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Ask Slashdot: Will Older Programmers Always Have a Harder Time Getting a Job?

Soulskill posted about 7 months ago | from the recommendation:-stop-aging dept.

Programming 379

Theseuss writes "Given the strong youth culture associated with the modern day Silicon Valley startup scene, many times it falls to the 40-year-old programmer to prove that he can still use the newest up-and-coming technology. Yet the rate at which the tech sector is growing suggests that in 20 years there will be a an order of magnitude more 'old-hat' programmers in the industry. As such, do you think the cultural bias towards young programmers will change in the near future?"

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It will depend on who is in the management chair. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46528495)

The way things are going now, the management will also be outsourced to the cheapest available...

And good experience is expensive.

Ignore Silicon Valley (5, Insightful)

turgid (580780) | about 7 months ago | (#46528515)

Ignore Silicon Valley.

50 years ago it used to be a hot-bed of science and technological innovation. Now it is a magnet for designer coffee-swigging social cloud blog web 2.0 get rich quick smartphone app hipsters.

Look for real companies designing and building real products for proper customers. Silicon Valley's day is gone.

Re:Ignore Silicon Valley (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46528565)

Oh dear. Sorry you couldn't find a job.

Re:Ignore Silicon Valley (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46528573)

100% Agree. I get so many recruiters calling me to join crappy companies anymore that I had to update my linked in to say leave me the hell alone. It doesn't stop them from sending messages and 99% of the time it is one of those garbage companies like the OP said.

Re:Ignore Silicon Valley (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46528715)

Well don't you just live the good life. Get off your self-righteous high-horse.

Re:Ignore Silicon Valley (2)

mwehle (2491950) | about 7 months ago | (#46528601)

Ignore Silicon Valley.

50 years ago it used to be a hot-bed of science and technological innovation. Now it is a magnet for designer coffee-swigging social cloud blog web 2.0 get rich quick smartphone app hipsters.

Look for real companies designing and building real products for proper customers. Silicon Valley's day is gone.

Can you give us a hint as to where we would look for those real companies? "Outside of Silicon Valley" covers a lot of ground - where specifically are those real companies designing real products located?

Re:Ignore Silicon Valley (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46528653)

Everycountry in everytown.

Just what do you think a job is? Some magical faery that appears via a palm ready?

Jesus f christ are you fucking stupid.

Re:Ignore Silicon Valley (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46528711)

China

Re:Ignore Silicon Valley (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46528779)

Everywhere else. The only problem is that they're not going to give you a billion dollars of stock options for making their webpage.

Re:Ignore Silicon Valley (5, Interesting)

mrchaotica (681592) | about 7 months ago | (#46528853)

The "real company" I work for (which makes boring-as-shit medical billing software) is in Atlanta, and the programmers seem to be pretty evenly distributed in age from 20s to 50s. I'm sure similar companies exist in every decently-sized US city except maybe for the Bay Area and Manhattan.

Re:Ignore Silicon Valley (4, Interesting)

bhcompy (1877290) | about 7 months ago | (#46528891)

ADP, Kronos, SAP, IBM, Boeing, Northrop Grumman, etc. They hire legions of programmers and they prefer older types that arent going to jump ship at some chance to work for the next Twitter

Still there... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46529129)

They're still (mostly) in the Valley or in Seattle, but they're distinct from the youth-centric startup culture.

Re:Ignore Silicon Valley (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46528615)

I'm replying right now from the heart of the valley -- it's actually about things other than coffee.
I'm also over age 40, and I have more job interest these days than 20 years ago.

go figure.

Re:Ignore Silicon Valley (1)

Marxist Hacker 42 (638312) | about 7 months ago | (#46528863)

I agree. Something about hitting 15 years in the industry, and suddenly, instead of me looking for jobs, I get 5-10 calls a day merely for updating my resume on Monster and Dice. I ignore the ones that want me to move out of state or can't say my name properly.

It's still a perfect skills match world, however, so the process can take up to two months.

Re:Ignore Silicon Valley (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46529013)

Yep, that's my experience too, as I've got older, I've found it easier and easier to get a job. I've never run into the young coder bias once.

Re:Ignore Silicon Valley (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46528623)

This is very much true, the only tech companies I've worked with have plenty of older coders and programmers, because they have experience and skills. The only thing that will change from what I've seen is the amount of awful young coders flooding into the field.

Re:Ignore Silicon Valley (-1, Troll)

Hognoxious (631665) | about 7 months ago | (#46528647)

Wrong. You forgot to mention that they're all faggots.

Re:Ignore Silicon Valley (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46529053)

Hipsters are Political Independent...Independent != Democrat

Re:Ignore Silicon Valley (1)

real gumby (11516) | about 7 months ago | (#46528697)

Ignore Silicon Valley...it used to be a hot-bed of science and technological innovation. Now it is a magnet for designer coffee-swigging social cloud blog web 2.0 get rich quick smartphone app hipsters.

Close, but you described San Francisco. We have some of those loons too down here in the Valley, but we also have real stuff.

The out of town reporters are up in the city too, and don’t know the difference, but frankly it’s easier to get work done with them not around as well.

Re:Ignore Silicon Valley (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46528967)

Please. There are more in Silicon Valley than in San Francisco, if only because there are more engineers down there and cheaper office space to setup shop. You think those miles and miles of cheap, light-industrial complexes are all rented out by "real" startups?

The only difference between the Bay Area and the rest of the country is that there are more jobs here. Sure, if you go to DC you can do "real" work as a government contractor. Or go to Chicago and do "real" work programming industrial machinery. Or New York and do "real" work in electronic publishing.

You can do all those things here, for more money, and also have your pick at all the lame web startups that also happen to pay really well.

There are simply more options in the Bay Area. And more money. And in a country where you have to _expect_ to change jobs multiple times in your career, I'd rather be in an area with the most opportunity. Otherwise, I might as well retire to some cheap waterfront property on the Gulf Coast or (if I haven't saved up enough, yet) to coastal Chile or Brazil.

Re:Ignore Silicon Valley (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46528731)

Ignore Silicon Valley.

50 years ago it used to be a hot-bed of science and technological innovation. Now it is a magnet for designer coffee-swigging social cloud blog web 2.0 get rich quick smartphone app hipsters.

Look for real companies designing and building real products for proper customers. Silicon Valley's day is gone.

Not sure where in Silicon Valley you are coming from. Posting anonymously for obvious reasons... The medium sized Silicon Valley I am in is working on pioneering next generation microprocessor fabrication techniques. We are partnering with other Silicon Valley area businesses to put this into applications anywhere from traditional microprocessors to health devices, to sensors. We've found no shortage of serious partners in this area. There is a true boom right now in the "silicon" side of Silicon Valley. I've been doing this for over twenty years now. I'm sorry your experience has been different. Perhaps people outside my industry circle don't hear about it because Facebook buyouts and mobile apps are the only things that make it on to CNN these days...

Re:Ignore Silicon Valley (2)

Darinbob (1142669) | about 7 months ago | (#46528977)

There are still parts though that aren't so "hip". There was a NYT article recently about a sort of disconnect between the fluffy young industry interested in web apps and the stuffy old industry that actually makes it all work but doesn't get the glamor. Flash in the pan startups versus old economy industry. Ie, someone needs to make the network work such as by building routers and hubs, someone needs to create the operating systems that the apps run on top of, someone needs to deal with the communication protocols whether it be RF or wire or fiber, someone needs to make sure it all passes regulatory approval. People like to talk foolishly about an "internet of things" while ignoring that this requires both an internet and also things, stuff that is mostly being done by stodgy companies. And besides all that we still have significant non-networking companies doing tech in Silicon Valley.

So all that infrastructure is not opposed to older workers. This is where the longer term jobs still exist, using skills that the kids will scoff at. So much of the stuff out there really does still run on C, C++, and assembler. And this is in Silicon Valley. Yes the jobs are fewer than they used to be, I think it's also being hurt by just having the impression of there being even fewer of them because there's no buzz about those jobs, no billboards, etc.

I get recruiters contacting me once every other week or so which is a bit weird (but recruiters aren't all that great anyway, I had one try to recruit me for the same company I was already working for).

Re:Ignore Silicon Valley (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46529091)

Intel will beat Cisco

Re:Ignore Silicon Valley (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46528983)

The irony is strong with this one. "Silicon Valley is sooooo 50 years ago" hipster much?

Some companies pay for experience. (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46528523)

They're the ones that will. Find a job at those.

In the future... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46528525)

...kids will get off our digital lawns

False premise (3, Interesting)

tlambert (566799) | about 7 months ago | (#46528531)

False premise. Assumes a bias without providing evidence.

Re:False premise (2, Insightful)

bobbied (2522392) | about 7 months ago | (#46528677)

There has been a traditional bias away from hiring older workers that I've never really questioned. I have no evidence beyond my 25 years of observations, but it seems to me that the submitter of the article is right.

But, looking back, it seems explainable that older workers are less likely to be hired. They usually have experience, but this usually requires that you pay more. If younger workers can do the job well enough, why not go cheap? Also, older workers have higher costs for medical and sick leave and are more often injured on the job. Finally, who wants to hire somebody they know won't be working more than a few more years?

So, where I see a lack of STEM employees coming up though the ranks, it doesn't seem to me that this bias will go away.

Re:False premise (4, Insightful)

TheRealMindChild (743925) | about 7 months ago | (#46528847)

They usually have experience, but this usually requires that you pay more. If younger workers can do the job well enough, why not go cheap?

Because the cumulative of 20 years experience they are looking for can actually be had by the older worker.

Re:False premise (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46529125)

Outsourced...Insourced...have a promotion

Re:False premise (5, Insightful)

gstoddart (321705) | about 7 months ago | (#46529095)

Also, older workers have higher costs for medical and sick leave and are more often injured on the job.

Oh for crying out loud, he wants to be a programmer ... do you know of a single job related injury of a programmer that didn't involve something involving a nomination in a non-fatal Darwin-award category (like chair races)? A freak mouse accident in which someone lost fingers? The coke machine falling on you?

Finally, who wants to hire somebody they know won't be working more than a few more years?

Ever heard the joke about the two bulls on the hill, and one says "hey, let's run down and fsck one of them cows"?

Sometimes experience and having learned some mistakes along the way can be very valuable, because not all of the kiddies have learned these things.

Kids straight of school may churn out large quantities of code and do cool things. But they also haven't yet learned all of the reasons for doing things with caution and diligence and all of the things which come with having spectacular failures.

Eventually, your skillset becomes more valuable for your breadth of experience and knowledge, than your specific ability to code.

For the poster, I would suggest that either you tough it out, or recognize that your ability to provide adult supervision and a longer view might be more valuable to companies (and in the long run you).

At a certain point, if you look like you're just gonna hang on in the corner doing the same old thing until you retire, your company might decide to get rid of you. I know people who started as Help Desk grunts, and have moved on to become Directors of entire departments, because they were smart, learned stuff, and became responsible adults. I don't know many programmers in their 50s who have done nothing but.

I'm in your cohort, give or take a little, there is life after programming. These days, organizations have more of an "up or out" mentality.

Re:False premise (2)

Frobnicator (565869) | about 7 months ago | (#46528761)

False premise. Assumes a bias without providing evidence.

Well, to be fair, the story does make a claim.

it falls to the 40-year-old programmer to prove that he can still use the newest up-and-coming technology.

It falls to ALL programmers to demonstrate that they can use the technology for the job.

If you are a programmer who has no documented experience in (technology) and want a job that asks for a job requiring (technology), either get some experience with (technology) or expect trouble finding that job.

Swap in whatever technology you want. For an example, are you a 40 year old programmer with pre-standard C++ experience and 14 years of Java experience, but looking for jobs requiring C# experience? Then either make some transitions to pick up some C# experience (perhaps on your main job or by picking up some side projects) or you expect difficulty finding one that requires C#. Maybe it isn't C#, maybe it is HTML5. Either find a way to get HTML5 experience or expect difficulty finding the job.

The past few decades have seen the demise of on-the-job training. You get hired because you already have the necessary skills.

Re:False premise (4, Insightful)

mrchaotica (681592) | about 7 months ago | (#46528903)

For an example, are you a 40 year old programmer with pre-standard C++ experience and 14 years of Java experience, but looking for jobs requiring C# experience?

Anybody who gives a shit if somebody's experience is in Java instead of C# (or vice-versa) has no business making hiring decisions.

Re:False premise (1)

JaredOfEuropa (526365) | about 7 months ago | (#46529045)

Depends. Young coders with little or no actual work experience are going to be doing enough on-the-job learning to keep them quite busy. Many will have a limited experience in documenting, test procedures, version control mechanisms, and they will need some help in learning the ropes in soft skills: team working, talking to the non tech departments, etc. You want those young programmers to be at least somewhat proficient in the language you hired them to program in, instead of having to teach them that as well.

As for all that other stuff? They can / should hopefully learn that from the old hands. If they aren't fully up to speed on the latest SDKs or languages, no biggy, since the biggest added value comes from their experience. I say a senior techy who isn't spending at least 30% of his time at coaching or transferring knowledge has no business being in the tech business anymore. But that's just me... sadly I see very, very little coaching going on in IT land. Perhaps that's why young people keep learning the same stuff we did, making the same mistakes. Perhaps that's why development is still more of a craft than a profession.

No, because no one will have jobs (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46528541)

Robots will rule us all.

Experience Matters But So Does Price (4, Interesting)

organgtool (966989) | about 7 months ago | (#46528563)

I personally believe that the experience older programmers provide over younger counterparts makes them a desirable hiring option. The catch is that the price has to be right. Some of the older developers demand two to three times the salary of younger programmers. When you do that, you have to ask yourself if you deliver quantity and/or quality two to three times greater than those younger programmers. If you honestly believe you do, then your next task is to prove that to prospective employers, but it's going to be a tough sell. It can take close to a year for someone to realize that they hired a fraud, so you're a more expensive gamble to that employer than a younger employee.

There are certainly older programmers who can produce much better software at faster rates than their younger counterparts, but it is difficult to prove and requires the employer to take a greater risk in hiring you.

Finally, is it me or was there no article at all? Seriously, Slashdot - WTF?

Re:Experience Matters But So Does Price (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46528659)

It's you. There's no article because this is "Ask Slashdot", you old fart! ;-)

Re:Experience Matters But So Does Price (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46528681)

No it wasn't just you...there was some gay ask-slashdot the other day about older programmers learning new tricks. /. really sucks these days..

Re:Experience Matters But So Does Price (1)

organgtool (966989) | about 7 months ago | (#46528729)

I didn't recognize it as an Ask Slashdot question because the question was incredibly broad, barely gave any detail, and did not ask for specific advice about a technical issue. But it'll generate page clicks (it got ours).

Re:Experience Matters But So Does Price (2)

dave562 (969951) | about 7 months ago | (#46528747)

This is the biggest discriminatory factor that older employees are facing. Their salary expectations are considerably higher than the people they are competing against. In a lot of situations, the only way to justify those salaries is in the ability to lead a team of developers, or to check the work of less experienced developers, or to work at a higher level where the programmer is actually doing design and architecture work. For in the trenches, banging out code type of jobs, the older programmer will always be at a disadvantage.

My suggestion for anyone looking for a job is to always focus the discussion on what you can do for the company, NOT what you have done in the past. Have an honest discussion with the company about what they need, and then figure out if the skills you are bringing to the table are a good fit for that. Older programmers have experience and experience usually translates into time savings if the employee is in a position to influence projects.

If the only thing an older programmer is trying to bring to the table is some derivative of, "I can code (insert language here) as well as a 25 year old." , the odds are that discussion is not going to go anywhere. The 25 year old probably does not have a family to support, and is still willing to work stupid long hours. At 40, a person should be managing a bunch of 20-somethings, not competing with them for a job.

Re:Experience Matters But So Does Price (4, Insightful)

mrchaotica (681592) | about 7 months ago | (#46528993)

At 40, a person should be managing a bunch of 20-somethings, not competing with them for a job.

Given that there are just as many 40-somethings (or at least, 40-somethings + 50-somethings) as there are 20-somethings, it's mathematically impossible for them all to be managers. What are the rest of them supposed to do?

Re:Experience Matters But So Does Price (1)

PRMan (959735) | about 7 months ago | (#46529127)

And what if we like writing code and hate office politics and nonsense.

Re:Experience Matters But So Does Price (1)

Frobnicator (565869) | about 7 months ago | (#46528825)

I personally believe that the experience older programmers provide over younger counterparts makes them a desirable hiring option. The catch is that the price has to be right. Some of the older developers demand two to three times the salary of younger programmers.

So basically you take the classic evidence of age discrimination. You assumed they will demand more money.

If the person has the skills you want, REGARDLESS OF AGE, you make an offer you think is fair.

Applicants usually do not say, "I require $145,000 per year". They instead say, "I'm looking for a job".

If they apply and you think they want lots of money, you can tell them "I'm not sure this is a match with your experience, we are paying around $50,000". If they say "That is wonderful, let's have some interviews", then congratulations on getting experience for cheap.

Re:Experience Matters But So Does Price (1)

organgtool (966989) | about 7 months ago | (#46528893)

I said that because most companies use hiring agencies to gather candidates for interviews and it has been my experience that the first question these hiring agencies ask is what you are looking to be paid. The second question is how firm are you on that price. The reason for this is that the employer gives the hiring agency a very specific salary range they are willing to pay and the hiring agencies want to get the best possible candidates without wasting the employer's time with candidates out of their price range. Therefore, whether you like it or not, the conversation usually starts with price and then moves over to discussing experience.

Re:Experience Matters But So Does Price (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46529069)

Experience does help programmers, however experience can not replace general intelligence. This is the fundamental problem. Money is no object at my company, they would prefer to hire the best. Every single class of Computer Science Graduates has 10% of the people that are smart enough for me to hire. As they age, the top 10% of a class looking for a engineering job naturally shrinks to because:
People strike it rich and retire
People go into Management.
People move into other fields
People find a very comfortable job and will never move.

I find that at Age 22, 10% of the people I interview I will hire. At age forty, I've estimated that only 1% of the people I interview I would hire because the other 9% from that graduating class has left the job searching pool for the above reasons. I would prefer to hire older programmers, but I only can find the leftovers when I interview for them.

This is honestly why H1-B are a great ideas. Essentially the US is steal the top 10% of intelligence from other countires. This is invaluable in Software.

Re:Experience Matters But So Does Price (1)

turp182 (1020263) | about 7 months ago | (#46529079)

This is where right to hire, say on a 1-month but extendable (monthly basis) can really help. Every organization should have one or two "true pros" that can spot frauds and lead architecture and strategy (not the CIO, someone in the trenches to do things like code reviews and standards enforcement).

Right to hire has become popular in IT (at least in the midwest), and I don't see any downsides unless a company keeps a valuable contributor off the payroll so long that they seek greener pastures (I've seen that a few times). It allows the contractor to "prove themselves" and it allows a company to let a poor performer go without fuss ("your contract has not been renewed").

Re:Experience Matters But So Does Price (1)

Darinbob (1142669) | about 7 months ago | (#46529103)

I'm certainly being paid more than I used to, but I haven't been "demanding" that salary. The entry level people really are making a lot more money these days, it's no longer a matter of working yourself up the ranks before you get a livable salary in SV. I do not think I'm making double of a junior engineer at all, though I may be double of a generic corporate IT support person.

The other thing is that the older people are not necessarily faster at coding. Fast coding is often not that useful of a skill. Often those I see checking in code the most are also those who spend most of those check ins fixing up earlier check ins. And a lot of my day really is just with meeting with people, answering questions that could easily be looked up instead, thinking about how to actually do something new in a good way instead of a half-assed approach, debugging a problem, etc. Actually writing brand new code is relatively rare.

Sometimes it is not even necessarily the "quality" of code that matters but instead having a more experienced approach of designing something new, providing leadership, being a domain expert, not wasting anyone else's time having your hand held, recognizing problems early, and so one. I see some senior people whose code quality is not great (or at least not to my standards) and feels like it's very quick and dirty, finishing up the code quick and moving on; but those same people are also vital because in other areas they provide the only knowledge in the company about some domain (interacting with chip design group, knowing all the ins and outs and history of the code base, the RF expert, the crypto expert, etc).

Lousy ones always have, alway will (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46528571)

That's why those move to management; it's a lot easier to hide incompetence.

Never Understood this (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46528575)

Its more about their attitude. There are some solid patterns and just software development knowledge that is great to have and haven't really changed regardless of the technology. I hired a guy at the end of his career (programming for 30 years, he worked with punch cards in college) he said he just wanted to program, he picked up everything easily, contributed to design and implementation with some JPA 2.0 db interfaces from an AngularJS front end. Unit testing, in memory databases and all sorts of stuff.

I have found that age doesn't matter, if you are going to be a stick in the mud and in my day type of person, I will never hire or want to work with you.

Some technology and syntax change...good designs and ability to learn and adapt don't.

Re:Never Understood this (3, Insightful)

Opportunist (166417) | about 7 months ago | (#46528737)

In my experience, actually being "old" can be a huge benefit, depending on what you're looking for. Old programmers may not know the current fad in programming languages, but they know the basics, something contemporary "programmers" (I'll use the term loosely now) often sorely lack.

The label "programmer" has been diluted to the point where schools pump out people who can kinda-sorta somehow slap together something that compiles, but when you ask them how they do a binary sort, their reply is either the API function name for the binsort or they start digging for the documentation to find said name.

And yes, of course I don't expect anyone to reinvent the wheel and implement their own version of a function the API provides. But I do expect people to know what they're doing and why they use what they're using! Because some of those standard algos can have quite interesting side effects that manifest themselves only under certain situations, and then only someone who KNOWS what he is doing will KNOW that these quirks exist!

No Offense (0)

fat_mike (71855) | about 7 months ago | (#46528585)

But if you're 40 and still a code monkey you're doing it wrong.

Re:No Offense (1)

scottnix (951749) | about 7 months ago | (#46528619)

As opposed to what? A manager?
Fuck that noise.

Re:No Offense (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46528673)

if you love what you do at what age should you stop doing it and switch to something you loath?

Re:No Offense (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46528733)

Agreed. If you hate programming so much that you are looking to climb out of it, you probably are going to be a terrible manager of programmers. If your goal is to become a manager because you love programming but want to ensure the projects are managed better, then that is a good reason to want to become a manger.

Re:No Offense (1)

Opportunist (166417) | about 7 months ago | (#46528757)

Yes, I moved over to management as well. Reason? Money. Simple as that.

As a programmer, you'll hit a glass ceiling sooner or later. But as soon as you have "manager" in your title (or, better, "chief" + $whatever + "officer"), you suddenly tack a 0 to your annual salary without actually doing more work...

Re:No Offense (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46528679)

I don't know... I am 36, do some architecture and design stuff, but I still enjoy being a code monkey and prefer that over the other BS work.

Re:No Offense (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46528713)

A blanket statement, and a stupid one at that.

I just turned 50, and I work as a web developer at a university. Developing software is my ideal job, one that I will be very happy to do for the rest of my life, let alone until I'm old enough to retire. Hell, I do it for fun in my spare time as well.

Where do you think people should go? Management? No thank you. I have no interest in attending meetings and shuffling papers (and no matter what anyone might say, a lot of management is just that), and I know that I wouldn't be good at it.

Maybe by code monkey you are referring to people who take a spec and implement it in code. I agree that that's not a lofty ambition. I am involved in the entire project lifecycle. Still, there's a special delight in writing good code, and you should not dismiss those who are content to do just that.

Re:No Offense (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46528721)

Fuck you and your attitude....I bet you're a 'manager'...

Some of us just plain like it and have projects on the go that stretch and maintain our skills.

Wankers like you are the reason so many of us are freelance and pulling in the big bucks, so I suppose I should thank you.

Re:No Offense (1)

Darinbob (1142669) | about 7 months ago | (#46529133)

What alternatives are there, except to be a manager which is an extremely undesirable job for many? Although "code monkey" has different meanings. I like being a programmer but I don't just want to be a grunt coder. I would consider that designing a new system is still a programming job, and I'd hate to ever design something from a desk and be completely hands off while all the actual building is relegated to the new hires.

As a 40 something programmer recently interviewing (4, Insightful)

madopal (308394) | about 7 months ago | (#46528607)

I can say the difference between now and the last time I had to do this (~12 years) is stark.
Seriously...if I have to take another test checking my ability to O(N) a problem, I'm gonna scream. I've been living in ginormous game engines for 6 years, and the amount of times I've had to, in the span of a timed half an hour, optimize a routine to make sure it was running in the optimal time has been....zero.
I'm sure it comes up, and I'm sure it's useful, but this all reminds me of the older assembly guys who used to put in all kinds of wonky tricks that eventually got optimized out by the compiler. Bubblesort has been solved. If your company has to implement it again, you're doing it wrong. There's a routine lying around somewhere in the company. Really.
I don't know what the solution is for evaluating tech talent, but this doesn't seem like it.
Also, web guys...if you're really concerned about speed, maybe you should consider writing some of this code in a lower level language. Plus, if your ad server takes 5-10 seconds to respond, then all of your optimization is for nothing anyway. But hey, you got the O(log N) solution. Bully for you.

Re:As a 40 something programmer recently interview (4, Informative)

MightyMartian (840721) | about 7 months ago | (#46528683)

Boy I remember the old days of writing web CGI apps in C, way back in the 1990s. People would look at me like I was insane if I were to suggest writing web apps in a language that compiles to machine code. There seems to be a whole industry dedicated to declaring native apps an evil that must be extinguished.

CGIC (2)

madopal (308394) | about 7 months ago | (#46528875)

Sure, I used it. It totally has its uses. But I'm not being old fart about it. I actually love working in Python for many, many things. It just seems totally bizarre to me to be trying to cycle optimize what is ostensibly an interpreted language. It's kinda like hypermiling SUV hybrids.
But you're right, there's some fear of every writing compiled code these days. Heaven forbid you even directly interface with hardware, either.

Re:As a 40 something programmer recently interview (1)

nblender (741424) | about 7 months ago | (#46528719)

a thousand times this. I'm close to 50. Over 30 years of SW development experience that is easily verifiable should I suddenly find myself looking for work 'the hard way'... My friends who are out looking for work tell me the latest fad that all the cool hiring managers are doing is giving you timed tests to make you prove you can write a "C" function to find the bottom of a linked list or some equally inane task... Maybe that's great when your hiring pool is a stack of resume's from fresh-out-of-schoolers but my CV alone should tell you that I've done the work. Then you and I can just sit down and have a grown-up conversation... If you want to see my code, there are lots of open source repositories I can point you to... But I'm not a circus performer. I can't tell you the last time I've had to stand up in a room full of people and write code on a whiteboard.

Re: As a 40 something programmer recently intervie (4, Funny)

ruiner13 (527499) | about 7 months ago | (#46528755)

I've been living in ginormous game engines for 6 years, and the amount of times I've had to, in the span of a timed half an hour, optimize a routine to make sure it was running in the optimal time has been....zero.

Do you happen to work for EA? That would explain a lot...

Not sure if that's snark (1)

madopal (308394) | about 7 months ago | (#46529039)

No.
But the games biz has a ton of legacy engines all over the place. And most of the work on them isn't getting it to run more efficiently. It's adding features; it's testing user input; it's gathering data; it's keeping things from blowing up. And these problems aren't unique to the game industry.
There is plenty of work to go around adding features and improving/bug fixing that don't involve simply finding algorithmic solutions.
It's always been a peeve of mine that programming courses have been, for my experience, devoid of two real world aspects: error handling and user interface. Neither of those has a tinker's cuss to do with O(n) solutions, and if you look at many, many of the problems companies are facing, it has to do with those. Experience seems to be the teacher of those, as universities seem to have fallen short of any semblance of lessons in those areas.
It's one thing to do an exercise with a single command line function that has a clearly delineated in/out and a simple dataset. It's another when you're interfacing with legacy code, trying to fish a line thru to a class that doesn't want to expose it's members for some undocumented reason. Plus, the program has a real tendency to assume data validity, and changes makes crap blow up real good. That's real world company stuff, not whether or not quicksort or bubblesort is the best choice.

Re:As a 40 something programmer recently interview (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46528849)

It is true that lower level languages and compiler capabilities provide certain optimizations.

However, O(n) in most cases has nothing to do with high level/low level language. If you write something that has an exponential runtime then that is not something solved by a compiler optimizing it away nor a low level language. It is all about the algorithm/flow control used, not the language/compiler.

In line of business applications using database access frameworks, with many you have to be wary of this problem:
http://stackoverflow.com/questions/tagged/select-n-plus-1

This isn't exactly a O(n) optimization problem, but it is more easily understood and solved by someone who understands the concept of O(n). While true, reinventing something like quicksort is stupid, in many other cases there is no generic algorithm that solves the problem, but is more of a matter of just avoiding certain bad practices in the way you leverage the database framework.

If you want to solve the problem you describe, you will need to create an institution that provides an industry recognized accreditation and testing so that these kinds of things can be tested once, and then you can just provide those credentials to each potential employer and skip over those things. Good luck :)

O(n) (1)

madopal (308394) | about 7 months ago | (#46528987)

I didn't mean to indicate that lower level programming = the way to go. My point was that most of these tests miss the forest for the trees.
Sure, you're munging data. But either a) your dataset is known and your company has mostly solved this problem, or b) you're engineering new solutions which don't fit the way before.
You profile, find the parts that need optimizing, and optimize. That should be done regardless of the situation. In addition, the new "fuck it, ship it" mantra that seems to be all the rage would say get something working, then you make it work well. Not "you'd better do it exactly right the first time or it's worthless."
Data requirements shift. Focus of target moves. These all have to be addressed. A good programmer will plan for the changes as best can be so that if a new algorithm has to be used sometime, it can be swapped out as quickly and as painlessly as possible. Therein lies the experience. Not on whether you hit on the local maxima first try.

Re:As a 40 something programmer recently interview (1)

x181 (2677887) | about 7 months ago | (#46528889)

As a 30 year old engineer architecting and developing 3d graphics engines, I also find these kinds of interview questions worthless and stupid.

Re:As a 40 something programmer recently interview (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46528943)

Have you done any hiring before? I have seen so many candidates with 20-30 years of "experience" in something and questioned how they ever accomplished anything at their previous jobs.

You're dealing with justifiably cynical interviewers who know better than to trust job candidates. Have you ever interviewed "Linux admins" with 20 years of experience on the resume who have never used tab completion before? I have.

Ever worked with someone who was utterly incompetent? Guess what! That person can claim "experience" and "I did the work" even if everyone else on the team made up for his shortfalls. That is why employers verify some basics. Unfortunately not everyone agrees on what the basics are and that's what your main complaint seems to be.

Yes (4, Insightful)

Dcnjoe60 (682885) | about 7 months ago | (#46528645)

Yes, older programmers will always have a harder time getting a job, just like older people in all other professions. Age discrimination isn't just an computer industry problem.

Re:Yes (2)

argStyopa (232550) | about 7 months ago | (#46528803)

It's not age 'discrimination', it's simply a fact that companies would rather hire younger workers for a number of reasons:
- they generally work for less
- they will generally work longer hours with less complaints (often, they have nothing BUT work to do)
- they're gullible, and aside from 'millenial ennui' are easily motivated, where older workers have "seen this crap a dozen times before"

What a middle-aged or older worker USED to bring to the job was a collective wisdom, a collective memory of what's worked and what hasn't, as well as a seasoned perspective. Now, however, when companies fire these workers, obviously their contextual skills at any other place are going to be worth far less.

Age and profession (1)

phorm (591458) | about 7 months ago | (#46528811)

Not all other professions. There are some where age comes as a benefit. Legal and political circles come to mind, for example.

Not unique to programming (1)

madopal (308394) | about 7 months ago | (#46529089)

But my point above about interview questions is that the bias is built in. The interview process, involving pointless tests and white board coding, seems geared towards the recent graduate. It's inherently biased against the experienced coder, because most of that academic stuff is long in the past by the time they interview.
I can't speak to whether or not it's intentional, but it's there, and it's very different than other industries.

Forty-year-olds also have lives... (4, Informative)

CohibaVancouver (864662) | about 7 months ago | (#46528655)

The other advantage 20-year-olds have is they can give their life to the company. They don't care about having to work 60-hour weeks as long as there is foosball and free pizza. Why go home when 'work' is cool?

A 40 year old often has a spouse, kid or two and a dog they might like to take for a walk. They don't care about BS phrases like "Work hard play hard!"

Re:Forty-year-olds also have lives... (3, Insightful)

DavidHumus (725117) | about 7 months ago | (#46528783)

This only holds if there's no awareness of the difference in work quality...oh, wait.

But I call BS on this tired old argument anyway. If it were true, the 50-something w/the kids in college and flexibility would be sought after - we're not.

Software is not only made in hipster startups (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46528657)

I'm 43, a Senior Software Engineer in Los Angeles, and I get contacted all the time by recruiters who want to gauge my interest in various development positions. One called me on my cell phone just a few minutes ago, not sure how she got the number.

If you have a modicum of experience and can present yourself well there are tons of opportunities in software development right now. You may not get a job with Facebook (and why would you want to, the ship has sailed on getting rich there), but the industry at large is clamoring for talented people, and most would rather pay more for a local candidate than having to deal with H1B hassles, regardless of the popular opinion on /.

That's not cultural bias (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46528689)

"it falls to the 40-year-old programmer to prove that he can still use the newest up-and-coming technology"

I'm not denying there is cultural bias, but that is not what cultural bias is. I think it's expected of all new hires regardless of age to prove they have the skills needed. My experience for hiring for new projects that required a specific skillset, some of which for technologies that have been around for less than 5 years, is that you get alot of people claiming to have the skills without actually having them. Some projects there is room to take a good programmer and allow them to pick up the new things on the fly. In other cases the timelime of the project demands only those who possess those skills already. I want to clarify I'm not talking about where there's a discrepancy between my opinion of competency versus another person's, I'm talking about they had not so much as spent a single hour with that particular technology. In one case it seemed like the recruiter added the skill to the applicant's resume, because they were confused when I got to that bullet point: slid the resume across the table to them and pointed at it, and they just looked at me and shook their head :O Young and old, I am going to make sure they have the skill if the project requires it.

If you have competency in that new technology, I'm going to hope that you are probably also open to learning new paradigms. I'm in my early thirties and there are certainly people my age or younger stuck in their ways.

I think there might be little bit of butting of heads on both sides when it comes to older programmers. There was one case someone applied for a job that requires certain specific skills, and my higher ups made it clear the timeline did not allow for waiting for programmers to come up to speed on new technologies. For a 3 month project, there isn't enough time for it. Your many years of experience is certainly valuable, and probably would make picking up new technologies faster, but sometimes that isn't enough. You have to play the game just like everyone else, and that means picking up the new skills as you go if you want to remain marketable. There is nothing special young or old that makes you exempt from this.

I'm not trying to say that there is no cultural bias, but there's probably some cases someone claims they didn't get a job due to cultural bias, when that simply was a distorted interpretation from their perspective.

It's not difficult to prove at all (4, Informative)

bogaboga (793279) | about 7 months ago | (#46528705)

There are certainly older programmers who can produce much better software at faster rates than their younger counterparts, but it is difficult to prove and requires the employer to take a greater risk in hiring you.

It isn't difficult at all. At my company, an "older programmer" solved a bug in code written by a younger fella by introducing a function that we all never knew about. This fella refactored code, cleaned up the mess we had in our AIX/DB2 system and saved my company lots of cash by single handedly writing code that verified that our data migration to PostgreSQL from the mentioned DB2 system was worthwhile.

Specifically, he wrote code that printed cheques the way we wanted (Numbers to words), in about 1/4 of the lines of code we had. All this by employing functions we never knew existed. Nothing can beat knowledge/experience. Nothing!

Re:It's not difficult to prove at all (1)

Krishnoid (984597) | about 7 months ago | (#46528827)

There are certainly older programmers who can produce much better software at faster rates than their younger counterparts, but it is difficult to prove and requires the employer to take a greater risk in hiring you.

...

Nothing can beat knowledge/experience. Nothing!

You can see how the effect is amplified [paulgraham.com] in the case of programming and a subset of other fields, due to the nature of the problem space and power of the available tools.

63 and still going strong. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46528707)

I started out when hand coded assembler was the only way and I still love every minute of every day. My longest period out of work is less than three months and I still earn far more than many so what's the problem?

newest up-and-coming technology? (1)

m00sh (2538182) | about 7 months ago | (#46528709)

What is the newest up-and-coming technology that programmers have to deal with?

All the new technology is just an API library.

Programming languages have remained the same for the last 20 years.

No (3, Funny)

Megahard (1053072) | about 7 months ago | (#46528727)

Not when 2038 approaches.

Every time there is a bad economy (1)

michaelmalak (91262) | about 7 months ago | (#46528751)

I found age discrimination 2008-2011 but not now. I expect it will return after the next stock market or dot-com 2.0 crash.

But I'm not in Silicon Valley.

40 is the new 20 at my company (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46528771)

The youngest guy on our dev team is early 40s. Young people don't get as much done and screw things up. Certainly not universally true but in some fields older is better. You probably wouldn't hire our team to develop the next gen hip social media app for mobile OS's. We are server-side banking dudes.

Older programmers are better off freelancing (4, Interesting)

technomom (444378) | about 7 months ago | (#46528787)

Honestly, any programmer that is worth his or her salt is going to be employed no matter what their age. There are plenty of schools and non-profits looking for help. Of course they may not pay as much as the corporate office, but you'll be working. I also think you should start looking to strike out on your own as a contractor or freelancer soon after 45. I say this as a 52 year old who is exploring other options now. I'm writing some mobile apps for a local school district as part of my community service and I know from speaking with the administrator that I've got at least one way to earn should my company decide to push me out the door with my gold watch.

Only 14 more years until I retire (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46528789)

I get more phone calls and emails now from requiters than I ever did. Most I don't even bother to return.

Every time I turn around I hear about companies that value experience over youth. I guess we experienced devs don't make as many stupid mistakes as the younguns who sling lots of lines of code.

E.g. after I took over the work a summer intern had done – when the code broke after daylight savings changed – I looked at the code and realized I could cut 5000+ lines of code and replace it with about 10 library calls in the Java runtime libs. Intern spend four months writing it. I spent about ten minutes rewriting it. And mine worked correctly both in and out of daylight savings.

Not worried. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46528817)

I'm getting older, but I'm skilled in old, crufty technologies which we will can't do without, so I'm not too worried. If you're older and trying to get a job as a code-monkey doing some buzz-tech that will last only a few years (most web and social media shops), and that's all you're good for, then you might have something to worry about.

If, on the other hand, you know technologies which scare the shit out of young-ins, but they also can't live without, this is a non-issue. Think foundational stuff like systems config, build and deployment systems, system-interface programming and similar. The kids might know javascript and PHP, but few know how to write device drivers.

Don't try to compete with them. Just do something that's more valuable than what they can do. Experience will help in this case.

The older I get, the better I get (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46528823)

Sorry, guys, but I don't buy the premise. My experience is that the older I get (I'm 50 now) the more job offers I get and the more money I'm offered. I'm not looking for an entry-level job and don't expect to compete and win one against a 20-year-old. But they're not going to get the architect/scientist position that's waiting for me at 3X the salary.

Offered a position to somebody 40+ today (1)

Petersko (564140) | about 7 months ago | (#46528839)

I like hiring new grads for some things, experienced folks for others. In this case I needed a Java guy for an app dating all the way back to 1999. I preferred somebody who had lived Java in those years.

By Neruos (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46528859)

If you're taking a test to get a job with 10+ years of corporate or enterprise development experience on your resume, you're doing something wrong.

Quality / $ (1)

DavidHumus (725117) | about 7 months ago | (#46528869)

As long as the quality of work continues to be an imponderable - not sure why this still is the case, unless management continues to remain clueless - decisions will be made only based on how much money someone costs, and older people want more money. Perhaps they imagine that experience is valuable.

unlink health care from jobs and force OT pay (1)

Joe_Dragon (2206452) | about 7 months ago | (#46528899)

both unlink health care costs that are higher for older people and there needs to be more forced OT pay as the older people really don't want to work 60-80+ hour weeks even more so if they don't pay OT.

Economic bias, not just cultural (4, Insightful)

time961 (618278) | about 7 months ago | (#46528953)

As others have observed, older workers tend to want to be compensated for their experience... so they're more expensive.

In a rational hiring world, that might not matter much--they usually deliver greater value, too--but it's often not rational people (or, let's be polite and say, people who could be better-informed) that are making that decision--it's people who want to minimize costs no matter what.

Hire an expensive engineer who really understands the work? Or two young cheap ones who might not? The latter, of course--for the same reason that outsourcing to the third world is so popular despite the incredible hurdles of management and quality. And if the bet fails, and neither of the young'ns can get it done (despite the 80-hour weeks that they can deliver and have come to expect), well, you'll be off to another job by then anyway and no one will know.

It's a vicious cycle: VCs like start-ups that live on ramen noodles because they're cheap to fund, unlike ones that have a real staff and a real track record. And sure, some of those cheap ones will succeed, and they'll get the press (in no small part because they are young), and that will perpetuate the myth that only young folks can innovate, leading the VCs to believe in their own decisions.

I don't see the bias going away. As a general rule, young people are less expensive, more dedicated, more attractive, and just more fun than us old farts. The market want crap in a hurry, and this is one of the primary reasons they get it.

it depends... (2)

mt1955 (698912) | about 7 months ago | (#46528963)

You might be able to surmise from my username that I could be about 3 years from retirement (as if I would -- I love what I'm doing)

I've always stayed current and learn something new every day. I have found it definitely does depend on the culture of the company you are dealing with but also on the nature of the work. For freelance work, just about everyone I deal with seems quite happy to depend on "the old guy" to get it done, especially if they would consider the project a grind. They know they will get a good result and I can tell it just feels like a safe bet to them.

It happens sometimes that after a few freelance projects a company will want to talk about hiring me full time. On the East/West coast is where I have encountered the "I'm young and smart so you must be old and dumb" attitude. I sure don't take it personally. And in the Midwest decades of experience still counts for plenty and they will wine & dine you to get you go full time.

No (1, Insightful)

Greyfox (87712) | about 7 months ago | (#46528995)

But I've noticed that the ability of bad ones to get hired tends to fluctuate with the boom-and-bust cycle. Are you a bad one?

Ask Slashdot! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46528999)

Ask Slashdot: Will Older Programmers Ever Run Out Of Questions?

It's not a question of age (1)

msobkow (48369) | about 7 months ago | (#46529009)

It's not a question of age. It's a question of whether you're willing to work 50-60 hours a week, often without being paid overtime. Cut your rates, and you have no problem finding work.

All you have to do is settle for half of what you're really worth.

You're not only competing with the youth, you're competing with the overseas sweat shops.

The only way to maintain an income comensurate with your experience is to specialize in tools and technologies few others know. And as more and more people enter the computing industry, that becomes harder and harder to do.

old tired argument (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46529065)

48 yrs old, been coding regularly since I was 12. I've been a humble cog in the production of a number of useful basic tools that millions have used or are still using. I routinely look at code I wrote when I was 30 or 35 and I think what a callow and naive youth I was. Innocent of the basics...

Seriously though, my experience so far is that the brain keeps getting stronger if you use it on a consistent basis. I often feel with reason as though I spend most of my productive time keeping 20 and 30 yr olds from making the same old mistakes. There is no problem finding work if you can add value to the system, and I think those of us who routinely produce working code can do that pretty well.

Age and treachery (2)

justfred (63412) | about 7 months ago | (#46529077)

"Age and treachery will always overcome youth and skill"

New programmers may have skills with new software, but they may not have skills and experience with organizational politics, system design, product architecture, code reviews, QA, all the rest of what makes great programmers great.

Different game in 20 years (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46529085)

In 20 years, the number of 40 something programmers will not matter, no mater the ratio to younger programmers.
Actually, in 20 years machines will be writing al the code.

Singularity, baby.

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