November 7, 2018

I wish I had started learning coding 20 years ago

I am 52 and while I master the art of Internet Marketing aka. making money on demand, especially by creating software through outsourcing, I wish I had started learning code 20 years ago.

Is it too late now?

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    I started learning to code when I was made redundant for the third time 13 years ago in my 40s. I determined then that I would never work for corporate again and I never have.

    The internet was a much more immature beast back then and finding material from which to learn was much harder than it is today.

    Life in the meantime has not been easy. I won't pretend that it has. I won't pretend, either, that I am the world's best or most efficient programmer - but I can generally get the computer to do what I want and, in the end, unless you are working for the military or some other precision-based, mission-critical organisation, the customer doesn't actually care if your code is not as efficient as it could be.

    Let's put it this way: some of the biggest names out there have had appallingly bad code bases either for their external customer or their internal support products. So long as what you create does something of value to the customer and does it better than they could do it themselves, you will have a market.

    You are not too old to learn how to code. The actual barrier is attitude of mind rather than your age. In business terms, to judge by some of the questions I see here, you may actually have an advantage having been around the block a few times. Obvious though it sounds, it takes a lifetime to gain life experience and you may find that you have ways of thinking about and approaching things which gives you a way in to coding.

    If you have a curious, enquiring mind, you can start learning to code today. There are a number of different languages out there, each one with its own strengths and weaknesses. My personal preference would be to stay away from frameworks, at least in the beginning. Frameworks enforce a particular way of thinking on you. Better, I think, to learn the plain vanilla version of the language so that you understand its capabilities and then, if so inclined, choose a framework which enforces a particular way of approaching coding.

    Remember - everything in code has a physical counterpart. Coding essentially obtains data, stores data, moves data, transforms data and delivers data.

    The data itself is either controlling the computer (screen interactions), controlling an external device (printers, cameras or whatever) or doing something with information which is meaningful to the user.

    When you start to learn, try not to be too clever all at once. If your code takes ten steps to the three a professional would employ, don't worry. You are not comparing yourself to those people. Your initial aim is to create code that does what you want it to do. You can always go back and examine the steps in detail to see where you can make the code more efficient but, just as a successful author cannot bear to read his earliest books, there will come a time when you look back with horror at some of the code monstrosities you let out into the wild.

    The other principle which is really worth bearing in mind is modular coding. Think about your code structure as a series of black boxes, each of which does one thing and one thing only as efficiently as possible. That way, you simply fire data into the black box and it fires back the answer.

    Trust me, that is something easier to observe in the breach than the practice, especially when you are developing something as you go along and pressure of time is upon you!

    Short answer: active brain? You can learn to code.

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      You had me at no 💪🏻🙌🏻

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        Ah - but did you read to the very last full stop?

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          Ofcourse. Nice read 👌🏻

          IMO: Coding isn't age bound. It is interest- and brainpower bound. You stated it nicely and have good suggestions!

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      Great advice here.

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      something that I need to hear. thx!

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        I had a look at your profile to see what you were up to but there's nothing there.

        Are you in a dither at the moment? Frustrated? Overwhelmed? What's the story?

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      Great stuff, Thomas.

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      Thank you Thomas. I appreciate your time and suggestions.

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      Felt awesome to read this. Thanks for sharing :)

      What's your tech stack? and how do you get freelance work, if you don't mind asking.

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        I don't actually do freelance work. At the moment, I'm working with my partner on a project which is close to launch (although I've been saying that for a little while now before stumbling yet again across the next "little" problem which has to be resolved).

        I will be telling IH all about it once we have been launched for a little while. We will be launching slightly shy of the full feature set I wanted to implement but only because we can't exist on fresh air and good wishes and need to start pulling money in as quickly as possible.

        Once launched, I have a list as long as your arm of tasks to do to add the functionality we have left out, to make the code more robust, to add back-end features so my partner can add more content without having to enter directly into the database and so on and so on and so on. And we have a number of other projects which we will start to build once this one has gone live.

        So watch this space - but it will probably be the New Year before I have a chance to talk about how we did.

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    20 years ago you had to move mountains to create stuff that's now done with 5 lines of code and an integrated SaaS api... Times have changed and the world is now your oister.

    Go get em tiger 💪🏻💪🏻🔥🔥🔥

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      Yep the abundance of resources is what tempts me today. Thanks Edwin

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    I'm 29 and I wish I learned to program 20 years ago.

    But hey we both have a lot of time left.

    I've already decided I would be the hacker of whatever retirement home my sons will throw me in

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      My parents had me listening to lines of Assembly being read out loud to me while in the womb. /s

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        No chance of you being "non-binary gender" then ....

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      At nine years old, I barely knew what day of the week it was and wanted to be an engine driver!

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      You have the whole life ahead so rock it!!

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        So do you :)

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    I'm almost 42... started coding when I was around 13 . It's irrelevant.

    Everybody wishes for a lot of things. I wished I never quit martial arts, I wish never quit playing the guitar. Forget that, its not worth it.

    You are not dead... you can start at any second, specially nowadays where you can find trillions of books, videos, tutorials, etc anywhere. 20 years ago was hard to find any kind of information.

    It's going to be harder because you might have a family, a job, less time, more pain (because of age). It's all about managing time, find a good course on some language you want to try, or buy a book (I prefer videos), find a hour or 2 that you can use and start.

    Nowadays single mothers with busy lives (kids, jobs, house, family) can get better jobs because of dedicating some time to it.

    Find a programming language in the area of what you would like to do. Find a course (I would advise something like Spend £10, £20 on 1 or 2 courses and start.

    Start now... now... this second and welcome to the programming world.

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      PS: Also you have a big advantage. You already know marketing (you know what is missing in marketing or what is bad), which is a huge are nowadays. So if you start learning to code you just have to join those 2 things together and make a product what helps or improves something in marketing. Or something else.

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        Thank you Pedro. This has been my motivation.

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          The important thing is to START... and always REMEMBER EVERYDAY WHY YOU STARTED on this path.

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      Thank you. I have plenty of time as a nomad marketer. That's the reason I am thinking about it today. Years ago it'd not be possible.

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        Don't think about it. Start doing it. People take to much time thinking... and less time doing it.

        If you just start ... in 5 months you can look back an think "is this ok for me", "is this what I want to do?" and then choose. Just experiment.

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          Thanks Pedro!

  5. 4

    It's not to late at all !! Age got nothing to do with it . Now it's easier then ever !

    For me it's I know to code more then 20 years

    And I wish I know how to do business 20 years ago


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    I love how encouraging everyone is in this thread, but I think if you go forward you should be aware of two things:

    • even very intelligent people who immerse themselves in challenging engineering tasks, take a good 5 years before they're "10x developers." Most 3 month bootcamp grads, employers don't want to hire (rightfully)

    • there is significant ageism in the industry regardless

    That said, if you have a passion for it, do it! Especially if you're interested in creating your own stuff. Or learn how to build custom integrations, martech stacks, EFT scripts so that you can use your Internet Marketing cred and just add coding skills to it.

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    The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.

    I guess your post title was inspired by this Chinese proverb, wasn't it? 😉

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      Ha, I just replied with the same thing, before seeing yours

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      I didn't have it in mind, but it makes full sense. :)

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    I do too. And I'm only in my 20s 😉. Sometimes I see these teen whiz kids making crazy shit like @Booligoosh with KanbanMail but then I remember that it's never too late to do anything, really, much less code.

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      Hmm... should we create a forum for newbie coders, exchange info and find accountability partners there? Just an idea

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    The best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago, the next best is today.

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      Good reminder ;)

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    Problem with the world is - Everyone regrets what they didn't start, but only rare capitalize what they are today . (period)

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      Wise. But I have already capitalized what I am today. :)

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    No I don't think that it's too late for you, it really depends if you want to put in the hours and months of study it's going to take to become an expert. I used to work for a man that was 45 and he is still programming now 15 years later. I also read an article recently that explained how a study showed that people can do their best work at any age.

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    Say you have enough vitality to have a career for the next 14 years, but feasibly 18, if you're healthy (we are getting older and healthier, might as well acknowledge that work is part of a good life and not something to escape from when old).

    What have you done with the past 14 years of your life? During that time, what did you really want to do, and did you get it done? (Sometimes we spin because of lack of resources or not being in the right environment.)

    If you want to inject more meaning in the world - and as you age, this not only becomes more relevant, you've also got more meaning to add - you need skills, money, and a network to go far.

    Being in demand enough to choose your work and have an engaged network will add esteem to your life. If you're selective, it'll also give you some projects and time and money to add meaning to what you can do on the side.

    Having time, but not money or network can mean that the meaning you would inject becomes harder to sell / dependent on luck to go nearly as far. But I see further down that you are a marketer, so you can offer this skill already to people who've got ideas and don't know how to get them heard.

    Basically think like an effective altruist: what can you muscle down and do now, to have a greater effect now and over the long term? If you're inclined to learn to code and have bigger things in mind than the next entertaining gadget or distraction hub, you can do a lot of good - or you can make a lot of money to help others do a lot of good.

    If you already have ideas that have a code-based component, you've got an internal incentive to get started. But you might need an external incentive to sit down and make a coding habit.

    I'm coming at this answer to your question not just as someone who admires effective altruists; I also built a workbook/online course for people who are facing a Big Change Question, as it's an opportunity to do a holistic review and create a humane plan for themselves. And I, too, know I need to set aside the time to learn to code, at least to be a better solo builder and team player/leader.

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    Hi John, I am 41 and also wish to had started learning to code 20 years ago. But life happens. You take decisions. You carry lessons learned. I think all this has the purpose to facilitate knowing yourself. I had a long time when I don't know what way should I take. Now I am learning to code and building a project. I have more energy in the mornings that never. I found what I wanted to do ahead. Some people die without knowing what to do with his lifes. I am very grateful to had found my path at 41. We both have plenty of time to have a lot of fun ahead coding. Let's enjoy it.

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    I started coding when i was 12 years old - I'm 51. Not one day goes by i am not learning something new.

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    Absolutely not, it's never too late for learning something new :)

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    It’s not too late, but you will have to be efficient in your study habits.

    Two resources that spring to mind are: Rob Conery’s imposters handbook: and this Laurie Voss talk (which should be a book!) “Stuff Everyone Knows Except for You”:

    Best wishes!


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      Thank you very much Leon

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    If you have some basic understanding of HTML + CSS I'm sure that you'll be able to pick up some javascript frameworks through internet tutorials:)

    I personally like frameworks such as React.JS as it allows you to write something that looks & feels like HTML but can function like an app.

    And once you understand React JS you are well on your way to understanding React Native which looks & works very similar but allows you to create mobile apps.

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      Yes I know HTML and can read CSS. I also understand how javascript works. I'll check React JS.

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        If you already understand those things then I feel that React is a good next step to take.

        Here's a popular youtube playlist to help you get started:

        Coding is always hard at first, it's quite discouraging and most people give up, but the people who stick to it eventually manages to break through a wall and after that everything gets a lot easier, learning your first language/framework will be a lot harder than learning your second language.

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    If I could go back 20 years it wouldn't be to code. There are a lot of paths to a happy life 🙂

    I think a good exercise would be to think about where you want to be 20 years from now, because no matter what you're doing then, there'll be something you wish you'd done now.

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      Ben I am where I wanted to be today. So this is not an issue. Hence coding can be a good hobby because I have much time. Just wondering if it'd work or not. That's it. :)

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    What I regret is not finding someone with superb marketing or sales skills 10 years ago. I got the technical skills but that isn't worth much without someone selling what I program.

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      What I regret is not having found people I can rely on earlier in fields that I obviously lack skills/experience/talent in. For the most part this relates to designers, as I'm pretty okay in other fields than development.

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        Yep. You can easily find a coder but coders that can also design and apply a great UI are rare.

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          I am on this path👆. I am a pro UXer and been learning code since 2016

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      Well selling and marketing is my expertise. But I have spent a fortune creating over 300 scripts and apps with the help of freelancers. I'd have saved lots of money. With that in mind, I decided instead of just paying for getting my software done, joining forces with noble coders and share profits. A win-win situation and it works.

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        yeah, a partnership changes everybody's mind and dedication.

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    It is never too late for anything that's for sure. Go for it if you want it.

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      Thank you Bruno