Famous and ordinary programmers who started late Aimee Morgan, Clayton Boyle, Wendy Zenone, Bill Barnett, Tyson Daugherty, Sara Powell, Derek Langton, Pavol Almasi, Laurie Alaoui and others are ultimately showing by example that «it's never too late to do what you love or what you are passionate about».
Aimee Morgan, a former Stanford University Libraries archivist, enrolled in an online course to learn Python programming language at the age of 35. She fell in love with programming so much that she decided to start Hackbright Academy, a coding boot camp that teaches software development to women. Her skills led her to become a software engineer on the backend team at Flixster (an American community where users watch and rate movies, this company then, was owned by Warner Bros), where she helped to launch a new online ticket sales platform. Now she is a Site Reliability Engineer at Google (San Francisco Bay Area).
"Don’t listen to anyone who says you’ll never be worth anything unless you started programming in junior high. The tech field is big, and there’s room for a lot of people. When I was younger, it was tough admitting to things I didn’t know. Now that I’m older, it’s easier to deal with that initial frustration".
Clayton Boyle for most of his adult life, managed restaurants for a small restaurant group and then he switched to workingin real estate. But he always had the idea of learning how to program at the back of his mind. Clayton was 36 when he enrolled at RefactorU (10 weeks programming boot camp in Boilder, Colorado) to learn MEAN stack for development of software applications (MongoDB, Express.js, Angular, and Node.js). Now Clayton works as a junior software developer for real-estate social media website BiggerPockets ( a social network for the real estate investing community in Denver, Colorado).
"I had tried to do some courses, I bought books, but I always found that life got in the way of trying to learn on my own. I'd had the inclination and motivation to do this for years, but I didn't know how to get there. Once I found out about coding bootcamps. My advice would be to pick a good coding bootcamp, do your research, read the reviews, talk with the people in the bootcamp, make sure you get a good feeling from them, and trust your gut. Do as much pre-course work as possible".
Wendy Zenone was a wife and a mother at 38. Her first career was as an aesthetician, but she wanted to be a software engineer. But her path to securing this dream job was not so simple. Wendy’s journey shows that it takes hard work, determination, and grit to make a successful career change into tech. Despite the thoughts that opportunities are only for the young, she became a student at Hackbright Academy. Now she is an Associate Application Security Engineer at Lending Club (a kind of EBay for loans) in San Francisco.
"As a mother in her mid-thirties, I didn’t have the luxury of time that someone in their early twenties may have. I started looking into internships, and found an internship with a PR company. I worked with it for a few months, and then I got a call from Facebook. They offered me a position with the Ads department. I started asking some of the engineers at Facebook about how I can learn how to code and what is it like to have that job. The one engineer said, “It takes a lot of practice” and showed me how he fixes bugs in the code. Not everyone is that encouraging or helpful unfortunately. I looked into Hackbright, an all-coding female boot camp. But received an email that said I was not accepted and to try again in six months. My second interview was much better and I was accepted! After I graduated, I went through many interviews. I was going through multiple software engineering position interviews".
Bill Barnett enrolled in the University of Cincinnati (Ohio) to study Computer Science at the age of 40. After 17 years as an aircraft mechanic, Barnett switched career and does not feel sorry about it. Barnett is now a Co-Founder at Gaslight, a 27-person software development shop in Cincinnati. Once running, he contributed to the company as a server-side developer using Ruby on Rails.
"I realized that I was the one holding myself back, and decided to head back to school. There’s no one method for learning. It’s more of an ethic, which is work hard and be persistent. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and get involved in the developer community. Go to user groups. Talk to people. Especially as an older developer, don’t be afraid to approach younger developers who might be senior in experience. Don’t fall into the mindset that, ‘Because I’m older, I know better".
Pavol Almasi got his Bachelor's Degree in Business Administration in 1999. Since that time, he was working mostly as a prepress specialist. He always wanted to study computer programming, but did not want to go to school or pursue it seriously because...he thought programming is for geniuses. In 2013, at the age of 40, Pavol was about to obtain his degree in computer programming at McCann School of Business and Technology (courses included studying C++ Programming, Visual Basic Programming, Java etc.). In a few months, he advanced much further than much of the other younger students there because, as Pavol noted, they possible lacked the dedication and motivation he had. Now he is a Computer Programmer at Berkshire Hathaway GUARD Insurance Companies (Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania).
"I read books, watched tutorials, and most importantly - practiced like crazy. Did every single exercise in my text books, and looked beyond what was presented, and researched other ways of doing the same thing. Finished the school (associate degree) as valedictorian in December 2014. Sent out tons of resumes, got a few interviews, but no luck. Had to get an unrelated job. Then two weeks ago, I got a call back about the position I applied for (C# software developer, mostly web services and database related development). I passed the phone interview. Last week I passed in person interview (code review, programming talk). And today, I had a third, and final interview (personality test, some puzzles). I got the job".
Derek Langton, a former state trooper, decided to become an IOS developer after almost two decades of serving in the Massachusetts state police force. 42-year-old Langton started out with watching computer science course videos from MIT and Stanford, and then he switched to watching YouTube tutorials. Langton said he “eats, drink and sleep iOS development. This is the kind of thing where you either go or you don’t. You don’t go halfway.” Now Derek is a self-employed iOS contractor and Director of FFL Startup Accelerator (San Francisco Bay Area).
"I built Smoopa for iOS, a free shopping companion. The app has been featured by Apple and reviewed by USA Today, Consumer Reports, Time, CNET, TechCrunch, and The Wall Street Journal".
Patricia Ehrhardt’s career spanned a variety of fields including acupuncture, nonprofits and business administration for over 20+ years. Looking to learn how to code and possibly make a career switch into computer programming, Patricia came across Coursera. Surprised that the courses were free, she immediately signed up for Programming for Everybody (Python). With just months’ worth of training from Coursera, she got a web developer job. After that she found Women Who Code scholarship program. Patricia had two mentors while completing the program: for backend web development and for frontend development. Thanks to that, Patricia landed a full time job as a developer at ePublishing in San Francisco.
"Invest in yourself. I learn something new every hour, no joke. What I am mostly looking forward to is learning and becoming a better engineer every day. I have a long-term goal of creating a piece of software that will be useful for organizations like the Innocence Project, Missing and Exploited Children or homeless organizations, poverty abatement and battered women’s advocates".
"I’ve progressed from not coding very much at all, to coding well enough to land job interviews for front end development positions".
Tyson Daugherty finished university in 1992 (Bachelor of Fine Arts).
In all his following roles, he was deeply involved in product development, but he had never written a line of code. At some point, he understood that to be a more successful, creative and agile entrepreneur he needed a deeper understanding of technology, and the skills to build prototypes himself. In 2013, he joined Hack Reactor Courses (a 12-week coding school in San Francisco). After that, he quickly became a senior web engineer at Nike. Now, he is a Senior Software Engineer at GE Digital with headquarters in San Ramon (more than 10,000 software engineers are working with this software development company).
"It was like being caught up in an information tsunami! We started at 9am, we would have a very light lecture, and then you could choose to stay on for the second part of the lecture, or start the coding challenge. There was a lot of guided self-learning, which was a very effective way to instill the discipline we would need on our own, or in a job to figure out how to solve problems. When I’m not in standups and sprint planning, I’m coding – it’s all coding all the time, and it’s awesome. I know I like coding my product ideas. Luckily, I like building other people’s products too!"
"At the first meetup I went to, I only knew two percent of the words the guy said. Programming is so powerful; it gives you the opportunity to do so much for society. You can change people’s lives. I used to sit at home and play Sudoku, but this is so much more fun."
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