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Is it Possible to Age Yourself Out of a Job?

Cliff posted more than 7 years ago | from the does-worthwhile-experience-mean-nothing? dept.

Businesses 225

An anonymous reader asks: "I'm a programmer with more than twelve years of experience. In all that time, I've never been a 'senior' developer. I'm competent and I work hard, but I don't think I am quite a senior developer in terms of technical or people skills. More and more I feel that I'm aging myself out a job. By this time, employers expect someone with my experience to have advanced some, and they may not be willing to even talk to me now, thinking that my pay requirements have grown while I have not. Even if I did get hired someplace new, my peers would likely be much younger than me. What do you do when you have an applicant like that? Are my fears legitimate?"

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learn (2, Insightful)

Lehk228 (705449) | more than 7 years ago | (#17659800)

read a lot of programming books and learn as many useful programming languages as you can. even if you don't want to be a senior developer, you can still be the guy everyone goes to when something has to be done right.

when searching for a job if you think they will overestimate your salary requirements be upfront about what you expect to make to eliminate that problem.

Re:learn (4, Insightful)

Schraegstrichpunkt (931443) | more than 7 years ago | (#17659840)

read a lot of programming books and learn as many useful programming languages as you can.

Good advice.

you can still be the guy everyone goes to when something has to be done right.

You're not going to get that from the books.

Re:learn (2, Insightful)

dar (15755) | more than 7 years ago | (#17663486)

I have to disagree with both of these.

You don't need to know lots of programming languages. You want to know three or four languages really really well. You'll accumulate languages as you get older just due to the changes in the industry. Make sure you know a common application development language like C++, C#, or Java. And make sure you know at least one scripting language such as Python or Ruby.

You also want to read books on design and the development process. If you haven't already read them, start with these:
"The Art of Project Management",
"Object Oriented Analysis and Design",
"Design Patterns: Elements of Reusable Object-Oriented Software",
and "Refactoring: Improving the Design of Existing Code".

All are essential reading for a seasoned developer.

I also disagree with your second comment. One of the things I like about software development is that pretty much everything you need to know you can get from books and the internet. A couple years of experience will give you the rest. But the OP already has that.

Re:learn (3, Interesting)

Forge (2456) | more than 7 years ago | (#17663614)

Get certified as a project manager (PMP if I remember correctly). Also consider doing an MBA. You see as a veteran programmer the young geeks WILL look up to you. Even if you are not a great programmer.

That means with the additional training I recommend you will be able to apply for management level jobs leading a programing team and the guys will have much less of a problem with you than any other boss. Especially if you sit down and hack out a few bits of code yourself once in a while.

learn, grow, expand-grow fat. :d (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17659870)

"read a lot of programming books and learn as many useful programming languages as you can"

Too low level. A senior developer is going to be closer to the "big picture". Focus your skills more towards that area.

Re:learn (5, Insightful)

ooh456 (122890) | more than 7 years ago | (#17659932)

If you look and compare to other industries, I don't think age in itself could be a disadvantage, as long as you have many successful projects on your CV. On the other side of the coin, however, I think anyone with under 5 years experience is immediately suspect.

There is such a shortage of programmers right now (I have lived in Europe and USA) and most of the available ones are available for a reason. I know a 60 year old who is programming COBOL and earning very good money and happy. I know ASP/XHTML guys who have been unemployed for years. Until programs start writing themselves or there is a massive influx of competetent programmers to college you will be alright.

In my opinion, a Senior Developer role is more a skill related thing than an age related thing. Old people need to work too. You shouldn't worry too much, especially if you are well liked.

At our shop (5, Interesting)

Travoltus (110240) | more than 7 years ago | (#17660080)

I spent a lot of time early on walking through HR and sitting in on interview processes and their aftermaths to let HR understand beyond any uncertain terms where I stand as their manager and what I expect out of them.

I have a simple rule that I demand they abide be. Pay is proportional to proven skill level. Age can kiss my ass. A 14 year old coder of the newest and greatest Firefox or a middle aged old hand, or someone who's been in my organization for x years and who has been lukewarm and suddenly caught on fire, it's all the same. When the light comes on it must shine on a hill and not be stuffed under a rug.

learn COBOL (2, Interesting)

NewWorldDan (899800) | more than 7 years ago | (#17663052)

Seriously. Nearly every programmer I know over the age of 40 works in a mainframe shop maintaining legacy COBOL programs. These programs never go away - ever. People try to rewrite them, but I've never seen a COBOL conversion actually succeed. COBOL guys, unless grossly incompetent, are untouchable. They all seem to be labeled a Sr. Engineer regardless of what they actually do or what their skill level is.

Re:learn COBOL (1)

dar (15755) | more than 7 years ago | (#17663686)

All I can say is you don't get out much. Lots of shrinkwrap software written in C/C++/C#/Java is developed by folks from a wide range of ages.

Re:learn COBOL (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17664044)

I know Cobol and use it fairly frequently, but what butters my bread isn't Cobol itself (any moron w/basic programming experience can write it) but it's understanding the application server/environment and the overall business logic. Like anything else, Cobol is a tool, but it's not a silver bullet. You could be the greatest Cobol developer in the world but I won't hire you if you have no idea how my 3rd party app is supposed to work, no sql skill, etc.
- A

You're probably fine (5, Insightful)

dubl-u (51156) | more than 7 years ago | (#17659810)

As somebody who hires people at startups and small companies, my take is "maybe". Programmers are a quirky lot, and I try to take each one individually. Although the arrogant ones get the press, there are quite a number that are ridiculously modest, and you might be one of those.

Even if you aren't, there are advantages to age. The biggest one is maturity. There are mistakes that every novice makes that are (I hope!) behind you. Instead of a drama generator, you are probably a drama shock absorber. Even if your people skills aren't as great as you like, they're probably a lot better than 12 years ago. And best of all, you can see that with age comes some self-awareness. Everybody has problems, but in hiring one of the things I really look for is an awareness of your limitations and the ability to manage them yourself.

When evaluating somebody in your situation, one of the big questions I'd have aside from the usual ones (e.g, can you do the work) is whether you are still like the work and are eager to improve. For example, I feel like every programmer should learn a new language once a year. That doesn't mean that you become expert in it, just that you are stretching your brain. Or you might have a side project you're excited about. Or you might be studying software architecture patterns. Anything that proves you aren't a clock-puncher who just isn't sure what else to do.

So I'd say as long as you are doing work you want to do and doing it well, don't sweat it much. You may have to work harder to find a job than some young hotshot, but there are plenty of employers who value a steady producer who won't be a pain in the ass.

Re:You're probably fine (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17660330)

Christ, do they resist when you try to "take" them?

I hope I never have a job interview with you!!!

Re:You're probably fine (3, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17661988)

I think the key difference is whether you have twelve years' experience, or one year's experience 12 times...

Re:You're probably fine (2, Informative)

jesup (8690) | more than 7 years ago | (#17662034)

The questioner says they haven't really advanced, but are worried because their salary requirements have increased.

Either a) you're wrong about advancing (perhaps you're underestimating yourself), b) you've advanced some (experience and maturity at least), but not enough to justify your current salary, or c) you're appropriately paid for what you do but you've shown yourself not to be interested in advancing and learning, and so may fall out of sync with current practices (in which case, crack the books and start learning!)

New languages every year isn't important in the way it once was; language innovation seems to have slowed compared to say the 1980's. Substitute new design patterns, application frameworks, libraries, etc instead.

Learn some new staff (1)

S3D (745318) | more than 7 years ago | (#17659818)

Well, first your fears are not founded. I have seen a lot of aged programmers in non-senior position. But that doesn't mean you should be among them. It's never too later learn some new staff. Chose some relatively new technology or area which you think will be in high demand, which is interesting for you and which is not crowded for now. Self-teach yourself. Do some staff for free, put it on the net or otherwise - whatever, but get experience in that area. Put it into your CV. Then the time is right it's you who will be sought after.

Re:Learn some new staff (4, Funny)

mabinogi (74033) | more than 7 years ago | (#17659842)

Self-teach yourself. Do some staff for free
that sounds like a quick way to end a career...

Re:Learn some new staff (3, Funny)

njriley (661041) | more than 7 years ago | (#17659952)

That goes double if you put it on the net...

Re:Learn some new staff (2, Funny)

gbobeck (926553) | more than 7 years ago | (#17660590)

...Do some staff for free

that sounds like a quick way to end a career...

That goes double if you put it on the net...

Actually, that sounds like a quick way to begin a new career where you could charge customers $20 a month to download content from a website...

Re:Learn some new staff (1)

kalpaha (667921) | more than 7 years ago | (#17660988)

No no, you don't understand. Only the first time is free. After they are sold on your ahem, "skills", you can start charging them through their noses.

Re:Learn some new staff (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17660114)

Do some staff for free
Like the attractive new secretary? "I was porking her for career advancement, honestly."

Their reason for hiring someone younger might not (5, Insightful)

antifoidulus (807088) | more than 7 years ago | (#17659832)

be just pay. Younger people tend not to have families and, lacking experience, will often be coerced into working longer hours etc. They could be afraid that you would not put up with such conditions and bolt as soon as you got the chance.

I'm 26, but I am saving like hell because I know that age discrimination is rife in this industry, and the more I save for retirement right now, the less I have to worry about such things.

Re:Their reason for hiring someone younger might n (4, Insightful)

enharmonix (988983) | more than 7 years ago | (#17659914)

Younger people tend not to have families and, lacking experience, will often be coerced into working longer hours etc. They could be afraid that you would not put up with such conditions and bolt as soon as you got the chance.

*sigh* This is part of the problem with programming. This is rarely an issue in any other career (except maybe medicine). For just about any other occupation, candidates who are married with children are more desirable because even though they may have commitments outside of work, other people are relying on them, and they are less likely to make haphazard career decisions. Simply put, they are better long term employees -- they are already committed to their families and are therefore more committed to their employer. Yet, somehow, in IT, a family is often a liability. Something about that is not right in my book.

I'm 26, but I am saving like hell because I know that age discrimination is rife in this industry, and the more I save for retirement right now, the less I have to worry about such things.

I'm 28 and I'm out of the programming game. Enron's collapse did me in. I'm going back to school to do something more rewarding with my life, probably major in mathematics and then either teach or maybe try engineering. If the IT industry wasn't so abusive maybe I'd still be in it, but I'm just not that interested in programming anymore (for a living, anyway - I still program in my spare time). You know, if there was ever an industry in the last 50 years that needed to unionize, it's IT...

Re:Their reason for hiring someone younger might n (0, Flamebait)

Threni (635302) | more than 7 years ago | (#17660040)

> Something about that is not right in my book.

Life's not fair - deal with it. Each profession has pros and cons. Quit whining and start learning something new. It's nothing to do with unions, and I've never found it abusive. At least, I don't take any crap. You need to try working in a few places until you find something you like - perhaps contracting.

Re:Their reason for hiring someone younger might n (4, Funny)

enharmonix (988983) | more than 7 years ago | (#17661022)

> Something about that is not right in my book.

Life's not fair - deal with it. Each profession has pros and cons. Quit whining and start learning something new. It's nothing to do with unions, and I've never found it abusive. At least, I don't take any crap. You need to try working in a few places until you find something you like - perhaps contracting.

Wow. What great advice! I almost wish I'd said something about "going back to school to do something more rewarding with my life, probably major in mathematics and then either teach or maybe try engineering" in my original post! You know, assuming you don't have Asperger's Syndrome [wikipedia.org] , I think you'd be terrific management material [flickr.com] . Again, thanks for the wonderful advice! Cheers.

Re:Their reason for hiring someone younger might n (1)

Threni (635302) | more than 7 years ago | (#17661866)

You could change career, but you'd be doing it on pretty flimsy grounds. Why do you think maths or engineering will be any less abusive? Besides, what's bad about abuse? Can't you develop a slightly thicker skin, or learn how to give as well as take? Come on man, pull yourself together! :)

Re:Their reason for hiring someone younger might n (1)

Palshife (60519) | more than 7 years ago | (#17662196)

Well, we wouldn't expect YOU to downplay the value of abuse ;)

Re:Their reason for hiring someone younger might n (1)

Spazntwich (208070) | more than 7 years ago | (#17662986)

I'm confused as to why you even bothered with this semi-coherent and absolutely irrelevant excuse for a retort. He already quite succinctly exposed you for the idiot troll you are.

Re:Their reason for hiring someone younger might n (1)

Threni (635302) | more than 7 years ago | (#17664080)

Ah - abuse. I must change my career immediately.

Re:Their reason for hiring someone younger might n (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17661112)

Who marked you insightful? This was just plain fucking rude. You didn't even make an effort to fully read what GP wrote.

Re:Their reason for hiring someone younger might n (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17662386)

Life's not fair

In other news, suicides are up. When a game's not fair, nobody wants to play.

Re:Their reason for hiring someone younger might n (2, Interesting)

TooMuchToDo (882796) | more than 7 years ago | (#17660538)

Here here my friend. I'm 24, and have been doing IT for 6 years. I made my hobby my job, and in search of a new hobby I began taking flying lessons. I hope one day to make it my new career. Then IT will be more fun again =)

Re:Their reason for hiring someone younger might n (1)

mockchoi (678525) | more than 7 years ago | (#17663114)

And flying will be less fun :)

Re:Their reason for hiring someone younger might n (1)

Heywood J. Blaume (858386) | more than 7 years ago | (#17664016)

Good luck with aviation. I had the same dream, but 9/11 killed aviation hiring (and my dream) for me. My commercial pilot's certificate has been sitting on a shelf for a year.

Re:Their reason for hiring someone younger might n (4, Insightful)

petrus4 (213815) | more than 7 years ago | (#17660658)

Yet, somehow, in IT, a family is often a liability. Something about that is not right in my book.

The main reason why family is considered a liability in IT is because IT is an industry where sweatshop labour is considered the holy grail.

Families have a tendency to get in the way of Dad working 18 hours a day, and the sorts of demoniacs at the top of the IT management pile don't want that. They want people who are willing to work for as long as possible at a stretch, for as little money as possible, in as poor conditions as possible. It's the entire reason why importing people from India has become so popular.

India at least used to be a third world country, and so you can import someone from there, pay them south of $250 a week without any other sorts of benefits, and expect to get 18 or so hour workdays out of them, and they'll still think they've died and gone to heaven. An American rank and file employee on the other hand is never going to put up with that, but American managers crave being able to treat their staff like that, because it keeps overhead to a bare minimum, which means more money in their pockets...which is also the *only* thing they care about.

That is the reason why IT managers don't want workers having families...it's because they don't want to treat IT workers like human beings. They don't want to *acknowledge* that IT workers are human beings, because doing so means they lose more money than they're comfortable with. The "money is more important than life itself," crowd don't care about anything else...in the end they don't even care about their own lives. All they care about is the size of their bank balance.

Re:Their reason for hiring someone younger might n (4, Insightful)

arivanov (12034) | more than 7 years ago | (#17661306)

Good, now after you have vented your spleen let me correct some of your facts and reasoning:

First, based on my experience other countries lead in the "slaverunner" routine. In fact, I would prefer to work for all of the American bosses I have worked for in my career any day compared to some of the British ones I have encountered. With nearly all of Americans the result was the most important item and how many hours did you clock on it was irrelevant. Similarly, most of them defined sane and achieveable deadlines instead of a UK-style deadline which is known to be blown beforehand. There is a reason why Britain is the only EU country to start throwing toys out of the pram every time the EU working time directive is discussed. And you can guess what it is.

Second, any IT person complaining about antisocial working conditions should look at the BioTech industry. They have take the leaf out of the IT book and have gone where no IT PHB Slaver has dreamed to go before. IT is a family friendly calm 9-5 desk job by comparison.

Sr level Careers and advancement (4, Insightful)

Gr8Apes (679165) | more than 7 years ago | (#17662468)

Wow, get me a job with your former or current employers. Every project I've been on since 1999 has been behind schedule before the first line of code had even been thought of. Most were delivered early or on time with the last 5 years all being based on face time only, even if telecommuting or flex time were given lip service.

If you take those two statements together, you'll see something had to give, and it was working hours. Only in the past 2 years have I forced the issue of the 40 hour work week back into my life. I'm now somewhere between 40-45 hours a week instead of 70-95, and I still manage to deliver those ridiculous deadlines. What I have noticed is that I am now working 6-8 straight hours a day (as compared to the estimated 3 hours of value add work in some government survey I'm too lazy to pull up - that's due to email, phone calls, meetings, people interrupting you, the web, bathroom breaks, coffee breaks, etc) If you think about it, that makes a lot of sense, as most of the /. community reads /. during work hours.... ;)

But, I'll make this comment, after many years in IT, my upward career swing is stalling. Does that have to do with my attitude? Undoubtedly, as traveling more than 10% is out of the question for the next couple of years (kids can have that effect). It also has to do with the realization that I'm already at an apex of sorts, and there's really no opportunities for advancement without career development of the sort that involves major changes (sr architect (technical) -> technical director (mgmt)). Unfortunately, the particular type job I'm looking for typically involves geographically spread out operations and 25%+ travel. This causes a conundrum where I have to decide whether to travel, or work below my level. Pick your evil.

I'm sure I'm not the only "older programmer" out there that's realized this.

Re:Their reason for hiring someone younger might n (2, Interesting)

Overzeetop (214511) | more than 7 years ago | (#17662306)

The main reason why family is considered a liability in IT is because IT is an industry where sweatshop labour is considered the holy grail.

You clearly have never worked at an architecture, marketing, or any other firm that is driven by the need to have brain-hours to make money. They all flog their people to be caffine-overdosing, red-eyed drones. It's everywhere. The only way to get to the top is to stand on top of others. The only way to stay at the top is to keep the others down. There are exceptions of course - but they usually rely on graft or extortion (ex: AutoDesk - great working environment because they can extort $1000/seat out of all of their customers every year. Don't like maintenance? Every three years the format changes to be incompatible with previous releases, and the upgrade charge is *suprise* the same price as 3 years of maintenance!).

Re:Their reason for hiring someone younger might n (1)

Tsagadai (922574) | more than 7 years ago | (#17661334)

Actually I'd agree with you about unionising the IT industry. We take alot of shit. I haven't taken a coding job in a white because the conditions here are shit or laid back depending on the employer (most of the laid back ones are banks or government). I've copped the shit ones where they not only expect 18 hours a day but will fire you after your section of the contract regardless of performance. As a union organiser I disagree strongly with these sort of practices but I still need to eat. At the moment I'm working in pathology because frankly the pay and conditions are far better.

Re:Their reason for hiring someone younger might n (4, Insightful)

Undertaker43017 (586306) | more than 7 years ago | (#17662566)

Unionizing IT is not the answer. A couple of years ago I did a contract in a unionized IT shop and it was a nightmare! Incompetent, unqualified, downright lazy people in critical support positions, and protected by the union. Unions cater to the lowest common denominator and cause quality and productivity to suffer. Individuals have as much power as a union, they just need to stand up for it!

I have been in IT for 20+ years, I have worked in a lot of different shops, and you only get abused if you accept it. I have worked in shops that expected long hours, and I only did it if I felt like it. If the situation got too bad, i.e. they start demanding that I spend extra hours, I walked. The beauty of IT is that there is ALWAYS another job out there. In 20+ years I have only been out of work ~2 months total, and yes, I have changed jobs twice in the last 5 years. Outsourcing is completely overblown, computers are here to stay and only getting more integrated into our lives and businesses, there is going to be IT work for a very long time.

Re:Their reason for hiring someone younger might n (1)

UbuntuDupe (970646) | more than 7 years ago | (#17662898)

I'm 26, but I am saving like hell because I know that age discrimination is rife in this industry, and the more I save for retirement right now, the less I have to worry about such things.

That's good advice, regardless of the prevalance of age discrimination. As the economy gets more dynamic, the idea that your skill set will always be in demand, is going to get more and more archaic. It would be nice if there were a way to buy an insurance policy against falling demand for your skill set, but we already have the next best thing -- invest your money, while you can earn it, in the entire economy through an index fund, and if the world leaves you behind, at least that investment will be worth more. In 70 years, you could still be drawing (investment) income due to a job you had that no longer exists, simply because you saved *while* it existed.

So, don't think you have to be a victim -- you can do something about the uncertainty in the job market.

As a Hiring Manager... Yes (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17659844)

I hate to say it, but yes. When reviewing a resume, I look for things like growth & ambition. At 12 years experience, I've seen very good architects. If one wasn't even Senior, I'd wonder why that is. Lack of ability? Lack of desire? Clock puncher?

In most cases, I'll never know or have the chance to ask the candidate. Instead, I'll just move to the next 99 resumes in the stack.

I know this isn't what you want to hear, but hopefully honesty will help.

Re:As a Hiring Manager... Yes (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17660786)

Clock puncher?
...or sexual harassment whiner? Or takes no racist BS jokes from managers? Never buys lunch to boss or lends him money? Won't pay protection racket?

Sheesh, man, now sticking to your contractual or even legal rights is a shadow on your career. You slave buyers (as well as slave drivers - HR managers) are sick bunch!

What's next? "Yes, he DOES stay long hours, BUT doesn't show euphoric happiness about it" or "Won't beat slackers into a bloody pulp" or "Won't do the (prison) time for the company"?

My favorite: "Won't sacrifice own firstborn and only child to the Company"... oh, wait! It even isn't a joke anymore!

Re:As a Hiring Manager... Yes (5, Insightful)

ebbe11 (121118) | more than 7 years ago | (#17660824)

When reviewing a resume, I look for things like growth & ambition.

Be very, very careful when you try to assess a person's growth and ambition. Climbing the corporate ladder is not the only way to grow.

For instance, I have absolutely no ambitions to become a manager. If that ever happened, you would see the Peter Principle [wikipedia.org] in action. My ambition is to be an excellent software developer - and I am. My growth is in areas related to software development. I work hard at getting better at software development every single day. I am also 50 years old and have never held a job where I had any kind of management responsibilities. Would you hire a guy like me?

BTW, I work as a contractor. I have worked continously for my current customer for over five years. My contracts are usually for three months, i.e., I am evaluated every quarter - and they haven't thrown me out yet.

Re:As a Hiring Manager... Yes (2, Interesting)

Aladrin (926209) | more than 7 years ago | (#17661418)

"For instance, I have absolutely no ambitions to become a manager."

I feel exactly the same way. And yet, in every technical position I've ever been in, I was 'managing' in a very short time. I was always still responsible for programming/repairing/whatever, but as soon as they realized I wasn't an idiot, it was my job to overseeing one or more other people. Training 'the new guy' is one thing, and I'm okay with that. But it usually ends up that I'm responsible for making sure his projects are coming along, or the projects of some outsourced company, or ... Bleh.

When ITT's career counseling was trying to prep me for interviews, I told them that I didn't want to ever be management. They thought I was crazy and told me to NEVER say that in an interview. I finally made it clear to them that I refused to lie in an interview and they gave up.

I don't feel any need to quit my current job, but they are growing fast and talking about hiring more in-house programmers already. The IT department will soon be big enough that -someone- has to be a 'manager' and the other non-new guy obviously doesn't want it, either.

Was being a contractor the only way you found to assure that you weren't stuck managing?

Re:As a Hiring Manager... Yes (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17662806)

but as soon as they realized I wasn't an idiot
[...]
When ITT's career counseling was trying to prep me for interviews,
If you're not an idiot, what the fuck were you doing at ITT Tech?

Re:As a Hiring Manager... Yes (1)

compass46 (259596) | more than 7 years ago | (#17663728)

Admittedly I used to think that until the guy next to me started. Very bright guy and does excellent work. As he put it, it was easy to graduate but if you put the time in it was easy to really get something out of it. In part, it depends on the person that goes there.

Re:As a Hiring Manager... Yes (1)

GoofyBoy (44399) | more than 7 years ago | (#17661566)

>I am also 50 years old and have never held a job where I had any kind of management responsibilities.

You started programming in 1982? Programming was alot more of a magical/black-box back then. Its a different world out there now. People believe that they can outsource cheaply programming now. People can get a secretary to use Microsoft Office to do what you were programming in 1982, with the help of an animated paper-clip.

As an comparision, auto assembly workers were a job to die for in the early 1980s. Back then, alot of 50 year old auto-plant workers were saying the exact same thing you are now.

Re:As a Hiring Manager... Yes (1)

lwriemen (763666) | more than 7 years ago | (#17661762)

> You started programming in 1982? Programming was alot more of a magical/black-box back then.

Err. Just how young are you? Try looking at the history of computer science before posting such garbage. If you really want to measure how far programming has come, just look at the level of abstraction of the programming language. Guess what? (Except for embedded) We were programming in 3GL back then, and we are still programming in 3GL today.

Re:As a Hiring Manager... Yes (1)

ebbe11 (121118) | more than 7 years ago | (#17661956)

You started programming in 1982?

1981, actually...

People can get a secretary to use Microsoft Office to do what you were programming in 1982

I seriously doubt that. In 1982, I was part of a team working on a CCIS (Command and Control Information System) for the Danish Navy.

Re:As a Hiring Manager... Yes (1)

rlp (11898) | more than 7 years ago | (#17662912)

>> People can get a secretary to use Microsoft Office to do what you were programming in 1982

> I seriously doubt that. In 1982, I was part of a team working on a CCIS (Command and Control
> Information System) for the Danish Navy.

No, the first guy is right:

Clippy: I see you are about to be torpedoed. Do you want to deploy counter-measures?

Seriously, I was programming in '82 as well. I worked on systems that monitored telephone switching systems. Hardware has gotten far faster, cheaper, and smaller since then. Languages have gone OO. UI's have gotten far more sophisticated. And software has gotten more complex and in many cases more obese and more sloppy.

Re:As a Hiring Manager... Yes (1)

Rob the Bold (788862) | more than 7 years ago | (#17662282)

>I am also 50 years old and have never held a job where I had any kind of management responsibilities.

You started programming in 1982? Programming was alot more of a magical/black-box back then. Its a different world out there now. People believe that they can outsource cheaply programming now. People can get a secretary to use Microsoft Office to do what you were programming in 1982, with the help of an animated paper-clip.

Wow. I think I'd take the word of the 50-year-old who was there over the kid who uses the "word" "alot" and thinks a secretary can write sophisticated software.

Its (sic) a different world out there now.

Right, cause someone who's lived through the changes needs to be told how s/w is different now. And "magical/black-box" programming? Have you even looked at some programming texts from the 70s (and earlier)? How about "The Mythical Man-Month" by Brooks? Read that and ask again if programming was a magical art in 1975 (the year of publication).

Re:As a Hiring Manager... Yes (3, Insightful)

richieb (3277) | more than 7 years ago | (#17661796)

For instance, I have absolutely no ambitions to become a manager. If that ever happened, you would see the Peter Principle in action. My ambition is to be an excellent software developer - and I am. My growth is in areas related to software development. I work hard at getting better at software development every single day. I am also 50 years old and have never held a job where I had any kind of management responsibilities.

I feel the same way. The "sweet spot" job I've been doing is being a "technical lead". This simply means that I get to code everyday, manage couple of smart programmers, and make the important design/architecture/coding and even product design decisions. The title that comes with this sort of job depends on a company - in one place I was a "Technical Lead", in another "Chief Architect" - but the stuff I do was pretty much the same.

BTW, I'm also 50 and I wrote my first program in 1976.

Re:As a Hiring Manager... Yes (1)

dan of the north (176417) | more than 7 years ago | (#17663186)

"BTW, I work as a contractor. I have worked continously for my current customer for over five years. My contracts are usually for three months, i.e., I am evaluated every quarter - and they haven't thrown me out yet."

iAnal (i Am not a lawyer) - I hate to break it you... but you are by all definitions an EMPLOYEE.

The reason they haven't thrown you out does not matter, but if they ever DO you can probably sue their @55es for 'wrongful dismissal'.

Re:As a Hiring Manager... Yes (1)

OldeTimeGeek (725417) | more than 7 years ago | (#17663964)

Climbing the corporate ladder is not the only way to grow.

Climbing the corporate ladder isn't the only way to grow. Try taking on new tasks that aren't necessarily within your job description - learning some of the business functions that you are supporting, for example - that show your ability to grow and learn. You may not make more money, but you are less likely to be on the short list in a layoff, it looks great on your resume and you don't have to "sell out".

Ditto (1)

giafly (926567) | more than 7 years ago | (#17660996)

Though I'm not as mean as the AC parent. "Growth and Ambition?" Pah!

Age is a factor if most of the candidate's experience is irrelevant.

Re:As a Hiring Manager... Yes (1)

lwriemen (763666) | more than 7 years ago | (#17661776)

Do yourself (and your company) a HUGE favor and buy a copy of Peopleware by Tom DeMarco and Timothy Lister.

Re:As a Hiring Manager... Yes (1)

Rob the Bold (788862) | more than 7 years ago | (#17662432)

I hate to say it, but yes. When reviewing a resume, I look for things like growth & ambition. At 12 years experience, I've seen very good architects. If one wasn't even Senior, I'd wonder why that is. Lack of ability? Lack of desire? Clock puncher?

I guess it's a win-win situation for you, AC, and Mr. Ask Slashdot. You get someone with the word "Senior" on the resume, and he doesn't get stuck in management where he doesn't want to be.

So we're back to the original question, in a fashion: how to find a job where the path to advancement is not exclusively through management? To an HR guy, ambition is, by definition, the desire to become a more powerful manager. So to ask them that question is tantamount to making a big thumb-and-finger "L" on your forehead. I'd like to think that HR guys are becoming more enlightened, but I don't think so. My girlfriend just took an HR course in an MBA program and doesn't look like things are improving there. So if you can't work through them, you'll have to work around them.

Re:As a Hiring Manager... Yes (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17664118)

I agree.

I don't make the final call on hiring decisions yet, but we have a semi-democratic process and I have a lot of influence on who gets hired into my team. I'll tell you right now, I will take a young ambitious programmer any day of the week over someone spending 20 years in the same position.

We have tried a couple of these guys, my group in particular has a soft spot for guys out of Bell Labs, and we have hired a couple of their older programmers over the years. Some are still dynamic, but a little more than half have traits of dinosaurs. They are not too open to change, are not very collaborative (I thought one old bastard was going to bite me after I touched "his" code, which was just a function in a file of our shared project). The concept of "crunch time" exists in all of business, but it doesn't matter if the deadline is next week, they are out the door at 6:00 sharp. The biggest problem though, is that they only do exactly what is asked of them. No innovation comes out of these guys. We work in a very competitive industry (real time financial system), and we really can't afford to have that.

Don't get me wrong, these guys can produce pretty good code, and usually make their deadlines. But they almost never become stars or key players in our team. We pay well above average, and thus "average" programmers just aren't good enough in our team. We don't want guys that don't want to achieve and grow on our team.

Yes. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17659848)

I wouldn't work for someone under 25 years old. Unless they paid me very, very well.

I don't mind working "for" a peer (in age).

I'm 27. I'm hoping my next job (in 1 year) will allow me to be a director (as the experience I am getting at this new job will justify it).

Re:Yes. (1)

MerlynEmrys67 (583469) | more than 7 years ago | (#17660014)

Wow - Title abuse is rampant... A director at 28 (5-6 years of experience?)

Where I work directors are 3rd level managers that tend to report to VPs, or will be one in a few years. Frankly someone with 5-6 years experience is no longer wet behind the ears - but frankly a Engineer. Wait until they have delivered 2-3 systems (not just a point release in a product, but 3-4 releases on a product a couple of times) before you call someone senior.

YMMV

Re:Yes. (1)

ArgoNought (970821) | more than 7 years ago | (#17660192)

Not so much abuse as different usage. In the UK directors are as you describe, pretty senior, report to VPs etc. In the US they give the title away in boxes of Capn Crunch and Cornflakes.

It is time (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17659854)

You've obviously reached that point in your career, and you can't avoid it anymore. You must go into management. This is not as hard nor as painful as some would suggest. There is a useful, illustrated guide [dilbert.com] to becoming a manager. Just follow the example of the hero of the strip. You might even look into finding a hair stylist who can give you that new look (assuming you still have hair at your age). Watch out for engineers with strange ties, and never hire a consultant who looks like a dog. You'll do fine! See you on the golf links.

Unfortunately... (1)

enharmonix (988983) | more than 7 years ago | (#17659856)

I know exactly how you feel and have sort of done the same thing to myself. I guess the thing employers look for is experience plus skills. The longer you work without learning something new, the more archaic your skills become, but you offset that with experience. If you want to make yourself more attractive that noob candidates, you can make yourself competitive with the young bloods by going out and getting certified in more recent technologies. For example, if you've got 12 years' experience developing in C++ on Unix, you probably aren't going to attract anybody looking for ASP .NET in C#. But, you can always go out and get that certification, and I'll tell you something: MSCD + 12 years experience programming C++ in Unix is far more attractive than an MSCD by itself. If you're on equal footing in terms of current skills but have more real world experience, you win.

This is, of course, assuming you already have your degree. If you've got this much experience and are still concerned about your ability to compete with greenhorns with degrees, you may also want to consider finishing your degree. Word of advice, though: don't expect to have a career again until you finish. Quitting your career to go back to school only looks good if you actually finish school! And if you have a degree (e.g., a BS in CS), then go for your MBA and then you will be management material.

Just my advice, there are plenty of other pros here who I'm sure can elaborate on or even contradict my advice, but I guess that's why you're asking. Cheers, and good luck!

Options (5, Interesting)

SupplyMission (1005737) | more than 7 years ago | (#17659868)

I can't speak from experience about your situation, but I think you might have a number of very good options.

  • Make it known that you are interested in being a senior developer. If you want to climb the ladder in your company, you need to make your interests known to the people who can give you promotions. This might mean spending more time with the bosses and some (or lots of) ass kissing. Ask for mentoring. Depending on the culture at your company, you might be surprised to find someone more than happy to take you under their wing. Especially if you are a familiar face, because of the long time you have been employed, people might be glad to see you step up and get promoted. Get out of your cube and explore your options in this area. Make it a point to take a stroll around the building a few times each month, and just say "hi" to people. Don't pass up opportunities to make idle chit chat once in a while with people you barely know.
  • Rebrand yourself. There are plenty of colleges where you can take courses in project management training. Your long experience may confer on you credibility and respect that a younger person does not have yet. The leap to project management will be a significant career change and will take some hard work, but dedication it is not impossible.
  • Take training courses. Regardless of how useful some training courses are, they look good on your resume. If you make it a goal this year to take, for example four or five training courses in something relevant to your specific field, your chances of getting employed will be much higher. People who have been in a field for a long time and actively stay abreast of new developments command respect.

There are probably unlimited more things we could think about. You shouldn't underestimate your 12 years of experience, especially if you are a hard worker, and have a reputation of getting things done.

One last thing, I get the feeling from reading your question that you might have the problem where you keep your head down and work hard, and as a result people forget who you are, and then forget you are even there. The squeaky wheel gets the grease, pardon the cliche. As I pointed out above, it is in your best interest to maintain some level of connection to people around you and above you in your company. The more they see you and talk to you, the more they feel they know you, and the more likely you are to be presented with opportunities for advancement.

Re:Options (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17659904)

Rebrand yourself. There are plenty of colleges where you can take courses in project management training. Your long experience may confer on you credibility and respect that a younger person does not have yet. The leap to project management will be a significant career change and will take some hard work, but dedication it is not impossible.

This is something I really never understand. Why if you are the best programmer and problem solver in the world, your expected career path should bring you to management? What if you prefer to nail down problems and write code, instead of crushing your feelings organizing peoples, scheduling meetings and accounting hours?

Re:Options (3, Insightful)

SupplyMission (1005737) | more than 7 years ago | (#17659998)

This is something I really never understand. Why if you are the best programmer and problem solver in the world, your expected career path should bring you to management? What if you prefer to nail down problems and write code, instead of crushing your feelings organizing peoples, scheduling meetings and accounting hours?

I just presented it as an idea, because the person asked about remaining employable. One way that people progress in their programming careers is to become technical experts, then mentors to the less experienced, and eventually to senior members of the company. I think it is a natural progression. You master one thing, and then move on.

Other people, as you pointed out, are just as happy accruing technical expertise for the length of their career. Nobody says you must go into management one day. But don't be surprised if, after 10 years with a company, you know the products, people and history of the company so well that you are offered to take up a more senior position. At that point, you might find it easier to accept. You won't be that young anymore, you'll love the corner office with the view, and the pay raise and invitations to dinners and golf games after lunch might become all that more appealing. :-)

I think that, in general, people enter their careers at a technical level, and as their understanding of the big picture expands, they naturally progress to positions where they have more influence, formally or informally.

Re:Options (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17660094)

"I think that, in general, people enter their careers at a technical level, and as their understanding of the big picture expands, they naturally progress to positions where they have more influence, formally or informally."

Think about the numbers though - the only way that everyone can have a management position is if there are as many managers as coders (so all the coders can eventually be promoted to the management positions). Death rates and population growth might allow the numbers to be slightly more balanced, but you're still describing a top-heavy world.

Re:Options (2, Insightful)

Aladrin (926209) | more than 7 years ago | (#17661448)

You're assuming that they make it that far in their career. Have you ever heard of the Peter Principle? It basically states that everyone will rise to the level of their incompetence. They'll be promoted as long as they are doing the job well. When they are promoted high enough that they no longer do the job well, they'll stop being promoted. They'll end up in a job that aren't quite competent in.

It's the same deal here. The promotion above 'senior programmer' is 'project leader', which is a halfway-management position. The promotions above that are all management positions.

Competent programmers will be promoted to management, and incompetent ones will remain programmers. (Except for the few who fight to stay programmers, instead of being 'promoted' out of the area they love.)

Options that aren't management (1)

oneiros27 (46144) | more than 7 years ago | (#17661902)

Depending on how large the company is that you work for, there might be plenty of other career opprtunities besides management.

For instance, after I was labeled as a 'programmer', I've since worked as a 'systems analyst' (determining technical requirements from the business requirements), 'systems engineer' (pretty much the same thing, but I also got to size the hardware), 'systems architect' (more broad looking, planning infrastructure), etc.

All of these, for the most part, require talking to people, however, so there are other options -- such as specialization:

I've also been system administrator, database programmer / database administrator, web developer, etc.

What you have to do is decide what you want to do, and how you can get there. Sometimes, you're not going to find those opportunities within the organization, and you have to move on. Sometimes, you can talk to people, and get those opportunities created for you.

This is what we call a... (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17659872)

LOSER!!!

Re:This is what we call a... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17660072)

I agree. He should get a job teaching at community college or something.

Re:This is what we call a... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17660768)

You're right. Those who can't do, teach! :)

25 years and going strong (5, Interesting)

mpechner (637217) | more than 7 years ago | (#17659876)

I've been a software engineer for 25 years. No issues. There is no expectation that you should move to management at some point. The main expectation is that you are able to keep up with technology as it changes. I've moved from COBOL to C to Java to perl to php. I've used more scripting languages than I can remember. You have to keep moving forward. You never stop reading. Provide mentoring to less experienced engineers. Never hide what you know. It is not good being the curmudgeon that keeps his knowledge to himself. You become a teacher. Understand where projects you have participated in have succeeded or failed. Bring that experience to that table. Most of us have seen more product the never made it to market than have made it. Your experience in knowing why projects succeed is something import you bring to the table. Plus you are the senior guy you get more opportunities to take lead on the cool projects. So I would not worry. I am seeing more people with some gray and missing hair. So as long as you produce, people will continue to hire you.

Re:25 years and going strong (1)

Zapotek (1032314) | more than 7 years ago | (#17660252)

And as the other end to that, I think the only thing that's important is skill.
If you get the job done, and done good, you won't have occupation problems.

For the record, this comes from an, in 2 months, 18 year old.
And, surprisingly enough, each and every company I interviewed for wanted to hire me.

Re:25 years and going strong (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17664010)

And as the other end to that, I think the only thing that's important is skill.


And you'd be wrong. There are quite a few folks out there with decent technical skills (although there are probably more with a horrible lack of relevant skills who think they're good), but out of those how many can effectively work as a team member, work with customers (yes, every once in awhile a developer has to talk to the icky customer), and are literate?

Re:25 years and going strong (1)

tcopeland (32225) | more than 7 years ago | (#17661184)

> Most of us have seen more product the never
> made it to market than have made it

Yup. This is where it's handy to write some open source code, some articles, or a book or two on the side. Then you have something you can publicly show after a year of working on a project that gets buried for some budgetary reason.

Re:25 years and going strong (1)

barzok (26681) | more than 7 years ago | (#17663158)

I am seeing more people with some gray and missing hair.
A bit ageist? I'm barely 29, my hair is thinning, my hairline making a hasty retreat (my younger brother is worse off than I though), and what hair I do have is already getting grey. Stress, genetics, and the glow of new parenthood aren't helping me.

Communication is the Key (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17660064)

It's usually those who take ideas and hard work, not always their own, and communicate them that are the ones that get flashy titles and big money. The hard working individuals often don't get the thanks they deserve. I am a college student, and recently I was elected to webmaster for an honorary fraternity. I get no respect from anyone! Whoever held this position before me set a bad example for me to follow. I often get left out of emails, people don't remember what I do, and get bossed around. It feels like I work for these clowns and its just stuff I do in my free time. What I am trying to say is, it feels your issue is less about age and more about image. You feel someone 'aged' would be inexperienced with the new technology. The solution then must be to show that you are able to perform as well as someone younger, or perhaps even better than them with your experience and knowledge.

With any technical skill you can never age yourself out of a job! There are always continual education programs for most careers. You can take a course/seminar/certification/etc here and there to make sure your skills keep inline with modern standards, make you look more appealing for employers and promotions. People skills are a difficult to learn. It's something that develops with practice.

I do believe Ageism, or Age Discrimination, is against the law in most developed countries. For the US, more detail about this is located by googling "Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967." Of course your fears are legitimate. If you are not appreciated where you work at maybe its time to find a change, a change in how you are perceived by others, maybe even discuss it with management. You can always ask "What can I do to become a senior developer?" What can that hurt? If they say you can never move up in your life there, is this really where you want to be? If they give you tips and guidelines to follow, take courses etc follow them.

It is probably just that communication that is missing.

from one anonymous coward to another.

Choice or necessity? (1)

VAY (455170) | more than 7 years ago | (#17660244)

You have not said whether you are not a Senior because you have chosen not to be.

If you have chosen it, make that clear to your management, at interviews, etc. Just say that you enjoy the technical work, but don't want the responsibility of a Senior position. Unlike many careers, that is believeable, because in our field it is not an uncommon choice. As I team leader, I value having a few people who are just going to get the job done, and do it well. You won't be able to call for the big bucks, but I can't see why you shouldn't always be able to eat.

If, however, it isn't a choice, and you want to get on, then tell your line manager so, and ask for help in doing it. It is part of his or her job to help you progress.

Is it Possible to Age Yourself Out of a Job? (3, Funny)

MrYotsuya (27522) | more than 7 years ago | (#17660258)

Sure, it's called retirement. Next!

Re: Is it Possible to Age Yourself Out of a Job? (1)

dyslexicbunny (940925) | more than 7 years ago | (#17662498)

And child acting.

What age do programmers peak? (3, Interesting)

akuzi (583164) | more than 7 years ago | (#17660286)

A related and somewhat provocative question that it hardly every asked is whether programmers 'peak' and are less effective after a certain age or not.

I know it's widely believed that mathematicians have already peak by their late 20s or early 30s.

I am now in my mid-30s, and i believe that my memory and ability to hold a lot of things in my mind at once has deteriorated quite a bit in the last 10-15 years. I have a lot of experience that makes up for it of course, but i think at some point i suspect i'm going to become less productive as a programmer (it may have already happened).

I don't want to contribute to ageism because i know that there are a lot of great programmers in their 40s, 50s and beyond - i just think it's an interesting question. Anyone have any opinions?

(I remember hearing that Steve Wozniak thinks that for him the magic age was around 40)

 

Re:What age do programmers peak? (3, Interesting)

thogard (43403) | more than 7 years ago | (#17661576)

I think as people age, they pick up more complex projects and maybe they get to a point where they get over loaded. To be a good programmer, you must be able to cope with complex problems and as people age, they are involved with more and more projects. Right now I've got a few complex but unrelated work projects, several for my own consulting company. Then there are other complex problems like home and retirement financing, managing home and family projects and hobbies. Even simple stuff like keeping track of all the stuff is getting to be a complex problem. This week I started sorting out the tool boxes. I've got at tools spread out in at least 9 different locations so just keeping track of all that is an extra complexity when doing a simple project. I didn't have that problem a decade ago.

Years ago when I was turning out far more code per day than I now do per month, I could concentrate on one project and the other issues weren't nearly as complicated. For example long term finical security then would mean attempting to get enough cash to cover rent and the bills. Now it involves things like global currency rates and picking stocks that aren't going to repeat the dot bomb nonsense. After my new years purge of my todo list, its now down to just 5 pages.

Re:What age do programmers peak? (1)

Dunx (23729) | more than 7 years ago | (#17662528)

Like so many things, it depends.

I'm in my very late 30s and I am developing better software than ever. What's changed is that I am in a more stimulating environment than I was before, working on stuff I care about.

I've noticed that my abilities have changed over the years. I can't pull all nighters these days, even a 60 hour week is out of the question, but I also find that I don't need to do these things because I'm not making the same mistakes I did when I was in my early 20s.

But if you had asked me this question a few years ago I probably would have agreed, because I was burned out then. That was nothing to do with my abilities as a programmer, just that there were bills to be paid on the all nighters and 60 hour work weeks I had been inflicting on myself.

Do an MBA (2, Insightful)

Marcion (876801) | more than 7 years ago | (#17660328)

People with MBAs are happy to pay people highly with MBAs... if you can't beat them, then join them.

develop yourself (2, Interesting)

morie (227571) | more than 7 years ago | (#17660588)

You say you lack the technical and social skills to get to senior level. Develop either one or both.

Specialise:
Get some focused, advanced specialist trianing in a subect that interests you and is commercially interesting. Invest some money in doing this.

Develop your social skills:
There are courses in social skills, customer handeling, consultancy skills etc. Get a good training and develop what you already have further. You are asking for the opinion of others here, why not expand that communication urge to fields where it can be beneficial to you personally or, even better, professionally.

Get some management skills:
If it interests you in the least, get some business degree, a MBA or some form of management training. It may not be what you want to do now, but it provides an option to be of value to a company later and keep a job.

Bottom line:
Invest in yourself. Don't be scared of investing some money in this, but choose quality and choose education in a direction you feel confident will provide you options. Be cautious of things you like now and think are fun: They may not add extra skills. Also be cautious with things you do actively dislike: it may take a lot of effort to master something like that and you would have te grow to like it if you want to be succesfull in it.

Good luck from a chemical engineer/project manager/sales representative/marketeer/manager. Yes, I chose the diversify option :-)

Yes your fears are legitimate (2, Insightful)

wizrd_nml (661928) | more than 7 years ago | (#17660688)

I'd like to present an opposing view to the posts that have been modded up so far.

I believe that yes your fears are definitely legitimate. You state that you don't see yourself moving up from your current position even though you expect higher pay. Unfortunately these two options are not compatible.

Companies constantly judge the value that they get out of an employee versus how much that employee costs. The reason managers get paid more is that they are able to leverage more people (=value) and therefore create more overall value as a result.

If you haven't already, you will definitely hit a ceiling in terms of pay. If your salary continues to go up past that ceiling (due to company policy or a friendly manager), you will be the first person earmarked to go when the company downsizes (as a result of the previously mentioned value judgment).

I do understand that it might be harder for you to gain the required people skills to move up, especially in an industry that, at the lower ranks, requires very little in terms of people skills. But people skills, just like any other skill, can be learned and acquired by practice.

The good news is this: if you do make an effort to acquire those people skills, you'll be able to move up the ladder much quicker than those younger than you because, as mentioned in another post, the level of maturity you should now possess will definitely play a big role in the more senior roles.

Did you even read the original question? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17662208)

even though you expect higher pay.
Where does he say this? "and they may not be willing to even talk to me now, thinking that my pay requirements have grown while I have not" isn't saying that he wants more pay, it's saying that other people are going to think he does - just like you demonstrated.

the level of maturity you should now possess will definitely play a big role in the more senior roles
Which he says very clearly that he doesn't feel he is qualified for, and doesn't want: "I don't think I am quite a senior developer in terms of technical or people skills." - the bad news for him, is that many management types are just like you, they briefly skim for key words, and make up their own content, regardless of whatever it was that was really written, and thus are likely to react in exactly the way he predicts, by saying "This old guy wants tonnes of money and a management position, but has no skills or experience to justify it", when what he really wants is just "a job" - he's not asking "how do I get more money or promoted", he's asking "how do I keep my job that I like, despite being older than everyone else around me"

Do you work at.. (4, Funny)

Kwiik (655591) | more than 7 years ago | (#17661066)

Hooters?

Disclaimer: I only read the article title. Please mod me down!

As an anonymous old fart (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17661140)

I can authoritatively say it's a lot more difficult in the job market when you're older. Age bias does play a factor but there are other factors as well. One is an industry trend to try to keep costs down by removing any advantage of seniority in skills. And the non supportive attitude of fellow programmers doesn't help when they take the stance that competence is a fact of employment status rather than luck.

Build Accountability (1)

baldass_newbie (136609) | more than 7 years ago | (#17661196)

Everyone here is talking about increasing your knowledge. You have that already.
How can you be more accountable for your organization's success?
Companies are looking for folks who can get things done directly impacting their bottom line.
If you're not doing that, you're just another programmer and if your salary gets too high, well, they can find someone cheaper to write the same crap.

Re:Build Accountability (2, Insightful)

GoofyBoy (44399) | more than 7 years ago | (#17661518)

Unfortunately this is way too true and its something people in IT miss.

When someone looks at a resume IT people think they have to say what skills do they have; "I have language/skill X with Y years of experience."

What is much more impressive is answering the question "What did you do in Y years with language/skill X that helped the company." I don't do this yet, but I believe it gets you from the "maybe" pile to the "lets call him/her in" pile.

Same boat, different set of oars (1)

boyfaceddog (788041) | more than 7 years ago | (#17661606)

I, too, feel the flapping wings of Time passing over me and worry that I will never have the chance to be a manager/supervisor. But, on the other hand, in the past eight years I have seen the number of people in the network I administer double while no one in the IT hierarchy has bothered to add staff to me group, my manager is two states away and feel confident in not comunicating with me for weeks at a time, and I am performing proxy-management of projects while my boss administers the other plants. My co-workers (in other states) are closly supervised and in competition with each other for supervisory positions in yet-another-state. Oh, and my pay had had hefty increases in the past five years based on my performance.

Am I worried that I won't be in management? A little, but not enough to leave my job. Do I think I will be "promoted" at any time? That depends on what you mean by promotion. Me, I think increased money and responsibility is a promotion, just one the Corp. VPs won't notice. It keeps your head from being specially selected for a lopping.

Just a thought.

Perhaps this isn't your line of work.. (1)

sadr (88903) | more than 7 years ago | (#17662310)

In the programming business, the top 10% of the programmers are about 10x as productive as the middle 50%. The middle 50% are 10x as productive as the bottom 10%. Experience plays a big factor in productivity, but if you aren't in the top 50%, 12 years of experience won't make you as good as a person with 2 years of experience who's top 10%.

At some point, if your salary requirements increase much at all, you're priced out of the market.

And if you're at the lower end of the productivity spectrum, it can cost more to manage and support you than you produce.

However, you may just need a more challenging job, and an environment where you can advance. Getting too comfortable happens all too frequently.

The problem isn't your age per se (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17662348)

...thinking that my pay requirements have grown while I have not...

There you have it. The first thing that jumps out at me is that you haven't risen above 'junior developer' skills or responsibility after 12 years of experience, which is a major red flag. This is according to your own self-analysis. Maybe you should invest in job-related classes for self improvement, certification, or a professional consultant who can tell you if you are selling yourself short.

also a concern for other IT positions (1)

hb253 (764272) | more than 7 years ago | (#17662780)

This concern is not limited to programmers, it applies to system administrators as well. I'm 42 and have little desire to get into management, but the pressure to do so is very strong. There are people younger than me who are directors and vice presidents. Some are good and some are total dolts.

I'm a pretty good admin who can implement and manage several types of network systems (servers, switches, firewalls, messaging, etc). I'm probably at a dead end in the corporate world, so working for a consulting company may be the next step.

Age (1)

Spazmania (174582) | more than 7 years ago | (#17662984)

Last I checked, you don't put your age on your resume. You can also trim your work experience list to the last 10 years and skip the dates for the education part -- most interviewers don't find that information relevant anyway.

Once you're actually in the interview, its won't be about your age -- it'll be about your fit for the job. If they want someone with median skills and you have median skills, you'll be fine. If they want someone with expert skills but only median experience (which they often do) then you won't get the job.

Are you sure you're in the right field? If you enjoy the work, then okay. If its just for the paycheck and you're not advancing in skill despite you're experience then you're in the wrong field. A late start in the right field would be better than turning in to a modern equivalent of the mainframe guy.

Reasonable Fears (1)

oldCoder (172195) | more than 7 years ago | (#17663852)

See Design News [designnews.com] .

Also see InfoWorld [infoworld.com] .

And see Tech Republic [com.com] .

Then go read everything written by Norman Matloff.

You *should* age out of a job (1)

plopez (54068) | more than 7 years ago | (#17663862)

As you gain experience you should take on more and different projects, honing you skills to a higher level. If you are doing the same job in the same way you did 5 years ago you are either lazy or stupid.

As you progress you should begin taking lead and then management roles, work on longer term R&D project, train jr. staff member, do less *grunt* work and more high level planning, work on infrastructure etc.

Either that or go back to school. If you aren't growing you are dying.

I'm 63 and programming (5, Interesting)

pauljw (1052906) | more than 7 years ago | (#17663902)

Number one: I love what I do. Number two: My phone rings. I actually turn down offers due to commitments. Started out back in the Middle Ages on mainframes and moved on to AS400's (love those beasts). Since I learned C early on in a Nix system, within a couple of years of when Linus put it out there on the Net, I set up a Linux box at home because I liked Nix so much. Eventually a company I worked for put a Linux box in front of their AS400 where the website was hosted in order to place a 'sacrificial' machine out in front with a lot of scripting on it. Suddenly my Nix skills got to be in demand there. Lately almost all I do is LAMP based web sites and web apps + Linux admin. Somebody here mentioned that you become the guy everybody goes to in order to ask, "How do I..." That happens on a lot for me.

Keep on keepin' on. Get new languages as you need them. Be flexible. Number one, above, probably has an awful lot to do with it.

When I started using the Internet there was almost nothing out there but Nix or Mainframe command lines. If you couldn't handle those you were SOL. I started reading /. very early on when it and the web were new. Still read it almost every day. Good going, Taco.

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