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Being an "old" junior dev

garthvador profile image Quentin Caillaud Updated on ・3 min read

After 12 years of being a factory worker (because at 18 I had literally no idea of what I wanted to do with my life), at 30 with 3 children, I decided to become a developer. People often tells me I had a lot of courage but actually I have to admit that I had a lot of luck, several parameters that I won't expose here made me able to return to school during almost a year. That was three years ago.

I took an 10 months adult formation, a little more than 6 months at school plus an internship of 3 months. After that I rapidly found a job because in France there is a lot of need for developers.

What I wanted to talk about are the difficulties, and the advantages of starting this career older than most.

The hard part

One of the main difficulty was that I had to often remind my boss that I was a beginner. Unconsciously, as I had the same age as him he considered I had to be as autonomous and efficient as the others (while being paid a lot less due to my junior status). Each time I reminded him this fact he recognized that it was true but hard for him to remember.

One other point very close to this is that I had to be OK with the fact that I now have coworkers younger than me, who are a lot better than me. Honestly I think I managed it alright but impostor syndrome hit me hard first (but learning that it's almost everyone's case, mostly thanks to the DEV community, helped me a lot).

And it is the case with every career changes I guess but passing from a job where I was, with no false modesty, really good and needed just half a day to adapt to a new working environment, to another where I have to learn everything was disturbing and challenging.

The good part

Well the easiest part is clearly the fact that now, instead of doing all day a really physically hard work, with all the machines noises, only 30 minutes of break in a 10 hours shift, and a lot of risk (I saw a lot of accidents, including a deadly one once) for a miserable payroll, I'm now sitting comfortably in a chair, listening to my music if I want, getting a coffee when I want, doing something I like for a nice wage. So yeah I would say it's kind of a good thing.

Sometimes (often) our job is stressful, but with this background, I have to admit I smile a little when coworkers who never did any other job said they have an harsh day... It helps a lot to put things in perspective. If I think a little, when I make a mistake or deliver late, it has no risk of hurting or killing anyone.

I also think that knowing other working environments is a good thing, maybe that way you are less inclined to think that the industry you are currently working in is superior to the others. Personally I've worked in metallurgy, woodworking, food industry, logistics etc... and I think that, yes, development industry is an unique one, but each of those I've worked in before were too. I guess it helps to have empathy and to understand that most jobs are useful and have their own needs.

One other thing, even if I am a junior, I'm not new to the professional world. I already did a lot of job interviews before, and I am a lot less submissive that someone who is fresh out of school. In France we still have (sadly probably not for long) relatively strong worker's rights, and I'm very aware of what my employers can and cannot ask of me.
So clearly no unpaid extra hours, no work on weekends for me. I had the time to learn before that my company cannot expect from me other duties than those specified in my contract and that overzealous behaviors are rarely rewarded.
I would add that this is a point where I clearly had something to give to my coworkers, my knowledge and my past social engagement were something they were eager to hear for.


Thinking of it I guess this is a correct conclusion : when you arrive in this career older than most, you surely have something to bring to the community, probably not technical knowledge, but maybe your experience or another vision of what this could become. And this is moving so fast that you will soon be at level with others if you persist !

This is my first article ever, and not in my native language so I'm eager for feedback !

Discussion

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jess profile image
Jess Lee (she/her)

Congrats, Quentin!

When you arrive in this career older than most, you surely have something to bring to the community, probably not technical knowledge, but maybe your experience or another vision of what this could become.

Couldn't agree more with this point.

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Bob Walsh

Quentin - good job! Keep in mind the unspoken "obsolence trap" inherent in being a developer. You want to be keeping an eye on trends, new languages, frameworks, and movements (see JAMstack), and be prepared to retool yourself at least every 3 years. So that means, you need a "learning todo" on your list every single week.

And don't forget YouTube videos! For example, I'm typing this while listening to talks from yesterday's day 1 of the JAMstack conference in SF. ( youtube.com/channel/UC8bRyfU7ycLXn... )

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Carlos Sepúlveda

Congratulations on taking that leap and changing careers after 12 years working in factories. Tech industry may be a bit intimidating due to its fast pace. But your takeaway is a very important one, especially in tech industry which has a lot of young people coming into it, and most of us have a hard time adapting into this new professional world.

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Adam Crockett

Your story is very interesting and it's so cool that you shared. How did you choose development?

I mentor a 30yr old and it's quite a strange situation but age is but a number that increments in a massive for loop for an unknown variable of time. Its what you do with those iterations is what counts.

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Quentin Caillaud Author

I guess I was always attracted by development, but I used to believe that it was something you have to start very young, something that require a kind of gift. I discover during my training that it was less esoteric than what I used to think.

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Charlotte

What a great story and I have enormous respect for you to decide to change your career path. You are absolutely correct, you do have lots to bring to the community, no matter what level you're at!

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R.J. Robinson

I too entered full blown dev life at 30. being 37 now, It was the best decision I have ever made.

Keep on the grind. take breaks. learn. Because thats basically the rest of our careers anyway.

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Sivakrishna Challa

I am also planning to switch career path. But feel bit awkward to do this at 37.

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Quentin Caillaud Author

There are awkward situations yes, but it's worth a try and honestly, it's been three years for me now, and the gap of knowledge between me and my coworkers is reducing very quickly.