Over 40 with 12 yo Computer Science degree

12 years ago I got a Bachelor degree in Computer Science from a University. The degree consisted of advanced programming because it was aimed at research. 80% was programming and 20% was reading theory. :slight_smile: This was just after the dotcom bubble. All the layoffs and bankruptcies I heard about in the news over several years discouraged me from continuing the developer / coding career path. So I changed to economics and eventually did a master degree in economics. Half of the subjects in the master degree are Computer Science (distributed systems, parallel programming etc). I know (or more accurately knew) C, C++, C#, Java and Python. And assembler. :slight_smile:

Since then I have worked in project management and business development. I have done little coding over the last 12 years although it’s there in the back of my mind. Maybe 4 years of intense programming is not easily forgotten? I think I could pick it back up.

In management jobs, I have seen more “elbows” than in SW teams that I’ve managed. Sometimes I’d like to concentrate on problem solving in the office rather than flying in meetings all day. It takes quite a lot of energy dealing with people. Project Management is mostly about dealing with people.

What started the thought process of going back to coding from management was a SW conference I recently attended. There I learned that 50% of people working as programmers don’t have formal academic degrees in CS or IT

Which made me realize that I have a chance to switch because of the Computer Science degree. What keeps me back is lack of actual programming experience for the last 12 years. On the plus side I have developed soft skills and people skills. I understand what is value adding and I’ve been an interpreter between users/clients and the developer teams.

What are your opinions? Is it too late to brush the dust off of programming and go back to coding from a management position? What would be the best course of action to demonstrate that I really can still do coding?

I have actually thought about doing a 2nd masters degree (in CS, Machine Learning, Big Data or similar) but maybe this is overkill. :slight_smile:

Thanks for reading and cheers!

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If you want to prove you can still code, build a portfolio of projects. It should help to shake off the cobwebs and bring you up to speed on any changes in language standards/best practices well. The second masters probably is overkill…

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scmcodes - thanks for your suggestion. Yes I see many refer to their projects in Github. I also see there are “coding camps” lasting a few months or so but I believe these could be too easy after a short time.

I do believe employers find it attractive to hire programmers with a diverse background, not necessarily including a computer science degree or similar (although it is an advantage). I see some developers have arts and politics backgrounds for example.

Coding is coding, yes things have changed (and keep changing) but most of the core things haven’t.

  • You still need to deal with people. People skills are always must haves, and often are overlooked.
  • Code is still Code. Java, Python, C, C# are all still used today
  • Theory never “gets old”. Things just might go out of style every now and then.

Some things have changed in the last 10 years and are worth looking into (just to get a feel of the land)

  • Cloud technologies, AWS, Microsoft Cloud, Google Cloud
  • Containerization technologies has changed dramatically, VMs have given way to containers.
  • JavasScript usage has dramatically grown due Nodejs, and has grown more powerful on the client-side.
  • Mobile development

If you want to get back into programming I recommend going back to your roots and brushing up on the changes to the landscape since you originally learned it. Languages like Java and Python have changed dramatically over the years in their own way, but most of the core ideas behind them are the same. The theory you learned still applies, but the syntax has probably changed when it comes to languages :slight_smile:.

I personally don’t believe going into higher education is necessary if you want to be a “ground level” programmer. Having raw experience working with X is better than learning the theory behind X. Obviously both are important and are great to have, but experience is experience. I’d only go into higher level education if you plan on teaching, or management. (Business degree with a CS degree is a great way to get into project management and big $$$) Since you already have a Masters you should be able to get your foot in the door for most entry level jobs, as long as you show you know enough about the current development landscape.

I knew a family friend who got a doctorate in physiology or something and couldn’t find a job. They ended up working for Facebook as a Software Engineer as they had a Bachelors in Computer Science from way back. Obviously having a doctorate didn’t hurt their job prospects aswell haha.

Thanks for your input Brad! Yes, I find it pretty easy to get project management jobs with my combination of business and CS degrees and yes the pay is quite decent. I like “doing” and being creative which is more of a possibility when writing code than managing.
You are right, code is code and I have often thought that coding is like riding a bike. Once you learn it…

I will read more about the changes you suggest, especially containerization and JavaScript.
I also see that Udacity has something they call “nano degrees” lasting 4 months with 10 hours / week. Perhaps this could be adequate in order to get rid of the cobwebs and demonstrate proficiency for a potential employer :slight_smile:

Nice to hear that it was possible for your family friend to get a Facebook job with a CS degree from way back. Often it’s a question about demonstrating that you have learned how to learn.

41 with only 2 years of STEM and some software development. Hired S/W dev now and in LAMP.

Having a CS degree is a leg up if you can prove you can code like everyone said. however, finish the FCC course here, purchase a few udemys, and develop a github. Apply everywhere and don’t get discouraged with dozens of rejections. Don’t feel it has to do with your skill especially if you are passionate.

Javascript is by far the most important “new” old language you need to learn. If the last time you coded was in 1995 you need to go far beyond alert().

Hope to hear more from your adventures back into development land :slight_smile:

Imo a master’s, unless there is a specific requirement for one to get a specific job, is probably a waste of your time. If you have lots of time and money to throw away, then it would likely be extremely rewarding, but you definitely do not have the former. Working is going to be the fastest way to get skilled, but then obviously it’s catch-22 at the minute.

The people/management skills are a massive massive plus, as is working in economics. And I think a lot depends on how quickly you can dust off the CS skills that will have atrophied. But the main issue I think you’re going to have, which I think you’re acutely aware of, is going from that to junior level. There’ll be questions raised as to why you want to take that drop in security, if nothing else. Is there any chance you can use programming within your current role even if it’s just to automate some of your own tasks? And/or is there any chance of you being able to move sideways into something like your current role, but explicitly project managing programmers (which would then place you in an environment where you could accelerate your learning by leaning on the knowledge of colleagues)? If you can gain strong skills in programming, then you’ll have an absolutely killer skillset, but the time needed to gain experience is what’s working against you.

Other people have suggested pretty good stuff to kinda kick things off. And there are a load of other people on the forums who’ve sucessfully started their careers in development much later than early 20s, so you’re not alone at all here.

Thanks WhisperPntr for sharing your experience. I’m glad that you managed to get hired! I’m slowly getting back to coding and in some projects that I manage in my current role, I get to do some coding which is quite fortunate!

I’m also doing a Udacity nanodegree which I think can be helpful to get rid of some of the cobwebs :slight_smile: There are probably free courses that teach you the same.


Dan yeah I think you are right. Soft skills along with economics competence is a good combination with programming. When I did the CS degree at Uni, the programming was scientifically directed, probably 80% of the time was spent coding and 20% reading CS books. So the coding we did was pretty advanced (for example I wrote an operating system), so that’s why I think I could gain back the programming skills pretty quickly.

Yes, it is possible to do coding in my current job, which I will try to do.
I also do a nanodegree at Udacity which could jumpstart getting the cobwebs off :slight_smile:

Dan, thanks so much for your input - I appreciate it. What kind of work do you do now by the way and do you think having a masters is an advantage?