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Is Computer Programming a Good Job for Retirees?

Cliff posted more than 7 years ago | from the never-too-old dept.

Software 147

braindrainbahrain asks: "Ask Slashdot has been rife with career advice lately, so maybe I can get some too. I hit a milestone recently, the big five oh, and the realization of retirement is starting to settle in. The trouble is, I don't want to sit around, play golf, or even travel that much. I work in a technical field, but I have always enjoyed programming. Indeed, I do it as a hobby. I wonder what you readers would think about programming as a post retirement job. It seems well suited for a retiree, one could do contract work for a few months of the year, in some cases work from home even. By way of background, I have worked in hardware engineering for a very long time, and have pursued graduate study almost regularly (two Masters degrees so far). Should I begin preparing for a post-retirement career in computer science?"

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147 comments

That depends (5, Funny)

plover (150551) | more than 7 years ago | (#17874510)

Should I begin preparing for a post-retirement career in computer science?

I don't know, are you willing to relocate to India?

Re:That depends (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17874616)

Parent is right on point.


I've worked on the periphery of coding jobs for years, code OK myself, wish I could do more - as it's what I love.


But our office is currently staffed with H1Bs from South Asia for new programming chores, and I've heard that most of the US Citizen programmers in the company will soon be joining you in sudden retirement.


For me that means that I'm probably doomed to either standing outside the programming window and looking in, or working in a job where I use my best business insight to guide programmers (who are probably working elsewhere - and it's not just India any more - South America is coming online).


Maybe that's a better course for you, too.


As James McMurtry [jamesmcmurtry.com] says: "We can't make it here anymore...".

Re:That depends (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17878424)

Hey, you know what would be even more fun and rewarding? Lobbying! Yeah, lobbying your country's politicians to introduce heavy tariffs on foreign technical workers.

Re:That depends (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17878846)

I REALLY wish people would start to learn the difference between CS and Software Engineering...

Re:That depends (1)

6Yankee (597075) | more than 7 years ago | (#17882220)

That depends

Honestly... Someone asks about retirees and the first reply is a joke about incontinence.

I'm shocked - shocked, I tell you!

You can't teach an old dog new tricks (0, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17874528)

And in dog years, you are 350, which is very very very old.

Overqualified (3, Interesting)

EveryNickIsTaken (1054794) | more than 7 years ago | (#17874540)

"By way of background, I have worked in hardware engineering for a very long time, and have pursued graduate study almost regularly (two Masters degrees so far)."

Good luck getting a response to your resume with that background. Companies will see your credentials, assume they'd have to pay too much since you're "overqualified" and instantly send you a flush letter.

Re:Overqualified (1)

Richard Steiner (1585) | more than 7 years ago | (#17874620)

Most companies don't bother to respond at all these days unless the response is positive. Rejection letters are a thing of the past.

Re:Overqualified (1)

4D6963 (933028) | more than 7 years ago | (#17875616)

Most companies don't bother to respond at all these days unless the response is positive. Rejection letters are a thing of the past.

Funny, because out of all the relatively large companies (most of the time 100+ employees) I have contacted, on the rougly 200 letters I've sent I received maybe 60-70 rejection letters. Much more than I'd ask for.

Re:Overqualified (2, Insightful)

sottitron (923868) | more than 7 years ago | (#17874738)

Might not be the case if he has a cover letter that concisely states your salary requirements and explains that he doesn't really want to retire into a golf, travel, or idle lifestyle.

Re:Overqualified (3, Interesting)

Glonoinha (587375) | more than 7 years ago | (#17874928)

He may be overqualified on paper to work the sort of entry level jobs that would be a good start for him, and under qualified to justify the kind of money a corp might envision him wanting - but if he is 50 and retiring loves to do this as a hobby (and has some serious fiscal reserves, the kind that makes doing it as a hobby viable) - he may be just the kind of man we want teaching our next generation of entry level developers.

Think about it - how many of us started out on machines that booted directly into a shell that had BASIC built right in, let us start 'coding' little mickey mouse programs, and we spent hours and hours copying BASIC programs from magazines into our little 1MHz 6502 based computers with 32k of usable memory (if we were lucky) - but we were making the baby steps necessary to become true programmers. How many of us could bang out a bubble sort in at least one language by the time we were 15? How many 15 year olds do you know now than can do it now?

If the OP wants to make more money, not sure I can help him.
If the OP wants to make a lasting and meaningful contribution - buy (or fish out of the trash) and refurb a dozen computers that are so old they don't even qualify as door-stops (ie TRS-80, C=64, VIC-20, PC-AT class machines in the MHz (not GHz) class with floppy disks and dot matrix printers and CLI tools like DOS 6.22, GWBASIC, the DOS versions of FoxPro, Borland's Turbo Pascal and C++, some terminal emulation software and dial-up modems, maybe even an assembler and the source to some of the really old viruses, and a ton of old magazines with source code in them so the kids can copy-type in the source, see what it does.

To paraphrase a touching scene from '13th Warrior' - a man whose coding skills lives on in an entire next generation of software engineers, this is a wealthy man indeed.

Absolutely! (2, Interesting)

Overzeetop (214511) | more than 7 years ago | (#17874552)

As everyone knows, those of us who are trying to make a living and save for retirement just love to have retired folks enter our field and offer their services at "hobbiest" rates. Yeah, top of our list for things that make our day. You know, keeps us on our toes - makes us more competitive.

There's nothing like having to compete with someone who (a) doesn't have a family to support (b) a mortgage to pay (c) has a pention/retirement income and - this is the one that gets us all warm and fuzzy - is getting paid the same Social Security check that we spend 15% of our paycheck supporting, and will not exist by the time we retire.

I just want to be the first to say - "thanks".

Re:Absolutely! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17874748)

Compared to the 3,000,000 starving Indians who will do the same job for $1/day, I don't think you've got a whole lot to worry about from the submitter.

Re:Absolutely! (1)

Overzeetop (214511) | more than 7 years ago | (#17874810)

Actually, I don't code. In fact, I do something that typically requires local expertise. Still, it happens in a lot of places where there are retirees who think and extra couple thousand bucks might be nice, so they enter the market. And they put someone out of business as a result. But, hey - they manage to fill their time so they weren't bored.

Again - this hasn't happened to me, but I know certain places where this has occured (can you say Florida?).

Re:Absolutely! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17874872)

So? Supply, demand, prices, etc?

Are you saying they have an obligation to be idle so some schmuck who can't compete can get work? Communist much?

On the contrary (1)

Overzeetop (214511) | more than 7 years ago | (#17875086)

I should have completed my thought. This would be a wonderful thing to get involved in on a personal level. Do some OSS stuff, go help the local charity that doesn't have the cash to pay for a support person. Get involved in the community.

But please don't take your pension and my social security and offer services which are priced lower than normal wholesale costs. In the international arena it's called dumping and it's illegal. Remember - this guy is being supported on SS (or will be in a few years - by the time he's worth anything) - so it's not exactly apples to apples.

And I'm not really worried that one guy is going to topple the system. It's more a suggestion to the retired community as a whole - please don't go competing with the working folk for "real" work. Get out, enjoy yourself, channel your efferts into making the community better. Who knows, maybe if the baby boomers tried a little harder to work on their communities, there might not be quite the need for all the taxes we pay to keep those things going on the public dole. (Now I am waxing theoretical!)

Re:On the contrary (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17875288)

Get out, enjoy yourself...

What I think you're missing is that no matter what your job is, if it involves computers and IT, someone, somewhere, will enjoy doing it for free.

That's going to be a "problem" for everybody from musicians to Microsoft employees, as more and more grunt work is automated and more and more individuals are empowered to do whatever they want with their lives. Based on the sentiments in your posts about not wanting to compete with people who don't really need the money or the work, I'd say you are the very model of a modern Don Quixote. You need to change your attitudes at a very fundamental level, or the rest of your life is going to suck hard .

I'm not trolling, or kidding for that matter. Find ways to deliver value that only you can bring.

Talk about Quixotic... (1)

C10H14N2 (640033) | more than 7 years ago | (#17876878)

"I'm not trolling, or kidding for that matter. Find ways to deliver value that only you can bring."

In other words, "I am an unique and beautiful snowflake, you're a replaceable part." Well, hon, short of selling your spunk, there's nothing you can provide that is of truly "unique" value...and what quantifiable uniqueness there is for your, uhm, "genetic material," I highly doubt there is a premium in the market that could replace a salary even if you were able to produce it like water from a fire-hose.

Re:Talk about Quixotic... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17877632)

My point exactly.

Re:On the contrary (1)

jrockway (229604) | more than 7 years ago | (#17879246)

And I'm not really worried that one guy is going to topple the system. It's more a suggestion to the retired community as a whole - please don't go competing with the working folk for "real" work. Get out, enjoy yourself, channel your efferts [sic] into making the community better. Who knows, maybe if the baby boomers tried a little harder to work on their communities, there might not be quite the need for all the taxes we pay to keep those things going on the public dole. (Now I am waxing theoretical!)
Why don't you STFU and do the same?

Re:On the contrary (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17882200)

Maybe because he's at a different stage of his life and has a family to feed, a mortgage to pay, etc...?? But no, you obviously didn't think of that, you just had to spout off an insulting command instead.

Re:On the contrary (2, Interesting)

putaro (235078) | more than 7 years ago | (#17880098)

Supported by Social Security? The maximum monthly payment from Social Security is $2116 [elderlawanswers.com] . I don't know about you, but that's a lot less than I'm making monthly right now. If my investments don't pay off well, I'm going to be coding at 75 just to keep afloat. The whole concept of retirement is going to have to be rethought as we move past the era where the number of younger workers greatly exceeds the number of retirees and as life expectancy after retirement age increases.

Re:On the contrary (1)

crimson30 (172250) | more than 7 years ago | (#17882034)

"Supported by Social Security? The maximum monthly payment from Social Security is $2116. I don't know about you, but that's a lot less than I'm making monthly right now. If my investments don't pay off well, I'm going to be coding at 75 just to keep afloat. The whole concept of retirement is going to have to be rethought as we move past the era where the number of younger workers greatly exceeds the number of retirees and as life expectancy after retirement age increases."

Are you saying that you can't survive off of $2116 a month?

That depends on if you like to wirte TPS reports (1)

Joe The Dragon (967727) | more than 7 years ago | (#17874554)

and sit though meetings all the time read Dilbert for more info about this type of work.

No... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17874558)

its my chosen field of study, i dont want you to go taking up the jobs before i graduate :(

Too soon to say (2, Insightful)

Oswald (235719) | more than 7 years ago | (#17874560)

Ask me again in 20 years. I'm going to retire from my first 25-year career in 2008. After that, I plan to spend a lot of my time programming for fun and (meager) profit. If I never accomplish anything more than contributing to open source software, I'll still have a good time. If I actually make a career of it, so much the better.

Great - more low priced competition (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17874602)

It's bad enough with college kids and qualified immigrants working for peanuts, now we're going to have people who don't need the money at all? (PS - I'm 100% in favour of college kids and immigrants - I think immigrants are exactly what USA and Canada need - just puh-leeese charge a competitive wage and stop fucking this profession over!)

Just great.... (3, Funny)

rice_web (604109) | more than 7 years ago | (#17874608)

Even more competition in the workplace? Oh hell no....

While we're pondering cre-azy ideas, how about we revive that euthanasia debate?

Re:Just great.... (1)

the eric conspiracy (20178) | more than 7 years ago | (#17878252)

Or from the other viewpoint, how about some infanticide.

I wouldn't do it. (4, Insightful)

Bluesman (104513) | more than 7 years ago | (#17874614)

I have a rule.

Anything that you enjoy doing instantly becomes much less fun the moment you are doing it because you are required to, for whatever reason.

If you enjoy programming as a hobby, why not just continue to do it as a hobby? There are plenty of open source projects that would benefit tremendously from having an extra hand, especially one that doesn't have many other commitments. There are so many projects I wish I had time to work on, but other obligations get in that way. The time you have is such a luxury.

Re:I wouldn't do it. (2)

Mattintosh (758112) | more than 7 years ago | (#17874784)

You, sir, are a diplomat. Given the tone of the rest of the posts in this discussion, yours is quite remarkable. You don't just back up the other guys in saying "we'll stay off your lawn if you stay out of our jobs", but you give an actual valid reason for him to do so. Kudos.

Oh, and to the "old" guy, this guy has the right idea. Retirement isn't about travel or golf or lounging around growing mold. It's about doing what you want to do after doing what you had to do. If you want to do some dev work, do it. Don't let the geeks and suits tell you that you can't, won't, or shouldn't.

Interestingly enough, as I type this, the quote at the bottom of the page is "You need more time; and you probably always will."

Re:I wouldn't do it. (1)

Achoi77 (669484) | more than 7 years ago | (#17875060)

In agreement with the poster above, the last thing you want to deal with especially when you are nearing retirement, is to continue on with the stress and drama of the office politics. If you love to code, by all means go all out and start doing it 'full-time.'

That way you can do all the work you loved doing previously, and at the same time you can free your hands of all the nitty gritty /dirty world of business that prevents/slows you from doing the stuff you love in the first place. You can perfect your code and not worry about shipping a half-assed product because of impossible time restraints or other considerations.

Unless of course, you're into that :-)

if it's incentive or motivation that prevents you from getting any 'work' done(because you have all the time in the world to do it, no deadlines, nobody breathing down your neck), then perhaps something else is on your mind, but you're not letting yourself admit it.

Or maybe you're just lazy. (not that there is anything wrong with it!) :-P

once you're retired, you have the opportunity to create whatever you want to create! Do it the way you want to do it!

Re:I wouldn't do it. (1)

Duhavid (677874) | more than 7 years ago | (#17875118)

Anything that you enjoy doing instantly becomes much less fun the moment you are doing it because you are required to, for whatever reason
That was not my experience. I still love
programming, even doing it as a job. *Dont*
tell my boss... :-)

Re:I wouldn't do it. (1)

Aladrin (926209) | more than 7 years ago | (#17877918)

I actually enjoy programming more. I think its because what Im doing has purpose instead of just doing little things here and there.

Its funny, because at one point I resisted taking a job in programming because I thought it would be less fun that way, and I wouldnt want to do it at work and at home, too. I dont do nearly as many personal projects now, but I definitely have more fun.

Re:I wouldn't do it. (1)

Duhavid (677874) | more than 7 years ago | (#17877968)

I have not thought of it that way, but you have hit the nail right on the head.

Been doing it professionally for more than 12 years now, still loving it.

Re:I wouldn't do it. (2, Informative)

wrook (134116) | more than 7 years ago | (#17875842)

I agree with this advice, but maybe I'll put a bit of a spin on it. Writing Free software doesn't *have* to be done as a hobby. You can make good money from it. As an older person (geez, as a 40 year old, 50 doesn't really sound so much older anymore :-P ), you probably have some decent business experience. I would leverage this experience. And if you have some financial security, there's no reason you can't just take some risk and start working for yourself.

Many people are confused about how to start a business around Free software. The very best resource I've found is this short chapter written by Michael Tiemann:

http://www.oreilly.com/catalog/opensources/book/ti emans.html [oreilly.com]

This is from the guy (along with 2 buddies) that turned a $6,000 investment into $600 million of Redhat Stock. Not only that, but he somehow managed to get an executive position there as well. Along the way, they made their fair share of money (by the end of their first year they had sold $725,000 in contracts). IIRC, Cygnus was pulling in about $32 million a quarter when Redhat bought them.

My favorite quote: He's discussing using the GNU manifesto as a business plan. "if everybody thinks it's a great idea, it probably is, and if nobody thinks it will work, I'll have no competition!". As it turns out, I think he was right on both accounts. In fact, I'm still hard pressed to name more than a handful of companies who operate in the way that Cygnus did. So much opportunity wasted...

I wouldn't do it-BOING! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17876224)

"Anything that you enjoy doing instantly becomes much less fun the moment you are doing it because you are required to, for whatever reason."

In other words don't get married.

Re:I wouldn't do it. (1)

plover (150551) | more than 7 years ago | (#17878182)

Anything that you enjoy doing instantly becomes much less fun the moment you are doing it because you are required to, for whatever reason.

Actually, I have had the opposite experience. I advocate doing what you love; if someone is willing to pay you for it, so much the better! I feel really bad for the people who wake up each morning and head off to a job they hate.

I absolutely love my job... (1)

cmeans (81143) | more than 7 years ago | (#17878478)

The way I look at it, the only things I'm paid to do, are the things I don't really like/want to do. The rest of the time I'm doing what I love, and don't have to be paid to do it. Well, you know what i mean.

Re:I wouldn't do it. (1)

dwarfking (95773) | more than 7 years ago | (#17880780)

Another option to consider is offering to do development work for non-profit charity groups. Many of them can benefit from systems, either custom written or created from various open source offerings, but have little in the way of budget. They usually aren't target clients for the group that is telling you to 'stay off their lawn'.

The upside of working with these groups is you're usually working with people who aren't there just to get a paycheck, they believe in the work they do, and that attitude in others can make for a pleasant work experience.

Open Source! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17874628)

I would highly recommend open source. An open source tool that I use regularly has a retired contributor whos input is highly valued, appreciated and eventually incorporated into the product. Compare that to $CORPORATION which will axe you at the first chance. There is no other option.

Indeed I wish I could contribute to my favourite open source projects when I retire.

For a list of open source projects, see: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_open_source_s oftware_packages [wikipedia.org]

I bet there would be a bunch of stuff to make a hardware geek like you giddy!

Best of luck and congratulations!

Where are you? (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17874646)

Depends on which country you are located in.

Hmmm (4, Insightful)

The Living Fractal (162153) | more than 7 years ago | (#17874686)

If you are retiring at 50 you have serious financial security. So I suggest you treat it as a hobbie instead of job. Do it for yourself, not somebody else. Maybe it will turn into something that makes money for you. But if you do it for some company then they own your work. Give yourself more freedom.

Of course, if you manage to find a company that you mesh with and the projects you work on are the same thing you would do by yourself, then by all means, go for it. The team envrionment can be rewarding.

Just try to get out of the cubicle as much as possible. You'll be dead in ten years if you don't. Or close anyway.

TLF

Go for it (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17874690)

If you like problem solving, like to learn new things, enjoy working with computers, then definitely go for it.


You didn't mention if you can survive off your current retirement savings, but if you can that I think there's even more reason to do it. You'll have the flexibility to offer your services to groups that usually can't afford to hire expensive programmers (think non-profit national science organizations, smaller mom and pop shops, etc...) or you can contribute to open source projects.


I think the best part of it, though, is that if you try out a certain technology (say web programming) and hate it, then you can jump to something else. There's nothing forcing you to have one speciality and you can figure out the skills required once you have a solid enough foundation (there is so much information available online and it's usually free).


Only you know if this type of thing fits you. But I will say that if anyone tells you that you're too old, or that your brain isn't flexible enough, pay attention to what they say and the prove them wrong.

Wudup f00l? (0, Troll)

PhurstP0aszt (515790) | more than 7 years ago | (#17874692)

Yo N1GG4 WuDuP f000l????

Re:Wudup f00l? (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17874930)

yo bitch, why's this motherfucker modded down? you a bunch of honky fags or something?

Enjoy your life. (3, Insightful)

tempest69 (572798) | more than 7 years ago | (#17874732)

Ok, first off, programming for someone else is really a test of patience. While programing on its own is a great endeavour, having someone tell you how it should work will be as bad as whatever you're dealing with as an electrical engineer.

That being said, if you love code, then delve into open source, find something that you want to fix and fix it. It will feel great. If you really enjoy programming you can just keep going. If you need to find some spare cash, then you can point to your hobby work that is in the current distro of Centos or Ubuntu. And wind up with a survivable paycheck, or you can marry the feilds you know and wind up with a big ole paycheck. It is relativly hard to find a programmer with masters level domain knowlege in two fields. Ok its not that hard, if flash more than $50/hour

Good luck

Storm

Yes! (0)

turgid (580780) | more than 7 years ago | (#17874750)

I'd say it's an excellent occupation for retirees. After all, anything that fills your time that doesn't involving driving around at 45 miles per hour in your Nissan Micra on the public highway, or taking all lunch-hour to cash your pension at the post office, is surely a benefit to society.

Re:Yes! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17875054)

> driving around at 45 miles per hour in your Nissan Micra

Hey! We're not all like that!

I'm at least in the upper 3-4% of driver speeds on average, and probably the upper fraction of one percent around corners, where those huge lumbering SUVs wallow around so slowly. There's a cloverleaf near my house where I can't ever remember someone keeping up with me, in 8 or 9 years of driving in this area. But then, I have a really good suspension and sticky tires. I'll wump any 25 year old punk ricer around that thing. :)

Retiree != slow driver. Although surely many are.

Re:Yes! (1)

turgid (580780) | more than 7 years ago | (#17875104)

Heh :-) My cynicism gets the better of me. In 18 years, I'll be 50. The rate time goes past now, it'll be the blink of an eye. I don't seem to be making a good job of my life so far.

68.4% of statistics (1)

ishmaelflood (643277) | more than 7 years ago | (#17876582)

are made up.

I think I'll add yours to the list.

Ugh, the hobbyist (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17874834)

Some of the worst code I've seen has been written by old guys who really approach their job as "hobbyists" as opposed to professionals.

If you're willing to start out as a total junior, getting paid next to nothing (because next to nothing will be expected), and you're will to LEARN and do it the way you're ASKED to do it, then sure.

Otherwise, forget it, I wouldn't recommend it.

Computer science!=programming (1)

plopez (54068) | more than 7 years ago | (#17874874)

That's the first point I would make. If you like hardware then a CS AI pursuit might be robotics. You would probaby need a phd to pursue it seriously. If you just want to do some programming I would say find an OSS project, or create one, and do it as a hobby. Do not, however, get caught up in commercial software develoment as that would make your retirement very unpleasent.

Re:Computer science!=programming (1)

Shados (741919) | more than 7 years ago | (#17875098)

Well, the awkward thing is, while for every definition of it, Computer Science is indeed != Programming, in the common vocabularies lately (including in schools!), it is. Its sad, and it annoyes me, but we can't do much about it. A lot of (even prestigious-ish) universities call their Software engineering courses "Computer Science", or have software engineering classes as part of the CS department. (Almost) all companies that are looking to hire programmers fetch computer science graduates, etc. There is a very very clear cut line between computer science and programming/software engineering (and even the later two have quite the difference, though are more related), when it comes to theory and all. In the practical world, aside for the minority who come out of high end schools and are lucky to find a job as a computer scientist (where they most likely wont do -any- programming), virtually all computer science graduates end up programmers.

And its easy to see why: very few schools offers undergraduate software engineering degrees. So if you want to be a programmer with a diploma, computer science is usualy the way to go. Awkward too, since that makes for a lot of CS majors who don't really use what they learned, and a lot of underqualified software engineers.

Re:Computer science!=programming (1)

pyite (140350) | more than 7 years ago | (#17875352)

Awkward too, since that makes for a lot of CS majors who don't really use what they learned, and a lot of underqualified software engineers.

It's so true. I'm an engineering applied sciences major (left MechE after I decided that the MechE curriculum didn't allow me to take as many math classes as I wanted to). I had always maintained and was somewhat pedantic about the programming/computer science difference. After taking a software engineering class in EE/CompE department, I came to understand the even further intricities of development. Software engineering is a cool thing and it's a shame that so many people graduating and becoming programmers have no experience with it whatsoever.

Re:Computer science!=programming (1)

Shados (741919) | more than 7 years ago | (#17875698)

Indeed. The problem stem from the fact that people think (rightly so) that one should be taught generic concepts as to not be died to a certain environment. Which is great, but then they pushed it too far. Its possible to come out of some of the top CS schools (from which Microsoft, Google, IBM, you name it, hire a TON of people for programming jobs) without even knowing what a design pattern is.

Because of that, currently at my job Im quickly becoming the guru of software developement, even though I just have an associate degree and a few years experience, because I specialized myself in it. I work in a very large IT department for a fortune 500. So the concept is totally insane: I'm self taught! But its not that Im good: its everyone thats worse, since they all did pure CS degrees, and the seniors all got promoted to various analyst/project manager positions (but I was semi-recently hired, so that leaves...me).

Re:Computer science!=programming (1)

AlXtreme (223728) | more than 7 years ago | (#17876266)

Interesting thoughts, and I agree with you: software development isn't being taught (well). The problem as I see it is that the mediocre developers get their degrees and leave for a company. Like you did, very few of those actually get to grips with proper software development. Unfortunately, the people ending up teaching software development have even less affinity and experience with software development than your average programmer.

After having completed an AI degree and wrapping up a CS degree with a pinch of software development beside my own consultancy company, all I can say about SD is: those who can't, teach.

Re:Computer science!=programming (1)

Breakfast Pants (323698) | more than 7 years ago | (#17879184)

It is very common for people in IT/programming to believe they are the top shit. I'm not saying you are or you aren't, but I'm just saying is all.

Re:Computer science!=programming (1)

Shados (741919) | more than 7 years ago | (#17881696)

You're absolutely right! God thing I specifically said I wasn't good, else some people might get the wrong idea. Oh, wait...

Re:Computer science!=programming (1)

tverbeek (457094) | more than 7 years ago | (#17876044)

... aside for the minority who come out of high end schools and are lucky to find a job as a computer scientist (where they most likely wont do -any- programming), virtually all computer science graduates end up programmers.
They do? I have a CS degree, and despite spending a lot of time coding in college, I don't do much of it today. Other than hacking a little HTML and PHP, my job is mostly system administration, network maintenance, training, support, and building the occasional system out of spare parts. I'm about as fluent in C as I am in Spanish (which I haven't used since college either). Looking through my CS department's alumni database, I do see a lot of people in programming jobs, but plenty of other positions as well. Not that I'm complaining that my college education was inapplicable (the skill of problem-solving is always applicable), but I'm neither a programmer nor any kind of "real" Computer Scientist (e.g. research, theory, teaching). I'm a CS grad whose jobs have all involved hardware and people more than code. And I'm far from the only one out here.

Re:Computer science!=programming (1)

Shados (741919) | more than 7 years ago | (#17876360)

My apologies, my point was that they didn't end up as computer scientist. I mistakenly dumped all non-"pure CS" jobs in the programming category. Silly me. I had in mind, when I posted, my fiancee's school (she went to CMU), where in the last batch of data they have, something like 80% of the students got hired for software engineer position. Half of the rest was like (going from memory) related jobs, a few like you in admin and whatsnot, then you have 1-2 that do actual CS (My numbers are wrong, because I didnt see it in a while, but you get the idea).

Re:Computer science!=programming (0)

tverbeek (457094) | more than 7 years ago | (#17876640)

Ah. I understand now. But I suspect the same pattern applies to most academic disciplines: you get a minority who go on to further develop that field of knowledge, and the majority go on to actually do something practical. :)

Some keys to success (2, Insightful)

heretic108 (454817) | more than 7 years ago | (#17874898)

Some keys to success:

  1.  
  2. Confine yourself (at least 80%) to work that you actually love. If you commit to doing stuff you don't enjoy, you'll be very prone to burnout.

  3.  
  4. Be independent, find and exploit market niches; your independence can give you an operational agility long lost by larger outfits. If you keep your overheads down, you'll have good margins on all kinds of enjoyable 'nickel and dime' jobs, and be very competitive against larger operators.

  5.  
  6. Always keep your eyes open to gaps in the market

    Re:Some keys to success (1)

    SheeEttin (899897) | more than 7 years ago | (#17875836)

    I think you skipped a a few steps.

    Re:Some keys to success (1)

    chromatic (9471) | more than 7 years ago | (#17876180)

    Maybe #7 is "Don't tell everyone everything you know."

    This association is not correct... (2, Insightful)

    d2_m_viant (811261) | more than 7 years ago | (#17874982)

    Is Computer Programming a Good Job for Retirees?

    Should I begin preparing for a post-retirement career in computer science?
    ...computer science != programming

    ...computer science != programming (0)

    Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17875964)

    At the undergrad level it is.

    And, just what natural laws is compute "science based on?

    Yup, computer science isn't a science: it's really logic and language.

    I suggest unpaid, open source, work (1)

    ClosedSource (238333) | more than 7 years ago | (#17874988)

    If you're over 50 it's tough enough to find a programming job even when you are highly qualified. I don't think very many companies would be interested in hiring you unless they make a practice of hiring retirees for other jobs in the company.

    Ever think about Teaching? (4, Insightful)

    quizteamer (758717) | more than 7 years ago | (#17875002)

    I know you mentioned that you have two Masters. Assuming that they are in a technical field, have you considered teaching? Many community colleges hire part time people who have come out of industry and have the proper degrees. It is tough work, but can be rewarding with a good group of students. I wouldn't suggest High School work (the Certification process is lengthy and it isn't part time work), but teaching programming at a local school could be an alternative to a job in programming.

    Re:Ever think about Teaching? (1)

    Ray Radlein (711289) | more than 7 years ago | (#17875604)

    Let me second this post. Not everyone has the temperament for teaching, of course, but if you do, then small technical colleges and night schools are a terrific environment for part-time teaching. Coming in cold, they would probably want you to teach some kind of "Computer literacy" course (or perhaps some application-specific training course like "MS-Office for Beginners") just to see how you teach, before they turn over a programming class to you; but IMHO it's a great experience.

    Let me answer with... (1, Funny)

    Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17875286)

    A resounding NO! You see, some of us are finishing up school, and about to enter the workplace, and um... yea just don't do it! The following code snippet might explain: //please set the following flags:
    if (this.getAge() 23) {
              this.jobSecurity(true);
              this.jobCompetition(false);
    }

    Re:Let me answer with... (2, Insightful)

    gangien (151940) | more than 7 years ago | (#17875656)

    //please set the following flags:
    if (this.getAge() 23) {
              this.jobSecurity(true);
              this.jobCompetition(false);
    }
    Horrible code.

    • You should explain why you'll be setting stuff not asking someone to set it.
    • Why are you using the this reference?
    • The method names should really be given the "set" prefix.
    • Don't use magic numbers, that "23" should be at least a constant. Maybe even better would be a property (or the equivalent for whatever language you're using.)
    • The context of the current object for age and then job security and competition seem bad, you should consider refactoring your code so perhaps something like getJobMarket().clearCompitetion();
    • I'll give you a pass on the HTML stripping the '<' sign. At least I think that is what you intended, but you're code is very unclear so I'm not positive.

      I know it was a joke.. but...

    Re:Let me answer with... (0)

    Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17876032)

    Jesus. Have you ever seen a real vagina in its native habitat?

    whatever (0)

    Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17875294)

    start: 2012

    start 117 MB update @: 10.17

    cumulative: 678 KB / sec.

    Do you want Full-time vs. Part-Time work? (2, Insightful)

    billstewart (78916) | more than 7 years ago | (#17875320)

    After my father "retired", i.e. told his company he was retiring and wanted to start taking his pension, he worked there as a consultant full-time for a year or two before cutting back to half-time, and it took him a couple of years to _actually_ retire. But he was a research chemist, and research is the kind of thing you can do part-time.


    Professional programming usually isn't part-time work, at least if you're working for a company that's producing a product to sell as opposed to doing in-house projects to support other activities. It's typically feast-or-famine schedule, with the usual deadline crunches. Now that the 90s boom is over, there may be less of the 80-hour-week-deathmarch kind of thing going on, and programmers may be more likely to have lives rather than being 25-year-olds with an infinite tolerance for caffeine, but that still tends to be the environment.


    So if you want to work part-time, you'll need to look a bit longer for a gig than if you want to be full-time. On the other hand, if you want to work occasional full-time gigs, then contract/temp work does fine for that. Or if you want to do sysadmin work, that's often flexible about schedule.

    Mature attitude needed in IT (3, Insightful)

    myowntrueself (607117) | more than 7 years ago | (#17875440)

    The enterprise IT world *needs* people with mature attitudes.

    I'm a sysadmin, not a programmer so this may come across off-topic, but there is a lesson to be learned with respect to mature vs *cough*immature*cough* people in the world of IT.

    Most of the people working in this area at the moment are very young and enthusiastic. Thats not a bad thing in itself; its bad when they start 'playing' with systems on which other peoples livelyhoods depend.

    They are often people who think its ok to introduce fascinating new technologies into the enterprise machine room because they *love* to tinker with shiny new stuff "ooooh Linux iscsi on all our servers! Wheeeee!!!".

    Its bad when you have IT professionals who so love fixing computer problems that they don't mind being woken up by a pager at 3am; for them its a wonderful opportunity to wrestle with a computer problem.

    The mature attitude says that computers should not wake people with a 3am pager call; they should not go wrong in the first place. It says that you should not introduce bleeding-edge technologies into important systems. It says that stability and reliability are very important.

    Same sort of thing applies to coding I guess, but not being a coder, take no notice of me.

    Re:Mature attitude needed in IT (1)

    ErichTheRed (39327) | more than 7 years ago | (#17876264)

    The enterprise IT world *needs* people with mature attitudes.

    I totally agree with everything you mentioned. Our company tends to be very bleeding-edge; the sysadmins I work with want to install every single new technology the day it goes beta. It's encouraged in the name of "innovation", which I agree with. However, people need to learn to build stable systems that don't die unexpectedly in the middle of the night. Ripping out Solaris in favor of Linux? Fine, just make sure it's rock-solid and thoroughly tested.

    Our developers are already hounding me to publish a standard Vista system so they can get coding. I've tried to explain to them that we spent 5 years getting XP to the point where it's stable and we know how things are configured. (Yes, I do desktop work; I like pain.)

    It's impossible to accomplish in IT, but it would be nice if there were a PE license for software engineers. Once a PE in another branch of engineering puts their stamp on a set of plans or a design, they're legally responsible for Bad Things that may happen. That would definitely encourage dilligence.

    Re:Mature attitude needed in IT (2, Insightful)

    myowntrueself (607117) | more than 7 years ago | (#17877354)

    the sysadmins I work with want to install every single new technology the day it goes beta. It's encouraged in the name of "innovation", which I agree with.

    What you have to do when talking with management about such issues, is to liberaly use such words and phrases as "untried", "untested", "unproven", "not ready for the enterprise".

    You have to make sure that the people above you are made totally aware that if they settle on some unproven solution that any downtime or other problems that result will be their responsibility.

    You have to spell this out to them and make sure that you do so in front of other people, not in a private, closed-door meeting.

    Theres nothing that scares the bejeesus out of management quite so much.

    Re:Mature attitude needed in IT (1)

    CptNerd (455084) | more than 7 years ago | (#17878312)

    I just wish the people in charge of hiring understood this. I'm into month 6 after my last contract, and all I get is la-de-da and "we'll contact you when my hiring manager give the okay" and "oh, that project was put on hold" and "well, we can only pay $30/hour for a senior developer (which I would take in a hearbeat now, BTW). The positions I'm seeing claim to want senior people, which would imply may years experience, but they're unwilling to pay more than entry-level or slightly better wages for that experience. Frustrating. I'm seriously looking to try finding a job at Wal-Mart or McDonalds or somewhere, just to pay the rent.

    Programming at 50+ (4, Interesting)

    the eric conspiracy (20178) | more than 7 years ago | (#17875468)

    It is working for me. I started programming after working in chemical R&D for 25 years partly because I felt it was a less demanding career, and one that has more flexibility when I got to retirement. I started programming in early 2000 as a Perl web developer for a small boutique consultancy, learned Java, PHP and a few other things on the job, and for the past year or so have been working as an architect for a mid-sized company. I am 57 years old now. One thing that has been a big factor in my success is simply being able to communicate in English. There are a lot of good programmers out there who for one reason or another can't translate what they do into a coherent sentence. Another thing that has been helpful is a strong educational background - when you are in the job market it really opens a lot of doors even if you are an older person.

    Yes, and use your powers for good (0)

    Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17875562)

    How about this?

    Start contributing to Open Source/Free Software projects that interest you as a way to do good while developing your programming skills. Making minor fixes or enhancements to other people's code is a great way to learn.

    Leverage your hardware engineering background to contribute to open source device drivers for useful devices. When you've mastered that, continue on into the Linux/BSD/whatever kernel(s), where your background will continue to be an advantage. Your maturity would be valuable (and maybe even valued :/ ).

    After a while, you'll have a reputation and an honest-to-goodness portfolio of code you can point to on your resume. If you want, you can leverage that for consulting gigs - just the sort of short-term commitment that's perfect for your situation, I'd say.

    I'm about your age, but not in a position to retire (as in: I'll probably be greeting you at WalMart in 20 years :), but this sounds like a nice way to go, to me at least.

    Good idea, but will others think so? (2, Informative)

    ErichTheRed (39327) | more than 7 years ago | (#17875566)

    Here's the problem with programming and IT jobs in general. The people actually doing the work tend to be young. I'm 31, and I'm already starting to see the shift in opinions of my work as a sysadmin. (You know you're old when people out of school have never seen a command prompt before...)

    I'm guessing this will change as the profession matures. However, today is not a good day for older workers in the tech field. Too many people don't realize the value of life experience. Also, employers don't want to hire older workers because they're afraid they won't be able to keep up with younger peers. Older workers also demand higher salaries, which IT is not willing to pay in most companies.

    I agree that retirement is going to be a lot different for our generation. I really can't see myself on a golf course every day or working as a greeter at Wal-Mart. Hopefully the tide will shift a little. I already see businesses less willing to put up with IT failures caused by "new, cool" systems. Maybe a little standardization and movement towards a "information systems engineering" profession will help.

    Retiree???? (1)

    ChengWah (955139) | more than 7 years ago | (#17875746)

    What do you mean too old? Half your luck if you're thinking about retiring at 50. Some people keep working all their lives. Not that 50 is too old to be a programmer, or at least I hope it isn't, because I'm 50. I now telecommute from a rural/coastal setting, working as a consultant/programmer to a few firms, and make a very decent living. Highly recommended.

    Academia (2, Interesting)

    Improv (2467) | more than 7 years ago | (#17875766)

    I would suggest you take an academic programming job -- it'll probably be more intellectual and better paced for your interests. Academia tends to be better for people who have broad job interests/skills than the private sector, and the retirement benefits will be better as well.

    Games are fun (0)

    Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17875802)

    If you're looking to do something as a hobby, programming small games can be really fun. There is an constant stream of new problems to solve interleaved with lots of tweaking settings to get the feel just right. What I mean is that it is a fun, challenging hobby and ultimately you have something you can take pride in and show off (or not).


    Additionally, given that your background is hardware engineering one idea would be to pick up a PS3 and try developing via the linux distro. Probably, for programmers with a traditional background this would just be an unnecessary pain, but Cell is definitely an interesting hardware architecture if you are a little crazy (eg. hardware guys)

    Good luck with that (4, Insightful)

    stonewolf (234392) | more than 7 years ago | (#17876442)

    I have a masters in CS, 30+ years programming experience, lots of business knowledge. You name it, I pretty much have it. I was laid off on my 49th birthday. That was 5 years ago. I can not buy a paid programming job. The only serious contact I have had in the last 3 years was with a company in India that was desperate for experienced people. Moving to Bangalore is not an option for me right now. The contract market has dried up.

    I work on open source projects. I do some writing. I took the courses and passed the tests so that I can teach in the public schools. I haven't been able to find a job there yet. There are a lot of people like me chasing too few teaching jobs. I do teach part time at the local community college. But, very few people in the US are interested in learning programming right now. I have only had 6 students in the last 3 semesters. I teach and code when I can. I was thinking about going to law school. But I do not have the money and I would have to move which is not an option right now.

    So, all I can say is good luck with that.

    Stonewolf

    Re:Good luck with that (1)

    Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17878692)

    I also had a similar experience. After a major company layoff I tried to find contract gigs since at 45 I wanted a little break; basically a part time job or work half a year and then take a few months off. There were no jobs like that out there. I think that ship sank with the tech bust. Only the typical 60+ hours a week salaried jobs existed, and even those were hard to come by.
    So I do not think you can really be a retiree computer programmer unless you are willing to do charity work for a school or open source project. Anybody willing to pay will want your heart, soul, and massive overtime.

    Excellent idea (4, Funny)

    ishmaelflood (643277) | more than 7 years ago | (#17876678)

    The competition from Sudoku-playing denture-suckers should reduce the wages for this essentially clerical job down to a realistic level. Their maturity will ensure that they need less admin than the whippersnappers, so wages for IT managers should drop as well.

    Sadly, since they will tend to drop dead during a project, the lost art of commenting code will need to be reintroduced. In order to make sure that this gets done each senior citizen/coder will be assigned an unemployed baby-face, who will make cups of tea, issue pills, and remind them not to dribble on the keyboard. Every hour the baby-face will insist that the old codger comments the previous hour's work, and archives it.

    One day the fossil will collapse across the desk, at which point the baby-face will push the body to one side, and take over the programming job. She, in her turn will be assigned a baby-face.

    Re:Excellent idea (1)

    mikael (484) | more than 7 years ago | (#17877220)

    Sadly, since they will tend to drop dead during a project, the lost art of commenting code will need to be reintroduced. In order to make sure that this gets done each senior citizen/coder will be assigned an unemployed baby-face, who will make cups of tea, issue pills, and remind them not to dribble on the keyboard. Every hour the baby-face will insist that the old codger comments the previous hour's work, and archives it.

    I thought that was called "Extreme Programming"?

    How can you retire and still work? (1)

    Larry Lightbulb (781175) | more than 7 years ago | (#17876916)

    Perhaps it's an American language thing, but I've never understood how someone can be retired and still have a job - to me retirement means stopping work and getting a pension, if you start working again then you're no longer retired.

    Re:How can you retire and still work? (0)

    Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17877222)

    I think it means that while you still work you are no longer dependent on your job. My grandfather was retired but still worked at my dad's store a couple days a week, probably to spend some more time with him while helping him out.

    Re:How can you retire and still work? (1)

    mikael (484) | more than 7 years ago | (#17877266)

    Many companies have (or had) final pension schemes where the monthly payment was based on an average of the salary of the last few years wrorked.
    Usuallly, the pension scheme had a minimum number of years service (and in come cases a compulsory retirement age). Once a person retired, they are
    free to do what they like with the money. Many people would find second incomes through hobbies like antuque dealing - go through the second hand
    stores looking for items of value to be traded on Ebay.

    Take into account health and personality (0)

    Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17877138)

    Yes, more experienced workers need less training. But, they are also less likely to be willing to learn new styles. I've worked with quite the random group of people for a while, I've seen and worked with all types. Yes, you sometimes have to fight to get a young technician to learn something new. But, even after fighting and convincing an experienced person they need to do something differently, they often will not. Are you willing to listen to criticism? Do you have a lot of baggage? I don't care if you are young or old, if you can't deal with a job you should gracefully exit.

    Also, health is very important to intellectually demanding jobs. I've seen people become diabetic and become worthless in technical jobs, even if they are taking care of themselves. If your mental capabilities are random because of sugar high/lows, you will struggle to do any long tasks. And, what about your vision? I've seen very capable technical people who stuggle at a job, after they go far sighted. It get's hard to keep track of windows and read code, if you can only focus on one small part of the screen at a time. It's incredibly frustrating to deal with someone to can't read the computer screen or follow what is in front of them. What about carpal tunnel?

    In the end, any career change means a serious period of self introspection. Are you really capable of change? Of accepting styles which may run counter to your own? Are you up to the task, health and personality wise? This is true of young and old, and you only know yourself. I'm sure everyone here as been burned by both unhealthy or stodgy young or old co-workers. In the end, it is best to talk to your friends. You are more likely to get a job, and get real feedback, if you have a decent group of friends and contacts.

    Good luck.

    It won't be easy (1)

    Simon Brooke (45012) | more than 7 years ago | (#17877472)

    I'm 51 now, I've been programming for twenty-two years. I expect to keep programming till the day I drop, because I don't have a pension (my own choice). But the industry thinks it wants young people, and doesn't value experience. And it particularly won't value experience which you have gathered as a hobbyist. Having said that I don't think it's impossible. Experience genuinely is valuable.

    alternative (1)

    treak007 (985345) | more than 7 years ago | (#17877494)

    You could always devote your time to programming open source software. Maybe get involved with sourceforge, or helping with bug patches, rather then programming for a company.

    NO!!! (0)

    Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17878684)

    Retire for chrissakes! Jesus! You people are already bankrupting Social Security, now young programmers can't find a freaking job because of you old codgers...

    I hear WalMart is looking for greeters...

    Go for it.... (2, Informative)

    humblecoder (472099) | more than 7 years ago | (#17879040)

    It's not clear whether or not the original poster will be needing to work for the money, or whether the income will be just a nice retirement bonus.

    If you don't need the extra income, then there are no shortage of outlets where you can "scratch" your programming "itch". Contribute to an open-source project (or start your own), write some useful piece of shareware, write some business applications for your local non-profit organization, teach programming at a community school, etc. None of these avenues will provide much income (if any), but it does allow you to take your hobby to the next level.

    If you are looking to actually make money out of your hobby in retirement, my advice would be to leverage your pre-retirement vocation. There is a branch of software development known as "embedded programming", which is writing software for special-purpose hardware devices. As a hardware engineer, you probably have a lot of knowledge that would be very attractive to a potential employer. Also, you probably have contacts from your hardware days who might be able to help you land a job in this area.

    TEACH (3, Interesting)

    Dukebytes (525932) | more than 7 years ago | (#17879652)

    I am 40 years old. Been working my butt off for 23 of them... When I hit 50+/- I plan on going to a nice little community college and teaching for "retirement".

    Like me, you sound like you won't be happy at all not working. I really can't think of myself as being out of a job, not even when I am 60+. So I plan on teaching.

    You have the required education, and just so much more real world knowledge than 80% of the instructors out there today. PASS IT ON. I have taught part time in the past on and off for 5/6 years. It is a lot of fun, it keeps you sharp and the students love you because, you are for real and not just from a book.

    If you code after you retire, it will get to be another full time job and who wants to deal with dead lines, time lines, requirements, and boneheads that don't know what they are talking about etc... Doesn't sound like retirement to me... If you go the teaching route, maybe a few bad ass kids in the bunch here and there, but everything else is set up, its not that hard and can be a blast.

    You won't make a lot of money, but pick a good open source project and code for it as a hobby, and go teach to make a little cash and really feel good about helping all the young geeks out there ;)

    duke

    Do what you love... (1)

    amagine (1059676) | more than 7 years ago | (#17879778)


    If you have a passion, follow it. You will find others with your passion, and with their help find a way to continue with your passion. It does not hurt to just show up someplace that has an interest for you, offer them your services, probably as 'part-time' since you are retired you are very flexible with pay and hours.

    As an employer, I do prized a good skill set, although, I must say skill set is nothing if a person has no passion to work.

    Ha! I used to drop off resumés at various biz's untill I found a place with an 'atmosphere' that I liked. I would then get the phone number of the person who's job it was to hire, and make it a point to phone them back asking, "What time do I start work tomorrow?"

    As a retiree the ball is in your court, you have the upperhand, because you have something employers want. Passion. Just remember that.

    Sure. For example, (1)

    CptPicard (680154) | more than 7 years ago | (#17882162)

    In Korea, computer programming is for old people!
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