I was a computer programmer for several decades. After a stroke and additional health problems, I am no longer able to continue. Specifically, I have aphasia, diminished use of one hand, and my fingers work randomly (I think I am typing with my ring finger, and I use my index finger). I also skip letters and even entire words.

My cognition is sound, but I cannot keep up with the pace of being a programmer, or the stress.

I am going for some job retraining, but it is going to be in an unrelated field, possibly corporate training. (I once taught a class on resume writing, so revising the resume should be no problem)

Question: What is the best way to approach interviewing to emphasize my decades of experience as being valuable, and how do I address why I am changing careers. I can't exactly mention my stroke or other medical problems, but I don't want to outright lie.

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    "I can't exactly mention my stroke or other medical problems". Why not? Commented Feb 25 at 0:43
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    @DJClayworth. I have had disabilities my entire life, but they were hidden, or I adapted so well, nobody would know unless I told them. Since the passage of the ADA, both the unemployment rate, and the labor participation rate for people with disabilities have plummeted precipitously. Employers do not want to hire people that are "walking potential lawsuits". Also, labor laws around disclosure of disabilities are dicey, at best. Commented Feb 25 at 2:38
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    Are you able to put words together to explain something? There is a tremendous need for people who can explain technology to management, to help them understand the capabilities, the limits, and the risks.
    – David R
    Commented Feb 25 at 15:09
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    You may want to put clear words to what you actually can do now, because that is what is going to get you hired. Commented Feb 25 at 20:20
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    @DavidR I am VERY good at explaining things, which is why I think I could be a trainer. The speed at which I can produce content is somewhat inhibited, but the pace is nowhere near what programming demands. And, spell check catches most of my mistakes. Commented Feb 25 at 21:59

3 Answers 3


Decided this was an answer...

Whoever you wind up working for is going to know that you need adaptive technology. You don't have to specify why, but there's nothing wrong with saying that you have challenges a, b and, c and have found that x, y, and z help you be productive.

These days, many mid to large companies have someone in HR whose job it is to understand what's available along those lines and help employees take advantage of it. IBM had rooms where we were encouraged to come in and play with alternative keyboards and voice input and more adjustable furniture to see if it would help us enough to justify spending some money to upgrade our workspace.

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    @Old_Lamplighter - There are very few careers that don’t some use of a computer. If your going to do corporate training, you would probably responsibly, for building the material you are teaching.
    – Donald
    Commented Feb 25 at 2:47
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    There is no shame in needing a different set of tools. If that's what's required for you to do the work, it's required. If you would rather not, that's fine, but you are severely restricting your options. And I'm not sure why.
    – keshlam
    Commented Feb 25 at 4:27
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    For what it's worth, this comment, and the previous one, were written through voice recognition rather than pounding on a keyboard. Admittedly, editing through voice commands is more difficult. Formatting may also be. But it can be done; I know a lot of programmers with RSI who have resorted to dictating their work at times. And others who use specialized keyboards to reduce the damage to the wrists. I am just concerned that you may be letting embarrassment prevent you from taking advantage of what technology has to offer, and scare you away from jobs that you could perform quite well.
    – keshlam
    Commented Feb 25 at 5:08
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    @keshlam, I appreciate your advice, and I will consider it. Commented Feb 25 at 5:08
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    @Old_Lamplighter One programmer I worked with was born with one hand, and was getting carpal tunnel in the other and no doctor wanted to operate on her only functional hand. She managed quite well with voice recognition, although decades ago it was really awful. The team was certainly glad she didn't decide to switch careers away from her area expertise because of a tools limitation. It may take a while to find the right environment in terms of stress-level and support, but you may not want to completely give up just yet.
    – ColleenV
    Commented Feb 26 at 14:51

keshlam gave a great answer, and I wanted to type something here as the I think the perspective of the OP is a bit off.

Old_Lamplighter: You can still be a very productive and valuable member of the workforce. Many companies would love to have you even with your health problems. There are many US companies that are not heartless and will accommodate you to perform at your best. They see these opportunities to build loyalty with their current employees and yourself. It is just good business.

As an older software developer you have many skills that could be used today. Just some suggestions (in addition to the one you mentioned, training):

  • Technical recruiter
  • Software testing
  • SCRUM master
  • Technical writer
  • Project manager
  • Sys Admin
  • Acting as a consultant for older programming languages (i.e. fortran, ada, cobol)

I worked with a guy in the early 2000s who was not a great programmer but was legally blind. The blindness had nothing to do with his skills, he just wasn't very good. He quit and had a very successful career doing recruiting for tech companies. He made a lot more money doing that then development.

Explaining the gap in employment is simple: "I had health issues". The companies you want to target will take this explanation with compassion. I would highly recommend targeting defense companies for employment (Northrup-Grumman, Raytheon, Lockheed Martin, etc...)

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    Why are the defense companies interesting candidates for employment?
    – calofr
    Commented Feb 26 at 16:01
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    @calofr because, in general, they treat their employees very well. Being federal contractors, they tend to go out of their way to comply with laws designated to help those at a "disadvantage".
    – Pete B.
    Commented Feb 26 at 17:06

One option would be teaching, there's always a shortage of industry experienced teachers and your decades of experience would be directly relevant.

Typing is great but I've done a lot of computer work without touching a physical keyboard, so there may be other software or ergonomic solutions that are suitable for you. I'm not suggesting you program for a living, if the stress is making it irksome, then don't do it. Just that you're not cut off from working efficiently on computers yet.

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    I am seriously considering teaching. The stress of programming is no good. My Cardiologist and Neurosurgeon both say no. Commented Feb 25 at 22:01
  • Teaching can be pretty satisfying if you have the temperament for it. Or.... it can suck badly.... never know until you try
    – Kilisi
    Commented Feb 26 at 2:53
  • I know someone who recently changed jobs to be a college professor, and he loves the job, lives the benefits, loves the students, and is still sometimes stressed about the salary... Can't have everything at once. There's an academia stack if you want to ask questions about going in that direction.
    – keshlam
    Commented Feb 26 at 5:52

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