Networking like that is how I found my job without a degree in computer science.
I only started really job hopping and taking my career seriously 10 years ago at 35. I’ve always had at least a half a dozen interviews and a minuscule number of rejections. My network got me to the interview without going through an ATS. My Resume Driven Development and knowing the game got me offers.
Ageism outside of the cool hip startup world is exaggerated. Most of the older developers confuse ageism with not keeping their skillset in sync with the market.