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Ask Slashdot: Joining a Startup As an Older Programmer?

timothy posted about 7 months ago | from the ask-slashtot dept.

Programming 274

First time accepted submitter bdrasin (17319) writes "I've had a series of interviews with a late-term startup (approx. 300 employees) and I think there is a good chance they will make me an offer. The technology is great, my skills and interests are a good fit for the position, I think the company has a promising future, and I like they team. Frankly I'm damn excited about it, more so than for any job in my career. However, I'm worried about what could euphemistically be called 'cultural' issues. I'm a few years over 40, with a wife and kids, and all of the engineers at the company seem to be at least 10 years younger than I am. Being at the company's office gives me a distinct old guy at the club feeling. I don't think the overall number of hours the team works is more than I could handle, but the team does a lot of young-single-guy-at-a-startup group activities (rent-a-limo-and-go-clubbing night, weekends in Tahoe, Burning Man, in-office happy hour) that I wouldn't want or be able to participate in; I need to be home with my family for dinner most nights and weekends and so on. I'm wondering if anyone else has had the experience of working at a startup with, or as, an older programmer, and how it worked out?"

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You're supposed to be founding startups (-1, Troll)

mozumder (178398) | about 7 months ago | (#46914517)

At your age, you're supposed to know your audience, their needs, and how you're supposed to fill their needs.

It's not like you're a 20-something kid with terrible ideas trying to get lucky - you're actually supposed to know exactly what you're supposed do to get your product successful, get funding for it, and so on.

Take some time, maybe a year or 2, to develop this angle. You should have money saved up to try and code something on the side to develop your own startup.

Re: You're supposed to be founding startups (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46914637)

That's pretty absurd. There is very little in common between software development and company development. You seem to postulate that company building is a more advanced form of development that software development grows into naturally. That's a pretty ridiculous assertion.

Re: You're supposed to be founding startups (4, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46915113)

Exactly. It's not like Zuckerberg coded facebook himself. He stole it of someone else. Entirely different skillset already.

Re: You're supposed to be founding startups (2)

Richard Remer (3627923) | about 7 months ago | (#46914643)

That's pretty absurd. There is very little in common between software development and company development. You seem to postulate that company building is a more advanced form of development that software development grows into naturally. That's a pretty ridiculous assertion.

Re: You're supposed to be founding startups (4, Insightful)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | about 7 months ago | (#46914663)

Also, the "you should be founding startups at your age" sounds very much like those child games where four kids decide to play an army - a general, a colonel, a lieutenant and a private. If everyone after 40 is going to be a CEO or a VP, who's going to be doing all the expert technical work at the grunt first class level?

Re: You're supposed to be founding startups (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46914899)

Hey bigmouth: You're being called out http://slashdot.org/comments.p... [slashdot.org]

Re: You're supposed to be founding startups (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46914961)

Bug off, APK.

--
Trolling all trolls since 2001.

Re: You're supposed to be founding startups (1)

viperidaenz (2515578) | about 7 months ago | (#46914917)

Timmy from down the street? You know, the kid with the glasses.

Re:You're supposed to be founding startups (4, Funny)

Bill Dog (726542) | about 7 months ago | (#46915107)

Or you're supposed to be in management by now. And you've slowed down and can't possibly hope to keep up with the 20-somethings.

Any other cliches we've missed that are impossible to apply to everyone who's a 40-something programmer?

Re:You're supposed to be founding startups (5, Funny)

ubrgeek (679399) | about 7 months ago | (#46915189)

Assuming I don't lose my dentures and my hip doesn't give out I'm sure I'll be able to come up with some right after my daily afternoon nap.

- 43-year-old programmer

I love start ups but they're not for everyone (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46914529)

Be warned.

Re:I love start ups but they're not for everyone (5, Insightful)

pigiron (104729) | about 7 months ago | (#46914875)

Yes, and the warning is that you will be respected for your technical expertise and not for any foolish attempt to "fit in" bar hopping with super-annuated adolescent co-workers.

Re:I love start ups but they're not for everyone (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46914885)

Yeah, first 2 -4 weeks is the honeymoon. Everybody figuring out what to do, they're exited - 'Yeah! We're in a start up!", people are dreaming of sotck options and retiring early, ....

The about a month, management says, "OK! There's a trade show coming up and we need our product in THAT show THEN! It's in 10 weeks!"

At first, everyone is like we're badass engineers! We can do it!"

So, everyone is working 12-18 hour days, weekends, some contractors are brought it...and you barely make it - or you have a prototype.

Then, just when you are about to catch up on your sleep, another dealine like that.

Then another ....

After about 6 months to a year, you are then informed of a "transaction".

You are then out the door, no stock or options.

My mistake. I took 6 months off to recoup. Unfortunately, taking time off in this field is a death sentence to your career.

Re:I love start ups but they're not for everyone (-1, Troll)

viperidaenz (2515578) | about 7 months ago | (#46914933)

So you couldn't handle it, bailed early and now have nothing to show for it?

Re:I love start ups but they're not for everyone (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46915095)

If there's any truth to the 12+ hour/day angle, I don't think that is something most people can sustain for a period of time, because it's just insane, physiologically, mentally and so on. After a certain point, the quality of the work is just going to go down, but you'll be too proud to or admit any such faults. Besides, working yourself to the bone during the best years of your life to the bone on a gamble is a lot.

"and I like they team." (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46914543)

Well dat's awesome dawg, welcome aboard n' shit.

My old dev manager... (0, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46914545)

came-up with a great solution to that problem. He just lied and told everyone else he was a Republican. He never got invited to another social event again. Even the ons that were in the office! He obviously wasn't one of those horrible people, but it is a great way to get smart people to avoid you. He later got fired after our CEO's daughter married a black man, and the CEO assumed there would be office violence because of the way those people are. That is the way of their kind.

Re:My old dev manager... (1)

greenwow (3635575) | about 7 months ago | (#46914561)

Wow, so brave. It isn’t often you see a real-world troll that is so brazen. Of course the problem with those people is that the old saying live by the sword, die by the sword is so true. They are so much more likely to die violently because they are so violent themselves. Also, I bet it destroyed morale to know they were working for such a horrible (well, or so they thought) person that would be a member of that racist group. Masterful trolling.

That racist group (0, Troll)

hessian (467078) | about 7 months ago | (#46914867)

that racist group

Democrats?

Re:That racist group (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46915217)

No, niggers.

Re:My old dev manager... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46914725)

Wait, aren't lefties supposed to be open-minded and tolerant and accepting? I guess except towards Republicans, those guys aren't human (sarcasm)...

Re:My old dev manager... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46915083)

Well, there's truth to that. Calling people invectives such as "lefties" is also a way to marginalize people's humanity. It's always "us" against "them", and we have to fight those tendencies.

Re:My old dev manager... (1)

KalvinB (205500) | about 7 months ago | (#46914745)

WTF did I just read?

Re:My old dev manager... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46914985)

WTF did I just read?

There are some on the right who believe that when they are called out for their lies, that they are somehow the victims of a Vast Leftwing Conspiracy. The conspirators are the journalists, teachers, union members, writers, well, pretty much everyone who is on welfare or gets a paycheck. What we call the 99%.

Startup or frat party? (5, Insightful)

Sarius64 (880298) | about 7 months ago | (#46914553)

Maybe you should just do your work instead of trying to co-exist with younger people raising hell. If these activities you mentioned are part of the company requirements then the company isn't focused on success; just spending their investors' money.

Re:Startup or frat party? (2)

Z00L00K (682162) | about 7 months ago | (#46914569)

I agree - if it's more a party mode than work company then it might not work out well in the long run.

But a startup company also needs a few experienced persons that can take the lead and support when needed.

Re:Startup or frat party? (1)

mikael (484) | about 7 months ago | (#46914707)

And move into an "architect" role as soon as the new project manager decides that they should follow the Agile/Scrum model. My experience is that no development role lasts for more than a couple of years or even a year. Then the odds are that you'll get moved into something different, and that it's usually away from what first attracted you to the company.

Re:Startup or frat party? (1)

AuMatar (183847) | about 7 months ago | (#46914991)

Unless its a late stage startup, there's unlikely to be room for an architect role. Leadership roles yes, but not a dedicated architect.

Re:Startup or frat party? (0)

mysidia (191772) | about 7 months ago | (#46914579)

Maybe you should just do your work instead of trying to co-exist with younger people raising hell. If these activities you mentioned are part of the company requirements then the company isn't focused on success

Right.... a successful startup is your team is sitting at computers long hours coding. What's more likely going to be a problem for the author is not the outside-of-work activities but this:

I need to be home with my family for dinner most nights and weekends and so on.

This is kind of incompatible with doing all the extra work that coders are often expected to put in, when working in a startup.

It's not unusual for software developers to be expected to work 16 hour days or odd hours in the weeks before release.

Receiving appropriate compensation and equity and being successful in the company may be contingent on spending long hours at work, which can be incompatible with "dinner with family" at normal dinnertime, anyways.

Re:Startup or frat party? (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46914609)

Receiving appropriate compensation and equity and being successful in the company may be contingent on spending long hours at work, which can be incompatible with "dinner with family" at normal dinnertime, anyways.

Your master has taught you well, slave.

Re:Startup or frat party? (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46914701)

No. He is just not a pussified man like many in the feminist society have become. Even with the family, as a man you decide what is best for your family and that may include putting in longer hours once in a while instead of being home for dinner.

Re:Startup or frat party? (3, Informative)

Sarius64 (880298) | about 7 months ago | (#46914711)

Certainly Burning Man attendance wouldn't be a logical employee requirement. More like a law suit waiting to happen.

Re:Startup or frat party? (5, Insightful)

Arker (91948) | about 7 months ago | (#46914749)

"It's not unusual for software developers to be expected to work 16 hour days or odd hours in the weeks before release"

It's also not unusual for released code to be so full of critical errors people are still discovering them years later.

Coincidence? I think not.

Re:Startup or frat party? (1)

buddyglass (925859) | about 7 months ago | (#46914819)

I've worked at startups almost exclusively for the last nine years, albeit not in the Bay area. They've all been pretty reasonable when it comes to work-life balance. Maybe I'm just lucky?

Re:Startup or frat party? (1)

mysidia (191772) | about 7 months ago | (#46914967)

They've all been pretty reasonable when it comes to work-life balance. Maybe I'm just lucky?

Some startups are, some startups are not.

Employers don't disfavor work-life balance, BUT startups need and expect real commitment from their employees. I'm not saying you're likely to get fired, for having a life --- but in the long run, your younger teammates are going to look like harder workers to management more deserving of promotions and bonuses.

If you happen to be in a startup team and observe strict 9-5 while never or hardly ever missing dinner at 6pm with your family, where your co-workers ARE putting in 16-hour days occasionally, chances are pretty good, that (1) Your work-life time balance is actually tilted away from work (as far as employer is concerned), and/or (2) You are giving up major potential opportunities, and maybe the whole point -- excitement and financial reward for taking the risk to work for a startup -- possibly, your employer eventually won't look very well on you, after seeing that your co-workers are more dedicated and you have drifted to the bottom 30% in terms of their estimate of productivity and number of hours put in.

This could result in you being among the first to go, the moment the project is done or the startup needs to let go of any developers.

Re:Startup or frat party? (2)

rogoshen1 (2922505) | about 7 months ago | (#46914863)

300 employees is not a startup IMO. new or small company sure, but not a startup.

Re: Startup or frat party? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46915015)

being more experienced,professional and efficient makes up for long hours. i am not a developer, but a performance expert. i can usually get more done in 2 hours than a whole team if engineers do in 1 week.

Re:Startup or frat party? (1)

gnasher719 (869701) | about 7 months ago | (#46915195)

This is kind of incompatible with doing all the extra work that coders are often expected to put in, when working in a startup.

You don't actually mean "extra work", you mean "extra hours". Which is not the same. Maximum productivity (not productivity per hour, but absolute maximum productivity) happens around 40 hours/week.

Re:Startup or frat party? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46914755)

Yeah. If the company succeeds, those events will go away, and you'll fit in; if they don't go away, the company will fail, and you won't need to worry about that problem anymore.

Re:Startup or frat party? (5, Insightful)

khasim (1285) | about 7 months ago | (#46914771)

Seconded.

Where's the money coming from for all these party events?

... weekends in Tahoe, Burning Man, ...

That's not a startup. That's a frat. Startups want you working all weekend, every weekend.

Even a successful, established company would probably not send its programmers away for a week to Burning Man.

Sounds like they're throwing a non-stop party because they have venture capital to burn through.

Re:Startup or frat party? (1)

gtall (79522) | about 7 months ago | (#46914995)

" in-office happy hour"..what's wrong with this picture?

1. the company is clueless and doesn't care about their insurance premiums should anything go wrong?
2. the kiddies are immature and think drinking at work is a good idea?
3. the management is immature and thinks drinking at work is a good idea?
4. tech and alcohol goes well together, "Hey Boomer, I've got an idea, let's see if we can connect the gizmo with the whatsit".

It depends what work youre doing (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46914559)

At the start up I work at, the older employees with Enterprise experience are more valued by the boss than the maverick hipster coders due to the buddy system and the older guys are more reliable and less likely to come in with a hangover.

Re:It depends what work youre doing (3, Interesting)

Intron (870560) | about 7 months ago | (#46915067)

I used to be a project manager. Although I wrote some code, I didn't become a full time software developer until I went with a startup 6 years ago when I was 55. I don't think I ever ran into problems with culture, maybe because the company was not a monoculture as described above. The software group had Indians, an Orthodox Jew, Asians, etc. That might be more typical of East Coast companies. Ages ranged from 20's up and I think all ideas were respected. The problems I had were not with the engineers but with the company management who made some pretty terrible decisions and did not respect my (or anyone else's) experience. I am now a happy Principal Software Engineer at a larger company, also with no problems with the engineers and with much better management.

Practice new cultural references (3, Funny)

retroworks (652802) | about 7 months ago | (#46914563)

Don't try to make any jokes or allusions that would get modded funny on /.

Was that an interview or an audition? (2)

mcmonkey (96054) | about 7 months ago | (#46914565)

Because what you describe sounds more like the Hollywood version of a tech start up than any of the actual start-ups I've worked for and with.

Not that there can't be issues from the cultural differences between established companies and start-ups or between 40-something married with children and 20 & 30-something single, but if I'm looking to join a company as a programmer and Burning Man is on my list of concerns, I would not be looking to join this company.

does everyone participate in that stuff? (5, Insightful)

Trepidity (597) | about 7 months ago | (#46914567)

If it were a very small company and that were the culture, I'd be wary. But 300 people is reasonably big. Can you get an impression of whether the limo-and-clubbing type activities are something everyone participates in? It's quite possible that, despite being a high-profile part of the "company culture", it's only a smallish subset of people who actually go to those events, not all 300 employees. In that case it might not be a big issue, you'd just join the other people who don't go.

Re:does everyone participate in that stuff? (1)

plopez (54068) | about 7 months ago | (#46914699)

The company may be 300 but the poster's team may be 5 or 10 eith a unique culture.

Re:does everyone participate in that stuff? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46914703)

Besides, even if most people participate in the clubbing, there's nothing wrong with being the guy who doesn't do that stuff. You get a reputation as a serious and slightly boring person -- which isn't usually a problem.

Re:does everyone participate in that stuff? (1)

ChrisMounce (1096567) | about 7 months ago | (#46914841)

I would like to second this. I'm a programmer in my 20s, and my preferences run against the limos-and-clubbing stereotype. We do exist!

Chances are that there are some people who really like to go out on the town, some people who are indifferent, and some people who stay behind. And if this company employees great people, they will (1) treat you well no matter which group you're in, and (2) make it easy to tag along for the occasional thing that you actually want to attend. My coworkers are this way, and they are awesome.

As for the employees at the unnamed startup, it all depends on their personalities.

Startup? (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46914577)

300 employees doesn't really sound like a startup to me.

Are you sure they're not just leveraging the startup culture to sucker employees into working insane hours without compensation?

Startups Are for Younger People (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46914591)

By the time you're 40, you should be past all that. You should be financially stable and the captain of your own destiny. If you have not accomplished these milestones, the time has come to admit defeat.

Re:Startups Are for Younger People (1)

Trepidity (597) | about 7 months ago | (#46914627)

I am pretty sure the average 40 year old still needs to work for a living, even in tech. The proportion of people who are wealthy enough to do their own thing by age 40 is very low.

Re:Startups Are for Younger People (1)

mikael (484) | about 7 months ago | (#46914743)

The people I know have become software consultants, set up their own company with a friend, or become "architects" at large institutions, do freelance work like writing. As the people at the top of the power pyramid are constantly retiring, leaving to new pastures, shedding their mortal coils so that creates a certain amount of "pull" within the organisation (to quote the Peter Principle). So if you find something you enjoy, it's better to set up your own company and work as a contractor or freelancer.

Re:Startups Are for Younger People (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46915191)

Startups really are for younger people. When you are younger, you are more agile (in more ways than one) and can afford to fail. For most people, these two critical attributes vanish before they reach 30 years old.

The technology sector has become the most ruthless place to work. If you weren't born with a near-genius IQ or didn't graduate from a prestigious school, you can all but forget about being successful. Remember, Google gets a million applications every year. And if you haven't made it in tech by 30, it's definitely time to find a new career. I've seen a lot of people squander the best decades of their lives spinning their wheels in tech.

My friend, who just turned 31, spent nearly 8 years in college getting advanced degrees in science and engineering. Since graduating he's tried to make it in tech without success. Last year, he moved back in with his parents and began a new career in retail at Wal-Mart. When asked why he made this move, he said he didn't want to die a virgin. He wasn't kidding; trying to make it in tech left him no time for a life.

His entry level Wal-Mart job doesn't pay great, but he hopes to work his way up to at least store manager, which pays a salary comparable to tech jobs. In the meantime, he is working reasonable hours (sometimes as few as nine hours per day), staying off welfare, and has found time to date. He's happier than he's been in years.

Tech is no place for a washed up 40 year old. I know it sounds harsh, but I'm not trying to be mean. Sometimes you have to give up and do something where you can have some success and just be happy.

In my experience in that situation... (5, Insightful)

IV-Swamp (744272) | about 7 months ago | (#46914595)

They all knew I had a family and could not experience all the single-guy-out-on-the-town stuff. I instead, genuinely, showed interest in hearing about their antics, which they enjoyed sharing with me. I also kept up on all the newest techniques and news of the languages and frameworks we used. Thus instead of "old guy" I became the quasi guru. Having a beard helps.

Re:In my experience in that situation... (1)

musth (901919) | about 7 months ago | (#46914683)

I instead, genuinely, showed interest in hearing about their antics, which they enjoyed sharing with me.

You did this convincingly, and without having disgust overtake your work life, how?

Re:In my experience in that situation... (5, Funny)

IV-Swamp (744272) | about 7 months ago | (#46914845)

Well to be honest their antics were pretty tame compared to my past :)

Re:In my experience in that situation... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46914733)

kept up on all the newest techniques and news of the languages and frameworks we used

It's a little hard to tell if you are talking about the antics or work coding here. I assume it's social frameworks and pickup lines and slang phrases we're talking about?

As a young guy (age 23) ... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46914617)

I think with any diverse company, you will be bringing skill, experience, and knowledge - so I would definitely look up to you. As an adult in his early twenties and a programmer, I'd respect your position, especially because you have that much more experience than I do. And maybe you will fit that stereotype of an "old guy" in their eyes, but so what? In my eyes, there are two types of old guys: those that are cantankerous and complain about the way society is today, or, the guy that understands the times and accepts it for what it is, but is able to maintain a sense of humour and isn't as livid about the ways things are today.

That, and clubs are generally over-rated. Your team may do young people things, but I think as long as you do your job right with the right attitude, you're doing your job and that's what matters most. That and you're doing what you want to do - as shown through your enthusiasm - so why not take advantage of where you're at right now?

I hope you get the offer you deserve.

Re:As a young guy (age 23) ... (1)

viperidaenz (2515578) | about 7 months ago | (#46914951)

Get off my lawn.

You're unlikely alone (1)

Lally Singh (3427) | about 7 months ago | (#46914623)

If enough of them have young kids (and your 40+ years - 10 puts many of your peers in the mid-30s), then they'll be going through the same stuff, only have less experience. Come in as the voice of wisdom and experience. It's useful!

Just don't spend too much time talking about old systems. Some older programmers do that, and it just distances themselves unnecessarily. Having used an older system isn't a technical merit, it's just saying that you're old. Interesting anecdotes, special features, and spectacular failures of old systems, however, are fun to hear.

Do your job and do it well... (2)

cbybear (256161) | about 7 months ago | (#46914625)

and it won't matter that you don't show up to every outside team-bonding event. Good people won't fault that you already have a life outside of work. If they do, you might reconsider working there for that reason. Otherwise, focus on the work, be engaged and open-minded, and you'll be fine.

Let go of the age thing. That is all a state of mind. And if applied right, your experience will be valuable. I say this from experience. I'm almost always the old guy now. But I keep my skills sharp and current and I listen to what others have to contribute. My age gives me experience, but I can always benefit from more energy and bold new ideas.

Mod parent up (1)

whatthef*ck (215929) | about 7 months ago | (#46914891)

Really good programmers, of any age, are not easy to recruit and hire. If you're consistently hitting home runs with your actual work product, and you're easy to work with, it should more than make up for any shortcomings you might have in the social/cultural aspects of your job.

Are they Grown-Ups? (1)

The Cat (19816) | about 7 months ago | (#46914633)

If you are the adult, the question is not are you hip and irresponsible enough to fit in, but if they are grown-up enough to work with you.

This "pandering to the bros" shit is about half the reason most tech companies shit the bed. And if you're the only adult in the building, see if you can guess who gets to clean it up?

Make them pass the "I'm a big boy now" test or move on. In fact, find three other guys 35-45 and do your own start up. You'll probably stomp the shit out of them in six months.

Go for it! (5, Insightful)

jonxor (1841382) | about 7 months ago | (#46914641)

This question so accurately describes where I currently work, that I'm seriously wondering if you're talking about my company. If so, I can tell you, I am one of the younger guys who works at a company exactly as you described and we recognize that we lack experience. We have youthful vigor, time and energy, but we are hungry for experienced people who have seen the pitfalls and mistakes that can be made and give us guidance. There are always the people who put in the extra time because they are young, with no spouses or children, and the culture is sort of transitioning from a startup to a more compartmentalized corporate culture. We recognize the people who put in the extra blood sweat and tears, but we also recognize the value of an experienced worker who doesn't have to do that, and as such, there is no negative stigma from the company culture around people who want to go home at the normal time, and stick to putting in sane (40 - 50 hour weeks) time. I say go for it, because the older guys in the club get respect and recognition. If you really have wisdom and have not wasted your years, then your experience will be plenty to show for it.

Everyone dwells in time. (4, Insightful)

pupsocket (2853647) | about 7 months ago | (#46914647)

The firm, now large and organized, can no longer be a roving band of inspired friends. It has to dock onto the household world.

Just admire your co-workers and invite a few to dinner now and then. They've already decided they like you.

Make it your own (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46914651)

At 300 people, there's bound to be people who don't enjoy the singles party night -theme. Find them, and figure out together what would be a nice way to spend time - a Sunday brunch with spouses and kids invited (for those who have them)? Pack a lunch during day and go enjoy it in the park? A monthly game night (a regular activity is easier to arrange than an spontaneous one when you have a family). Suggest things to your HR or whoever is responsible for your activities - they're probably out of ideas anyway and would welcome someone who would help them out.

I'm above 40 and an executive in a (small) startup where almost everyone has a family, so we have very little outside work social activity by the company. But it's totally fine and we're still churning out good stuff and enjoying our work. We just have to be a bit more innovative as to how we socialize :)

"A cool place to work" or "work life balance" (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46914655)

I'm higher up in management but can still out code any developer I have. Our GM for our location is moving us from the burbs (5 minutes from my house, one of the reasons for taking the job) to a downtown office (1+hr commute from my house). I can quote him in saying that "People would rather have a cool place to work rather than having work life balance (WLB)". I called him out on it as I completely disagree.

Cultural activities can be had that don't have to interfere with your WLB. Grabbing a quick Friday @ 4 drink (in the office even) doesn't impact things much. In the end, the only person who can drive your success is yourself. Setting office hours clearly helps. IE, I will always be there by nine, and I won't take meetings after 4pm (my personal plan). Employers would love for you to work 24/7 because we get more out of you in the end. But, I would rather have a guy who is excited, happy and engaged, outdoing the younger kids and showing how it gets done, all while having that WLB. Those are the people who you can trust to drive projects forward.

Re: "A cool place to work" or "work life balance" (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46914753)

He needs to be home for dinner and home on weekends - working at a startup. He'll be out the door in6 months.

Comes down to office culture (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46914661)

You're there to get a job done, your colleagues shouldn't care what you do so long as you're pulling your weight. However, this ultimately comes down to office culture. It will be difficult for anyone to give you clear direction since both you and the company are unknowns. The fact that you're concerned enough about it to post the question on Slashdot may indicate you need to objectively re-evaluate the people and the company.

my first company (1)

phantomfive (622387) | about 7 months ago | (#46914667)

My first company was a startup, the CEO was 30, and we had an older programmer. It was great because he was the most experienced guy on the team, he didn't try to boss us around, and I learned a lot from him.

As long as you don't try to say, "I'm older than you so I'm smarter" it should be fine.

Take over, can everyone, hire your own team (1)

mrobinso (456353) | about 7 months ago | (#46914673)

You obviously have orders of magnitude more experience. Rise through the ranks. Take over management of the team. Fire everyone and replace them with your own hires over time.

End of problem.

Mike

-- Karma whore? You betcha

Family support (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46914677)

Your family should support you, at least until you do not feel a part of the team. Taking part of the crazy activities with your co-workers is an essential part of the team integration, so you need to participate too. Believe me, 30 YO and 40 YO are sometimes indistinguishable in look, so just jump in - most of the borders you set between you and the rest of your colleagues comes from you.

Well.. (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46914685)

I have no kids, but work predominantly with people in their late 20s and early 30s (I'm 45). I don't have a problem; I'm the old man engineer who lived through USCD Pascal p-code only to see it resurrected as Java (and C#) byte code, and to be honest, I get a fair amount of respect from the younger engineers. They are up on the newest trends, some of which I regard as fads, others will have staying power. I try to keep them on the straight and narrow in terms of a bit of discipline and taking the long view. Everything has been fine.

A couple of things I do as a senior engineer (I'm not management officially, but I am the equivalent of a graybeard in the background):

Respect them (the younger employees). Nobody wants to be made to feel stupid. Do not look down your nose at them.

Make gentle corrections. If a bad decision is about to be made despite your best attempts to head it off at the pass, make your view known discretely via backchannel communication with management so that if it does go south they're (hopefully) not going to hang it around your neck.

If you have a difference of opinion and prevail against others, do so graciously and do NOT (within your ability) allow animus to develop. Kids (under 30) take playing hardball personally, even if that wasn't your intention. If they make it personal, shut them down by explaining the art of attacking the issue and not you.

Make use of teachable moments while not talking down to them.

Realize that while it may be a bit daunting that they adopt new technologies and methodologies at light speed, the methodical, clearer thought process of the older engineer often complements this. It takes two to tango. You're not worthless, and neither are they.

Make time to show up for a few of the more innocuous extracurriculars even though you have a family. You don't have to go to the strip club, but a couple of drinks and a round of pool won't kill you.

This is not for the question submitter, but in general, do not fuck your coworkers. About once or twice a year I end up attracting the attention of a younger engineer of the opposite sex who mistakes mentoring and being a nice guy for mate material. This is a workplace complication you do not need. If you're confident in the middle of the biggest engineering shitstorm ever and manage to right the ship, you're going to attract attention, and not just from management. I've made the mistake of sleeping with a coworker ONCE a few years ago. Not good.

age is just a number (1)

zr (19885) | about 7 months ago | (#46914687)

enjoy the ride!

Demonstrate your worth (1)

MpVpRb (1423381) | about 7 months ago | (#46914697)

Teach them something they don't know

Solve a problem they can't solve

Become the go-to guy when stuff goes wrong

Do this, and the rest won't matter

Since when can a company with 300 people be called (1)

Assmasher (456699) | about 7 months ago | (#46914729)

...a 'startup'?

That's a mid-sized to approaching large company...

How... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46914735)

How did you get married and have kids, being such a pussy?

I'm sure all the other basement dwellers here are in envy you have got your dick wet

a few years over 40??? (5, Informative)

minkie (814488) | about 7 months ago | (#46914751)

I'm 55. 4 years ago, I left a good paying job at a Fortune-100 cube farm (where I was miserable) and went with a startup (where I'm having fun again). Best decision I ever made. I'm the oldest person in the company. Many of the people I work with are half my age. It all works just fine. Get over it. You're there to do a job, not be a frat buddy. If you don't want to go clubbing with the guys after work, don't go clubbing.

On the other hand, go into it with your eyes open. Startups are not the most financially stable place to work. Before I took this job, I discussed it with my wife. We've got no kids, no debt, and enough in the bank that if the startup went bust in 6 months (as, statistically, startups are likely to do), we'd still be OK. I would be more worried if I had kids to support, and loss of a paycheck might mean missing a mortgage or car payment.

First ask yourself this... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46914757)

Ask yourself this:

What do you have over a H-1B who is 20-25 and who can do 10,000 lines of code a day? That is eventually what you will have to figure out in order to keep your job eventually.

Re:First ask yourself this... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46914799)

experience.

and experience enough to know that anyone who claims
10,000 lines of code a day is full of shit.

been there done that (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46914761)

Go with family and quality of life. Stock options, etc. have a way of evaporating unless you are among the elite club at the top issuing them.

Unless you are willing to be a complete back stabbing, throat cutting bastard wiling to work 100+ hours per week with a bunch of other younger, stronger, stupider wannabes wiling to do the same.

And even then there's the risk of the big startup bet being stupid to start with.

It could pay off if you're ruthless enough, but you have to also consider the opportunity cost of all those lost years and the moral and personal compromises you would have to make.

You don't sound like that kind of guy. And that's OK.

I dropped out of that rat race, but was lucky enough to leverage my experience, expertise, and most importantly my industry contacts to do our own little boutique business that made us comfortable, at least for now.

Never got my own jet, but at one point I was ready to settle for a van down by the river selling bait and beer.

Your mileage may vary.

Re: been there done that (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46914837)

P.S. I should add that I went in as EVP of tech and dev, and it still sucked.

Don't worry (1)

Kjella (173770) | about 7 months ago | (#46914767)

If they've got 300 people with degrees and a little bit of experience, surely many of them are old enough to have commitments at home. You might be taking your 10 year old to soccer practice, well they might have their first baby or whatever. Plenty there will have time consuming hobbies and not show up, no matter what phase of life they're in it's far from everyone each time. And to be honest, if they're 25 and single they probably don't want to have the 40+ married guy with them any more than you want to see them hit on chicks rather than be with your family. Don't worry you'll be fine, they'll be fine and certainly in a company that size surely there's enough people to hang out with that are in the same situation for the social gatherings you do join in on. Maybe if you'd said 30, but 300? That's plenty.

Are you kidding? (1)

samantha (68231) | about 7 months ago | (#46914801)

You are in your forties? When I was 45 I joined the most interesting start up and did some of the best work of my career. They were much smaller too, only a bit over 40 people in total. I was probably the oldest there at the time. It was absolutely not a problem. 40s is nothing. It is very common is the valley. Including many start ups started by people in their 40s and 50s. Why on earth would you even worry about it. Be yourself, kick butt, take names.

I work at exactly such a startup (2)

larwe (858929) | about 7 months ago | (#46914805)

I'm working at a similar second-stage startup (has had significant second/third round investment but still very young). I'm turning 40 this year [yay birthday vacation to Chernobyl!], there are a lot of young'ns in the office. I came from a Fortune 500 company full of processes and requirements and paperwork and ... NEWSFLASH: NOBODY CARES. We are a startup. Many of the MVPs are actually remote. They may not be wearing pants on any given day; I'm not sure. One of the reasons I was hired was to add maturity/realworld regulatory-compliant experience to the company. I have about 7 people in the USA reporting to me, and a few more than that in different countries. Average age of my team is probably mid 20s, but it ranges from "just turned 21" to "early 50s". I need all of those people, for different reasons. Be excellent. That's why they're going to hire you.

What is "late-term"? (1)

ysth (1368415) | about 7 months ago | (#46914809)

What is "late-term" in this context?

Number of employees is not a particularly relevant measure (except perhaps of how much money the investors are willing to throw away). How long since the first employee was hired? How many employees were there a year ago?

Depends on the management. (1)

140Mandak262Jamuna (970587) | about 7 months ago | (#46914811)

My situation is not exactly like yours, but I joined a startup, but quite mature, product was out, money was coming in, just a couple of years short of IPO. I was not in the 40+ crowd, but was among the oldest (by age) coder, coming in with FORTRAN experience into a C++ shop.

I thrived and became one of the more important cogs mainly because of the understanding of the management. They judged me more holistically, taking into account minor things like helping to keep the morale up and non coding contributions about long term strategy etc. I did deliver on code too, the code base I laid out for my module scaled from 1 mill $ sales to more than 100 million dollar in sales, adapted and developed well and supported features of wide range of products.

But they were not clairvoyants, they would not have known my work was sound and it would scale well. Somehow they sensed that though I was seen at work less than the bachelor boys, the quality of my work was good. It could have easily gone the otherway, they might have discouraged me, reduced my freedom, second guessed my decisions, or out sourced my module. If you are lucky enough to have management like I got, you would do well. If you got PHBs you will end up as Dilbert.

Don't worry about it. (1)

musixman (1713146) | about 7 months ago | (#46914821)

Don't look for differences between co-workers. Look for shared interests between you.

I think you'll find, alot of 20-30yr olds wish they had the stability you have with your family.

Get off my lawn, youngster! (2)

RetiredMidn (441788) | about 7 months ago | (#46914825)

I'm turning 60 this month. My current (startup) employer had less than 50 employees when I started a year and a half ago; my previous employer was at about 200 employees, pre-IPO, when I started my 2+ year stint there. At both places I had co-workers younger than my youngest child.

I don't think missing the extra-curricular stuff is going to be a big impediment. What's most important is whether your skills and knowledge are current, and being able to adapt to the work environment. I have contemporaries who have struggled with new technologies, languages or methodologies (i.e., scrum vs. waterfall) and therefore haven't thrived in the same environments. I haven't gone out of my way to adapt "culturally" (music, entertainment, etc.), but there's usually something of common interest to talk about.

If you've gone through several interviews and there is a mutual desire to work together, go for it. The startup could be the best place to keep you from becoming sold a calcified before you're 50! :-)

New Slashdot Churn (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46914833)

This looks like the kind of stuff that Slashdot has been frontpaging for some time. They know it encourages churn.

I suspect the OP is completely constructed of whole cloth.

Welcome to hell, kid.

Ignore the kids (1)

polyphemus (473112) | about 7 months ago | (#46914893)

I've worked at startups for the last 2 years. It's OK to be one of the "grownups" there and duck out of the social activities. They'll still massively value your work, and I'm sure you'll find plenty of others in your age range to relate to.

BTW, I'm 36, with a wife and 2 kids, and I work in New York.

You're not that old (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46914895)

I'm involved with 2 startups and your age is barely higher than average but you're not even in the oldest 25%

Been there (4, Interesting)

Strudelkugel (594414) | about 7 months ago | (#46914975)

I was involved in a startup in my 40s. It ultimately failed, but I learned lessons that will hopefully be valuable to you to. What you describe sounds like a dream job for most people. As long as you get it, I don't think you have to be concerned at all about being older than the others. They will appreciate the times when someone comes up with a bad idea that looks good, but you can say "I've seen this before, here's what happened..." - as long as you are right. Even better will be the times when someone has an unproven idea and you can say, "I remember a couple of times when one of our developers had an off the wall idea that we all wondered about, but it was appealing enough that we went with it anyway and it worked." As for the hours, there will be 20 and 30 somethings who will go on 24+ hour coding binges. Did you do that when you were in your 20s? Do you think you would be productive doing it? Does management expect you to disrupt your family life? It's hard to believe a company that has grown to have 300 employees would have leadership that expects all of their employees to destroy their personal life. If they do, the company won't be the success everyone hopes for anyway. (Well, the founders might walk away with a lot of money before it implodes, but you won't. You have to assess that risk.)

The great thing about a good startup is the chance it offers to to new kinds of work and see it succeed in the marketplace. This can be really exciting. It's possible that you might have a similar opportunity in a large company but the odds are very low since you will be separated from the product or service by layers of management and bureaucratic rules. Yes you will get a steady paycheck, but it will never compare with the huge win you can get at a startup and the satisfaction of knowing you had a direct role in the success. You can also ask yourself if the startup role will make you a better developer. If the company fails, will you have improved your technical knowledge so that you are still valuable to other companies? In an established company it's more likely that you will just be a code monkey whose skills slowly evaporate without you realizing it, although you don't sound like the kind of person who would let that happen. If OTOH, the company you work for is run by PHBs who are forcing you to work on obsolete stuff, you have to leave anyway. Some large companies do have great jobs, though, but I don't think you would be looking if you were really happy where you are.

From your description of the job and given that you don't sound like the Get Off My Lawn type, I would suggest that you join the startup if they make you an offer that is reasonable.

Take some leave some (1)

tchiwam (751440) | about 7 months ago | (#46915017)

Pick your parties and go to them once in a while. You might be able to show the young kids how it's done once in a while. I go out with the "kids" and teach them how to ride snowmobiles and trek for more than a night. I also horse ball, that made them think twice before trying to tackle me.

Not a good fit (1)

JeffAtl (1737988) | about 7 months ago | (#46915031)

I need to be home with my family for dinner most nights

A person who needs to be home for dinner most nights it a terrible fit for a startup.

Shouldn't be a problem (4, Interesting)

AuMatar (183847) | about 7 months ago | (#46915039)

I'm only in my mid-30s, but I've worked at 2 startups with a successful exit, and am currently at a 3rd. Both of the successful ones had older programmers (the new one doesn't because it's tiny. When we hire next older programmers will be considered). They were all respected for their contribution at work. Both startups had some of the "startup atmosphere", but there was never more than friendly invitations to join in, rather than pressure to be there. If you want to join in once in a while you'd likely be welcome, and a beer with your colleagues every few weeks can be a great way to lower tensions (or in my case a soda as I watched them drink).

The main thing is to remember to treat the younger people with respect. At a startup you'll likely hire a lot of young people because they're cheap, especially for non-critical roles. Remember that they're young, not stupid (at least most of them)- show them why they're wrong politely and show them why your way is better respectfully. There's great opportunities for mentorship there. Do that and you'll fit in just fine. You may even make friends with the more mature younger people- the age difference tends not to be as big a deal as people think.

Got a oldie at my work. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46915089)

We were on the pub about every second day, but also had the rutine that all the managers had a night out every Wednesday after salary and he made sure he was able to join for at least 2-3hours 95% of the occasions. And that was actually enough for him to be one of the team and keep up to date on all the strange rumors and so on.

Culture is important (1)

Sheepless (783722) | about 7 months ago | (#46915109)

If you feel that the company's culture won't be accepting of your needs, run away. It's that acceptance that you need to look for. Don't think that you need to change to fit the existing environment. That's not culture. Is just what the current culture already accepts.

Not a problem (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46915159)

When I was in my mid thirties I managed a team of 40 programmers. Their ages ranged from 17 to 57. The youngest were the most energetic, but the old ones wrote the best code. I'll take the 57 year old guy anyday. LOL, I am him now.

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