I’ve dabbled in coding since I was a teenager, but never took it seriously until last year when the pandemic hit. As a stay-at-home mom with a History degree I questioned whether I had the necessary background to become a developer. I knew I didn’t have tons of time each day to study, and I also knew I didn't want to spend a lot of money on an expensive boot camp (if I could avoid it).
Teaching yourself to code in your thirties can be really intimidating. Here are five strategies I use to make the experience easier.
Forget your age
I’m a member of several different discord and social media groups for programmers and the question “Am I too old for this?” gets asked on a regular basis. The answer from other group members is always a resounding no. I’ve seen experienced developers come out of the woodwork to tell their inspiring stories of how they came to the field later in life. Their message is that age is not really a factor, as long as you’re willing to put in the work to learn.
Don’t let you age distract you from learning. The only way you can become competitive (no matter how old you are) is through dedication and commitment.
Make a list of resources
Call me naive, but I was absolutely blown away when I discovered how many free (or very affordable) options there were for learning code online. I’d suggest making a list of resources as you come across them. To get you started, here are some of the sites I’ve used in my own learning;
Unity Learn (specific to game development but also useful for C# documentation)
There will be times in your learning journey when you feel overwhelmed and aren’t sure where to turn next. Having a list of tried-and-true websites and tutorials makes this decision easier. If you need to pivot to another coding language, you’ll already have a library of familiar resources to choose from.
Write down daily goals, as well as longer-term ones
One of the biggest mistakes I first made as a coding student was to only focus on my long-term goals. I knew I wanted to publish a game on Itch.io . I knew I wanted to build a console app with C# in Visual Studio. I knew I wanted to finish as many modules as I could on freeCodeCamp.
But those longer term goals only got me so far. I needed to break them down into smaller, achievable steps that I could do on a daily basis. Trying to take on too much early in your coding journey is a sure path to failure. Stick with bite-sized, manageable tasks and bit by bit, they’ll add up to a lot.
Connect with the tech community
I am a big introvert so this was a hard one for me at first, but I’m now conversing with other coding students on a daily basis. I didn’t realize at first how friendly and collaborative the community was. It blew my mind that you could upload some code to Github or Stack Overflow and have others comment on it and improve it. But I’ve realized over time that this is one of the best ways to learn.
Don’t be shy about not knowing things or asking questions. In this field, the learning never ends and even the most experienced developers I know still consider themselves students.
I wouldn’t be where I am in my journey today if I didn’t take risks. I took a risk pouring weeks into my first published game, feeling like I was going in circles at times. But I see now that the skills I was learning working on that project were totally worth it.
When everyone you know is going one way, it can be hard to go another way. Then again, there are a lot of people in their thirties going through a career transition. So while it seems sometimes that you are the only one taking risks in your professional life, remember that you are in good company.
The takeaway: Don’t give up!
I’m not one for cheesy quotes, but I really like this one from C.S. Lewis:
You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream.
No matter where you are in your coding journey-- beginner, intermediate, expert-- I hope you keep setting goals and dreaming dreams. The world will be richer for it.