Group,

I've dabbled in coding (both front end and back end) since the mid 1990s. However I've never done it full time (except for a short stint writing database query's in 2015 and 2016). Because of the economic downturn in 2008 and the sale of Starwood Hotels to Marriott, I find myself with accepting what amounts to temp jobs to (somewhat) support myself. Thus I've pondered the idea of a coding school or a certificated program through one of the local college to gain useful skills in the field. But here's the rub: I'm almost 60. So here are a few questions that I have for the group. I'll appreciate your candid answers.

1) Is it realistic to even consider this as a career for the next 10 years for someone my age? Assuming it is,
2) Are there some coding schools that you can comfortably recommend that are accepted by the IT industry?
3) Are there other practical ways to gain knowledge and experience that would be useful to a future employer?
4) What languages are the most desired today?
5) Is most of the programming done today as a web-based application (this is primarily what I see the coding schools training one for)?

In advance, I appreciate your thoughts and ideas. I look forward to hearing from you.

Don

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1) Is it realistic to even consider this as a career for the next 10 years for someone my age? Assuming it is,

Programming is a huge industry. Everything from writing hardware drivers to designing games for gaming consoles to building a website to on-page search engine optimization …

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I think it's realistic for someone of any age to attempt a new career in programming. My criticism is mainly of my experience with people who have come out of coding bootcamps.

6 months of time is not realistic to really grasp all but the very surface of programming, and …

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All 14 Replies

1) Is it realistic to even consider this as a career for the next 10 years for someone my age? Assuming it is,

Programming is a huge industry. Everything from writing hardware drivers to designing games for gaming consoles to building a website to on-page search engine optimization to front-end UI. You can get a full-time job in Silicon Valley or you can be an independent consultant working out of your home office or anything in between. They all require different sets of skills, have huge discrepancies in salaries, and some might be more suited to you than others, depending on your current skillset and interests.

2) Are there some coding schools that you can comfortably recommend that are accepted by the IT industry?

A lot of people love coding schools but I am one of those people who is not quite sold. I think they're great to teaching you how to build a snazzy website for a small business or a simple mobile app in a very short amount of time. That's what it's all about ... making you hireable as quickly and efficiently as possible. However, what they don't tell you is that without the background of a computer science degree, you will lack all of the mathematical and analytical experience required to focus on big data sets (e.g. working with billions of records), fine-tuning performance, etc. It's my personal experience that coding schools teach you what's necessary to land your first small-time consulting gig, and not much else. After that, it's all on you to continue to build your portfolio, and learn, learn, learn.

3) Are there other practical ways to gain knowledge and experience that would be useful to a future employer?

In lieu of a computer science degree, a coding bootcamp is a great way to kickstart a new career, but I don't think employers are particularly excited to hear you bragging that you went through a bootcamp because that doesn't really tell much about your capabilities. If you don't already have one, create a profile on Github and post small projects there. As much as you can, as you learn and expand your skillset. Github is the programmer's resume, because it lets others gauge and judge your actual coding skills. It's the equivalent of a journalist with a blog for you to read and evaluate their writing quality and style.

4) What languages are the most desired today?

It depends what field you want to get into. Do you want to program an alarm clock or washing machine? A driverless car? Or do you want to build a website? An iPhone app? You say you've dabbled in front-end and back-end coding since the mid 90s, so I'm going to assume you're speaking about the web, and you mean HTML and Javascript on the front-end?? Or I could be wrong ... Some more clarification would allow me to provide a more useful response.

5) Is most of the programming done today as a web-based application (this is primarily what I see the coding schools training one for)?

Yes, as mentioned, coding bootcamps tend to focus on building web and mobile apps. Web apps tend to be easy to get started with and have a very low barrier to entry. Also, there's no shortage of small mom and pop businesses that need a website created for them, which means that coding bootcamps can guarantee a paying gig upon completing the course.

commented: That's a quality reply. Great example. +0

Dani,

The vast majority of my IT experience is with databases. Of the many hats that I wore in my career field (tile and stone distribution), one of those was querying the database to write and create reports to futher analyse the customers, the inventory and sales. I began doing it full time when I moved to the Hospitality industry, albeit that was comparatively short-lived (only 3 years). Given that I'm being forced to find new employement, I'd prefer to do something that is challenging, makes me think, has some degree of creativity and is geared for business. With that said, I've found that programming meets that criteria given the limited amount of professional experience that I've had. That experience includes several apps developed in VB.net that automated some repetitive tasks done by humans. There also were multiple Excel projects that required a fair amount of VBA behind them that eliminated a lot of manual/repetitive tasks done by the user. I say this to illustrate how I learned I wanted to do more with programming.

Given what you've said, it seems that I need some kind of employement counselor that could look at my specific abilities and experience that could direct me in what direction to go with training and education. Is there such a group of professionals that offer that kind of service? If so, how would I find those?

Thanks you greatly for your information. It was quite helpful. If you have other questions for me, don't hesitate to ask. I can't thank you enough for what you have shared.

Sincerley,

Don

If you have previous experience with databases, I don't see why it would make sense to shift completely away from that and start at ground zero as a complete newbie. Every website today is only as strong as its database, and data analytics is a huge industry, especially with machine learning powered by data mining, etc. According to Glassdoor, data analyst salaries are about $100K and database engineers average $150K/year around San Jose, CA. (Albeit the cost of housing is tremendous here as well.)

Dani,

I am not opposed in any way to remain as a data analyst. However it seems that in my area of the country (Atlanta, Georgia), my age is standing in the way. It's just that I have a natural interest in programming. Thus the reason why I'm interested in exploring ways to get in - even as an entry-level programmer.

Thanks again for your questions. You're the best!

Don

I'm curious as to why you think your age stands in the way as a data analyst, but it won't as a programmer?

I hate to say it, but I think that ageism is very prevalent in web development and mobile apps, which are where the focus of coding bootcamps are. Web apps today put a very heavy emphasis on catering to millennials, and so businesses want to hire people who "get" their target demographic.

You've answered my question with your comments. Ultimately I wanted to know if it was realistic for someone my age to attempt a new career in programming. If my age is going to stand in the way, I'm not interested in investing $10,000 and 6 months of time to begin to gain the skills needed.

It's frustrating to know this. I feel like us "old guys" come with lots of real-world experience, maturity and work ethic that the millennials don't seem to possess.

I think it's realistic for someone of any age to attempt a new career in programming. My criticism is mainly of my experience with people who have come out of coding bootcamps.

6 months of time is not realistic to really grasp all but the very surface of programming, and that's assuming you're putting in 12+ hour days building up your portfolio. Check out this article I just stumbled across: https://techbeacon.com/app-dev-testing/bootcamps-wont-make-you-coder-heres-what-will

@Papa_Don

My step son is 30 and has his degree in Film. He worked in that industry then moved to finance and sees a bubble on its way. Now he's going for a degree in compsci or software. My advice was to go to the college and meet with his counselor to plan out the coursework.

That's where it may get a little interesting to you. The counselor set up a 2 year plan to get him a Masters degree. I don't remember what the name was exactly but it is CompSci or software in its title.

I don't know if that was of any interest to you but he did ask about coding bootcamps and while they may fit others, I worry that the primary benefits of those camps go to the ones that run the camps. That is, the camps seem to be expensive and the benefits hard to measure.

The camps were discussed and my advice was to meet with the counselor and see how long for a new degree in the area of interest. He understands that coding bootcamps carry little weight when job hunting but a degree does.

@rproffitt,

I think I've learned my answer. For me, at 60, it isn't realistic to consider a career in programming. I wish I had pursued it 10 or 20 years ago. I do love the creativity and problem solving required to build computer applications. I do know that at this juncture I don't have the knowledge and experience to do it. Meaningful courses to do it would take more years than I have to give. I need to consider a "Plan B".

Thanks for everyone's thoughts. It is greatly appreciated.

Don

Hopefully you have no regrets 5 years from now.

I still think the logical progression for your career is a data analyst or database admin for the modern web. It evolves on your experience with MS Access and the like, is very high in demand, and works very closely with developers.

You can look into some no sql databases such as Neo4j, MongoDB, and Cassandra. Or stick to the regular ole Oracle, MySQL, and MS SQL.

Also, you might wish to connect with Narue who works as a programmer in the same city as you.

Here's a completely off the wall idea. Have you considered learning an old programming language? While everyone is concentrating on learning the latest and greatest and trying to keep ahead of the curve, there is still a demand for COBOL programmers. There is a shit-ton of COBOL code still in service with fewer and fewer people available to maintain it. The technology is not nearly as complex as what is required in today's OOP, internet connected world.

commented: Great idea. I'll share I'm updating an old VB6 app this week. The client won't update to newer systems. +0

Good idea, Jim. You're also not going to suffer from ageisim going that route because you'll be in the same age bracket as everyone else with COBOL skills. The flip side of it is that absolutely everyone you'll be competing for a job against will have a 30+ year long career as a seasoned programmer.

Interesting thought! I may have to consider something like that. That actually makes a lot of sense.

Don

True, but even a few years ago they were already talking about a COBOL crisis. That can only have gotten worse as people naturally age and retire.