Cover image for How I'm Learning to Code At 35

How I'm Learning to Code At 35

jamiekaren profile image Jamie Ferrugiaro ・3 min read

The irony of this blog post title is that when I was 18 years old I attended my local community college and enrolled in the Computer Science degree program. I guess you can tell by the title that 17 years later, I didn't stick to that path.

My path in life instead made a lot of winding turns, until I ended up working for a great company but not headed in the direction I wanted to be. At 35, the prospect of making enough money to support myself alone throughout my life without struggling to do so was not very high, despite holding this job for 10+ years.

Although I am very grateful for the experience and opportunities I've had at my current position, I know something needs to change. That something has to be me, and that change is a completely new field. Whereas now I am an Accounts Receivable Specialist, my future self will be a Full Stack Developer. I'm documenting this journey here, and it officially started on April 1st.

I've spent a lot of time researching what this new potential career might entail. What programming languages I need to learn for front end and back end. Whether I should dedicate a few years in my already rather late start with a Computer Science degree, or if I should attempt to jump-start it via the newer "boot camp" route. All things, I'm sure, that many people before me have questioned.

I joined LinkedIn groups, Slack communities, talked to friends in the field, friends not in the field, family members, and complete strangers. I've been scouring the web reading articles, taking intro courses into JavaScript, and ultimately come to the profound conclusion that I have absolutely no idea what I'm doing or where I will start with all this.

This is real life, isn't it? I've also started a mental collection of the not-so-great side to programming. The non-glamorous part of it that is less Felicity-Smoak-save-the-world excitement, and more staring at a computer screen for hours on end. Many of those I talked to said that being a developer is a frustrating pursuit. You are constantly spending hours on something but may get nowhere. Is this truly something I want to do?

I've learned how coding is especially a "mindset", not just spewing back syntax on a screen. That learning to code is about coding within a team; within real-life situations that go far beyond printing console.log('Hello'+ 'World'); or rect(722, 160, 150, 300); to a screen. (Yes, I did just learn that from Codecademy, thanks for noticing.)

It's about working a much broader approach "where you systematically break down a problem into individual and logical steps and then recreate that in a language that the computer understands."

Despite all that, I'm not discouraged. I've also learned that although programming can be challenging, you are apart of an amazing community. I've already talked to so many people online through these communities who have encouraged me, helped me and given me advice. Whatever direction this new path leads to, I'm confident I can follow it.

For better or worse - challenge accepted.

Author Note: This blog post was originally posted on my blog on Medium. You can find me there in my bio or go here. I found the Dev.to community after already starting my blog on Medium. I'm in love with it and am testing out posting on this platform.

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jamiekaren profile

Jamie Ferrugiaro


Rutger's Full Stack Bootcamp grad, currently searching for her first junior dev position. I also have a love of adventure, marketing, and art. Profile art by the talented Zoey Masters.


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It's scary isnt't it? I can relate with your story, I'm 40 and with a similar path. The hard part is keeping myself motivated and avoid all those thoughts about failure out of my head.

Being a developer is about problem solving. Like in everything in Life, sometimes is exciting and sometimes isn't.

Keep the hard work and good luck with your adventure!


Thank you so much! I completely agree with all this! I know it’s going to be hard, but I have to say so far with how welcoming, encouraging and just awesome the community here (and everywhere) so far has been, it makes me feel very happy in my decision.


Similar. Congrats on posting and making the move! An additional question, if you're open to it: did you do any lesser things (with code or processes?) in the intervening 17 years? In my own case, looking back, I found lots of programming-adjacent activities (including scripting) that I didn't view as programming because of the communities I was in (i.e. non-programmers). Wondering if you had a similar experience or, absent that, what led you back to programming?

Good luck!


Thank you! Hmmmm, not really. In high school (sooo long ago), I taught myself HTML/CSS to a degree and would make websites for fun using that. It was so different then, though. In more recent years, I've edited CSS a bunch for various reasons; for friends websites, for the charity I've volunteered for. It's easier to edit than create from scratch, however, so I always felt like that really didn't count.

Actually, it was probably all the years volunteering at this charity that eventually led me to considering this again. I mostly worked as their volunteer digital marketing manager. I finally decided to make a concrete decision and am so excited about it.

Also, MUD games hahaha.


I changed my professional life 3 times and right now, as a developer, I'm in my happiest place, and there is no one that can put me down, even when I feel challenged and tired! What matters the most is where you are happy professionally and it's not your age that is going dictate what and when you can start a project for your life. We all have boundaries and, of course, stories and situations that may 'block' our paths, but I'm proud to see in this community people like you, amazing and open-minded, proving that we can all give the first step for change anytime we feel prepared to do so.
Keep strong-willed. I wish you all the best.


Thank you SO much Hayssa! I really appreciate you saying this. It means a lot to me.


I had the same experience, took a few classes at 18 but it didn't stick, then came back to it at 36! Two years later and I'm happier than I've ever been, working as a full time full stack engineer at a major company! It's never too late.


That is great! Thanks so much for sharing your experience, it's really motivating for me to see success stories like yours.


Good luck! I made the switch from a clerical job to full stack developer at 32, so I can relate. Making that switch is my proudest achievement, and my job is so much more rewarding than what I used to do.


Thanks! That makes me feel encouraged!


Great post! I also went back to school at 35 and got my CS degree. I've been a front end developer since graduating and absolutely love it.

I see a lot of people not happy with their careers and trying out software development. It's such an exciting and great field to get into. I wish you the best!


Thank you!! I’m very excited 😁.


I'm so PROUD of you!!! This was my journey and I'm currently working as a Software Engineer in a very supportive and challenging environment. You've GOT this! Please never hesitate to reach out to me for help or support or even just to vent about a function that refuses to work lol. #GoGirl #Courageous #BetterNowThanNever


I really, really appreciate that! :-) I will.


Best of luck with this journey! It's awesome that you're sharing it too. And if you're looking for support and advice you're definitely in the right place.


Thank you!! It definitely feels that way. So excited to have found this platform.


Such a great blog Jamie. Hats off to you. Keep learning. You're an inspiration!


Awe, thank you I appreciate it! I'm sure there are equally inspiring stories from many people here :).


YES GIRL. I love this. Thanks for DMing me those resources too! I'm keeping an eye on your collection of resources on Twitter too. I can't wait to see where this takes you!


Thanks!! I actually have some ideas on that. I'll def let you know once it's more formed! It's so awesome that so many people have added their sources on there. I've been really overwhelmed with how nice this community is.


Hello there Jamie,

Thank you for sharing with us. I personally like this article, you have truly inspired me to start writing and share my experience.


Welcome to the club of 30+ yrs old eager learners 💪