Welcome to the Slashdot Beta site -- learn more here. Use the link in the footer or click here to return to the Classic version of Slashdot.

Thank you!

Before you choose to head back to the Classic look of the site, we'd appreciate it if you share your thoughts on the Beta; your feedback is what drives our ongoing development.

Beta is different and we value you taking the time to try it out. Please take a look at the changes we've made in Beta and  learn more about it. Thanks for reading, and for making the site better!

Ask Slashdot: Becoming a Programmer At 40?

timothy posted about a year ago | from the late-bloomer dept.

Programming 314

New submitter fjsalcedo writes "I've read many times, here at Slashdot and elsewhere, that programming, especially learning how to program professionally, is a matter for young people. That programmers after 35 or so begin to decline and even lose their jobs, or at least part of their wages. Well, my story is quite the contrary. I've never made it after undergraduate level in Computer Science because I had to begin working. I've always worked 24x4 in IT environments, but all that stopped abruptly one and a half years ago when I was diagnosed with a form of epilepsy and my neurologist forbade me from working shifts and, above all, nights. Fortunately enough, my company didn't fire me; instead they gave me the opportunity to learn and work as a web programmer. Since then, in less than a year, I've had to learn Java, JavaScript, JSTL, EL, JSP, regular expressions, Spring, Hibernate, SQL, etc. And, you know what? I did. I'm not an expert, of course, but I'm really interested in continuing to learn. Is my new-born career a dead end, or do I have a chance of becoming good at programming?"

cancel ×


Sorry! There are no comments related to the filter you selected.

it's at a dead end (-1, Flamebait)

Idimmu Xul (204345) | about a year ago | (#43676553)

worst ask slashdot ever

Re:it's at a dead end (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43676855)

With the worst first comment ever.

Re:it's at a dead end (2, Funny)

empties (2827183) | about a year ago | (#43676859)

The legit question is: will I be able to continue to learn faster than a programming robot will advance and eventually replace me? The truth is that the programming robot will learn at an exponential rate, so there will likely be little difference between having 2 years of experience or 20 by the time the robot surpasses your ability. Perhaps the 20-year-programmer will have an extra day or two to try and hack into the robot, and likely that extra experience will help with that goal. But all programmers will eventually be replaced by the robot. Then, at long last, the hardware engineers can again gloat.

Re:it's at a dead end (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43677003)

Gloat? The hardware engineers would have to battle with the influx of software engineers battling for their jobs. Pay goes down due to supply and everyone loses.

Re:it's at a dead end (1)

fisted (2295862) | about a year ago | (#43677265)

Like there was any fundamental difference between hardware and software engineering. Once you can truly automate one, same is possible for the other.

Re:it's at a dead end (4, Insightful)

ShanghaiBill (739463) | about a year ago | (#43677427)

Like there was any fundamental difference between hardware and software engineering.

Indeed. I do both hardware and software.
When I do software, I sit at my computer and type C.
When I do hardware, I sit at my computer and type verilog.
The main difference is that C code is executed in sequence, but with verilog it is all executed at the same time.

I expect to be replaced by a robot sometime around 2030.

Re:it's at a dead end (5, Insightful)

TheSpoom (715771) | about a year ago | (#43677481)

Yes, the guy should totally judge his employability by a theoretical programming robot that doesn't currently exist.

Go for it (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43676555)

TIme change...the future is bright

Cool (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43676569)

Keep on blazing

Good for you! (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43676575)

I'm happy for you and your new career. Get ready for a nonstop list of reasons why you're doomed, but don't listen to them. If you love what you're doing, do it. Make your own success. Ageism is as bad as racism, and just as illegal.

Re:Good for you! (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43677043)

The submitter should be aware that career management in any IT role is essential in order to remain relevant. You have a decent employer by today's standards and with effort you have successfully moved into web development. If you are passionate about programming in the general sense and specifically web development including mobile application development, you stand a fair chance of riding this career transition into retirement. One thing you could do to improve the longer term prospects as a web developer is seek small outside contracts which can be worked outside regular business hours preferably from home. Above all you must actively manage your career rather than coasting along until the inevitable termination; it is rare anyone works 20 years for a private firm these days even if they love the organization...the organization won't always love you back. Best of fortune on the career as a web developer.

Re:Good for you! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43677179)

I'm happy for you and your new career. Get ready for a nonstop list of reasons why you're doomed, but don't listen to them. If you love what you're doing, do it. Make your own success. Ageism is as bad as racism, and just as illegal.

i can discriminate against ANYONE by just saying - "they don't have the skils."

Prove in court that I'm racist - ageist - or whatever. Go ahead - try!

Go to class and get new skills?

BUt you need paid experience in those skills. Two years worth!


THAT is the question he has to answer to the recruiters.

I know . I have been there.

Learning on your own or taking classes doesn't matter to most employers (*pare me outliers). They want someone to hit the ground running! (i.e. Someone with experience!)

* Outliers: Spare me. Most employers want young folks and they want two (2) years of experience (at least) for every technology. I have taken so many classes and read so many books to stay relevant and yet it always boils down to - what did you do as paid experience.

I am asked frequently, "What do/did you use for library control?"


Whatever I'm using I just google how to use it. Why The F is proficiency in a particular library control program important?

Oh wait! I got gray hair!

Do they ask me to implement a program to do something they wan to do?! Nope!

Ask an esoteric question and bye-bye.

Re:Good for you! (0, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43677467)

Nailed it.

In America, the real way is to start you own business. The older you get, the more important that is.

When your 40 and thinking about a new career track, you have already fallen off the latter and in the HR Imbeciles mind are fatally damage goods.

If you want to make it, you have to take what crap work you can, while bootstrapping up your OWN business.

Risky, you better believe it, but calling out the odds, it is about the only thing left.

Since most of the people around here look at wage slavery as their holy grail, you had best Mod this -1.

Re:Good for you! (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43677341)

Age-related cognitive decline is a reality.

However, it doesn't hit everyone equally. Some people take better care of themselves (and their brains) than others, and some people have better genetics than others.

The facts of the situation do drive employers to ageism, and that is a reality you have to deal with too.

So it is possible that you could become a really great programmer, and it is also possible that you will have a prosperous career because of this. But the odds are not in your favor.

Slashdot should be renamed (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43676585)


That's sorta up to you; (4, Insightful)

emagery (914122) | about a year ago | (#43676587)

Success has an element of surprise to it, but its not entirely out of your control either. My caveat is the argument that what you learn when particularly young is what you'll be a natural at the rest of your life. Learn a 2nd language before 14 years old and your entire life, new languages will come easily and without notable accent... but learn 2nd after 14 and it'll be hard, most will give up, and even those who succeed maintain a lifelong accent. It's a brain chemistry and stage thing. Programming is an analytical and problem solving sort of thing... if anything you've done during your developmental years is similar, then it shouldn't be hard for you to adapt now, really... and as with french and spanish and italian, the differences between, say, perl, python, javascript and php are not significant enough to deter you... the LOGIC behind them will be familiar... the differences are more in context, strengths, and dialect.

Re:That's sorta up to you; (2)

hcs_$reboot (1536101) | about a year ago | (#43676971)

Basically agree with this. However, you were able to learn, among other things, Java, Spring, Hibernate... in a year, with no prior real programming experience. That's great. Nevertheless, experience plays an important role in programming, because there are some many different fields that are always linked in some way (eg, you learned Java and do not have to care about C pointers, memory allocation - however knowing how all of that works under the hood (ie like knowing C well) gives a huge advantage when it comes to create structures, guessing the complexity of algorithms etc... As a beginner you will reinvent the wheel a lot... and this is what usually do the young beginners - and that's good because at that age, one is eager to learn, to spend a lot of time on algorithm details etc... Will you?

Don't know about your background, but if by chance you have a degree in mathematics, or if you like (and succeed at) puzzles, riddles ... you get immediately an advantage over the majority of programmers (experienced or not). Most of programmers can produce a very bad code as soon as an algorithm that is a bit more complex than what's done during the daily routine is required - that represents maybe 1% of the programs, in size, but may weight 99% in terms of complexity, efficiency, maintainability etc...

Re:That's sorta up to you; (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43677375)

There is a paper about learning programming languages and why it is so hard to teach.
They found that you cannot really teach programming, and you cannot predict based on education or IQ if someone is able to program.

They have given people who have never done programming in their life before a test on how simple programs (sequential variable assignments) change the variables. The persons fell into two groups, people who are able to keep a consistent (not necessarily correct) memory model in their head and people who were inconsistent.

Then they gave both group lessons in programming at the end they gave the same test. The people who were consistent now gave correct answers, the people who were inconsistent still gave inconsistent answers.

There are also a few levels of abstraction in programming which are boundaries that certain people can cross and other won't:
1. Algebra (using variables).
2. Sequential programming (variable changing over time)
3. Functional and OO Programming especially polymorphism.
4. Temporal programming (variables which can be changed by two or more threads of execution, we are talking about being able to create your own concurrent access primitives and data structures, not just multithreaded programming).

Listen, old man... (1, Troll)

Frosty Piss (770223) | about a year ago | (#43676589)

Wal-Mart has a job for you. Best to let the Young Bucks do the heavy lifting of this thing you call "programming". Nobody wants to be your fellow brogrammer, go work in a book store.

Re:Listen, old man... (0, Troll)

Frosty Piss (770223) | about a year ago | (#43676813)

"Troll"? Hit a sore point did I? Well, the word of the day for you is "WHOOOOOOOOSH".

Re:Listen, old man... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43677299)

No, actually you're just stupid. Sorry to break it to you.

Best Satire ever - and social critique (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43676953)

Wal-Mart has a job for you. Best to let the Young Bucks do the heavy lifting of this thing you call "programming". Nobody wants to be your fellow brogrammer, go work in a book store.

You sir - I got it.

I'm 48.

And your post speaks to me on so many levels. (I'll spare the 1,000 word essay)

Rest assured sir I, at least, appreciate your post and fuck the mods.

good for you (4, Insightful)

magic maverick (2615475) | about a year ago | (#43676591)

Go for it. If you're willing to learn new things, then age should be no obstacle. Indeed, I suggest that even older people (in their 70s and 80s) learn programming, as by exercising the brain, you may prevent certain brain problems (like dementia).
You might not be able to work as many hours as young folk, but if you're willing to work, and to continually learn new tricks and ways of doing things, then I can't see it as a problem.

Anyone who says that you are too old is at best an idiot, but maybe someone who just wants to take your job. Don't let them, prove the bastards wrong.

do it (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43676593)

and prove that it can be done to us all and get it over with! :)

I agree (3, Interesting)

wildtech (119936) | about a year ago | (#43676597)

Go for it. The only one that should be telling you what you can or can't do is yourself.
If you have a passion for something you will enjoy it and may become very good at it.

Re:I agree (2)

Cornwallis (1188489) | about a year ago | (#43677039)


I'm 58 and know enough that if I ever sit back I'll fade away. How boring. I change jobs every so many years TO learn new things so I don't get jaded.
Just don't listen to anybody trying to tell you what's best for you.

Go for it (5, Informative)

Niris (1443675) | about a year ago | (#43676605)

No career is a 'dead end career' unless you're awful at it, or it's just completely unneeded (or over saturated). If you've already started learning the stuff and they're paying you, keep at it.

Re:Go for it (2)

Tablizer (95088) | about a year ago | (#43676873)

Often it's about interview techniques, not so much skills. If you don't know how to interview fairly well, such as being very nervous, then during recessions or downturns you may be out in the rain. That's the ugly reality. But then again, almost any career is like that.

Re:Go for it (2)

Minupla (62455) | about a year ago | (#43677457)

And speaking as a hiring manager, draw on how your IT experience will allow you to develop solutions that will work seamlessly with the whole IT ecosystem at your organization.

I know I've seen over the years many situations where a development team will say "OK the code is ready!". When I ask them what firewall rules they will require, they just look at me blankly and turn towards IT, because that's "infrastructure stuff".

Typically we have a name for Development staff who doesn't do that... Senior developers :).


You answered your own question (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43676617)

Since then, in les than a year, I've had to learn Java, Javascript, JSTL, EL, JSP, regular expressions, Spring, Hibernate, SQL, etc. And, you know what? I did. I'm not an expert, of course, but I'm really interested in continuing to learn.

Go forth and prosper. Programming is not like professional sports or the ballet, where there are only a few hundred jobs nationwide to go around.

Re:You answered your own question (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43676963)

not yet.

Re:You answered your own question (4, Funny)

alexo (9335) | about a year ago | (#43677079)

Go forth and prosper.

I'm not an expert, but shouldn't it be
Forth go prosper and .

Re:You answered your own question (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43677263)

Forth love? if honk then

Re:You answered your own question (1)

TheSpoom (715771) | about a year ago | (#43677273)


Re:You answered your own question (1)

GodfatherofSoul (174979) | about a year ago | (#43677319)

If it's reverse polish notation, punctuation is redundant:

Go forth prosper and

Attention! (0, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43676621)

I have just poured hot grits down my pants.

Thank you!

No (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43676625)

Seems to me you have already proven your new-found career is going swimmingly, and that you have both the desire and capability to learn what you need to know in order to do (at least) passably, if not outright well (or better).

Anecdotal Evidence (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43676627)

I met a fellow who in his late-40s was laid off from his job as a line worker at the local telephone company, picked up Delphi and ran with it. That was in 1998, He's still doing it and looking to retire soon and we've not found anyone to replace him yet. He could do this because he had problem solving skills, not because he was young.

What is a dead end? (3, Informative)

odin84gk (1162545) | about a year ago | (#43676643)

It sounds like you never aspired to striking it rich, nor becoming senior management. It sounds like you want a secure job that will last you until you retire.

IMHO, this transition forces you to find a family-owned business or a private company who doesn't focus solely on the bottom line. It does limit your options, but who cares? It sounds like you don't want 100x options, but you want a stable job until retirement.

In that case, go ahead! Keep learning, keep your skills up to date, and you will do great! Just don't expect a high wage, or to get paid like you are an industry veteran. You pay will be comparable to an entry-level programmer (or a bit better). Don't beg for promotions, stay low-cost, and you will do fine.

You have a chance, of course (1, Troll)

Subgenius (95662) | about a year ago | (#43676645)

There is always a chance. if....
      you never get hit with the non-existent age bias in the tech industry
      you like the smell of curry and noodles
      you don't mind ramping up on a skill set and then seeing your job get outsourced
      you hit the lottery
      you work AT the office
      you can hide your grey hair (or if you have no hair, keep the dome waxed)

Life may suck, but if you enjoy what you do, you will always have something to fall back on, even if that something doesn't pay the bills.

No. (5, Insightful)

Lumpy (12016) | about a year ago | (#43676663)

Even someone that is 70 can learn a new programming language and thrive. The only advantage the youngsters have is the ability to adsorb the information faster, they cant learn more, they cant do more.

Problem is you as an older person will not happily take abuse from management, thus you are less desirable than a young fresh out of college kid that will take epic levels of abuse and not complain.

You Need Fogietran: (2)

Tablizer (95088) | about a year ago | (#43676941)

10 PRINT "Get"
20 PRINT "Off"
30 PRINT "My"
40 PRINT "Lawn!"

Re:No. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43676993)

Problem is you as an older person will not happily take abuse from management, thus you are less desirable than a young fresh out of college kid that will take epic levels of abuse and not complain.

Sad, but true...

I'm invoking... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43676665)

I'm going to invoke Betteridge's law of headlines, the answer is, "no"'s_law_of_headlines

If you done well, so far... (1)

macbeth66 (204889) | about a year ago | (#43676667)


Kudos to you and your company. Keep learning and exploring programming languages and techniques. But above all else, IGNORE what people on Slashdot tell you. Especially, since you are proving their dumb *sses wrong.

Re:If you done well, so far... (0, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43676735)

The dude is cobwebs. Programming requires a nimble young brain. Dudes like this just slow things down. Questions about this and that - it's like "DUDE! Google it and shut the fuck up". Who the fuck would want to work with a tombstone like this guy? SHIT, I let the old guy look over my shoulder while I create magic, but if he TOUCHES my code, he's toast. Go make copies or something. Have some more black coffee.

Started as a new Programmer at 42 (2)

CosaNostra Pizza Inc (1299163) | about a year ago | (#43676671)

I used to be an electrical engineer, working strictly with hardware. Then, a layoff and lousy job market forced me to make a career change. I went back to school for a grad degree in Computer Science. It was difficult for someone like me who started out without a software background but I've been working as a Software Engineer III for 1 1/2 years now. I'm now working with Java, Groovy, Spring, Hibernate, Solr...just to name a few. IT is a thriving market now and in the foreseeable future.

To both question: Yes. (5, Insightful)

mcmonkey (96054) | about a year ago | (#43676677)

Is my new-born career a dead end?

Yes. But your old career was a dead end. All our careers are dead ends. Life is a dead end. We all have to deal with it. You can give up, or enjoy what you have while you have it.

Do I have a chance of becoming good at programming?

Without knowing more about you, I'd say a slight chance. But I'd say the same for a fresh graduate from some top engineering school. Good programmers are a rare find. The best we can hope for is your maturity and experience leads you to spend more time considering edge cases and maintainability and less time trying to impress people with cleverness and flash.

Re:To both question: Yes. (1)

Tablizer (95088) | about a year ago | (#43676905)

All our careers are dead ends. Life is a dead end.

No, I'm going into cryogenic preservation.

Re:To both question: Yes. (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43677249)

Good for you. Your organs* will live on in future rich people.

* Brain not included.

Go for it (1)

troyer (8249) | about a year ago | (#43676685)

I've returned to full-time development after 15 years in SA/devops work. I love it and have learned new and new-to-me languages (python and go). Some things came right back and some things still take a little time. Being good at programming is independent of career, it has more to do with drive and desire and motivation.

Your career has more to do with where you want to take it and your flexibility to adjust to the situations that let you go there as much as anything else. There are plenty of shops that wear out their devs and push them in ways that only the young-uns can handle for long periods of time. (maybe that should be people-with-no-life rather than young-uns?) And there are plenty of places that you and I can contribute at high levels and be productive. It seems like you're in the latter as they gave you an alternative and a chance to prove yourself.

Yes. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43676687)

Anyone who says differently is a prick... Programming like all things, is a matter of doing it. If you do it, enough, you'll probably end up pretty damn good.

I don't know why so many geeks, media, and other arseholes, are so hell bent on thinking that only young people can do this. It's just wrong. Anyone can program if they try. I'm living proof of that, gainfully employed, programming-- after spending much of my life thinking I couldn't ever do it (I am only 28). The same also held true, at least for me, in regards to upper-division mathematics. I tried. I conquered.

If you try, you will too.

Good luck, mate! Just stick with it.

P.S. Contrary to popular belief, I've been seeing more software firms (lately) favor older applicants because the professional experiences goes a long way when it comes to working with someone.

you are a decent employee (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43676707)

Your company sees you as worth investing some time/training in. That speaks well of you and of the company. If you didn't at least have some level of competency they would not have been interested in training you, but (and I'm totally guessing here) you apparently show up to work and make a contribution.

So yes, be a programmer! If you're really cool we'll make you a brogrammer.

Go for it (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43676709)

I think it's a great idea. You sound passionate about it and the learning process will help keep your brain "in shape".

I am a 53 year old Windows (C#) programmer and I have just started learning a new field (embedded C++) for fun use in my hobby, which is electronics.
I believe we should all learn something new everyday.

Yes. You can, but.. (1)

hsa (598343) | about a year ago | (#43676715)

I see no reason why you can't become a good programmer. I work in IT and I see many people over forty having to learn new skills, because they are familiar with the operational systems and have too little on their plate (that is what bosses always think..).

Then again, you are becoming a grunt. You are pushed down from your career path, doing things that twenty-somethings do when they are just hired.

My advice to you: become really good in something. Pick one programming language you like, and start to design large scale architectures, interactions between high level critical systems and make sure that if they get implemented, you'll be there doing it. You need to get your career going, and IMHO software architect is the way to go.

Nonsense. (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43676717)

Programmers after 35 begin to decline? Uhm... some of the most influential technology has been made by people way over 35. For instance Lars Bak released V8 in 2008. And then went on to make Dart. Walter bright and Alexanderscu are way over 35 - they are making the awesome D language (can't recommend it highly enough). If anything older programmers have more to offer. Examples are all over the place.

Maybe for some programmers energy levels decline because they don't take care of themselves physically and lose their energy after 35. But age is no factor. You could choose a niche that interests you and become an expert in it in less than 5 years. Master in 10. Do it if you love doing it.

does it really need saying? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43676723)

Yes, many people have successful careers as programmers well past 40. There's attrition that correlates with age, but hey! If other people made it, so can you. Your background in IT means that you'll have to either work harder or work smarter than the 40-year-old that's spent his whole career programming, but you can do that, right? Well, only you can answer that.

You're fine if you don't want to leave (5, Insightful)

Quirkz (1206400) | about a year ago | (#43676739)

Most of the ageism seems to come with the hiring company. If you're at a company that's already supporting you, and it appears they are, then you're not going to have problems as long as you stay. Obstacles may only start to crop up if/when you want to move. Even then I think the horror stories are exaggerated - we've got programmers in their 40's or 50's here who were relatively new hires, but we're a smaller and perhaps nontraditional company. I think you ought to still have plenty of options, but you may struggle if you try to pick certain large and established firms with a reputation for ageism, including most of the gaming industry.

Best of luck to you! I'm actually still pushing back my plans to reinvent myself as a programmer (trying to get through kids before changing career paths) and I know I won't get to it before I'm 40. Despite the general negativity about my prospects, I don't expect that to stop me from eventually making the transition.

Re:You're fine if you don't want to leave (2)

avandesande (143899) | about a year ago | (#43677329)

Have four people on a team of twenty under the age of 35. I guess it all depends... a cool head is needed for corporate development and I think experience is an advantage, but at a video game company not so much....

Re:You're fine if you don't want to leave (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43677399)

I was at an embedded conference the othe day and was one of the youngest people there. I'm 36. The whole ageism thing is overblown, you just need to be good and passionate about what you do. I've seen plenty of younger people out of school that are embaraasingly bad and have little motivation to learn. I've seen firmware jobs go unfilled for years because they can't find a decent candidate.

One of the best programmers I've known... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43676743)

was a crusty old tank sergeant who learned programming after 20 years in the Army.

Full Steam Forward (5, Interesting)

msmonroe (2511262) | about a year ago | (#43676749)

My career is better than ever and I am over 40. Think our society just wants us older people to go away after a certain age. I know a lot of people my age in my profession become PM's, what a sucky worthless job btw. I plan on programming until I drop dead. Just read this study. [] BTW most of the thoughts about the decline in mental abilities after a certain age are also myths.

Retraining is different from switching jobs. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43676779)

Your company knows what you're capable of, and is willing to pay to retrain you. And possibly avoid any nastiness with the ADA. Obviously, you go for it if you can't do what you were doing and it's the best option.

That is an entirely situation than a 40 year-old, fresh out of school with no experience, handing resumes out to HR. You already have a position, you just have to hold onto it.

Yes (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43676787)

As a programmer that started at age 6 self taught with a 386 given by my father. I can certifiably tell you that all programmers are a breed of people that do not have a quit and have an ability to adapt and learn. To me writing in a language is as simple as speaking in English to someone. You seem like someone who is interested in learning new things.

My biggest advice to you is that while learning programming is important and so is keeping up to date the simple fact is an IF statement has rarely changed in the span of my career. What you should be focusing on is how to build skills to make you valuable instead of learning every new fad. To do this you need to expand your views and mind on programming. The traditional role people take to do this is learn new technologies. I would urge you to expand your skills via projects and unattainable programming that you think you cannot do.

Never used sockets? First goal should be is to write a client server arch using sockets. As you have more experience building systems you will be valuable at debugging and creating new systems for companies. Do not be fooled that is what companies need. Not someone who can muddle with code. Expand your code brevity at all times and you will be successful. People see the value in someone who can understand every detail about a program or OS and if needed code a work around to any issue. That will keep you employed regardless of your age.

Many people are on the bandwagon of tech skill names are all that is important. Its more important to illustrate to everyone why you can code anything on the planet and why you are a 1337 mother trucker. That is something a majority of the people applying cannot do.


At 40 you are dead as a softwareengineer. (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43676795)

Ask me,

My career ended at 42 when the company I was working for closed shop. I can't even get an interview even though im REALLY good at what I do and have 19yrs experience as a software engineer in assembly and C. I now work as a sys admin since it seems to be OK to be old working with that. The most amazing thing is that our "real" software engineers come and asks me for help all the time but my boss won't let me change position.

The stupidest thing I ever did was turning my passion for computers into my job...

Read good code, talk to good developers (2)

trybywrench (584843) | about a year ago | (#43676803)

I'm 37 and was recently promoted from senior dev to director of our development department at my company which means I do the hiring/firing now. I think ageism is real in this industry but, at the end of the day, what matters is results. If you can write good, maintainable, best practice code and deliver on time you will always be employable. Another thing that is key is you have to be willing to learn new things and re-invent yourself as technology evolves. Don't you dare get entrenched in one language, platform, or way of doing things always try new things and approaches. When you tell yourself or someone else "well this is just the way i've always done it" that should set off an alarm.

More tactically, my advice is to read good code and talk to good developers. You can gain a lot of wisdom by just having the guts to ask, expect some odd looks given you're older but all good developers appreciate good code and will help you produce good code. If anyone gives you sh*t about your age write them off as a waste of space and go talk to someone else.

There is no such thing as age... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43676807)

...when it comes to code. Can you read a piece of code and tell if it was written by a young dev or an older dev? Anyone that tells you coding is for kids is full of it. I am 38 and I will run circles around 75% of coders in their 20s... In any language. People on here look at code with tunnel vision. All code is part of a larger picture, be it an app or business process. Your experience in IT will give you an advantage because you will see the whole picture.

Greybeards (2)

lazarus (2879) | about a year ago | (#43676811)

I hire programmers, and frankly at this point I am more inclined to hire an older programmer than a younger. The issue is about focus and discipline. Of course there are lots of young people who have learned how to focus on something for more than 30 seconds at a time, and I'm sure there are also some that have the self discipline to organize their life in ways that make them the most productive. But wisdom comes with age and for my particular management style someone who is self propelled and who has these qualities is desirable.

I think your only issue is going to be one of experience as you go forward with other job prospects. You'll just need to stand on what you have learned as someone who takes their career seriously, and is paying attention.

programming is always new (1)

MellowTigger (633958) | about a year ago | (#43676819)

Details change so fast in the tech sector that nobody's skills stay current. Everybody always learns new technologies, skills, and practices to stay useful and relevant. Spending more time in the programming field only means that you have a larger collection of familiar toolkits to rely upon, not that your existing toolkit is the best fit for the task at hand. One of the reasons that I like the programming field is because there's always something new to learn. I like earning a living while still at "school".

Look at your local community colleges (1)

TWiTfan (2887093) | about a year ago | (#43676843)

A lot of tech schools and community colleges offer 2-year computer programming associates degrees (and many other certificate programs). And they're usually pretty cheap and offer night classes too. I suggest you check those out.

And, no, never too old to change careers. I've done so several times and always ended up smoking my younger competition.

No problems (1)

quietwalker (969769) | about a year ago | (#43676877)

In my experience as a programmer, what sets apart acceptable developers from great ones is the ability to teach themselves new languages, frameworks, libraries, and techniques. They're self-driven, and it shows. They don't 'learn faster' - they just learn more often. You take a person like that, and in a few months they can demonstrate value several times greater than a programmer with a decade of experience.

It seems like you've already shown that sort of initiative, so I'd say you're already well on your way.

Since the job market in the US for developers is currently incredible, I'd say you'll have both job security at your current position and in the near future if you want to jump ship. Also realize that the computer stars - the 'young kids' everyone was talking about when computer programming became a popular job - they're all in their early to middle 30's now, if not older.

Personally, I don't see much agism where I've worked. What I have seen is older people bunkering up - trying to make sure they always have a job on the one thing they know, not training others, not reaching beyond it, trying to force people to do things in old, proven inefficient ways, unwilling to change, etc. I've written someone out of a job before, by removing a completely unnecessary stack of bubble sorts (4 levels deep!) that cut the runtime of a mainframe process from 22 hours to 45 minutes. They didn't know what to do when it no longer took 1 person the whole day to cajole the process through safely.

So, don't do that, and you should be fine.

Two different questions here (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43676879)

1) Can you become a good programmer
  Certainly - if you can think logically, grasp the big concepts (Big O notation, indirection, recursion, etc), and find a language or two that you really learn, you can.

2) Is my new career a dead-end?
Maybe. There are lots of older programmers, but there is definitely an industry-wide tendency towards offshoring, which means jobs are fewer, and salaries are lower, unless you are really good, or good in a niche that is not popular.

Two answers (1)

MpVpRb (1423381) | about a year ago | (#43676881)

No, programming ability does not decrease with age. I am approaching 60, writing the best code ever, and getting paid well to do it

Yes, there is extreme age discrimination in hiring. Most companies want young people, right out of college. They don't have health problems or families, and work long hours for low pay

I don't really understand the question. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43676889)

Yes, if you work at it. Like anything else, programming is a skill that can be learned. Whether it comes easily to you or not is another story. Your age is completely irrelevant to the learning. The only area your age may have an impact is in finding a job, but it sounds like you've already got a good one.

Don't listen to the naysayers (2)

ggraham412 (1492023) | about a year ago | (#43676893)

My only specific advice to a late bloomer would be: don't sweat the "new" technology and acronym soup that changes every few years. Everything substantial was already done in the late 60's at Xerox Parc, or CERN and the NCSA in the late 80's, but comes out repackaged with new acronyms every time an architecture is refactored to fit the newest hardware capabilities. Focus on what you do well and ignore the rest. If anything, it's much easier to survive as a new programmer nowadays because the coding tools and online references are so powerful.

You will be fine. (1)

JavaLord (680960) | about a year ago | (#43676913)

Java, Javascript, JSTL, EL, JSP, regular expressions, Spring, Hibernate, SQL, etc. And, you know what? I did. I'm not an expert, of course, but I'm really interested in continuing to learn. Is my new-born career a dead end

Programming isn't a dead end. You can move into management, or if you're happy programming you can still program. If you can't find a job, you can freelance. It's not the type of skill that you need a lot of fancy equipment for (i.e.- you aren't flying planes).

, or do I have a chance of becoming good at programming?"

Being good is subjective. If you want to be good at programming simply reading the right websites, books and learning new things will put you ahead of 50% of the programmers out there. If your idea of good is "Employable as a web developer" you should be fine. If your idea of good is John Carmack, then you're probably not going to end up being "good" by that definition.

Also to most employers, especially ones who don't delver software as their main business function the idea of a good programmer is someone who can deliver on deadlines, adapt to changes in specs, and get along with their coworkers. If you're going to work for a company that makes software as their main business practice, their standards will be higher. Their idea of a good programer is probably someone who has read TAOCP, knows design patters, knows whatever framework is currently trendy and can read the mind of their interviewer and know what books/blogs they like/respect.

Good luck. My dad was a programmer, just as I am. He was laid off when he was in his late 50s, and the only thing that kept getting him jobs were his contacts he built up over his long career. Another piece of advice: Make "friends" who appreciate your skills.

Programming is mostly about motivation (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43676939)

If you are in the IT field coding is not a mystery. It's like learning new languages that you speak but in this case write. Motivation is a huge factor as it's a constantly changing, ever learning field. People that say it's a dead end are often unmotivated and in crappy jobs.

Here's the deal with how most companies view older coders. They are tired, slow, unmotivated, overpriced and not very agile. I know several older coders who would be better dealt with using the peter principle. I'm 37 years old, and I'm slowly transitioning into leadership roles. I recognize that I'm not as motivated to sit there and master every detail like I was at 22.

As long as you are excited about your work, are energetic AND produce well you'll be fine. Eventually you'll want to transition to a leadership role where things move slower and you don't have to adapt as fast. That's just how the world works.

At least (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43676949)

you're not doing testing.

Please take this as a compliment... (1)

JoeMerchant (803320) | about a year ago | (#43676969)

Your epilepsy is a 1% neurological condition (99% of people don't have it)

Your ability to learn and apply new (to you) concepts after age 40 is similarly rare.

The old saw about "anyone can learn anything if they just apply themselves" is not true for some people, and as people age it becomes not true for more and more of them.

Horse hockey (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43676977)

"I've read many times, here at Slashdot and elsewhere, that programming, especially learning how to program professionally, is a matter for young people. That programmers after 35 or so begin to decline and even lose their jobs..."

That's just a myth perpetuated by naive 20 somethings who equate "good programmers" with those who are willing to and capable of working 90 hours a week. They haven't figured out quality vs quanity yet or that spending time with a member of the opposite sex (or same sex if that's your thing) can be as rewarding attaining 100% test coverage.

regexp (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43676987)

obligatory []

Age is not important (1)

Sla$hPot (1189603) | about a year ago | (#43676991)

Some people study to get a degree because they are smart and get the chance, some because it brings prestige, respect and higher salaries.
But the people who excel will always be the once who have a desire to learn and experiment through out their entire life. No matter the profession.

Creepy Codger! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43677041)

Get away from that Eclipse IDE!

Build your programming career on your other skills (2)

qwijibo (101731) | about a year ago | (#43677055)

Being a good programmer is a matter of being a good fit for the role you're performing. If you have expertise in other areas and can use programming to apply that knowledge in a way that the computer can do the work that people do now, you'll never run out of automation work. Look around you at things people do by passing around spreadsheets or pieces of paper. Can you write tools to make that data flow easier?

I'm don't like telemarketing, spam, junk mail, etc. However, several years ago I got a job where I helped develop a team to implement a data warehouse for direct mail marketing. Knowing some of the traits of these scum up front helped me understand the business needs of the marketing people. I also learned a few things on how to get suppressed from such marketing as well as ways to poison data collected for such a purpose. The people I was working for saw the business value in not marketing to people who don't want the product - a viewpoint I could completely agree with. Just because you don't like something, doesn't mean you can't help someone do that thing in a more responsible and less annoying manner.

When I interview programmers, how they analyze and solve problems is far more likely to get them hired than what tools they have experience in. If they can solve a problem in their favorite language easily, I don't mind if they don't have as much experience as I'd like in the language we're using for a particular project.

40 is Fine (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43677073)

Go for it! In my experience, age is not a factor. In fact, I think it's harder to prove yourself when you're younger.

Nay sayers are the only ones doomed (1)

Ravaldy (2621787) | about a year ago | (#43677075)

I've been surrounded my whole life by people who said you can't do this, you can't do that, you won't succeed... Guess what? I'm much further ahead than any of those people. I started programming at the age 15 and there's a huge advantage in ANYTHING if you start at a younger age because you brain is a sponge BUT, efforts can allow one to compensate for the slower brain absorption rate.

If you work hard enough, you will outperform some programmers who started younger because they take their skillset for granted and stop progressing.

Reading your post I understand you've been doing this for over a year and have learned a few languages. Keep in mind that languages don't make the programmer, it's the ability to structure programs that tells how experienced a programmer really. I'm sure the structure of you programs will continue to improve as you continue to learn.

Learning Porgraming opens new doors (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43677077)

What learning how to program, brings is that it is learning a new trait that may lead into you creating a product for yourself. Instead of always working for a different business. Programming allows you to start your own business and make your own products. Hence why it is never too late or too early to learn how to code.

Don't believe all the sour grapes (4, Informative)

swillden (191260) | about a year ago | (#43677101)

There are lots of programmers working and making very good livings well after age 35. I'm 43 and just two years ago was hired by Google, with a significant pay increase. I work with lots of other guys who are in their 40s, 50s and even 60s and they're bright, very capable and -- obviously -- highly experienced.

Of course I'm talking about people who started when they were younger, but I see no reason why it shouldn't be possible to pick it up later in life.

If you enjoy it, and are successfully making a living at it, go for it. Ignore the naysayers.

Go for it! (1)

Markus Tenghamn (2919309) | about a year ago | (#43677129)

I'm 23 myself and learning so I can't really relate but we have 2 guys at our college going for a comp science degree and they are above 80, I believe one of them is 86. I have no idea why they are doing it but they have fun and it is interesting to see projects they come up with and learning from the problems they face. At one point the xcode debugger was just too complicated and it was interesting to listen to why and see what his reasoning was. I don't think it's ever too late, but it takes time to learn code and that is something you need to consider when learning, do you have time? why are you doing it?

That depends (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43677209)

Becoming good at programming can mean a lot of different things. Skill wise, you'll know you're getting better when your code starts to feel like art. Career wise, being 40 with one year of experience means you should focus on establishing contacts. Maybe you'll get lucky and find a benefactor. Otherwise you'll need to have many clients to support you while you improve. It's like any other industry: brand recognition, product quality, strategic marketing.

After all, the people you need affirmation from are the ones with business problems that are looking for someone who can deliver, not anonymous people in an online forum.

It's never too late! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43677261)

I'm 65, and 15 months ago I was hired by a tier one Fortune 50 company as a senior systems engineer. I write code, develop algorithms, design systems, and lead the performance engineering for over 3000 servers world wide that support over 100 million users. Over the past year or so I've had to add a similar number of skills as you did, as well as dust off the old stats and calculus books so I could design the analytic tools needed for system performance/failure predictive analytics. We have PhD's in math and statistics to do the heavy lifting, but they only do what I tell them to, and I still have to validate their work and review their code. On top of that, I've had to become fluent in Amazon cloud services, Hadoop/big-data, and manage several hadoop clusters collecting the performance data for those 3000 servers (about 5-6 billion data points per day).

Our company has engineers of all ages, sexes, nationalities, and religions. I'm a 65yo white male American athiest... My team has a 20-something Finn, a 40-something male Chinese, a 20-something female Vietnamese Buddhist, a 30-something male Russian, and a 40-something Bangladeshi Muslim... :-)

In the end, it is what you bring to the table that is important, and your enthusiasm for the job.

Re:It's never too late! (1)

OG (15008) | about a year ago | (#43677437)

There are thankfully many places that still respect maturity and experience. I think the "no old programmers" meme is a result of the start-up mentality. Luckily, start-ups don't make up the entirety of the market. More established companies (like a Fortune 50 company) value the stability and continuity a more established, mature workforce can provide. Older workers aren't just looking for the next shiny thing to come along, an advantage the youngsters don't always recognize (I'm in my late 30s, pretty much transitioned out of the whippersnapper phase). A good work environment should have a mix of ages. The older workers provide perspective and can train the younger ones. The younger ones bring energy and fresh perspectives. I'd be wary of a company that's wary of older programmers.

Nike! (Just Do It) (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43677275)

I'm in a similar situation. Albeit I started in my 30's, but I'm now 40, and have no formal education, no formal training, no degree of any kind.

Still, I'm (apparently) one of the most competent, skilled, and judging by how often I'm asked for help, well regarded, Developers/SysAdmin/Security 'expert' in a very large multi-national corporation.

My experience is that you can do whatever you want. The rest is just excuses. Computer Science is one of the few fields where you really can be entirely self taught and thrive. There's a sort of 'legend' of the self-taught 'hacker' in IT circles. (Hacker to me just means someone who's willing and able to pop the hood and figure it out.) It doesn't seem as strange as it might in other fields. Granted every company is different, and some are more stringent in their formal requirements than others, but given my experience here, I would have no worries applying for similar positions in any other organization, and defending my record (or lack thereof) with any interviewer.

If you have an interest in learning anything computer related, you can find a book/guide/man page/example out there. If you study, you'll get good at it. If you relentlessly seek to better yourself, you'll continually improve. You'll also look back at what you wrote last year/month/week and shudder. That means you're developing.

Don't worry about what anyone says. Just follow your interest. Do the very best you can, and know that you're going to make mistakes. Be open to anyone pointing out those mistakes, and try not to make the same ones over and over.

Formal credentials mostly mean that you've passed the tests required to obtain those credentials. If that's of value to you, by all means get some. In my experience they have very little bearing on someone's actual skills.

Agism is more about not paying proper salaries (1)

msobkow (48369) | about a year ago | (#43677327)

Agism in the IT industry has a lot more to do with companies not wanting to pay for experience than it does with any genuine lack of skills on the part of the older population. I know many people who transformed their careers from "low level" tech roles to full scale programmers.

One of the best programmers/Oracle admins I know didn't start working with computers until he was 43, and was then given the opportunity to learn on the job -- and learn he did! Keith knows more about Oracle and it's guts than anyone else I've ever met. He even has a handful of machines set up at home that he used to learn RAC configuration before going ahead with doing so for the business systems he was administering. (All old/used boxes, but it was the configuration experience he wanted, not a high performance home cluster.)

Re:Agism is more about not paying proper salaries (1)

ggraham412 (1492023) | about a year ago | (#43677345)

Agism in the IT industry has a lot more to do with companies not wanting to pay for experience than it does with any genuine lack of skills on the part of the older population.


you can, but you're at a disadvantage (1)

spiffmastercow (1001386) | about a year ago | (#43677337)

So you can certainly learn to code, and probably just as well as someone right out of school (that whole "learning is easier when you're young" thing is a crock of shit). The problem is that you will be *perceived* as "over the hill", "set in your ways", "too expensive", or just plain "too old" when interviewing for jobs. Ageism is rampant in the software development world -- I got a taste or two of it before I had even turned 30. That said, you might as well go for it, as it doesn't sound like you have better options, and with enough effort you *can* succeed, despite the ageism you'll face.

Screw the haters, I'd probably hire you. (1)

TheSpoom (715771) | about a year ago | (#43677355)


(I am a web developer with over ten years of professional experience. Your attitude is great and it sounds like you're learning fast. Don't listen to the know-it-alls who think they're hot shit. They're not, they're just loud.)

Programming at 36... awesome! (1)

flyboy974 (624054) | about a year ago | (#43677455)

I am 36 and love what I do. I'm a little different though as I got my first job programming when I was 16, so I've been doing Software Development for 20+ years. I've programmed in so many languages that it's almost a blur now. I've had jobs writing x86 ASM, Pascal, C/C++, Java, Python, and more. I've been a CTO, but, I loved the coding too much so I'm happy as a Software Architect for a major internet company. Who says you can't code at 36 or 40?

I don't think it really matters when you start, it's how well you do it. I've hired people of all ages, genders, ethnicities because they can code, not because of who they are. You will likely have some issues with your resume as you start out as people will say "Oh, he was just a NOC guy for the last 10 years..." type of thing and pass. But, prove them wrong and show results. Give example websites and have specific examples of the work that you did.

A lot of companies now days hire people who don't know what TCP/IP or a port is, yet, they claim to be web developers. If you have one thing, it's experience with the software domain and you are going to be able to look at problems differently than somebody out of college. Use this to your advantage.

Best of luck and welcome to the joy and pain that is programming!

Keep a positive attitude, be a team player (1)

Beeftopia (1846720) | about a year ago | (#43677473)

Seriously. In an interview with older guys, the people doing the interviewing want to know:

  You won't be constantly challenging their authority.
  You will be open to new ways of doing things.
  You want to learn.
  You can learn (show evidence).
  You can take orders and carry them out and execute well.
  Won't be cynical and infect others with cynicism.
  You can integrate well with the team (you're not a douche).

Don't badmouth previous employers. Don't come off like a know-it-all. Be eager and positive, both in the position and cultivate those qualities personally.

It sounds like you can learn, and you've got a positive attitude. Getting that first break might take some effort, but get that initial experience and you're golden.

It's never too late (1)

todfm (1973074) | about a year ago | (#43677483)

If you're interested in programming, learn it and do it. Don't worry about whether you'll make money at it or whether your employers will think you're too old. Do it for yourself because it's fun and interesting. If the money or the job aspect comes later, icing on the cake.

Load More Comments
Slashdot Login

Need an Account?

Forgot your password?