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Programming

Why Companies Should Hire Older Developers 429

Nerval's Lobster writes: Despite legislation making it overtly illegal, ageism persists in the IT industry. If you're 40 or older, you've probably seen cases where younger developers were picked over older ones. At times we're told there's a staffing crisis, that companies need to import more developers via H-1B, but the truth is that outsourcing and downsizing eliminated a subset of viable developers from the market. Those developers, in turn, had to figure out if they wanted to land another job, freelance, or leave the technology industry entirely. But older developers still have a lot to offer, developer David Bolton writes in a new column: They have decades of experience (and specialist knowledge), they have a healthy disregard for office politics (but can still manage, when necessary), they're available, and they're (generally) stable.
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Why Companies Should Hire Older Developers

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  • Around the block (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 07, 2015 @11:44AM (#49638953)

    Here's why I advocate for hiring older developers. I'm in my mid-30s now and I've seen it happen so many times. Some kid comes in fresh out of college thinking he or she knows all the answers. They don't. I don't. They are so trigger happy to re-invent the wheel and over engineer everything.

    You know what I've learned after all these years. I may not know "what works", but I sure do know what won't.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 07, 2015 @11:53AM (#49639067)

      This. I've had trouble with know it alls of all ages really, but more with younger people. That's to be expected really. General lack of experience plus sometimes inflated egos plus the perceived need to prove something just leads to that. Good developers listen to reason and take advice. Bad ones leave, and if we're all lucky, they leave the profession.

      Older developers have experience and a general lack of tolerance for nonsense, but sometimes need to understand why doing something different is a good thing. (Though you may want to listen to them when they tell you different isn't really different. Lots of crap people push as new has been done before.) Good ones take advice, and bad ones leave.

      It's almost like developing is a mindset rather than something one gets worse at with time. (Sarcasm of course. Most of us without a bias against younger or older developers know this and have known it for a while now.)

      • by TWX ( 665546 ) on Thursday May 07, 2015 @12:00PM (#49639169)
        The most dangerous person that one would voluntarily hand-over control to is the relatively inexperienced person that thinks they know everything and attempts to remake their piece of the organization the image of what they see as being correct.

        I've seen it first-hand, and it's quite ugly when those preconceived notions run head-first into a cold, stark reality, and it takes a lot of messengers being shot before the actual problem of inexperience is recognized.
        • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 07, 2015 @12:57PM (#49639855)

          What kind of organization is still using messengers to carry internal memos in this day and age, let alone shooting them when they fail to bring positive news? If that's the sort of thing that goes on there, then there are far deeper problems than mere inexperience.

        • I have seen several very important projects seriously damaged because a new graduate was in charge of a key component without sufficient oversight.

          • by TWX ( 665546 ) on Thursday May 07, 2015 @01:22PM (#49640163)
            Inexperience can even come in the form of someone that has experience with a small version, but never worked in a huge organization. Some things simply don't scale well, and the labor estimates to implement or maintain are WAY off.

            It also doesn't help when the new manager assumes that existing employees don't know how to do anything and micromanages, such that the employees stop engaging him. The boss ends up stepping in a lot of piles that he didn't see because no one has any desire to help him avoid them.
      • by sycodon ( 149926 ) on Thursday May 07, 2015 @01:42PM (#49640385)

        80% of IT happens away from the code editor.

        It involves knowing the current business needs, anticipating the future business needs, communicating that to the business , the ability to prioritize, communicate, fix broken stuff (know what needs fixing first and what can wait), working with vendors, working with other businesses, etc.

        In short, knowing how to be an asset to the business instead of just being another expense.

        Kids that waltz in from college wanting to switch your Manufacturing systems to PHP or whatever is the latest craze don't have any of these things.

    • by radtea ( 464814 ) on Thursday May 07, 2015 @12:36PM (#49639581)

      I may not know "what works", but I sure do know what won't.

      Age is not a great arbiter of such things, but it's still true that without age there are some experiences that are hard to get.

      I remember when "structured programming" was the silver bullet du jour. Then it was OO. Then it was Java (this is hard to believe, but really, Java was touted as the solution to all our ills, and people believed it for a while, rushing out to re-write perfectly good code in Java and frequently ruining it in the process) Today it's FP.

      All of these, except maybe Java, brought some real good to the table. There were a variety of side-trends that never really got off the ground, at least as silver bullets, like 5GLS, whatever they are.

      An older developer has had the opportunity to watch these decade-long trends and make better judgements about the curve of adoption. Will Haskell ever become a mainstream language? Nope, although it'll be used in some niche areas, the way SmallTalk still is. Will FP techniques and ideas filter in to all kinds of other languages? Well, duh. Already happening. Is it worth learning a little Haskell and maybe come category theory? Sure. You can do that even while thinking the claim "apart from the runtime, Haskell is functionally pure" is precisely as impressive as the claim "apart from all the sex I've had, I'm a virgin."

      Not all older developers will get any utility out of their experience. Some become cynical and dismissive. A very, very few retain their naive enthusiasm for the Next Great Thing. But many of them have a nuanced and informed attitude toward new technology that makes them extremely valuable as the technical navigator for teams they're on.

    • It also works the other way. kids are less likely to argue with stupid ideas coming down from the top. Older developers know where shifty decisions end up to the annoyance of the boss.

    • Overengineered designs come from people who don't have the experience of having to maintain an older product. The kids out of college are smart and fun to work with, but between the overengineering and their difficulty in perceiving fads from the frameworks that will endure, I find I'd rather not work with them until they have a few more years under their belt.

    • Re:Stability (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Deep Esophagus ( 686515 ) on Thursday May 07, 2015 @01:34PM (#49640289)

      In addition to your good point about experience, stability is also a key factor. I have been with my company nearly 25 years. In the past five years, I've seen some amazing kids come along who could do 2-4 times the work I do (and probably at half the price)... but as soon as they've buffed up their experience points and leveled up, they're gone.

      My skillset may be largely obsolete, but I know the product inside and out from a user/business perspective, and although it takes me a bit longer to learn all this newfangled dot-net-this and agile-that, I'm willing to do whatever it takes to stay relevant and stay for the long haul.

      Now if you'll excuse me I need to get back to studying up on this new language called HTML. <flash>Hello, world!</flash>

    • Some kid comes in fresh out of college thinking he or she knows all the answers. They don't. I don't. They are so trigger happy to re-invent the wheel and over engineer everything.

      I've seen this in some cases, and in other cases I've seen people with relatively little experience starting out with good instincts. So, I think those instincts are partly a talent and partly drawn from experience.

      The thing that I have as an "old guy" with lots of experience that I see lacking in some younger folks is a keen sense of design - knowing what's good and bad. The common failure of young designers is that they don't actively seek out simplicity, and they don't know techniques of how to achieve

  • by QuietLagoon ( 813062 ) on Thursday May 07, 2015 @11:45AM (#49638969)
    The problem with older developers is that they have too much experience. Or at least, that is what I was told by the HR persons who did not want to interview me when they saw my resume.
    • by jandersen ( 462034 ) on Thursday May 07, 2015 @11:53AM (#49639071)

      The problem with older developers is that they have too much experience. Or at least, that is what I was told by the HR persons who did not want to interview me when they saw my resume.

      Meaning, they are too expensive and are able to look through the incompetence of managers. I suppose it is quite daunting for a mediocre manager to try to dominate a mature engineer, who doesn't fall for his bluster and can't be scared into submission.

      • by hcs_$reboot ( 1536101 ) on Thursday May 07, 2015 @12:09PM (#49639305)

        Meaning, they are too expensive and are able to look through the incompetence of managers.

        Which is the signature of a company to be avoided at all costs.

      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Get rid of the last two pages of job experience. Make it look like your job history is only the past 3 years. Then when you show up for the interview, you bring your full resume to show to the tech manager. This gets you around the HR weenies at least.

        • Actually, for canvassing CVs, get rid of all experience not directly related to the job you're applying for. Try to make it all fit on one page. Make sure your CV touches on all the points mentioned in the job ad.

          The rest comes out as you say, during the interview with the tech manager. And remember: you're interviewing the tech manager as much as they're interviewing you. If they're not a good fit, don't take the job. You might also want to let HR know why you declined the offer.

          • by lgw ( 121541 )

            Actually, for canvassing CVs, get rid of all experience not directly related to the job you're applying for. Try to make it all fit on one page. Make sure your CV touches on all the points mentioned in the job ad.

            You can tell you're getting old when you remember the Elder Days when resumes were in "pages". Yes, it's true kid, they were printed out, and later were Word docs or PDFs that had page boundaries! LinkedIn and the like hadn't been invented yet, you see. No, it's true!

            The point is still true though - your resume will get 20 seconds of attention. Put something at the top that makes you interesting enough for 2 minutes of attention. Make sure there's stuff in the body of the resume (or LinkedIn profile, o

      • by hcs_$reboot ( 1536101 ) on Thursday May 07, 2015 @12:16PM (#49639375)

        they are too expensive

        and a quick note about that: a competent manager should know it's worth paying someone twice to do a program 3 times faster that will not have to be rewritten 3 times by 3 different persons within the next 3 years.

    • by hcs_$reboot ( 1536101 ) on Thursday May 07, 2015 @12:05PM (#49639251)
      The real problem with people hiring developers is that they often see development as a first step in life, which a preparation for another job having management responsibilities for instance. They don't understand that some people consider development to be a career, like to code, like to learn technical stuff and don't consider changing for management positions. Moreover, a "natural selection" eliminates the worst developers in their 20's who naturally turn to other jobs after a while. Of course, there are still a bunch of incompetent older developers - but thanks to these many years of experience, it is usually much easier to discern the good and the bad from older developers than from beginners.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Each of the "good points" in the article is actually a downside in disguise.

      According to the article, older developers are available, stable, specialists who are better at office politics.

      Available = undesirable

      Stable = works less hours trying to prove himself = less value for money

      Specialists = likely to say "no" a lot, likely to not want to go along with the newest fad

      Better at office politics = hard to manipulate, possible threat

      So you see, you definitely don't want to hire older people. I wish people wo

  • by grimmjeeper ( 2301232 ) on Thursday May 07, 2015 @11:46AM (#49638991) Homepage
    In the age of "screw everybody to get another quarter point from the stock", the ones in charge will never pay the older developers what they are worth. It doesn't matter that the inexperienced developers will make the huge mistakes the older people could have warned them away from. It doesn't matter that the degradation in product quality will likely have long term negative effects on the company. All that matters is short term financial gain by the executive staff in this country.
    • Have you paid attention to a computer stock, ever? They are anything buy short-term obsessed. The short term doesn't even exist for them. Everybody from a startup to Uber to Amazon can lose money quarter after quarter, and have no real intention of making short term profits. Yet the companies continue to do business, and are valued highly, purely because of long-term prospects.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by gstoddart ( 321705 )

        The people running the companies are absolutely short-term obsessed. The people buying the stocks are gambling and have long since stopped caring about fundamentals, and instead go on hype.

        The irrational stock market and the terrible management both exist.

        For some reason, people voluntarily throw reason to the winds when they see a startup. When a company is valued at 50 years worth of projected revenue, the market has become a farce.

        All publicly traded companies are short term obsessed, but if you can ke

        • There are plenty of speculators on the market. But investors are there too.

          Who are you to tell speculators they can't use the stock market as a casino? They are free to be as stupid as they want, it's their money.

          I just shake my head and say: 'Nice job redistributing the wealth!' I loved it when the DuPonts lost billions on 'The Money Store'. Because I actually know one of the DuPont heirs. No lower form of life on the planet.

    • In the age of "screw everybody to get another quarter point from the stock", the ones in charge will never pay the older developers what they are worth. It doesn't matter that the inexperienced developers will make the huge mistakes the older people could have warned them away from. It doesn't matter that the degradation in product quality will likely have long term negative effects on the company. All that matters is short term financial gain by the executive staff in this country.

      Indeed. And a good example of that is the direction Apple is currently taking (software wise).

  • by Karmashock ( 2415832 ) on Thursday May 07, 2015 @11:54AM (#49639075)

    First, the reason to not discriminate is because it damages the labor market which in turn damages the industries that rely on that labor.

    Second, the reason older developers are not hired is because they are perceived to not be willing to put in the hours that younger developers will. If you need your employees to knock their brains out for a project, an older set of employees are less likely to do that.

    There are other reasons but most of them are rational.

    • by gstoddart ( 321705 ) on Thursday May 07, 2015 @12:02PM (#49639197) Homepage

      It's like that old joke about the young and the old bulls ... Hey, let's run down there and fuck one of those cows. No, let's walk down and fuck them all.

      Instead of asking your employees to knock their brains out, read the fucking Mythical Man Month and realize that the death march is an idiotic way to do things which doesn't really work.

      Too many companies are being ran by MBAs who have no understanding of how to build stuff, and think 9 women can have a baby in a month. Or even that 4 women working really long hours can do it in half the time.

      The problem is companies are being ran by short sighted idiots who don't understand the nature of their business.

      • by OzPeter ( 195038 )

        Instead of asking your employees to knock their brains out, read the fucking Mythical Man Month and realize that the death march is an idiotic way to do things which doesn't really work.

        The problem with this is that you need older workers to tell the younger workers that MMM even exists, or why a book written in the 70's is still relevant 30 years later (had to pull my copy out to verify the publishing date!).

      • >>read the fucking Mythical Man Month and realize that the death march is an idiotic way to do things which doesn't really work.

        I disagree. The death march model works just fine -- *IF* you have a sufficiently large pool of new developers to replace the old ones dropping off along the way and *IF* your focus is short-term wins over long-term strategy. To wit: the entire video game industry (layoffs after a release, anyone?), the endless employee churn at all the major offshoring companies, "captive" o

    • If you need your employees to know their brains out for a project, you are doing it wrong.

      You might make a few gains and get the product out the door, but quality will suffer, and people won't stick around for very long if you make them work long hours all the time. Which means nobody will really have that much experience with your code base, and it will take even longer to complete stuff.

      • It is extremely common. You see it in other industries as well they just don't expect it from more experienced employees.

        Law firms and accounting forms for example rely on a steady flow of young employees to do a lot of the busy work.

    • by Jason Levine ( 196982 ) on Thursday May 07, 2015 @12:34PM (#49639549)

      they are perceived to not be willing to put in the hours that younger developers will.

      A younger developer will often need 40 hours to write the same code that an older developer will write in 10 hours. The only problem is when management sees TIME_SPENT_CODING as equal to QUALITY_OF_WORK. So they prefer the younger coders who will put in 60 hour weeks over the older coders who do that same work and more in 40 hours and then go to spend time with their families.

    • the reason older developers are not hired is because they are perceived to not be willing to put in the hours that younger developers will.

      Comparatively, to be fair an experienced older developer should have to spend less hours to produce quality code.

    • If your company constantly requires programmers to go over time, then congratulations, your company has shit management.

      Ask yourself if that kind of "code faster, monkey!" attitude would be acceptable from other professions.
  • no brainer for HR (Score:5, Informative)

    by crgrace ( 220738 ) on Thursday May 07, 2015 @11:56AM (#49639103)

    I've been in the technology business for almost 20 years now. In my personal experience, older engineers are much more productive than younger engineers. Younger engineers are much more likely to partake of the "free" dinner offered by the company and work 80 hour weeks. They are also significantly cheaper.

    To HR we (engineers) are a fungible commodity anyway. Of course they go for the younger people. Given that they command lower wages AND work more hours their effective hourly rate is much lower. So it's a no brainer.

    Of course, I would guess from experience (although I have no specific evidence) that older engineers are cheaper in a productivity/dollar sense, but that doesn't even enter the argument in a modern corporation.

    Unless we get into management, we older folks (Lord, is pushing 40 really older now?) are better off in .gov/defense jobs or working for small companies where individual people (may) value our contributions.

    • by gtall ( 79522 )

      It isn't just HR, it is the entire rest of the company. The problem with is that they have no understanding of what a well-fit team can accomplish or how different individuals can contribute. You wouldn't want an organization where everyone had the same skills....hmmm...yet that's what Agile Nonsense aims at. One wonders if it isn't just a management tool in the naughty sense of tool.

  • Salary Cap (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward

    In a lot of sports there are salary caps. Players develop, get more experience, and the good ones get a really big raise when their entry level contract ends. Eventually teams have to trade off players to stay under the cap and they rely on the draft to supply them with serviceable players on entry level contracts to fill the holes. The cycle repeats.

    I see companies do the same thing. They aren't just going to continue to give out raises until every person in a department earns a much higher than average sa

  • by berchca ( 414155 ) on Thursday May 07, 2015 @12:02PM (#49639209) Homepage

    I technically qualify as an 'older developer,' though not old enough to embrace the title personally. On several occasions, I've worked with teams (as a contractor) made entirely of 'age-challenged' developers, and I'm always amazed to get kudos for saying things I consider obvious. Obvious, I suppose, because I have the experience the young'un do not, and experience does help.

    While I'm sure that I have all sorts of limitations I'm not aware of, like I probably smell funny or maybe don't know why Euphoria is the most awesome programming language _ever_, or simply can't hold my own on the foosball table, I think that toddler teams should have at least one elder mentor onboard--someone whose been through the ringer a few times--because we do know stuff that you'll only realize you didn't know after we say it, and we tend to be pretty grounded, which helps if you're trying to do things like, I don't know, make money.

    Just don't let us pick the music for the office hi-fi.

  • by iamacat ( 583406 ) on Thursday May 07, 2015 @12:04PM (#49639233)

    Do you want your corporate culture to be like that? Then by all means only hire kids. Any healthy human society needs an age/gender/personality diversity of contributors to thrive. There are certainly brilliant 20 year old programmers, but they don't have practical experience keeping a project or a team alive and working well for a decade. And once they acquire such experience, they will leave your company because it'a not friendly to their needs.

  • Makes no sense (Score:3, Insightful)

    by GeekWithAKnife ( 2717871 ) on Thursday May 07, 2015 @12:05PM (#49639257)

    Older people have families, experience and have been around the circus before.

    Young programmers are much better. Firstly they often have nothing better to do. Their living expense tend to be lower and they often cannot tell when they are being screwed over for pay until they are are feeling the shaft for a couple of years.
    They have no family commitments and when the big boss man smiles and asks if you can do this one extra thing for the team you say "sure boss!" and not "My boy has this thing at school..."

    Why hire old programmers? they question the logic, they see through the corporate bullshit, they won't work for peanuts and often cannot do overtime. Forget that they actually know what their contract means and exactly what you can and cannot get them to do. They are not cool. They don't any Justin Bieber songs and they don't play COD.

    Why bother with those old people when you can have fizzy drinking kids willing to bend over backwards? -code quality? -efficiency? -less re-work? most managers have very little grasp of how those looks like & those people make "suggestions for the business".

    Old developers...as old as 40...they are practically dying already, why hire their kind? -makes no sense I tell you.
    • by Lumpy ( 12016 )

      "often cannot do overtime"

      It's not that I can not do the overtime, It's that I refuse to work overtime because of a moron manager that screwed around. I will not sacrifice my life to fix a manager that is being a lazy fuck up.

      When I get handed a hot project that I discover was sitting on his desk for 2 months before being handed off. I'll let that deadline sail by like a pretty jet and wave at it as it goes by.

  • A friend of mine was managing a programming team. They interviewed a really good developer in his early 40s, and one of her team members said he was too old. He thought the guy couldn't possibly be up to date on recent technology. She hired him anyway, and he did really good work.

    That was well over ten years ago. The guy who raised the objection is now older than the candidate he wanted to reject. I wonder if he's gone on any interviews lately (or found newfangled technology impossible to keep up with).

  • I'm a pretty young (31 years old) Java EE developer doing mainly Groovy and Grails. I've worked with plenty of older developers in this space and found that they're either up to date with Java or think experience is "I've done the same JavaEE since 2002 and by God it still works so it must be good."

  • by quietwalker ( 969769 ) <pdughi@gmail.com> on Thursday May 07, 2015 @12:12PM (#49639329)

    I worked as a contractor at IBM a few years back. They had just changed their hiring policies to basically three types for engineering positions:
        1. Foreign workers in areas with low cost of living that are paid location-adjusted wages
        2. New hires fresh out of college (preferred if they interned with IBM previously) for about 30% below market cost
        3. Individuals who were known in their field of study - acknowledged experts, basically, obviously a rarity.

    Everyone else was being pushed out or required to do the work of the experienced engineers who were pushed out on top of their own work, while training their own replacements. As in, "You can still work for us, but you have to move to brazil and accept a location-adjusted $27k/yr equivalent".

    This resulted in the majority of incoming employees being extremely young, low 20's, zero experience, with the older individuals being skipped not because of age, but because they were not willing to pay real market value for them, when they can get cheap labor that can be trained up to the same point for 1/3'd of the cost. Especially when the young kids are willing to put in 60 hour weeks because they don't have competing obligations.

    This wasn't a case of IBM being evil; they were just following the industry trends. I've seen other companies do the same thing.

    It's not that they aren't hiring people because of their age. If anything, they'd love to hire those experienced professionals. They just want them to work for below average starting pay for a zero-experience, fresh college grad. Someone with 20 years of experience is expensive, after all, and budgets are quarter to quarter - not 5 years down the road. Hard to justify long term ROI in just a single level of management. Got 20 years of experience and you're willing to work for 40k in San Jose? You'll have no problems finding a job. Want a more reasonable 150-200k? Well, there's 5 guys in vietnam that will do your job for 20k a pop, and that makes up for the loss in efficiency - on paper, at least.

  • When I hired people I would try to balance the team.
    1) Younger people for fresh ideas and perspectives as well as energy.
    2) Older people for experience and stability. Mentoring was expected.
    3) Men as they tend to rate higher in analytical skills than women (though this may be wrong as tech women can be very analytical)
    4) Women because they understand that much of software is social and involves modeling human relationships.

    Of course the usual stereotyping disclaimers apply.
    I often used women in roles which

  • Older workers actually use the vacation time, we also are not happy to be treated as a slave. Managers dont like employees that fight back when abused.

  • I'm 40 this year, and therefore washed up, useless and unemployable. :-) Not really -- but I do have to choose my opportunities carefully.

    I've posted about this before, but software development and IT have the same skillset regardless of age:
    - Attention to detail
    - Intelligent troubleshooting skills
    - Creative problem solving skills

    The things that differentiate the older people are:
    - Experience with technology cycles, and the ability to see what is a fad, what's a rehash and what will stick around
    - Experience

    • by richieb ( 3277 )
      I guess my question is this -- would older workers even be happy working at EA or Google or similar?

      The answer is "yes". Certainly at Google there are plenty of 40+ employees. At least in NYC, compared to a large bank, Google is a much, much nicer place to work.

  • It's not ageism per se. Devs over 40, like myself, haven't embraced the latest greatest technology. We haven't drunk the kool aide because it's probably another passing fad.

    This appears to be missing skills or an enthusiasm gap during the interview.

    Take puppet for example. It's the current craze in devops -- automated software deployment. It's also a piece of trash. It implements a lot of novel concepts that will probably evolve into something good over the next decade, but along the way puppet's young deve

    • Thank goodness you didn't learn Puppet. That would have been a waste of time. Everyone knows that Chef is the devops tool of choice. However, by the time you read this, Chef will probably be supplanted by Ansible or Salt so don't learn Chef, either.

  • by scorp1us ( 235526 ) on Thursday May 07, 2015 @12:18PM (#49639405) Journal

    I'm showing my age here, 38, but no talk is complete without mentioning the Dunning-Kruger Effect [wikipedia.org]. I have witnessed this first hand, even with myself. When you are young and full of vigor, you charge forth into the great unknown t eagerly writing lots of code. As you gain experience the code decreases but is of higher quality. I've now taken to assign a valuation to each line of code as liability vs added value. because in a few years some kid will come behind me other the other side of Dunning-Kruger and change this without really knowing what it is doing. I also spend more time doing research on what I am doing so my execution is flawless. Experimentation is rare. In the Art of war, the battle is only the last step and the preparation is really what determines the outcome. Similarly, code is only written when the planning is complete. This is the difference between code monkeys and engineers.

    But older engineers often get complacent. I too went through this phase. Many get comfortable with one technology, (Java, .Net) and no longer keep up with new efforts. But in the past 2 years alone, I've taken to learning Machine Learning, Node.JS, mobile platforms, Big Data.

    My advice is if you're old, don't get complacent, keep learning. If you're interviewing one of us veterans, keep an open mind. We might not be as cheap on paper, or outwardly enthusiastic. But if we're still in it after 20 years, we love what we do just as much as a new guy, and we will pay dividends in the long run.

  • I'm currently hiring new developers at my company and I don't give a hoot what age they are. I'm going to hire the best person for the job that I can find. "Best" means they have sufficient skill, an approachable personality and a reasonable wage. If you're older, refuse to learn new technologies and expect to be paid big bucks, you can go elsewhere. Same applies to any youngsters.

  • If I have the choice between three developers, and can only take one:
    a) a 50 year old C/C++ programmer with scripting experience on Unix and some main frame back ground with Cobol and Fortran
    b) a 30 year old with 5 year experience in Java or C#
    c) a university freshling, with no real work experience and very likely mediocre programming abilities, regardless what language

    Guess whom I take if I need someone who does real work?

    • ....Guess whom I take if I need someone who does real work?

      It all depends on what you are trying to accomplish. Each candidate has their own niche.

  • Seniors can always learn new toolchains and ideas.

    But expert knowledge of fundamentals and experience cannot be magically implanted into novices--it has to be earned.

    So any time you see a company firing off lot's of old people and hiring young people (it's cheaper!), you can be rest assured they're taking tons of knowledge with them out the door.
  • by kheldan ( 1460303 ) on Thursday May 07, 2015 @12:34PM (#49639547) Homepage Journal
    Here's the fact of the matter: There are MANY, MANY older folks now, and they're already hurting for work. Guess what? There's going to be MANY, MANY MORE, sooner than anyone wants to believe. Turning us into Soylent Green isn't an option, kids, and despite what some of the edgier of you post online, we're not just going to 'kill ourselves' to make way for YOU. I don't know about the rest of you guys, but I'm actually getting stronger, quicker, and overall healthier as I get older, not fat, decrepit, and addled-brained. There won't BE any 'retirement' for someone like me, I'm going to WORK until I drop dead., most likely. You think there's a homelessness problem now? How about it being multiples of ten times worse, except it's all people who had professional careers at one point, and have been kicked to the curb for the 'new hotness' that will accept a fraction of the salary and twice the abuse with a smile? Meanwhile even Social Security means nothing, it's all going to collapse into dust long before someone like me and my contemporaries will ever be eligible to collect on it, despite paying a nice sized chunk of our earnings into it our entire lives. To make matters worse I see people getting stupider and lazier instead of smarter, more skilled, and more active; I see a recipe for disaster in the making, all so some dickhead CEOs can improve this quarter's bottom line, and get a bigger bonus. You want to see the U.S. get back on top with regards to innovation and tech in general? Stop pushing out the experienced people so you can hire know-nothing twenty-somethings for less pay.
  • If it were all about money, they'd hire all women and only have to pay them 78c on the dollar. Amiright?

  • by pseudorand ( 603231 ) on Thursday May 07, 2015 @01:04PM (#49639947)

    I'm 36, so I worry about this. But I think younger developers really are better because technology changes so quickly and they've had more free time recently. When I was in college, I'd stay up until 3 AM "hacking". I got really good at all the latest stuff. Now I work 40+ a week on what is now older technology (because if it's working, don't "fix" it). I have a family and house and all sorts of other time sucks that mean I simply can't "hack" until 3 AM on a regular basis. Some of my experience means I'll make better decisions than the wet-behind-the-ears crowd. And it also means I can probably learn new technology faster, despite my less-squishy grey matter. But even at a faster clip, the huge advantage in time a college kid smart enough to not need to study much has means he or she will simply be better at the latest technology than I can possibly hope to be. And the quick turnover in technology means the value of my knowledge is falling quickly while the value of the young guys knowledge is on the rise. He or she will get a job and a family and be in the same boat soon enough. But the claim that my "experience" is somehow universal and timeless is simply a load of crap. In technology, experience is an ever-fleeting thing.

    That's why the guys who jump ship every few years do so well. They jump not just for higher salaries, but for the opportunity to learn the latest technology on the job before their existing knowledge becomes so completely useless that they can't get a new job.

    To an employer, they have their best employees jumping ship frequently and see the just-out-of-school kids with a working knowledge of the technology they're moving towards. You can almost not blame them for crying about a broken labor market. Almost.

    But employers know all this. Since technology changes quickly, they HAVE to train someone -- either their existing (read "expensive") employees have to learn new technology or some new hire (read "cheap") who knows the new technology has to learn the deeper engineering things that one gains only through experience. Since they're going to have to pay someone to learn something either way, who can blame them for choosing the cheaper option. Sometimes us old dogs would have done it better and cheaper, but its a risk and we all usually take the less risky option.

    I'm not sure I have a solution to all this, but we need some system that encourages those of us with experience to help the young guys learn the timeless things and also gives us free time to learn the ever-changing things. Maybe an apprentice system like they have in Germany or something.

    What's NOT the solution is importing cheap, disposable labor from overseas and then shipping them back home when their expertise is no longer the latest and greatest. That does nothing but help the rich get richer at the expense of both US and foreign workers.

    • by JustNiz ( 692889 )

      >> What's NOT the solution is importing cheap, disposable labor from overseas...That does nothing but help the rich get richer

      Agreed but unfortunately it is exactly those guys that are making these descisions and to add insult to injury they are getting rich from it.

      As a Brit now living in the US it boggles my mind how such short-term thinking remains so prevlent in the US and even more counter-intuitively, how it succeeds so much.

      Perhaps its because apprently nearly all Amricans view literally everyt

  • by SnapShot ( 171582 ) on Thursday May 07, 2015 @04:39PM (#49642113)

    As a 40+ developer getting job offers has (as of yet) not been a problem for me. Getting offers that equal my current salary (much less result in even a minor raise) is much, much harder.

Where there's a will, there's a relative.

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