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Programming Until Retirement?

Cliff posted more than 9 years ago | from the long-term-career-plans dept.

Businesses 660

DataDragon asks: "Here's the situation- I'm a now 30something computer programmer in Silicon Valley working for one of the local billion+ dollar tech companies. I'm unhappy with my present job, but am thankful that I've got one. Although I pride myself on having written over a million lines of code in my career, with nearly 15 commercial software products under my belt (8 of them were my own concepts from start-to-finish). I've had carpal tunnel for 6 years now, my skillset looks like it came from a 3 year old magazine, and I didn't make good on stock options. Since settling down in a quiet place somewhere and having a family sounds like a great idea to myself and my bride-to-be, I was wondering: instead of all the buzz I always get like Google's 'Do you <insert technology task> in your sleep?' job opportunities I've read about, are there any employers that would rather have a person who: wants to put in an honest day's work; get to know the job and the people well; and a desire to ultimately be a mentor for the company processes, instead of a here-today-gone-tomorrow programmer, who is interested in actually working there until retirement age?"

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Thank you for your service (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11442343)

You have now outlasted your usefulness to the state. Please report to your nearest execution chamber.

Friend Computer says... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11442419)

You are in treason against the state for revealing ultra-violet information to infra-red classified citizens. Please report to the nearest execution chamber.

(Too Obscure?)

Re:Friend Computer says... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11442525)

How did you gain access to ultra-violet information when you only start as classification red? Please report for mandatory voluntary freefall impact testing. Afterwards, your next clone will be kicked down to infra-red and sent to work in the food vats (the state knows about your mutation, having a mutation is treason).

Carpal Tunnel? (4, Interesting)

GreyWolf3000 (468618) | more than 9 years ago | (#11442348)

Switch to dvorak!

Being a programmer, you probably want one of the layouts tweaked for programming (that put braces and stuff in easy locations).

That or learn VI macros. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11442404)

VI macros saved my wrists.

Re:Carpal Tunnel? (5, Informative)

RGTAsheron (844946) | more than 9 years ago | (#11442450)

I'll back GreyWolf on that one. I've been programming for a while and had carpal tunnel. I switched and about a month later no longer had any pain :) Takes about 3 days to switch if you use it alot. Also if you change the keys around while your learning it makes it alot easier.

Re:Carpal Tunnel? (1)

fbartho (840012) | more than 9 years ago | (#11442531)

I'm personally a big fan of dvorak, but I was wondering? How Many people actually do use it?

Re:Carpal Tunnel? (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11442517)

dvorak is for pretentious twats who like other people to notice that they use a fucked up keyboard layout. nothing more.

Re:Carpal Tunnel? (1)

sepluv (641107) | more than 9 years ago | (#11442530)

I would like to second the parent and also use one of those gel wrist wrests.

Re:Carpal Tunnel? (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11442559)

Mousing [] is the main aggravator and cause of carpal tunnel syndrome; swapping your keys around is just rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic.

VI with DVORAK (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11442583)

I've tried DVORAK. I loved it until I brought up VI, and then it seemed like I was coding drunk. Tried to come up with DVORAK-friendly key bindings for VI, but it just didn't make as much sense as the standard QWERTY bindings so I couldn't make it work.

Anyone know of a good DVORAK-friendly set of key bindings for VI? (emacs enthusiasts will be shot on sight)

Oblig. Logan's Run quip here: (5, Funny)

jemnery (562697) | more than 9 years ago | (#11442350)

We've got a runner!

Raise the H1-B quotas again! (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11442429)

That'll teach the geezers.

Yes, there are. (4, Insightful)

conner_bw (120497) | more than 9 years ago | (#11442351)

Yes, there are.

Get the hell out of Silicon Valley and you'll find it.

Re:Yes, there are (maybe) (3, Interesting)

vilain (127070) | more than 9 years ago | (#11442483)

Haven't found anything like that in Silicon Valley. In the 1980's and earlier, computer programming used to be that kind of job. But the era changed the field and deathmarches are now common rather than a sign of poor project management or cluess PHBs. Most of the jobs I've seen here are developing software that will eventually be a project. I ended up becoming a Sysadmin and eventually leaving IT altogether.

If you're having health problems due to typing, I'd look at changing your lifestyle--either how you work (ergonomics) or what you do. All that typing is a form of exercise and eventually athletes and dancers have to retire and "do something else". That's up to you to decide.

Sorry, but... (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11442354)


Yes plenty of those employees (4, Funny)

drgonzo59 (747139) | more than 9 years ago | (#11442357)

...Just gotta move to India

FFS! (3, Insightful)

lachlan76 (770870) | more than 9 years ago | (#11442359)

Get your carpal tunnel treated!

You really don't want to damage your wrists. if you are a programmer.

Re:FFS! (4, Funny)

trotski (592530) | more than 9 years ago | (#11442513)

You really don't want to damage your wrists. if you are a programmer.

Especially after you've been married for a few years.

FFS? (1)

pjt33 (739471) | more than 9 years ago | (#11442537)

Google offers the following definitions of FFS: Fee-for-Service, Flash File System, Federal Supply Schedule, Front des forces socialistes. None of those make sense in context, so would you mind elaborating?

Re:FFS? (0, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11442557)

try's acronym deal, for fuck's sake!

Re:FFS? (2, Informative)

kryptobiotic (451986) | more than 9 years ago | (#11442579)

For Fuck's Sake!

Irony (4, Insightful)

Alric (58756) | more than 9 years ago | (#11442366)

All of the software shops I've worked at or been involved with NEED a person in the role you seek, but none of them wants to pay the salary requisite to get a skilled veteran.

I wish you luck.

Re:Irony (1)

gl4ss (559668) | more than 9 years ago | (#11442474)

if they don't want to pay the salary requisite.. then there must an awful short supply of them, since they can ask for whatever they want, no?

so then the answer would be yes.

another thing.. he should be ready to relocate.... and it might be a whole lot cheaper to live in that new place(lower salary might do).

8 of your own ideas? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11442368)

Start your own company. Be your own boss, be someone else's boss. By the time your ulcer matures your company might be successful, or your carple tunnel might have cleared up.

Work for a small niche company (4, Interesting)

jred (111898) | more than 9 years ago | (#11442369)

My company writes a specific software app for the banking industry. There isn't a single programmer under 30, few (other than the boss) works more than 45 hours a week, and most have been there 5 years or more.

It's not all that interesting, but it's a decent job. Just don't expect the megabucks.

Try something new (4, Insightful)

Stevyn (691306) | more than 9 years ago | (#11442370)

Have you considered starting your own company? Since you seem to be capable and understand that a good employee is vital to a company's overall success beyond each quarter, maybe you could do well if you did things yourself. You also may have a nest egg if you chose to sell the company as you retire.

I think more people should consider starting their own company since small businesses have always been a staple of the American economy.

That's just my 2 cents, so take it with a grain of sand I guess.

Re:Try something new (3, Interesting)

Arcturax (454188) | more than 9 years ago | (#11442473)

Not to mention that most big companies will lay you off the moment things go a little sour on the numbers, even while the CEO and others at the top get big fat raises. Gain experience as a corporate slave, but get out and do your own thing as soon as you are able. That is my own goal as I can already see the writing on the corporate wall here, I'm only going to be employable as long as I'm young and naive and willing to work for lower pay. So the sooner I can get into a position where I am my own boss, be it a startup, or consulting when needed, the better.

Re:Try something new (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11442489)

Stay away from starting your own company if, as it sounds, you want to work ~40 hours a week. You will compete with those who are happy working much more. Not impossible, just really hard.

Do what you enjoy (4, Informative)

Ars-Fartsica (166957) | more than 9 years ago | (#11442372)

If you like programming, keep doing it as long as you can. If you don't like programming, stop immediately and do something you like. This applies to any field. On your deathbed you are not going to be worried about stock options, you are going to wonder if you wasted your life or not.

My code is bigger than yours (0, Offtopic)

Tablizer (95088) | more than 9 years ago | (#11442374)

Although I pride myself on having written over a million lines of code in my career...

Good programmers often don't need a lot of lines. It is possible to have a lot of duplication rather than factor commonalities into libraries, etc., cranking up your line count. I am not saying that you in particular have done this, but it is something to keep in mind. The trick is to write good lines, not lots of them.

So what you're saying is (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11442413)

You can tell a good programmer by how many lines of code he didn't write?

Re:My code is bigger than yours (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11442491)

May be true if you have programmed in the same language for 10 years.. but I know I have a bunch written in pascal, c, c++, and now java...

Re:My code is bigger than yours (1)

metalhed77 (250273) | more than 9 years ago | (#11442496)

Good programmers often don't need a lot of lines. It is possible to have a lot of duplication rather than factor commonalities into libraries, etc., cranking up your line count. I am not saying that you in particular have done this, but it is something to keep in mind. The trick is to write good lines, not lots of them.

Stop karma whoring. Who here on slashdot hasn't heard this!

Re:My code is bigger than yours (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11442499)

Good code is like poetry.
All the lines that need to be there, and no more.

"Management" used as a solution by many (4, Informative)

vladd_rom (809133) | more than 9 years ago | (#11442385)

As people grow wiser and more experienced inside a company, they tend to move upwards towards mentoring/management-like activities.

Probably because their experience with coding makes them more suitable for taking decisions regarding project lead and also more suitable for giving answers to questions (in order to avoid repeating the same mistakes over and over again).

I've noticed that most companies do this - use their internal pool of experienced programmers in order to push them into mentoring/management positions, instead of throwing the management openings at the public and accepting CVs for it.

On one side, it's a good practice, because only those with previous experience inside the company will have access to those places, and by the time they get there they should know the process inside out. On the other hand, not throwing those positions towards the public makes them lose a full range of potential employees.

Re:"Management" used as a solution by many (2, Insightful)

Tony Hoyle (11698) | more than 9 years ago | (#11442490)

Often (in fact usually) programmers make the worst managers. I hate companies that try to force reluctant techies into pen-pushing jobs.... the best companies avoid this.

It's a totally different progression - Junior Manager -> Senior Manager is parallel to Junior Programmer -> Senior Programmer not part of the same progression (I'd expect a Senior Programmer to be paid more than a Junior Manager for a start).

Re:"Management" used as a solution by many (1)

mikael (484) | more than 9 years ago | (#11442493)

On the other hand, not throwing those positions towards the public makes them lose a full range of potential employees.

Those companies are going to get head-hunters to recruit qualified people from their competitors, or from somebody who has written a book in their field of specialty rather than advertise such positions publicly.

Re:"Mgmt" used as soln... thus the Peter Principle (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11442570)

Good points. From another perspective, however, you're describing the conditions that lead to the Peter Principle: within a heirarchical organization, individuals tend to be promoted to the level of their incompetence.

Managers in all such organizations tend to value managing above individual contributions. They also tend to assume that everyone would prefer to manage, given that chance, and that everyone sees the move from individual contribution to management as a step up the ladder. This is not (and should not) always be the case.

Unfortunately, there's no systemic solution to this problem, since it is a feature of heirarchy more than anything else. In individual cases, the thing to do is to look for a boss who can be convinced that you are more productive as an individual than you would be as a manager.

Re:"Management" used as a solution by many (2, Informative)

davecb (6526) | more than 9 years ago | (#11442584)

Some companies support movement between the "dual ladders" and have positions for very senior engineers. Certainly Siemens had that: my cheif software architect (hi Russell!) was such, and my current employer does too.

My former Director at Geac, Jacob Slonim, had a standard policy to keep people engaged, learning and growing in value to both themselves and the company: If you went for a promotion on the tech ladder, he'd second you to the business/management side for at least a quarter. A programmer got to learn what a business analyst does, an architect gets to learn team management, and so on.

Net result? Senior engineers with insight into the business, and sensitivity about not being "the unmanagable engineer" (;-))


Tiny businesses (3, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11442387)

Go to some small businesses that have maybe less than 50 people or so and get them to be more productive by employing all kinds of tech(lease them a server, get some SMS going to their cell phones, smooth out their email, voicemail, etc). It has worked for me. You have to do a lot of different things besides programming, but that is OK. You get to know some people and if you are any good at all, they will love you. You won't make as much as at some billion dollar company and there is some on-callness to it, but you can live.

answer: your goals = company goals (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11442391)

The key is to find a company whose interests are aligned with yours. You want stability and predictability, but these are not the company goals of most Silicon Valley companies.

So look at sectors where your goals are the company goals.

Government defense contractors and Fortune 500 tech companies tend to be more interested in stability and predictability than in hot ever-changing developments.

I'm sure there are other sectors as well.

technology task (1)

kp833 (608343) | more than 9 years ago | (#11442394)

1. Sleep. 2 Insert technology task in sleep 3.Profit!

Do you really want to know? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11442397)

NO! They want a revolving door of 20-something code monkeys, a cadre of executive VPs, a ton of managers, and one or two lead designers that they'll encourage to quit long before they reach retirement age. Of course, that's just from my perspective at the last few places I've worked, YMMV.

Start your own business... If you need ideas, ask (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11442405)

Start your own business... If you need ideas, ask slashdot... By the way, I'm in the same boat, looking for project ideas that can make a little quick $$.

My answer (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11442407)

I would answer you but quite frankly I forgot what were you asking about before I finished reading your question... Could you please make your "Ask Slashdot" questions a little bit shorter next time? I'm sure that the value of your company and the number of lines of code you write in every month of carpal tunnel syndrome are very important but I have really no idea what the question was. And I've read it twice. Apparently not everyone is a data dragon, Mr. DataDragon. If the question was: "Should I retire?" then my answer is: Yes, definitely.

Work for a bigger company. (4, Interesting)

SteveX (5640) | more than 9 years ago | (#11442411)

Larger companies generally have more process and more overhead, but they also have more people who are in it for the long haul, and thus aren't working overtime every day.

There's always periods where you need to put in time, but in a small company those are the norm; in a big company (I'm talking 10k or more people here) it's more normal to work something close to a regular work day.

Think IBM, government, HP, Kodak..
-- []

Alternative jobs. (4, Interesting)

srothroc (733160) | more than 9 years ago | (#11442414)

You might consider looking for a job at a college or University - the smaller ones in the suburbs often offer a very nice family atmosphere and stable job. I think you would be surprised how far your experience would go in a situation like that; they need people who have skills and who can also communicate well with non-techies - i.e., students and the people who deal with the students. If you have database and/or PHP/ASP skills, you could try to join a web-development team for an academic institution; if not, you could learn them or find another software/technology-based position to apply for at one. I highly recommend it, though - if not for the atmosphere and stability, but also for the free courses. Many institutions allow employees to take courses for free, something that's definitely worth looking into if you're interested in learning. Good luck!

No more career jobs. That's gone forever. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11442416)

In fact, no more careers. Be prepared to do something entirely different than when you started working. Skill sets go obsolete, no matter how good you are in the current one.

Any more good news you want from us?

Touting for work. (2, Funny)

h4rm0ny (722443) | more than 9 years ago | (#11442418)

In short, your looking for work and you thought /. would be a good place to advertise with a cunningly disguised 'Ask Slashdot.'

Well that's okay, good luck to you.

By the way, I'm very self-motivated, a genius in C++ and Python and I could probably squeeze the odd small or non-urgent project in.... ;)

Failed Interview (2, Funny)

RobertTaylor (444958) | more than 9 years ago | (#11442519)

"By the way, I'm very self-motivated, a genius in C++ and Python"

-1 Arrogant.

My Take (2, Insightful)

TempusMagus (723668) | more than 9 years ago | (#11442421)

I am a partner in a small and very sucessful development shop with a staff of about 5 people and to be honest what you describe you are less likely to find as the size of the company increases.

It's impossible to find that honest open warmth where companies have employees whose primary task is the result of the company being large, i.e. a beauracracy.

Conversely, many smaller companies are not as capitalized as larger companies so the long-term propects may not be as bright. Then again, most of the people I know working at smaller companies have been there longer than many folks I know working at big companies.

You might want to consider starting your own company with others who share your vision.

Ongoing (2, Interesting)

Renraku (518261) | more than 9 years ago | (#11442423)

Logistical offices that do things like accounting, customer service, tech support, call centers, etc are the ones that want someone that will put in an honest days work, be friendly, professional, etc. They'll probably rarely expect you to work long hours, and probably not expect any kind of creativity from you.

Programming jobs, however, are by their very nature, rushed. The company wants the product out the door as fast as it can, so it can start harvesting the rewards. The problem is, they don't want an honest day's work. They want you to work a month at 12 hour days and then either forget about you, or start the 'honest days work' thing while looking for a way to fire you for the next set of gung-ho youngsters willing to forego their lives for 'experience' and 'adequate compensation'

Government/Education (5, Insightful)

stdin (91760) | more than 9 years ago | (#11442424)

I'm a 30something programmer myself. I have worked for several tech companies in NorCal (startups that went nowhere), and after an 8 month stint of being unemployed I landed a programming job (mostly Perl no less) at a local CSU. Now I'm happy, I get lots of "perks" (Conferences, Training, etc.), and nobody busts my nuts when I "only" work 8 hours a day. I have good benefits, a good retirement & job stability (unless Schwartznegger screws me), and I work with good people who appreciate my work.

I am a 20 something programmer (-1, Troll)

Monkelectric (546685) | more than 9 years ago | (#11442426)

I have been unemployed for a little over 2 years, I've had to move back in with my parents. I have worked for Walmart, and 911 dispatch because there are no tech jobs.

Count your FUCKING blessings

Re:I am a 20 something programmer (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11442575)

lucky you, I'm in a similar situation, but can't even get the shitty jobs either.

Profile: Old Burned Out Programmer (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11442433)

Grow an unkempt beard
Start chain smoking
Come in at 5:30am leave at 3:30pm
Where the same cheap pair of Dickies every day
Have a stack of filled out lottery tickets in top drawer
Die within 3 months after retirement

Totally... (3, Interesting)

Unreal One (21453) | more than 9 years ago | (#11442436)

I've spent the past 7+ years working for a relatively small not-profit company and have had a great experience, as well as a lot of impact on the direction of technology in the company. This positive experience seems to be a thread through everyone in my department.

I'd definately recomend non-profit, or local government organizations as a good place for programmers to spend many years. You won't become a millionaire overnight, but it's good pay, good promotion, working with people you get to know for YEARS, reasonable hours, and probably much lower stress compared to private development houses.

Yeah (3, Funny)

fizban (58094) | more than 9 years ago | (#11442439)

Get a doctoral degree, find an academic institution that will fund your work, get tenure and then live out the rest of your life in peace and happiness, all the while contributing your knowledge and wisdom to the next generation of engineers.

Re:Yeah (1)

batemanm (534197) | more than 9 years ago | (#11442488)

That is probably harder than you make it seem.

That's a big question... (3, Insightful)

edanshekar (656936) | more than 9 years ago | (#11442444)

I'm not sure if you're refering to your own desire to find a company that you can happily work for till retirement, or asking if there are companies like that out there.

There are plenty of companies that'd love to have an employee with as much experience as you've mentioned, and in addition, someone with the desire to work for the long term. Projects from start to finish are one thing, but people aren't sticking around for the long haul like they did generations back.

With outsourcing and mega job opportunities still pumping stock options and elevated pay (check Monster, there ARE companies actively seeking engineers and programmers, offering hugh pay incentives) people are jumping ship when it suits them, even if there seems to be a dearth of jobs for those of us w/o them.

Company mentalities are different in this post .com era, but I'm sure if you look hard and study well, you'll find someone who'd be as happy to keep you around till a ripe old age (again, DO research any company you're going to sign on with, talk to people who work there, read up on them a ton) and let your program your ass off till retirement.

I hate technology jobs (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11442448)

Like that advice for high school article if I could have told my self something 10 years ago it would be "don't get into computer jobs no matter how fun you think they are! Get a finance, accounting or management degree, screw CS!".

The IT industry sucks souls I don't care if it's programming or sys admining. It fucking blows.

careful what you ask for (1)

mike_scheck (512662) | more than 9 years ago | (#11442452)

There are companies like you mentioned out there. I have worked for a couple in my days as a Unix contractor. These are the places that programmers go to die. I actually couldn't take working at these sites for more than 6 months at a time. Everything was so slow paced that it made me crazy. On top of that, they seemed to be filled with the bottom of the barrel developers. Get this, our CIO's "big idea" was that our new software should hit the shelves as "widget 1.2" instead of "widget 1.0", even though there was no change in development life cycle. His point was that customers would "think" there were less bugs cause it was a higher rev. I had to leave...

The best place to find places like this are state goverment, healthcare, and universities. The problem is not going completely crazy before you retire. Make sure you read up on dilbert so you know what to expect from your pointy haired boss.

Cali and Silicon Valley Part of the Problem (1)

meehawl (73285) | more than 9 years ago | (#11442453)

It's no coincidence that Cali spends among the lowest in the US per capita on education, and on adult education. With a constant influx of immigrants, and eager new college grads, why bother paying to nurture talent in-house when you can externalise the costs? Embedded in this milieu, the Silicon Valley companies have absorbed much of this culture: get em young, work em hard, get rid of them when they begin to get a clue, replace them with new recruits with the latest buzzy skills. Rinse and repeat.

Gov job (3, Insightful)

jbplou (732414) | more than 9 years ago | (#11442454)

Get a state or federal gov job. They don't merge or get bought out. They are much more secure than private sector tech jobs. Jobs at colleges can be that way too. But it depends some tech jobs at colleges can have there funding pulled out from under them. The programming most likely won't be exciting but your looking for stability more than cutting edge tech.

In short, no... (1)

kbonin (58917) | more than 9 years ago | (#11442458)

Companies today, especially the billion+ dollar ones (I work for one too), are only interested in making next quarters numbers for the stockholders. Mentoring implies they are going to continue to hire local engineers that you could mentor. What I see happening is companies are only hiring interns locally for grunt work while laying off the rest, while all but the most senior hires are in India and China, with the trend moving to China (why pay $20k for an engineer when you can pay $5k?) The job responsibilities of those remaining senior jobs can best be summarized as "make the crap we get back from India and China work." Your honest days work consists of "integrating" the outsourced work - read "debug and rewrite". Your mentoring will mostly consist of being available at 7am and 7pm 5+ nights a week for your daily phone conferences with the outsourced teams, mostly reexplaining the specifications you sent, and pointing out the hundreds of ways their last deliverable failed to met even the most basic entrance criteria. In the meantime, you and the remaining interns will talk about how they should just hire a few more locals and let you finish the project yourself.

This is the new economy, and how high-tech works for the foreseeable future - everyone I know that still has a job is being reamed by their employer, including the ones on the "best companies to work for" lists. If you want something honest, start your own company and do it right.

Sure there are, but can you find them? (1)

MyNameIsFred (543994) | more than 9 years ago | (#11442459)

Based on my experience you need to change the way you're doing things. Not happy with the employers you've had, rethink the way you find jobs.

This life lesson is from my wife. She was married and divorced before we met. One of the things she noticed was that all of her relationships headed the same way - to disaster. So she consciously changed the way she dated. She forced herself to look for a different type of man, to look in different places for dates. We've been married well over a decade.

It sounds like you need to force yourself to look for a different type of employer. To look in different places for work.

look at education or government jobs (1)

Indy1 (99447) | more than 9 years ago | (#11442464)

the pay isnt great, but the benefits rock, and they are usually VERY VERY stable jobs. No need to worry about being outsourced to india.

'Retirement'-friendly job opportunity (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11442468)

I'm a current employee of Nielsen Media Research (the evil US TV ratings company), which is far more day-to-day IT than anything else I've seen in the market. In my experience it's rather unique. I've seen a LOT of consultant-types go full-time here to settle down.

If you won't mind relocating to Florida, give it a look ( Let them know the trenchcoat guy in National IT sent you.

Time for a Change (1)

dolo666 (195584) | more than 9 years ago | (#11442470)

I'm not really sure what you meant by the last run-on-sentence, but I'll give you some advice. If you have carpal tunnel you can't be a good programmer, so you will have to plan an exit strategy from your current occupation. You can shift into management or systems design capacity, where the need to code is replaced with the need to plan and execute. The most secure way to successfully make this move, is to move up in the company you are in, and failing that you'll have to find a way to get into a management position somewhere else, or start your own business.

I'm not sure if it's wise or not, but maybe you could get a doctor's note and take it to your boss. Explain to them that you have a lot of experience and that due to your carpal tunnel you must become less of a programmer and more of a designer and manager. Obviously you run the risk of losing your job if you go this route, so get all your ducks in a row if that happens -- because you could likely win a wrongful dismissal suit if they fired you for health reasons. IANAL, so talk to one before you decide to go this route.

If you want to start slow, begin by taking assignments that are management related or assignments that can prove your leadership potential. Rack these assignments up and get letters from your boss that show what you have been doing for them. Get it in writing. You can start by suggesting a new policy that will provide more employee feedback. This will create a paper trail that can work for you.

Eventually you will have a stack of papers proving your worth. Then you can either take this stack to management, or you can take it to another company. :-)

I might also add that if you start your own business, it's obviously tough but you are at the right age to do it -- if you're ever going to.

The nice thing about being in business for yourself is that you don't have to do anything you don't want to -- you can simply delegate. But if you fail in business at your age, it's very difficult to start again.

Weigh your options and make a decision. No matter what slashdotters say, it's more important that you accept responsibility for your career direction. You've voiced that you are not satisfied with your current role, so it's likely time for a change. Maybe you could retrain? Maybe you can switch capacity due to health reasons (with a doctor's note), or maybe you are SOL. This all depends on your organization's ability to retain human capitol, and if you have become unsatisfied and they are clueless about it, maybe you should start looking for work elsewhere. The choice is yours, but you should really set down an exit strategy from your current role and play Devil's Advocate with each option.

Carpal Tunnel (3, Interesting)

Anne Thwacks (531696) | more than 9 years ago | (#11442476)

Carpal Tunnel syndrome is now widely thought to be a "brain" problem...

Typing does not require accurate position of the fingers - so long as you hit the "a" key, it doesn't much matter how you hit it.. Over time the brain doesnt bother to take care over which nerves are activated/sensed, because it appears not to matter. Unfortunately, it does!

The consequence of this careless activation of "roughly the right nerves" is what is called Carpal Tunnel.

The cure is to relearn accurate use of the nerves. One of the best ways of doing this has been found to be to learn hand embroidery! Old fashoned watchmaking (or repairling iPods/mobile phones) would probably work too. Most exercise or sports, which require force but little accuracy, will make matters rapidly worse.

Apply for a job at Microsoft (1)

melted (227442) | more than 9 years ago | (#11442485)

You seem to be the exact kind of guy they like. Tons of experience, willing to work in a team. Now add "passion for technology" to this, and good coding skills (which I'm sure you have) and you'll get hired. If you're lucky, you'll even get an interesting job. You won't get rich on stock options , though, because there aren't any.

you are shocking me. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11442487)

I used to think ... working on a product is a great joy, compared to bits and pieces you had been asked to. But you are saying...

"with nearly 15 commercial software products under my belt (8 of them were my own concepts from start-to-finish)"

Even after developing(living?) those 8 products, you are still on a confusion, which is similar to me??
I have to reconsider my confusion now!

Words of Wisdom (2, Funny)

Arcanix (140337) | more than 9 years ago | (#11442498)

Start a small company. This company will buy product in bulk and sell it to individual consumers.

I would suggest crack as your first product.

Advice from older engineers.... (3, Insightful)

jsimon12 (207119) | more than 9 years ago | (#11442500)

I remember talking to an older engineer back in 2001 (when tech was crumbling and people were losing jobs) at the giant tech company I was working at. His advice was that these cycles are normal (I think he said he had been through 3 or 4? like the most recent, he was pushing 60) and if you want to remain in the tech industry you need to get used to basically relearning and retooling and regular layoffs. So unless you want to learn a new skill or language every 5 years or don't like dealing with industry ebb and flow then maybe you should look at going back and getting and MBA, there is always room for more managment ;)

The real question (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11442501)

The real question is why a 3 year old skillset is considered obsolete. In any other industry, a 30 year old skillset is still enough to get by on.

The IT industry needs to stop embracing every fad programming language and marketing gimmick, and start working for the long term.

Yes, we're out here (1)

sdanis (562791) | more than 9 years ago | (#11442510)

You betcha.
Just find yourself a small tech company in it's own little niche run by engineers/programmers.
As long as you don't mind creating and maintaining systems and code that revolve around the particular vertical niche.
You'll find that your work is more appreciated and more important to the bottom line, you'll work harder than you have anywhere else, and you'll get opportunities to perform in roles other than just coder (like tech support, sales engineering, on site customer visits, ...).

Don't work for software developers. (1)

dohnut (189348) | more than 9 years ago | (#11442511)

Yeah, I think the key is not to work for a software development company. Rather, work for a company that needs a software developer. There's lots of development jobs to be had in companies whose primary products may not directly have anything to do with software. That's where you'll find your job security -- and I'm not necessarily talking about IT.

I work at a small company that develops specialized computer chassis, motherboards, and a few peripherals. Those peripherals often need embedded code development and device drivers, which I develop. However, selling hardware is the focus of our company, not selling software. Software development makes up less than 2% of the company.

Non-tech industry programming (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11442515)

Find companies whose main industry is not the tech industry which:
- show up in the top 100 or top 500 employers lists
- use technology to *run* their business processes

Then apply. Those companies always have a need for good programmers.

Recall in the Cathedral and the Bazaar, the part people mostly forget about, the fact that most programming is not done by software vendors but by companies that buy software and need to customize it. Some are developing their own full-blown software than implements *their* business processes, others are taking COTS software (ERP, say) and extending it.

A lot of people forget about the "footprint" of COTS products on the surface of business processes. COTS products rarely cover all the needs of a business and so the business either needs to have custom applications written (by contract or in-house) and connected to COTS software, or, for some good COTS software that has user-exits, an API, and user-defined code, the extract funcionality is added in to the extensible COTS implementation.

Anyway, you get to work in an industry that isn't the high-tech industry, work with business people that aren't in that business, and learn business processes that aren't about building technology.


A good one (1)

davidoff404 (764733) | more than 9 years ago | (#11442521)

At long last, a good question on Ask Slashdot. I hope you get the information you want.

Try a university? (1)

dnorman (135330) | more than 9 years ago | (#11442526)

They tend to value longer term thinking and relationships over flash-in-the-pan stuff... The downside, is they are likely still running VAX or something :-)

I've been at this for 22 years (3, Interesting)

mpechner (637217) | more than 9 years ago | (#11442528)

If you feel you are 3 years out of date, then you've have fallen into a trap. Unlike many professions, this one requires you reinvent yourself every 3 years. Was JSP, now Struts or velocity. Was java collections, now Java 1.5 templates. If you aren't reading a few books a year. Or selling your boss on a technology you want to learn this is what happens.

You must read and have the spare machine to play with. You must at least browse Dr. Dobbs.

This is why my resume is upto date after 22 years.

Now that the y2k issues are dea and gone, Cobol programmers now most commonly say, "So that was a Non fat decaf latte....?"

Can't turn into the guy that in 1993 walked out of a presentation I gave on Visual Basic because he did not know what a mouse was. This is a true story.

I'm in your shoes (1)

MinorHeadWound (710187) | more than 9 years ago | (#11442529)

I'm a 35 years old and have been programming since I was 12* I've had hand pain for a couple of years which I can treat and manage with a combination of massage and wrist braces which I wear at night. These wrist braces never cause a problem in terms of having a comfortable night's sleep for me (or my wife!) Fact is, I tried to be a manager for two years, which was OK, but nothing as wonderful as being a programmer. Switching back was difficult because my best skill at that point was Perl (no offense to Perl programmers) and I had to re-learn OO. So I dropped C++ and learned Java, and from there, made a significant effort to learn the nuances. The Sun Certification Exams don't *really* give you much in terms of a strong resume, but reengaging my mind in more recent technologies was worth it. Even if I was not going to get the job I wanted, I was learning enough that I could make contributions my writing my own software, or contributing to open source projects.

Epilogue: I got picked up by one of the fast-moving companies everyone is watching. There are plenty of people there who are younger and wealthier than me. So what? I have a good job and I'm very happy to go to work every day. Will I be able to do this in twenty to thirty years? I sure think it's more likely than I did six months ago.

And yes, count your blessings.

*I really ought to say that I've been programming for 23 years, just to irritate some of the little kiddies. :)

Since you invent stuff on your own (1)

wytcld (179112) | more than 9 years ago | (#11442532)

Why not be your own firm? Or start one? Find the location where you'd most like to live. Your choice is bound to be similar to other intelligent people such as yourself, who will be showing up in the next few years if they aren't a major factor there already. If there are several choices otherwise equal, take the most affordable place to live. That will be the one attracting more of the "creative economy" types, and so have the greater long-term upward potential. Buy a house. Settle in an make social connections, do some minor volunteer work, follow local politics.

Blue sky. Prototype some software concepts. Figure out who has money to invest in the area if you need that, demo, raise the funds. Recruit office staff locally when you need it, collaborating programmers over the Net when you need them.

As you know, it's not like all the brilliant software has already been invented.

So you want to be a teacher ... (1)

cyberspittle (519754) | more than 9 years ago | (#11442533)

... or do you? If you really want to mentor and relieve yourself of physical pain, becoming an instructor sounds like the right thing to do. If you've been in a cubicle most of your work life, it will affect your perception of others (not being appreciated, etc.). Imagine how caged animals feel. Now if you want to keep on coding, dress up your cubicle to positively affect your mental well being. Get up from your cube and walk around once in awhile. Instead of looking at the ground, smile and converse with fellow employees ... they are not such bad people when you get involved with them. Life is more than nine to five. Perhaps mangement of software development is better suited to you (mentor). Community charity (big brother) programs can get you involved with young kids who may want to learn programming (may even cut down on script kiddies). Best wishes on your decision.

We're hiring, but can't find competent people (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11442538)

Check out, and look for Mercury Managed Services. There ain't much programming per se, pay is not outrageous, weekend and evening shift is possible, but it's stable, we're going places, and we need competent people, but can't seem to find them. Apply now, we're desperate. :)

In general though, you have only a few options: start your own company, or look for a large, stable company where people understand that 40 hours done at full speed is far more productive than 80 hours at stressed-out speed. Guv'ment work is one of those places.

You're Fired (1)

gsibble (840770) | more than 9 years ago | (#11442542)

This is your employer. We have traced your IP and your services are no longer needed. We have also told every other programming corporation about your treason. Enjoy your new life at the Wall-Mart prescription counter.

Old Programmers (0, Troll)

Geminus (602334) | more than 9 years ago | (#11442545)

Yes, there are jobs out there for you... they're called management. Wherein you used to be something great, but now your information is old, obsolete, and you cannot comprehend the new fandangled thingamabobs and whatzits. You'll spend countless hours in meetings looking authoritative, but deep down inside you're just thinking about last night's dinner. Sorry dude, but the average IT programmer employment lifespan is less than 5 years... less if it can now be outsourced.

That sounds like my employer (1)

crazydeer (852363) | more than 9 years ago | (#11442546)

I work in the IT department for a utility company in the midwest. The people are friendly and things are generally low-stress. Most people still work here for life. The flip side is that we rarely use leading-edge technology, projects can progress very slowly, and some people are dead weight.

Your first 2 problems (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11442547)

1. Wife.
2. Kids.

I would suggest to keep your organs healthy, because you're going to have hope they payoff big-time for that college education you'll be on the hook for. Also hope you have 2 livers.

Programming manager? (1)

urlgrey (798089) | more than 9 years ago | (#11442550)

You don't mention any desire (or ambition) to move into the management echelons, but IMHO you might be well-served to consider making the leap. Many companies would be well served to have a skilled programming manager (CTO??) who has been under the hood of so many successful software titles. Having someone like yourself who can take a programmer's time estimates for a given project, realize they're milking it, and call them out on it AND who likewise can also take management's time estimates, realize management's on crack, and call them out for it would be a find.

Good luck!

Start your own software company (1)

zymano (581466) | more than 9 years ago | (#11442551)

Sounds like you want to be a boss now.

I know someone who's done it (1)

Prien715 (251944) | more than 9 years ago | (#11442553)

My now ex-girlfriend's Dad used to work for IBM and got carpal tunnel.

He got out of the tech industry completely, bought property and became a landlord. Last I heard, he does renovations and fixes stuff and has plenty of time for other things. While this doesn't sound like the right path for you, I wanted to offer proof of the possibility of a career change for some of your aforementioned reasons.

Good companies still exist... (2)

Lothsahn (221388) | more than 9 years ago | (#11442554)

I work for one... Workforce software ( They make time and attendance software for large companies (1000+). They expect people to work hard and know how to program (99% of the people who apply can't write code), but they treat their employees well and value loyal people.

On a sidenote, you could try therapeutic massage. That and a split keyboard eliminated my tendonitis (I thought it was carpal tunnel).

Steady Job? (1)

Copperhead (187748) | more than 9 years ago | (#11442560)

I've got one word for you.... "defense". There is a real need for people who know software design for large projects, and government contracts for some large projects.

If I were you, I'd drop programming... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11442561)

...and take up English.

retire? (1)

dlt074 (548126) | more than 9 years ago | (#11442576)

how boreing! who retires? i'm working till the day i die.

Leave USA (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11442577)

Come to Europe, where vacations are real, and company stakeholders include the employees.

This is why I didn't choose CS (1)

digitalgimpus (468277) | more than 9 years ago | (#11442581)

I'm a Junior at a 4 year college...

When I entered, i was able to narrow down in a fraction of a second my choices:

- Business MIS
- Computer Science

I went with Business MIS for several reasons:

1. Outsourcing is there to stay, like it or not. They outsource programmers, but managment will likely stay put. MIS wins

2. MIS has more room to grow into upper management in stable companies. MIS wins

3. MIS has a signifigant business background, and can be applied to non-technology industries if needed. MIS wins.

In the end, I decided MIS (obviously). While I consider myself a geek, I love UNIX, I love coding, I used Mozilla since "milestones" (even have cvs account on I run my own server in my home, had WiFi for years already....

yea, I'm a geek. CS would seem obvious.

But I also want to move up in a company. CS gives virtually no preperation towards moving beyond senior programmer. So it's pretty much a dead end unless you work for a company who doesn't really put value on it's own management (assuming such a company lasts long enough for you to move up).

I still geek it up. I made it my personal business to learn and keep up on CS.

But I think my MIS career path will leave me with many more options in the future. I see it already.

A two-part answer: "yes" and "no" (1)

crmartin (98227) | more than 9 years ago | (#11442585)

Depending on what you know and what you want to do, you can find that kind of job. If you want something that looks like job security, learn COBOL and mainframe programming, and/or AS/400. Those jobs will never die. Move to places like Columbus OH or Hartford CT, work for something like an insurance company. Exciting, no. But you can spend a lot of time writing code.

If you want to keep doing interesting things, you have to learn new skills. Java/JUnit/XP; C#/.Net; I see a fair lot of ads for Python. And you'll have to keep learning new skills, and looking for new things to do; that's just the way it is.

Get the hell out of Silicon Valley. It's too expensive, the market's too overloaded, and the traditional high-tech business is consolidating: you've got no reason to be confident that you can avoid layoffs (viz. Peoplesoft.) The Santa Clara Valley is used up. (Ergo, find someplace that isn't used up.)

I'm guessng you don't have a security clearance, so if you can find a way, get one. The higher the better. Those are big-time assets. AND you can tell all your friends you're a spy.
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