I’m often asked, “why all of a sudden at the age of 38 do you want to get a formal education in software development?” What leads up to my answer requires a bit of background.
For as far back as I can remember, I’ve in one way or another found myself being influenced by decisions requiring logic. Over time my decision making process had evolved into one where only two options are available. Black or white. 1 or 2. Or for the sake of context, 0 or 1. This is not to say that when being introduced to a problem there is only one correct solution out of a pool of two.
At the birth of a problem, it’s solution is often hidden amid myriad options. But as we take each step in the process, two options are available: yes or no; pass or fail. Once I’ve determined that the “yes” is valid, I’ll take what I learned and move to solving the next logical problem in the process and so on until I’ve reached the solution to my problem. If at any point along this path I confirm that the solution to its step in the problem is “no,” I’ll throw it away and attempt to get a “yes” from a different possible solution. I should clarify that there isn’t only one pathway of yes’s and no’s. As with most problems, there are multiple albeit less efficient ways finding their solution.
Though I’ve explained this to others while growing up, few understood that my decision making involved a series of binary steps. I’d often been counseled that this black/white thinking is incorrect; that there are shades of grey and that there are rarely ever only two options when making a decision.
After 10 years, I left that job and started my own business. As any fledgling company requires, I needed a way to attract customers. One of my first customers had been a new computer science graduate. He told me he had been developing a Java application which could potentially draw a large volume of customers. After seeing the immediate positive results of his application, we came to a business agreement where he’d continue to develop features and maintain the application.
About a year after my startup began, it had already begun generating enough passive income to support myself and three employees. More importantly though, it opened up a massive amount of free time. It was then that I was struck by a moment of clarity. “Why am I paying a large chunk of change to someone to develop for me? I’m smart. I like taking apart and building things. Let me take a stab at creating this application from the ground up.”
Of course I learned quickly that this was not something you “take a stab at.” With months of tutorials, online courses, and of course pure trial and error reverse engineering his original source code, I got the application to not only do what it did but better. I also added features that I originally asked my developer to include but didn’t know how.
Now to answer the question. “Why do I want to become a software developer at 38?” The answer? It’s fun! Massive amounts of fun. Fun to the point where it has replaced any time I’d use to play video games. Not because I don’t have the time to game but because when I’m coding, I achieve the same feeling of excitement and fun as I do when I’m gaming. And by fun, I don’t just mean the parts where I make cool applications. I enjoy having a seemingly unsolvable problem. I enjoy the leg work. I go to bed and I find myself using my iPad to scour stackoverflow or Lynda.com or even YouTube for a solution. I spend 8–13 hours a day (yes I’ve tracked this) coding or researching solutions to problems I hadn’t encountered before. I found my calling late in life.
I’ve been at it for about three years now. I’ve enjoyed coding so much that I’ve found myself choosing to stay home and code rather than attend some social gatherings.
The next binary decision will answer the question “what do I do with myself next?”
1: continue learning as I go. Build a larger and larger knowledge base on my own through continued coding and building my business.
2. Find a formal way of filling in the holes that self-teaching leaves. If I opt for this, my research has concluded with the Holberton School (https://www.holbertonschool.com/ as being the best option for gaining a focused track in developing a more solid software development education. Of course I’d have to uproot myself and move to the California Bay Area. Working from home, however, and having a lot of family in San Francisco makes the hurdle of moving a lot easier.
I found my calling later (not late) in life. Finding fun in the thing you’re good at is, as I’ve experienced a rare thing. So don’t be afraid to try new things or even change your career (or college major). As cheesy as they sound, “nothing is impossible if you work hard” and “chase your dreams,” are surprisingly fitting for me. I’ll leave you with a classic and the most meaningful to me: “Momento Mori.” “Remember that you will die” Or less morbidly, “you only live once.” Make the best of your life. Have fun with it. Because one day you’ll be dead!