Learning to code can be a daunting task at any age but entering a Coding Bootcamp where the average age range of the students is 18-25 can make an aspiring web developer who is older feel out of place. I attended a Coding Bootcamp at the age of 31, and while I am still technically considered a millennial (And I am super young at heart), even I have felt like there is a bias in tech/startup culture that leans towards a younger crowd. In 2016 the organizers of a hackathon threatened to disqualify our team after 24+ hours of coding for being “too old to compete” even though the only age requirements at the event were that the participants be 18+.
Although you may face some challenges as an adult coder, learning to code can be one of the most rewarding things you can do as a human being, and there is no reason to let societies biases stop you from following your dreams. In this article, we are going to talk about how you can overcome any potential bias and how you probably have a lot more advantages than you think.
Let your work speak for itself
The beautiful thing about tech is that it is a show and prove industry. You don’t need a license to pimp out your portfolio or create an epic Chrome extension. Showcase your skills by creating a collection of side projects and demo applications. This is how your creativity can set you apart from the pack, regardless of your age. Let your website/portfolio show your personality and your projects on GitHub; showcase your creativity and problem-solving skills.
Don’t wear a suit
Listen, I get it. You want to take your career seriously. But if you walk into an interview wearing a full three-piece suit & meanwhile the person interviewing you is wearing a t-shirt, it is going to get a little bit awkward. I am not saying you have to wear a t-shirt. Do your research and ask the interviewer beforehand what the dress code is when setting up the appointment for an in-person interview.
Leveraging Industry Knowledge
This is a big one. If you have been an investment banker or accountant for the last 20 years and you are just starting a new career in tech at age 45, you might feel as though you have no relevant work experience, but you couldn’t be more wrong.
Today, every company is becoming a tech company in some way shape or form. (And the ones who don’t evolve are going extinct.) Now more than ever, software developers are in high demand at a wide range of organizations, not only Silicon Valley startups.
If you are coming from a career in another field, consider applying to the tech department in that industry or disrupt that industry in a tech startup that focuses on that vertical. Your domain expertise is super valuable and relevant at this point. At a FinTech startup, the fact that you have 20 years experience in finance AND you know how to code is a HUGE asset that can set you apart from your younger less experienced counterparts.
Another advantage to having a wealth of previous job experience is the ability to work with and manage a team of people. If you ever held any managerial role in another industry, I would highly recommend taking a course on SCRUM and learning the fundamental principles of running an Agile Software development team. Your people skills and seniority can be a benefit to an organization looking for a tech team lead where you are skilled at coding but also at managing the timeline and product backlog of a project.
Depending on where you want to apply, there can be varying amounts of age bias. The fact is that Millennials and Gen Z make up for close to 50% of the tech workforce and when you look specifically at Silicon Valley tech startups, that number is even higher. At some companies, the bias might be worse than others, and a lot of it is subliminal and subconscious.
Ageism in the Tech Industry is a real thing, but hopefully, this article provided you with some insights into overcoming age bias and even using your seniority to your advantage.
Let me know your thoughts in the comment section below.