Why I Chose IT at 50
I think a bit of it was multiple personality disorder, but the rest was purely good timing.
“You’re studying what?!” was the usual response I got from my similarly aged peers. That’s a fair enough question. And some data seems to back up their initial thoughts.
The age range of a person starting an IT career is 19-25. (www.reddit.com posts – so accuracy certainly not guaranteed)
The average age of a college IT graduate is 25.4. (www.haroldextra.com)
The average age of an IT Support Technician is 40.3. (www.datausa.io)
I found that last age figure somewhat reassuring. I am only about ten years off the mark.
And, that means that people in the IT business stay there a long time.
Let’s face it: career changes are scary. Especially as you get older.
There is an upside to taking a leap, though.
I find it’s like skydiving. After the first one, the second is more fun and less frightening. You are more aware of what’s going on around you as well.
You’ll need some background to put my desire for a career change into perspective.
When I chose to leave my professional career track of over 20 years for a new one, I had part-time income from a freelancing consulting business. So, all I needed from an employer was just a little extra income and some affordable health insurance.
My wife and I were fortunate. We had very little debt. Just one car payment. And we had gotten rid of the house. Watch the 1980’s movie “The Money Pit” and you’ll know what that ownership joy was like. I don’t ever want to own a home again.
Looking online at jobs felt very odd. I had always used word of mouth to find new employment. It turns out that applying online was actually way too easy.
I guess that’s why so many poor HR people complain of hundreds of unqualified applicants. It takes the applicant 90 seconds to have their web browser auto fill a form, then cut and paste a cover letter, and attach a resume preloaded into the job posting site’s system. It takes the HR person a lot longer than that to review it. I feel bad for them. Hence the current use of Applicant Tracking Systems, I suppose.
I applied as a teller at a small local credit union. Yep. A teller. It was the first ad on the first page on indeed.com in the metro area where I live. Here’s why I applied. The “sound” of the ad text was like a friend talking with you. It totally resonated with me. I researched the institution online and it seemed solid. So I applied online. With no resume required. It felt quite odd.
Two days and two interviews later I had a job and super cheap health insurance. Please understand, I had not made less money per hour since high school, but I accepted the offer anyway.
I was able to take a low paying job because, as mentioned earlier, I could take a “step down” in income and still maintain our same quality of life. And a learning a new industry would be fun. When is the last time you had fun at work?
So, first career jump made, we moved to a nice apartment in a new city. My wife gained employment Monday through Friday for a Senior Center non-profit. We finally had a “normal” life and marriage. We both live a mile from our employers and there are shopping centers and restaurants surrounding us. I probably could even get rid of the car. I’m just too attached to my trusty Honda.
Now, four years later, I still enjoy my credit union employer. And, it seems its small staff has a similar mindset. The help wanted ad verbiage really did communicate a lot about the company culture. It’s a great place to work.
Since my hire, I have moved up the ladder a bit. I now work in, and helped to create, what amounts to a “virtual” branch. We offer members electronic access and transactions. Online loan application and remote closings. And, we troubleshoot all of the end user and internal client issues. I know how to schmooze people from my previous career, so I make about triple the incentives of my peers. Soft skills carryover from any industry.
To get from teller to member support center to virtual banking, it took a lot of learning about financial apps. The most exciting part for me was rolling out a new internet banking vendor to accommodate growing demands. Being a part of the pre and post rollout process, as well as the staging testing before, during, and after (monthly updates), was and continues to be great learning.
Last week, the Sysadmin came up to as me a question on of my coworkers called him about. I wasn’t available to help her in the moment, but I overheard her calling him about 30 minutes prior. Our cubicles are near each other and I use a stand up desk, so I can pretty much hear almost all of my coworkers. I smiled inside that I knew more than the pro. And it had happened before. And since.
Now you are getting a hint at some of my motivations for a third career industry change.
Another motivation for a career change at 50 is my lovely 13 month old granddaughter. Long story short, my step-daughter was not and is not, capable of caring for her. We found out when she was a year old that the little munchkin had bounced between three other relative families in a different county since birth.
My wife and I had heard enough.
We applied for and received permanent guardianship.
So we are now “insta-parents” of, a beautiful and “back on track” 19 month old. Besides my wife, this little girl is the love of my life. She’s the youngest of three siblings. She was most neglected. She started off with the most disadvantages. And I’ll be danged if she’s not going to be the happiest, smartest, and most stable of the bunch. Despite it all. That’s my goal.
So “insta-parent” I was. Do some math on the age gap, though, for a minute. That means I’ll be watching her graduate college at over age 70.
Well. With 20 years of working life ahead of me, “What now? What next?”
I truly enjoyed working with our new internet banking app vendor, and all of the other vendors who made our new system work seamlessly for the end user.
And rollout day was insanely busy but fun. I watched the on site vendor support experts solve problems with a few clicks. Or write a script on the fly to fix to a bug no one caught.
I knew what I wanted to do after that.
Be one of them.