Is it possible to find a job in IT after 40

It’s not an easy decision to change the field of work dramatically. This path is always difficult and long, especially if you follow it after 40 years of age.

Many do not dare to take this step because of a lot of fears or just not knowing where to start. And there are many prejudices: companies are interested only in young and ambitious people, you need a certain mindset for such work, without experience you have to look for a job for a long time, and that is a waste of time and money.

However, students of the Practicum prove the opposite: there is life in IT after 40. We have collected several stories of graduates who were not afraid of the difficulties and decided to change their lives when most people say it’s too late.

A bit of statistics

The Institute of Education at the National Research University Higher School of Economics conducted a study among the graduates of the Practicum. One of the questions was: Is it possible to find a job in IT without technical education and after 40 years. The results say you can:

70.4% of graduates found jobs without experience in IT:

78% found jobs without a technical background;

60.7% found a new job at age 40+ (by the way, the oldest employed graduate is 52).

If we talk about more general results, last year Yandex.Practicum helped employ more than a thousand graduates in five areas. And half of them found jobs in less than two months.

A word to the graduates

Andrey Sereda, 45, python developer

At school I was in a math class and studied programming. That was a long time ago: we were working on Basic, and the computers were old – they did not even have Windows yet. When it came time to choose higher education, I chose the law, because in 1993 being a programmer did not look very promising.

I graduated, moved to Moscow and started working as a lawyer. All in all, I worked in law for a little over 20 years. In recent years I began to realize that I was no longer enjoying my work – I was bored.

On another vacation, I met up with an acquaintance who told me he was taking free courses in Python. We talked for a while, and I got interested, too. I took the same course pretty quickly and realized: I like it. Solving problems, studying tutorials, looking for additional information – all that was fun.

So I started looking at other online courses. I was interested in everything: both small, short courses and large ones, like Yandex.Practicum. Eventually I realized that I wanted to do this seriously, and I decided to change my life radically.

I was 44 years old at the time, and it seemed like the longer I dragged it out, the less chance I had of getting anything done. Of course I was scared, but the fear wasn’t paralyzing. I just knew it might not work out. I kept in mind that I was not the best option for the employer, because he wants to invest in the development of a specialist: you can expect more from a 25-year-old than from a 45-year-old. I understood that age didn’t play into my hands and would make it harder to find a job. But I was ready.

I did not yet understand what I was passionate about, so I started taking several courses at once. In the Practicum I chose to study the backend: Python and Django. In parallel, I also studied frontend at HTML-academy. It took me more than a year to fully immerse myself in the studies, and I was determined not to look for work until I had completed them.

From the course I expected knowledge and interesting tasks, and these expectations have been met. At the same time there were many moments when something did not work – I was stuck in a mistake that I could not correct. I asked myself why I got involved, because I couldn’t do anything, it wasn’t my thing at all. Besides, for some reason, none of my classmates had such mistakes as mine. I was angry at myself, but then I gave time to calm down and start solving all over again.

At the end of May 2021 I defended my diploma project and started looking for a job. I had no rosy illusions: I understood that a person who passed the course was not the most desirable candidate. Unlike many other job seekers, I did not get any responses from employers for a long time. Either they did not answer, or sent me a widespread rejection. I attribute this to my age – there is a feeling that many people rejected me without looking.

But the employment did happen, and quite unexpectedly. It was the first company that interviewed me – the first and only interview after 30-40 responses to the vacancies.

Now I am junior python developer at CDNvideo. It deals with CDN technologies – high load content distribution. My tasks don’t include implementation of some big project by myself – I’m given small tasks which serious programmers can’t get to. Some of my work has already been implemented – it’s nice to know that I’m doing something useful, albeit small.

My experience with job hunting and interviews has shown me that you should never be shy when you don’t know something. You should always be ready to pull your knowledge up and talk to the employer again. It is not unreasonable to be persistent and interested and to understand at least approximately what the employer does, what technologies he uses.

Olga Mirskova, 51, tester

I was in a maths class and loved programming. I wrote short uncomplicated programs in Basic. After school I decided to go to the Institute of Finance and Economics, the department of economic cybernetics, in the firm belief that there I would learn how to program for real. On September 1 I found out that this was not true: cybernetics turned out to be the science not of robots, but of control systems.

But IT remained an attractive field for me. I made many attempts to get into it: I studied programming languages, tried UI/UX-design, took a whole bunch of different courses and MOOC-platforms. But I could not find that magic door, through which I could enter into the cherished world.

Three years ago, my son started working as a tester. I also wanted to learn how this profession works. I took a month-long course and learned a little bit about its specifics. However, the decision to change the profession at that time did not make – I had a fairly stable job in the furniture business. It was stupid to go nowhere, to a knowingly serious reduction in income, and it was scary to become a dzhun after 45.

Still, 20 years of doing the same thing is boring, if it is not my life’s work. I’m pretty good at furniture, but it’s been a long time since I’ve had any interest in working further.

I chose the course on testing in the Practicum, because at that time I already knew what QA is. Some time ago I took the free part of the simulator, but I gave it up, not enough confidence that something will come out of this training. But a year ago I decided to try it after all. I was inspired by the Open Door Day, where I heard how the Practicum helped me find a job.

Every sprint and every project was not easy for me. Periodically I doubted my decision: again and again I thought that I had wasted my money and time. But I got a lot of help from the other students and my own activeness: I tried to help my classmates and they helped me. We had a very friendly flow. My relatives and friends also supported me – there were none who dissuaded me from studying.

The main fears were already at the final stage, because it is very difficult to leave the familiar place and go to where they will pay much less. I was afraid of uncertain prospects, and I was not sure if I could cope in a new job.

I learned how to write a resume and how to be specific about the job in the cover letter. I even toughened up a bit by going through a few practice interviews. After getting about 200 rejections since I started my search, I realized that employers do look at age. However, most of the rejection letters were boilerplate, in which you could not read the real reason. I was even a little jealous of the young classmates who received offers while still a student.

Now I’ve been working as a tester at Quantori for six months. During the probationary period it was incredibly difficult at times. When I was sitting at another task, it seemed that new connections in my brain were being built almost with physical effort – I could distinctly hear the creaking in my own head. Now it’s a little easier, but nevertheless I constantly have to learn. My teammates help me a lot, both testers and developers. And the company supports the desire to learn: I recently passed the ISTQB Foundation Level certification exam.

As for age and the limitations associated with it, I think that the main barrier is our own ironclad beliefs. My resume did not include any experience in testing, and my age was explicitly stated as 50. Still, I was able to overcome that hurdle. I am sure that others can do it as well – if only they were willing.

It is not easy to learn completely new things and change lifestyles. Our generation has a certain set of problems that have already been solved in life: most of our children have grown up, we have stability and a certain rear. In other words, we don’t need to spend time and effort on important things. Many of us also have a desire to change what we used to do. And here it is very difficult to know where to go, and just as difficult to make that decision.

I think the problem is not just that employers don’t see us. We’re also afraid because we don’t know what’s going to come out of it. It’s scary to quit and start over – the unknown is scary. And you have to be prepared for life to change completely. As my favorite fairy tale says, “You have to run as fast as you can just to stay where you are, but to get somewhere, you have to run at least twice as fast!”

Artyom Zverev, 40, data scientist

I used to work in the automotive industry. At my last job, a rather interesting direction was being developed: the production of automated trucks that run on electricity. The implication was that the truck would be controlled remotely or it would be a fully automated vehicle that moves according to a predetermined program. There was a department at the company that developed these very programs. I was interested, so I talked to the guys and tried to figure out Java. So within three or four months I learned the basics of programming.

The realization that I wanted to work with something new didn’t come immediately. I had been following the same path for the last 15 years, I was successful and became a professional in my field, and then I found a new direction, which attracted me.

I would have been interested in going into IT, but this field is huge – I just had no idea where to go. I got to know the guys in the business community who do development – they called me to the X5 Retail Group hackathon. As I participated, I realized how I could apply my data skills and how it was good for business.

I looked at different courses and decided to try the Practicum. I chose between Python-development and tester, but in the end I chose data science, because I do a lot of analytics at work.

I had my doubts and fears, of course. I was afraid that I would not be able to finish my studies, though the material did not seem complicated – after all, I have a technical education. My family did not share my enthusiasm at first: “Where are you going? Why are you doing this?” But after a while they understood and supported me: probably, I could tell that I was fed up with the field I was working in.

One thought comforted me: I had satisfied my ambitions for a career in production management. And data science is good because it is at the intersection of IT and business. I know the technology, maybe a little worse than young people, but I understand how to apply it to work. Once I understood that, it made me feel better.

Fear is always there, but you have to translate it into useful actions. In fact, studying turned out to be a great experience: I feel like I rebooted.

I got a job while I was still studying at a St. Petersburg fintech company, which deals with collection services. All the business processes are built on a legal basis, so they are completely transparent. I work in the production planning department and combine two areas: forecasting the financial fork in debt purchase and planning the work strategy that will be most effective.

I was originally hired as a data scientist to develop predictive models. Then I picked up ETL in addition to ML. Now I’m the head of the planning and analytics department. My background as a manager helped me – being just a data scientist doesn’t work.

My advice to those who have decided to restart their careers: first of all, realize whether you need it or not. If you didn’t buy into the nice salary figures, but you are really interested in the field, you need to jump on this rushing train.

Larisa Fernandez, 40, BI Analyst

My first specialty was tourism. I even got my PhD in tourism. For a while I organized trips to national parks in Russia, Ecuador and Argentina.

After the baby was born I became a representative of South American companies that wanted to work on the Russian market. Then I worked with tourists at the FIFA World Cup. It was a temporary job, which I was interested in, but I knew it would end. Then I realized it was time to change something.

Ever since I was a student, I liked mathematics. I took a short course on Coursera on statistical methods for solving business problems. Then I got interested in a course on Python – it turned out to be suitable for data analysis. Then it led me to a free trial course on data analysis in Yandex.Practicum.

Before I paid for the course, I was worried about whether I would enjoy data analysis enough to want to do it full-time. I was also worried about the demand for it: I didn’t want to invest my money, effort and time and then realize that it was a bubble.

After the first lesson I came to notice the clear and understandable organization of the course. Even though I had some misunderstandings, they were due to my lack of experience in this area. On the other hand, there were guys who were more experienced, and they helped. So in fact it was not a problem either.

When I decided to change professions, I was not worried about age. Rather, age was another reason to change. I studied at the institute, got my PhD, traveled a lot, did things that interested me. Then I had a child, and I spent more time with my family. Now the child is grown up and I can develop professionally again. When, if not now?

However, when I started looking for a job, doubts crept in. Often in job descriptions, I saw the phrase “we have a young, dynamic, party company. And immediately I wondered: do they expect only young people? Should I send them a resume? On the other hand, I was never asked about my age at an interview. It was always a matter of real ability. Age was not important for a competent test score.

I started looking for a job when I finished my studies. The period was not the most favorable: self-isolation began, so my search dragged on for half a year. I was not invited to interviews very often, four or five times, and I did about 10 tests in total. But my efforts were not in vain: I got two offers.

Now I work as a BI-analyst at Malby-Tech, which is a division of a big concern that deals with analytics. I create interactive boards, clean and analyze data, and then use it to build dashboards for businesses. From what I’ve learned, not everything is in demand here, but that’s okay.

There are three analysts in our department. It just so happens that all three studied at Yandex.Practicum. As a matter of fact, I ended up here thanks to one of them – he sent us the link to the job in our chat room. At first I did not want to apply, because the list of tasks seemed overwhelming. But in the end, I applied, and it all worked out. I like my job and I feel in my right place.

Don’t think about age. If you want to learn a new profession, leave those thoughts behind. Do something that gives you pleasure, and try to master the skills, knowledge and tools that are given to you as much as possible. Don’t be shy to look for a job – even if the vacancy specifies “young team”, bravely offer the employer what you know how to do. Don’t let your complexes get the upper hand.

Oleg Pronin, 51, tester

I graduated from MIFI, Department of Cybernetics, in 1996. At that time there was not much choice of jobs for IT people in Russia, because there was no industry itself. Most of them were working as system administrators or developing accounting programs. That did not inspire me, so I chose another job and kept in my mind that someday I would go back to IT. But for a long time I couldn’t.

My first contact with the modern IT field was while I was setting up an online store. My tasks were mostly managerial, but sometimes I tested the site. I did this project for about two years, but due to the departure of one of the co-founders it had to be frozen.

Around the same time, I saw a tester course and thought it would help me stick around in IT. Then I found Yandex.Practicum. The course set was small at the time, and I was choosing between frontend and backend, but all of a sudden the Test Engineer course appeared, and I immediately fell into the first cohort – becoming a pioneer.

I started studying in November 2019 and graduated in April 2020. It was just the height of lockdown. I was really worried about whether there would be employment issues because of it. It was scary to imagine that I had spent money, time, effort, and considerable effort, all of which would not translate into results.

Even though I have an IT degree, learning was difficult. Often instead of the expected 15 hours a week, I spent twice as much time – 30 hours. I was often helped by one tutor, who answered all the questions on all the topics and was on duty almost around the clock. There were also good supervisors: it was easy to work with them on organizational things.

I had been looking for a job for a little over two months. I sent applications to the companies that interested me almost every day – about 15 a day. In total, I would probably get 300 responses. But only four of them got me to interviews.

At the time, I had no idea that there was an age requirement. Out of two candidates of equal ability, the first person to be called for an interview was someone 25-35 years old. Before that, I had no fears about age.

However, once you get to the interview, age doesn’t matter, because you’re not just talking to HR, you’re talking to specialists. The knowledge I acquired at Yandex.Practicum was enough to be able to participate in interviews without embarrassment or stress.

I am now working as a tester at the company Intermobility on a project for a unified mobile platform for Moscow. This is a system to which the whole set of applications for Muscovites is connected. The project is quite complicated: it is a deep backend, and it does not have the usual interfaces and tasks that we worked with during our studies.

For the first six months it was very hard to understand what the project was doing. The level of expertise of my fellow testers was an order of magnitude higher than mine, because they had all worked in the field for at least five years. It was hard to figure out, but interesting. Now it’s been over a year, and I’ve finally gained confidence in my work. I’m satisfied that this is where I ended up.

Of course, IT is not a field for everyone. If this industry is interesting to you, but you have not had the opportunity, and now it seems that you want to, but your age – do not pay attention. In IT you can work at any age and for a very long time. If you are 50 years old, you can easily work in this industry for another 30 years. And your skills, knowledge and abilities will only grow over time. The experience you have gained will help you get past HR’s mistrust of your age and more easily get hired by the companies that interest you.

Oleg Yakupov, 44, data analyst

I grew up in a military family. For a long time I did not even know there were civilians, because all my acquaintances were military, all my children were military. Of course I went to military school, graduated and served in the Northern Fleet naval aviation. It was the 2000s: no planes were flying, no money. I got out of the army, went to a second institute, got a second higher education – finance.

I worked in wholesale trade for a long time, then accidentally got into the banking industry, corporate sales, and pretty quickly rose to management. Everything was quite successful, but about five years ago I realized that I began to burn out – I got bored. At the same time, I thought a lot about automation and the fact that some of the routine processes could already be safely handed over to technology. There are now fully automated factories without a single employee, cars with autopilot, restaurants with robots – everything is like in fantasy novels.

In general, the topic of artificial intelligence fascinated me a lot: I read articles and watched sci-fi videos on YouTube. And then I wanted to do something with my own hands – to write at least one line of code. I started looking for where I could learn how to do this, and I found the Workshop.

The choice of the course was very simple: firstly, I liked the name “Data Analyst”, and secondly, I asked my friends, who work in the IT sphere, and they all advised to study to be an analyst.

Studying was difficult. Not only was I a complete novice on the subject, but I also managed to combine study with work. I lived in Shchelkovo and worked in Moscow: four and a half hours of travel a day. All my vacations, weekends and holidays I was gnawing at the granite of science. A couple of times I had crisis periods, when I could not get near the computer for a few days. I had to take two academs.

The first doubts and fears began near the end of my studies: if I get a job, I won’t be able to do it. Or it would take me a long time to find a job, and I would lose what I had gained. My colleagues at work knew that I was studying. They said it was nothing, that it was only temporary. But I didn’t listen to them. But my family supported me throughout my studies. When I didn’t sit at the computer in the morning, my wife would say: “What are you wandering around for? You have to study.” I’m very grateful for that.

In terms of finding a job, I took the classic route. Following the recommendations of the Practicum, I made a resume, posted it on HeadHunter, subscribed to the appropriate channels and sent responses. I also wrote to the team leaders and the human resources people at Linkedin – I was not shy.

All in all, I went through about a dozen interviews – mostly banks. I did a lot of tests, but they didn’t always come back to me with feedback or even a formal rejection. In the end, my job search took me three months, from September to December.

I now work in a large bank in the analytics department. Initially I knew I was weak in terms of skills, so the first few days seemed like a meat grinder: “Here’s your problem, solve it. Read FSD.” Read what? Or, “Do you have TNS?” What do I have?

I’ve been working here for almost eight months and I’ve already learned a lot and gotten used to the tasks. I’ve had a lot of help from colleagues. By the way, they are all very different in age: some are the same age as me, and some are even older. At the same time, I actively listen to the guys who are 25 years old – they are a kind of guru to me.

To those who want to take this path, I would say this: everything is absolutely real, but it will not be an easy walk. You have to clearly answer the question: why am I doing this, what do I want from it, am I enjoying it? When there’s a lot at stake and you suddenly say, “That’s not my thing,” it doesn’t work that way. You have to go forward without fear or regret. Only then will it work.

Anna Smirnova, employment manager for the Web Developer course at Yandex.Practicum

IT is the best choice for those who are going to change their profession at a mature age. Age discrimination is minimized here, and hiring is based on the quality of the code, presentation skills, and overall flexibility.

Of course, the employer also has certain fears when he interviews a mature candidate: a possible lack of flexibility, which would make it difficult to retrain the person or he would not fit in with the team. And another subjective fear of young managers is how to manage an experienced employee who is older. But it is in your power to dispel these doubts with a resume, a competent self-presentation, and continuous improvement of technical skills.

Any experience enriches us with hard or soft skills. For example, during your long career you have definitely changed your job responsibilities, maybe managed a team or projects. Growing up in a company is a combination of strong professional competencies, advanced communication and presentation skills. And it will take a long time for college graduates to develop these skills – certainly more than it will take you to develop hard-skills.

Analyze your experience and note what skills you’ve gained at each job. That way you’ll have a long list of your accomplishments that you shouldn’t forget. Here’s what any employer will be sure to note:

Initiative – this is your willingness and ability to solve problems without expecting a ready-made solution from management;

Self-learning – the ability to understand simple issues on your own, without a mentor;

Awareness – a conscious choice of profession and company helps the applicant to find the right job, and it helps the company not to miss the right choice of employee;

responsibility means that the candidate is ready to take on tasks and complete them, and colleagues can rely on the newcomer and not be afraid to work with him/her.

Time management and negotiation skills, as well as a flexible approach to tasks and situations and a desire to optimize processes are also valued.

Do not be afraid to put your age on your resume, because sooner or later the employer will know it. It is better to save your time and communicate with those employers who adequately treat age candidates.

Describe in detail your relevant work experience, including training and freelancing. And previous irrelevant experience describe briefly, literally a few lines. Write about the skills you have that can be applied to a position in a new field.

Don’t forget to fill out the “about me” section, where you can talk about your motivation for moving into a new field and show interest in it. Also mention your soft skills.

During the job search create a strategy, identify companies you are interested in, be selective in your responses, network and make sure you get plenty of rest. Try to take rejections easier, because there are many reasons that are not related to you personally: the position was closed by an internal employee, someone had time to respond before you, the company canceled the search or froze the budget for product development.

Don’t be afraid of anything, be flexible, and everything will work out for sure!

Tips for those for whom age is not a problem

Be prepared not to pull tasks at the start. Many people have a hard time fitting into their studies or a new job. Remember that there are always more experienced colleagues around to help – they, too, once started down this path. Finding a mentor for the first time is ideal.

Don’t think about age, but be prepared for bias. Age is a number on your passport, not an assessment of your knowledge or skills. But unfortunately, you may find young executives reluctant to take on people who are older than they are. Don’t be discouraged and keep trying.

Make a good resume and write cover letters. Don’t try to fit all of your years of experience into a standard resume – only list the skills that fit the new profession. Accept the fact that there will be a lot of rejection, but it does not affect your value as a professional.

Do not compare yourself to your colleagues, but to yourself in the past. At first, you’ll feel like you don’t understand anything at all, and there are cool professionals around. But if you feel like quitting everything and going back to your old life, just tell yourself, “There’s no turning back. You’ll get there, though maybe not right away.