Perttu Lähteenlahti

    Too Old to Learn Code

    I wrote my first line of code in 2014 and a year later I founded my first software consultancy. Since that, I’ve founded two other technology companies. I’ve designed and built several digital products. I also competed in 70 hackathon/innovation challenges, winning around half of them. None of this almost happened, because I thought 23-year old was too old to learn to code.

    I never wanted to be a coder because I thought I was too old to be one. I certainly did not fit the image of a coder. Before I got into university to study cognitive science, I was a carpenter. I graduated from college with awful grades, and I was one point away from flunking mathematics. I’d gotten into university by a combination of luck, sweat, and tears. In my mind coder/developer was someone who was good at math and was constantly tinkering with computers.

    Partly because of that idea, I actually wanted to be a designer. The reason why I got into coding was the realization that design without functionality is useless. Static designs never have a function. After realizing that, I signed into an introductory course in Java. I was adamant that I was too old to code, and that I would never call myself a developer, but having at least some idea of how it all worked, shouldn’t hurt.

    Call yourself a developer from day one

    Many people, especially when starting out are afraid to call themselves developers. I have been afraid to call myself a developer. Even though I’ve written production code used by 3000 bank analysts every week. That’s how it is, but the feeling goes away.

    For me, the feeling finally started to disappear when I started my most recent venture. The more I questioned my choice of starting the whole thing, and the more I banged my head against the wall about code I wrote, the more confident I felt referring to myself as a coder. The remedy for imposter syndrome, in this case, is to build more stuff with code.

    There are also people who seem themselves as developers but shouldn’t. Not before they have actually built something with code. I have seen one CEO have the audacity of calling himself a coder, despite never having worked as one nor having built anything with code.

    You’re only a developer if build stuff, nothing else matters. Fancy CS degree doesn’t make you developer if the only thing you got to show for it is a piece paper with numbers. The grit to build websites, mobile apps, or anything that has code in it does makes you a developer. A person who just started is more of a developer than someone whose only argument for being a developer is the CS degree they have. So start building something today.

    If you work in technology, start coding, it will elevate your other skills as well. Also, if you’re a digital designer and you don’t know how to code at all, start learning now. You don’t have to be a professional, but you have to have experience from building something with code. Unless you’re designing for print, a designer who can’t code does not have a place in tomorrow’s economy. If you’re an employer, start teaching your designers to code, or get rid of them. They are dead weight without the capability to code.

    You are never too old to start coding. Start learning today. Tell statistics and stereotypes of what coder should and should not be to go fuck themselves. Everyone can and should know how to code.


    You can find this post (and other similar ones) from my blog.


    Perttu Lähteenlahti

    Personal blog of Perttu Lähteenlahti. For more developer oriented posts checkout perttu.dev