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Businesses Programming The Almighty Buck

Tech's Dark Secret, It's All About Age 602

theodp writes "Universities really should tell engineering students what to expect in the long term and how to manage their technical careers. Citing ex-Microsoft CTO David Vaskevitch's belief that younger workers have more energy and are sometimes more creative, Wadwha warns that reports of ageism's death have been greatly exaggerated. While encouraging managers to consider the value of the experience older techies bring, Wadwha also offers some get-real advice to those whose hair is beginning to grey: 1) Move up the ladder into management, architecture, or design; switch to sales or product management; jump ship and become an entrepreneur. 2) If you're going to stay in programming, realize that the deck is stacked against you, so be prepared to earn less as you gain experience. 3) Keep your skills current — to be coding for a living when you're 50, you'll need to be able to out-code the new kids on the block. Wadwha's piece strikes a chord with 50-something Dave Winer, who calls the rampant ageism 'really f***ed up,' adding that, 'It's probably the reason why we keep going around in the same loops over and over, because we chuck our experience, wholesale, every ten years or so.'"
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Tech's Dark Secret, It's All About Age

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  • by TheKidWho ( 705796 ) on Monday August 30, 2010 @12:21PM (#33416184)

    These days we have Battlestar Galactica and Futurama posters you old foggie you.

  • by happy_place ( 632005 ) on Monday August 30, 2010 @12:35PM (#33416334) Homepage

    Programming skills aren't what they used to be. They're often based upon the latest language--most often here they're C#. It's interesting to watch programmers who've been trained in such high level languages adopt low level languages. I work with fresh graduates day in and day out, and while they are energetic, they're also completely unaware of the basics. I have had lengthy discussions of concepts like double-buffering, and queues, and static/dynamic memory allocation, pointers, and such. These are concepts that newbies assume can be handled by an API, or automatically garbage-collected... Sure they've heard of garbage collection but they don't understand the limitations and constraints under which it is useful or hits performance.

    Further all programmers want to stick with the tools they learned once--while to stick with programming over time, you have to be used to constantly changing. I think that sometimes older programmers (though I've seen it in newbs too) learned something really well, and want to solve all problems with that toolset alone, because the newer versions just aren't worth the headache of upgrading and potentially breaking something. However if you don't upgrade continually eventually the features that make it worth changing come along and shifting to the new language is a whole new experience.

  • Re:"Out code"? (Score:5, Informative)

    by sjames ( 1099 ) on Monday August 30, 2010 @12:51PM (#33416600) Homepage Journal

    Not to mention the experienced programmer can sometimes avoid months of wasted effort just by having enough experience to see things are going in the wrong direction.

  • by Americano ( 920576 ) on Monday August 30, 2010 @01:28PM (#33417108)

    No one asked for your respect or even for you to listen.

    Then why did you bother responding, if you didn't ask or expect anybody to listen? I simply pointed out that you're indulging in ageism yourself when you start painting youngsters as "people just starting out who think they know everything," and the "rare" young people "who value the experience" you bring to the table.

    At 35 you're not young, especially in IT. Your touchy response leads me to believe you may end up in the second group of people who are 15 - 25 years older than you are.

    It's kind of funny that you're calling my response touchy when your entire post was lamenting how "nobody values my input because I'm old." In your own words, "Wow, I've been programming longer than you've been alive ... surely my experience is worth something, isn't it?"

    Length of experience means very little, quality of experience means quite a bit. I've known people who make the same dumb mistakes over and over again, and never learn from it; I've also known people who learn the first time they make a mistake, and have learned quite a bit in just a few short years.

    So, if I'm destined for the bitter old guy heap, I guess I'll see you there. I'll be the one wearing the ironic "Dinosaur Jr." nametag, Pops.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday August 30, 2010 @02:24PM (#33417784)

    That is 100% what my experience with Google was, during my few interviews (on-site) with them.

    They are not looking for experience. They are looking for degrees in school and youth that can be exploited.

    I'm nearly 50 and while I have an extensive background, I'm not as exploitable and won't work "day and night" for them just for a few tee shirts and free lunch.

    And as I looked around the place, I saw very few 'grayglers' as they call them. Very very few.

    If you're over 40, pretty much don't even try for Google ;(

  • by Stormy Dragon ( 800799 ) on Monday August 30, 2010 @03:08PM (#33418266) Homepage
    Holy crap, this was considered a trivial homework problem when I was learning Pascal in high school.... Are you seriously saying a group of college graduates considered this a hard problem?
  • Re:Late nights (Score:3, Informative)

    by Quirkz ( 1206400 ) <ross.quirkz@com> on Monday August 30, 2010 @03:50PM (#33418724) Homepage

    If you "get stupid" after 16 hours of being awake, maybe you need to see your doctor, because you don't sound like you meet the definition of "physically fit" - which is, among other things, being able to do at least moderate exercise after a day of work.

    Don't be ridiculous. The average person does sleep about 8 hours and stay up for 16. By the end of the day they're tired and they do, indeed, suffer decreased brain function. Particularly in a case when you're working later than normal, or perhaps so late you've approached or passed your town bedtime, almost anyone is going to be less sharp than they would be during their initial 8 hours of work.

    As for "needing to see a doctor" -- that's again silly. Disregarding the fact that having your brain worn down from large amounts of work doesn't correlate at all with being or not being physically fit, people generally aren't doing exercise at bedtime after being awake for 16 hours, they're doing their exercise either before work or after work, which is usually after being awake for 11 -13 hours on average, I'd guess.

    You may be perfectly happy working two 20-hour stints. That's great. But it's so far out of the norm that it's basically a freakish ability (not in the pejorative sense; just really unusual). Don't confuse your own ability with thinking someone else who kind of likes to sleep on an average schedule somehow needs a doctor.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday August 30, 2010 @05:22PM (#33420020)

    Wrong. Allowing plain vanilla, uncleaned user input to be used in ad-hoc sql statements is absurd in any context.

    If a skilled doctor gives someone something poisonous by accident, it's still a dumb mistake.

"The number of Unix installations has grown to 10, with more expected." -- The Unix Programmer's Manual, 2nd Edition, June, 1972