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"Logan's Run" Syndrome In Programming 599

Ian Lamont writes "InfoWorld has an interesting analysis of the reasons behind the relative dearth of programmers over the age of 40. While some people may assume that the recession has provided a handy cover for age discrimination, a closer look suggests that it's the nature of IT itself to push its elderly workers out, in what the article describes as a 'Logan's Run'-like marketplace. A bunch of factors are listed as reasons, including management's misunderstanding of the ways in which developers work: 'Any developer can tell you that not all C or PHP or Java programmers are created equal; some are vastly more productive or creative. However, unless or until there is a way to explicitly demonstrate the productivity differential between a good programmer and a mediocre one, inexperienced or nontechnical hiring managers tend to look at resumes with an eye for youth, under the "more bang for the buck" theory. Cheaper young 'uns will work longer hours and produce more code. The very concept of viewing experience as an asset for raising productivity is a non-factor — much to the detriment of the developer workplace.'"
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"Logan's Run" Syndrome In Programming

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 17, 2010 @01:24PM (#31171914)
    Congratulations, Ian Lamont! From now on, whenever I see a resume with the name "I. Lamont" on it, it's going straight to the trash.

    You'd probably be better off tossing out resumes from Lisa Schmeiser since she's the one who originally used that particular verbiage. Then again, I wouldn't expect someone to pay attention to details before deciding to scapegoat someone.
  • by jythie ( 914043 ) on Wednesday February 17, 2010 @01:32PM (#31172074)
    Besides new technologies, one also needs to keep up with the current flavor of 'one true way' programming. Multi-paridigm programmers are increasingly being seen as warped or 'in need of training' since they can *gasp* see value in something other then the current snapshot of how OOP is done. Experience and perspective become detriments unless one knows which current fad to focus on and which ones you are supposed to say have no value.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 17, 2010 @01:34PM (#31172106)

    I'm 59, and have been programming professionally since I was 20. The two best things for my employment are:
          1) Young, inexperienced programmers.
          2) "Experienced" Indian programmers.

    Why is that? Because they both fuck up constantly, and thus give me lots to fix.

    Young and inexperienced programmers are a delight to work with. It's great to see them come into a project all cocksure, only to be crushed by the demands of the real world. They'll spent countless hours putting together shitty software, which will always fail. Then management calls me in, and I fix their code. Mostly this means rewriting it all from scratch. Regardless, I make about four times what they do. Then again, I deliver working code.

    "Experienced" Indian programmers and "software architects" are the next best thing. They're like the young and inexperienced programmers, but their fuckups are much, much bigger. That means the customer's desperation is much greater, and I can make more money. What's best about these guys is that they often haven't produced even a line of code. They just spew out UML diagram after UML diagram. I look at the diagrams, talk to the users, and it becomes obvious what should be done. I sit down, implement the software, satisfy the customer, and collect my money.

  • Re:No really (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 17, 2010 @01:35PM (#31172130)

    It is not about Money.
    I was interviewed last week for a Senior Programming position. I'm 56 and have been programming since 1972. The job was mainly Java & Web Design. No probs done lots of that, got the T shirt.
    I was rejected because,
      1) I had no ambition (why wasn't I a manager)
      2) I was over qualified for the job

    I don't want to be a friggin manager. I was once and total crap at it thank you very much. At 56, you should know your limitations. I think I know mine.

    Over qualified? Do you want the job done or do you want the job done properly. And no, I was not asking for an inflated salary. Well within the range quoted in the advert.

    Oh well, back to working on the next version of a Linux App and Jobseekers allowance.

  • by Jahava ( 946858 ) on Wednesday February 17, 2010 @02:01PM (#31172624)

    The summary says that it's not merely age discrimination, then goes on to say that they hire younger workers because they are cheaper, without bothering to account for experience. That is age discrimination.

    That is not age discrimination. Younger workers are hired because they are cheaper, not because they are younger. If two people cost the same and the older of the two was better-qualified, but the younger was hired anyway, that is age discrimination. I can see why you would be confused, since younger people tend to also cost less.

    Unfortunately, programming experience doesn't linearly scale with code quality. Eventually, the gain in code quality tapers off, and the more-experienced higher-salaried employee is not worth paying extra for. There are exceptions ... some people are just phenomenal developers and are hard to replace ... but this article is not about them.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 17, 2010 @02:12PM (#31172886)

    No "bigotry" or "racism" was intended. It's just the sad reality that I have to fix a whole lot of code and "architecture" coming out of Pune, Bangalore, Mumbai and Hyderabad.

    I rarely have to make anywhere near as many changes to code coming from Eastern Europe or Brazil, for instance. They manage to generally do a pretty good job. On the other hand, almost all the code I've ever seen out of India has been pure shit.

    You need to stop being so sensitive about reality.

  • Re:Obivous Answer (Score:2, Informative)

    by parla ( 703536 ) on Wednesday February 17, 2010 @02:20PM (#31173034) Homepage
    I'd consider getting a managing position as being demoted.
  • by CAOgdin ( 984672 ) on Wednesday February 17, 2010 @02:26PM (#31173160)
    Now, admittedly, I'm an independent business owner and computer consultant. But, that means I have to sell myself to every prospective client each time they're first introduced to my company and my services. I build systems, providing "contract CIO" advisory services, write the odd special-purpose program (or modify one for a client's specific needs), and all for a fee I can characterize as "a pretty penny." Age discrimination is, in my opinion, in a convenient excuse for not staying abreast of the latest advances and tools. I'm spending my time, just as this is being written, figuring out the ins'n'outs of Windows 7, so I can do a better job for my clients, whom I expect will be upgrading over the coming months. My erstwhile competitors, aged 30-50, are still insisting the only solution for client problems is a wholesale reinstall of Windows XP Pro. Most people peg my age at "mid-50s." Is my appearance a bonus...or a consequence of my insistance on investing hours every week in learning new things and in keeping my mind "fresh."
  • by Homr Zodyssey ( 905161 ) on Wednesday February 17, 2010 @02:32PM (#31173264) Journal

    It's like you're describing my life -- only 25 years in the future. I'm 34, and seeing the same thing.

    The part that I'm finding frustrating is the boss that says, "I really think will be a valuable asset, they just need a little mentoring." So, I spend my day mentoring that person instead of getting my work done. "Mentoring" means first giving them a hint about how to do something. Then 30 minutes later telling them exactly how to do it. Then an hour later, sitting at their PC and typing the code in for them.

    Ironically, I'm also having the opposite problem. We have a 50-ish "Architect" who uses his "experience" as an excuse to be a curmudgeon, and tries to somehow turn ignorance into a virtue. "I've been programming for 20 years and I've never needed a NOLOCK statement.", "In all my years of programming, I've never heard of anyone using a code formatter.", "That design document don't tell me nothing, and that should tell you something."

  • by fahrbot-bot ( 874524 ) on Wednesday February 17, 2010 @03:10PM (#31173918)

    Young and inexperienced programmers are a delight to work with. It's great to see them come into a project all cocksure, only to be crushed by the demands of the real world.

    Actual example. We had a fresh-from-college junior programmer and my manager asked if a particular (Perl) assignment would be appropriate for him. I wasn't sure, so offered to do the work myself in parallel with the new guy and mentor him on it.

    It took the new guy two weeks, with help from me - answering questions, giving advise and hints. When done he wondered when we would be promoted to senior programmer. I replied most likely when he didn't another senior programmer to help him so much and when he could be more productive.

    He asked how long it took me to do the parallel assignment. I replied, truthfully, "two hours" - which is why I had the answers to all his questions so readily.

  • by ClosedSource ( 238333 ) on Wednesday February 17, 2010 @03:15PM (#31174016)

    They won't offer the older developer a job at any price.

  • Re:jaded (Score:3, Informative)

    by Kjella ( 173770 ) on Wednesday February 17, 2010 @07:49PM (#31178314) Homepage

    But one thing I can guarantee: no employer wants employees that resign simply because they are concerned with the attractiveness of their CV above everything else (or any other things that are far beyond the employer's sphere of influence).

    Actually, I implicitly said so in an interview I was hired in recently. I've been working with a specific product for over four years, and I have gained certain general skills in reporting, databases and management information systems but those skills are topping out and by staying longer I'd become a product guru which would severely limit my work opportunities to that product. The CFO of the new company actually commented that he could understand after "being with a company for so long" because in the business I'm going the median turnaround is 2-3 years.

    Besides, it's well known that you should not badmouth your employer in any way - I don't consider the above as doing so - and despite everyone asking they know that "I'm seeking new opportunities" it can mean everything from "I'm seeking new opportunities" to "I want to get paid more" or "My old job was a hellhole" or "You're a step in my career ladder". It's one of those questions where I doubt you can earn anything at all, you can just disqualify yourself.

    Personally, I'm starting to see more and more why employers do other kinds of testing than the interview. The interview is extremely predictable, for example in almost every interview you get asked "What are your weak sides?" which can be slightly hidden as "Where do you see improvement potential in yourself?" or whatever. If you immediately have a canned answer, it's bogus. If you pretend to don't have any, you're arrogant and lying. And you don't want to come across as lacking confidence or important work skills.

    I usually pick some of my character traits that are dualistic, like say "too much focus on detail" which of course implies that I might miss the big picture but also that I'm very thorough and reliable in what I do. "By nature a little introvert" while doing my best to be confident, volunteer information and show that I'm handling it well, at the same time building their confidence in that I can the things I say I can. You can't at the same time say that and have them pull answers out of you with a plier, then it won't work.

    Interviews are a sales pitch from both sides. I know, I've been asked to perform a few interviews now this week and been getting a little interviewer coaching from the other sides of the table and it's also about setting our company in the most positive light possible. I think a lot of slashdotters would do better if they thought of it that way, it's not the "let's give a perfectly honest picture of each other and see how we match up". It's the glossed picture and only afterwards do you find out how you both look without the makeup.

UNIX enhancements aren't.