One of the most pervasive (and least constructive) myths about technology is that it’s for the young. While we will admit that the tech world has more than its share of youthful CEOs and tycoons, it’s also an industry that values hard work, invention and creativity from any source, regardless of age.
We have witnessed first-hand software engineers who changed careers and learned to code in their 30s and 40s. And some of the highest profile tech titans hit their stride relatively late in the game.
Here are just a few of them…
Thomas Siebel – founded a tech multinational at 41
While he might not be as high profile as other giants of the industry, Thomas Siebel has made a huge impact in the software industry. Initially, he studied history and computer science, before taking on a number of positions in Oracle in his 30s. It wasn’t until a decade later that Siebel founded Siebel Systems in 1993.
That company mainly dealt in the development and distribution of CRM (Customer Relationship Management) software and grew exponentially in its early years – becoming a Fortune 500 Company in the late ‘90s and attaining a whopping 45% market share in 2002.
In 2005, Siebel’s old employers, Oracle, bought his company for $5.8billion (€4.1billion).
Reid Hoffman – set up LinkedIn at 35
Hoffman (pictured) has always had drive – working for games company Chaosium aged 12, employed by Apple Computers in the ‘80s and then for PayPal. Initially Hoffman wanted to work in academia (he studied cognitive science and philosophy) but he switched to entrepreneurship early in his working life.
It was relatively late in his career that Hoffman set up the world’s biggest recruitment website. Launching in 2003, LinkedIn was one of the earliest business-based social networks and now has over 300 million members in over 200 countries. Last year Microsoft proposed to buy the site for over $26billion (€22billion). Hoffman himself, now aged 50, is reportedly worth €3.1billion (€2.65billion).
David Duffield – founded a giant app software company at 46
Like Siebel, Duffield has been enormously successful and fabulously wealthy without becoming a household name.
An electrical engineer by trade, Duffield initially founded Integral Systems (which made database innovations) and Information Associates (apps for the higher education markets). But it wasn’t until founding PeopleSoft at 46 that he really hit the big time.
The app software company became the second-biggest firm in the world of its kind and was acquired by Oracle in early 2005.
Grace Hopper – become a software pioneer in her 40s
While the tech world (and this list) is male dominated, that’s slowly changing, and there have been some incredible women who shaped computers and coding languages over the past half-century.
It’s hard to summarise Grace Hopper’s extraordinary career, but here goes: Hopper was a US Navy Rear Admiral and a computer scientist whose influence on coding is still apparent to this day. Born in 1906, she began her career in academia, earning a phD in maths in Yale and then teaching maths in Vasser College. Hopper then worked on the Eckert–Mauchly Computer Corporation, founded in 1946 to create computer designs with military applications.
While working there, Hopper proposed a coding language that used English instead of arithmetic. This eventually led to a change in perspective in coding languages, and the birth of COBOL, a language for data processors. The language extended on work that Hopper created and she was a technical consultant on the committee.
COBOL has evolved numerous times to meet tech and industry demands. And despite being invented in 1959, it is still a part of modern software development.
The myth of youth
Stereotyping based on age is reductive, whether it’s bemoaning millennials or pre-judging potential workers if they’re over a certain age. And as these stories (and many of our students’ testimonials show), it’s never too late to forge a new path in the tech industry.
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