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Listener Question: Am I Too Old for a Career in Tech?

Published 7/14/2016

In today's episode, I answer Utsha and Kim's questions about whether or not they are too old for a career in the tech industry.

Today's episode is sponsored by WooCommerce! WooCommerce is customizable eCommerce built on WordPress, and is powering 30% of all online stores. Use the code "developertea" to get 25% off at WooCommerce.com now!

Transcript (Generated by OpenAI Whisper)
Hey everyone and welcome to Developer Tea. My name is Jonathan Cutrell and in today's episode I answer a listener question about being too old for a developer career. Today's episode is sponsored by WooCommerce. WooCommerce is customizable eCommerce built on WordPress. We will talk more about what WooCommerce has to offer later on in today's episode, but first I want to get straight to this question. It's actually a question I received in two separate emails back to back days. It's the same question. One of the emails was from someone named Utsha and the other one is from Kim. I hope I pronounced both of your names correctly. Both of them asked me a few questions, but the one that stuck out to me is that they are both wondering about their age and if they're too old. Utsha is interested in working in cybersecurity and Kim is looking to become a front-end developer or one of the questions Kim asked directly was simply am I too old to become a front-end developer or is that a myth? So I'm going to break this down to you very, very simply. No, you're not too old for a career. Here's the thing, both of these people are younger than 30. So certainly you're not too young or too old rather for almost any career that you want to pursue except maybe something like professional sports. But even then it's probably possible. I want to address this because I think both Utsha and Kim are experiencing a common feeling of being too old. The reality of this industry is that almost no one is too old to start a career in the tech industry and I can prove this to you relatively quickly. So we know smartphones have been around for a while but the iPhone, as we know it, has only been around for nine years. Let's stop and think about the implications of that. It's something that we often probably are not thinking about. The iPhone is only nine years old which means that every iPhone game company, every developer who started learning to code to build iPhone apps, every person who has made a career out of iPhone development has done that in the last nine years. They've built entire careers, entire multi-million dollar companies. There's a whole industry that has sprung up in nine years. But you don't have to just look at the iPhone. You can fill in the blank with almost any technology and you'll see just how quickly this industry moves. If you rewind a few years and look at when certain things were released, you'll realize wow, that was really not that long ago that React was released for example, right? Like, these things are not very old. It's easy to feel like you've been left behind because in many cultures, a career path is often chosen around the same time a person leaves home to live on their own. In the United States, for example, it's often the case that people choose a career path and they stick with it for a significant amount of time once they get out of college. We're talking about somewhere between the age of 18 and 24. Once you get past 24, you start thinking that your options are leaving you behind that somehow there's someone that is deciding whether or not you're allowed to enter the industry, whatever industry it is. There's someone who gets to decide whether or not you are allowed to enter the industry based on your age. And quite simply, that's not true. And Kim and Utsha, I want to give you two pieces of advice today to help you not only feel like you aren't too old, but to feel energized again and passionate about your potential careers in the software development industry or really any industry that you choose. If you're listening to this episode today and you are not a developer and you're not interested in becoming one, this is still completely relevant to you. This is all about choosing what you do with your life. It's about choosing what you do with your life despite your age. We're going to talk about that right after this quick sponsor break. Today's episode is once again sponsored by WooCommerce. WooCommerce launched in 2011. It was acquired by Automatic last year. And if you aren't familiar with it yet, well, you will be. WooCommerce is e-commerce built on top of WordPress. WooCommerce actually powers over 30% of all online stores. It's the world's most popular e-commerce platform. One of those stores that WooCommerce supports is called For Barrel Coffee. You guys know that I'm a tea drinker, but I certainly drink coffee pretty much every day too. I know quite a few of the listeners who are hearing this episode are from San Francisco or you're in the Bay Area. For Barrel Coffee are an independent coffee roaster based out of San Francisco. They got a really cool website that they built on top of WooCommerce. It's impressive how customizable WooCommerce is. It doesn't look like it's out of the box. It is totally their own thing. It fits For Barrel's brand. And it's not just a normal e-commerce site where they sell products and ship them. They also have a membership option. It's like a coffee club, a monthly coffee club. If you've been wanting to build a site like that for a product that you're using, or if you know of one of your clients that wants to build some kind of subscription option into their sites, WooCommerce may be the perfect option for you. If you use the code Developer Tea, you can get 25% off across the store on WooCommerce.com. Go and check it out. www.WooCommerce.com. Don't forget that special code Developer Tea. And of course, that link and the special code can be found in the show notes at spec.fm. Thanks again to WooCommerce for sponsoring Developer Tea. And now I feel like I need to get a cup of coffee. We're talking today about age. We're talking about being too old for a career. But we're really talking about something a little bit different because age as the common saying goes, age is really just a number. Everybody lives a different number of years in their life. Everybody does different things at different ages just because you didn't become a millionaire at 20. Doesn't mean you won't become a millionaire at 30 or 40 or 50 or at all. Nobody is guaranteed anything at a specific age other than you have aged that many years if you live to that age. So really, I mean, age is kind of an arbitrary thing. And trying to answer a question like, am I too old for this, that is really your responsibility. And that's what it comes down to. Kim, Ucha, this is your responsibility to decide for yourself. And I want to give you two pieces of advice. Hopefully these are motivation oriented pieces of advice that will help you get to the place where you not only know that you're not too old for the industry, but you're excited for all of the time that you can spend in this industry. So let's go ahead and jump straight in. Number one, the first piece of advice that I have for you if you are feeling like maybe you're too old for something, do something you'll be happy doing until the end of your life. If you are doing work, you are passionate enough to do forever, then as long as you're alive, it will never be too late to do that work. Think about that for a second. If you are doing something that you're going to do all the way until the last day of your life, right? If you're excited about it all the way as long as you have breath in your body, if you are excited about the thing that you are doing, then it does not matter if you're doing it. Then it doesn't matter when you start because you're going to do it for the remainder of your life anyway. In other words, if you have some alternative or if you're choosing to do this thing, only if you can meet certain objectives and you have other alternatives, then strongly consider if you actually are going to enjoy a career in this anyway. Start a new career in the tech industry if you're not going to enjoy it. For example, I know that once I retire, even if I work a little bit less than I'm working today, I will always enjoy teaching. I will always enjoy learning. I will always enjoy creating things. I'm not going to sit on a porch and not do those things. That's not a happy alternative for me. I will teach, learn and create every single day of my life that I am able to. So I'm not thinking about whether or not I'm too old to teach, learn or create. I will never be too old as long as I'm alive to do those things. From a practical job market perspective, I also don't think that you are too old, especially you, UCHANG, you're certainly not too old if you're under 30. But most people are not too old to push into this as a career either. Tons of people are hired well into their 30s, 40s, 50s, 60s in this career. This really leads me to my second point, which is the main person you have to convince of this is yourself. Hopefully that doesn't come as too big of a surprise. But that's the truth. The main person you have to convince that you are ready to do this work, that you're ready to push into this industry and learn and be motivated. The main person you have to convince of those things is yourself. There is no one who will believe with any level of intensity that you are too old to start a career in the tech space. No one is going to be adamant about that. Or the only one who can be adamant that you are too old for it. If you believe that you are too old to start a career in this field, the biggest job you have is to convince yourself otherwise. In this field, the limits are not on age. If you are asking if you miss the boat on becoming a professional football player, I'd be a bit more careful with how I answer this, with how extremely on one side of this I am, but in a career like software development, people start at all different ages from 15 to 50 and well beyond. One thing that all of the people who succeed having common is that at some point, they looked at themselves in the mirror and they said, I can do this. I can create a career for myself in this field. I can be successful in this field. So your number one job, the main person that you have to convince is yourself. Finally, I want to leave those of you who feel kind of like you're getting too old to do something and so it's your past or prime or something like that. I want to leave you with a quote that has been incredibly motivating for me when I think am I too late to try something. The quote is a Chinese proverb and it reads simply, the best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now. I hope this has inspired some of you to go out and push forward into something that you're willing to do for every day for the rest of your life. That is the hope for the best kind of career. One that when you retire, you just want to go back to work. You enjoy doing that thing so much. If that is what this looks like to you, what the tech space looks like to you, then I highly encourage you to stop thinking about how old you are or whether or not you're too old for something. Instead, start thinking about the next thing you want to build. Start thinking about the next client that you want to engage. The next group of people you want to help with technology. The next thing that you want to learn to grow your knowledge about development. There are so many opportunities for you and the last thing you need to do is focus on your age. Thank you so much for listening to today's episode of Developer Tea. I hope it was inspiring for you. I was inspired just creating this episode. So thank you so much for sending in those questions. You, Sean Kim, they are certainly well received and I think you are not the only ones that this episode is going to resound with. So thank you so much for involving yourself with the Developer Tea community. And of course, if you would like to send in a question for me to talk about on the show, you can always reach out to me at Developer Tea at gmail.com. Of course, you can reach me in the spec slack community by going to spec.fm slash slack. Thanks again to today's awesome sponsor, WuCommerce. WuCommerce is customizable. ECommerce built on WordPress and you can get 25% off at WuCommerce.com today by using the code developert. That link and that special code and all of the other relevant links from today's episode can be found in the show notes at spec.fm. If you're enjoying it, Developer Tea make sure you subscribe in whatever podcasting app you use to the show. This is the best way to make sure you don't miss out on future content from developert. Thank you so much for listening and until next time, enjoy your tea.