×

Welcome to the Slashdot Beta site -- learn more here. Use the link in the footer or click here to return to the Classic version of Slashdot.

Thank you!

Before you choose to head back to the Classic look of the site, we'd appreciate it if you share your thoughts on the Beta; your feedback is what drives our ongoing development.

Beta is different and we value you taking the time to try it out. Please take a look at the changes we've made in Beta and  learn more about it. Thanks for reading, and for making the site better!

"Logan's Run" Syndrome In Programming

CmdrTaco posted more than 4 years ago | from the stay-off-my-lawn dept.

Programming 599

Ian Lamont writes "InfoWorld has an interesting analysis of the reasons behind the relative dearth of programmers over the age of 40. While some people may assume that the recession has provided a handy cover for age discrimination, a closer look suggests that it's the nature of IT itself to push its elderly workers out, in what the article describes as a 'Logan's Run'-like marketplace. A bunch of factors are listed as reasons, including management's misunderstanding of the ways in which developers work: 'Any developer can tell you that not all C or PHP or Java programmers are created equal; some are vastly more productive or creative. However, unless or until there is a way to explicitly demonstrate the productivity differential between a good programmer and a mediocre one, inexperienced or nontechnical hiring managers tend to look at resumes with an eye for youth, under the "more bang for the buck" theory. Cheaper young 'uns will work longer hours and produce more code. The very concept of viewing experience as an asset for raising productivity is a non-factor — much to the detriment of the developer workplace.'"

cancel ×
This is a preview of your comment

No Comment Title Entered

Anonymous Coward 1 minute ago

No Comment Entered

599 comments

"Elderly"?!?!? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31171656)

Elderly?!?!? I'm 41, you insensitive clod!

Re:"Elderly"?!?!? (4, Funny)

couchslug (175151) | more than 4 years ago | (#31171916)

"Elderly?!?!? I'm 41, you insensitive clod!"

Now get out of that igloo and back on the ice, Gramps. Polar bears gotta eat too.

Obivous Answer (4, Insightful)

cabjf (710106) | more than 4 years ago | (#31171678)

Eventually people do tend to get promoted beyond programming positions.

Re:Obivous Answer (3, Funny)

HeckRuler (1369601) | more than 4 years ago | (#31171780)

Traitors...
Unless you consider being the archetect to be beyond programming. I assumed you meant transforming perfectly good human beings into pointy haired bosses.

Re:Obivous Answer (4, Funny)

slick7 (1703596) | more than 4 years ago | (#31172606)

Unless you consider being the archetect to be beyond programming.
At least I am old enough to spell "architect"

Not so simple (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31171934)

Not all programmers get promoted. It's a pyramid scheme. Most will get dumped to find work elsewhere, losing seniority in the process and quite possibly having to find work in a different field.

Upper management/nonprogrammers haven't a clue about the valuable experience the older programmers have. Management follows the younger programmers as they tilt at windmills.

Re:Obivous Answer (1)

Idbar (1034346) | more than 4 years ago | (#31172256)

What about motivation? People tend to write more lines of code if they are motivated. I've written most of my lines of code driven by motivation of their usefulness rather than my age.

Although, at my age, I rather write more lines of code that do stuff for me quicker. Maybe I've become lazy AND old.

Re:Obivous Answer (1)

Opportunist (166417) | more than 4 years ago | (#31172300)

I was about to say that.

I see it amongst my peers. Many started out as programmers and are now "elevated" beyond that "grunt work" of creating code. They move towards management positions where they are no longer considered programmers.

I tried. I am no manager. Either let me code or send me to the carousel.

Re:Obivous Answer (1)

infinite9 (319274) | more than 4 years ago | (#31172346)

Eventually people do tend to get promoted beyond programming positions.

And the other 90% that don't get promoted because those spots were filled by the 10%?

I think the real reason is simple. People older than me (almost 40) are likely to be mainframe programmers. Back then, there weren't a lot of computers. So there weren't a lot of programmers. The office where I work now is filled with people around 40yo doing c++/unix. Come back in about 10 or 20 years, and you'll see a lot of older programmers.

Re:Obivous Answer (1)

rock_climbing_guy (630276) | more than 4 years ago | (#31172512)

Give us your tired, your weak, your huddled masses, yearning to be unemployed.

Normally I don't reply to .sigs. However, in case you don't know, you might look up what the minimum wage is in Mexico some time.

Yes and No (5, Interesting)

Concern (819622) | more than 4 years ago | (#31171694)

I have no idea if I'm an outlier, but with a blind preference for intellectual depth, rigor, and creativity, I tend to see what I figured was normal: more experienced candidates often come out ahead. Not always, but often. More experience unsurpisingly equals more age. The best are often bringing decades of experience, MA or PhD level credentials, and the ineffable things that come from having been there and done that in a lot of different trenches. They often cost more (though not all that much more), and they're worth it.

I know the corporate world at large has this patrician idea about pay related to seniority - whereas I come from the pay-for-value mindset. There is a good observation in the article about older folks making more and therefore being victims of cost cutting. I'm sure this happens as well, but in my world the observation is meaningless. A senior software engineer will get a good salary - more than enough to support an upper middle-class lifestyle (albeit not at the level of an attorney or an anesthesiologist), regardless of their age. If they ask for too much, they will be unemployed; if they tire of unemployment, they bring their compensation demands back in line with their value. I find most people have a very good grasp of the labor market, especially with the advent of widely available salary suvery data.

I have a couple of friends in their 50's who joke about becoming obsolete. I associate this with actually getting tired of keeping up with an industry that reinvintents itself so often, and therefore, not keeping up. There's a trap there, too: a kind of local maxima where, for a while, being an expert in Cobol or IBM mainframes is not only easier than learning Java, but will pay more and more, as you become more and more rare. Until one day you look for your next job and it just... isn't there.

Historically IT has suffered from a lack of technical depth at the top. Companies wanted wise old hands with management experience in charge, even if those wise old hands needed an assistant to print their emails every day (true story, multiple companies). As the next generation rises through the ranks, you will have more middle management, SVP, and ultimately COO, CEO, etc types that have real first-hand knowledge of technology. Eventually the corporate world will lose some of its notortious and costly blindness towards talent, and both hiring and strategy will become more objective and less bullshit-driven.

Re:Yes and No (4, Interesting)

Enderandrew (866215) | more than 4 years ago | (#31171734)

Experience is key. The issue is that new applicants coming out school have more experience with .NET, Java and they key technologies that many industries are looking for today. The fact that you have 30 years of COBOL experience doesn't help you if you don't learn new technologies.

Re:Yes and No (5, Insightful)

2short (466733) | more than 4 years ago | (#31172016)


True, but if it's for a job doing .NET programming (for example) a lot of people doing hiring will take the guy with 1 year of .NET experience and nothing else over the guy with 30 years experience in 5 different languages and no .NET. All else being equal, the latter guy will probably be more valuable.

Re:Yes and No (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31172276)

I second that! My employer hired a young woman as a Java programmer who had work experience in several languages, but no Java. She demonstrated good problem solving skills (that substantiated the kudos from her references) during the interview. This is why we prefer people with education in computer science or engineering for programming positions. Sure there are lots of good self-taught Java programmers out there with degrees in Journalism, but they're one trick ponies when it comes to doing anything else besides Java programming.

And they would be wrong (1)

SmallFurryCreature (593017) | more than 4 years ago | (#31172548)

Take them both. One is a junior, he might know his own tiny little environment, but everything else is going to suck, while the experienced guy can pick up a new language in a flash and in the meantime keep the young guy from making to many basic mistakes.

Re:Yes and No (5, Insightful)

LWATCDR (28044) | more than 4 years ago | (#31172122)

"The fact that you have 30 years of COBOL experience doesn't help you if you don't learn new technologies."
learning a new language is easy. Learning to program is hard.
c, java, c#, php, perl, are all very much alike. Once you know one learning the rest are easy.
In your typical application program so much code is now offloaded to the libraries that once you leave school you are unlikly to have to write a HASH or a sort every again.
What experence teachs you is when you need to use a hash vs a btree.

Re:Yes and No (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Psychopath (18031) | more than 4 years ago | (#31172294)

learning a new language is easy. Learning to program is hard.

QFT

IANAP but have written code as a hobbyist. I'll spend hours writing and rewriting something only mildly complex because, while I understand the languages and syntax well enough, I use trial and error to find the right methods. Starting with only a vague idea of how I want something to work doesn't help, either. Good programmers know the right methods already, and learning how those methods are applied in any particular language is trivial.

Re:Yes and No (4, Interesting)

alan_dershowitz (586542) | more than 4 years ago | (#31172430)

Learning how to not leverage 30 years of COBOL experience by programming in COBOL in every other language you use is hard.

I maintain C code written by a COBOL programmer. You can tell.

Re:Yes and No (5, Insightful)

Opportunist (166417) | more than 4 years ago | (#31172436)

Just wait 'til Y3K rolls over and we old COBOL proggers will be sought after again!

Ok, aside of lame jokes, it's a misconception that "you have to know $language_FOTM to be useful". You have to know how to program to be useful in the long run. Of course, all those fast breeder COBOL programmers that were cranked out 30+ years ago when COBOL was the be-all, end-all language of the trade will not have any future. Neither will the same kind of fast breeder .net codemonkeys have any. They will be used now 'til nobody cares about .net anymore, then they will be tossed and retrained to ... car salesmen or whatever needs more people then.

What's left is programmers who do not learn a programming language but to program. It does not matter if you write C, C++, Java or C# code. It's basically the same concept. I could see that there is a genuine difference between an imperative and a descriptive language, but ALL the languages mentioned above ARE imperative. If it does matter to you that you're supposed to use a different one, you have no right to call yourself a programmer in my eyes. Because the algorithm does not change. The words you write, the symbols you use and maybe a few tidbits to take care of do. But the foundation stays the same.

Programming is not knowing an API by heart. That's something help files are here for. Programming is not knowing what library contains what functions. Check your manual for reference. Programming is knowing how to translate a problem into code. What language is used to do that translation is not important.

Re:Yes and No (1)

SpinyNorman (33776) | more than 4 years ago | (#31172454)

With COBOL you may have a point - OTOH are there really any full-time COBOL programmers out there? I thought they all went back into retirement after coming out for the Y2K feeding frenzy!

OTOH, say I'm looking to hire someone to do Java development... I'd MUCH prefer a C++ programmer with 10 years experience over a fresh graduate who knows Java. The C++ programmer will learn Java few months, but the newbie will need 10 years to get 10 years worth of programming experience.

The difference in productivity between a programmer with a lot of experience and a newbie can be astounding... A seasoned professional who puts his years of experience to play in designing it right can do in a week what a newbie may struggle months to get working (and still end up with an unmaintainable poorly written mountain of code vs the clean solution of the pro).

Re:Yes and No (4, Insightful)

mollog (841386) | more than 4 years ago | (#31172460)

Experience is key. The issue is that new applicants coming out school have more experience with .NET, Java and they key technologies that many industries are looking for today.

Arrant crap. The best programmer I know is in his 60's and got his start on IBM mainframes. He's the go-to guy when you're writing a new OS for your next imbedded application. As others have already said, once you've been through a few languages, JCL, Cobol, Fortran, C, C++, Java, TCL, the next language doesn't even register as a 'new' language.

The reluctance of younger managers to hire older programmers has less to do with skill and ability, and more to do with psychological factors such as an older programmer's ability to instantly see the folly of what a younger manager wants to try. Been there, tried that, fuggetaboutit.

Young programmers keep me employed! (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31172106)

I'm 59, and have been programming professionally since I was 20. The two best things for my employment are:
      1) Young, inexperienced programmers.
      2) "Experienced" Indian programmers.

Why is that? Because they both fuck up constantly, and thus give me lots to fix.

Young and inexperienced programmers are a delight to work with. It's great to see them come into a project all cocksure, only to be crushed by the demands of the real world. They'll spent countless hours putting together shitty software, which will always fail. Then management calls me in, and I fix their code. Mostly this means rewriting it all from scratch. Regardless, I make about four times what they do. Then again, I deliver working code.

"Experienced" Indian programmers and "software architects" are the next best thing. They're like the young and inexperienced programmers, but their fuckups are much, much bigger. That means the customer's desperation is much greater, and I can make more money. What's best about these guys is that they often haven't produced even a line of code. They just spew out UML diagram after UML diagram. I look at the diagrams, talk to the users, and it becomes obvious what should be done. I sit down, implement the software, satisfy the customer, and collect my money.

Re:Young programmers keep me employed! (1, Insightful)

SenseiLeNoir (699164) | more than 4 years ago | (#31172638)

That was a bit racist, don't you think?

I am an "Indian" (actually Sri Lankan) Developer, who started programming when I was 7, on a Sinclair ZX Spectrum (not just Basic, but loads of yummy Z80 Assembly). I was brought up in the UK.

My Father-in-law is also a Sri Lankan Developer, who was brought up in Sri Lanka, yet has worked in USA, Singapore, and UK on lucrative contracts.

When we say that we are EXPERIENCED Developers, you can count on that. We earn craploads of money, fixing the bugs created by other so called "senior developers", who then get pushed into PHB/Management roles, still earning less than us.

So stop being a bigot, and prejudiced.

Pay for Missed Opportunity (1)

mpapet (761907) | more than 4 years ago | (#31172250)

here's a trap there, too: a kind of local maxima where, for a while, being an expert in Cobol or IBM mainframes is not only easier than learning Java, but will pay more and more, as you become more and more rare.

Why they are paying a Cobol programmer more is for two basic reasons.

1. Not many Cobol programmers around.
2. Paying you for the opportunity you will NOT take getting into a more modern language. They are paying you more because it will be harder for you to find work later on.

If you are clever/lucky enough to be able to transition anyway, then more power to you. But deriving maximum benefits from timing the switch to a more modern language is not likely for average guys like me.

I've seen that happen over and over (1)

Ralph Spoilsport (673134) | more than 4 years ago | (#31171696)

When my last boss was 20 years younger than me, I changed professions... I'm not that old...

Re:I've seen that happen over and over (2, Insightful)

HeckRuler (1369601) | more than 4 years ago | (#31172066)

Why was that necessarily a bad thing? Asshole young punk bosses aside, why do you want a boss that's older then you? Is it some old-fashioned respect to elders you demand? Do you feel passed over for that position?

Bossing, and doing are two different things that don't have much overlap. It's good for a boss to be knowledge about what his worker bees do, but it's really not that crucial. And the skill overlap between a boss and a worker is hardly anything. Ok, sure, the skillset of a boss includes babysitting, settling disputes, wagging fingers, and sucking up to higher-ups. All sort of common sense skills that anyone could have, but not a specialty of workers. Seriously, why the hell do people stop doing good work and become bosses. Why isn't there a bachelors degree in management with entry level boss positions. Why are bosses paid more?

Inertia isn't reason enough.

Re:I've seen that happen over and over (1)

Ralph Spoilsport (673134) | more than 4 years ago | (#31172528)

Well, not that emotional maturity and numerical age are correlated in a direct manner (I've known plenty of elderly idiots who were narcissistic crybaby jerkoffs) but there is something that happens with experience (on one end) and the classic "grey hair" syndrome in group sociality. Not that an older person is necessarily more experienced, but they tend to be so. And no, i did not get "passed over" for the job - I honestly didn't want it. what I saw was this: you do coding long enough and people burn out on it and often want more responsibility and control over a product. They emotionally invest in a system and attach to it and want to do more than just code. So they turn 40, look around, realise being the boss sucks, and then get sacked for being old and expensive. It's not just coding - it's also graphic design. You don't see a lot of older people doing design production work - they tend to either become art directors or find some other job. you ask "why are bosses paid more?" No idea - I'm with you on that one. I always found that irritating as well. But I'm an old commie pinko mutherfarker. I think people who dig ditches and pick fruit should be the highest paid people. But that's me.

Re:I've seen that happen over and over (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31172648)

Microsoft has entry level boss position, and they're still set to take over the world.

Over 40 is "elderly"? (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31171738)

Congratulations, Ian Lamont! From now on, whenever I see a resume with the name "I. Lamont" on it, it's going straight to the trash.

Re:Over 40 is "elderly"? (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31171914)

Congratulations, Ian Lamont! From now on, whenever I see a resume with the name "I. Lamont" on it, it's going straight to the trash.

You'd probably be better off tossing out resumes from Lisa Schmeiser since she's the one who originally used that particular verbiage. Then again, I wouldn't expect someone to pay attention to details before deciding to scapegoat someone.

Re:Over 40 is "elderly"? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31172370)

Actually, 40 is the cutoff age for ADEA protection against age discrimination.

It used to be that their was an upper age limit (meaning that you could legally discriminate against a 95 year old in employment), but there isn't any more.

You can still discriminate against 39 year olds though.

My own two cents' worth (3, Insightful)

garg0yle (208225) | more than 4 years ago | (#31171744)

Not only are younger coders generally cheaper, they also generally are more into the "new technologies" -- as a programmer gets older, it becomes almost a second job to keep up with the new technology as it comes out, and at some point I suspect that many just decide it's easier to get off the carousel and go find something else to do.

As an example, if you've been coding in COBOL for 20 years, Java can be an awkward language to learn. However, many new grads in the last 10 years learned Java as their first language. As such, even though the senior coder probably would perform better in the long run (due to more experience with designing efficient algorithms and more knowledge of internal business processes), management would likely hire a couple of recent grads rather than pay to have our COBOL programmer trained in Java.

Re:My own two cents' worth (1)

base3 (539820) | more than 4 years ago | (#31171822)

. . . I suspect that many just decide it's easier to get off the carousel and go find something else to do. [emphasis mine]

I think the issue is that the over-40 coders are being asked to get on the carousel.

Re:My own two cents' worth (2, Informative)

jythie (914043) | more than 4 years ago | (#31172074)

Besides new technologies, one also needs to keep up with the current flavor of 'one true way' programming. Multi-paridigm programmers are increasingly being seen as warped or 'in need of training' since they can *gasp* see value in something other then the current snapshot of how OOP is done. Experience and perspective become detriments unless one knows which current fad to focus on and which ones you are supposed to say have no value.

Re:My own two cents' worth (1)

ShieldW0lf (601553) | more than 4 years ago | (#31172642)

The information technology business has a low barrier to entry. Anyone who has experience in IT can buy all the tools needed to solve problems independently. Older people with experience who know what they are doing get sick and tired of being told what to do by morons whose skill set amounts to kissing the ass of investors and dumping on staff. Therefore, there is no reason for experienced IT workers to continue to have a conventional job. The only reason to take a conventional job is if you don't have any skills and need direction, or don't have any tools and can't use the knowledge you have effectively for that reason.

Career path (3, Insightful)

jdgeorge (18767) | more than 4 years ago | (#31171814)

As others have already noted, the career path of technical people often moves beyond "just programming" at some point. By the time folks have reached 40, they've (hopefully) got a good sense of how to make good decisions about what products and features to develop and how, not just how to write efficient code.

While some of the technical leaders in my area do write some code, the bulk of what they are needed for is making decisions about what we ought to be doing, and providing guidance for the younger programmers or ensuring quality communication with other lead developers.

Re:Career path (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31172568)

By the time folks have reached 40, they've (hopefully) got a good sense of how to make good decisions about what products and features to develop and how, not just how to write efficient code.

The knowledge useful for choosing what product or features to develop has pretty much fuck-all to do with knowing how to do code well or architect a program. The person in charge at the design level and the person in charge at the administrative level just need a rough estimate of how much it'll cost to develop particular software or features.
BR You rarely see mechanics being put in charge of the make-up of a car companies' offerings, or what features to add to specifics vehicles.

Programming has Changed (0)

happy_place (632005) | more than 4 years ago | (#31171818)

The nature of programming has changed. When 40+ year olds were going to college or studying, OOP was in its infancy, and even functional programming was more about clever algorithms on limited hardware, where optimization mattered, rather than programming interfaces and patching together APIs with a zillion features, connecting with some database somewhere else, etc.

Re:Programming has Changed (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31172166)

No really. A good programmer should be about to apt to any language or hardware. The examples you give show the typical "young guy's" view of programming, that is "every type of programming is just like my PC and I and always use the language and tools I choose." Where I work we use dozens of languages, multitudes of hardware types, and various coding practices (real-time, safety critical, OO, etc.). Sometimes we are called on to update or upgrade systems running on obsolete hardware, using obscure languages like Jovial, and tools that are 20+ years old. Your run-of-the-mill Java Boy just out of school can't do that.

ageism (3, Interesting)

spineboy (22918) | more than 4 years ago | (#31171820)

And it's present in many industries/areas. No one wants anyone over 40 for rock, screen writers are ignored if they're over 40, since "They don't know what it's like to be a kid."
The list goes on.

In programming, I think it's foolish. People are getting caught up on the techniques, and not the theories. Unfortunately, techniques become quickly dated, and irrelevant, while theory always will be useful

Re:ageism (1)

Monkeedude1212 (1560403) | more than 4 years ago | (#31172670)

Problem is that there are some blurs between what is theory and what is technique - for example, would you consider object oriented programming a theory or a technique? It's a little bit of both. C# will become dated, so I'm not going to spend my life just in that field, but how long until Object Oriented is replaced by something even more versatile? Or when it evolves past inheritance into something more fluid rather than structured? As computers get more powerful more implicit styles can be adapted, more cross referencing and multiple inheritances.

I have very little doubt that -EVERYTHING- I learned in school will be out-dated by the time I am 40. 20 years from now, programming will be different. Like 20 years ago compared to today, only more exagerated.

It is age discrimination (3, Insightful)

royallthefourth (1564389) | more than 4 years ago | (#31171842)

The summary says that it's not merely age discrimination, then goes on to say that they hire younger workers because they are cheaper, without bothering to account for experience.
That is age discrimination.

What a horrible, stupid summary.

Re:It is age discrimination - Yes, It is (2, Interesting)

hillbluffer (1684134) | more than 4 years ago | (#31171974)

I was once "fired" because I was the "old hand" in a department that had a sudden influx of developers over ten years junior to me. Yes, I sued and won based on age discrimination. From my standpoint, managers hire younger workers because they'll work longer hours for less pay, and are less likely to have the "encumbrace" of families to keep them from working OT, or that call them away because someone's home sick, or has to be run to an appointment. Also, the boss usually prefers people his own age who'll go drinking at Bennigans every night with him.

Re:It is age discrimination - Yes, It is (5, Insightful)

tsm_sf (545316) | more than 4 years ago | (#31172156)

I was once young enough to work 16 hour days. Now I know better. That is the entirety of the "problem".

Re:It is age discrimination (1)

alan_dershowitz (586542) | more than 4 years ago | (#31172088)

If this were a thread about H1B, people would be screaming about how Americans won't work AT THAT PRICE POINT. Devil's advocate, why won't older workers work at that price point? One place I've worked at hired a number of older workers who had made career changes late in life, and came in older but not really experienced. If I looked at our hiring practices it was obvious that they were trying to get a diverse workforce (nothing inherently wrong with that) so it would be really hard to say that we were being discriminatory.

It seems like in a bad economy the _very_ experienced software designers and architects (often older) get screwed because nobody wants to pay that much and are cutting back on the really far reaching products that need that level of talent. That's where I think we are right now.

Re:It is age discrimination (1)

stefanlasiewski (63134) | more than 4 years ago | (#31172414)

Devil's advocate, why won't older workers work at that price point?

Because there is often another employer willing to hire at a higher price point.

I hear many people complaining about H1B workers, but I have yet to run into a conflict myself after 13 years in this industry (I'm also not over 40).

I could be wrong, but H1B workers seem to work in many of the low-level and entry positions. Workers over age 40 often aren't applying for those positions.

No, it is not age discrimination... (2, Informative)

Jahava (946858) | more than 4 years ago | (#31172624)

The summary says that it's not merely age discrimination, then goes on to say that they hire younger workers because they are cheaper, without bothering to account for experience. That is age discrimination.

That is not age discrimination. Younger workers are hired because they are cheaper, not because they are younger. If two people cost the same and the older of the two was better-qualified, but the younger was hired anyway, that is age discrimination. I can see why you would be confused, since younger people tend to also cost less.

Unfortunately, programming experience doesn't linearly scale with code quality. Eventually, the gain in code quality tapers off, and the more-experienced higher-salaried employee is not worth paying extra for. There are exceptions ... some people are just phenomenal developers and are hard to replace ... but this article is not about them.

All the more reason to get out of IT (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31171872)

I graduated with a degree in CS and working in IT for 7 days. It didn't take long to see the handwriting on the wall. Left and went back to school for pharmacy. A few years later and I can get hired on anywhere in an instant.

IT is a dead-end.

KMA whipper snappers (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31171876)

I'm in my mid-40s and my buddy at work is in his 50s. We run circles around little whipper snappers from R&D and standards to best practices, hands down programming, etc. To actually find someone young that has a real CompSci degree (MBA and MIS doesn't count), real experience or even a fundamental understanding of OOP, RDBMS design, security, static code analysis, etc. is far and few between. Keep on hiring cheap labour (Ranjit and Chad from Tech & Talk) and we'll keep on debugging and fixing their code!

jaded (5, Insightful)

convolvatron (176505) | more than 4 years ago | (#31171880)

the problem with having older programmers like myself is that they are fully tired of being jerked around
by incompetent management. if you've worked in 20 shops, and run a few yourself, you're alot less
likely to happily pull an all nighter to try to get the release out the door. you understand
that this all could have been taken care of months ago, and you went to some pains to point that
out then.

the other kind of older programmer has just given up. they know better, but they understand
that bitching isn't going to solve anything and they need the health insurance. they look alot
less capable then they are because they just agree with everything and try to get out the door
by 5.

younger programmers dont know any better, they will believe whatever you say

Re:jaded (1)

pilgrim23 (716938) | more than 4 years ago | (#31172092)

I fit catagory #2 I did give up and I am proud to say it. Microsoft was pretty bad about this for years; Hire out of school, 18 months later a burned out and now cynical programmer is looking on Craig's List for a job. After a time Microsoft could not hire enough US canon fodder and began shopping for victims in Bangalore. -- Being a Wally can actually be a good thing

The third way (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Brave Guy (457657) | more than 4 years ago | (#31172148)

There is a third kind of older programmer: disillusioned with crappy management but still wanting to do development, they strike out on their own. They either go freelance as some sort of contractor/consultant, or found their own company and bring in other people to do the business side of things while they stay technical.

Re:jaded (1)

Sir_Lewk (967686) | more than 4 years ago | (#31172154)

If you are 60 years old, had haved worked in 20 different shops, then you have averaged something like one new shop every 2 years. Perhaps it's not my place to say it, but there might be something else wrong here...

Re:jaded (2, Insightful)

Richard Steiner (1585) | more than 4 years ago | (#31172386)

Ah, but which way do you go?

If you move from job to job on a regular basis, you're seen as an opportunist who won't stick around for long.

If you stay in one place too long, you're seen as being stuck in a rut and not growing your skillset (nevermind what the truth might actually be).

I personally prefer to stick with a given company long enough to learn the ropes in some detail, and I would have actually preferred to stay with my previous two employers until retirement (the work was interesting enough), but corporate layoffs have a way of changing an individual's career path. :-)

Only "Jaded"? (5, Funny)

coolmoose25 (1057210) | more than 4 years ago | (#31172412)

The phases of programming (and lots of other things) are:

- Disgruntled
- Jaded
- Bitter
- Postal
- Indifferent

The Systems Development Life Cycle can be thusly described:

- Wild Enthusiam
- Beffudlement
- The Disaster
- The Search for the Guilty
- The Punishment of the Innocent
- The Promotion of the Uninvolved

(yes - 45 year old programmer who is now a pointy haired bossman)

Re:jaded (0)

jellomizer (103300) | more than 4 years ago | (#31172536)

You know being jaded may be the case. As an IT Manager myself I have rejected a lot of older developers not because of skill sets but because of that jaded attitude. I don't want to spend my work day arguing with a developer just because he thinks he knows better. Even though he may not fully understand the skill sets of the larger team trying to create an architecture where everyone can maintain. Sometimes you need to do things sub-optimal for better overall results. Yes lets not go with an Object Oriented Model for this case because of the size of the application it just doesn't fit and the support people will take a lot time trying to fix a problem vs. a procedural approach (or a Light OO) which changes can be found quicker and easier from other people.
Or having someone who supposed to work under you trying to manage you job, just because he has more experience. If you are going for a job you better make yourself a team player where your experience is helpful for the process not an ego boost to yourself where you need to hinder the process so you can be right.

Forget age, (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31171928)

TFA is written by a girl!

No really (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31171932)

The problem is not about Age: is about Money. You having X years of experience you want X amount of money. Managers think that they can replace that with somebody cheaper (Why you can get somebody that have experience and can produce good code better than 3 when we can get 10 from India making 15,000 a year and no benefits)

Sorry Boys and Girls we ALL are in the same boat.

P.S In the defense of Indian programmers they are in the same bad position (I think even worst than ours). Having X amount of years of experience = job moved to China. So 14,000 is OK with me and you do not have any recourse.
Please remember that is not the corporations where the problem lies. Is the rich people that benefit from the corporations (hey they have a very expensive life )

Cheers

Caitlin

Re:No really (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31172130)

Bull.
It is not about Money.
I was interviewed last week for a Senior Programming position. I'm 56 and have been programming since 1972. The job was mainly Java & Web Design. No probs done lots of that, got the T shirt.
I was rejected because,
  1) I had no ambition (why wasn't I a manager)
  2) I was over qualified for the job

I don't want to be a friggin manager. I was once and total crap at it thank you very much. At 56, you should know your limitations. I think I know mine.

Over qualified? Do you want the job done or do you want the job done properly. And no, I was not asking for an inflated salary. Well within the range quoted in the advert.

Oh well, back to working on the next version of a Linux App and Jobseekers allowance.

Re:No really (1)

bakawolf (1362361) | more than 4 years ago | (#31172354)

My guess is either A) You're still asking for more than they want to pay. or B) Why are you asking for so much less than you should be worth? first one is obvious, second one raises a few red flags.

Kids Today (5, Funny)

handy_vandal (606174) | more than 4 years ago | (#31171952)

Kids today have it easy -- context sensitive development environments, online documentation, etc. etc.

Why, when I was your age, we had to chisel bluestone megaliths using only hand tools, and then haul those four-ton stones into a circular pattern, just to calculate date() ...!

Re:Kids Today (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31172178)

When I was your age, we didn't even have parenetheses! And we had to talk in all caps!

Re:Kids Today (1)

hoggoth (414195) | more than 4 years ago | (#31172434)

> When I was your age, we didn't even have parenetheses! And we had to talk in all caps!

Luckily, by the time I was your age we had open parenthesis. We still didn't have close parenthesis so that was tricky...

Re:Kids Today (2, Insightful)

handy_vandal (606174) | more than 4 years ago | (#31172486)

We had to improvise close parenthesis by taking an opening parenthesis and then standing on our heads.

Re:Kids Today (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31172492)

...Why, when I was your age, we had to chisel bluestone megaliths using only hand tools, and then haul those four-ton stones into a circular pattern, just to calculate date() ...!

So your responsible for the Y2KBC problem!

Y2KBC problem (1)

handy_vandal (606174) | more than 4 years ago | (#31172554)

I tell ya, hauling a four-ton obelisk upright using rope and logs and manual labor gives new meaning to the word "rollover" ....

Experience (5, Insightful)

copponex (13876) | more than 4 years ago | (#31171954)

Across every industry I've been involved in, a good piece of advice from an old business mentor has held true:

When you pay an expert $100 an hour, you're not paying them for the hour. You're paying them for the years of experience they have plus an hour of their time.

This also dovetailed well with what a mechanic told me when I was trying to lowball him: "When you pay peanuts, all you get is monkey business."

Re:Experience (1)

Pojut (1027544) | more than 4 years ago | (#31172576)

When you pay an expert $100 an hour, you're not paying them for the hour. You're paying them for the years of experience they have plus an hour of their time. This also dovetailed well with what a mechanic told me when I was trying to lowball him: "When you pay peanuts, all you get is monkey business."

This is very true. We used to tell the new guys at the shop that anyone can be a part swapper...but diagnosing an issue and determining the best solution (and implementing it) is a whole other ball game. I was young when I worked as an auto tech (18-22, had to quit due to injury) but I had been working on cars since I was 10. I wasn't paid to do the work, I was paid for my knowledge about how to do the work properly (being promoted to shop foreman at the age of 20 with nine techs working under me, some of them in the profession longer than I'd been alive, is proof of that.)

As you said in your post, this applies to just about every skill-based job out there.

I don't think experience is always better in CS (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31171964)

Yes, fresh inexperienced developers aren't always gonna do things the best way but I've seen a fair amount of dogmatic older developers who insist on using old archaic non-type safe methods and languages just because "that's the way they've done it for 20 years". Sometimes is takes fresh minds to mix up the status quo and provide better solutions using newer and better technologies.

So suck it up, Grandpa.

Re:I don't think experience is always better in CS (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31172056)

Show me a better Principle and earn your pay rise Sonny.

Re:I don't think experience is always better in CS (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31172222)

Hmmm. Most of the trendy new languages seem to be non-typesafe. I think you are showing your age.

This is news?? (1)

filesiteguy (695431) | more than 4 years ago | (#31172038)

I am 40 years old.

I was a programmer.

I'm now a manager of programmers and analysts.

Though there are still a few people my age and older doing programming, most move on to either management or line-operation positions. That is how it seems to have always been. Yeah, I can still code and even review my staff's work on occasion, I find it more worthwhile to direct the team.

Could I get a new job in programming? Probably not. When I hire, I tend to look for recent college grads who can be molded (warped?) in my methods and processes. My manager (who's 67) thinks the same way.

Complete bullshit (1)

Wee (17189) | more than 4 years ago | (#31172058)

The article is utter crap. People look for experience first. In fact, I'd say new college grads are discriminated against.

-B

Re:Complete bullshit (1)

hibiki_r (649814) | more than 4 years ago | (#31172252)

New college grads have it way harder than someone with 2-3 years of experience, but you might be surprised at how hard getting hired can get when you have 30 years worth. It's easy to be labeled as overqualified.

The group that has it easier depends on the business cycle. In the late 90s, it was great to be experienced. In the early 2000s, a CS degree got a good job to pretty much anyone. Today, neither of both ends is especially appealing.

Youthful arrogance.... (4, Insightful)

realsilly (186931) | more than 4 years ago | (#31172100)

Is the younger generation of programmers really that arrogant to think that older programmers don't know and learn new languages and coding trends? it is my experience that the best coders out there are those over 40. Not only are they on top of technologies that are current, but they understand why those technologies came to be and what they helped to improve. Many of them learned on the job, in a budding industry.

Just a few days ago there was a post right here on Slashdot asking how easy it was to cheat in CS. Based on the forum discussions, a significant number of students today get programming degrees and can't produce a lick of decent code.

This is NOT to say that there is not an abundance of exceptional young talent, there is, and they deserve good work and decent pay, but this is in defense of those who helped pave the way.

Age Test (5, Funny)

Sponge Bath (413667) | more than 4 years ago | (#31172116)

If you read this article and are thinking about your career, then you are young. If you are thinking about a naked Jennifer Agutter, then you are old.

Experience VS Value (1)

DorkRawk (719109) | more than 4 years ago | (#31172136)

Let's face it, a lot of the code being written doesn't require 20ish years of programming experience to do correctly. Obviously, there are exceptions, but more often than not there are other aspects of software development that benefit more from that much time in the industry than simply doing all the code monkey work. If you're being paid the type of salary you should be paid after being in the industry that long, employers are going to want to get something out of you that they can't get out of someone with much less experience.

So, if you want to be writing code at 40, be able to write code that (most) people who are 20 or 30 aren't able to or be willing to work for the same salary you did at 20 or 30. It's really as simple as that.

Re:Experience VS Value (1)

drdrgivemethenews (1525877) | more than 4 years ago | (#31172664)

The code I wrote 10 years out of grad school is a heck of a lot better than the code I wrote in grad school. Observation of others supports the point, which is that you may not be fully mature as a programmer until you're 35.

Contrary to myth, there _are_ good managers out there. They know what code you've touched, and they know how many bugs in that code have come back to bite them.

I knew a guy that would fix 10 to 15 bugs a day. Phenomenal. Except most of them were in code he'd submitted as other bug fixes. The bad managers loved him. The good ones didn't trust him.

There's no simple answer to this problem. I wouldn't repeat this, on the grounds that it's obvious, but most commenters here seem to forget.

Everyone over 40 isn't a COBOL programmer... (1)

kimanaw (795600) | more than 4 years ago | (#31172158)

Not sure I understand the fixation w/ COBOL here...I'm well past 40, and have only wrangled a bit of COBOL in my 30 year career. Lots of C/C++, Java, Perl, Python, Javascript, etc., but damn little COBOL.

As stated elsewhere, one cause is probably just burning out and moving on to something else. Or moving to the position of manager who's making those hiring decisions. Or, if you're actually good at software engineering, moving into consulting.

ftm, if you're a great developer w/ lots of experience, you probably also have a pretty wide network. The last 16+ years of my career, CV's have been just a formality (if required at all), cuz I already knew the hiring manager.

by the age of 35 ... (3, Funny)

Lazy Jones (8403) | more than 4 years ago | (#31172160)

... you should have finished the Perl script that does your job / earns your living. Unless you promoted yourself to management, in which case I pity you, fool.

Never let 'em see the whites of your eyes. (1)

jgrabell (1695984) | more than 4 years ago | (#31172196)

I never tell my age to anyone at a job. I've seen great 50 year old developers squeezed out because a business major thinks they can't be current, "since they learned on a punch card machine".

Mainframe/COBOL Pigeon Hole (1)

Ohio Calvinist (895750) | more than 4 years ago | (#31172228)

While an anecdote, at 2 places I have worked, there is a perception (I can't say if it is true or not) that older (particularly mainframe) programmers are unable or unwilling to transfer their skills to the client/server or web platforms, and that they are unwilling or unable to learn newer languages/design patterns. Again, I can't say in a generalizable way if this is more-or-less "true" or not, but I think the perception is harmful to the older class of workers whose technology is being phased out in a lot of enterprises (and industry sectors.) For some programmers, there is also a tendency to "self-select" for specialization based on a particular tool chain or language preference. I know I could be a Java programmer, but I am so unfamiliar with the API that I'd be fairly ineffective until I got up to speed. I don't think many workplaces tend to frequently lower performance goals for this sort of learning curve making programmers avoid developing a broad skill set and focus narrowly. IT also tends to differentiate between web programmers, mainframe gurus, DBAs, server managers, etc. causing a further territoriality and specialization. I would also argue that the rapid pace of obsolescence makes programmers particularly vulnerable to this perception (or reality). In industries where the skill set is more static, or there are minor incremental changes or a large number of legacy installations (such as in HVAC repair or general construction) there is less of a degree of specialization and rapid skill set changes.

Re:Mainframe/COBOL Pigeon Hole (1)

Richard Steiner (1585) | more than 4 years ago | (#31172618)

In many cases, you don't have a choice but to specialize ... business and technical specialization is a hard requirement in order to understand programming problems in some industries.

Of course, the moment you do that, you're pigeon-holed into that role.

push as hard as you like. (1)

nimbius (983462) | more than 4 years ago | (#31172272)

and if you push them all out youll find yourself tripling indirectly their salary as you employ independent business consultants to troubleshoot some of the most malignant and complex problems in computer programming to which solutions are only gleaned once one has become seasoned and experienced with writing millions upon millions of lines of code. the triangle is civilization: fast, cheap, good.

From an older worker (1)

strangeattraction (1058568) | more than 4 years ago | (#31172392)

How are any of these generalizations any different than any other industry? There is age discrimination by some in both directions. Older workers simply take tired old ideas and repackaged them as something new. Younger workers think their ideas are actually new and expend a lot of effort reinventing things they are not old enough to know already existed. The cycle is nearly complete. Cloud computing is a repackaged version of centralized mainframe computing. Actual advances in industry are much more gradual than people like to believe.

Good workers are promoted out of their jobs... (1)

Yaa 101 (664725) | more than 4 years ago | (#31172426)

Good workers are promoted out of their jobs and forced into management positions, this is a problem.
Further it still seems that coders are accounted on the number of lines they produce instead of the quality and thoroughness.
You can see this in things like 500MB of crap that is mandatory with a driver installment of your HP scanner.

It is very hard for managers to see the quality of coders that just want to keep growing scales inside their programming jobs, while making artificial caps on these scales and forcing people that want to grow further to do managerial work instead of what they really like to do and be good at. Often people that are forced up do their managerial work not really good because their hart is not in that.

A question for all you experienced types out there (1)

Pojut (1027544) | more than 4 years ago | (#31172432)

I know a decent amount of HTML, but that's about it as far as my programming knowledge is concerned. I'm looking to get into a programming language as a hobby, with no plans to pursue it as a profession. What would you all recommend I look at? I've gotten conflicting opinions on Ruby, PHP, C#...what would you suggest (again, just as a hobby) and why? Thanks for the time.

Re:A question for all you experienced types out th (1)

addaon (41825) | more than 4 years ago | (#31172610)

I know a decent amount of HTML, but that's about it as far as my programming knowledge is concerned. I'm looking to get into a programming language as a hobby, with no plans to pursue it as a profession. What would you all recommend I look at? I've gotten conflicting opinions on Ruby, PHP, C#...what would you suggest (again, just as a hobby) and why? Thanks for the time.

PowerPC or MIPS assembly. After that, you'll understand what a computer does.

Then Common Lisp or Scheme. After that, you'll understand what a programming language does.

Then Perl. After that, you'll understand the alternatives.

Then C, and you can write some real code.

This is relevant to my intrests (2, Interesting)

SmallFurryCreature (593017) | more than 4 years ago | (#31172442)

Approaching the age of 40 at break neck speeds, I am going to find out how true it is that there are no old coders.

But frankly, I don't think it is going to be a huge issue unless 40 turns out to be a really magical number. I have had no problems before. Granted, junior positions are no longer open to me, but then, why would I want to?

I have found that at least in Holland there is a real shortage of good web developers, people who can not just put up a website but maintain it and worse, debug somebody elses mess. There are tons of LAMP developers it seems, and yet companies can't find them. But you got to be able to deliver, how many of the programmers who complain they can't find a job really just aren't any good?

In fact in an interview Backbase, an small but international developer said in "De Pers" that they were so desperate for experienced developers they had put a freeze on hiring juniors because they did not have the people to train/lead them.

Yes, some companies might prefer to hire someone young, but these tend to be the grindhouses of the industry, were they churn out project after project with no quality for a low low price. You all know them, the companies that do government IT. If you IT department still insists you run IE6, then you got one of them.

But there are countless more companies that do try to work for their money were experience and maturity are needed to keep the enthusiasm of the younger developers in line. There has to be someone who can actually debug a third party app if the shit hits the fan and do it without constant hand holding. There is in development and certainly web-development a lot of grunt work that is really a waste to put a senior on, but I have seen what junior's today are 'capable' of. Or rather not capable. It is the parts of a project that go beyond the "teach yourself X in 24 hours" books or even school. It is the years of experience encountering all kind of problems that turn a junior into a senior.

A smart company therefor has both kinds, the juniors for the grind work and to bring in new ideas, the seniors to keep it all running smoothly.

And if your company ain't smart enough for that? Move on as fast as possible.

BUT I just re-read the summary AND the article and there is a problem. The article is about IT-workers while the summary is about programmers. I have started to notice that there is a difference to the point that developers really aren't part of IT at all. I always thought we were, but others disagree.

So, is the article about how their are no old help-desk jockey's? And could this be because there is a job for senior dev's but not for senior printer unjammers? Just what is IT? A 60+ senior developer is a respectable position, if you are 60+ and still have to install new PC's you screwed up and a kid can do your job cheaper.

In conclusion, I am not all that worried. Any company not willing to hire a 40+ developer with over 2 decades experience on countless successful projects, I wouldn't want to work for anyway.

lot of 50-something developers in my company (1)

peter303 (12292) | more than 4 years ago | (#31172470)

Its in the energy industry where many of the developers have domain-knowledge degrees like geology. The management attempted offshoring a few years ago. But it was an utter failure due to the lack of domain-knowledge developers. China and India college training is too specialized.

I've seen similar issues in vertical industries like aerospace, utilities, oil companies which are not attractive to recent college graduates. Boomer dominate. This is becoming an issue as boomers retire. But I call it "job security".

I'd say the only drawback is you dont see people putting in more than 50-hour weeks at the most. This would be suicide for a gamer or F/X company.

Ummmmmm, completely incorrect (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31172564)

Companies are hiring people that haven't learned anything new in 20 years because of their "experience" given that they're willing to work for the same price offered to anybody else. Assuming the work hasn't already been sent to India/China/Russia it's all about cost because hiring managers know that they don't know how to figure out which applicant is better and they simply lean towards "experience" because they've always thought that meant something in their career paths plus it simply means older and frankly more controllable if they may have families and therefore are less likely to pick up and force them to restart again.

Is Experience Worth Anything? (1)

itsdrewmiller (1346931) | more than 4 years ago | (#31172572)

I recently read Peopleware, where they said that in their coding war games experience had no correlation with performance. If experience costs more and has no benefit in development, why would a firm be willing to pay more for it? (Caveat: Maybe experience has beneficial effects outside of raw development.)

Oh crap! (1)

stox (131684) | more than 4 years ago | (#31172582)

Is that what that glowing thing in my palm has been trying to tell me the last 8 years?

Load More Comments
Slashdot Account

Need an Account?

Forgot your password?

Don't worry, we never post anything without your permission.

Submission Text Formatting Tips

We support a small subset of HTML, namely these tags:

  • b
  • i
  • p
  • br
  • a
  • ol
  • ul
  • li
  • dl
  • dt
  • dd
  • em
  • strong
  • tt
  • blockquote
  • div
  • quote
  • ecode

"ecode" can be used for code snippets, for example:

<ecode>    while(1) { do_something(); } </ecode>
Sign up for Slashdot Newsletters
Create a Slashdot Account

Loading...