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Programming Software Businesses Technology

Software Engineering Is a Dead-End Career, Says Bloomberg 738

Posted by Soulskill
from the commiserate-with-middle-age-actresses dept.
An anonymous reader sends this quote from an opinion piece at Bloomberg: "Many programmers find that their employability starts to decline at about age 35. Employers dismiss them as either lacking in up-to-date technical skills — such as the latest programming-language fad — or 'not suitable for entry level.' In other words, either underqualified or overqualified. That doesn’t leave much, does it? Statistics show that most software developers are out of the field by age 40. Employers have admitted this in unguarded moments. Craig Barrett, a former chief executive officer of Intel Corp., famously remarked that 'the half-life of an engineer, software or hardware, is only a few years,' while Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook has blurted out that young programmers are superior."
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Software Engineering Is a Dead-End Career, Says Bloomberg

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  • Nothing new? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by marcovje (205102) on Monday April 23, 2012 @03:01PM (#39775119)

    I did a Masters Chemical Engineer (didn't finish), and a bachelor in CS. In both older students and alumni warned that you should get out of tech jobs and move into management within 10 years after graduation.

    The first time I heard that must have been in the 1992-1994 timeframe

    • Re:Nothing new? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Pope (17780) on Monday April 23, 2012 @03:11PM (#39775253)

      Cool, so everyone should be a manager? Then what happens when the true fat is cut in an organization and all the middle managers are laid off?

      • Re:Nothing new? (Score:5, Insightful)

        by marcovje (205102) on Monday April 23, 2012 @03:14PM (#39775277)

        No, just the ones that want to keep a steady progression in wages.

        • Re:Nothing new? (Score:4, Insightful)

          by ArsonSmith (13997) on Monday April 23, 2012 @05:27PM (#39776747) Journal

          Exactly, if you want to increase your income but continue to be a programmer then look elsewhere. You already make a decent amount of money as a programmer use it to invest in some other things like rental properties or stocks. It's a little after hours effort but it will increase your pay without having to move down into management.

      • Re:Nothing new? (Score:5, Insightful)

        by statusbar (314703) <jeffk@statusbar.com> on Monday April 23, 2012 @04:04PM (#39775851) Homepage Journal

        An old man once told me that age and treachery will always trump youth and skill...

    • Re:Nothing new? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by mickwd (196449) on Monday April 23, 2012 @03:12PM (#39775255)

      Strange, isn't it?

      If it was surgery, you'd probably pick the surgeon with 20 years experience over the one with a couple of years experience to operate on you.

      If is was a builder you were employing, you'd probably prefer the one with 20 years experience over the younger one to build your house.

      And whatever Zuckerberg says can probably be ignored, because you just know he's the type that, when he's getting on a bit, will be saying that age and experience are what counts.

      • Mod parent up! (Score:5, Insightful)

        by khasim (1285) <brandioch.conner@gmail.com> on Monday April 23, 2012 @03:23PM (#39775391)

        This is going to sound "ageist" but ... the only advantage young programmers have is that they're willing to work 20 hour days and 7 day weeks for months at a time. And do it for less money.

        http://norvig.com/21-days.html [norvig.com]

        So you need about 10,000 hours of working in a field to become an "expert". If you believe that article (and I do). And someone who is an "expert" has, hopefully, seen enough mistakes and errors over those 10,000 hours to be able to head them off when they show up again.

        That's what you're paying for when you hire the experienced programmers. The knowledge of what errors people usually make and why they make them.

        So you get code with fewer errors and fewer re-writes to take out the errors that never got in in the first place.

        • by marcovje (205102)

          That's the problem in the corporate world. But not every company is a big IT centric corporation

          But wages progression also in mid and small companies wages progression for technical (not just IT) staff stalls.

          Media have been raving on about the tech/beta deficits for two decades now, but the reality is that a business trainee still gets a starter wages above a tech graduate (whose masters are considered "heavier")

          • Re:Mod parent up! (Score:5, Interesting)

            by cayenne8 (626475) on Monday April 23, 2012 @03:49PM (#39775701) Homepage Journal

            But wages progression also in mid and small companies wages progression for technical (not just IT) staff stalls.

            That's why you work long enough to get experience, and skills (and hopefully contacts and some people skills along the way)....incorporate yourself, and go contracting.

            In that field, experience is EVERYTHING...and you can make a very healthy bill rate.

            It is amazing really...how often, how companies will grind their W2's (young ones) into the ground, for nothing, willingly lose them, but pay a major premium for a contractor to come in and do the same thing or fix things, etc.

            It isn't just IT, work has changed. The days of getting a long term job for life, especially at ONE company are long, long, long gone.

            You have to be adaptable, willing to risk, willing to move/travel to where the jobs are.

            There are plenty of jobs out there paying plenty of money if you are good. You just have to be willing to do what it takes to get to them and have them.

            People skills and connections will get you a LONG way....if you can back those up with extreme tech skills, you will go even further. It isn't too bad when you can work your bill rate up high enough to work 6-8mos a year, and be able to easily afford to take the rest of the year off....it can be done,and they're plenty of IT folks out there doing it.

            You just have to drop out of that old mindset of what a job is...

        • Re:Mod parent up! (Score:4, Insightful)

          by pelirojatica (533396) on Monday April 23, 2012 @03:34PM (#39775517)

          "And do it for less money."

          I think you've hit the nail on the head. It seems that "increasing shareholder value" has eclipsed every other goal in modern business, including quality and long-term thinking.

          • Re:Mod parent up! (Score:5, Insightful)

            by autocannon (2494106) on Monday April 23, 2012 @04:26PM (#39776139)

            This. The pursuit of ever growing profits has got to be curbed. They can't be increased indefinitely, but those fucking MBA grads know all and want their bonuses, so they do everything and anything. Despite record profits at my company, they have cut the pension, cut the vacation caps, reduced medical coverage, increased medical premiums. And then blamed it on being competitive. All the while touting the company's "excellent" benefit package. They had profits (not revenue, profit) in the BILLIONs of dollars this year, and turned around and on top of all the benefit cuts they also gave no raises to many people.

            They do this to increase profit, but it's also a way of giving a big fat middle finger to anyone worth a damn. Ultimately, IMO they have just cut all the reasons for anyone to remain at the company. In this way, the most expensive move on, and if any are replaced they're done so with cheap new talent.

            But hey, it's more important to get that stock price an extra 1 cent higher so the corporate managers can earn that extra million dollar bonus.

            That's my rant, but watching senior CS people leaving this company, and my last company, has been very disappointing. Some left for better opportunities, most left due to threats of furlough or layoff. Guess billion dollar profits isn't enough to keep people though...

        • Re:Mod parent up! (Score:5, Insightful)

          by Altus (1034) on Monday April 23, 2012 @03:36PM (#39775553) Homepage

          yea, and working those hours only exacerbates their lack of experience with stupid mistakes as they slowly burn out.

          Thanks, but I'll take a well rested experience programmer at 8-9 hours a day over some kid working 20 hours days and fucking up for 18 of them.

        • re: ageist (Score:5, Insightful)

          by spatley (191233) <spatley@yahoo.com> on Monday April 23, 2012 @03:48PM (#39775685) Homepage
          If they want a newbie that knows a lot of abstract book-learnin and bangs his head against the wall for a week on a problem that I can solve in 10 minutes let them continue the illusion that they are saving money.
          I will be over here doing great work, advocating the high value practices of the industry, and getting higher and higher salaries from smart employers.
          For that matter, forget even thinking about those longer hours and just pay your coders by the line. That will get you ahead.
        • by msobkow (48369) on Monday April 23, 2012 @04:02PM (#39775831) Homepage Journal

          Personally I believe the bigger issue is the pressure offshoring has put on the market.

          The jobs that used to be handled by junior programmers are now offloaded to offshore service providers. So the junior programmers, who just happen to have played with the latest toys and tools while we were busy writing useful code with the previous generation of tools, are readily available at a cut throat price.

          So the work that used to be handled by the intermediate programmers now gets passed off to the new grads who used to be the juniors. In the meantime, the intermediate programmers are now ready and willing to undercut the senior programmers for their former job of designing systems and collecting requirements. Sure they don't have the experience of the senior programmers, but they're cheaper, so they get the job.

          Which leaves the senior programmers on the short end of the stick. Thanks not only to the pressure of offshoring but the increased use of effective template-based designs, tooling, and frameworks that put to shame older tools like CORBA, and suddenly the only experience the senior programmer has that's actually relevant is their business experience.

          Their degree is out of date. Their tools are matured with a wide range of skillsets available for reasonable or cheap prices.

          But one thing experience teaches you that nothing else can is an intuitive grasp of how the frameworks and tools function and what they are probably doing inside all that obfuscated and hidden code. Because we used to have to write the code the frameworks implement by hand.

          Unfortunately, despite the speed with which senior developers can debug problems thanks to their intuitive grasp of "the machine", there just aren't enough "tough" debugging problems to justify keeping them around in anything but the largest of teams and companies.

          Still, senior developers can find work. If they're willing to retool, retrain, move, and take a pay cut that may well mean they're making less in real, spendable dollars than they did twenty years ago. And if they're real, real lucky.

        • by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 23, 2012 @04:20PM (#39776063)

          [[That's what you're paying for when you hire the experienced programmers. The knowledge of what errors people usually make and why they make them.]]

          Younger programmers don't create errors. Just ask them.

        • Re:Mod parent up! (Score:5, Insightful)

          by Sebastopol (189276) on Monday April 23, 2012 @04:41PM (#39776291) Homepage

          Careful there: it is 10,000 of TRAINING. This was originally used in the context of olympic preparation, not programming.

          I could sit at home and write code all by myself for 10,000 and still write craptastic useless code.

          If the code isn't judged, reviewed, critiqued by someone with far more experience (e.g., a trainer or mentor) who provides metrics of improvement and a training plan to actually get better, then the 10,000 hours spent is utterly meaningless.

      • Re:Nothing new? (Score:5, Insightful)

        by kmoorman (873896) on Monday April 23, 2012 @03:45PM (#39775647)

        "And whatever Zuckerberg says can probably be ignored ..."

        You could have stopped right there.

      • by TiggertheMad (556308) on Monday April 23, 2012 @03:47PM (#39775669) Homepage Journal
        And whatever Zuckerberg says can probably be ignored, because you just know he's the type that, when he's getting on a bit, will be saying that age and experience are what counts.

        Zuckerberg runs a big company. He might have spent a few years coding, but he isn't a programmer anymore. I doubt that he put in enough time and sweat behind a compiler to be anything more than a clever amateur, so his opinion on the topic counts for zero. So basically, you have a college kid's level of experience in computer science making sweeping statements about who is and isn't a skilled expert in the field.

        Once he is an expert in the field of software engineering, I will listen to what he has to say on the topic. Looking at the quality of his software, it is pretty obvious what dismissing experience gets you.
        • by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 23, 2012 @04:01PM (#39775819)

          Nope. Facebook is doing the exact same thing as every other large tech company: Microsoft, Google, Oracle, etc. (Facebook also has a lot of silicon valley vets, Zuckerberg isn't just making this stuff up as he goes.)

          The idea is that you hire "raw material" (CS grads) who really don't know any engineering. Then you train them in the Company Way. Because they don't know any better, they're now bound to the company's internal processes and it makes it that much harder for them to jump-ship or work on someone else's ecosystem. They also don't get uppity and say "Let's write this in Java" or "Oracle DB does this, why are we recreating it?"

          Facebook uses PHP as their internal language and the majority of CS-wonk new hires have never even used it. This is 100% by-design.

          • by TiggertheMad (556308) on Monday April 23, 2012 @04:43PM (#39776319) Homepage Journal
            Facebook uses PHP as their internal language and the majority of CS-wonk new hires have never even used it. This is 100% by-design.

            Facebook uses PHP because it is open source, and as a result much cheaper than ASP.NET or some other proprietary tool. They started out as a small company with little capital for expensive software licenses, and when they started growing, there is even less incentive to rewrite everything in some other language.
          • by Colonel Korn (1258968) on Monday April 23, 2012 @05:01PM (#39776515)

            Nope. Facebook is doing the exact same thing as every other large tech company: Microsoft, Google, Oracle, etc. (Facebook also has a lot of silicon valley vets, Zuckerberg isn't just making this stuff up as he goes.)

            The idea is that you hire "raw material" (CS grads) who really don't know any engineering. Then you train them in the Company Way. Because they don't know any better, they're now bound to the company's internal processes and it makes it that much harder for them to jump-ship or work on someone else's ecosystem. They also don't get uppity and say "Let's write this in Java" or "Oracle DB does this, why are we recreating it?"

            Facebook uses PHP as their internal language and the majority of CS-wonk new hires have never even used it. This is 100% by-design.

            And Facebook, which is based around a successful idea and very simple code, has been plagued by poor programming since it went live.

      • Re:Nothing new? (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 23, 2012 @03:50PM (#39775713)

        It's actually quite simple, think about the only other major activity in which a total lack of experience is considered a plus...

        Virgins.

        And for the exact same reason, because they are too inexperienced to know how badly you are fucking them.

      • Re:Nothing new? (Score:5, Interesting)

        by DaveGod (703167) on Monday April 23, 2012 @04:42PM (#39776297)

        Strange, isn't it?

        If it was surgery, you'd probably pick the surgeon with 20 years experience over the one with a couple of years experience to operate on you.

        If is was a builder you were employing, you'd probably prefer the one with 20 years experience over the younger one to build your house.

        And whatever Zuckerberg says can probably be ignored, because you just know he's the type that, when he's getting on a bit, will be saying that age and experience are what counts.

        In both those examples a person with 20 years experience typically has a managerial role. The builder would be at least a foreman. A surgeon with 20 years experience would be a consultant, probably spending a fraction of his time in theatre and even there doing the trickiest bit and supervising his staff on the rest. His cost gets spread over his staff. To the project, it's worth paying a person twice as much if he can uplift the value of work done by a team of 10 by 20%.

        Additionally, in both those examples the cost of the individual is relatively small compared to the value of the project. Construction might be 1/3 land cost, 1/3 materials and 1/3 labour. Increasing even the total labour costs by 30% only increases the total project cost by 10%. With software, the labour cost must be what, >80%? With the surgeon example, his cost is pretty small relative to the value of his work as far as the customer is concerned and competition is very limited.

      • Re:Nothing new? (Score:4, Interesting)

        by DerekLyons (302214) <(fairwater) (at) (gmail.com)> on Monday April 23, 2012 @04:43PM (#39776317) Homepage

        If it was surgery, you'd probably pick the surgeon with 20 years experience over the one with a couple of years experience to operate on you.

        If is was a builder you were employing, you'd probably prefer the one with 20 years experience over the younger one to build your house.

        The interesting this is, though you meant to imply the opposite, you actually show why I wouldn't hire a programmer with twenty years experience.
         
        A doctor has ten years of school, and ten years of field experience, and leads a team of professionals. Your builder (unlike the doctor) doesn't do the hands on work anymore; but what I'm hiring is the crew he leads, and the network of subcontractors he's built up, and his contacts down at the local builder's supply... While someone who is still just a programmer after twenty years is someone stuck in a rut doing grunt work. If I hire someone who wants his wages based on his years of experience, I'm going to hire someone who brings something worth those wages to the table. I'm going to hire a supervisor or a manger - not a grunt. Grunts are a dime a dozen.

    • Re:Nothing new? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Hatta (162192) on Monday April 23, 2012 @03:52PM (#39775731) Journal

      That's how it works in our society. There are exploiters and the exploited. If you are doing real work, you're not exploiting people. Therefore you are being exploited. IOW, it's a dead end career. If you want to have a good career, start exploiting people as soon as possible.

      The best and the brightest have always been taken advantage of by the ruthless.

    • by Darinbob (1142669)

      This is ridiculous. Management is not a huge field to get into either. Management is supposed to be a small subset of the workforce. What do you do with everyone who doesn't get a job in management then? If you've got 1 manager per 10 workers, yet the number of engineers at age 50 is not ten times less than those at 25, what do you do?

      Of course, I'm lucky in the sense that I am in an area where people want experience, as opposed to modern web/app/phone based scripting fluff or IT help desk support. And

  • by i_ate_god (899684) on Monday April 23, 2012 @03:01PM (#39775123) Homepage

    It's not like we make as much money as atheletes, so where do programmers go when they are 40?

    • by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 23, 2012 @03:05PM (#39775177)

      Our own bloody fault, should have gone into football instead of engineering. Common good and all that.

    • by EricWright (16803) on Monday April 23, 2012 @03:05PM (#39775181) Journal

      You ever hear of Logan's Run? It was wrong ... by 19 years. Sad to say, I've only got a few more months to go.

    • by DrEldarion (114072) on Monday April 23, 2012 @03:26PM (#39775423)

      Depends.

      Have you been keeping up with new technologies and languages? Are you as proficient in them as the new grads who studied them in school and have two high-selling smartphone apps? Then you'll do fine.

      Are you still insistent that the best way to do anything is in C? Are you completely crippled by the thought of doing anything over the internet? Then you're screwed, and probably deservedly so.

      This article only somewhat reflects reality. There's a huge amount of respect and jobs for people who have been in the field for a long time, but ONLY if they're also current in their knowledge. This is a field you just can't stagnate in.

      • by aztracker1 (702135) on Monday April 23, 2012 @03:36PM (#39775557) Homepage
        I have to agree... While I'm not 40, yet, I'm getting closer (37), and I haven't had much trouble finding work at all since the .com bust around '01. I've done a lot of programming work and have kept up with the trends... though it's impossible to have an in-depth knowledge in everything, awareness is very useful in decision making. Beyond this, I have dabbled in the more trending languages (Python, Ruby) and one of my favorites is the language of the day (JavaScript). You have to spend a fair amount of time reading/learning/tinkering. That's the only way you can stay marketable in this field... You can't rely only on everything you knew 10 years ago to get by today.
      • by Guppy06 (410832)

        "Finding the right tool for the job" doesn't seem to fit into either of your categories.

    • by gstoddart (321705) on Monday April 23, 2012 @04:03PM (#39775833) Homepage

      It's not like we make as much money as atheletes, so where do programmers go when they are 40?

      Consulting or professional services. No, really.

      As much as product-oriented software houses may prefer to have younger programmers for whatever reason, people who have been in the industry for a while have a lot of breadth and depth in terms of domain expertise and the like.

      In terms of actually helping to implement the things in the real world, companies tend to find themselves needing a broader context for these things. With the added benefit you can roll up your sleeves and write code as needed.

      Sometimes a developer only sees things from a given perspective, which doesn't always translate into the ability to help businesses actually do things. Not all developers have yet learned how to interact with non-technical people.

      Having 'graduated' from a software development company several years ago, there's a market for people with a good general grounding in computers who also have some domain expertise in one or more areas.

      The 'grown up' skills like being able to conduct yourself nicely in meetings, work with actual end users and not be a condescending prat, and be able to see the big picture of why someone is doing something are quite marketable.

      There is life after code. It can be quite rewarding. That good, solid technical grounding is still a valuable skill as long as you have some of the soft skills to back it up.

  • Sound like that's because you should be able to graduate to a higher level software develpment role by then.
  • by clonehappy (655530) on Monday April 23, 2012 @03:04PM (#39775163)
    So, by the time you really know what you're doing, you cost too much and don't "think outside the box" anymore (read: write sloppy ^W innovative code), so they can you.

    Really explains a lot about Facebook as well, actually!

    • by marcovje (205102)

      But if you avoid such thinking at all cost, and you are the American and European industries in the face of Japanese competition in the eighties, that kept banging on about their quality, while the Japanese sold their cheap products by the million. That's the way of the dinosaur.

      The balance is somewhere inbetween. Progress, but in a sustainable way.

    • by Tridus (79566)

      Beat me to it. This attitude explains quite a lot. Everything from why the industry wants to keep reinventing the wheel to how the same mistakes keep getting made over and over again.

      The people who know better are "too old". They're also too likely to tell management that management was just sold a bill of goods by a vendor, and managers who think they have a fucking clue what they're talking about certainly can't have that.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 23, 2012 @03:05PM (#39775179)

    Unless you are one of the recognized leaders of your field, you become "obsolete" to your employer after about 15 years even if your skills are not. Why keep a stubborn old programmer on board, when you can replace them with a younger less stubborn programmer at lower pay.

    It's important to have an alternative career path. For example, I went to college for Computer Science, but have always been interested in computer security.

    I took the computer programming skills I learned and put them to use in the computer security field instead.

    I don't write code anymore, and I'm ok with that. Instead, I figure out what security issues others created in their code, without even having the source code in front of me.

    Unfortunately, at least when I went to college, they never taught secure coding techniques. I had to learn all about that on my own.

  • Not bloody likely (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Grelfer (2580321) on Monday April 23, 2012 @03:05PM (#39775189)

    Got my first software-development gig at 25. Been doing it full-time since then, and now I'm 58. Still going strong.

    What are those Bloomberg assholes smoking?

    • Re:Not bloody likely (Score:5, Interesting)

      by RetiredMidn (441788) on Monday April 23, 2012 @03:27PM (#39775441) Homepage

      Agreed.

      I started software development at 22 and I'm turning 58 next month; I've spent a grand total of about 12 months out of work due to layoffs. I haven't been back to school since I got my master's in CS in '87; everything I've learned since has been on the job or on my own time. It's not that hard.

      Frankly, it is more difficult to land a new position when competing with younger workers who are freshly trained in current technologies, and who don't have family obligations eroding their work days, but I still bring something to the table, most especially experience that helps prevent making old mistakes new again. At least twice in the last few years, my past experience with assembly helped me resolve issues that had my co-workers scratching their heads even after I explained it to them.

      Current expertise: Objective-C (OS X and iOS), C++, and picking up Qt and Ruby. Java is getting a little rusty now. My skills and the language. ;-)

      It does help that I love what I do.

    • by Guppy06 (410832)

      As always on Slashdot, +5 anecdotes trump data.

  • by zlives (2009072) on Monday April 23, 2012 @03:05PM (#39775193)

    you could say that about any professional career... I am sure doctors are pretty dead end too...
    I guess unless you can hedge fund your way to making billions by exploiting millions... you are in a dead end career.

  • by He Who Has No Name (768306) on Monday April 23, 2012 @03:06PM (#39775201)

    ...it won't end well, now, will it?

    People don't just magically stop having bills after 35, individuals are getting married and starting families later in life, and software / tech careers are becoming the linchpin of what's left of the American middle class.

    Effectively cut them off from their career fields at such a pivotal point in their lives, en masse... see what you reap. You may not be doing much hiring of any kind when they're done shoving your dumb, pathologically stock-price-obsessed ass effectively out of society.

    • Theoretically, word gets out...kids stop wasting money on college education that won't last till they break even on their student loans...companies grudgingly have to hire the old farts who had trouble finding work when their were so many recent grads...CS is no longer a dead-end career.
  • by bodangly (2526754) on Monday April 23, 2012 @03:08PM (#39775217)
    Software engineering as a private sector job is fairly new in the grand scheme of things. Programmers that are 40+ years old probably aren't even all that common, certainly nowhere near as common as programmers younger than that. I am not so sure programmers starting today will face quite the same challenges having grown up in the midst of the technology revolution. Furthermore, in ANY job you probably will see the older workers doing much more management compared to younger workers. I don't get how this is supposed to be news. Sounds like pointless fear-mongering to me.
    • by t4ng* (1092951) on Monday April 23, 2012 @03:22PM (#39775365)

      Say what? I started programming in the mid '70's. There were already "software engineers" and "computer scientists" back then. Computers were around long before "personal computers" and needed programming.

      The only way I get work as a programmer now is as an consultant. It is not because I haven't kept up with tech, languages and tools. Around 10 years old head hunters started telling me it would be easier to find work for for me if I rewrote my resume to hide my true age and years of experience.

      The majority of my clients are through referrals, they've never seen me in person and have no idea how old I am.

  • by Beardo the Bearded (321478) on Monday April 23, 2012 @03:09PM (#39775227)

    I think what they're really saying here is:

    "Programmers in their 40s have wives, kids, and hobbies, and that means they won't put up with the 50-60 hour week bullshit we can get the 20-year-olds to eat." Also, they expect raises and vacation, and we just can't have that.

    Work isn't your life. Work is what you do to pay for your life.

  • by sl4shd0rk (755837) on Monday April 23, 2012 @03:15PM (#39775287)

    First, the jobs move overseas and we get told it's a "good thing":
    http://blog.douweosinga.com/2003/10/why-jobs-moving-overseas-isn-so-bad.html [douweosinga.com]

    Then, there is complaining that the industry can't find any programmers:
    http://www.xconomy.com/seattle/2011/05/23/tech-talent-shortage-one-of-this-years-major-storylines-illustrated-in-national-study-by-job-search-site-dice/ [xconomy.com]

    Next, the industry tries to figure out where all the programmers went:
    http://www.google.com/search?q=shortage+of+programmers [google.com]

    Finally, they realize they've castrated themselves and simply claim it's a dead-end career. Nice.

  • by CosaNostra Pizza Inc (1299163) on Monday April 23, 2012 @03:15PM (#39775295)
    I spent over 15 years of my life as an electrical engineer before I decided to make a career transition into application software development. I went back to school for a mscs and recently got my first entry-level software engineer position, 4 months before (and 4 credits shy) of graduation. I did it at age 41. That flies in the face of the Bloomberg schmuck's article.
    • I studied Electrical Engineering (specialization in Computer Engineering, granted, but digital design, hardware, not software), got a Master's Degree, and then went and got a job writing software - for 12 years. Went from there to a "Real EE" job for 2.5, then did a couple of gigs as "Director of Software Development" that included hands-on programming, and my title is now "Software Engineer"...

      Titles don't matter much, and unless you're applying to a big company that has a square hole for you to insert yo

  • by pla (258480) on Monday April 23, 2012 @03:19PM (#39775339) Journal
    Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook has blurted out that young programmers are superior.

    "Willing to put up with abuse" does not mean "superior", however much employers might like to conflate them.

    As I approach the FP's end-of-career age, I find myself far, far more efficient than a decade ago, in not just my coding-for-coding's-sake work, but in my ability to address what the business wants out of my code. The beancounters don't care about skinnability, about what buzzword technologies went into the app, about how fast (beyond a very loose "fast enough") a program runs. They care if it answers their questions, and does so accurately.

    Unfortunately, they can't easily see past how much I cost - Yes, at this point in my career, I make in the ballpark of twice as much as an entry level dev. And yes, I do provide that much more value to the company than I did fresh out of college (I'd even go so far as to say I provide far more than merely 2x the ROI, but will stay on the conservative side for now).


    Important point to note about the FP... It talks about Intel and Facebook; TFA additionally mentions Microsoft - All companies that do tech for tech's sake, not as a means to satisfy a non-tech-related business need. Your time in Silicon Valley, your chance to strike gold in a startup, your 60 hour weeks and the glares for cutting out early when you need to attend Grandma's funeral, may all end by 40. But your career doesn't need to, as long as you've spent those first 15-20 years picking up the skills that matter outside the tech hubs.
  • by SolitaryMan (538416) on Monday April 23, 2012 @03:21PM (#39775357) Homepage Journal
    From TFA:

    Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook has blurted out that young programmers are superior

    And his great achievement as a programmer, that gives him the right to judge programming abilities, is ...?

  • Bloomberg says? (Score:4, Informative)

    by andy1307 (656570) on Monday April 23, 2012 @03:22PM (#39775361)
    Or Norman Matloff, in an op-ed on bloomberg.com, says?
  • by MikeRT (947531) on Monday April 23, 2012 @03:25PM (#39775415) Homepage

    As Wadhwa notes, even if the 45-year-old programmer making $120,000 has the right skills, “companies would rather hire the younger workers.”

    I took over as a developer on a project lead by a "hot young developer" (how the management saw his skill set). He and I graduated around the same time. Guess what? Dude didn't even know what primary or foreign keys were. He also had no defaults, not null or unique constraints. Most of his code was a steaming pile of dog crap expressed crudely in Java. When I got on the project and saw the code, my eyes felt like they were on fire it was that bad.

    But hey, he's got the "latest skills" right?

    Repeat the same story with PHP, Python or Ruby replacing Java and you get a snapshot of where this leads.

  • by Jane Q. Public (1010737) on Monday April 23, 2012 @03:29PM (#39775463)
    As a study that was linked to right here on Slashdot not long ago shows [blogspot.com], ageism in software development is nothing more than arrogant bullshit.

    And Zuckerberg is nothing more than a PHP script kiddie who both got lucky and cheated others to achieve his success. His word is hardly to be taken seriously.
  • by Rene S. Hollan (1943) on Monday April 23, 2012 @03:33PM (#39775509)

    Subject says it all.

    Contact me if you want to see my resume.

    Interviews have been coming at a steady rate so far, and in one shop I'd be one of the younger people if hired.

  • by Dcnjoe60 (682885) on Monday April 23, 2012 @03:35PM (#39775525)

    I think all of this depends on the industries. In certain industries, banking, government, etc. "old" programmers are very much in demand. Why, because these industries value consistency, tradition and the like. In new industries, that change overnight, it is out with the old and in with the new.

    When I was the DP manager for a large government agency, we found that taking employees who understood the business aspects of the agency and training them to program was much more effective than hiring programmers and teaching them the business. I haven't seen any data to suggest the same wouldn't be true in the private sector.

    • I'm 62 and do fine in this field. Mostly because I have a good math background and can pick up a new technical domain at a fundamental level pretty easily.

  • by mbaGeek (1219224) on Monday April 23, 2012 @03:35PM (#39775531) Homepage

    I think of software engineering as being a higher level funtion than computer programming. a code mokey might get hired as a computer programmer, but then grows into a software engineer...

    In his book ("iWoz") - Woz tells a story where "when he was young" he was able to lock himself in a room for a week and come out with a completed project. As he aged he found that he lost that ability/motivation (and he could just pay someone to write the code)

    regarding Zuckerberg's comment, that guy who used to run Microsoft (Bill Gates I think) basically said the same thing - i.e. young minds have better/more ideas (read "Breaking Windows" to see when Bill Gates hit that wall).

    anyway, the human brain changes as we age - which may not be "fair" but ... ummm, what was I saying...

  • by buddyglass (925859) on Monday April 23, 2012 @03:42PM (#39775617)
    I'm near 40 and feel like I'm generally more employable now than I was when I exited university. That said, as to the over/under predicament, it seems like there are very few "entry level" positions advertised. Nobody wants a "junior software developer"; they want "senior software developers". Maybe it's because I've primarily worked for small companies and startups. That said, I don't feel like these "senior developer" positions are that much more demanding or complex than the stuff I did when I was, in fact, a "junior developer".

    One comment on work/life balance: I've never been expected to work more than 8 hours a day, ever, for any extended period of time. Have I had to work late nights when there was a deadline or a release? Sure. I've worked over some weekends, but very few. Then again, I don't work in the gaming industry and I'm not located in northern California. Maybe that makes the difference.

Never try to teach a pig to sing. It wastes your time and annoys the pig. -- Lazarus Long, "Time Enough for Love"

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