Building your coding career anew at 36. (Part 1)
October 13, 2019
I’m not fully sure how to begin this, so, I’ll try to take it as pragmatically as I can.
As you are all probably aware by now my name is Gustavo. I’m 36 years old now. Even though for most of my professional career I have worked alongside the technology industry in several of its related niches, this is the first time I’ve embarked full-time on a software engineering / development job opportunity, at GlobalLogic. Yes, I have had freelance experiences as a developer, but never under the brace of full responsibility, teamwork and the structures and conventions they imply.
I’ve decided to take the plunge and leave the comfort of a 14 year experience in the Digital Marketing industry towards building products and projects in Software Engineering. It’s challenging to leave the comfort zone of a job where you know how to embark on new projects without having to rediscover your full toolset. Without knowing what the best practices in many aspects are.
What did this all mean for me?
Well, at this point it would be safe to say it was about time to stop embracing my comfort zone. Working fourteen years into the Digital Marketing industry, especially in management positions for at least 6-7 years, I had a somehow fully fledged plan for everything. From the start. How to present yourself at interviews, what your A-B-C plans would be in most situations, how to handle your times and so on. It was safe to say I had some aspects of the position fully pegged.
And yet, somehow, a while ago, I began to feel stuck at my position and my work. Don’t get me wrong, Marketing is just a good a profession as any. But for reasons sometimes in myself but mostly outside of myself (dimming performances by advertising platforms, impossibility to rank properly in Search Engines and so on, because there were many reasons), I began to feel I needed a change for one reason, to keep myself motivated, and to go for what had been mostly a private passion that had slowly become a freelance profession as well. As a web developer.
But, I was starting at it at 36. So dangerously close to the edge. Why hadn’t I realized this when I was 26? 23? Is there any space for us near-to-be-dinosaurs (not really, we’re still riding the digital wave somehow, but you can begin to feel the distance between our side of the wave and the young people riding the crest right now). At 36 you’re not even remotely dead, that’s for sure, but you’re not feeling anew as if you were 20 and the obligations and capabilities the body and mind have are somehow different than when you were on your twenties.
Heck, for an example, sometimes (most times), friday nights become an excuse to skip the pints and parties, and go straight to bed. Yes, I’ve become an old guy. This wouldn’t even have been a possibility while being younger.
This will probably become a long series so I’ll try to dish it out in different posts for various purposes and processes.
First steps, baby steps. Get stepping.
Ok. So you’ve decided to make a change. I decided on it before this, as well. I decided that by keeping in my previous job position I would simply get stuck, and I would probably get demotivated too. Recognising age, burnout and the possibility of change implies undertaking a set of tasks to make on that change, and above all, patience.
First of all, get to work. Start studying. Options are infinite towards this end, from your presential bootcamps (in my case, living in Argentina you have many useful options, ranging from local ones for us South Americans or Argentines such as Acamica, Digital House, CourseIt -where I have studied-, CoderHouse, Plataforma5, etc.) to your online video sources (Udemy, Egghead.io, Frontend Masters), and some sources even depending on the stack you manage (if you’re going for a JS Based stack for an example, checking out Wes Bos’s videos, or even Mosh Hamedani’s can do you good). Also, some coder bootcamps like Codecademy can be a good fit too.
Make a habit of studying. Set time aside every day. As a friend of mine (/sammartfrank on GitHub) said _“I hated my job so much, I’d start studying at least an hour every day. The worser I felt, the more time I’d put in. It was sort of a personal vengeance.”
Don’t despair and don’t try to take in everything at once. No master is built in one sitting. Many subjects (especially in the JS based-stack) take time to be learnt and internalised. New frameworks and builds to the existing ones are being thrown into the fire every day. Trying to make up for lost time seems like a nice idea but getting desperate can only lead to premature burnout or despair. Be patient, focus, and don’t worry. You’ll get it and eventually get to other things. Try to do one thing at a time, focus, and with practice things will change.
Try to check out what you need to build your portfolio. These are only some ideas but ones to build upon and to follow as guiding ideas. Build on your Github profile. Or your Dev.to profile. Or your Reddit or Stack Overflow profile. Get into challenge sites (like CodeWars) if it’s your fit. Begin to see what your colleagues and/or contemporaries build their profiles on (live projects? Passion projects? Freelance clients? Want to build out a website but don’t know where to start on? Look out for those freebies on behance for an example, those illustrator or XD files, and begin coding them in. Nothing besides practice will do, and the more you put in, the better it will result.
This will continue! I promise. Sorry if this is such a TL;DR.