Does software development have an age limit?

Are you too old to code?

Does software development have an age limit?

Ageism in the tech industry has been a bit of a sore point for quite a while now.

You only need to visit the career websites for the top tech companies and see a lot of young faces smiling back at you from the photos.

This can often give off the wrong impression that only young people get hired to be software developers. Some industries do seem to prefer younger candidates, such as tech startups, especially when the CEO themselves is under 30.

This could be an unconscious bias for those doing the hiring. They want to hire people they are going to get along with, so they end up recommending candidates who are of a similar age range.

In some cases, though, the reasons are less innocent.

Young people generally have fewer commitments such as children or a spouse that are going to tear them away from the office. If the company is looking for its employees to be completely committed, then staff in their 20s are likely to have fewer distractions outside of work.

If you are on the other side of 30, like me, don’t give up just yet. When you look at more established companies that have more employees and have been around for 10 years or more, they do tend to have less bias towards younger developers. You often see experienced developers move towards contracting as a way to get paid more for the same hours.

Not all developers are created equal, but in my experience, a capable senior developer can get a lot more done than the equivalent number of junior developers for the same cost.

For example, a £100,000 a year senior developer can typically achieve 4 times as much as 2 junior developers on £50,000.

If you add AI tools to the mix, then a senior developer can achieve many multiples more. Knowing what to input into these AI tools is half the battle, and this is where experience typically wins.

Being young has its advantages though when it comes to learning to code.

Generally, you have more free time and more energy to learn things which can go in your favour. As we get older, it can be difficult to find the time to learn new things, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be done.

Although I vaguely remember reading something about losing sleep killing brain cells, which if true, would mean most parents are nearly brain-dead by now.

What if I am over 30 and want to learn to code?

If you are over 30 and want to learn to code it is possible, there is no age limit.

If you want to get a head start, I would recommend using ChatGPT as a free mentor to help you learn. You can use it to debug code as well as explain error messages to you.

The downside of the free version of ChatGPT is that it tends to be quite slow, and you will occasionally get network errors. To avoid these, try using it at times when other people will be asleep.

In the UK, I have found that ChatGPT is quite responsive on Sunday mornings, probably because most of the US is still asleep.

Is AI going to change anything?

AI tools are making software development even more accessible to the masses.

I can imagine it won’t be long before an entire working application can be written with a single prompt.

I can only imagine that this is going to make experienced software developers even more in demand. Although it will be our ability to accurately describe what needs to be created, as well as validating and debugging, that will be more important going forward.

Things are moving so fast in the AI world and I must admit I am getting a bad case of FOMO with everything that is going on. I am going to be digging into AI a lot more in the common months, so you can expect some more posts about it from me soon.

❤️ Picks of the Week

📝 Article - The inside story of how ChatGPT was built from the people who made it. If you can't tell from some of my recent posts, I have been going down an AI rabbit hole recently. It is fascinating, so I am trying to follow my curiosity and learn more about it. This is a great article about how they built ChatGPT.

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🎬 YouTube - Backend Developer Roadmap - Everything you need to know in 2023. Half the problem with learning how to code as you progress through your career is knowing what to learn. I mentioned last week that I put together a roadmap. In this week's video, I go through the roadmap and explain each of the topics.

💬 Quote of the Week

Let go of the thing that you’re trying to be (the noun), and focus on the actual work you need to be doing (the verb). Doing the verb will take you someplace further and far more interesting.

From Keep Going (affiliate link) by Austin Kleon. Resurfaced with Readwise.