Most Developers Begin Coding at an Absurdly Young Age

You’re never too young to start building software: three-quarters of developers began coding before they could legally drink, according to new survey data from HackerRank.

Some 21.1 percent of HackerRank’s respondents said they kicked off their coding career between the ages of 11 and 15 (before they could legally drive!), while another 4.8 percent did so before they turned 10 (probably before their parents let them leave the house unsupervised!). Another 49.6 percent first wrote software between the ages of 16 to 20.

Nearly a quarter of respondents (24.6 percent) started coding after the age of 21, making them the “geriatrics” of this survey. As HackerRank was quick to note in its report, that didn’t hinder their career growth: “Of all the developers who started coding after the age of 26, 36 [percent] are now senior or even higher-level developers, growing quickly in their careers.”

Developers across all age cohorts, meanwhile, have strong opinions about the programming languages they employ. “There is an unusual generational trend among newer languages: Younger developers dislike newer languages (like Go, Kotlin, and Scala) more so than older developers,” HackerRank noted in its report. “In fact, Go creates one of the greatest divides. Developers aged 18-24 don’t care for it, but 45-54 year-olds consider it one of their most loved languages.” With JavaScript, which is 22 years old, it’s the opposite, with younger developers liking it far more than their older counterparts.

Across all ages, developers also wanted good work-life balance: “Developers ranked work-life balance as the most desired trait, slightly more than professional growth and learning, which came in second.” Despite their reputations as workaholics, American developers desired work-life balance more than their counterparts in other regions such as Asia and Europe.

HackerRank’s findings about work-life balance echo the results of the most recent Dice Salary Survey (PDF), which found that tech pros of all disciplines (not just developers) want benefits and perks that would improve their life. In 2017, 71 percent of companies offered programs designed to make employees more balanced and happy, an increase from 53 percent in 2009; clearly, the way to retain talent is to offer things like flexible hours, training, and more paid time off.

That being said, the young age at which most developers start coding suggests they’re not driven by money and perks, or the opportunity to work at a particular company; it’s all about the software itself. You’re never too young (or too old) to write your first lines of code.

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