Are you too old to learn to code?
As a co-founder of Skillcrush, I could drown you in emails from women and men all over the world who are hesitant about learning to code. One of the most frequent concerns I hear from users is that they’re “just too old,” not only from 65-year-olds, but from 16-year-olds as well.
In response, I have developed a three-step test to asses your age-vs-code-learning-ability. It follows:
- Are you breathing? If yes, continue on to question 2. If no, then yes you are too old.
- Can you type? If yes, continue on to question 3. If no, then that’s ok too, we can work around it. Continue to question 3.
- Are you excited about the web and all the things you can make on it? If yes, congratulations! You are not too old. And if no, sorry, you are still not too old. But we won’t force you to learn to code.
TL;DR: YOU’RE NOT TOO OLD TO LEARN HOW TO CODE.
Let me tell you about my dad and how he learned to speak Spanish
When I was in my teens, and my dad was in his mid-forties, he decided that his dream was to become director of a study abroad program in Madrid. To do so, he would first need to become fluent in Spanish. For months, he would insist on ordering dinner in newbie Spanish at Mexican restaurants. “They like it when you speak to them in Spanish,” he would say, as I, fifteen and mortified, cowered behind my menu.
Soon though, the tenor of his stories began to change. Gone were the embarrassing mishaps, replaced by new discoveries and new adventures, possible only because of his newly minted Spanish language skills.
One day he came to me and asked if I knew anything about all of the Spanish language radio stations that were broadcast in our area of California.
“Its unbelievable,” he told me, in amazement, “we have lived here for years and I had no idea that these radio stations were so popular. It’s a whole different world!”
Isn’t it time you discovered a new world?
What does it mean to be too old to learn to code?
When we say that we are too old to learn something, what we’re really saying is that there are certain ages where it is appropriate to learn new things, and ages when it is not. But no one looks at a crawling infant and says “Boy, that infant sure is bad at walking.” That infant is exactly where it’s supposed to be, steadily preparing to step into the world of the walking.
Unfortunately, what is exciting to an infant may be terrifying as an adult. We become so comfortable in our competence, that we learn to fear any sign of regression.
But unlike walking, where there really is a developmentally appropriate age to learn to do it, the idea that there is a “right” time to learn to code (or most anything else) is a construct — a creation of our own determination to hold ourselves back.
The logical fallacy of coding age limits
The web was only created in 1994. So if you wanted to start learning to code as a kid, you would have been, at most, eight years old. Which would have meant you were born in 1986, which means that no one in the tech industry could be older than 26, which is clearly not the case.
I learned to code, and so can you.
I learned to code when I was 24, laid off, and desperate for a marketable skill. Maybe I wasn’t as old as you are, but I definitely wasn’t a kid, or a teen, or even a college student. Now, I don’t work as a CTO at a fancy startup (yet), but I do make money by putting my technical skills to work for other people and companies.
By learning to code, I learned how to make money outside the confines of a J-O-B. I will never have to rely on a giant mega corp to guarantee my salary — I have a skill, a skill that can only become more valuable with time as software “eats the world.”
With the ability to code comes freedom. And choice. And the confidence that you can provide real value to yourself and others.
Are you too old for that?