30+ years. Most of the young employees care nothing for their business while the older employees understand that if the company goes under they're out of a job. So considering all of that I would say definitely get that degree. Also, from what I've heard from all of the employers I know (I own my own IT / Do-Everything-And-Anything-Electronic business, so I talk with a lot of other business owners), the only reason they want to hire younger employees is because we are generally cheaper. Otherwise, most of us are worthless compared to the older generation, not to say that we won't smarten up some once we're out in the real world. (Key word being "most".)

My Experience (1)

Rycross (836649) | more than 5 years ago | (#27352593)

In most of my professional experience, many of my coworkers were 35+. People older than that tended to migrate to management, but there are still some older programmers around. I've mostly worked for large corporations.

Lie... (1)

flyingfsck (986395) | more than 5 years ago | (#27352599)

Simple - lie about your age. Be 28 for the next 5 years, then bump it up to 32 and stay that for five years, then colour your hair and be 36 for 10 years and eventually you just remain 40-something forever. If you don't smoke and don't drink, then your skin will look good and you will get away with it. Legally, people are not allowed to discriminate against you based on your age, so therefore you need not be truthful about it, since it should not matter in any decision. I have two problems: Age and place of birth. Both should not be held against me, so I simply picked another country of origen for my resume and I dye my hair - problem solved. Cheers, F.

Re:Lie... (1)

shentino (1139071) | more than 5 years ago | (#27352689)

Actually, don't lie.

You fib on a resume that gives them a good excuse to cut you loose if they need to lay people off.

They can't discriminate against your age, but they can take your fib as proof of untrustworthiness and ding you for that.

In fact, people who are later caught fibbing on their resumes are often the first to get canned when a layoff is pending. And no severance is required, because deception is considered cause.

Do a CE or EE degree (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27352631)

A good CE program will not only give you more practical skills, but there is a greater focus on interfacing with hardware. Regardless of whether or not you want to do OS, compiler, or embedded programming, understanding how things really work behind the scenes will stick you out from the crowd.

I've interned at large hardware/software companies, and even on the software teams, the people coding or working on architecture have an engineering background.

Most companies are going to be more interested in what you've done than your degree (everyone's got a degree nowadays, it doesn't make you special). My advice would be to develop a nice portfolio at the same time (whilst all the young'ns are getting hammered .. oh wait, CS, they don't have lives).

Never too late, never too easy (1)

UTSITCHN (1516715) | more than 5 years ago | (#27352635)

I flipped burgers while studying for my CS degree til I was 32, and then started my IT career in a family business as the single employee. Reading a book called MS Self Learning 70-290 which I downloaded from P2P network for 10 odd times prepared me to work on servers. A couple of certification in IT later made me less sweating. The desire to live better inspired me to constantly stay up to 1 or 2 in the morning experimenting everything I see at work. Now I can confidently call myself System Engineer at 35. In the place I work, I am not young, but not old as well. 35 is just the age to show your mature and confident people experience. To start late may also gain you some technology edge, as you are not capped with old school knowldege, and will dive into the latest trendy words. In my opinion, to master the constant change is a challenge to all, so do not worry if you are new to them. So mate, get up and do something.

Old? no (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27352639)

Not at all. 30 year olds are over the bullshit 20 somethings who party and miss days. I hired a good 40 year old still in school taking night classes. He has the aptitude & drive I was looking for.

Good advice... :) (1)

jallen02 (124384) | more than 5 years ago | (#27352647)

Yes there is ageism at some companies... maybe even in general. You don't want to work at those places because you will likely be treated like a drone anyway. If you are truly passionate about computer science go for it. Become a lethal ninja of the computing sciences. You will probably have to work harder than the whiz kid peers you will meet in college, but you are older and wiser. Go in there, expand your brain, kick ass and just ignore everyone that says this is crazy (it kind of is).

You may have to work harder than a lot of people in the industry to make up for your lack of experience, but if you really love doing this you won't really notice. Just go for it. If you have little holding you down in terms of financial obligations (family, mortgage) you are even better off. If you work hard and show your value you can find good work in this industry. And if your previous experience can be applied to a specific industry you have a huge leg up :)

So to paraphrase Duke Nuke'em -- Fuck emm all, let god sort it out. This is a great time to be in school with the recession as well...

I have been around the block a couple of times by now and you will definitely encounter ageism from time to time. I just ignore it and show my worth and that is that.

Market yourself properly (1)

C10H14N2 (640033) | more than 5 years ago | (#27352659)

Lack of experience in a given field at 35 will hurt you far more than lack of a degree. If you have neither, yes, you're competing with 19yos who will work for probably a fraction what you will, or at least that is the perception.

If you can, try to find 'your field' that the last 20 years backs up and gradually migrate to IT. Study formally or informally as you see fit, but your real problem is in appearing to be starting from square one. Find your 'domain knowledge' and move toward IT and you'll be able to compete with mere CS grads who haven't a clue about the broader implications of their work and often that is more important than the minutiae of An undergrad CS degree.

Doing the same at 48 (1)

dickens (31040) | more than 5 years ago | (#27352663)

I have 29 years experience in operations and system administration, and I'm a little more than halfway through a CS degree program at a nearby state college. Yeah, I feel old, and I'll be well over 50 when I finish, since I also have to work at least 40 hours a week to make ends meet.

Will it be worth it? Only time will tell. I will have the benefit of decades of real-world, plus the latest take on programming & engineering. I guess it's just a matter of finding the right spot for the last decade or so of my career.

Its not too late (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27352665)

I would not want to discourage you from getting a degree, since it will probably help you in the long run. But, do not expect anything with only a degree. I have interviewed college grads older than you that received decent marks. The good news is you will be eligible for college grad positions!

I would recommend taking some internships, and/or doing some work for free. Don't just learn what you need to pass your courses. Get to know some technology very well. If you are interested in languages, learn one or two at a deep level. If you know your stuff, it will come through in a tech interview. Work hard, build your resume and your network... a job will come.

Young??? (1)

noSignal (997337) | more than 5 years ago | (#27352669)

You must be aiming pretty low if you think that 35 is old.

You'll be a fresh 35 (2, Insightful)

steveha (103154) | more than 5 years ago | (#27352677)

My father made this observation:

"Old doctors and old lawyers are like old wines. Old engineers are like old fish fillets."

There probably is some outright age-ism out there, although I haven't had it smack me in the face yet.

But I suspect that what is much more common is a desire for the latest shiny technologies. When I went to school, Java hadn't been invented yet, and most of my classes were taught in Pascal. The colleges now are presumably teaching the new cool stuff. So, while you will be 35, you will be 35 with a fresh degree.

As I would advise any college student considering a computer career, I recommend you do projects on the side as much as you can. Find an open-source project, learn your way around it, contribute a few lines of code. Figure out what your college isn't teaching you, and study it on your own. For example, if your school teaches only Java and you don't get any assembly language or C programming, study that on your own. Joel (who writes Joel on Software [] ) says he won't hire anyone who doesn't know how to work with pointers; he may be an extreme case, but knowing pointers can only help you.

Study the want ads now, and try to figure out what the employers are looking for; make sure you are learning it. But you can't learn everything... I don't have any Visual Basic experience, and I was never interested in the jobs that require it. So I guess what I'm saying is, try to figure out an area you would like to be qualified for, and get the skills for it.

I highly recommend you study Python; a good book that walks you through the whole language will expose you to some cool stuff. Other people would urge you to study LISP; that will stretch your mind a bit. (When I was playing with LISP, I used the book The Little Schemer, and the DrScheme environment to run my code.)

The point of the last few paragraphs is to make you stand out a bit when you have your degree. You won't just be a 35-year-old with a fresh degree, you'll also be able to write cool Python scripts, juggle C pointers, maybe write mind-stretching LISP functions. I believe those sort of extras will help someone decide to hire you.

If you have to work full time and support a family while going to school nights, this is going to be hard. I have a friend doing this right now, and sometimes he does his homework from midnight to 4am, then gets up and goes to work. He's doing it and he's probably ten years older than you, so I'm sure you can do it too.

The good news is that if you are really right for a computer software career, and it is right for you, you will actually enjoy a lot of your work. Building software projects and watching them actually start to work is a special pleasure.


Not Ageism Per Se (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27352681)

But older IT workers have greater obligations, i.e. a home and family (with a mortgage). My experience is that company's would pick a fresh out of collage 20 something still living at home that they can pay $20k rather than a seasoned veteran for $60 plus.

I did it. (3, Interesting)

Tihstae (86842) | more than 5 years ago | (#27352695)

I did it. I managed grocery stores through my 20's and early 30's. I got my degree at 35. While in school, I quit the grocery business and went to work at Comp USA (Yeah yeah I hated the place too). Started as a sales weasel until there was an opening in the Tech dept (repair and service).

When I got my degree, I had a few years of IT (yeah yeah, Comp USA and IT don't go together.) under my belt and got a job in a University IT department as a Help Desk Service Coordinator (one man complaint department). I got this job because of my dual abilities of being able to manage people (from the grocery business as a manager)and because I understood technology with my repair bench experience. I hated every minute of it but it got me in the door.

One of my responsibilities in that position was to work with the different IT departments that were constantly bickering over whose job it was to take care of any given situation. I earned a reputation as someone who could troubleshoot AND get things done. When a position opened as a domain/exchange admin I jumped at it and got the job.

So 9 years after getting my degree I now manage the windows admins, unix admins, mainframe admins, and DBA's at this University.

Yes, you can do it.

Now the bad part. In order to do this, I went into extreme debt paying for school and working for peanuts at Comp USA. It took me most of those 9 years to pay off the debt I accumulated while getting to where I make a decent living now. It is a lot of hardship, a lot of dedication, and some luck in landing a position.

If you are ready to take the step, good luck to you!

Build on your strengths? (2, Insightful)

meburke (736645) | more than 5 years ago | (#27352699)

I'm 61, and last year found myself in an environment of people in their mid 20's and younger. They didn't have clue 1. They were good programmers, some of them were genius level, but their social skills and teamwork sucked big time. Furthermore, they were all into "agile" programming. The lack of planning on the project caused massive support problems. (This may have been OK in the early iterations of the product, but it was starting to show up as a major tech support problem. Once they shipped a product that didn't even work because they hadn't tested it thoroughly.) What drove me away was the lack of a plan and a clear set of performance standards. I never really knew what I was hired for, and I had no way of knowing how well I was doing, but I had a strong sense of "not fitting in" and falling below expectations (even though nobody stated the expectations).

Somewhere it occurred to me that these guys took for granted the elemental programming concepts that my generation had to invent on-the-fly back in the 60's and 70's. None of them could do assembly, none of them knew how to manage a decision table, and the idea of a formal systems analysis was foreign to them. My computer game was chess (which I've had to take off all my systems in order to get work done), and these guys think a "game" is WoW.

I suggest you decide what you want. To me, CS is designing the hardware and structure. CIS is designing the administration and apps that make the structure work, and MIS is is the design and apps that produce tangible results, especially for a specific end-user. These definitions don't necessarily match up with what the colleges are teaching under those names. In my experience, MIS environments have a little more respect for age and experience, CS has a high regard for innovation and results.

Good luck.

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