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News: A Java developer's hit points: Slowly declining after age 35?

  1. Really? Do we only get fifteen years of respect and reverence as application developers? Matt Heusser, in an article written for our sister site, IT Knowledge Exchange, asserts what many of us older folks plogging away in the development side of things are often thinking to ourselves, which is: ‘are we too old to still be programming once we’ve reached our forties?’

    “During my interview at Google, I realized something very important: You get fifteen years.

    “That is to say, your half-life as a worker in corporate America is about age thirty-five.  Around that time, interviews get tougher.  Your obligations make you less open to relocation, the technologies on your resume seem less-current, and your ability find that next gig begins to decrease.”

    Being a programmer while in your forties is like being a police officer who’s still working the traffic beat after twenty years on the force; there’s nothing wrong with it, but one does wonder why you haven’t moved into a position of management or higher responsibility. And is it something that potential employers are asking themselves when they see a potential hire with crows feet around their eyes?

    It’s an interesting and thought provoking article that’s definitely worth checking out.

     

    What I learned from Google - You Get Fifteen Years

     

    Threaded Messages (24)

  2. Not necessarily true[ Go to top ]

    Just because that's one person's perception of Google, it doesn't mean it applies outside of google. In many other domains, 35 is just starting to get good. Take enterprise integration projects, AI, and financial services for example. Assuming someone starts out at 24/25, it takes about 10 years to get to the point where they have enough experience to really handle "some" classes of problems.

  3. I have had a similar experience with Google interview. I felt that Google is not a place and they care for the experiance you bring to the table.

    To add to the article, after certain level of experiance approx 15 yrs it is about time to determine what is the next level you need to look for. Architect level is the peek you attain in development career.

     

  4. Small correction in my earlier reply.

     

    I have had a similar experience with Google interview. I felt that Google is not a place to interview for senior/architect level java engineers, their interview process and methodology truely signifies that Google does not care or has any regard for the experiance you bring to the table.

  5. Not if you have what they want[ Go to top ]

    I was over 35 when I started developing. If I want a job and get an interview I expect to get the job. I took to heart the saying "half your skills become obsolete in 5 years"  so I am driven to keep my skills up to date. Too many developers I've worked with, no matter how smart they are, let their skills stagnate. If you have 2004 developer skills in 2011 you should be a maintence programmer or change careers.

    On the other hand, companies that are homogonously childless and young expect you to be like them. 

  6. Like a fine wine![ Go to top ]

    First, and most obviously, why would one want to go to work for Google now? The few options you might get are relatively worthless, and most of the smart people left years ago to  .. ;-)

    Secondly, and much more importantly, on this point:

    Being a programmer while in your forties is like being a police officer who’s still working the traffic beat after twenty years on the force; there’s nothing wrong with it, but one does wonder why you haven’t moved into a position of management or higher responsibility.

    I hope I continue to enjoy and practice programming for as long as my mind can work. As Fred Brooks said:

    "Finally, there is the delight of working in such a tractable medium. The programmer, like the poet, works only slightly removed from pure thought-stuff. He builds his castles in the air, from air, creating by exertion of the imagination. Few media of creation are so flexible, so easy to polish and rework, so readily capable of realizing grand conceptual structures.

    "Yet the program construct, unlike the poet's words, is real in the sense that it moves and works, producing visible outputs separate from the construct itself. It prints results, draws pictures, produces sounds, moves arms. The magic of myth and legend has come true in our time. One types the correct incantation on a keyboard, and a display screen comes to life, showing things that never were nor could be."

    Regarding "moving to higher responsibility", while being a good manager is also a wonderful responsibility, it is no higher a responsibility than being a good programmer. Whatever one sets out to do should be done well and to the best of one's abilities. The impact of being a good programmer can be tremendous, both on the business or project being served, and on those around you as a programmer. Many great programmers that I have met are also great mentors and leaders, as part of what they do, and what greater achievements can there be than to successfully deliver quality products while mentoring and inspiring those around you?

    As explained so eloquently by Thomas the Tank Engine, there is is a joy in being "useful". I cannot imagine a better job than one that simultaneously provides joy by doing something of value and doing something that is fun! To top that off (which should be inconceivable!), many of us who get to do this while working with intelligent and engaging people. We are indeed a fortunate lot.

    Peace,

    Cameron Purdy | Oracle

  7. How about some of us keep writing code all our lives simply for the love of programming? Those who moved on never really wanted to be in this line of work?

  8.  but one does wonder why you haven’t moved into a position of management or higher responsibility.

    I've heard many many times this stupid point of view.

    The first answer is simple:

    Imaging a development team, for instance 5-10 developers and a project manager, time passes and developers want to be promoted, maybe the project manager got a higher position... how many project managers can the company afford?

    Ummm JUST ONE!!!

    Then we got now 9 experienced and maybe happy developers frustrated? Really? Are you sure?  

    The answers are simple:

    1) THERE IS NO PLACE FOR MANAGEMENT FOR EVERYBODY, EVERYBODY CANNOT BE BOSS.

    2) And some people DO NOT WANT PURE MANAGEMENT POSITIONS far away of coding and everything related. 

    I'm project manager, I love managing, yes, but I also love CODING A LOT, fortunately in my company, part of a big Spanish telco, there is no pure-management positions in the development department and I like it because it makes you NEAR of the problems, NEAR of the details, NEAR of the product we deliver, in spite no one forces it my boss also coding because I know he likes it.  

    Maybe this a romantic point of view but I hardly can imaging a good painter struggling to be an art dealer, a good architect struggling to be a house seller (and earning lots of money)...    

    I know a guy near of 40, maybe one of the best developers of Spain and I heard of him "I think I'm starting to be a good developer I could get a manager position but I DON'T because is not the subject I'm best skilled"

    Regarding "the new skills", sorry guys, an experienced developer can get the "new skills" just in a few days and to realize... "most of the same with a new cover, throwing away some good stuff just to promote some unproductive ideas apparently new", and this is not just rethoric.

    We are obssesed with the "new" stupid API ever released in some place of the internet, for me is COMPLEXITY MANAGEMENT the best skill, and "complexity management" is not a skill you can easily justify with just a bunch of APIs.

    In Spain you can see, for instance, waiters many years old, but you can hardly see the same in the developer world, I think for myself "tons of experience throwed away again".

    These days I read tons of "craftmanship" thinking, ok, fine, but until this movement leverages the developer profession where experience is A VALUE... these days, I'm sorry, I just see "more tests" as the only fruit of the movement in an industry more and more child-boy centric.

    Many years ago (around 10) one company offered me a managing position, I thinked for me if "I say yes I'm sure I'll say goodbye to software development" and I said no, no to earn tons of money maybe doing boring stuff, I know I'm sure I will say goodbye to soft development before I get tired of coding :) 

    I wish more Cameron Purdys in management (and coding) positions, cheers Cameron :)

     

  9. Get real[ Go to top ]

    It is good that you can program at 35, some people think they still can at 45. The reality is your reflexes get slower, you thinking ability is impared by your age, you know a lot, but you a are slowwwwww......

    Compared to motivated 22 year old, you will not have a chance...

    Same as race car drivers, they only good when they are young. This is the reality, get used to it. By the time your are 40 expect that you have your own business, or give up, and take management position at some big company, and forget about your dreams.

    Get real....

    37 years old software developer ...

  10. Get real[ Go to top ]

    It is good that you can program at 35, some people think they still can at 45. The reality is your reflexes get slower, you thinking ability is impared by your age, you know a lot, but you a are slowwwwww......

    Compared to motivated 22 year old, you will not have a chance...

    Same as race car drivers, they only good when they are young. This is the reality, get used to it. By the time your are 40 expect that you have your own business, or give up, and take management position at some big company, and forget about your dreams.

    Get real....

    37 years old software developer ...

    I'm not completely sure you are serious here but I fail to see how programming requires quick reflexes.  The reality is that most developers burn-out by a certain age but the ones that continue to grow and learn are usually better than kids.

    Within a persons working lifetime, the biggest danger to older developers is that they stop learning and fall into repetition.  Frankly, if you think quick reflexes are important to development, you are probably falling into repetitive patterns and not spending enough time thinking and learning.

  11. What is the age of James G when he founded Java?

    Does it mean all the doctor's should retire when they reach 35? The doctor profession and Software engineers have much similarity in terms of technology respective to speed of evalution.

    Anyway what is your age or can you share your resume.

     

  12. What us the age if James G when he founded Java? :)

    All doctors should retire when they reach 35 ?  Software Engineers & Doctors should keep updating technology otherwise become outdated.

    Thanks.

     

     

  13. I'm 33 and I'm a Yungin![ Go to top ]

    I'm a little surprised by this article.  I'm 33 and one of the youngest on the team.  I think we're nearing 75 developers now, if not more.  To get hired here you need to have a seniors experience.  Minimum 5 years just to have your resume looked at.

  14. HAHAHAHAHA.

     

    Donald Knuth begs to differ.

  15. What I learned from Google?[ Go to top ]

    What does Google know? Employing all these people under 35 maybe is the reason things only ever get to "beta" ...

  16. If you've ever wondered why software development is always changing but our ability to deliver changes little, if at all, this is a big part of the issue.  Once a developer has gained mastery, they pushed to stop coding and either manage, draw pictures, and/or philosophize.

    There is another aspect to this, though.  Once you have gained a certain level of experience, you should be spending more time mentoring and guiding.  You should also be much more productive and the quality of your work should be much better.  If, after 10 years of experience, you are still coding the same way you did when you first started that's a problem.

  17. If you've ever wondered why software development is always changing but our ability to deliver changes little, if at all, this is a big part of the issue.  Once a developer has gained mastery, they pushed to stop coding and either manage, draw pictures, and/or philosophize.

    There is another aspect to this, though.  Once you have gained a certain level of experience, you should be spending more time mentoring and guiding.  You should also be much more productive and the quality of your work should be much better.  If, after 10 years of experience, you are still coding the same way you did when you first started that's a problem.

     

    The real disaster happens when those who are still coding the same way they did when they first started decide that is time to jump on the other side and start their new life as manager.

    They have a huge experience and they know what SW development is.

    By definition.

     

  18. Really?[ Go to top ]

    Google is not a global reality. Would I work for google? Yeah but no plans to moving to california just left. I manage a team much older than me and I'm in my forties. We're talking guys having grandkids. I've worked many years in .com and start-ups with fresh college kids. I was one. At the end of they day I see no difference between the 20 year old developer and the 60 year old, except experience. You may hit a half life if you only stayed at one company that did one lanugage, but if you move around the answer is no.

    I will point out doing lots of math, coding problems, and doing puzzles for an interview isn't necessary the best way to get the best candidate. In fact you may lose many great candidates that don't do well on math or first year college coding problems because we freakin use libraries to hide the mundane work of writing a linked list or quick sorting algorithim.

    I'm more worried do you understand we have a project deadline and how are you going to solve my point a to point b problem for the customer.

     

  19. If you've ever wondered why software development is always changing but our ability to deliver changes little, if at all, this is a big part of the issue.  Once a developer has gained mastery, they pushed to stop coding and either manage, draw pictures, and/or philosophize.

    There is another aspect to this, though.  Once you have gained a certain level of experience, you should be spending more time mentoring and guiding.  You should also be much more productive and the quality of your work should be much better. If, after 10 years of experience, you are still coding the same way you did when you first started that's a problem.

     

    The real disaster happens when those who are still coding the same way they did when they first started decide that is time to jump on the other side and start their new life as manager.

    They have a huge experience and they know what SW development is.

    By definition.

  20. The real disaster happens when those who are still coding the same way they did when they first started decide that is time to jump on the other side and start their new life as manager.

    The cliche that bad developers are promoted to management is far too true.  The other side of this is that good developers are too important to move into management.

    I believe a lot of these ideas arose during the dot-com boom when technical talent was extremely scarace but have become conventional wisdom.  Yes, moving one good developer to management means the (partial, at least) loss of a good developer but that manager can guide multiple developers and help them become great much faster.  In addition, that manager can help stop the kind of Dilbert-esque foolishness that often contributes to poor results in software.

  21. Skill is what matters[ Go to top ]

    If you are skilled and can prove it, age shouldn't really matter. I can never become a Manager, it neither suits my personality nor i am interested in it.  I am 32 and I know I will always be a developer and i really enjoy it.

    I do not see myself as a loser if i dont get into management.

  22. Love what I'm doin'[ Go to top ]

    I also think that this idea of having to "move up" is nonsencical. I think that someone who really has the skills and mentality of a developer will normally want to become a manager (or an "architect", for that matter).

    BTW, the most important skill for a developer IMO is being able to invent and think in abstractions (object-oriented ones that is). In my experience, that skill grows with experience over the years, like a good wine that ripens in the cask. And a good degree of skepticism against the latest-and-greatest technology fashion doesn't hurt either.

    Of course, as someone else said in this thread, if the corporate culture is built up around youth, I dont need the job...

    And one last word about the "architect" thing. IMO, that term is another invention of non-coders trying to elevate themselves over the working class. Which other engineering discipline uses that kind of terminology? Try thinking of a "mechanical engineering architect", or an "electrical engineering architect". The best you would reap is probably a hearty laugh. To me, an architect is someone who constructs real buildings. Around here, we are all Software Engineers (junior and senior ones, simple developers and team leaders). Thats all we need!

  23. Life changes[ Go to top ]

    Another "problem" facing developers in their late-30's and early-40's is that they tend to have young families at that stage of their lives. When I was in my 20's and early 30's with no family responsibilities, I attended almost every user-group meeting in town, tried out all the cool new open-source projects (started some myself), regularly worked late/weekends and travelled inter-state for work/conferences; basically my career possibilities seemed endless.

    But now, in my late 30's with two young kids, my job has become a regular 9-to-5 routine. Can't really stay back because I have to pick up the kids from childcare. I have only minimal time to play with cool technologies because of daily chores looking after them. Outside of work hours, I have to constantly make the difficult trade-off between getting known in user-groups/conferences or getting to know my kids. All these really bite into my ability to do the most important thing in my job:- staying up-to-date.

    When I decided to have kids in my mid-30's, I've made the conscious difficult decision to make sacrifices in my career. And I'm not the only one. Many of my colleagues around my age are also in the same situation. We try our best, but there is no way we can match the time and effort put in by our younger colleagues.

  24. I'm a 39 y. old java programmer and to be hones java and j2ee do not look cool anymore. I've done almost everythig possible in java but I'm sure that in 5-6 years if I would be going to an interview with a 25 year old programmer , he will get the job. How many of you will hire a 45 years old programmer ? I mean for your own company. What's more difficult than programming ? Working with people. Delivering a project. That's difficult. Programming is easy. Finding a technical solution is just a matter of time. 

  25. Too many other opportunities[ Go to top ]

    I've worked with developers of all ages and it seems undeniable to me that experienced developers bring stuff to the table that younger ones may not. There are pros and cons to age; if there are relatively few older developers, it's probably because so many take up opportunities to start their own company, move into management or retire early, having made pots of loot. But then there are also plenty who stay on as developers because they love the job, or because they just don't find other opportunities. There is no cult of youth in the industry as a whole from what I've seen, and it's crazy to imagine that a 45-year-old won't be up to the job --- just plain crazy. Coding is one of those things that some people continue to love throughout their lives; it's by no means a foregone conclusion that a 40-year-old would definitely want to move into management. Whereas I'd imagine very few traffic cops love dealing with traffic all that much. James H. Clerk carried on programming well after becoming a billionaire (and probably still does!)