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Half Life of a Tech Worker: 15 Years

timothy posted about 2 years ago | from the logan's-runtime dept.

Businesses 473

Hugh Pickens writes "Matt Heusser writes that when he went to work for Google all the people he met had a sort of early-twenties look to them. 'Like the characters in Microserfs, these were "firstees," young adults in the middle of the first things like life: First job out of college, first house, first child, first mini-van,' writes Heusser. 'This is what struck me: Where were the old dudes?' and then he realized something very important — you get fifteen years. 'That is to say, your half-life as a worker in corporate America is about age thirty-five. Around that time, interviews get tougher. Your obligations make you less open to relocation, the technologies on your resume seem less-current, and your ability find that next gig begins to decrease.' By thirty-five, half the folks who started in technology have gone on to something else — perhaps management, consulting, on to roles in 'the business' or in operations. 'Yet a few stick it out. Half of the half-life is fifty, and, sure, perhaps 25% of the folks who started as line technologists will still be doing that when they turn fifty,' adds Heusser. 'But by the time you turn thirty-five, you'd better have a plan.'"

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plan? in this climate? (5, Insightful)

iggymanz (596061) | about 2 years ago | (#38250392)

be read to improvise and adapt, as at least half of people have had their plans ruined by economy.

Re:plan? in this climate? (5, Interesting)

digsbo (1292334) | about 2 years ago | (#38250478)

Ability to flow with change is critical for knowledge workers. It is not easy, but who said it should be? Given the quality of life we have, I'm thankful that as hard as this job can be, I'm not melting solder off trashed PCBs in China.

Re:plan? in this climate? (2)

Gothmolly (148874) | about 2 years ago | (#38250642)

When you confuse the power of the dollar with the power of the gun, this is what happens.

Re:plan? in this climate? (2)

Chrisq (894406) | about 2 years ago | (#38250966)

When you confuse the power of the dollar with the power of the gun, this is what happens.

My plan was based on the power of the gun you insensitive clod

Work for yourself then (5, Informative)

A10Mechanic (1056868) | about 2 years ago | (#38250408)

If you feel you've become less viable to the nameless corporation you drone for, make the brave choice and work for yourself. Would that I had the courage or inspiration to have made that choice, but I didn't. I regret that every day.

Re:Work for yourself then (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#38250698)

Every day gives you the opportunity to change your path.

Re:Work for yourself then (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#38250700)

I tried that. Trying to make myself heard from the thousands of other people who might be better liars is very tough. I farmed a contact list, but usually it didn't do much.

The lesson I learned: My real MS-ITP and RHCE certificate numbers do NOT compare well to someone who says they have a CISSP, RHCA, all the MS certs and all the SANS certs, but don't happen to have any cert IDs.

Screw the consultation business -- it might be lucrative had we had better times and no good ol' boy contracts. However, the people that do make it as independent consultants are the ones that have very little IT experience compared to the experience of running their mouths like a car salesperson. Their idea of "consulting" is to tell everyone to buy new hardware and slap W2k8R2 on all servers and Windows 7 on the desktops.

Oh, the gigs when you get them? These are the picked over stuff that nobody wants for as close to minimum wage as possible. Three month contract at $10 an hour in some Podunk place 500 miles away with no relocation? Sure, someone will take it, but I'm sure the MS-ITP they demand is someone with low self esteem, someone who will ditch at the first possibility, or someone just plain old incompetent.

Re:Work for yourself then (5, Interesting)

DarthBart (640519) | about 2 years ago | (#38250994)

I tried it too. I may be one hell of a programmer/admin/network monkey/guru/whatever, but I am not a sales person. I failed miserably selling myself. I'd usally end up taking on shit projects that I underbid myself on to get the job and the worktime versus pay wasn't paying the bills. It put a hell of a strain on me and my wife & kid. After a year of being able to survive only by selling my stash on ebay, I went back to "work".

Nowadays would be even more of a joke. I retired on disability a few years ago but I still try to pick up a side job or two here & there to supplement income and those jobs end up being maybe one every other month. I simply can't compete with the "programmers" in India or Ukraine who will bid a project at $100 that I wouldn't touch for under $1000 despire the fact that the $100 project turns into $5000 after the overseas clusterfuck.

I started at 33 (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#38250410)

With a not so glamorous 15 year old technology no less. Been at it for almost 3 years now. Guess what? People who know what I know are very hard to find and I get paid accordingly. Much better than my previous 11 years in retail sales I must say.

Re:I started at 33 (1)

pebbles061679 (2506386) | about 2 years ago | (#38250540)

I'll be doing the same, as I'm 32 and finishing my CS degree Fall of next year. I think the people with the hardest time finding new employment are those that traditionally have a hard time: those over 50. Glad to hear you're doing well coming from my nearly exact same situation! (11 years in retail then 2 in pharmacy)

I've crossed that threshold, but it concerns me (5, Interesting)

Mean Variance (913229) | about 2 years ago | (#38250416)

At 43, I live with the senior software engineer title. I've been at the same company 12 years. While I consider myself well established, nothing is guaranteed - company could be bought, sales could suffer (I've survived 4 layoffs), I might piss off a boss.

Many of us have grown up inside the company (we are a Silicon Valley tech company) so there are a number of 40-something engineers and a couple have crossed 50.

But when I'm in a worrying mood, I do think about what would happen if I had to go into the interviewing machine. There is probably some truth to the tenet that it's harder to stay in development in later years, but I know peers who have done it, and we just hired someone in his mid-40's.

If the employer can get over age and hire the best person for the job and if the 40-something can swallow and maybe be willing to take a pay cut, things can stay in balance. At least I hope so if I'm in that situation.

Re:I've crossed that threshold, but it concerns me (5, Insightful)

digsbo (1292334) | about 2 years ago | (#38250486)

Why not go on a few interviews and see how it goes? You are not established. That's an attitude that will set you up for major hurt. Get your resume together, and see if you're marketable. If you are, nothing lost but a day or two of paid time off to do the interviews. If not, you can make adjustments.

Re:I've crossed that threshold, but it concerns me (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#38250494)

I'm 51, and have owned a technology consulting company for 20+ years now. We're small with only 6 employees; four of us are over 50 and one of my full time contractors is 60. Most of the IT directors I work with are fifty or older. Maybe the tech industry spits out older workers after they hit 35, but so what? The real world needs those skills and experience regardless of how many grey hairs are sticking out of your ears. Worry less and be flexible....

Re:I've crossed that threshold, but it concerns me (4, Insightful)

DigiShaman (671371) | about 2 years ago | (#38250878)

Birds of a feather and all that. I suspect this is one of the many reasons a company fails after a certain time. They don't replenish the ranks with younger people, or, they hire all new graduates that are all fresh and willing to flee to the next gig with a case of ADHD. The retention of knowledge and the ability for it to be passed down from co-worker to co-worker is extremely important.

Re:I've crossed that threshold, but it concerns me (5, Interesting)

mdf356 (774923) | about 2 years ago | (#38250510)

I suspect it's harder to hire someone who's older simply because the pool is smaller. That is, almost everyone at 21, or 23, or 25, whenever they finish college or graduate school, will be interviewing for a job. A lot fewer people at 40 will have a reason to leave, especially if they've become Senior and somewhat indispensable at their company.

I left IBM three years ago to work for a company not far past startup days. At 33 (at the time) I was one of the oldest developers at the company. Now, though, as the company has grown (and been acquired), not only are there more older people at the company, plenty of people who were young when it was founded 10 years ago are in their mid 30s and now have spouses and children. Several senior people have now gotten married or had kids, so in that sense the whole company has aged up toward me in just the three years since I started (age is often as much a particular position in life w.r.t. how long one has been married or how old ones children are).

And very few of these people now in their late 20s or mid 30s are looking for a new job, because they have one they like. So the pool of available interviewees continues to be heavily biased toward college graduates.

Or they can't get another job. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#38250674)

And very few of these people now in their late 20s or mid 30s are looking for a new job, because they have one they like.

Or, they're trying to leave and can't get another job; therefore, staying at their current employer - which is true in my case.

Re:I've crossed that threshold, but it concerns me (4, Interesting)

morcego (260031) | about 2 years ago | (#38250942)

It is a little more than that.
In a CEO's head (or anyone in upper management/board), anyone over 40 who is STILL in a tech position is incompetent, stupid or both. If they were good, they would have been promoted to management, and would be making a lot more money.

It is a sad reality, and even more sad that it is mostly true. Not the vast majority, but based on my professional experience (IBM, couple Japanese multinationals etc), I would say that is true for 60-70% of the cases. And for management/the board, 60% is more than enough reason.

The thing they fail to see, and most of us who either are still in tech positions, or were forced to migrate to management even if we really don't enjoy it, is that not everyone is cut for management, even if they can handle it. And even if (if you succeed) you will make more money, the money you made as a techie was more than enough for doing something you actually enjoy, instead of doing twice as much for a job you hate.

Yeah, right (1)

pinkeen (1804300) | about 2 years ago | (#38250420)

Because the industry isn't changing rapidly and we have hunderds of years of data to back up this statement.

Five years from now everything can seem very different. IMHO it's not wise to generalise like this.

Re:Yeah, right (2)

swanzilla (1458281) | about 2 years ago | (#38250526)

I don't know... tech worker half life sounds like a well defined metric to me.

from the department of duh (1)

Surt (22457) | about 2 years ago | (#38250422)

Big news, yet another random person discovers there is an intense age-bias in technology work.

Re:from the department of duh (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#38250604)

If so, I haven't seen it. I'm 49, currently working on optimizations for an ARM compiler backend written in C++. I've never had any problems getting jobs, and I've worked for IBM, HP, and about 4 smaller companies doing various things.

You DO have to keep up. If you don't, obviously, your value as an employee will drop rapidly. But I haven't seen any age bias so far, and I've gotten an offer out of every set of interviews I've ever had. I suspect what seems like age bias is that many people stop learning when they hit about 30, and then wonder why nobody wants them when they're 50. I'll be 50 in 4 months, and I don't think I'll have any problems landing another job if my current one disappears.

Re:from the department of duh (4, Interesting)

hoppo (254995) | about 2 years ago | (#38250884)

what seems like age bias is that many people stop learning when they hit about 30, and then wonder why nobody wants them when they're 50.


Length in career varies greatly by individual. Tech is no different than any other career -- if you want to continue with it, that means you do what it takes to keep your value high, through continual learning, and self-reflection and improvement. People will either wash out (by choosing not to keep up), or they will choose to drop out, by either migration to management or moving to a different career path. As someone else stated, we're looking at a relatively new industry, so it's hard to judge how many "old" people there are in it. The dot com crash of 2000 sent a LOT of people scrambling away from tech, never to return. That was a draining of the pool from which we'd be seeing a lot of 40-somethings today.

I'm in my mid-30s, and I feel pretty fortunate to remain in demand. However, I also realize it's because I have always striven to stay current with my skills. I spend my free time looking ahead to what is coming, and not just rest on what I have done in the past, and it has continually paid off.

Re:from the department of duh (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#38250956)

I haven't seen or experienced any real age bias. What I have seen is that older people tend (I said tend. Not all!) to meet one or more of the criteria that turns employers off: Justified or not, they have high salary expectations (my biggest concern when I contemplate the job market). Many come across as stuck in their ways ("This is how I've always done it"). Many tend to not stay in touch with the current climate of technology (I personally think this is due to taking on ever more responsibility and just not having the time).

My teammate is in his 40s and our manager and I have run into many issues with him being able to adjust to the style of work we do and getting him to learn new ways to approach problems. He also makes complaints at least once a month about how he took a pay cut for the position. The main issue is that he is used to a more traditional development job with a firm SDLC and what we do is much more ad-hoc and organic (there is a process, but it's more of a suggestion of how to do it rather than a hard rule). He's a good guy, smart, and decent programmer, but he is way out of his comfort zone.

I on the other hand am now in my late 30s and consider myself pretty flexible in what I do (it's the basis of my career), but I know I'm starting to stagnate as far as current tech because with all my responsibilities and wanting to have a life outside work I simply don't have time to keep up. While I know I can pick just about anything new up, I know selling that to a prospective employer is difficult (though I did it with my last job and as promised learned what I needed in a short time). Then you factor in my 6 figure salary and I know I'm a tough sell to anyone that doesn't already know me, but that doesn't have anything to do with my age directly just what having an extra 10-15 years experience over the fresh out of school crop has afforded me.

Unfortunately at the end of the day, it's all about money. While the hiring manager may want the guy with 20 years of proven experience, the people with the money want the guy just entering the market that will work for a fraction of the experienced person's salary. Usually the new hire is somewhere in between.

Ageism (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#38250424)

So, in other words, this is just a long winded way of saying what we've all known-there's a severe problem with age discrimination in tech.

" Your obligations make you less open to relocation, the technologies on your resume seem less-current, and your ability find that next gig begins to decrease."

All irrational assumptions that people just internally accept and contribute to the ridiculous amount of ageism in Silicon Valley.

Re:Ageism (2)

Gothmolly (148874) | about 2 years ago | (#38250654)

Those are true statements - you ARE less valuable and less flexible than younger people. It's not ageism, it's just reality. Why would I hire some old guy who's going to miss days and only work 9-5 because he has sick kids, baseball games, piano recitals, etc?

Re:Ageism (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#38250746)

Right-because as we all know no one under 35 ever has kids.
Seriously, maybe its time to reevaluate your workplace if you need people working 12 hour days and on call perpetually.

Re:Ageism (2)

Martin Blank (154261) | about 2 years ago | (#38250708)

I don't think it's direct ageism. I think there's a valid perception that older workers don't keep up. I work at a data center where the average of the technical staff is probably around 40. I know at least one who voluntarily left for another job and a few later was let go, allegedly because his claimed skills didn't pan out. I look at the rest of the staff and I see many of them cowering in their niches, whether that's basic switching and routing, Active Directory, or applications that don't have widespread use outside of certain environments. Some of them are one transition project away from unemployment.

One guy is in his 50s and still doing largely desktop work. Another guy had two years to set up a simple concept wireless installation of a controller and three APs modeled largely after an existing installation (primarily just different subnets). I had set up the original installation (larger controller but same software and principles), showed him the basics, and let him know to ask questions when he needed help. He would from time to time when pressed by management, but for whatever reason apparently never opened the manual to get answers. Finally, a recent project required that wireless gear in short order, and he got indignant that I did in two days what he couldn't (or at least didn't) do in two years.

I'm 37 and working on learning as much as I can where I am and taking advantage of training paid for by the company to pick up skills that may not directly apply to what I'm doing but will broaden my skill base. I've got the next three courses picked out and I'm trying to figure out what college classes might be useful to supplement them. In the IT industry, once you stop learning, you start filling out your own pink slip.

Re:Ageism (1)

laffer1 (701823) | about 2 years ago | (#38250886)

I've seen this both ways. When I was young, I looked "too young" for clients to see. I was actually told in an interview they wouldn't hire me even though I was qualified because I didn't "look" like I had experience.

I've also been told by several people that they were shocked I hired them when I was a hiring manager because they were in their 40s.

At my current job, I'm the youngest developer at 32. The rest have been there since the 80s, and it wasn't their first job typically. Two of them are ready to retire in a few years. I have the inverse problem in that they think because I'm in my 30s it's like I'm fresh out of college and don't know shit.

There are good programmers and bad programmers. They come in all ages. I've met people who are 50+ years old who know all the current hot crap and I've met people fresh out of college who don't know what a hash map is or only have worked in python. Age discrimination is terrible in tech and from what I've seen so is gender and race discrimination. It's a real problem and no one seems to give a shit about it.

Re:Ageism (4, Insightful)

chrb (1083577) | about 2 years ago | (#38250890)

Your obligations make you less open to relocation, the technologies on your resume seem less-current

How is this age discrimination? If you are in this situation, then you are less likely to get hired, regardless of age. If you assume that older people are in this situation, and reject them based on their age, then that is age discrimination. But if someone actually is less open to relocation, and hasn't managed to keep up with newer technologies, and you reject them for those reasons, then it isn't age discrimination.

Just like if you reject someone because they lack skills, and they happen to be from a minority ethnic group, then it isn't racial discrimination, but if you reject them because they are from a minority ethnic group and you assume that means they lack skills, then it is racial discrimination.

I also would actually challenge the assumption that older people are less willing to relocate. I have known many young people who don't want to leave their families, the areas that they grew up in, their friends etc. It is a too big step for many. There are regions with chronic youth unemployment problems, where young people will complain that they are simply unable to find a job, and yet if you ask them why they don't relocate to an area which doesn't have these problems, they will claim that it is simply not possible. Ask them how it is possible that immigrants relocate hundreds, or even thousands of miles crossing international boundaries in search of work, and yet they are unwilling to relocate within even their own country, and they will justify their position with a sequences of excuses that apply just as readily to the immigrants. "I have family" - immigrants don't have family? "I was born and grew up here" - immigrants weren't born and grew up somewhere? "I have friends" - immigrants don't have friends?

Re:Ageism (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#38250996)

Hmm...let me respond to my own post here (yay for being modded up to 4 on my first slashdot post!)

I'm a 32 year old grocery store cashier who is going back to school for a CS degree on the government's dime (the Post 9/11 Gi BIll).
I tend to get a little freaked out by these kinds of posts, because its obvious that I could easily construe them as saying I'm wasting my time.
But seriously, for a community that tends to make a big deal out of stuff like rationality, science, logic, etc I find them disappointing.

At my work, there are lots of people who are married and have kids-and guess what, they work shitty hours, on evenings, weekends and holidays, and get paid a pittance of what people in tech make. And guess what-they successfully raise their kids. There's nothing inherently special about IT that makes it impossible to raise a family and work in more technical-as opposed to managerial positions. Come on folks, it seems like some of you have no idea what its like to be a working class grunt living from paycheck to paycheck and having to put up with a shitty job.

I'm taking a javascript elective next quarter-is there a hidden section I'm not aware of that I should register for for people over 23? Does the knowledge of JS and HTML5 a 22 year old has different from my own in some way? The experience arguement could cut both ways-unless you are a recent college grad with an internship (which in many cases just may be something to put down on paper rather than anything substantial) you could end up having much more theoretical as opposed to practical knowledge.

What I see here is people making assumptions about entire cohorts of people-married people, people older than 35, that there's something inherently special about IT that makes it less possible for older people to succeed. Come on, I expect better from you all.

Growth (4, Insightful)

Hentes (2461350) | about 2 years ago | (#38250438)

30 years before IT wasn't big enough for many people to consider working in it, thus there aren't much people from that era.

Wrong (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#38250810)

30 years ago I was in college studying computer science and physics... and I can assure you, the CS department had their hands full trying to cope with the large numbers who wanted to study CS.

It's not age - it's money and misogyny. (3, Insightful)

tomhudson (43916) | about 2 years ago | (#38250444)

If you actually RTFA, you'll see that the big barrier is that "workers over 50 may concern corporate hiring managers because they might resist change and generally command higher salaries than younger people"

So, while older workers "might" (or might not) resist change, they definitely are perceived as costing more. And not just in salary, but also in health benefits.

Now, again FTFA, throw in a dose of sexism:

Nanci Schimizzi, president of the mentoring and advocacy group Women in Technology, said jobless women 50 or older generally "remain unemployed for years, to the point where many have more or less given up" or changed careers.

That's pretty blatant misogyny. That it's illegal doesn't make a difference.

Re:It's not age - it's money and misogyny. (1, Informative)

Surt (22457) | about 2 years ago | (#38250566)

Misogyny isn't the same thing as gender bias. And I see nothing in this to suggest this is anything other than gender bias.

Re:It's not age - it's money and misogyny. (3, Informative)

tomhudson (43916) | about 2 years ago | (#38250872)

Misogyny isn't the same thing as gender bias. And I see nothing in this to suggest this is anything other than gender bias.

Misogyny - it doesn't mean what you think it means. []

"Misogyny .... is a central part of sexist prejudice and ideology and, as such, is an important basis for the oppression of females in male-dominated societies. Misogyny is manifested in many different ways, from jokes to pornography to violence to the self-contempt women may be taught to feel toward their own bodies

How is being cut out of the job market based on gender not both "a sexist prejudice" and "an oppression of females"?

Here - I'll quote the article linked from TFS again [] :

Nanci Schimizzi, president of the mentoring and advocacy group Women in Technology, said jobless women 50 or older generally "remain unemployed for years, to the point where many have more or less given up" or changed careers.

Men in the same age cohort aren't facing the same situation to such an extent that it's possible to make such a generalization for them.

Gender bias (to use your term) isn't just limited to women over 50 - it's all-pervasive in the developer world. I guess you've never been confronted with an employer saying "I'll never hire a woman because I can't scream at them." Sure, no woman is going to want to work in such an environment - but to be denied equal access to employment based on gender is the reality in IT, and to those on the receiving end, white-washing it by calling it "gender bias" doesn't change the fact, or the damage, any more than it would if it were "racial bias."

Re:It's not age - it's money and misogyny. (1, Insightful)

phantomfive (622387) | about 2 years ago | (#38250798)

Nanci Schimizzi, president of the mentoring and advocacy group Women in Technology, said jobless women 50 or older generally "remain unemployed for years, to the point where many have more or less given up" or changed careers.
That's pretty blatant misogyny. That it's illegal doesn't make a difference.

Have you considered that maybe there's a reason jobless women 50 or older generally remain unemployed for years? Or did you just jump to the conclusion that its misogyny? I mean, I can think of three potential explanations for this, and yet you automatically jump to a conclusion. Why would you do that?

Re:It's not age - it's money and misogyny. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#38250814)

No that is not misogyny. It may be bias, but then again a woman over 50 may not have the education or technical skills required for certain jobs. That is not bias, it's good business to hire the right people with the right skills. It depends on the person. Remember someone who is 50 was born in 1961 and likely did not get much technical training especially if they are female. Over the years this has changed quite a bit. So yes it's gender bias to a degree, ageism to another degree, but I have found that many people over 50 don't have the right skill set. But the press is quick to call it bias or some -ism because that makes news, not that someone didn't have the skills necessary to perform the work.

The thing to take away from articles like this is try to get as much training as you can while you can and continue your education even after starting your first job. If you relax pretty soon you're going to get left behind. Otherwise you're going to join the ranks of those who stopped looking for work.

People don't stay in entry level jobs (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#38250446)

The first job out of college is the telling part. People in their early 20s in IT jobs are in entry level jobs. People don't make a career out of being at the bottom of the food chain as they grow, learn and develop their skills they move on and up.

Think ahead, move sideways, not up.... (4, Interesting)

digsbo (1292334) | about 2 years ago | (#38250458)

Years ago I decided to move sideways into a position doing C systems development instead of Java web development. My thinking was that few people under 30 (as of 2000) knew C, but it didn't seem to be going anywhere. Did that for a while, doing a little Perl and such on the side. I've been making moves sideways and slightly up since then, moving out of the Unix/Linux world into Microsoft .Net most recently. If you go to high in salary too fast, you find your career path played out by 35 (how old I am now).

By moving sideways, I've got a broad resume, with reasonable depth (just find challenging projects). I have a little headroom to move up salary-wise yet, and have a convincing story to tell that I a) am capable and willing to learn new technologies on the job, and b) don't mind making parallel or even slightly backward financial moves to find work, especially if it gives me exposure to new technologies.

There is nothing brilliant or insightful about this, yet people still fail to do it. I work with people who have been in the same job for 25 years. If they get laid off, they are screwed. No one will see them as anything other than set-in-their-ways old people.

The drawback for me is that I'm finding it harder to continue to get energized to learn new technologies. I can still do it, but it's becoming more of a hassle. Not so much the languages, but the specifics of frameworks and technology domains (i.e. web vs. traditional client-server vs. realtime). Probably more a personal limitation, I'm not the smartest guy in the world.

Re:Think ahead, move sideways, not up.... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#38250552)

While what you say sounds reasonable, and I for the most part have done the same, the danger to this approach is the impression you give to interviewers that you haven't settled down and picked a field/subfield. Now I know it isnt to your best interest to specialize, but I do think companies are looking for specialists rather than generalists.

Re:Think ahead, move sideways, not up.... (1)

Pharmboy (216950) | about 2 years ago | (#38250714)

Generalists make better managers, specialists make better techs. By the time you are are 40, you either need to be looking at some time of management position, even at mid level, or have one hell of a good specialty that won't be obsoleted in the next 20 years, which is hard to guess. At the very least, being a generalist at 40+ shows potential employers that you can adapt and you aren't a "one trick pony".

Re:Think ahead, move sideways, not up.... (5, Insightful)

mdf356 (774923) | about 2 years ago | (#38250568)

The drawback for me is that I'm finding it harder to continue to get energized to learn new technologies. I can still do it, but it's becoming more of a hassle. Not so much the languages, but the specifics of frameworks and technology domains (i.e. web vs. traditional client-server vs. realtime). Probably more a personal limitation, I'm not the smartest guy in the world.

This. It was a hard enough transition for me leaving all the various little office habits I had from 7 years at IBM. I had to learn new source control system, new way to build and install the OS, etc, in addition to spending several years where I didn't know intimately the details of the code I worked on. After 7 years I was a subject matter expert on a decent sized chunk of the AIX kernel. After two years at the new place, I finally felt like I knew enough code to say something authoritative about it. That was hard and frustrating.

However, it's also left me feeling sure that the only way to avoid irrelevance is to regularly make myself uncomfortable, so that I don't get too attached to the comfort. At this point my personal feeling is that it takes 5-7 years for me to become saturated on what I'm working on and to need that new thing.

Having kids taught me the same lesson too. As Kahlil Gubran wrote, "Verily the lust for comfort murders the passion of the soul, and then walks grinning in the funeral."

Re:Think ahead, move sideways, not up.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#38250588)

The drawback for me is that I'm finding it harder to continue to get energized to learn new technologies. I can still do it, but it's becoming more of a hassle. Not so much the languages, but the specifics of frameworks and technology domains (i.e. web vs. traditional client-server vs. realtime). Probably more a personal limitation, I'm not the smartest guy in the world.

Speaking for myself .... I have the same problem and it's not really age related. All the "new" technology just seems to be a rehash of old tech or it's not "groundbreaking" as folks like to promote it. All to often, I learn a new language or technology and it's one big yawn - ho hum.

Back in my OS/2 development days, there was a mainframe old timer who would just sit back and chuckle at the hoopla over the memory management and multitasking that was supposedly this new and great thing in OS/2 and Windows NT. And we had problems with some of the tasking and memory management and he just shook his head said, "We solved those problems years ago in MVS."

He was one of the first to get canned during the big Boca shutdown.

Re:Think ahead, move sideways, not up.... (1)

David_Hart (1184661) | about 2 years ago | (#38250760)

I, like you, have moved up and sideways a few times. I've worked doing point-of-sale and pump controller installation and support, then email design and support, then server and application implementation and support, then network support. I am currently a senior network engineer doing LAN, WAN, VPN, and WiFi architecture, design, and engineering. My experience makes me a better network engineer and, eventually, will make me a better manager.

C is still relevant (5, Insightful)

mdf356 (774923) | about 2 years ago | (#38250460)

Yes, I've noticed no one is writing operating systems or anything else in C anymore. I better learn the language du jour.

Except that my experience with multi-threaded systems programming is still useful. Even when everything is virtualized, there will be C code running on the bare metal that someone needs to create and maintain. New hardware products will need drivers written in C, or entire embedded systems written in C.

Sure, the next social media website won't be done that way, but for some of us writing that high a level of application wasn't that interesting.

And didn't I just read that Facebook had to highly optimize malloc(3) to support its operations? What's malloc written in? Oh yeah, C.

Re:C is still relevant (2)

digsbo (1292334) | about 2 years ago | (#38250500)

Yeah, exactly. Knowing how threads work, memory is allocated, all that is critical when you see a bunch of devs running about because their server can only handle three concurrent users. Asynchronous IO? They make a big deal of node.js because it has that. But it's been available in C via select() for decades.

Re:C is still relevant (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#38250528)

Yeah, you have to type a lot of code and it's tricky. Easy to shoot yourself in the foot. But C code runs twice as fast as anything else (just about). If it speeds up user experience 2X, that's a good thing. Identifying and re-implementing components in C is still useful skill. Think about it ... just about program running on your system right now has major portions of it written in C. (I said your system, not your iPhone).

Re:C is still relevant (1)

cforciea (1926392) | about 2 years ago | (#38250564)

I'd love to see any proof that C code runs twice as fast as C++ code.

Re:C is still relevant (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#38250594)

Try fitting your C++ into a $0.50 8-bit microcontroller with 4kB of Flash and 128 bytes of RAM.

Re:C is still relevant (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#38250656)

He was probably including C++ as an offshoot of C in his estimate.

C++ can be as fast as C, or if you use it poorly, it can be 100X slower.

C++ can be twice as fast as many of the new languages, but it can also be 100X *faster* for some tasks, because it gives you the power to lay out your data in ways that are fastest for the machine to access, use SSE/SSE2 instructions extensively, and so on. Many times I've looked at memory access patterns for some app written in Java or whatever, and it's disastrous. It CAN be disastrous in C++ too, but it doesn't have to be. It gives you the tools to make it absolutely scream, if you know what you're doing. That's what's missing in many more modern languages: the ability to extract the most from the hardware while also presenting a higher level set of language abstractions.

Bullshit. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#38250462)

Keep your skills current. Show off your experience as an advantage. it isnt that hard. What interviewers are afraid of when they meet an older candidate, is that the candidate is a dinosaur. Set in his ways. Wants to rest and vest. Show 'em you are active, smart, interested, stable AND experienced and you are in.

Re:Bullshit. (1)

gl4ss (559668) | about 2 years ago | (#38250544)

Keep your skills current. Show off your experience as an advantage. it isnt that hard. What interviewers are afraid of when they meet an older candidate, is that the candidate is a dinosaur. Set in his ways. Wants to rest and vest. Show 'em you are active, smart, interested, stable AND experienced and you are in.

it's not bullshit.
but it's not explained properly. and it's not 15 years. it's more like 5 years.

two guys start in IT-development. in 5 years one of them is still in the game and the other is doing something else.

People chase money. (1)

NetJunkie (56134) | about 2 years ago | (#38250464)

The problem with most tech positions is that there is a limit on what you can earn. Bill rates and returns on individual contributor or even team lead roles is only so much. What happens is that people in their mid-30s get the experience and understand the business and the industry well enough to move on to something else. They get tired of being on call. Get tired of the development cycle grind. Get tired of trying to keep up with tech while also having a life. So they move on to management, sales or other roles where they make more, and often, work less. It's a decision many people have to make at some point in the career.

Uncanny (2)

bignetbuy (1105123) | about 2 years ago | (#38250466)

Was all set to blast the article with examples of old people in IT...but realized my own IT career ended when I was 38yo.

hardly surprising ! (2)

abdullah (646681) | about 2 years ago | (#38250476)

Just being good at what you do seems like a good plan. When we are 35 we have more or less reached our natural half life any way. We wont last forever.

One workers opinion at one company in a recession? (5, Insightful)

Vellmont (569020) | about 2 years ago | (#38250482)

So this grand theory is all based on one persons experience, at one company, and some aggregate statistic grouping together age related unemployment over a vast category of people, during the worst economic conditions since the depression? It's some interesting anecdotes, but I sure as hell am not going to make any long term career plans based on this.

This was figured out long ago (1)

negatonium (1103503) | about 2 years ago | (#38250508)

Life gets tough for older workers. How is this news? I might be against the ./ "by your own boot-straps" group-think but it makes you reconsider why things like unions, unemployment insurance, pensions and other such were invented in the first place. It's all well and good to be a laissez faire libertarian when the "future is bright". I've been there. But it's quite another thing when life, health and age inject reality into the situation.

Re:This was figured out long ago (1)

gl4ss (559668) | about 2 years ago | (#38250560)

it's news if you compare them to traditional artisan jobs, to stuff like building fireplaces.

for anyone doing it it's not news at all though. but it gets hard for young people too. many people fall off from the game - just think of the bubble bursts.

Re:This was figured out long ago (1)

roman_mir (125474) | about 2 years ago | (#38250682)

you are not a real libertarian if your life's circumstances end up changing your opinion (opinions can change, that's a valid thing, but not based on your own predicament, then it's not an idea at all for you, it's just a thing of convenience.)

Re:This was figured out long ago (1)

negatonium (1103503) | about 2 years ago | (#38250804)

I've got news for you. Most people's politics is a thing of convenience otherwise our election results would mirror the membership in our political parties and elections would never hinge on "independent voters".

Not at my company (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#38250512)

At 25, I am the youngest software engineer at my company by 30 years. Experience counts, especially when working with a code base that began in the fortran days.

why work for somebody? (2)

roman_mir (125474) | about 2 years ago | (#38250532)

I don't understand the fascination with the full time employment.

Contracts and own businesses, that's the way to do it, not to work full time for somebody, that's just throwing yourself at the mercy of the political/economic wind.

That's about right (2)

plopez (54068) | about 2 years ago | (#38250534)

From my experience. I lasted about 17 years. I am currently on a different career track and loving it. My biggest frustration was the inability of people in IT/programming to learn. The same mistakes were made repeatedly. I think that is due to the field not having professional standards or best practices.

I switched over to a field which requires "boots on the ground", preventing the job from being off shored, and gets me outside and getting fresh air and exercise. The last item is important since a network admin spent too many years in a cube, commuting long distances to work, and not getting enough exercise. He died at age 47 of a massive heart attack.

Re:That's about right (4, Insightful)

LynnwoodRooster (966895) | about 2 years ago | (#38250706)

From my experience. I lasted about 17 years. I am currently on a different career track and loving it. My biggest frustration was the inability of people in IT/programming to learn. The same mistakes were made repeatedly. I think that is due to the field not having professional standards or best practices.

Or its because all the people who made those mistakes last time have moved on to other careers - institutional memory is lost. Remember, experience is simply remembering what you did wrong last time...

Fields dominated by young, fresh hires tend to have a lot of rookie mistakes - lack of veterans ensures the mistakes are repeated ad nauseam.

The Writing is on the Wall (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#38250536)

In all seriousness, I am considering going back to university. I would do so not to gain the next level CS degree mind you, but rather, to gain business degree in whatever equivalent information systems management major is offered. Without going into much of a rant, the realities of the business world are hostile to those that actually do innovative, high quality, high output work. I have had many of my would be projects scuttled because they would be too profitable or too innovative, which made them a political threat to someone in management. Being a grunt means I have almost no official political power with which to defend my projects and ideas. And, quite frankly, I would rather see such projects come to fruition more than to do them myself. They would no longer be solely mine so to speak. And, that is OK.

Hookers vs Aldous Huxley (2, Insightful)

Baldrson (78598) | about 2 years ago | (#38250546)

Hookers have a similar problem. The way they deal with it is to die of AIDS. Seriously (not), the problem with corporate IT hiring is they want young fresh meat but are lousy at animal husbandry. Any farmer will tell you that you breed your top performers. Corporate IT does the opposite. Their attitude seems to be limited to:

Geek can't get a date or can't afford a house in Silicon Valley and form a family? Boo hoo. Why not get your rocks off with each other? Remember the Castro is just a hop skip and a jump away from Silicon Valley. All the sex you want! We'll pay for the AZT. Homophobic? Here's some free psychological counseling.

A more enlightened management would supplement the above wise counsel by taking skin cell samples of their highest performers, freezing the samples and then, around age 35, sending all their workers to another jurisdiction where accidents just happen. Meanwhile, use those same jurisdictions to rent-a-womb, clone the highest performers and then re-import the young fresh meat clones once they hit the age where some of the corporate authorities want to establish a Socratic relationship and Mentor them.

Your value proposition decreases with age (4, Insightful)

petes_PoV (912422) | about 2 years ago | (#38250548)

Not simply with age, but all the commitments these "firstees" take on cost money - extra money. So the salaries they would have accepted as new entrants into the job market are no longer sufficient to support their lifestyles. While they may have gained some skills during those fifteen years (or not, there's not many ways to distinguish 15 years of experience and 1 year of experience repeated 14 times), employers don't necessarily value those skills - especially as the relevance of a skill has a half-live of somewhere round 2 - 5 years, depending on how "sharp-end"/leading edge your employer is.

So what's happened is these 35 y/o's have believed their own CVs (resumes) and think they're actually worth the salaries they're asking for - simply because the company they wish to leave, or have been kicked out of, was prepared to pay at that level.

What they should be doing is asking themselves: what can I do that a 25 year-old couldn't do? What skills do I have that actually make more money for my employer? The answers to those questions are tough and generally not what people want to hear. However there is some good news: at least they're not 50 and in the same situation.

Of course you have a plan: "Freedom 35" (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#38250554)

That's what the Trailer Park Boys taught me.

Applicable to the "places to be" shops only (2)

tfiedler (732589) | about 2 years ago | (#38250586)

Maybe at Google, or Microsoft, or any of the other "places to be" the half-life is 15 years, but most I.T. professionals don't work in that world. We work in mom-and-pop, and small-to-medium sized shops, supporting them, the countless 1000's of other small or large I.T. shops that actually consist of the bulk of the real world. We may consume the products that these "places to be" produce, but we're the ones that actually use them in a meaningful fashion and generate the pressure of implementation behind their technologies, and we do it for our entire careers. That's the problem with talking heads, they don't represent the real world that most people work in but they have undue influence on the perception of the real world. While his observations might be relevant for the rock star shops, he has hardly any bearing in my world.

A Story of "Getting Old" (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#38250622)

My (very skilled, very capable, but 8 years younger) lead programmer asked out loud to our team of 4 -- in all sincerity -- "What's the maximum number stored in a byte?"

My fellow programmers -- one the same age as my lead, the other a Java dev, -- didn't have the answer. I said "255!", and they looked at me like I was an alien. "Is that right?"

That's when I knew: "I'm getting old."

I'm only 34!

Re:A Story of "Getting Old" (1)

networkzombie (921324) | about 2 years ago | (#38250892)

You should say it can represent up to 256 values. One byte can only hold one number, 1. It can have eight of them, though.

Re:A Story of "Getting Old" (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#38250946)

I'm ashamed of you. You didn't ask if it was signed or unsigned. Now, get off my lawn!

Not Just Technology (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#38250630)

In other high-energy, high-intensive pursuits such as sports and mathematics, 35 is a so-called "output ceiling" for these activities as well. There is a reason many athletes' retire mid 30-s, or why many physicists/mathematicians dont produce many new theorems past that age. Now, Im not saying that further achievements are impossible beyond this age, just less likely because the drop off is so significant.

People in those other pursuits require a backup plan as well.

I guess.... (1)

David_Hart (1184661) | about 2 years ago | (#38250636) depends on what you call a tech worker. The article seems to divide a tech worker from operations. So, by inference, a tech worker is anyone at level 1 tech support. The article explains that this "half-life" is due to workers gaining experience or getting fed up and moving on to other positions or jobs in IT or elsewhere.

Well, Duh!

in a normal job market, if you are still at level 1 tech and in your late 20's early 30's and have 3 or more years of experience, you are likely doing something wrong. You should be taking all of the training that you can. You should be looking around for people who are willing to mentor you in an area that you are interested in. You should be playing around with stuff and working on certifications. That being said, I have known people who are happy just doing desktop tech support and who have no other ambitions.

Been through a lot inthe past 10 years (1)

COredneck (598733) | about 2 years ago | (#38250644)

I m now almost 46 years old. I worked as a Unix Sys Admin for many years. Since January 2008, got laid off with my previous employer (major DoD company based out of Maryland), did some part time teaching with a local university and still doing it today and now work for a DB company now. What caught my eye in this article is someone older is not willing to relocate. I have lived in Colorado since 1995 and there are very few places I would consider living elsewhere. Top of my list is New Zealand and then West Coast.

My previous employer came to me one day and told me I had to relocate to the Washington DC area for the same pay, barely enough money to rent a moving truck and I had to take vacation time to move. When I asked for more, I was told either move to Virginia or it was the door. I took the door. A month after I got laid off, I got a part time teaching position and still doing it to this day and really like it and would eventually like to get out of the corporate world for good and do teaching full time.

Relocation to the East Coast especially the Washington DC area doesn't "float my boat". Totally different lifestyle there where putting in 40 hours is considered slacking off, you are expected to attend company sponsored community events outside of your work hours and you are expected to like dressing up as well.

Re:Been through a lot inthe past 10 years (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#38250904)

I have worked 2 software jobs on the east coast (including one not too far from DC). Neither required dressing up. Neither required hours > 40. The one that has had a community event certainly didn't look down on me for non-participation. Not to say there aren't those types of jobs around here, but you make quite a generalization.

Consulting? (2)

LynnwoodRooster (966895) | about 2 years ago | (#38250650)

How is consulting exclusionary from tech workers? I'm a tech worker and I'm 43. I was a consultant for the previous 12 years, made a lot of money, and just this year finally got enticed back to full-time with a fat offer for a principal position at a large (480 employee) tech company. If anything, consulting is the HEART of the tech world world because consultants are almost hired exclusively for their deep, intimate knowledge in arcane corners of the field.

the half life for most professions is short (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#38250670)

Well, maybe not so much for doctors, but from what I've heard even they are feeling the crunch.

Times change faster than we do.

plan (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#38250676)

retire (or be financially able to choose to) by 40.

Don't apply if the culture doesn't match. (5, Informative)

thePowerOfGrayskull (905905) | about 2 years ago | (#38250694)

I don't know. I'm entering the second half of my thirties; I just changed jobs. From the time I went "on the market" I applied for four places, got four interviews, and received three offers. Over a period of about one month. I took an offer with a startup and didn't need to relocate - and I'm not the oldest hire they've made. So much for that half-life, reduced options, or inability to get hired because of being "too old" for development. (Yes, it's a development position and not management).

Most companies really do value experience and proven ability over youth. Most of them appreciate that the experience and (sorry to use an HR-approved word) diversity of background and knowledge that experience brings.

Keep your skills up to date. Keep networking. Like any other skilled profession, you'll find work if you're demonstrably good at what you do -- and I think in an economy like this one, us old dogs have an advantage with our experience. Companies are looking for folks to hit the ground running after they're hired, and 15-20 years of experience makes it a lot easier to do that.

Personally, I never even considered applying to a company like google, because I know that they want you to dedicate a significant portion of your life to their company -- something that typically only younger folks [with fewer commitments] are willing or able to do. I'm not going to decide I have an absurd "half-life" -- I just won't apply to places that I know aren't a cultural match for me.

It's the competition with youth that worries me (4, Insightful)

swb (14022) | about 2 years ago | (#38250712)

I'm 45 and work at a consulting company. I'm fortunate enough to have a senior position here, but I'm also married, with a 1st grade son, a house and all the trappings that go with it.

I feel a lot of competition with the junior guys -- I was talking to one of them and he was griping about making a 4:30 PM help desk appointment but that once he got home about 7 PM he was going to really dive into whatever it was he was also working on. A couple of days later he was yakking about some work he was doing at 11:30 at night.

I just don't have that kind of free time. For one, there's shit to be done at home in terms of childcare and parenting, the wife doesn't want to work full time and do it all herself.

I think my advantage, though, is that I work a lot smarter -- I don't brute force solutions, take stupid risks or buy into a lot of technology BS that amounts to lots of work and little payoff. My clients tend to be more stable and have fewer glitches. I get grief from time-to-time for not deploying every gee-whiz feature, but not by the clients, by sales people.

Conversely, I'm encouraged (1)

pebbles061679 (2506386) | about 2 years ago | (#38250716)

As a 32 year old female that needed to do something with her life, I decided to go into Computer Science. So far, I enjoy it and I'm good at it. We'll see when it comes to the actual job market, I suppose. There are a lot of incentives for underrepresented groups when it comes to recruiting for the field, including lower unemployment rates when you graduate. If you look at the raw statistics on the parent article [] the job numbers are still very encouraging.

The unemployment rate for women under 55 is about 75% of the general female population. While that doubles to 150% for women over 55, I think that there are still enough opportunities out there for the motivated worker. Whether you start teaching, learn new technologies, take a pay cut, or a combination of the three, you're willingness to change will only work to serve you. You can't expect the industry to adapt to you.

We don't have anyone as young as 35 (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#38250740)

The "young'uns only" rule doesn't seem to apply where I live. I'm used to seeing a fairly wide range of ages among my coworkers. At my current work we have a small software team -- four developers and a manager. The youngest is 37-38. The oldest is about 53.

It can be done but most won't (1)

Wansu (846) | about 2 years ago | (#38250748)

You can work in tech into your 50s but the odds are against it. Keeping your skills current is a constant battle that will eventually wear anyone down. Changing jobs gets harder. Changing careers is an undertaking. As a tech worker in my mid 50s, I see mostly younger tech workers around me. My boss prefers to hire them and has said so. And with the current labor climate, older tech workers have little job security. To those smug individuals who think their skills are so great they'll retire a tech worker, I say they have another thought coming.

Horsecrap (1)

NetNinja (469346) | about 2 years ago | (#38250762)

The reason why interviews get harder and the technology on thier resumes is outdated is because you stayed at a company believing they would take care of you to retirement. These high tech companies love young people to work for them.
1. First job for most
2. They will work crazy hours to get the job done to prove thier worth
3. They think the company will recognize that effort (most times very very little)
Young fresh meat is the life blood of these hightech start ups.

What I have learned is, if your skills are not improving or your position is stagnat with no forward growth you fix that by putting your resume out there to find that ideal position. Nobody cares more about you but YOU.

To stay at a job with no growth financially and skillwise is professional suicide. Don't blame anyone but yourself because if you don't invest in yourself you are put out to pasture or rather the unemployment line.

I work for a living! I don't live to work for companies who don't invest in their technology.
This is technology baby! This ain't fast food! and if you don't feed the baby you end up with outdated gear and low and behold old skills!

As Sam Kennison once said "MOVE!,
Nothing grows here! []

Think Outside the OECD Box (4, Interesting)

retroworks (652802) | about 2 years ago | (#38250768)

If you can't beat 'em, join 'em. I'm 49 and surviving by trading with "techs of color" overseas. There is a huge aftermarket for older / used / lagging edge technology in "emerging" and "converging" markets outside of the OECD. I can't keep up with the newest display technology. But I can buy and sell what I know about. During the past decade, internet access grew fastest among people in nations earning average of $3500 per capita per year. They aren't buying tablets or twittering about Tahir Square on their IPhones.

The biggest threat to this has been American and EU ignorance of the 6 billion people in non-OECD markets - grouping 6 billion people together under a single "non-OECD" label. They are too frequently depicted as wire burning monkeys in the press. [] If you are willing to do your homework and differentiate between the lowest run / price-cutting technology buyers overseas, and the "fair trade" lagging edge and secondary markets, you can find some great partners. Oh, and by the way, they tend to have a lot of respect for seniors in Asia, Africa, and Latin America.

Asymptotic to zero (1)

overshoot (39700) | about 2 years ago | (#38250772)

And here I am, sixty in a few months, and I'm having a blast as an individual contributor.

I've turned down management "promotions" and managed to stay in hands-on tech (but paid nicely, thank you) and the egoboo as the office greybeard is awesome. Including one business card in my portfolio that lists my title as "mad scientist."

So the question I have to ask is this: how many drop out because that's the nature of the business and how many lose interest? Because the other geezers I work with stuck with the technical track as our hair turned gray (those who didn't lose it) and you couldn't catch any of us anywhere else. I may retire some day, but I'm sure not in a hurry.

Bored (2)

DogDude (805747) | about 2 years ago | (#38250784)

I went from phone jockey to senior database developer in 8 years. At that point, all of the projects were the same architecture, and all of the problems to be solved I'd already solved many times over. In addition to the sheer boredom, there was also the very real fear that staying too long in IT turns you into the red stapler guy in Office Space. I left and started my business. Glad I did.

To quote Jimmy Buffett (Fenway Park, 2004): (2)

RetiredMidn (441788) | about 2 years ago | (#38250822)

57 and still kicking ass!

An unfortunate load of crap (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#38250826)

I'm 52 and working with C++, MongoDB, NodeJS, Perl, Python and Ruby all day long. I don't have kids so I'm pretty portable.

The industry has this myth that programmers need to be young.By 30 you're mature enough to perhaps be of some value and you don't really hit your stride until you are 40. People wonder why life starts getting good around 40. It's because you have learned enough to stop making bad decisions, to stop following your emotions that get you into trouble, to be able to pursue that which matters, and forget about things that are irrelevant.

20 somethings are pretty much a waste of money for the following reasons (These are generalities and there are exceptions).

0) Very few out-of-college programmers have real skillz. What do you expect when they spent the last 4 years partying and the universities are no longer enforcing good standards? Oh please, I've worked with the top computer science graduates from Ivy League schools they they are all at best, at best, spaghetti coders with one or two clever insights.

1) They stay up late and come in half dead most of the time. Right Lew?

2) They spend a lot of the day chatting with people about sports, or their favorite band, or "talking" with the big boobed receptionist like Code Monkey. Eh tu Samuel?

3) They spend a lot of the day chatting online. I don't care what you say, splitting attention like that limits your ability to organize code, debug code and come up with clean, simple solutions. I'm not talking about James am I?

4) They are constantly browsing the web instead of concentrating on their code. Ed, you ARE going to finish this drop down task aren't you?

5) They've got all kinds of personal problems with relationships, parents, roommates and are in a continual state of unease and agitation.

6) I've seen many many times when they play games during work hours. For example I was at S??antec and we were in crunch mode for a shipping deadline. I walked in on a lead developer and he was writing a "level editor" for "Castle Wolfenstein". This kind of stuff is very common. Another lead developer at a game company was always playing "Diablo" instead of doing his work. That company folded up after spending hundreds of millions on a game project. And yes, if you are reading this, you know who you are.

7) They make huge judgement errors for lack of experience. Sure they can code fast but the earlier in the software process a mistake is made, the bigger it becomes as the process continues. I've seen companies go under because they thought their software should do something when the public cared less. Because of my experience I can see problems coming 6 months ahead like, "Hey, let's use Scala to write the core of our company software, even though we have no one here who knows Scala. It must be good, it's the latest thing!" . That's a real, extreme example. I mention it to 30 something managers and they poo poo it and then a disaster happens, a few heads roll and the rest make some excuse about how no one saw it coming.

8) Programmers are essentially unmanageable. As a manager you can't possibly know the details of what they are doing, otherwise you'd be a programmer and not a suit. They can pull the wool over your eyes 1000 different ways, and you can't FORCE someone to be creative or productive. If your staff isn't working for the love of programming and the project, you will get very little done.

The U.S. has been coasting on inertia for 30 years. Real productivity has taken second place to IPOs, stupid time-waste websites and financial ponzi schemes. More and more it's going to start mattering that real work gets done and I can tell you an experienced, and smart developer will make the difference between a company failing or succeeding.

too annoyed (3, Interesting)

TheGratefulNet (143330) | about 2 years ago | (#38250838)

I'm 50 and have found few interviews, lately (sf bay area) even though I've been doing C programming since my early 20's. I also design and build my own hardware (most pure software guys can't do this) and so I'm not just a coding guy, I also can do full system bring-up, device drivers, up thru app code. can I find a job? no. not in a year of trying, I can't. its like I'm blacklisted. it really feels like I'm stuck in a 1950's mccarthy era movie and my name is on a list, somewhere. the 'too old, too expensive to hire' list.

suffice to say, getting older and having years of experience 'not matter' (coding is coding, really; years of doing coding *is* experience) sure seems like the social contracts are broken. work hard and you will have a position in our company. ha! and while companies ding you on any short-stays you have in your employment history, what about all the companies who simply decide to downsize to make a faster buck at your expense? where's the 'short stay' at the company side, ding? there isn't one, folks. they get to make the rules and you get to be judged by it.

and while its bad for us in my age bracket now, just WAIT for 30 more years and see what the tech (western employment, I mean) world is going to be like. I shudder to think how much worse it can get. the movie 'logans run' does enter my mind; and like orwell, it was *supposed* to be a story, only, not reality.

my only bit of advice: please be a little compassionate and understanding when 'older guys' show up at interviews. we all know that you young hot-shots have all the classic algorithms stored *recently* and freshly in your minds. for us, well, we have had 30+ years of stuff to save and sort thru; and its harder pulling specifics (during interviews) out on-demand and at seconds and minute-level expectations. to you it may seem a disadvantage that we are not 'walking ROMs' but maybe give us the benefit of the doubt; and if our resume is filled with coding jobs, please don't assume that we can't code *now* because we aren't up to 'live performances' and coding-on-the-spot challenges that are more and more common in interviews.

it used to be that people could get jobs they couldn't do. now, there's a wealth of people who *can* do jobs but can't get past the damned interview process! and you folks in the interview loops don't seem to see or care; as long as YOU have your jobs, you are mostly insensitive to those of us who are not so fortunate.

you will be in this position in 20 or 30 years. karma is a bitch, remember that. be kind now.

You young people are so cute! (4, Insightful)

Overzeetop (214511) | about 2 years ago | (#38250866)

Welcome to realizing that life is complex. You don't go into a field and then stagnate at the "cool underling" stage forever. You get more responsibility, you understand more than just your little field you studied in school. You have the ability to take in the bigger picture. And you get promoted and coach the younglings, or you shift your career to what you're really good at, or what interests you now. Not surprisingly, it's usually not what you were doing when you left school.

Sure, there are exceptions. But, really, for most of us we are constantly refining who we are, and that rarely is a static job that matches what we were doing when we were 25. Don't worry, if you play your cards right and make careful decisions, you'll end up really liking your new, post thirty-something world.

No such thing as a Career in IT (2)

Durrill (908003) | about 2 years ago | (#38250874)

I'm 32 years old and I just got my Commercial Driver's License (ACZ) back on Wednesday. I switched to trades because of the possibility of a long term career that I could retire from. Not to mention my rights as an employee being protected through unions and the fact that truck drivers are retiring in droves with no one to replace them. I was born a geek and will continue to be a geek until the day I die, but never again will I work in high tech. Age 15: Was a computer repairman at a small shop part-time. Age 17: Took a spare last period of the day in highschool to work an evening shift doing computer assembly. Age 18: Was a network admin for a public health community center part-time. Age 19: Went to college for Software Engineering Age 21-30: Worked ~17 different jobs / contracts in programming where I was repeatedly laid off or the company went bankrupt. I have never been "Fired" from a job. I am now in my 30's, broke, no plans or stability going forward. This industry is complete garbage. So I switched to truck driving. During school, I was hired by a government department in Ottawa as a test driver. I had not even graduated from my course yet when this opportunity came up. I start next week. If that opportunity doesn't pan out, the Oil Sands in Alberta needs people BADLY! You kids might have aspirations of incredible glory going in to IT, but I assure you that you will not retire from the company you start at. In fact, you will be chewed up and discarded. Plan your career change during your 12-15 years in IT now before it's too late and you're crushed by an earth-shattering revelation like me. ... and yes, I am bitter about my time wasted in high tech. :(

9mod down (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#38250902)

Their parting bought the farm... corporate Of Jordan Hubbard irc network. The you down. It ^was

Not surprising (1)

danbuter (2019760) | about 2 years ago | (#38250914)

If you think back to 1995, just how many technical things are the same? If you aren't willing to basically be a permanent student, you won't last in the tech field, barring getting a good job with a bank or other glacially paced technology user.

nothing new (1)

Dzimas (547818) | about 2 years ago | (#38250920)

Ron looked around the job site and realized that most of the apprentices were firstee - young and keen, out to prove themselves. And then it struck him - Few of the journeyman electricians were over 40. Those who were had bad backs and repetitive stress injuries. Most of those left owned their own companies or had moved into management. The others wanted out. :)

35? (1)

HangingChad (677530) | about 2 years ago | (#38250978)

Interviews didn't get tough for me until I got closer to 50. Unless it was a c-level or management job they were almost impossible.

So I bailed on tech and started my own business. Less money, but far less stress and now customers are kissing my ass for a change.

Plan? Here's my plan: (3, Informative)

efalk (935211) | about 2 years ago | (#38250982)

Never stop learning. You never know what skill you learn today might be the hottest new thing tomorrow. This week I learned Autodesk Inventor. Will it ever help me get a job? Probably not, but you never knew. Three years before that, I learned to program Android, and now I can't get the recruiters to leave me alone. You just never know.

I really wish people wouldn't make this about age. (2)

cshark (673578) | about 2 years ago | (#38250998)

Dude, what the fuck? You're actually more likely to be getting a job at 35 than 19 because you have the experience. Sure, you have to have a plan and keep your resume current. You ALWAYS have to keep your resume current. You ALWAYS have to stay up on new technologies, and you ALWAYS have to work at getting better. Age has nothing to do with it. If you don't have a plan or stay up on new technology, you're as fucked at 25 as you are at 55.
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