According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, software developer jobs are predicted to grow by 17% from 2014 to 2024. This is much faster than the average for other occupations, which is at 7%. The US Bureau of Labor statistics explains that the main reason for the rapid growth is due to ‘a large increase in the demand for computer software’. But is it too late at [enter your age here] to jump on this bandwagon and learn to code?
But here’s the kicker: a full third of professional developers on Stack Overflow only learned to code within the past five years, so presumably a fair number of those older developers probably learnt coding fairly recently. In fact, almost 12% of developers who work in the industry only learnt to code in the past two years.
It’s not all roses, however. The tech industry has long been accused of ageism. Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s CEO, said, for example, that, ‘young people are just smarter.’ And the demographics in certain kinds of companies are definitely skewed towards the younger generation. For example, Fortune notes that the median age at Twitter is only 28, and at Facebook and Google it’s 29 compared with a median age of 42.4 for the US labour force. However, other companies, such as computer hardware and business software ones, are certainly filled with many people in their 30s and 40s – for example, the median age of workers at Oracle is 38, states PayScale.
It’s clear people are learning coding at an older age and securing jobs in certain kinds of tech companies, but what’s it like to learn coding when you’re a little older? Here’s the good news: there are many advantages.
The Advantages of Learning Coding at an Older Age
Here are some of the advantages, according to a piece in Medium.
- You have experience. This is likely to translate into real-life problem-solving creds.
- Your emotional intelligence is likely to be higher. In fact, a study published in Berkeley News found that emotional intelligence peaked in one’s 60s. People in this age group appear to be better than their younger counterparts at seeing the positive in a stressful situation. This is certainly a skill for a software project where you have to work with others and things might not work out as planned. (Read more about a day in the life of a junior software developer.)
- You contribute to diversity. A study published by Indeed showed that 77% of people working for tech companies noted the importance of a diverse company.
- You understand the rewards of patience and persistence, vital skills for coding, better than your younger co-workers.
Tips for Older People Wanting to Learn Coding
Let’s look at some tips for learning coding at an older age.
- A Quora visitor advises that you join all the programming websites you can including Topcoder, SPOJ, Hackerrank, CodeChef, CodeForces, etc. Keep the same handle,or username,on all these sites. In this way, if someone Googles your username, all your profiles will be seen.
- Complete an actual project. Have a look at codeconquest for some great coding project ideas.
- Find a mentor – your mentor could of course be younger than you. ‘I firmly believe that mentorship is the best path to career success, hands down,’ says Chris Myers, a startup founder and CEO of a financial management solutions company, in Forbes. You may wish to enrol on a bootcamp or course where mentorship is built into the program – for example, HyperionDev offers online, coding bootcamps built around this idea.
- Don’t underestimate what you do know. Whatever you’d done previously should help make you a more enticing and unusual candidate – unlike the typical 22-year-old who has only studied coding and has no real-world experience. People who blend a variety of seemingly disparate skills are often in high demand, because they now have a unique professional profile – for example, a software developer who has done a fashion degree may seem like a strange profile, but is actually the ideal candidate to fill a developer role at a global retail company.
In closing, it’s never too late to learn coding; there’s no upper limit. In fact, an 82-year-old Japanese woman recently taught herself coding and created an iOS app, which has been downloaded over 50 000 times! Unsurprisingly, she learnt via mentorship. The bottom line: if you’re keen to become a developer, go for it, no matter your age.