Programmer after 40? Why not? You can always make a career change to IT at 40, but does it make sense? I have decided to write this post as my personal situation has changed again 🙂 . Anyway, I also wrote about it on my Polish blog, and I was shocked that I got so many comments and visitors. So, it looks like it’s a scorching topic.

I did some research and found this article on the Business Insider website. A lot of thoughts… We can start thinking that the IT business is Hollywood, and only young people matter… Well, it’s something new to me! But first things first…

Please take a look at the picture below. Do you find it funny or painful reality? Both? When I was 20 or even 30, I could spend the whole day at work and then sit at my computer until 2 a.m. or even more, learning, hacking, and coding. And then go to work the next day again. Right now, when I am close to my 50’s, if I go to bed around 2 a.m., I am a dead man the next day. That’s the painful truth.

Also, we have families, and they have their needs. We have kids. We have debts to pay. Do you have a REAL plan for how to deal with all those things???

Programmer after 40
Programmer after 40

So I know we can see all those stories about rich IT guys, but can we make a career change to IT at 40? I mean, can you answer those questions below and say: YES?

  • DO YOU HAVE A PLAN??? Please don’t do this without a plan. It will not work.
  • Do you know what you want to do or which IT area interests you? There are so many areas of IT, and you can’t learn all of them. Pick something
  • Programmer after 40? What about administrators after 40? Maybe it would be easier for you to become an administrator instead of a programmer, especially if you are good at computers already.
  • Do you have savings? Do not expect to get millions when you start your first job!
  • What about your family? Are they aware of your plans? Are they going to support you?
  • Did you close pending problems?
  • Do you know anyone who works in IT? If you have some friends/colleagues who work in IT, it will make a change much more straightforward.
  • Did you create any network (LinkedIn, for example)? Believe me, and you will need it.
  • Did you check if there are any IT camps or conferences around?
  • Do you like that computer stuff? Really?

You can hear that in a few months, you will learn the skills necessary to start your journey in IT and are good to go. That’s not true, in my opinion. Some people want to jump into IT because there is money, but they hate those computers and don’t like learning new things. I am sorry, but it will not work. I have been in the IT business for more than 25 years. When I was a kid, I was a coder and hacker. Then, when I started my full-time job, I fell in love with databases, SharePoint, etc. Now, I am back to cyber security. And all those days, I learned new things. I am unsure how many Windows versions have been released since the beginning…

I think that age discrimination will grow in average and big companies. In many companies, interviews are focused on shortlists. In the beginning, it doesn’t matter what you know. HR people don’t want to meet hundreds of candidates when they need to hire one person. They want to make a short list of candidates to make it easy to work with. There’s a vision that in a few years, more people could be isolated in the labor market without any specific reason. Especially it concerns forty-year-old persons. Everything will be fine during the interview, even better than younger candidates, but they will not get an offer.

Do you know why? Do you know what crunch is? No? So check it! It’s very intensive work, beyond standard hours. In some companies, it’s some standard – check how Twitter worked after Elon took over control. I can’t imagine that I will crunch for weeks those days. It’s not for me…

There’s no proof, but age will be the main problem. In small companies, it could be different. But in general young people are more flexible. They can be a more effortless force in an organization, but not programmers after 40. Please take a look at this chart published originally on the Business Insider website, based on data from Stack Overflow

Programmers by age
Programmers by age

As you can see, the number of programmers after 40 is 10%. Well, someone can say, for example, in Poland, it’s not so bad… Well, please take a look at another chart from Business Insider.

career change to IT at 40
Programmers by country

Well, we are not a country of old people. Especially that right now there are golden days of IT business in Poland, and other countries too… Everybody wants to be a programmer or a general IT guy, as the market is enormous, and we can get a good salary, employers call themselves. What else? What can I do to reduce the risk that when I become a programmer after 40, I will have a problem finding a new job? Do you think that I am overreacting? I will start a new career, and it seems I will be the oldest person in my department.

I read an interview with Robert Kiraly, and he said a few things. You will find four main points that should be accomplished to avoid problems as programmers after 40:

  • Never get a lower position in your career path.
  • You have to specialize in something.
  • Build contacts network
  • Invest in different things.

The last three points are obvious to me, and I don’t have a problem with them, but I’m afraid I must disagree with the first one. Right now, I make decisions that I will be in a lower position than right now – in an informal way. And as I made such a decision, I can work in an excellent company with a great project. You will not be able to build SharePoint online from scratch too often.

Roberta Kiraly says that lack of contacts could be the biggest mistake ever, and I agree with that. Very often, when we are looking for someone for our it department at the first point, we ask our colleagues, as it allows us to reduce the risk of a wrong choice. I am introverted, so I must work hard to avoid this mistake. And that’s why I believe someday, if I have a problem finding a job, someone from the community will help me.

Another mistake is a lack of specialization. Several years ago, we can assume that a great IT guy could know almost everything in IT. Today, It’s impossible. I always say now that if someone says he knows everything, it means he’s lying! The truth is that we have to decide on what will be our main field of experience. The technology world is still changing, and we have followed it. We have still learned new things and sometimes make decisions and change direction.

I focus on Microsoft 365, SharePoint, and a little SQL server. Is it the right choice? Well, we will see in the next few years… I remember that a few years ago, I didn’t need JavaScript for my SharePoint projects – C# /ASP.NET were core skills. For the last few months, I have had one project with C#, and all others were JavaScript. AngularJS is crucial to me! And that’s why you have to read blogs, websites, etc. I discover AngularJS on Andrew Connell’s blog.

An update on May 17’th, 2023.

The first revision of this article was published in 2015. I do not work with any of those technologies today except SharePoint (a little). Can you see the change? Check my LinkedIn profile to see what I am working on right now.

Another advice. You have to be prepared to lose jobs. You don’t need to check Monster daily to find a new job. But you must be ready and check occasionally to know what’s new on the market. Can you meet the requirements?

You have to be responsible and professional at work, but also you should take care of yourself. If you see that the company situation has changed, don’t wait! Especially if you are a programmer after 40. We are older. We have family, credits, etc. We are not as flexible as young people are. We need time!

And the last point is too difficult for some of my colleagues to understand. It’s essential to me, maybe because I was a journalism student. My name is my brand. If you are unknown, achieving your goals will be more challenging. Of course, you also have to have skills, but you have to know how to sell yourself.

Recently, I met a programmer during an interview who had colossal knowledge. He was much better than me but couldn’t show it. He thought he was good; I could see it without his help. No, I can’t! So many people have excellent skills and know so many things, but they work for little money, no one appreciates their achievements, and the boss doesn’t care about them. And what is he going to do? Nothing…

Please do not get me wrong, but in most cases, if you wait until your boss discovers your great job, you can wait until the end of your life. Americans think that if they made something great, they could talk around about it. Also, you will find many people around you who have a problem. Help them! Go to Stack Overflow and help the others. Start a blog, go to the conference. If you build your brand strong, someday It could save your life when looking for a new job. And maybe a programmer after 40 will not be so bad?

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