How to forge this path (starring the Underpants Gnomes)

Hello friends,

I am about to celebrate my 16th week here on Codecademy, and I am at a crossroads. It is a well-trod crossroad, so I would ask you all for advice.

I’m in my 40’s, having left a successful, yet physically unsustainable, career in touring theatrical management. I’m gambling on myself and my love of logical flow into a career as a programmer. There’s the obvious, “What the %^$# are you doing? Why would you leave now? Are you really doing this?,” but I’m past that point now, and it’s time to start focusing in a direction.

JavaScript was initially tough to wrap my head around, but I got there.
HTML was great. I was much more confident with that.
CSS was a lot of fun, because it was very easy to create high quality content from a brief course length.
I finished intermediate JavaScript, as I was very close to finishing that already.
And just tonight, I finished Learn C#, which both benefited from what I knew of JavaScript, and further reinforced what I had previously learn about JavaScript.

Here’s where the rubber of my lofty master plan meets the harsh road of reality, as compared to the Underpants Gnomes.

The Underpants Gnomes from South Park had a three-step plan:

  1. Steal all the underpants
  2. ???
  3. Make a lot of money

I have all the foresight of an Underpants Gnome. Allow me to elucidate:

  1. Go to Codecademy, study my pants off, and get certificates
  2. ???
  3. Become financially stable in a new career with less dancing and costumes

I’m having fun! I look forward to this part of the day, studying and processing. I love having a mission, but I feel like a college kid without a major. I’ve got a capacity for what I’ve learned, but:

  1. How does one decide where they want to work? That is, do you decide to be a Python programmer in case someone wants to hire a Python programmer for some random thing at some random company? -or- Do you decide you want a career in a specific field and cater your language familiarity to it?

  2. I’ve successfully completed two JavaScript courses, and I haven’t gone back and looked at it in the few weeks that I’ve spent on C#. Do I need to have different projects in different languages going just keep fresh, or is that as insane as it sounds?

  3. I honestly have no practical expectation about what to expect from a career in programming. It’s like saying I would like a career that involves paint. If my future boss runs in and says, “There’s a baseballTeam.tsv file on the server, I need to to print out a list of sentences that list the NAME of the team and the YEAR they were founded, or the internet will break!,” I got you. Unless all of programming is arrays, lists, objects, and manipulating those members, I don’t have a clue what to prepare for.

TL;DR :
I am looking for a guidance, resources, or pithy statement that might help me focus my efforts into a direction.
I’m basically undeclared, and I’m looking for a major.
If you’ve been there, how did you find your way out?

Thanks!
Brian

6 Likes

Hi Brian,

I am 48 and just now starting this path. I loved your post so much I had to reply.

I work as a mortgage person in Tampa (FL) and wanted to skill up enough to perhaps start an internship somewhere and hopefully get enough of an understanding to where I can assist a company by being a liaison between stakeholders and programmers.
I love the type of people that work in development and dont mind being the “dumbest” guy in the room but need to get some exposure to Javascript, Git, React, Node, SQL and all the other foreign concepts I commonly see in job descriptions.

The underpants gnome analogy is spot on.

To pursuing fulfilling careers (no matter the age)!

Ben

4 Likes

Honestly, your previous career sounds way more exciting, fun and fulfilling to me. :woman_shrugging:

This question is posted in the forums quite often and there’s a ton of excellent advice out there & it might be worth looking into.

I will say this: Figure out what you want to do, specifically for yourself. We can give you advice, but, we’re outsiders here. It’s all subjective. I can tell you to keep studying JS, react, Python, etc, but, if your heart isn’t in it, it doesn’t matter. Is there something you want to build or be a part of? Non-profit sector, maybe? Use your skills for good?

Too many people are hypnotized by the copious amounts of money one can make in technology. However, one doesn’t make that kind of money to start and unless one is really, reallllyy good at what they do with years of experience it’ll take awhile. (that isn’t to say there aren’t a lot of crap programmers out there, churning out crap content who get paid a good deal…but, I digress).

That’s cool that you want to make a change. Age doesn’t matter either (I’m older as well)…well, unless you run into ageism in the hiring process (which btw, does most certainly exist…but is difficult to prove, legally. I digress again). But, make sure you study on different platforms or with books, go to meetups. Supplement your learning.
I would also suggest reaching out to people on LinkedIn who are in careers that you’re interested in possibly going into. (informational interviews).

That’s all I’ve got. :slight_smile:

4 Likes

Hey Brian!

I’m so glad you’re having fun learning to code! I’m 36 years old and was just hired Aug 2nd, 2021 as a software engineer for a big company with a salary of $68,000/year, lots of great benefits, AND the job is a permanent work from home position. I feel like I’ve made it! But it took me a long time to get here, and it will take me even longer to get where I want to in my career.

I decided to pursue my bachelor’s degree in computer science at a 100% remote online school. I now have $50,000 in student loans to pay off, but I don’t regret this one bit. Going this route, I was exposed to all sorts of programming languages and methodologies, and that’s my answer to your first question, which is that you should expose yourself to as many languages as possible if you don’t know who you’re going to end up working for. However, I also loved C# the best, so while I exposed myself to other languages, I made it my area of expertise. I then went on to pursue an unpaid internship coding in C# for 10 months, which ultimately gave me the required experience to work my current position as a dot net full stack developer.

As for question number two, I believe you could benefit from developing an online portfolio to refer potential employers to, showcasing your work in SQL, Java, web development, etc.

As for your final question, I’d say there are a wide variety of coding jobs out there, all with different lifestyles and expectations. As for my limited experience thus far, I’d say be prepared for a quest of lifelong learning! I only try to lean on more experienced coworkers to walk me through stuff I never learned in school (or forgot long ago lol). One of the best skills you must learn is the art of how to phrase your queries so Google understands what solutions you’re searching for.

I feel like my job is the best job in the world! I love the company I work for, which has been very supportive of me as a beginner. Even though the subject matter of their website doesn’t interest me much, I have greatly enjoyed my first project I’ve worked on for my company and am thoroughly amazed at everything I was able to accomplish on my own! My work doesn’t even feel like work at all because I enjoy it so much (“do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life” almost exactly captures my feelings!).

Good luck to you Brian! And code on!

  • Heather
2 Likes