40 year old developer

I turn 40 in a few months. I’m not happy about it if truth be told. I still see myself as a 20’ish lad just finding his feet in life yet here I am, mid life crisis well in motion and more wrinkles than copies of .Net magazine.

I work in an industry that I would say is seen as a young person’s game. I know that is not true as I look at my Twitter follower list but it is portrayed as such and it’s easy to feel a bit old for it all. I expect many others feel the same. But what does turning 40 actually mean in the web?

I guess for many once they hit a certain time in their life, they might alter their career path. I know a few who have gone down the project manager route or manage a team and some stay on as developers. I’ve thought about it quite a bit ( I have nothing else better to do these days ) and at first I thought it must be harder for the older generation to keep up with the young guns but I suppose it’s the same for everyone still to a degree. As long as you know the basics, you can adapt to most new situations and in this case javascript frameworks. Yet many would say that the older generation won’t change, they become set in their ways and for some that is probably true but even then you still have to adapt.

I see turning 40 as a new challenge. I’m still the same developer. I still love to learn and still feel I have a shit load to offer.

Yes, I might not be on trend as some but I’d argue that I have one thing that so many youngsters don’t have. Experience.

I’ve seen the web change a fair bit and I’ve seen how fickle it can be. Everyone it seems is always playing catchup, young or old. But what doesn’t change is how a website goes from A to B. Yes it might use different tools these days but the steps are pretty much all the same and the bedrock is still CSS, HTML and javascript. Something we all know a bit about. I’ve seen numerous websites go live. I’ve worked with many different kinds of devs, designers, PMs, clients and would say that experience is a very valuable asset.

I think it’s important to have someone with experience. A good team should be made up of all sorts and having someone with that know how, someone who can think about things differently and call upon past history to get a job done.

Javascript is not a strong point of mine and I spend a lot of time being envious of those who are good at it. I’ve had many a sleepless night worrying that eventually I’ll become obsolete, thrown on the scrap heap. But I’ve started to accept it. I feel vindicated when I see the mess of front-end development at the moment as a whole. It seems the big push is on javascript which is fine, it’s ok, but at what cost? I’ve seen many a dev who purrs over the latest JS library or latest tool to be absolutely below standard at the basics of what I would class as ‘core front-end development’. The stuff I think I’m pretty good at. So I have some hope.

I think FE dev is certainly splitting into two. You have those who want to be programmers or those who want to make nice things. You also have those who do both of course but it’s ok to be good at just either side of the spectrum. I read a great tweet from someone who said that it’s ok to not know javascript. It’s not a prerequisite but a choice. There is still plenty of work for non JS people out there to be done and it shouldn’t be held against you. Wise words indeed.

Turning 40 has also made me realise that a lot of what goes on and gets said is bollocks. I think many forget why they do what they do. For many it started out as a hobby, something they enjoyed but I wonder do many still enjoy it. I have to admit, I went through a phase of hating what I did. But I think it was the pressure I put on myself to keep up and fit in. I’ve decided I do fit in regardless. I’m not as skilled as many but the stuff I am good at is still a great asset for any developer or in some cases an employee. I’ve also come to realise I need to enjoy what I do more. Focus on the why we are doing it instead of the how. I’m at the point where I just want to make stuff that is useful and people enjoy using. I had some great feedback from a member of the public about something I had worked heavily on. Hearing it gave me encouragement and a desire to do more stuff like that. How it’s built became less important. The user doesn’t give two shites if it’s built using React or Vue or if they used Sass or Less. They care about the fact it’s easy to use and they got what they wanted out of it. Surely that trumps everything at the end of the day.

Now I’m not saying build it any old way. That would be daft. It’s just that I find the user / client being happier more important than the dev being happier for using some clever new framework or tool.

So being 40 or nearly 40 has given me a new outlook on what I do. Where I want to go and what I see as important. I have a lot to offer still regardless of what people might think. Working in a team environment has become fun again as I feel like I’m no longer competing. We complement each other. And that should be the thing we take away from this. Being 40 or older, we can be a key player in getting the job done and right rather than hold it up. To cut a long story short, a team needs many boxes ticked. I now realise I tick more than I thought.

I’m sure many will think I’m talking nonsense or that I don’t have a clue. I’m fine with that. We all choose our own path. But I’m not going to fear being an older dev anymore. There is no need. My desire to succeed is still there if not more and I crave to do something good and hope share my knowledge and experiences with others. Maybe I’ll inspire some of the youth of today. Here’s to trying!