Am I too old?



  • I just finished my AS in Computer Science and am rolling that over into a BS in Computer Science. The problem is that I am 28 years old. I didn't decide on Computer Science as my major until I was 26. From 18 until today, I have roughly 5 years experience in the IT industry. First working as tech support, then computer repair, then as an IT manager and currently as an IT assistant at another company. (There is some non-IT work in the ten years from 18-28)

    The problem I am having is that no matter how much I love the field, I don't see myself being where I feel that I should be. When compared with my co-workers, I seem to be lacking in my skills. At everly level of the industry I run into people who seem to know a great deal more than I. For instance, the guy that took over my previous job came in the first day and started talking about how he would use a shell script here, do that in Crystal Reports, use a Perl Script here, etc., etc. Part of me thought he was full of crap, spouting off buzzwords. The other part of me thought he might actually know what he is talking about.

    Here are the things I am comfortable with:

    C++
    Java
    Javascript
    VB.net
    PHP
    CSS
    Linux
    Postfix
    Apache
    Networking
    A multitude of little "tech support" type facts

    I don't know any GUI beyond Java. I have taken the initiative to learn a lot on my own. I have a pretty large library of books at home. I started my own website as a lab for enhancing my skills. I certainly have a love for the field and am working hard to get my skills up. My question, is considering that I won't graduate from the BS program
    until after my 31st birthday, what are my chances of having a good
    career in this field? Can I realistic get my skills where they need to be by age 40 so that I am not lost on most projects? (I figure from 40-60, I can pull down enough money to retire.)

    I am not a complete newbie, but I am not a guru
    either. I would say that I am some where between newbie and knowledgeable. I don't want to be 40 years old and still working entry level positions. It's not so much the money as it is the pride that comes from working your way up the ladder and achieving something. Being able to hold your head high and know that you are good in your field. I am starting to think I should change careers to something I may have a better opportunity in.
     



  • I'll never understand why there are so many questions of this type on this board.   I always have to ask, "What do you want to do with your computer science degree?"   Do you want to be a code monkey?  Software architect/engineer?  Video games? Simulations? Mathematical analysis?  Business applications?  Office software?  Networking?  Webapps?  Graphics?  Forensics?  Computer repair?  Help desk?  IT/IS?   Embedded systems?  Hardware?  Compiliers?  [...]

     

    You can't be an expert in all fields (and you shouldn't take a job that wants you to be!).  So, pick a field, learn the state of the art, apply your CS theory classes to that field, and do some projects.    Apply for jobs in that field.   The projects can be great added experience for a new graduate (even though you have work experience as well).  That experience will allow you to know the field and the buzzwords.  It will also let you know if this is an area you really want to be in.


    So, yes, you can get your skills up, but probabally not in "computer science," you'll need to specialize, like everyone else does. 

     



  • I was in the same boat as you a few years ago. I had skipped out on college for several years, didn't start back till I was 24, and didn't switch to CS until I was 26. I also ended up on the extended degree plan, given that I had to start going half-time to support my growing family. By the time I graduated, I was 31 and my oldest was starting kindergarten.

    The degree is important, but so are your skillsets. If you want to write software, yes, work on your skillsets, but also work on computational theory and especially software engineering and modeling. Learn database theory. If you want to research, pick up topics like data mining and AI.

    I would suggest that you take classes that have some sort of mid- to large-scale project involved. Pick a project type that you've never done before but that fits into what you see yourself doing when you graduate (i.e. writing a game, or building a middle-ware tool), using a language you don't know, and learn as you go. Doing is one of the best ways to learn a skill, and you get to make the necessary mistakes without worries about consequences.

    Regarding jobs.... do your best to find a place you can work at while you're going to school, somebody who will let you flex your hours. Volunteer if you have to. I had the good fortune to work for a small internet service provider building web applications while I was going to school. Build up the experience so that you don't have to look for entry-level jobs, or so that you have an advantage over other entrants.



  • [quote user="Whiskey Tango Foxtrot? Over."]

    I was in the same boat as you a few years ago. I had skipped out on college for several years, didn't start back till I was 24, and didn't switch to CS until I was 26. I also ended up on the extended degree plan, given that I had to start going half-time to support my growing family. By the time I graduated, I was 31 and my oldest was starting kindergarten.

    The degree is important, but so are your skillsets. If you want to write software, yes, work on your skillsets, but also work on computational theory and especially software engineering and modeling. Learn database theory. If you want to research, pick up topics like data mining and AI.

    I would suggest that you take classes that have some sort of mid- to large-scale project involved. Pick a project type that you've never done before but that fits into what you see yourself doing when you graduate (i.e. writing a game, or building a middle-ware tool), using a language you don't know, and learn as you go. Doing is one of the best ways to learn a skill, and you get to make the necessary mistakes without worries about consequences.

    Regarding jobs.... do your best to find a place you can work at while you're going to school, somebody who will let you flex your hours. Volunteer if you have to. I had the good fortune to work for a small internet service provider building web applications while I was going to school. Build up the experience so that you don't have to look for entry-level jobs, or so that you have an advantage over other entrants.

    [/quote]

    Thank you for your response. The main question I had was if a 30-ish year old, who is just now really starting to get beyond the entry level stuff, can make it in the workplace? I take it from your post that it is possible. That you can be at 30 where you probably should have been at 20 and still come out okay.

    I feel adequate in my skills and my skill progression, but I am aware that I don't match up to someone who got their degree in their early 20's or who learned a lot of the stuff I am learning now at an earlier age. That was my main concern; if I would always be playing catch to the extent that I wouldn't get very far in the industry.



  • @Jerim said:

    I feel adequate in my skills and my skill progression, but I am aware that I don't match up to someone who got their degree in their early 20's or who learned a lot of the stuff I am learning now at an earlier age. That was my main concern; if I would always be playing catch to the extent that I wouldn't get very far in the industry.

    I've got news for ya: even if you're 20, you'll always be playing catch-up in the software industry. There's always a new methodology, framework, or language on the horizon. Read the magazines, pick up a few books, and troll the blogs, and you'll do fine.

    If you're not married to anything, I suggest you look into C#, and keep an eye on .NET 3.0. I don't think it's going away anytime soon. That said, keep up with other stuff out there, 'specially Java and Ruby.



  • Yes!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!



  • @Whiskey Tango Foxtrot? Over. said:

    I've got news for ya: even if you're 20, you'll always be playing catch-up in the software industry. There's always a new methodology, framework, or language on the horizon. Read the magazines, pick up a few books, and troll the blogs, and you'll do fine.

    Agreed. When I get the opportunity to teach newbies the ropes, this is one of the first things I tell them. Anyone who thinks that they'll get a nice cushy IT job that never changes is going to get hit with a big surprise. The key is to focus on the fundamentals...good troubleshooting, logical workthrough of a problem, big-picture thinking, etc... Almost every new buzzword that comes out is a reinvention of something that has been done in the past, this time with new technology toys attached. For example. the latest concepts of on-demand computing have been well laid out in the 70s and 80s, when everyone bought compute-time on monster machines that were not personally owned.

    The problem is keeping up with the buzzwords so you can stay employed, even though you know this has been done before.



  • You are never too old.

    I spent 9 years in the military, then switched majors in school (from Aviation to Computer Science - wife still wants to kill me).  I've been working in IT for 10 years and am 42 (the math is left as an exercise).


     



  • Ignore CPound, he has some issues which he's taking out on other people.


    You're not too old, though your career might face challenges -- one of them being kiddies like this guy who think 40 is 'elderly'. Damn whippersnappers.

    -cw
     
     
    Moderator's note: CPound's post has gone with the wind. 



  • @Moderator said:

    Moderator's note: CPound's post has gone with the wind. 

    I said I was just joking around. I don't understand why people take my posts so seriously. This forum is getting pretty fascist if you ask me. 



  • @CPound said:

    @Moderator said:

    Moderator's note: CPound's post has gone with the wind. 

    I said I was just joking around. I don't understand why people take my posts so seriously. This forum is getting pretty fascist if you ask me. 

    I will not tolerate insulting posts like the one I've deleted.
     



  • @ammoQ said:

    @CPound said:

    @Moderator said:

    Moderator's note: CPound's post has gone with the wind. 

    I said I was just joking around. I don't understand why people take my posts so seriously. This forum is getting pretty fascist if you ask me. 

    I will not tolerate insulting posts like the one I've deleted.

    Thank you for sparing me whatever nonsense was uttered :)

    I just love how people cry 'censorship' or worse when they get caught trolling. Tsk, tsk.



  • @Nandurius said:

    Thank you for sparing me whatever nonsense was uttered :)

    I just love how people cry 'censorship' or worse when they get caught trolling. Tsk, tsk.

    Granted, what I posted was nonsense. But it was funny nonsense.

    If you had read what I wrote at the beginning of the post, you would have understood that I meant no harm.

    I meant no disrespect to the originator of this thread, rather I was poking fun at the "ills of our industry".

    My satire is pretty deep. It takes a seasoned programmer to really "get" what I'm all about.

    Sometimes you have to read between the lines to fully appreciate the humor. I'm mocking something, but it's usually no one on TheDailyWTF.

    I consider all of you my colleagues, people to commiserate with. My intent was never to offend.

    I'm considering leaving TheDailyWTF because it has gotten rather militant with the post removals...kinda sad really. 



  • I think I've worked with more non-CS/CIS developers than not. Stock brockers, cattle futures traders, psychologists, you name it.

    I also know quite a few people who have been in IT since they graduated college and they can't wait to move on to new careers... newbie, seasoned or otherwise, sometimes you just want out (every week, I wish I was a pharmacist. I want to move to a small town but it's not as practical as, say, if I were in a profession that can scale to any size town).

     At some point, you're going to have to be happy to be a generalist that knows a little about a lot of things in a broad category or a specialist that knows a lot about a little bit. You'll find that you need to constantly keep up or stagnate no matter which route you go.



  • You are never too old.  If there is something that you want to do, do it.  Waiting around will just add time that you aren't doing what you want.  Go for what you want!



  • @CPound said:

    If you had read what I wrote at the beginning of the post, you would have understood that I meant no harm.

    I meant no disrespect to the originator of this thread, rather I was poking fun at the "ills of our industry".

    My satire is pretty deep. It takes a seasoned programmer to really "get" what I'm all about.

    Looking at the deleted post again, I still feel confident that it was the right decision to get rid of it. If it was meant as some wicked kind of satire, I'm still missing that part. Maybe it's because I'm not a seasoned programmer any more.

    To me - and as it seems, not only to me -  it looks like an offending flame.



  • @ammoQ said:

    To me - and as it seems, not only to me -  it looks like an offending flame.

    It's funny that you mention "flame" because ever since my post got deleted I've received a dozen "flame" emails from several anonymous Hotmail accounts.

    Apparently I must have touched a nerve with my previous "8-years-experience-and-you're-an-architect" comment, because it really upset some people.

    All I can say is, if the shoe fits...

    I don't understand you people. If the criticism is light and funny it's okay. If it touches on reality, then we pull your post.

    Well, you can stop spamming my inbox because this is CPound's last post to TheDailyWTF.

    Now the "Architects" can relax.
     



  • That's kind of funny given your "I've been doing this for 10 years, why aren't I making 100K?" attitude.  You seem to think that your experience, even given a lack of all that fundamental 'academic stuff', should earn you a high paying job with little more than a multiple-choice quiz as an interview.   I noticed that when we started talking about the qualifications to be an architect, you suddenly got quiet...


    It's a shame that you're getting flame mail (though I wonder how people get your email, it doesn't seem to be identified in your profile anywhere), they shouldn't be doing that.   But your criticism wasn't 'touching on reality', it wasn't even really criticism...you were just being a dick to someone who had a question about their career.

    -cw



  • @CPound said:

    It's funny that you mention "flame" because ever since my post got deleted I've received a dozen "flame" emails from several anonymous Hotmail accounts.

    Apparently I must have touched a nerve with my previous "8-years-experience-and-you're-an-architect" comment, because it really upset some people.

    All I can say is, if the shoe fits...

    I don't understand you people. If the criticism is light and funny it's okay. If it touches on reality, then we pull your post.

    Well, you can stop spamming my inbox because this is CPound's last post to TheDailyWTF.

    Now the "Architects" can relax.
     

    I think you consider yourself much more important than you really are. We already know that your knowledge level is inadequate, as are your social skills, so I can't see a reason why anybody should care about your definition of "architect". Anyway, the deleted post did not mention or relate to your definition of "architect".



  • @CodeWhisperer said:

    It's a shame that you're getting flame mail (though I wonder how people get your email, it doesn't seem to be identified in your profile anywhere), they shouldn't be doing that. But your criticism wasn't 'touching on reality', it wasn't even really criticism...you were just being a dick to someone who had a question about their career.

    I know I said that was my last post, but I have to clarify a couple points.

    You wonder how people got my email address. If you recall back to the Katja days, my email address was pretty common knowledge among certain members of TheDailyWTF. I remember exactly who I gave my address to, so I think it's very lame that they responded the way that they did ("anonymously" through Hotmail accounts)...duh. I still know who you are. How stupid is that.

    Let me share some quotes from a couple of these "anonymous" emails:

    "It's obvious that you're no architect. If you were, then you would realize that you CAN become one in 8 years. Even less. I'm an architect and a good one at that. Stop attacking others because they want to go that route. You sob bastard."

    "I thought you were cool a couple months ago. Now you sound stupid the way you pontificate about stuff you have no knowledge of. You're the biggest ass on the forum right now."

    Hmm, and now the "dick" comment. Real mature guys.

    It always degenerates into profanity. How pathetic. 



  • @CPound said:

     

    Let me share some quotes from a couple of these "anonymous" emails:

    "It's obvious that you're no architect. If you were, then you would realize that you CAN become one in 8 years. Even less. I'm an architect and a good one at that. Stop attacking others because they want to go that route. You sob bastard."

    "I thought you were cool a couple months ago. Now you sound stupid the way you pontificate about stuff you have no knowledge of. You're the biggest ass on the forum right now."

    I wonder why this person childishly writes anonymous emails instead of posting those answers in the forum.
     



  • I am sorry that I didn't get to read CPound's post. I wish someone would send it to me. Just curious.

    Note: Your wish has come true. http://forums.thedailywtf.com/user/PrivateMessages/default.aspx  ammoQ

    Anyway, I thank everyone for the input. I talked it over with a programmer friend of mine, and I feel better. I believe the problem I have is that I keep running into guys younger than me who seem to know almost anything. I was thinking how am I ever going to get ahead in this field when every 20 something is operating at an advanced level. I mean stuff like Cyrix, indepth Cisco routing knowledge, telco knowledge, and every programming language known to man.

     
    t's not so much that they know more, it is that they seem to have a chip on their shoulder about me not knowing as much as they do. I don't mind working extra hard to learn, but I don't want to work in a field where I will always be the dumbest person in the room. How are you going to get anywhere when you are always the dumbest person in the room? But I realized that I know a good bit, and am comfortable with what I know and am working on what I don't know. I have also convinced myself that no one knows everything, although some try to act as they do. There have been a few times of late that I was able to prove someone wrong, who acted as though they were 100% positive they were right. That gives me some hope. Thanks everyone.



  • @Jerim said:

    I am sorry that I didn't get to read CPound's post. I wish someone would send it to me. Just curious.

    Well? What did you think? Was I being too mean? I didn't think so. 



  • To be honest, I don't see what the commotion is about. I can see the attempted humor, although you have the entire situation pegged wrong. I know of the type of person you speak of; the middle aged guy reading "Programming for Dummies", and trying to get a job as a Senior Programmer. But I can honestly say that is not my situation. My situation is of what some may consider an advanced person who wonders if he is advanced enough to stay in the game as time goes buy. (I understand that you must keep learning to stay in the field, but will I always be learning last year's technology because I am so far behind and need to catch up?)

    When I said GUI, I meant programming. My library contains intermediate level titles. I have found that the begginer level stuff for any language is just a recap of the basics, so when I want to learn a new language, I jump straight to the middle. I have computer architecture, systems analysis, advanced SQL, RPG IV, and other books. (I am not home right now, so I can't list them all.) I am taking Discrete Mathematics now, and will be taking Calculus soon. On top of that, my college studies will teach me about Operating Systems, Networking and Linux administration, among other electives.

    So no, I don't see my self as the completely clueless know-nothing that you describe. Maybe I am just being too hard on myself for not knowing everything and feeling as though unless I know everything, then I don't know anything. (I do know a bit about PERL and Crystal Reports, but I just recently learned. The person in question was younger and seemed to know them like the back of his hand.)


     



  • @Jerim said:

    To be honest, I don't see what the commotion is about. I can see the attempted humor

    See that everybody?

    If we're cool Jerim, then I'll continue to post to TheDailyWTF.

    Friends? 



  • Since we have discussed so much about that deleted post, I've decided to make it visible again, so everyone else can see what has been posted and deleted, to satisfy the curiosity.

    @CPound said:

     

    I read your post and then read it again. It contains a lot of humor
    to me, but please don't take offense that I find it funny. It's just
    the way you phrased certain things. It's just hysterical. Here are some comments... 

    @Jerim said:

    When compared with my co-workers, I seem to be lacking in my skills.

    I
    picture this group of coders working away, and then this solitary coder
    in the "special" cube hunting and pecking at his keyboard.

    "Uhhh...let's see...a...s...d...f...j...k...l...darnit, where's the semi-colon!" 

    [quote
    user="Jerim"] At everly level of the industry I run into people who
    seem to know a great deal more than I. For instance, the guy that took
    over my previous job came in the first day and started talking about
    how he would use a shell script here, do that in Crystal Reports, use a
    Perl Script here, etc., etc. Part of me thought he was full of crap,
    spouting off buzzwords.

    I see this older fellow saying,
    "Whoa there partner! Slow down! I didn't catch all them fancy words
    you've been slingin' around! Did you say shell...what was that perl?
    Oyster reports?" 

    @Jerim said:

    Here are the things I am comfortable with:

    A multitude of little "tech support" type facts

    The
    team lead assigns the latest project and asks all the coders to get
    busy. When the older programmer just stands there scratching his head,
    the lead asks him what's wrong. "I asked you to get started on that web
    application. Do you know what you need to do?" The older guy smiles and
    says, "Yeah! Nothing a good old USB cable couldn't fix!"

    @Jerim said:

    I don't know any GUI beyond Java.

    The
    interviewer shuffles some papers and asks the candidate, "What
    operating systems are you familiar with?" The candidate replies, "Ah
    yes, I work solely on the Java GUI. No XP for me! No sir, the Java GUI.
    Yup, gotta be the Java GUI. Wouldn't have it any other way."

     @Jerim said:

    I have a pretty large library of books at home.

     I picture titles like "You're Programming Now!" and "HTML Coding Debunked: Myth & Fact".

     @Jerim said:

    I started my own website as a lab for enhancing my skills.

    "If I could only find that semi-colon I would be finished with this webpage by now! Dammit!" 

    [quote
    user="Jerim"]Can I realistic get my skills where they need to be by age
    40 so that I am not lost on most projects?[/quote]

    Age 40 hits
    and the elderly developer bumps into his project manager. "Sorry! Can
    you show me the way back to my cube? I know it's around here somewhere!
    Stupid short term memory...

    @Jerim said:

    I figure from 40-60, I can pull down enough money to retire.

    (Laughter)

    @Jerim said:

    I am not a complete newbie, but I am not a guru
    either. I would say that I am some where between newbie and knowledgeable.

    "Yes sir, I know what's going on...er...sort of. I got the whole jist down. Hmm, could we go over that again? Did you say this project requires semi-colons?"

    @Jerim said:

    I don't want to be 40 years old and still working entry level positions.

    "Hey,
    check it out...another old guy started today. He's inexperienced. Let's
    make him clean the coffee machine. The challenge is to make him believe
    it's fun."

    @Jerim said:

    I am starting to think I should change careers to something I may have a better opportunity in.

    Have you considered selling Beanie Babies on eBay?

    [/quote] 



  • @CPound 

    Yes. In an odd sort of way, you helped me realize that since I am not that clueless, maybe things aren't so bad. As you pointed out, they could be worse. I could be stumbling around the office wondering how to initialize a variable or pestering everyone to show me how to create an array. So as long as I am not that bad, I feel okay.


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