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Programmers: It's OK To Grow Up 232

Nemo the Magnificent writes: " Everybody knows software development is a young man's game, right? Here's a guy who hires and manages programmers, and he says it's not about age at all — it's about skills, period. 'It's each individual's responsibility to stay fresh in the field and maintain a modern-day skillset that gives any 28-year-old a run for his or her money. ... Although the ability to learn those skills is usually unlimited, the available time to learn often is not. "Little" things like family dinners, Little League, and home improvement projects often get in the way. As a result, we do find that we face a shortage of older, more seasoned developers. And it's not because we don't want older candidates. It's often because the older candidates haven't successfully modernized their developer skills.' A company that actively works to offer all employees the chance to learn and to engage with modern technologies is a company that good people are going to work for, and to stay at."
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Programmers: It's OK To Grow Up

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 16, 2014 @07:31PM (#47022243)

    they just happened to have learned the most recent stuff (which all too frequently is all the managers care about)

    The experienced developer will know when not to use a new fad because they will have seen a prior version of that fad before.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 16, 2014 @07:32PM (#47022251)

    We want people to spend their own time and money to train the skills that we need. There's no way we would invest in such things -- it hurts the bottom line!

  • by bunyip ( 17018 ) on Friday May 16, 2014 @07:35PM (#47022263)

    One of my colleagues in in his mid-60s, and happily puttering around in modern technologies and adapting what he knows about systems to the latest tools. Writing prototype code in Clojure, using network databases (neo4j), doing interesting data modeling and generally just making stuff happen. He's learning new stuff every day, having fun - and getting to say no to job offers on a regular basis. I've been in this industry for more than 30 years and I'm currently mucking around with Hadoop, cloud computing and a bunch of the new things.

    People talk about time to learn, but it's a question about making time. Would you want to visit a doctor that hasn't updated their skills in 20 years?


  • Short Sighted (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ImprovOmega ( 744717 ) on Friday May 16, 2014 @07:40PM (#47022287)

    When you go to hire a developer you're not just looking to hire someone who can code in the latest fad language/API/SDK. You need someone who knows software development like a captain knows his ship. I promise you that 20+ years of software development will be worth way more than the 22 year old kid who knows Ruby on Rails because he learned it while studying in college. That experienced developer can pick up whatever tool your company standardized on and yeah, it may be three months before he's all the way up to speed on it, but then the years of experience will begin to make themselves tellingly felt vs. a kid who happens to know the tool already.

    Hiring for the tool is stupid. It would be like looking for a columnist who specifically has Microsoft Office 2013 experience and filtering all the applicants who only used Google Docs in their previous jobs. Either one of them can write copy.

  • by turkeydance ( 1266624 ) on Friday May 16, 2014 @07:42PM (#47022295)
    it's about the money. same with age.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 16, 2014 @07:46PM (#47022315)

    Even better would be the 20 year veteran who can take those fresh out of school enthusiastic newbies and get high quality software out of them on a predictable schedule, without the "back in the day, we coded with patch cords on EAM equipment". Or the 20 year vet who is doing the new stuff and the old stuff, and can help the inexperienced new stuff guys and gals avoid the traps.

    Face it, on a large project, there aren't enough skilled veterans on the market to get the job done, you MUST do it with average or below average folks. The challenge is seeding the crowd with just enough experience so that all those contributors are net positive, no matter how small.

  • by kye4u ( 2686257 ) on Friday May 16, 2014 @07:55PM (#47022357)
    Companies often times prefer younger developers because they are cheaper. It is as simple as that.
    That older, incompetent developer was probably just as incompetent when he/she was in their 20's.
  • Re:Yes, and No. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Jane Q. Public ( 1010737 ) on Friday May 16, 2014 @08:03PM (#47022393)
    We've hashed this out on Slashdot before, more than once. OP is just wrong that older programmers in general don't keep up.

    Study after study have shown that older programmers are generally more productive, even after adjusting for the higher salary they tend to expect.

    While he appears to be genuinely sympathetic, his personal theories don't quite qualify as statistics.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 16, 2014 @08:22PM (#47022495)

    You should also make your own money instead of expecting your employer to pay you, taker.

  • Re:Short Sighted (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Belial6 ( 794905 ) on Friday May 16, 2014 @08:22PM (#47022499)
    I had an employer send a few of us to an 8 hour course once. When we got back he was shocked and horrified that I told him I wasn't an expert and he should sell my services as one.
  • by Anonymous Brave Guy ( 457657 ) on Friday May 16, 2014 @08:40PM (#47022617)

    Exactly. I read this and actually laughed:

    2. Embrace new technologies. Many mature developers have found themselves with an outdated skillset because their employers stuck with what works, rather than encouraging modern technologies. Employers need to embrace the latest open-source tools, languages, and frameworks, in order to grow and retain the best talent.

    Yeah, those crazy employers, sticking with things that work! What were they thinking?!

    Perhaps if this guy hired a few more experienced developers, they could have explained the relatively value of the terms "tried and tested" and "unproven and risky". Good older programmers are just as capable of learning useful new technologies as good younger programmers. The real difference is that the experienced ones tend not to waste their time learning five different [JS frameworks]* that they know will all be obsolete long before the project built on them is finished, because they were too busy building something that would actually get the job done using [jQuery]*.

    *Please substitute respectively an overhyped but underperforming technology and an established reliable technology in your fields of choice.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 16, 2014 @09:11PM (#47022745)

    The thing is that most new tools are pretty much the same shit in a different package, yet most employers think their particular infatuation of the moment is unique and you have to have experience with it. I used Hadoop in a project and adapting to it was such a non-event that I had to double-check just now that I actually did use it. Yet if an employer wants someone to do some work using Hadoop, you can bet the vast majority of them will consider it a hard requirement.

  • by lgw ( 121541 ) on Friday May 16, 2014 @09:55PM (#47022895) Journal

    The thing about technology is: the absolute best thing today, really the best, is utter crap in 20 years. And there are too damn many developers, old and young who stick with what was the best at one point in history but just isn't any more.

    It's wise to reject 90% of new ideas as silly fads, but the problem is when you reject 100%. And it's not just older guys like me with the problem, it just matters more as what you settled on ages. If you combine rejecting all new ideas as fads with age, you can easily become unemployable.

    For example, look at all the /.ers who still dismiss "the cloud" as a passing fad, mistaking "I have less obsessive-geek control over my precious" for business judgement. Guys? It's not going away, and it keeps getting cheaper and more reliable. There are many areas today where you just can't put stuff in the cloud for compliance reasons, but the cloud guys have checkbooks and senators phone numbers, and that last barrier won't last long. Not every new idea is a fad.

    Heck, I see people here that still think using an IDE is some sort of scam. "VI was good enough for grandpappy and it's good enough for me". Code review tools still get resistance in some quarters, but thinking you don't need a Review Board-like system is like thinking you don't need version control: it will end in tears.

    Sure, don't run off with every fad, but this is a poor industry to cross the line from change-adverse to change-resistant in.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 16, 2014 @10:32PM (#47023041)

    The cloud is a cool idea... but lets be real. Until ISPs actually start laying fiber and not wringing hands in front of Congress to demand fee hikes, at best it is a great place to store archives or spin up machines for peak load. Until this happens, the cloud will hit a barrier.

    Oh, those servers have to be paid by someone, so better have them in-house with physical security rather than in some location that can be easily breached.

    Change-resistance is good. Things should be tested and regression tested. What if everyone decided to use Facebook for their single sign-on? IT isn't about running the latest OS in your basement, it is about balancing new tech with needs of the business, all the while dealing with PHBs tight on the purse strings and slavering to kick your ass out the door and put a $16,000/year H-1B in your seat. So, one mistake like automatic Windows Update approvals in WSUS on production servers can get one fired.

  • Speaking for myself, I've been through six different frameworks/versions of "data binding", starting with VB3, now all the way through AngularJS. I've got 20 years of similar examples in DBMSs, distributed protocols, GUI design, testing, requirements, etc.

    It's not that I refuse to learn new technologies, because I've taken on new things every year that I've worked in this field. jQuery? Love it. HTML5, CSS transitions? B-E-A-utiful. Bootstrap? You betcha.

    I do, however, refuse to make all the same mistakes and work through the same leaky abstractions and other problems just to try the new hotness. A great example is the NoSQL movement - now that Postgres supports JSON documents (and has had great K-V support for a while now), I'll be very happy to exploit those features without wrestling MongoDB or Firebase to the ground.

  • Young MAN's game? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Malkin ( 133793 ) on Saturday May 17, 2014 @01:06AM (#47023493)

    Everybody knows software development is a "young man's game"? Did you seriously say that?

    HELLS no, man.

    First off: I've been programming since I was 8, but I was never a man, and I will never be a man, and I have never suffered under the idiotic delusion that this was ever exclusively a man's game -- young or otherwise. This is my game.

    I am still programming at 40, and I assure you that youth offers no advantages over experience, either.

    But, that doesn't stop me from mentoring. My interns may not be able to program like I do, but I'll give 'em every advantage I can. It's great to teach them some of those intrinsics that they don't get in school. That gives them some of the advantages an experienced developer, even if they're younger. This isn't a zero sum game. We all need good devs, so we should try to make everyone who is working with us better -- whether they are young or old. We all get better software, that way.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday May 17, 2014 @01:32AM (#47023577)

    Would you want to visit a doctor that hasn't updated their skills in 20 years?


    The difference is that software companies won't bother to spend time trying to teach their employees new technologies. Doctors always have pharmaceutical companies banging on their doors to tell them about the newest drugs they can prescribe to their patients.

  • by jafac ( 1449 ) on Saturday May 17, 2014 @03:33AM (#47023955) Homepage

    This is really about how older people are experienced to know a boondoggle when they see one. (Example:the cloud, and how it's basically about trying to take control from the user and seeking rent). Older people don't buy into the bullshit and get off my lawn, and thus are seen as not wanting to embrace new technology. Its not that you can't teach an old dog new tricks, it's that the old dog knows that it's all a bunch of crap

  • by gweihir ( 88907 ) on Saturday May 17, 2014 @04:27AM (#47024105)

    Matches my experience. Young coders may know the latest language-hype, but usually they cannot generate clean, robust, secure and fast code at all. Using young coders may be at the very root of the problems we have been facing with software development for the last few decades. Even people that have the talent need significant experience before they become any good.

    Seems to be another case where what "everybody" knows is wrong.

  • by gnasher719 ( 869701 ) on Saturday May 17, 2014 @04:54AM (#47024191)

    I have never been discriminated against because of my age, nor have I seen it happen to anyone else. If such practices exists (in Australia) I think they are limited to small outfits run by cheapskates and crooks. Shitty companies in any industry will always want to hire young people simply because they are cheaper and more easily manipulated.If you're that old you can't learn a new technology then it's time to retire and get your Alzheimer's problem looked at.

    Case 1: Idiot manager thinks that people should work 60 or 80 hours a week (obviously without compensation). Young, unexperienced developer might do it. Experienced developer tells him to shove it.

    Case 2: Shitty company runs out of money. Young, unexperienced developer can be tricked into accepting empty promises instead of payment. Experienced developer tells them to shove it.

    So that would be two kinds of situations where a young, unexperienced developer would be preferred.

Thus spake the master programmer: "When a program is being tested, it is too late to make design changes." -- Geoffrey James, "The Tao of Programming"