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How Old is Too Old?

Cliff posted more than 8 years ago | from the is-40-really-the-new-30 dept.


NewtonEatPalm! asks: "I started college back when I was too young to carefully weigh options about my future. I entered a prominent art school at age 17, coasted through, and was spit out at age 22 with a film degree that I don't really want nor do I feel qualified to use as the basis for a career. Three years on, I'm still working at my mundane college job, though one thing has never changed in all this time- my love of and devotion to technology, keeping up with hardware news and the intricacies of powerful software through daily reading of sites like Slashdot and lots of home-brew system building and amateur web development. I've decided that I'd like to pursue a second degree in Software Engineering at one of the major Cal State U's, but that would place me in the tech job market at nearly 30. My question is, how old is too old? Are severe changes in career direction in this sector commonplace/successful? Or have I truly already let my best chance for entry pass me by?"

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Thinking Radically (3, Insightful)

(1+-sqrt(5))*(2**-1) (868173) | more than 8 years ago | (#15886665)

From TFQ:
Are severe changes in career direction in this sector commonplace/successful? Or have I truly already let my best chance for entry pass me by?
It's true that the neurons harden as your mind differentiates itself (much like a fetus' maturing organs); on the other hand, if you're violent enough to pursue something as “worthless” as art, you're much more likely to shake up the software world with radical ideas.

If your radical ideas happened to be annealed in post-hoc math, you may just carve out a niche for yourself; feral engineers are too goddamn down-to-earth for my taste, anyway.

Thinking Experience (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15886706)

"It's true that the neurons harden as your mind differentiates itself (much like a fetus' maturing organs); "

And yet some of the best work has been produced by men and women well past 30.

Re:Thinking Experience (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15887130)

And yet some of the best work has been produced by men and women well past 30.

Indeed. Pamela Anderson was thirty-five years old when she highlighted Playboy's Sexy 100 special issue, back in 2003.

Re:Thinking Experience (5, Funny)

fbjon (692006) | more than 8 years ago | (#15887374)

..and millions of neurons and organs around the world hardened and matured.

Re:Thinking Experience (5, Interesting)

arivanov (12034) | more than 8 years ago | (#15887257)

In the majority of companies your CEO is not interested in your best work. Just read old slashdot article [] and the discussion on it

He is interested in you "not doing it for the money" so he can underpay you and provide fake perks instead of a salary.

He is interested in you "burning in your job" so he can make you work a 60+ hour week without paying you overtime.

He is interested in you applying for the job without reading all of the small print, asking all the relevant questions about the salary, possible career progression, stock, options, benefits and all the rest so he can fire you or underpay you anytime he likes

If you have an unhealthy interest in the small print he will know that he will have a much more difficult time screwing you left, right and center. Frankly, if you are 30, if you are smart enough to consider your career wrong and think of a career change you will be asking these questions. Why change the career if you would not. This will make finding any jobs very hard. You will not fit the prototype which the currently popular management sociopaths love to mind-rape.

I am speaking this out of experience by the way - I have had quite a few interviews ended and offers dropped the moment I start looking through the small print. Which I will continue doing anyway. I have changed career twice (the second time at the age of 28) for a reason. And it is the old cat motoL "I do it for the money, if you want "loyalty", get a dog".

Re:Thinking Radically (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15886778)

I don't think this is true. It seems that the original data for the lack of brain elasticity in older monkeys was drawn from crappy experiments - they took samples from monkeys that spent all their time caged and such. Once the monkeys were placed in novel environments with new toys and opportunities for learning, presto! New neuronal growth.

Re:Thinking Radically (4, Interesting)

sumdumass (711423) | more than 8 years ago | (#15887002)

I remeber something about a study of brain pathways and activities on UK taxi drivers. Evedently, the test to get a taxi license there requires you to memorize the map and be able to recite the most direct way from random points to random places.

In this study they used a die of some sorts that when new cells grew, showed up a different collor on Xrays or catscans. It turns out that 50 some year old people learning to become taxi drivers there, developed new brain cells and pathways (for lack of remebering the exact term) in a somewhat large amount.

I think the conclusion was that the brain continues to grow deep into old age. here [] is a link to a news article, if it still works.

You want advice? (5, Insightful)

AKAImBatman (238306) | more than 8 years ago | (#15886667)

Carpe Momento

Re:You want advice? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15886726)

Seize the momento.

Re:You want advice? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15886830)

I take it you thought he said "Carpe Memento"? He said, "Carpe Momento". The former means "seize the memory" while the latter means "seize the moment". "Carpe Momento" is similar to the saying "Carpe Diem". (Seize the day.)

Re:You want advice? (5, Insightful)

AKAImBatman (238306) | more than 8 years ago | (#15886765)

*sigh* It's not supposed to be funny. It's a philosphy: SEIZE THE MOMENT! Don't sit around waiting for the next thing to happen. Take stock of what you want to do, what you know you already can accomplish, and the possible paths of reaching your goals.

For example, you've already got a degree. About 90% of the people I have met have their degree in something other than the field they ended up working in! So get off your thumbs, and see if that degree plus your personal coding experience can get you a Junior level programming position. You'll need to supplement your personal experience with some good learning materials (you can never go wrong with the classics like Richie, Knuth, and Tanenbaum!), and you'll need to apply yourself to improving your analytical abilities.

But at the end of the day, if it's something you love doing, DO IT! Don't poke around with 10 more years of college. If college has drilled anything into your brain, it should be, "Never stop learning!" After all, college is just a resource that provides the materials and contacts you need. To actually get anything useful out of it, you should be pulling the information yourself! And with such a wealth of awesome written information on Computer Science, how could you not be learning if it's what you're interested in?

Again, SEIZE THE MOMENT! Do whatever it is that excites you the most. If you're driven in your love for it, others will take notice.

Re:You want advice? (1)

morie (227571) | more than 8 years ago | (#15887544)

Don't poke around with 10 more years of college

At least not if you want to work in the industry afterwards. If you want to spend your time in scientific institutions anp perform research there, it might be an option, although they tend to be more interested in early starters...

Inch Time Foot Gem (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15887512)

A lord asked Takuan, a Zen Teacher, to suggest how he might pass the time. He felt his days very long attending his office & sitting stiffly to receive the homage of others.

Takuan wrote eight Chinese characters & gave them to the man:

Not twice this day
Inch time foot gem.

(This day will not come again; each minute is worth a priceless gem)

Re:You want advice? (3, Funny)

kfg (145172) | more than 8 years ago | (#15887784)

Carpe Momento

Yeah, I had those at my Jewish grandmother's house all the time, although she changed the word so we wouldn't know we were just eating carp.

Guy at the tackle shop looked at me funny when I asked what sort of lure I needed for gelfilte fish too. Damn Bubby.


Only measure against your own goals (5, Insightful)

suso (153703) | more than 8 years ago | (#15886686)

Everybody's life and goals are unique. You shouldn't try to judge your progress based on what you think others are doing and have accomplished. Sometimes that can be useful. But you should just ask yourself one question. What do YOU want to do with your life and what do you think you need to do to accomplish that.

Some people "start" their life at 15 and burn out when they are 30, some start at 30 and continue on until they die. Everyone is different.

Re:Only measure against your own goals (3, Insightful)

Antony-Kyre (807195) | more than 8 years ago | (#15886822)

I happen to agree about the comment you made regarding when someone starts their life. In my opinion, "Age is nothing more than just the number of times you traveled around the Sun."

I got into med school at 28, finished training @39 (4, Interesting)

spineboy (22918) | more than 8 years ago | (#15887185)

And I couldn't be happier, even after 4 years med school, 5 years residency and 2 years fellowship. I certainly don't regret the time I spent working in research(Human genome proj) for several years before I got into med school. Usually the people who start something when they're older have made a more rational, wise choice then the people who went straight thru the mill.

If you want to stop your life and start a new phase of it, then probably you really want to do it and therefore you should.
Just don't do anything half assed -if you're going to do it, then go all the way - be dedicated. What you get out of life is what you put into it.

I don't know (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15886707)

But my former boss once told me this:
If, by the time you're 20, you don't know what to do with your life, it's ok. By 30, well, you gotta figure out really quick. By 40 it's a little late. By 50 it's really late. By 60 you probably had missed the train. By 70 you might have other issues to deal with.

This doesn't help much, but helped me to get a deep sense of urgency. YMMV. At some point, the cost of switching carreers increases too much. It doesn't become impossible, tough, but it takes much more determination and drive to accomplish the change.

Why don't you focus with the stuff you've already got? Try specializing, finding fun in it. But you'll have to commit to a certain course of action. The search for your dream job (the one that makes you feel you don't work at all, according to Confucius) is a very valid one, but one must be practical.

Get comfortable with commitments and then come back to tell your story.


30! To Old!? Bite Me! (5, Insightful)

KingK (148438) | more than 8 years ago | (#15886724)

Ok now that I got that out of the way...

I finished my EE degree and entered the engineering workforce at 28. If anything I found my age may have helped me. Most of the people you end up working with won't know when you finished your degree, so they end up looking at you as someone who is probably more experienced. Throw in the fact that in a technology job you have to stay current and not everyone does. Coming fresh from university you'll most likely be current.

Age doesn't matter it's your skills and drive, boy. (And stop asking questions that make me feel old)

Re:30! To Old!? Bite Me! (2, Insightful)

rtb61 (674572) | more than 8 years ago | (#15887115)

45 and back in school because I enjoy learning, will I succeed in my new carreer, if not, well then my old one is still there. You know when you're too old, 24 hours past dead, 48 if your willful.

Sure, remind me of my birthday... (3, Funny)

Psykechan (255694) | more than 8 years ago | (#15886728)

I just turned 33 today. Way to remind me that I am old. :P

Re:Sure, remind me of my birthday... (4, Funny)

vistic (556838) | more than 8 years ago | (#15887026)

happy birthday...


oh... i said... HAPPY BIRTHDAY, OLD MAN!!!

did you hear me THAT time??

sometimes i forget to speak into the horn. :-)

Re:Sure, remind me of my birthday... (1)

JimXugle (921609) | more than 8 years ago | (#15887154)

Happy birthday! How's it feel to be old as dirt? XD

seriously... invite your freinds over, get drunk, order strippers, play with power tools, act like you're in college and say "fuck the world." when it's all over.

-Jim (who is young enough to twist his life into any contorted form as he pleases.)

hmm... Software Enigneer, Astronaut, Artist, Musician (strike that), translator, president of the USA... shit... I got a lot of stuff to do before I die!

Verily (3, Funny)

iridium_ionizer (790600) | more than 8 years ago | (#15887265)

"I just turned 33 today. Way to remind me that I am old. :P"

Jesus died when he was 33... I'm just saying.

Re:Verily (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15887456)

"It's people like that who make you realize how little you've accomplished. It is a sobering thought, for example, that when Mozart was my age he had been dead for two years." - Tom Lehrer

Re:Sure, remind me of my birthday... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15887458)

I am 42 you incensitive clod

In a word, No. (3, Interesting)

ezratrumpet (937206) | more than 8 years ago | (#15886734)

You're never too old to retool or change. Every day, someone your age (and someone 2-3x your age) leaves a successful career for a completely different field.

You only get One Life - and one chance to be whatever age you are. There's no dress rehearsal. Figure out how to "do" your passion for enough money to maintain a lifestyle sufficiency, and then go do it.

Remember, this is a one-life game. Use it up.

Re:In a word, No. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15886912)

> Figure out how to "do" your passion for enough money to maintain a lifestyle sufficiency, and then go do it.
>Remember, this is a one-life game. Use it up.

In that spirit, Be a pilot [] .

Spend a few dozen hours in X-Plane and a few dozen hours in the real world, and you can get your private pilot's license for less than half the price of a fuckin' Toyota Camry.

You won't make big money flying commercially. But whatever you do from 9 to 5, you will get your money's worth. You do not have to buy your own plane, and you can rent planes for little more than the cost of the fuel.

Best. Hobby. Evah.

In a word, Past Hives. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15886982)

"You only get One Life - and one chance to be whatever age you are. "

Obviously not a fan of reincarnation.

Re:In a word, Past Hives. (1)

zippthorne (748122) | more than 8 years ago | (#15887111)

You can be a fan of it even if you're not a believer in it.

30 worked for me (3, Informative)

Duhavid (677874) | more than 8 years ago | (#15886741)

I didnt graduate college till 30, started
my second ( third? ) career as a programmer then.

Had to work my way thru college. Tisnt easy, but

You are here, it is now. Start.

Hmmm (4, Interesting)

Reality Master 101 (179095) | more than 8 years ago | (#15886744)

Three years on, I'm still working at my mundane college job, though one thing has never changed in all this time- my love of and devotion to technology, keeping up with hardware news and the intricacies of powerful software through daily reading of sites like Slashdot and lots of home-brew system building and amateur web development.

I'm a little suspicious of this. If you have a "love and devotion" to technology, then what's stopped you so far from learning programming? You say you've done some amateur web development, so that's a gateway that normally might've led you to it.

I'm assuming you haven't learned any programming to speak of. If that's the case, then I suspect you have some romantic notion of what programming is all about that probably won't live up to your expectations. Coding is not all hot tubs full of babes. :) I'd say that people with a passion for programming already know that's what they want to do and don't need to "ask Slashdot", especially when you're looking at a career change for a job you think is boring.

I could be wrong, of course, but I think you need to consider that the career grass isn't greener on the other side.

No cause for suspicion, surely. (1)

tygerstripes (832644) | more than 8 years ago | (#15887765)

I have every sympathy for the guy - I feel he has every reason to pursue his goal, and that your comments (while clearly an honest attempt to inject some sobriety) may be a little too discouraging.

I say I have every sympathy because I'm in the exact same position, save that I'm in my mid-twenties. I coasted through school, college, uni just doing what seemed easiest because, basically, I was very intelligent and immature, and just wanted my adolescence to continue indefinitely.

It's only over the last couple of years that I've started to wake up and realise how important it is for me to pursue a career that interests me if I'm going to have a fulfilling work-life. I have comparable experiences to this man, a similar level of enthusiasm and understanding (very broad, but not very deep), and I also have enough experience of coding to lose any romanticism I might have once held about it - but I still find it deeply intriguing and attractive! Ask yourself: why did you get into programming? Was it a big misguided mistake? Are you so jaded by it that you regret your career choice now? Of course not. I appreciate that you don't want to see this guys hopes worn down by a career which is often falsely portrayed, but you must admit you're still passionate about your work, yes?

Although you may not realise it, your attitude is somewhat elitist - you suggest that someone who's only dabbled in the field does not truly understand things, and is clearly not motivated enough to make a good go of it. ("Like those people who suddenly shave their heads and say they've always been into punk" - High Fidelity)

Be fair. People do change, and as long as he's kept his mind supple and receptive through continued learning and mental activity, he shouldn't find it too much of a struggle to pick these things up. Speaking as someone who's recently started a part-time CompSci degree, I can say that it's your motivation and attitude that makes all the difference.

Ability is nothing without character. If he really wants this career, and has the discipline to clear all the hurdles, he should find that his experience of life and zeal for the subject will see him in good stead when he enters the workplace.

Still, you do make valid points. I just wouldn't want them to discourage him if he's serious.

Never too old (3, Interesting)

YrWrstNtmr (564987) | more than 8 years ago | (#15886766)

I changed jobs and started programming for money at 37. I may change again later on if it suits me. Do what YOU want to do, and screw the norm.

Never too old-to dupe. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15886841)

Well I'm 40 and I'm thinking of becoming a slashdot editor. Is it too late for me?

Re:Never too old-to dupe. (1)

YrWrstNtmr (564987) | more than 8 years ago | (#15887191)

Not if you 'love' being a slashdot editor. And if you can convince the powers that be to let you.

"How old is too old?" (4, Insightful)

maynard (3337) | more than 8 years ago | (#15886773)


Re:"How old is too old?" (1)

Patrik_AKA_RedX (624423) | more than 8 years ago | (#15887163)

that depends. Does the Flying Spagetti Monsters realm of the afterlife have colleges? Perhaps we should call that place Spageaven.

Re:"How old is too old?" (2, Funny)

gbobeck (926553) | more than 8 years ago | (#15887372)

Well, Pastafarian Heaven *does* have a beer volcano and a stripper factory. That is pretty damn close to College in my book.

Re:"How old is too old?" (1)

kfg (145172) | more than 8 years ago | (#15887793)


Unless you aspire to be a cadaver for science. Then that would be just about the right age.


That isn't old (4, Insightful)

EZLeeAmused (869996) | more than 8 years ago | (#15886774)

I finally went back to school and got my bachelors in Computer Science in 1999 a month before my 38th birthday. I immediately got a job with a major corporation in the industry. It certainly helped that I look a good 10-15 years younger than my real age, but if you can do the course work and prove in an interview that you have what it takes, mid to late 20s is certainly not too old to change careers.

You should however be certain of where you are going. Building PCs and doing light web development are not what most software engineers do in their day jobs. Teach yourself Java or Python or something and try your hand at some more substantial software development. And that is good practice - in most software engineering classes, the focus of the class is more about basic concepts and you are expected to teach yourself whatever you need of the language du jour to implement projects.

How old is too old is up to you (5, Insightful)

TTK Ciar (698795) | more than 8 years ago | (#15886780)

You're too old to do it when you personally cannot do it.

A friend of mine is in his early 50's, and he recently landed his first "real" (paid) linux system administration job. Prior to this he had worked in construction his entire life. If he can do it at fifty-plus, you can do it at thirty. If you can't, there's a reason for it other than age.

People generally have more power than they think they do, and are limited not by what they can do, but by what they allow themselves to accomplish. So, be bold! Thrust your trepidations aside and throw yourself in the direction you want to go. You may surprise yourself.

-- TTK

Re:How old is too old is up to you (1)

LionKimbro (200000) | more than 8 years ago | (#15886848)

I strongly agree. And further:

"Age is an issue of mind over matter. If you don't mind, it doesn't matter." -- Mark Twain

Re:How old is too old is up to you (1)

Nefarious Wheel (628136) | more than 8 years ago | (#15887337)

Yep. I'm 56. My first computer was a four-fridge SDS 930 with discrete transistors. That's **old**. Hah! You young whippersnappers with yer mice and potatoes and whatnot don't know what a real computer is. 8K is enough for anyone if you just code it right!! Fortran II R0xor3Z!! Still in the industry too and I have two toons on Xegony at L70 besides. Don't give up the ship. Never give in! Never surrender!! Never quit until He with His Noodly Appendage puts you to bed with a back hoe!!!

Uhh, sorry, what was I talking about? It was the little aspirins, wasn't it...

Never too old... (4, Interesting)

Jhon (241832) | more than 8 years ago | (#15886789)

Or have I truly already let my best chance for entry pass me by"
While my career timing in life seems to mirror yours, my circumstances were quite different. Long story short: I entered my "current" field at age 28. (Homeless for a while, and taking 8 years to get a 4-year degree -- switched majors a few times. Phil, math, CS)

I decided to I worked as a private contractor and took sub-contract jobs for minor network installs (Doctors offices, dental offices, law and accounting offices). I did that for about 5 years. One of my clients, a smallish lab, offered me a full time job. Over the years, that smallish lab has grown to around 200 workstations, 5 servers, 3 remote offices, etc. I went from a department of one to being a manager of 8 (both IT and Data processing departments).

Advice: Find a small or medium sized privately owned company. Learn to do a lot... SQL, networking, admin, support, word, excel (show some pivot table magic), etc. Forget working for anyone or anything with stock-holders. You'll enjoy the work, probably like the owner/boss and add a few years to your life.

Re:Never too old... (2, Interesting)

JBL2 (994604) | more than 8 years ago | (#15886847)

That sounds sensible. Like some other respondents here, I got into the field around age 30. I picked up an MS in Computer Science, which I recommend (night school), while working in the industry. I had some CS training in college and worked as a programmer in a field I was well acquainted with, both of which helped. Getting some broad experience looks good on a resume and will inform and help direct your career search later. (And btw, a LOT of people use Excel, so it pays to have a good feel for it.)

Further advice: pay attention to "best practices." They're the difference between a well-trained amateur and a professional. For instance, professionals will: spend enough time on design; refactor early and often; test earlier and oftener (built-in regression tests help, along the lines of XUnit); and remain open to new ideas.

Good luck.

Re:Never too old... (1)

kjart (941720) | more than 8 years ago | (#15886865)

Advice: Find a small or medium sized privately owned company. Learn to do a lot... SQL, networking, admin, support, word, excel (show some pivot table magic), etc. Forget working for anyone or anything with stock-holders. You'll enjoy the work, probably like the owner/boss and add a few years to your life.

I agree with that completely. The addendum I would add that there is no reason that you need to really 'start' at 30. Unless you are somehow able to pay for your degree outright, you'll likely be working while going to school. Try and get jobs in some sort of IT position while you're doing it. Education is importantn, but employers always like relevant job experience. If you worked in the industry while getting your degree you'll be that much more attractive when you get out.

Never too old (1)

jakoz (696484) | more than 8 years ago | (#15886793)

I also got into this field fairly lately, compounded by completing my Computer Science degree part-time.

To cut a long story short, life experience counts a hell of a lot more than people think, and being older when coming out of uni can be a distinct advantage.

The right employer will value life experience. Additionally, most of the people I kow of that finished uni later tend to be more focused, as well as progressing towards a senior level far more rapidly. I know this is kind of a blanket statement, but it's what I've seen.

So my honest opinion? Go for it. You'll be working for a hell of a long time, and whether you start at 25 or 30 isn't going to make one iota of difference in the end. You'll come out focused and hungry to make up for lost time, and that's a big advantage over the kids that just fell into the field from choices made while still in school.

You have to Love Technology (3, Interesting)

BunnyClaws (753889) | more than 8 years ago | (#15886798)

If you choose to make this type of career switch you better make sure you really love this field. The starting pay probably won't be good. The work hours will be demanding and the respect from business management will never shine down on you. More than likely you will not be able to pursue a project that you are passionate about only one that management wants done. Just make sure you really love this field before you make the change. Enjoying technology as a hobby is one thing doing it for a career is whole different story.

talk the talk and walk the walk (1)

budgenator (254554) | more than 8 years ago | (#15886799)

I'd think you would be in the catbird seat guy, the film industry is using shit piles of CGI FX eating up tons of storeage and using unimagineable amounts of processor resources, lots of custom written shaders, tweeked renders and specialty programs, and you'll not only be able to work on all those cool technologies, but you actually be able to comunicate with the artsy types using it! A freind of mine is doing the 3D animation in collge, he does his homework on a two processor opteron with RAID 5 running Linux. That's about as geeky a student machine as you can get.

Do it. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15886803)

You should absolutely enroll and begin taking classes. It will not matter that you're thirty because what you will also be is a brand new graduate with the most up-to-date training and information. Which means that you are a prime candidate to be hired. Your age will be a plus because employers know you are ready to make a long-term committment because you have settled into your life. Your biggest mistake would be to try. Go for it.

30's Not Too Old (1)

phalse phace (454635) | more than 8 years ago | (#15886805)

I don't think 30 is too old. If you have the passion and determination to guide you through, I think you'll do just fine. Not everyone knows what they want to do in life at a early age. Hell, some people just coast through life not ever knowing their calling. It's not uncommon for some people to change careers several times throughout their lifetime with some going back to school to start all over again.

Re:30's Not Too Old (1)

slackingme (690217) | more than 8 years ago | (#15886945)


I'm cruisin' fine in neutral.. it's downhill, but it's fun as hell!

You got's a choice (1)

Frequency Domain (601421) | more than 8 years ago | (#15886819)

Not trying to be insulting, but this seems like a really off the wall question. Ask yourself which you'd rather be at age 30: a) somebody who's about to start the career you discovered you really like; or b) somebody who's muddling along doing what you've been doing and dissatisfied with it. Given that you're going to be 30 in either case, I hope the answer is obvious.

I worked for six years after college, and decided to go back for a PhD when the small company I had joined was bought out by a fortune 500 predator and I realized that I was facing a life of cogness in the machine. I finished my PhD at age 32, and have never regretted my decision.

Don't go back to school (0)

cyranoVR (518628) | more than 8 years ago | (#15886823)

Don't go back to school. Degrees don't guarantee jobs, and you can (and should teach) yourself in a few weeks what takes months to cover in school.

If you really need instruction, you should consider some instructional videos (well, DVDs). When I was just starting out in VB (after 10 years off from coding), watching just a few Ken Getz videos helped get me kickstarted.

Getting a certification of some kind can help because it proves to interviewers that you really know whatever skill you are advertising. However, actual experience will beat a certification every time.

School can help, in more ways than the obvious. (1)

twitter (104583) | more than 8 years ago | (#15886992)

Don't go back to school. Degrees don't guarantee jobs, and you can (and should teach) yourself in a few weeks what takes months to cover in school.

People I know who got a CS degree know fundamentals that are important to understand and can better evaluate the buzzword of the month. When you try to do it yourself, you are left with holes that can mislead you.

You already know your best advisers. You have a degree in film. There's plenty of tech in film, so see if you can't get in from that angle. Ask some of your former professors what they think. If they don't know, they know someone who does and what kind of career paths there are. They should also be able to recommend schools that fit. The people at your "mundane" job may also know things, if it's in any way related to film.

It's no where near too late if you manage not to dump everything you already know.

Re:School can help, in more ways than the obvious. (1)

cyranoVR (518628) | more than 8 years ago | (#15887081)

People I know who got a CS degree know fundamentals that are important to understand and can better evaluate the buzzword of the month.

Or maybe your knowledge is to esoteric to be useful and to theoretical to be practical. Plus, you never learned anything about solid software construction, your code is sloppy, you are overly concerned with Big O Notation before your code is even functional, and your comments suck (or are non-extant). At least that has been my experience with Comp Sci majors lately.

Go the self-taught route - if anything you'll be more successful at your job.

Re:School can help, in more ways than the obvious. (1)

Com2Kid (142006) | more than 8 years ago | (#15887240)

Or maybe your knowledge is to esoteric to be useful

Yah like that esoteric time I had to write a *nix shell. You know how nobody EVER uses shells any more...

and to theoretical to be practical.

Or all that damned "theory" I had to learn about RMI.

Plus, you never learned anything about solid software construction

Something that takes year of work to learn. Yah, your right, some things CAN only be taught by experience. CS students had to spend some of their time coding, but nobody is promising perfection right out of the box.

your code is sloppy,

Only if I want to get down graded for turning in crap code. I have had profs who don't care about indenting style, so long as you use one, and you use it consistently. Indeed, this is taught right after the basic fundamentals of flow control (conditionals and loops).

you are overly concerned with Big O Notation before your code is even functional,

Only because we have learned that stupid code whose run time is off by a few orders of magnitude probably has some fundamental design flaw. Ex: If there is a bunch of objects being kept track of, and more objects are constantly adding more to this "group", and the objects are rarely rearranged within the group, and you typically access them in order, and you are using an array, somebody needs to be beaten with a clue by 4.

Many other (better!) examples exist of this. People who don't understand WHY a design sucks will refuse to fix it.

Actually the problem is that they came up with it in the FIRST damn place.

One time I needed to keep track of users who were connected to a chat server. Each user has a unique int ID. I needed to be able to send messages out to all users except for the one who originally had typed the message, since local echo was being used.[1]

Lots of people in my class used arrays.

Lots of people in my class spent time debugging their code. Oh and rewriting it when the next modification to the assignment came along.

I used a set that utilized bit strings for storage. (Yes, it was an API, this was all in C) People connect, I add them to the set. Someone sends out a message, I remove that person from the set (accomplished with binary logic by the underlying API), and send out a message to the remaining members of the set.

Now this code wasn't the most efficient in terms of run time (that last bit of iterating through the set really messed up my run time), but it was scalable, thread safe (I put POSIX thread locks[2] on important function calls in the set API), and it was damn QUICK to code. I got my entire application done in less time than it took most people to debug the code to manage their array.

The nicest part of the entire assignment was when the next two assignments came in.

I got them done in under 2 days. They were 2-3 week long assignments. One of them actually took less than a few hours to complete; I had a nice framework built up, it was very flexible and well commented.

The lesson from all this?

The obvious approach was "use an array!!". I thought for awhile about what the code would look like. Not clean, not simple, not eloquent. I think my entire code for handling user connects disconnects and message sending was something around 7 or 8 lines, 10 tops.

and your comments suck (or are non-extant).

All my comments are full sentences. With much better grammar and spelling than this post! :)

Once again, no comments, downgraded to hell. Any CS student who doesn't comment either has lazy profs, or didn't care about his/her grade. Actually they don't care about their profession either, since anyone who does would already have figured out that proper commenting is important, just from all the complaints online about poorly documented code!

At least that has been my experience with Comp Sci majors lately.

And every non-CS major has been intelligent, polite, hard working, and turned out perfect code with perfect documentation?

[1]Now that I think about it, an easier-for-the-programmer but waste of bandwidth way would have been to just erase the line the user just typed on their terminal, and send out the message to everybody! I imagine I would have gotten graded down for that bit of laziness though. :)

[2]Most likely incorrect terminology since it has been awhile since I used the POSIX threading API, and I am more used to the very similar but not-quite-same-jargon-based Java threads.

Re:School can help, in more ways than the obvious. (1)

CharlesEGrant (465919) | more than 8 years ago | (#15887299)

you are overly concerned with Big O Notation before your code is even functional

Ye'gads! You'd better be thinking about the Big O of your code before it is functional, because if you don't, you stand a very good chance of having to throw a lot of that functional code away.

You have a point in that most programming jobs don't need the stuff you learn in a computer science program. Most programming jobs are all about scooping data out of a database, displaying it on a screen, providing a UI so the user can make changes to the data, and then schlepping the data back to the database. Nothing wrong with that, and you don't usually need to know about asymptotic complexity, or finite state automata in those jobs. What you are missing though, is that there are programming jobs that do make use of that whacky esoteric stuff. If you want to work on physics engines, database servers, web servers, operating systems, compilers, ai, or bioinformatics, then a computer science degree is pretty useful.

Re:Don't go back to school (1)

An Onerous Coward (222037) | more than 8 years ago | (#15887176)

You make it sound like school would be an absolute impediment to learning. I would argue that your characterization is too simplistic, and that your advice is harmful.

First, while degrees don't guarantee jobs, the lack of one guarantees that some jobs will be forever outside your reach. So for someone making this decision, the best advice is to look at the market, see what employers really are demanding, and decide whether it's a good move.

Second, when this discussion comes up, lots of people argue that school doesn't provide any "real world experience." I think it would be more accurate to say that a university program and an entry level tech job teach orthogonal skills. It's the real-world stuff that employers think they need, and it's what they're actually paying for. But school can train your brain to take totally different approaches to solving problems, ones that rely on principles that almost nobody picks up on their own. This isn't due to laziness or incompetence, but a simple lack of exposure to people who are well-versed in them.

Lastly, programming isn't something you master in a couple of weeks, or a couple of years. I think it takes at least a decade before you can look back on the code you wrote a couple of years ago without wincing. I think that formal CS programs are a good way to start rewiring your brain into a lean, mean coding machine. The real world, despite its advantages, lacks one important thing: guaranteed, systematic exposure to an organized body of knowledge. It's a good thing to have done. For example, whether you actually remember DeMorgan's Law five years after you graduate, having once learned it leaves behind traces of how to work through logic problems, which comes in handy. But in the real world, with its focus on immediate results and learning technologies rather than principles, you might spend half a career without ever hearing the word "recursion" or learning the basics of algorithms and data structures.

Of course, I have to justify the tens of thousands of dollars I've spent edjymacating myself somehow. So take my blatherings with a grain of NaCl.

not a factor of age, but related (2, Insightful)

yagu (721525) | more than 8 years ago | (#15886827)

I'm 50, and I think I'm as creative and sharp as ever in coding. Since being laid off after twenty one years, I have written two major applications on my own, and hope to market them successfully.

But, as for companies, they're interested in how much you cost, not how old you are. Unfortunately for those over forty who have accrued knowledge, experience, and expertise, that usually comes at a premium. A premium on paper many companies are willing to forego for the "cheap" labor.

A more correct question would be: how little are you willing to work for, and how many benefits are you willing to waive compared to the competition? Competence? Expertise? Pshaw. That's not the most important part of the equation for most companies. It should be.

Re:not a factor of age, but related (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15887470)

But he doesn't have experience, so that won't be an issue.

And the alternative is...? (3, Insightful)

CaptainPuppydog (516199) | more than 8 years ago | (#15886851)

Look at it this way: how old will you be in 4 years if you don't do this? What will you be doing then? (nb. the answer better not be "posting another 'Ask Slashdot'... ;-) )

Too many people use the excuse that they will be 'x' years old when they get out of the schooling they need to pursue the job they really want instead of the fry-slinging they are presently doing. Do yourself a favour: get the buy-in of the significant people in your life, take a deep breath, and pay the first year tuition all at once. Then instead of having an excuse not to go to school, you will have an excuse not to skip/stop.


it's not about your age (1)

Blob Pet (86206) | more than 8 years ago | (#15886856)

it's about your desire.

Work by bits and pieces (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15886872)

You might want to read "What Color is Your Parachute?," the best-selling job-hunt book that isn't really about landing the job so much as it is about defining/redefining your career.

People coming out of college think that the straightforward way is the way things work. Get degree X, get job Y. Bam. But it isn't really like that. Think of the job you really want, and then build yourself up to become as close to a perfect candidate as possible; it's AFTER you think of what you want, that you can become interested in your education. If at every step of the way you keep wanting it and wanting it, you're on the right track. If you lose interest in something, that doesn't necessarily mean "stop," but it does mean "this should not be a major part of your final destination." Jobs in tech aren't all engineering, programming, hard-math, hard-science work; someone has to run the business, keep the books, answer the phones, and make life good for the development team. This is the rationale that probably leads to the glut of MBAs we have going now, and it could be one path you take(it's one I plan on in a few years); but if you aren't doing it just for money, and are trying to build complementary skills along with it, you have a leg up in the job market and will be a better fit for the position.

CAD (1)

pipingguy (566974) | more than 8 years ago | (#15886886)

The existing market is dominated by a few major players whose file formats don't play so well together. There is a slow but steady rumbling that CAD data should be easily-readable without having to spend piles of cash. This notion is being largely driven by smaller municipalities who think that the data they generate belongs to them and not the software vendor. BRL-CAD was released for Windows recently and I foresee this forcing the hand of the big guys after smaller, dedicated teams of programmers start customizing it and denting the established vendors' licenses and support fees. This is a huge, mature, fragmented market that needs a technological kick in the pants.

Re:CAD (1)

bored_engineer (951004) | more than 8 years ago | (#15887014)

huh? Municipalities and BRL-CAD? I don't think that I've ever seen the two held in any relation.

Isn't BRL-CAD largely a CSG modeling tool? I know without doubt that AutoCAD (which many municipalities use for good reason) is developed as a drafting tool and can be used, with difficulty, as a graphics tool.

Perhaps you know more than I, but what I know about the tools would suggest that BRL-CAD and AutoCAD are miles apart. Hells Bells, I would have trouble comparing BRL-CAD with Inventor.

Would you mind explaining why you suggest that BRL-CAD might be even a beginning tool for a city, county, borough or state?

As a side note, please realize that I use, enjoy and contribute to Free Software. I also use and enjoy AutoCAD and simply don't see BRL-CAD coming within a light-year of replacing the former in the areas of my use.

Re:CAD (1)

pipingguy (566974) | more than 8 years ago | (#15887156)

Would you mind explaining why you suggest that BRL-CAD might be even a beginning tool for a city, county, borough or state?

Because it's open-source? Do you know of any other professional-level 3D CAD software (BRL-CAD is 3D solids, no?) that doesn't cost an arm and a leg and uses an open data file format?

You are likely correct in most of your observations, but CAD data rationalization has to start somewhere. A sophisticated 3D program is not a bad place to start. It's all X-Y-Z data anyway, isn't it.

You say that you enjoy AutoCAD - ACAD has been clunky since the beginning for those of us that try to do real 3D work with it. Maybe you're just a dabbler in CAD who is unaware of the limitations.

I was trained on the board 25 years ago and I find that many "software solutions" actually hurt the design process.

Re:CAD (1)

bored_engineer (951004) | more than 8 years ago | (#15887351)

I'm sorry. Sometimes I just don't get my point across.

BRL-CAD is 3-D, open source, solids-based, doesn't cost an arm-and-a-leg and uses an open data file format. Most CAD data is all x-y-z, is quite sophisticated and smells good to boot.

BRL-CAD doesn't do Drafting well, while AutoCAD doesn't do Design well. They are two different tools for two different purposes.

I've not done design work in about five years, but did use Solidworks and have tried several packages in the meanwhile and I am familiar with the difference between design and drafting.

As a last point, AutoCAD's two major selling points are power and useability. Autocad is extremely flexible; it has literally thousands of tools built-in and can be (almost) infinitely expanded through the use of VBA, LISP and VisualLisp. AutoCAD has tens of thousands of active users, who can teach many, many more users, thereby perpetuating itself.

I have looked for and would welcome a suitable replacement for AutoCAD, but I'm afraid that in the US market, there just isn't anything as compelling. There are alternatives, mind, but they take a much larger investment for most companies (and governments) than just staying with the establishment.

Please, please show that I'm wrong. I would love to walk to work tomorrow with some optimism that I'll be able to replace my hundreds of library files with something Open. (I just don't see BRL-CAD doing that any time in the next few years.)

In reviewing this, I'm concerned that I'm still not expressing myself adequately. I can make several drafts of a conceptual street layout in just an hour or maybe a few minutes. I cannot quickly draw a helicopter rotor with AutoCAD, though, because it's first a 2-D tool with the 3-D tools "grafted" on.
With BRL-CAD or SolidWorks, I can modify that helicopter rotor fairly qickly, but the conceptual street layout might well be completely out of reach simply because it's not intended for 2-dimensional drafting.

I'm not saying that AutoCAD is a GOOD tool, I'm simply saying that for what it does it's better than BRL-CAD and more importantly, in the industries where it's already used, there is (almost) infitely more experience with AutoCAD.

(Having been trained on the board, surely you can appreciate the difference between an architectual floor layout, or a conceptual street layout and an isometric drawing of a mechanism. The drafter drawing layouts uses different techniques than he does drawing the isometrics, doesn't he?)

Re:CAD (1)

pipingguy (566974) | more than 8 years ago | (#15887477)

The drafter drawing layouts uses different techniques than he does drawing the isometrics, doesn't he?

Not at all, why would technique or the approach be different just because of the visual output? Maybe you are thinking of compartmentalized computer skills that are popularly offered as "training". I'm gradually figuring out that you haven't done a lot of detail design work using CAD or pencil. That's OK though, I can ramble on and bore you to tears if you have the time to read. You see, in my day, we used to tie an onion to our belt and...

As you might have already figured, my experience is with process piping design (refineries, chemical plants, cryogenics, etc.) so we may be doing the apples vs. oranges thing when it comes to experience with CAD and engineering design.

You do write quite well but you sell yourself short by saying things like, "I'm concerned that I'm still not expressing myself adequately" and "Sometimes I just don't get my point across".

Yeah, I know that was a cheap shot but you fired first.

Eh. Not bad. (1)

Telastyn (206146) | more than 8 years ago | (#15886899)

Sure, you've probably let your best chance slip by, but late college is still a chance. 30 even isn't terribly late. You'll still have about 30 years to advance, tread along or suffer through.

You're definitely not too old. (1)

bored_engineer (951004) | more than 8 years ago | (#15886904)

I'm 35 years old and finished a degree in mechanical engineering 6 years ago. While I was in school and for a time before, I was a mechanic for an armored car company. For a short time, I worked designing a portable hybrid energy.

I currently work for a civil engineering firm (specializing in issues related to transportation) supervising CAD (et. al.) technicians. I have approval to and am working for and eagerly anticipating working for this same firm not as a supervisor, but as a traffic engineer, specializing in models and simulation. (While I was working on that ME degree, I wrote several fluid-flow models for classes. Traffic an fluids bear surprising similarities in how they are modelled.)

As a side note, I regularly recruit and have hired people ten years my senior and watched as they were promoted out of my area.

Don't worry so much. There may be somebody living just down the street from you, twenty years your senior, contemplating a similar move who stands similar odds of success.

Today, thirty is still quite young. Stop dithering though, and get started.

p.s. Did you know that you don't necessarily need a C.S. degree to get started? I've written software in C, VBA scripts, visual LISP and was fiddling with BASH scripting earlier this evening. I don't claim to be nearly as good as some of my friends, but I know just enough to notice that I find it useful, sometimes fun and challenging, and that I won't be programming as a primary career. Pick up Kernighan and Ritchie's The C Programming Language and give it a whirl; you might actually learn whether you're romanticizing your hobby or if you're barking up the wrong tree.

Advice from one who's been there (2, Interesting)

freeweed (309734) | more than 8 years ago | (#15886936)

but that would place me in the tech job market at nearly 30

Wow. Your story (other than the art school) just about parallels mine. High school, then post-secondary, then a crappy job for a bunch of years. Been there, did that, got the t-shirt.

A few years back I realized people would actually pay me money to do what I enjoy doing in my spare time (that is, mess with computers), but the big cash was in the degree'd jobs. Like it or not, that's the way in these days. So, I left the job, swallowed my pride and moved back in with the family, lived like a starving student otherwise for 4 years, and graduated with a B.C.Sc. when I was 29.

I got a job right out of school (actually, while I was still in school - internships RULE), and one day I got bored and did the math: it will have taken me only 3 years since graduation before I break even financially. That's including all the income lost over those 4 years, and tuition. I more than doubled my take-home as a result of the career change, and love every minute of the job so far.

Oh, the other nice thing: going to university/college as a mature student is FUN. People are very friendly to you (even though we're only talking 5-8 year age differences they think of you as the "old fogey"). You don't do the stupid things (frat parties every night during finals). It's also FAR easier to study, do homework, whatever - because you know damn well what awaits you if you don't get this degree finished, and with good marks. Personally, I found doing university the second time around to be just about the most fun I've ever had in my life. Only problem is, at an older age it seems to go by FAST.

If I won the lottery and didn't need to work for my rent, I'd do it a third time.

Best decision I ever made in my life.

Worked for me (1)

DSP_Geek (532090) | more than 8 years ago | (#15886968)

I quit engineering at 19, hung out with rock bands for a few years, then went back to EE school at almost 25. Had to take a few mre courses because some previous ones were deprecated as prerequisites, but the new ones were _way_ more interesting anyway. I figured my touring days were over when I graduated at 28 -- was I wrong! My first engineering gig was Application Engineering for a Montreal company, which sent me all over the US and Europe in grand style instead of the dive hotels where I'd stayed as a roadie.

My then-girlfriend's mom was seeing an engineering prof, and when I was still looking for work, he claimed that because of my advanced age I would never score an engineering job and always be a bum. Later on, whenever xGF went to visit her mom, I made sure to tell her to give the bum's greetings from San Jose, or Hamburg, or New York, or Paris.

All this is to tell you, GO FOR IT! It's never too late.

If 40 is the new 30... (2, Insightful)

Colonel Panic (15235) | more than 8 years ago | (#15886975)

If 40 is the new 30, then 30 is the new 20.

Seriously, 30 is not too old. Given the current economic trends (global capitalism) we're all going to need to reinvent ourselves every 10 years or so anyway - yes, that probably means going back to school in your 40's and again in your 50's... maybe even later.

One more thing (1)

DSP_Geek (532090) | more than 8 years ago | (#15886989)

Your homebrew system building and web development is great seat-of-the-pants training for what works. I can tell when a system's been designed by engineers who've gotten their hands dirty, as opposed to straight book-learnin' types who never soldered a wire in their lives. The difference is not subtle.

Old? (1)

Keebler71 (520908) | more than 8 years ago | (#15886993)

Do you have any idea how stupid this entire article reads to someone who is 34? Old at 30? You're in for a shock.

Comp Sci v Comp Engr (1)

TLouden (677335) | more than 8 years ago | (#15887001)

Software Engineering is the nice way of saying Computer Science which is not the best industry to try hitting at 30. While it IS and industry and a great one, you may find that pursuing a Computer Engineering degree will place you apart from the dime-a-dozen computer science guys. Software Engineering is NOT an engineering degree any more than Forest Engineering is (and it isn't at all). Computer Engineering IS an engineering degree, even if it's for the tech geeks more so than lab science geeks.

Just my opinion.

When you're dead. (1)

vitaflo (20507) | more than 8 years ago | (#15887006)

The only time you're too old is when you're dead.

You will be fine (1)

WindBourne (631190) | more than 8 years ago | (#15887030)

I got my first degree in Microbio back in the early 80's. Later on, I decided to go back to school for a master in CS. I never finished it due to money ( which was a mistake ) but I did complete the bachelors (but without the paper). Since I got out at age 32, I have found lots of good jobs. The trick is make sure that you are at a decent school, get good grades, and learn. You are more mature now, and know what you want. Chances are, that on your first degree you did skate by and really did not learn it. Now, you will have to study harder, but will learn more.

If you are going to do, please consider coding hard until you get into school. You may find that if you code for awhile (not just websites), then you can focus on the abstractions rather than the technical stuff. Finally, consider using your first degree connected to SE. By combining film and SE, I would guess that you will find lots of jobs in Hollywood.

How old is too old? (1)

fracskul (588077) | more than 8 years ago | (#15887043)

I'm 44. I graduated in 2001 with a C.S. degree. It was my first actual full application of my efforts in college. Cum GPA : 3.96.
I had one "B", in COBOL 101. I was spending too much time playing "Ultima Online". :)
Before that, I was a Medical Lab Tech. I found that I could make $50,000 a year doing that again, or start at $30,000 in an IT job.
Well, I couldn't take that pay cut. Once my son is out of college, I can maybe go back to IT. The one guy has it right: the only "too old" is DEAD. Do what you LOVE, within limits.

Switching careers (2, Interesting)

Starker_Kull (896770) | more than 8 years ago | (#15887050)

I was a math major in college, because I wasn't sure if I wanted to be a programmer, a physicist, or a vulcanologist. In the end, I became an airline pilot. It was, at the beginning, thrilling, exciting, interesting, different, and I used to look forward to going to work.

Fast forward about 15 years, and I'll tell you that the things I thought little of, like career stability, retirement funding, long term mental stimulation, etc., are a lot more important to me now then they were in my teens.

I just earned more this past month, in doing network consulting and database development than from my "career". It was exciting all over again, that I had a mental challenge, people appreciated my work, and I had some independence from the Mother Company.

I'm 35, and slowly building up what used to be a hobby fiddling with computers into a side business. And if (or, as I suspect, when) the airline industry really tanks, I can just pick up the pace a bit on my second career. Perhaps I wouldn't enjoy it so much if I didn't have career A to start with, and perhaps I would have advanced far more in career B if I had started there, but who cares? I DID do career A, and I am now really ENJOYING career B.

I have an aunt who just retired from senior management one of the largest corporations in the world after 38 years. She scratched through college with a 2.01 GPA. The secret to her success? Don't let yourself get faked out by people who seem to know what they are doing. Ask questions until you understand, or research on your own until you understand, and you will be surprised how many people get by on 90% air and 10% knowledge. If you want to understand and learn, you will get far.

Go for it - good luck!

In the long run... (1)

finelinebob (635638) | more than 8 years ago | (#15887106)

... we're all dead

Credit Guy Kawasaki for that, maybe someone before him, but anyway dead is definitely too old. If you're not dead yet, you're not too old.

FYI (1)

randomiam (514027) | more than 8 years ago | (#15887439)

JM Keynes (economist) said it first.

age isn't much of the question. Is it you? (1)

swordfishBob (536640) | more than 8 years ago | (#15887158)

Different people's brains are wired differently. It shows up in personalities. It shows up in ability to solve complex problems. Some people are just good at manipulating a heap of related details to understand them and reach a solution. Others just aren't as suited to handling complexity (but might multitask better, or be easier to get on with, or whatever :-) My high school results were good enough to get in to medicine, but I'm lousy at biology (and never liked it) and my hands aren't steady enough to do surgery.

The problem is self-assessment. We've all seen far too many people consider themselves "gurus" that don't have a clue. Typically you can only assess those close to or beneath you in a given area, as you can't estimate what you don't understand. Do you have evidence that you handle complexity well? Do you know anyone really credible who can comment on your technical aptitude? (and how do you know they're credible?)

Try stretching your skills even without more college, and see if you can find someone credible to comment on your progress. Or take a subject or a short course and hope the presenter is good enough to give the right feedback.

Well... (1)

JimXugle (921609) | more than 8 years ago | (#15887177)

In my eyes, if you still have functioning neural pathways (no Alzheimers, not dead) then you can pretty much do whatever you want. After that, you have three options: Be Buried in a box, get burned, freeze.

Being young is overrated (1)

GreatDrok (684119) | more than 8 years ago | (#15887188)

I really screwed up on my original degree. I was already quite late doing it since I messed up my O levels so had to do some of them again which put me a year behind. When I got my degree it wasn't a high grade so I ended up doing various unrelated jobs. Eventually, I learned I wanted more from life so I got a loan and paid my way through a Masters, got a good job and then started my PhD at age 27. When I finished it three years later I was 30 which was quite old to do a postdoc as most other PhDs were in their mid 20's. However, I kept at it and have continued to work in my field of choice and am now 40 and getting paid very well. So, I have decided to learn to fly and next week I take my first solo. Hopefully, I'll get my PPL by the end of the year. Whether I'll do anything with it other than recreation I don't know but the fact is, I couldn't have afforded to do it when I was 20 when it would have lead me to a career. There are benefits to being older. You are more focussed. I remember older students when I did my first degree who seemed to work way harder than I did. When I did my PhD though I found that I had learned a work ethic which I didn't have during my first degree.

So, what am I saying? If you want to do it, do it. To hell with people say you should and shouldn't do because of your age. Heck, 30 is nothing in an age when people are living longer and productive lives. OK, so I'm 40 but at this point in time it is looking like I might have another 30 years of working in front of me, maybe more. You just don't know. If you want to do something new and can get the qualification, do it and stuff conventional thinking.

I don't know where the fallacy that kids are great at technology and old people aren't comes from. I am constantly preseneted with kids who supposedly know computers who help my mum with her PC and screw it up and I have to fix it (she's getting a Mac next I swear). These kids can't program and know very little beyond Windows and yet are treated like they have some sort of fantastic talent. Sheesh. I think the difference is that the young are more willing to try new stuff so if you keep that same attitude, whatever your age you will still act and feel young.

Some tangental feedback. (5, Insightful)

Pinback (80041) | more than 8 years ago | (#15887213)

In ten years, you'll be 40. When you look back, what you did for a living may not be as big a deal as you think. Your relationship(s) may be a bigger solace.

If your parents are still living, see them at least once a year for the next 10 years.

After 28, you can't rely on your metabolism to keep you in shape. If you don't already have one, pick a physical activity you won't get bored with, preferably something not too dangerous.

Do you play any instruments? If you start practicing now, you should be able to play by the time you're 40, and even better by the time you're 50.

Sometimes the best job is one that lots of people aren't after. Yes there are lots of jobs for coders, but there is lots of supply too.

If you don't keep a journal, start. Some things in life are cyclic, and you won't notice them unless you can review what happened in past years.

I'm 31...just enrolled for Software Engineering (1)

CircleFusion (912346) | more than 8 years ago | (#15887239)

I've done computer support work for about 10 years and web design for the past 2 years. I'm 31 now and I just decided to enroll in school for software engineering. I had some credits from previous college experience, so I'm a sophomore. I'm going with an online college ( because of the convenience and acceleration that it offers. I'll graduate in early 2008. So far things are going very well. I have a 4.0 GPA right now and I plan on keeping it. Do I consider myself too old to change gears? heh...hell no. Not even close. I realize that it is easy to be fearful about things like this, but you can always count on the fact that there are intelligent business people out there (I swear) who can make good decisions about hiring people. I've found that at least half of the people in my classes are older...some of them are in their 40's and even 50's. There are a few that already know how to program, but they just want to get that paper that says so. It's also probably a life goal for them, something they want to accomplish. Some are moving into programming for the first their 40's. This doesn't mean that they will automatically get a job upon graduation. However, if an employer sees someone who has lots of job experience (and life experience) and is a good programmer, and graduated with a high GPA, that might turn a few heads. In fact, that person may even be considered extra valuable due to their mix of experience and work ethic. At 40, they have at least another 20 years of hard work in them (and possibly more). 20 years is a lot of time. Why wouldn't a company hire a programmer while knowing they can put in a good 15+ years? Most workers tend to change jobs after just a few years anyway. Someone in their 40+ will be very loyal and dependable. I feel like I'm in the perfect position. I have a good amount of business and work experience behind me and I'm sure of what I want to accomplish now. I happen to have as much fiery energy as any 20-something year old techie that I've ever met, and my creativity and desire for challenge is very high. I now have a polished work ethic, and I'm VERY motivated now, which is different than a lot of 20-somethings that I have worked with in the past. I will graduate after just turning 33, and I don't see how most 20-something graduates would have any advantage over me. That is, of course, in theory. People see things differently, and I can't jump to too many conclusions about how employers might assess someone like me as a potential employee. But I have more reasons to be confident than I have reasons to be concerned. Remember, most people in business are "older", as in over 30. 20-somethings are in the minority in business. Obviously business owners are hiring people who are 30+ years old. I'll tell you another quick story that changed my mind about college. When I was 28, I worked a temp job doing tests on medical equipment. A guy from some company in San Diego hired us for 2 weeks and trained us to run the tests. I did a very good job and he offered me a job interview with his company in San Diego. I was surprised by the offer, and very interested. Then he asked me about my degree. I told him I didn't have one. That was when he gave me the long story about how he worked as an electrician for 10+ years and then decided to get his degree in Electrical Engineering at age 30. He said that, even though his 10+ years as an electrician didn't really do much for his resume, going to school and changing careers was the best decision that he ever made and he would do it again in a heartbeat. I think he was in his early 40's when we had that conversaion. He was doing very well working for a medical equipment manufacturer in San Diego, where everything is expensive. That was 2-3 years ago...and now I happen to be following the same path that he did (except I'm doing software engineering). Hope that helps.

I'm 55 and challenged every day - keeps you young (1)

rcpitt (711863) | more than 8 years ago | (#15887253)

At 30 I still had not really chosen my career - had played with electronics and even computers from pre-teens to university - but took 10+ years "walkabout" (New Zealand, Australia, and back to Canada) at many different jobs to decide that the computer industry was my wide focus. As for a narrow focus - sorry, can't say I've had one - except maybe the Internet - but that was kind of a timely thing. What I've learned is that if I'm doing things I enjoy, it really doesn't matter what they are - I'm where I want to be. Doesn't matter if it is particularly profitable - just that I enjoy it. Today I enjoy putting cameras up close to eagles - maybe next year it will be something else.

Just do it (2, Interesting)

fido_dogstoyevsky (905893) | more than 8 years ago | (#15887275)

I'm just about to take early retirement (55).

Sometime in the next two weeks I'll be enrolling in a DipEd (one year full time) so that I can start teaching at high school level after a lot of time working (mostly as) a chemist.

If I can do it so can you.

Dunno about you young people.

When I was your age we had to walk 10 miles to go to school - uphill - after the early shift at the salt mines, then walk 15 miles - uphill again - to go home to eat last week's leftovers before 2 minutes' sleep before getting up before midnight for the paper round before the salt mine - and not all of us had the luxury of a home, I shared a hole in the road covered with a groundsheet with 18 others... but why am I wasting electrons, you youngsters just won't believe a word of it...

Just do it.

Never too old (1)

dtfinch (661405) | more than 8 years ago | (#15887377)

My mom got a CS degree in her mid 40's, and found a good job soon after.

Don't do it. (1)

bytesex (112972) | more than 8 years ago | (#15887427)

Just get a job. I've got a degree from a prestigious European artschool (painting + photography), and I'm working as a full time programmer. However, I'd also been programming as a hobby since I was twelve, so.. if you're in a similar situation, just get a job and do your tuition on the way - from the web. It'll save you money (make you money, in fact), and you've already proven your creativity, so there shouldn't be a problem. One note for creative people, though: don't get started in a really big company. It's likely to give you such a bad impression that you might not want to try it again. Big companies are bad news for really creative people - start small.

Slight Adjustment, Maybe (2, Informative)

W. Justice Black (11445) | more than 8 years ago | (#15887433)

I'm a 31-year-old student and finishing up in 12-18 months at the rate I'm going.

I'll mirror what most other folks here have said, namely that you're not too old for college or to enter one of many CS-type careers and that you should go for it. I will make one small detour from the norm, however, and suggest you might want to make a small adjustment to your major--and not for the reasons you may suspect.

The only CSUs that appear to have actual SoftE programs are San Jose State and CSU Fullerton. Since the Fullerton program is a Master's-only program, I'll assume that you're probably looking at SJSU.

And I just happen to be an SJSU student.

While the SJSU SoftE program is terrific, there are a LOT of very specific courses in the program. It is simply not well laid-out for folks looking to transfer in from other schools (or for those looking for a second bachelor's) IMHO. When I transferred over, I initially applied for SoftE, but changed my mind once I worked it out on a spreadsheet. It turned out that, even though I had previously earned an Associate's in Engineering (and therefore had taken a bunch of engineering classes), SoftE was 9 credit hours (or about 1.5 part-time semesters) more than plain old CS. The problem is that SoftE in particular is a fairly inflexible program with a lot of boxes to check off.

Then again, SJSU has one of the best CompE programs anywhere, and many of the SoftE classes correspond directly with CS classes, especially at the start (so you can change your mind later if you want).

The moral of the story (regardless of where you go) is that you should scour your requirements and see what will suit you best. For someone who's coming in as a freshman, it probably doesn't matter too much, but it's huge for a returning/transferring/second bachelor's student.

Don't do college for a second time (1)

Scarblac (122480) | more than 8 years ago | (#15887461)

I'd say a career change is certainly possible and not such a big deal, but I don't think you should go to college for a second time.

The most important things you get from college (some maturity, the ability to digest hard books on your own, to finish a large project) are things you hopefully already have after the first time. College is good, but it's not the most efficient way to get specific knowledge on a subject; if your first degree was decent, it'd be a waste of time.

So learn to program, get into the habit of reading hard books on software regularly, and go find a job in the field. Added plus is that you'll find out a bit sooner whether you actually like the new direction.

Late 30's isn't too late (3, Interesting)

simonfunk (592887) | more than 8 years ago | (#15887529)

My mother decided she wanted to be a doctor in her mid 30's and got into NYU when she was maybe 38? She did fine, and became a great doctor. Before that she worked as a lab tech for a few years. Before that she was a waitress. A lot of my friends in college were "returning students" in their 30's getting CS degrees and went on to do good stuff. I've never personally witnessed anybody being "too old" to pull it off.

Geez, 30 is Young (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15887539)

I'm approaching my 53rd Birthday at the end of the month. I know I write far better code now than I did when I was 43, 33 or even 23. (I started writting code in 1972)
Now, my code is far more Right First Time than not. I spend less time debugging than I did before by a long way.

As you get older the experiences you accumulate help do the job better if you take the time to keep on learning and imporantly, learn by your mistakes.
Don't be afraid to tear up your design and start again if it is going nowhere.
I started out using Fortran, Cobol & Basic.
Now I program in Java, C# and SQL
I'm far more producting today with the tools available now than even 10 years ago.

Career change at 38 (2, Informative)

GomezAdams (679726) | more than 8 years ago | (#15887662)

I went to college at 38 while making a major career change into IT. And this was mostly to get credits for what I had already taught myself. Now as a silver back I am a very well paid SW architect.
The short answer is that you will be as successful in a career change to the extent of your motivation, natural talent, and some amount of luck. Choose an evolving area of interest and stay current, aggressively so. I got to where I am by being a generalist - knowing and doing a little something with everything in computers from building boards with wirewrap, designing and wiring networks,to hacking in a couple dozen langauges from 8080/Z80 ASM to mainframe COBOL. Some of my peers are specialists and are just as successful. That is the luck part.
So pick something you really like and attack it like a tasmanian devil.

My story (2, Informative)

clickclickdrone (964164) | more than 8 years ago | (#15887666)

I left school at 16 with a fistfull of exams at not particularly stunning grades and started working in a bank. At 18 I got my first computer (atari 400 :-) ) and learned to program and everything about what made it tick. By 25 it was clear I didn't get on with banking so I asked if I could move in to IT which I did although initially it was just logging tapes in and out. I'm now 42 and have used VMS, various Unix (including scripting, sed/awk etc), raw x-windows coding, Windows/DOS, C, VB/VBA, C#, asp, html and a whole bunch of odd stuff. I've done analysis, design, build, test, debugging, documentation, warranty, support, training, writing for various magazines, beta testing for games companies, building/fixing hardware and God knows what else.
IT is a constant learning process so age has its uses although I do feel my ability to work long hours has diminished, both physically and as a result of marriage/kids. Age does have a bearing on some aspects, if a company wants someone who can cut code fast and late at night, they want youngsters. When they want something a bit bigger/more complex that requires experience, they go for the older types.

In the same boat (1)

AmiMoJo (196126) | more than 8 years ago | (#15887706)

I'm looking at doing something similar. Ditching IT (there are no good IT jobs in the UK any more it seems) and learning a language, moving overseas etc. I hope to spend a year full time studying the language.

For me, there are two issues: cost and employability. Cost, well I'll just have to save up. Employability... I'll be 29-30 with two years work experience in my entire life (was unemployed for 2.5 years after finishing my degree in CS). That could be an issue, especially if looking to work overseas. But, there isn't much I can do about it really, so I'm just going to try it.
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