Author Topic: Is a career change to software engineering a good idea after 35?  (Read 1482 times)

retireatbirth

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Lots of engineers here so I thought I'd ask. You hear about ageism so much in tech that I wonder if it's worth the risk. I've always loved programming. Time can really fly building interesting things with code.

sokoloff

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Re: Is a career change to software engineering a good idea after 35?
« Reply #1 on: March 09, 2018, 04:11:14 PM »
Lots of engineers here so I thought I'd ask. You hear about ageism so much in tech that I wonder if it's worth the risk. I've always loved programming. Time can really fly building interesting things with code.
I'm mid-40s, ex-SWE, now tech executive.

I don't see much evidence of ageism in any kind of pure form. I do see middle-aged engineers who have clearly lost "the edge" or who have gotten lazy and they can struggle to find work when it's obvious that a fresh college grad is a better bet even at even money. I also see that the good 5-years' experience engineers seem to be better than I remember being at that age, meaning that I should rightly be willing to pay them the same as a similarly competent 15 years' experienced engineer (and I am). I should be willing to pay some of the 5-year folks more than the 15 year folks, when the 15 year is really "one year of experience, repeated fifteen times".

To me, it's all about how good you are and what business value you can create. If you're good and create value, you'll have no problem in the industry. If you aren't and/or you don't, you'll have a tough go of it.

I completely agree that it's an amazing way to make a living. I play with coding on the weekends, including teaching my kids but also with Arduino and ESP microcontroller projects. The idea that someone will pay me so well to do what I happily choose to do for free anyway is mind-blowing sometimes.

Gone_Hiking

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Re: Is a career change to software engineering a good idea after 35?
« Reply #2 on: March 09, 2018, 07:58:54 PM »
Seems to me that it's not just a good idea, it is a terrific idea.  I didn't think I was smart enough to write software until I went back part time for a few programming classes in my 30s.  At 36, I started a programming job at a university.  I'm female, too, and now at 47 I still have good options.  I've moved on to project management, but experience with actual coding, code repository management, code review methodology, and automated nightly builds has impressed potential employers, and I recently has been offered a new job with a nice raise with the this kind of expertise being one of the reasons.  Knowing how to code is a powerful knowledge.  Your age is not a negative - if you're an enthusiastic learner, adding wisdom to your programming expertise will be attractive to potential employers.  Go for it!

seattlecyclone

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Re: Is a career change to software engineering a good idea after 35?
« Reply #3 on: March 10, 2018, 02:11:32 PM »
I have plenty of coworkers in their 40s and 50s. I kind of doubt that there's much ageism per se, it's just that a lot of folks don't keep up to date with new technologies that come out, and so they get left behind. This is a field where you can never stop learning if you want to stay relevant.

Paul der Krake

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Re: Is a career change to software engineering a good idea after 35?
« Reply #4 on: March 10, 2018, 03:01:20 PM »
You hear a lot about all sorts of problems in tech. Most of it is wildly overblown.

(cue the chorus of "you're not seeing it because you are the problem!")

Worked with people as young as 20 and as old as 60, including people who got to it as a second or third career. Some were great, some were okay, some downright sucked. Know your stuff and nobody will give a hoot about your background.

bacchi

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Re: Is a career change to software engineering a good idea after 35?
« Reply #5 on: March 10, 2018, 03:23:34 PM »
I'll be the lone voice of (sorta) dissent.

You'll see ageism more in seed/Series A start-ups with brogrammers (but do you really want to work there anyway?). Ace the whiteboard, get 95% on the timed online coding test, get along well with everyone, and then get told that "It's not a culture fit."

Of course, it could be that you won't work 6 days/week without a decent equity stake and 23 year olds are excited! to do that. I suppose that's "lazy" in a way. I'd say it's "not being a sucker."

A lot of interviews are algorithm heavy and the real truth of the matter is that few developers are working on optimizing B+ trees. These types of interviews favor recent grads, which you'll be equivalent to even if you're 37 simply because your algo class was 6 months ago. There's an entire industry around helping software devs prepare for interviews (note: It's not about making them better developers. It's about preparing for the interview.)

In summary, of course there is ageism. It might be related to the fact that you won't be hanging at the bars with them after work because of your kid, or it might be because they aren't comfortable being a boss to someone 10 years older, or it might be because they agree with Zuckerburg that anyone over the age of 30 isn't any good at software (he's 33 now), but it exists.

That said, given the lack of developers, it's a candidate's market and many companies, even if they were inclined, can't be super picky.

koshtra

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Re: Is a career change to software engineering a good idea after 35?
« Reply #6 on: March 10, 2018, 03:50:22 PM »
If you still love it, I'd stick with it. I do think there's a lot of age prejudice -- most of it fairly mild, but it means you're going against a headwind. And then also I think there's a grain of truth to Zuckerburg's silly statement, in that a certain edge comes off your brain as the decades go by (which is why mathematicians burn out early.) I'm not quite as smart as I was when I was twenty. Wiser, more efficient, way happier, better at more things -- yes. But not quite as smart: not quite so much sheer processing power. I'm glad I bailed on coding when I did (in my late forties.)

But I was never a great programmer: I was just a solid utility infielder. & I didn't particularly like it anymore at the end. That's another problem with old guys: they stop being so anxious to always be good at everything. Let the young pups have a go at it! There's other things I want to do.

pecunia

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Re: Is a career change to software engineering a good idea after 35?
« Reply #7 on: March 10, 2018, 05:09:39 PM »
Not a programmer. 

I wish to point out that there seem to be quite a few software types that want to get to the point where they are FI and then they get out  Hmmmmmm, seems like a job like that isn't too satisfying.

I've spent enough 10 hour + days banging away on a computer as part of my job.  I would not want to volunteer for that torture.

Do programmers typically work in a little cubicle or a big bullpen like room?  Yuck!

bacchi

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Re: Is a career change to software engineering a good idea after 35?
« Reply #8 on: March 10, 2018, 06:19:28 PM »
Not a programmer. 

I wish to point out that there seem to be quite a few software types that want to get to the point where they are FI and then they get out  Hmmmmmm, seems like a job like that isn't too satisfying.

I've spent enough 10 hour + days banging away on a computer as part of my job.  I would not want to volunteer for that torture.

Do programmers typically work in a little cubicle or a big bullpen like room?  Yuck!

Both. Or, ideally, at home.

I ERed from software. It wasn't the work; it was the job.

Since ERing, I've played with blockchain, Apache Ignite, and the latest js framework, Vue (soon to replace React!).

sokoloff

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Re: Is a career change to software engineering a good idea after 35?
« Reply #9 on: March 11, 2018, 06:12:15 AM »
I ERed from software. It wasn't the work; it was the job.
This is common.
Working for leadership where tech is viewed as IT janitors and a pure cost to be controlled and minimized sucks. A lot. Working at a place where tech is viewed as a core part of the companyís competitive advantage and where the leadership chain is technical in background up to a fairly high level can be great.

At the end of the day, itís still a company, still a job, and still has some people drama. People ER from all kinds of careers. I donít see a reason to conclude that all fields suck. I donít see retired plumbers tinkering with waste pipes every evening or retired teachers showing up everyday somewhere at 7:15 to babysit someone elseís kids, though. :)