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Businesses Programming IT

Is it Possible to Age Yourself Out of a Job? 225

Posted by Cliff
from the does-worthwhile-experience-mean-nothing? dept.
An anonymous reader asks: "I'm a programmer with more than twelve years of experience. In all that time, I've never been a 'senior' developer. I'm competent and I work hard, but I don't think I am quite a senior developer in terms of technical or people skills. More and more I feel that I'm aging myself out a job. By this time, employers expect someone with my experience to have advanced some, and they may not be willing to even talk to me now, thinking that my pay requirements have grown while I have not. Even if I did get hired someplace new, my peers would likely be much younger than me. What do you do when you have an applicant like that? Are my fears legitimate?"
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Is it Possible to Age Yourself Out of a Job?

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  • learn (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Lehk228 (705449) on Thursday January 18, 2007 @02:07AM (#17659800) Journal
    read a lot of programming books and learn as many useful programming languages as you can. even if you don't want to be a senior developer, you can still be the guy everyone goes to when something has to be done right.

    when searching for a job if you think they will overestimate your salary requirements be upfront about what you expect to make to eliminate that problem.
    • Re:learn (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Schraegstrichpunkt (931443) on Thursday January 18, 2007 @02:16AM (#17659840) Homepage

      read a lot of programming books and learn as many useful programming languages as you can.

      Good advice.

      you can still be the guy everyone goes to when something has to be done right.

      You're not going to get that from the books.

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by dar (15755)
        I have to disagree with both of these.

        You don't need to know lots of programming languages. You want to know three or four languages really really well. You'll accumulate languages as you get older just due to the changes in the industry. Make sure you know a common application development language like C++, C#, or Java. And make sure you know at least one scripting language such as Python or Ruby.

        You also want to read books on design and the development process. If you haven't already read them, start
      • Re:learn (Score:4, Interesting)

        by Forge (2456) <kevinforge.gmail@com> on Thursday January 18, 2007 @10:07AM (#17663614) Homepage Journal
        Get certified as a project manager (PMP if I remember correctly). Also consider doing an MBA. You see as a veteran programmer the young geeks WILL look up to you. Even if you are not a great programmer.

        That means with the additional training I recommend you will be able to apply for management level jobs leading a programing team and the guys will have much less of a problem with you than any other boss. Especially if you sit down and hack out a few bits of code yourself once in a while.
        • by SQLGuru (980662)
          That's well and good if project management is your goal. I find myself in a similar boat as the one posing the question (although, I'm in a senior position already). It has been 7 years since my last promotion. My next step would likely be to a management position or project management position, however, my desire is to remain technical. It's a tough position to be in. But yeah, I graduated college in 94 and feel like I'm pretty much topped out without changing to management. If I don't change industr
    • Re:learn (Score:5, Insightful)

      by ooh456 (122890) on Thursday January 18, 2007 @02:33AM (#17659932) Homepage
      If you look and compare to other industries, I don't think age in itself could be a disadvantage, as long as you have many successful projects on your CV. On the other side of the coin, however, I think anyone with under 5 years experience is immediately suspect.

      There is such a shortage of programmers right now (I have lived in Europe and USA) and most of the available ones are available for a reason. I know a 60 year old who is programming COBOL and earning very good money and happy. I know ASP/XHTML guys who have been unemployed for years. Until programs start writing themselves or there is a massive influx of competetent programmers to college you will be alright.

      In my opinion, a Senior Developer role is more a skill related thing than an age related thing. Old people need to work too. You shouldn't worry too much, especially if you are well liked.
      • by Dogtanian (588974)
        Hmm... what happened to all the people who learned COBOL circa 1999 to earn Big $$$$$$ from work on the Y2K bug? I bet they've all forgotten it now.
      • by llefler (184847)
        In my opinion, a Senior Developer role is more a skill related thing than an age related thing. Old people need to work too. You shouldn't worry too much, especially if you are well liked.

        I would say he shouldn't get too hung up on job title. There are so many different titles for programmers/developers/software engineers, and each company handles them differently, that employers are going to be looking more at experience than title. I know the last time I had my business cards done, my boss said I could pu
    • At our shop (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Travoltus (110240) on Thursday January 18, 2007 @03:01AM (#17660080) Journal
      I spent a lot of time early on walking through HR and sitting in on interview processes and their aftermaths to let HR understand beyond any uncertain terms where I stand as their manager and what I expect out of them.

      I have a simple rule that I demand they abide be. Pay is proportional to proven skill level. Age can kiss my ass. A 14 year old coder of the newest and greatest Firefox or a middle aged old hand, or someone who's been in my organization for x years and who has been lukewarm and suddenly caught on fire, it's all the same. When the light comes on it must shine on a hill and not be stuffed under a rug.
    • learn COBOL (Score:3, Interesting)

      by NewWorldDan (899800)
      Seriously. Nearly every programmer I know over the age of 40 works in a mainframe shop maintaining legacy COBOL programs. These programs never go away - ever. People try to rewrite them, but I've never seen a COBOL conversion actually succeed. COBOL guys, unless grossly incompetent, are untouchable. They all seem to be labeled a Sr. Engineer regardless of what they actually do or what their skill level is.
  • by dubl-u (51156) * <2523987012@pota . t o> on Thursday January 18, 2007 @02:10AM (#17659810)
    As somebody who hires people at startups and small companies, my take is "maybe". Programmers are a quirky lot, and I try to take each one individually. Although the arrogant ones get the press, there are quite a number that are ridiculously modest, and you might be one of those.

    Even if you aren't, there are advantages to age. The biggest one is maturity. There are mistakes that every novice makes that are (I hope!) behind you. Instead of a drama generator, you are probably a drama shock absorber. Even if your people skills aren't as great as you like, they're probably a lot better than 12 years ago. And best of all, you can see that with age comes some self-awareness. Everybody has problems, but in hiring one of the things I really look for is an awareness of your limitations and the ability to manage them yourself.

    When evaluating somebody in your situation, one of the big questions I'd have aside from the usual ones (e.g, can you do the work) is whether you are still like the work and are eager to improve. For example, I feel like every programmer should learn a new language once a year. That doesn't mean that you become expert in it, just that you are stretching your brain. Or you might have a side project you're excited about. Or you might be studying software architecture patterns. Anything that proves you aren't a clock-puncher who just isn't sure what else to do.

    So I'd say as long as you are doing work you want to do and doing it well, don't sweat it much. You may have to work harder to find a job than some young hotshot, but there are plenty of employers who value a steady producer who won't be a pain in the ass.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward
      I think the key difference is whether you have twelve years' experience, or one year's experience 12 times...
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by jesup (8690) *
      The questioner says they haven't really advanced, but are worried because their salary requirements have increased.

      Either a) you're wrong about advancing (perhaps you're underestimating yourself), b) you've advanced some (experience and maturity at least), but not enough to justify your current salary, or c) you're appropriately paid for what you do but you've shown yourself not to be interested in advancing and learning, and so may fall out of sync with current practices (in which case, crack the books and
      • I disagree. I spent the entire nineties using C and C++. In the last five years, I've used Java, Javascript, Python and C# professionally.
        • by jesup (8690) *
          I said innovation has slowed, not what's commonly used or used by a particular programmer. A lot of what's happened recently has been implementation of older ideas and incremental change. There are a lot less "left-field" languages being dreamed up, less entirely new paradigms for languages. Java is not exactly new. C# is probably the "newest" of those, dating to ~2000. Java and Javascript are circa 1995 (11 years old), and Python is 1991 (16 years old).

          See http://www.levenez.com/lang/history.html [levenez.com]. No
  • Well, first your fears are not founded. I have seen a lot of aged programmers in non-senior position. But that doesn't mean you should be among them. It's never too later learn some new staff. Chose some relatively new technology or area which you think will be in high demand, which is interesting for you and which is not crowded for now. Self-teach yourself. Do some staff for free, put it on the net or otherwise - whatever, but get experience in that area. Put it into your CV. Then the time is right it's
  • by antifoidulus (807088) on Thursday January 18, 2007 @02:14AM (#17659832) Homepage Journal
    be just pay. Younger people tend not to have families and, lacking experience, will often be coerced into working longer hours etc. They could be afraid that you would not put up with such conditions and bolt as soon as you got the chance.

    I'm 26, but I am saving like hell because I know that age discrimination is rife in this industry, and the more I save for retirement right now, the less I have to worry about such things.
    • Younger people tend not to have families and, lacking experience, will often be coerced into working longer hours etc. They could be afraid that you would not put up with such conditions and bolt as soon as you got the chance.

      *sigh* This is part of the problem with programming. This is rarely an issue in any other career (except maybe medicine). For just about any other occupation, candidates who are married with children are more desirable because even though they may have commitments outside of work, other people are relying on them, and they are less likely to make haphazard career decisions. Simply put, they are better long term employees -- they are already committed to their families and are therefore more committed to their employer. Yet, somehow, in IT, a family is often a liability. Something about that is not right in my book.

      I'm 26, but I am saving like hell because I know that age discrimination is rife in this industry, and the more I save for retirement right now, the less I have to worry about such things.

      I'm 28 and I'm out of the programming game. Enron's collapse did me in. I'm going back to school to do something more rewarding with my life, probably major in mathematics and then either teach or maybe try engineering. If the IT industry wasn't so abusive maybe I'd still be in it, but I'm just not that interested in programming anymore (for a living, anyway - I still program in my spare time). You know, if there was ever an industry in the last 50 years that needed to unionize, it's IT...

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by TooMuchToDo (882796)
        Here here my friend. I'm 24, and have been doing IT for 6 years. I made my hobby my job, and in search of a new hobby I began taking flying lessons. I hope one day to make it my new career. Then IT will be more fun again =)
        • by MBGMorden (803437)
          Damn. I thought I had posted and forgot about it at first.

          I'm 25, have been doing IT for 7 years now, and ironically enough, have also taken up flying lessons (I've got just over 60 hours logged and am working on getting my practical scheduled).

          I haven't decided on whether or not I want to try to make a career out of aviation (initially it was just something that I decided to do for fun), but it certainly would help to have something extra to fall back on. At the moment though, so long as they'll have me I
          • Glad to hear you're close to your checkride! I figure aviation is far enough diversified from IT that if the sector crashes, I can still be gainfully employeed. I've investigated having aviation as a career, and it's tough. To be a pilot with Fedex, you need 1000 pilot in command turbine hours logged (turbine hours, not prop hours). So it's really who you know who can help you get up to those hours.

            Good luck on the check ride.

            P.S. I highly recommend joining AOPA. It's $30 for the first year, and provide

      • by petrus4 (213815) on Thursday January 18, 2007 @04:39AM (#17660658) Homepage Journal
        Yet, somehow, in IT, a family is often a liability. Something about that is not right in my book.

        The main reason why family is considered a liability in IT is because IT is an industry where sweatshop labour is considered the holy grail.

        Families have a tendency to get in the way of Dad working 18 hours a day, and the sorts of demoniacs at the top of the IT management pile don't want that. They want people who are willing to work for as long as possible at a stretch, for as little money as possible, in as poor conditions as possible. It's the entire reason why importing people from India has become so popular.

        India at least used to be a third world country, and so you can import someone from there, pay them south of $250 a week without any other sorts of benefits, and expect to get 18 or so hour workdays out of them, and they'll still think they've died and gone to heaven. An American rank and file employee on the other hand is never going to put up with that, but American managers crave being able to treat their staff like that, because it keeps overhead to a bare minimum, which means more money in their pockets...which is also the *only* thing they care about.

        That is the reason why IT managers don't want workers having families...it's because they don't want to treat IT workers like human beings. They don't want to *acknowledge* that IT workers are human beings, because doing so means they lose more money than they're comfortable with. The "money is more important than life itself," crowd don't care about anything else...in the end they don't even care about their own lives. All they care about is the size of their bank balance.
        • by arivanov (12034) on Thursday January 18, 2007 @06:28AM (#17661306) Homepage
          Good, now after you have vented your spleen let me correct some of your facts and reasoning:

          First, based on my experience other countries lead in the "slaverunner" routine. In fact, I would prefer to work for all of the American bosses I have worked for in my career any day compared to some of the British ones I have encountered. With nearly all of Americans the result was the most important item and how many hours did you clock on it was irrelevant. Similarly, most of them defined sane and achieveable deadlines instead of a UK-style deadline which is known to be blown beforehand. There is a reason why Britain is the only EU country to start throwing toys out of the pram every time the EU working time directive is discussed. And you can guess what it is.

          Second, any IT person complaining about antisocial working conditions should look at the BioTech industry. They have take the leaf out of the IT book and have gone where no IT PHB Slaver has dreamed to go before. IT is a family friendly calm 9-5 desk job by comparison.

          • by Gr8Apes (679165) on Thursday January 18, 2007 @08:48AM (#17662468)
            Wow, get me a job with your former or current employers. Every project I've been on since 1999 has been behind schedule before the first line of code had even been thought of. Most were delivered early or on time with the last 5 years all being based on face time only, even if telecommuting or flex time were given lip service.

            If you take those two statements together, you'll see something had to give, and it was working hours. Only in the past 2 years have I forced the issue of the 40 hour work week back into my life. I'm now somewhere between 40-45 hours a week instead of 70-95, and I still manage to deliver those ridiculous deadlines. What I have noticed is that I am now working 6-8 straight hours a day (as compared to the estimated 3 hours of value add work in some government survey I'm too lazy to pull up - that's due to email, phone calls, meetings, people interrupting you, the web, bathroom breaks, coffee breaks, etc) If you think about it, that makes a lot of sense, as most of the /. community reads /. during work hours.... ;)

            But, I'll make this comment, after many years in IT, my upward career swing is stalling. Does that have to do with my attitude? Undoubtedly, as traveling more than 10% is out of the question for the next couple of years (kids can have that effect). It also has to do with the realization that I'm already at an apex of sorts, and there's really no opportunities for advancement without career development of the sort that involves major changes (sr architect (technical) -> technical director (mgmt)). Unfortunately, the particular type job I'm looking for typically involves geographically spread out operations and 25%+ travel. This causes a conundrum where I have to decide whether to travel, or work below my level. Pick your evil.

            I'm sure I'm not the only "older programmer" out there that's realized this.
            • It's advancement that's the real problem. (I'm an "older programmer" too.) A forty year old programmer is generally making the top of the pay scale for programmers. There's no where to go. You can either be happy with making the roughly the same salary until retirement, or you can leave programming and become a manager.

              I learned long ago that after about 8-10 hours of coding, any extra hours have a negative effect. I've worked with people who put in 12 hour days, and I can generally do more in 8 hours
              • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

                by arivanov (12034)
                Ahem. I have the same observation.

                8 hours per day is maximum and even 8 hours per day every day is not sustainable for more than a month or so if you want to produce quality work (it is OK if these are not solid 8 hours and you distract yourself with email, meetings, studying, etc). If you work more than 8 hours per day (in fact more like 5-6 solid coding hours) you end up producing crap code and spending more time on maintaining it and fixing issues. As a result you end up going down a vicious circle. The
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Overzeetop (214511)
          The main reason why family is considered a liability in IT is because IT is an industry where sweatshop labour is considered the holy grail.

          You clearly have never worked at an architecture, marketing, or any other firm that is driven by the need to have brain-hours to make money. They all flog their people to be caffine-overdosing, red-eyed drones. It's everywhere. The only way to get to the top is to stand on top of others. The only way to stay at the top is to keep the others down. There are exceptions of
      • by Undertaker43017 (586306) on Thursday January 18, 2007 @08:57AM (#17662566)
        Unionizing IT is not the answer. A couple of years ago I did a contract in a unionized IT shop and it was a nightmare! Incompetent, unqualified, downright lazy people in critical support positions, and protected by the union. Unions cater to the lowest common denominator and cause quality and productivity to suffer. Individuals have as much power as a union, they just need to stand up for it!

        I have been in IT for 20+ years, I have worked in a lot of different shops, and you only get abused if you accept it. I have worked in shops that expected long hours, and I only did it if I felt like it. If the situation got too bad, i.e. they start demanding that I spend extra hours, I walked. The beauty of IT is that there is ALWAYS another job out there. In 20+ years I have only been out of work ~2 months total, and yes, I have changed jobs twice in the last 5 years. Outsourcing is completely overblown, computers are here to stay and only getting more integrated into our lives and businesses, there is going to be IT work for a very long time.
        • Unionizing IT is not the answer. A couple of years ago I did a contract in a unionized IT shop and it was a nightmare! Incompetent, unqualified, downright lazy people in critical support positions, and protected by the union. Unions cater to the lowest common denominator and cause quality and productivity to suffer. Individuals have as much power as a union, they just need to stand up for it!

          I think you've hit the nail on the head. Unions are rarely the employees anymore; they're often extortion rings masquerading as employees. However, there are a few places where unions do what they're meant to - I can guarantee the airline industry unions have been a boon to their members. But you have a point, where's there's money (in this case, union dues), there's bound to be corruption.

          I have been in IT for 20+ years, I have worked in a lot of different shops, and you only get abused if you accept it.

          I suppose that came off as suggesting my past employers were abusive, and that's not the case. I mean the e

          • At the entry level end of IT I think there are more factors to consider. During the boom years of lot of people jumped on the bandwagon and got into IT and were good enough to bluff their way through the interview, but bombed in the job, costing companies plenty. Another factor, is that fewer US students are going into the sciences and engineering fields, and IMO the quality of the education (especially undergraduate) they are getting has gone WAY down in the last 10-15 years. Add these two factors to lower
      • by wikinerd (809585)
        Getting a union will only hurt IT. Employers know how to put their own people and informants in unions, and everything gets corrupted in no time. The solution is to find a way to earn money without relying on a company at all, to get outside this slavery system alltogether. This means opening your own startup, becoming a contractor, working as freelance... Unfortunately you do need not only technical ability and great personal stamina, but also lots of luck and some form of starting capital to start (the
    • by ucblockhead (63650) on Thursday January 18, 2007 @10:55AM (#17664308) Homepage Journal
      I'm 41. This April, I will have been a professional programmer for twenty years. Honestly, the "age discrimination" thing is overblown. I suspect it's mostly confined to "sexy" industries like the game industry.

      What is true is that salaries top out quickly...so if you want to keep getting more than nominal salary increases, you eventually have to go into management. What is also true is that as you age, you have to stay on top of the technology. Too many people get themselves in trouble by attaching themselves to a technology. I remember when the Defense industry died in the late eighties, lots of Cobol programmers hit the streets and started screaming "age discrimination!!!" because no one would teach them C++. This is why I've made damn sure I have things like "XML" and "Python" and "Javascript" on my resume now. If you're good, you can stay in this career as long as you want, but it takes work, and it takes planning. Be prepared to quit jobs that are decent, but use outdated technology.

    • I'm 26, but I am saving like hell because I know that age discrimination is rife in this industry, and the more I save for retirement right now, the less I have to worry about such things.

      You should be doing that regardless of industry, because the earlier you put money away the more the interest will compound.

    • "I'm 26, but I am saving like hell because I know that age discrimination is rife in this industry, and the more I save for retirement right now, the less I have to worry about such things."

      That's so smart and I'm impressed. Age discrimination is a fact of life. Although many people realize the value of experience, there are some who, as the original poster described, treat older programmers who haven't moved into management as less worthy. At a previous place of employment, I volunteered as part of an
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 18, 2007 @02:17AM (#17659844)
    I hate to say it, but yes. When reviewing a resume, I look for things like growth & ambition. At 12 years experience, I've seen very good architects. If one wasn't even Senior, I'd wonder why that is. Lack of ability? Lack of desire? Clock puncher?

    In most cases, I'll never know or have the chance to ask the candidate. Instead, I'll just move to the next 99 resumes in the stack.

    I know this isn't what you want to hear, but hopefully honesty will help.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 18, 2007 @05:02AM (#17660786)
      Clock puncher?
      ...or sexual harassment whiner? Or takes no racist BS jokes from managers? Never buys lunch to boss or lends him money? Won't pay protection racket?

      Sheesh, man, now sticking to your contractual or even legal rights is a shadow on your career. You slave buyers (as well as slave drivers - HR managers) are sick bunch!

      What's next? "Yes, he DOES stay long hours, BUT doesn't show euphoric happiness about it" or "Won't beat slackers into a bloody pulp" or "Won't do the (prison) time for the company"?

      My favorite: "Won't sacrifice own firstborn and only child to the Company"... oh, wait! It even isn't a joke anymore!
    • by ebbe11 (121118) on Thursday January 18, 2007 @05:07AM (#17660824)
      When reviewing a resume, I look for things like growth & ambition.

      Be very, very careful when you try to assess a person's growth and ambition. Climbing the corporate ladder is not the only way to grow.

      For instance, I have absolutely no ambitions to become a manager. If that ever happened, you would see the Peter Principle [wikipedia.org] in action. My ambition is to be an excellent software developer - and I am. My growth is in areas related to software development. I work hard at getting better at software development every single day. I am also 50 years old and have never held a job where I had any kind of management responsibilities. Would you hire a guy like me?

      BTW, I work as a contractor. I have worked continously for my current customer for over five years. My contracts are usually for three months, i.e., I am evaluated every quarter - and they haven't thrown me out yet.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Aladrin (926209)
        "For instance, I have absolutely no ambitions to become a manager."

        I feel exactly the same way. And yet, in every technical position I've ever been in, I was 'managing' in a very short time. I was always still responsible for programming/repairing/whatever, but as soon as they realized I wasn't an idiot, it was my job to overseeing one or more other people. Training 'the new guy' is one thing, and I'm okay with that. But it usually ends up that I'm responsible for making sure his projects are coming alo
      • by GoofyBoy (44399)
        >I am also 50 years old and have never held a job where I had any kind of management responsibilities.

        You started programming in 1982? Programming was alot more of a magical/black-box back then. Its a different world out there now. People believe that they can outsource cheaply programming now. People can get a secretary to use Microsoft Office to do what you were programming in 1982, with the help of an animated paper-clip.

        As an comparision, auto assembly workers were a job to die for in the early 1
        • by ebbe11 (121118)
          You started programming in 1982?

          1981, actually...

          People can get a secretary to use Microsoft Office to do what you were programming in 1982

          I seriously doubt that. In 1982, I was part of a team working on a CCIS (Command and Control Information System) for the Danish Navy.
          • by rlp (11898)
            >> People can get a secretary to use Microsoft Office to do what you were programming in 1982

            > I seriously doubt that. In 1982, I was part of a team working on a CCIS (Command and Control
            > Information System) for the Danish Navy.

            No, the first guy is right:

            Clippy: I see you are about to be torpedoed. Do you want to deploy counter-measures?

            Seriously, I was programming in '82 as well. I worked on systems that monitored telephone switching systems. Hardware has gotten far faster, cheaper, and sma
        • >I am also 50 years old and have never held a job where I had any kind of management responsibilities.

          You started programming in 1982? Programming was alot more of a magical/black-box back then. Its a different world out there now. People believe that they can outsource cheaply programming now. People can get a secretary to use Microsoft Office to do what you were programming in 1982, with the help of an animated paper-clip.

          Wow. I think I'd take the word of the 50-year-old who was there over the ki

          • by sholden (12227)
            the kid who uses the "word" "alot"

            I once tried the "is 'a little' one word?" answer to someone who asked me "is a lot one word?". Their answer was one, at which point I gave up on using that answer...
      • by richieb (3277) <{moc.liamg} {ta} {beihcir}> on Thursday January 18, 2007 @07:48AM (#17661796) Homepage Journal
        For instance, I have absolutely no ambitions to become a manager. If that ever happened, you would see the Peter Principle in action. My ambition is to be an excellent software developer - and I am. My growth is in areas related to software development. I work hard at getting better at software development every single day. I am also 50 years old and have never held a job where I had any kind of management responsibilities.

        I feel the same way. The "sweet spot" job I've been doing is being a "technical lead". This simply means that I get to code everyday, manage couple of smart programmers, and make the important design/architecture/coding and even product design decisions. The title that comes with this sort of job depends on a company - in one place I was a "Technical Lead", in another "Chief Architect" - but the stuff I do was pretty much the same.

        BTW, I'm also 50 and I wrote my first program in 1976.

        • by Abcd1234 (188840)
          You, my friend, have just outlined my dream job. It's a shame that, in my company, there's currently no room for such a position... oh well, maybe some day...
      • Climbing the corporate ladder is not the only way to grow.

        Climbing the corporate ladder isn't the only way to grow. Try taking on new tasks that aren't necessarily within your job description - learning some of the business functions that you are supporting, for example - that show your ability to grow and learn. You may not make more money, but you are less likely to be on the short list in a layoff, it looks great on your resume and you don't have to "sell out".

    • by giafly (926567)
      Though I'm not as mean as the AC parent. "Growth and Ambition?" Pah!

      Age is a factor if most of the candidate's experience is irrelevant.
    • I hate to say it, but yes. When reviewing a resume, I look for things like growth & ambition. At 12 years experience, I've seen very good architects. If one wasn't even Senior, I'd wonder why that is. Lack of ability? Lack of desire? Clock puncher?

      I guess it's a win-win situation for you, AC, and Mr. Ask Slashdot. You get someone with the word "Senior" on the resume, and he doesn't get stuck in management where he doesn't want to be.

      So we're back to the original question, in a fashion: how to find

    • by wikinerd (809585)

      The problem with this "no signs of growth in employment history? next CV!" approach is that it automatically filters out people who invest energy in personal projects, like open-source software.

      • by llefler (184847)
        Just to play devil's advocate, wouldn't a lack of initiative on the job while excelling on open source projects be a bad thing? As an employer, I don't think I'd want to pay a programmer to coast all day (on my dime) while devoting his/her energy to OS projects. Unless those projects benefited the company, but then it wouldn't be "no signs of growth".
    • by AuMatar (183847)
      Most likely- doesn't give a shit about title. My employer has some series of titles for engineers. I don't know which one I am. Or care for that matter- my work is pretty much the same either way. I write code, fix bugs, look for problems, and architect solutions. You can call me junior, senior, level 1-20, principal, architect, etc. Doesn't matter, they all do the same work. All I care about is the work is interesting, the environment is fun, and the pay is good.
  • I know exactly how you feel and have sort of done the same thing to myself. I guess the thing employers look for is experience plus skills. The longer you work without learning something new, the more archaic your skills become, but you offset that with experience. If you want to make yourself more attractive that noob candidates, you can make yourself competitive with the young bloods by going out and getting certified in more recent technologies. For example, if you've got 12 years' experience develop
  • Options (Score:5, Interesting)

    by SupplyMission (1005737) on Thursday January 18, 2007 @02:21AM (#17659868)

    I can't speak from experience about your situation, but I think you might have a number of very good options.

    • Make it known that you are interested in being a senior developer. If you want to climb the ladder in your company, you need to make your interests known to the people who can give you promotions. This might mean spending more time with the bosses and some (or lots of) ass kissing. Ask for mentoring. Depending on the culture at your company, you might be surprised to find someone more than happy to take you under their wing. Especially if you are a familiar face, because of the long time you have been employed, people might be glad to see you step up and get promoted. Get out of your cube and explore your options in this area. Make it a point to take a stroll around the building a few times each month, and just say "hi" to people. Don't pass up opportunities to make idle chit chat once in a while with people you barely know.
    • Rebrand yourself. There are plenty of colleges where you can take courses in project management training. Your long experience may confer on you credibility and respect that a younger person does not have yet. The leap to project management will be a significant career change and will take some hard work, but dedication it is not impossible.
    • Take training courses. Regardless of how useful some training courses are, they look good on your resume. If you make it a goal this year to take, for example four or five training courses in something relevant to your specific field, your chances of getting employed will be much higher. People who have been in a field for a long time and actively stay abreast of new developments command respect.

    There are probably unlimited more things we could think about. You shouldn't underestimate your 12 years of experience, especially if you are a hard worker, and have a reputation of getting things done.

    One last thing, I get the feeling from reading your question that you might have the problem where you keep your head down and work hard, and as a result people forget who you are, and then forget you are even there. The squeaky wheel gets the grease, pardon the cliche. As I pointed out above, it is in your best interest to maintain some level of connection to people around you and above you in your company. The more they see you and talk to you, the more they feel they know you, and the more likely you are to be presented with opportunities for advancement.

  • by mpechner (637217) * on Thursday January 18, 2007 @02:22AM (#17659876) Homepage
    I've been a software engineer for 25 years. No issues. There is no expectation that you should move to management at some point. The main expectation is that you are able to keep up with technology as it changes. I've moved from COBOL to C to Java to perl to php. I've used more scripting languages than I can remember. You have to keep moving forward. You never stop reading. Provide mentoring to less experienced engineers. Never hide what you know. It is not good being the curmudgeon that keeps his knowledge to himself. You become a teacher. Understand where projects you have participated in have succeeded or failed. Bring that experience to that table. Most of us have seen more product the never made it to market than have made it. Your experience in knowing why projects succeed is something import you bring to the table. Plus you are the senior guy you get more opportunities to take lead on the cool projects. So I would not worry. I am seeing more people with some gray and missing hair. So as long as you produce, people will continue to hire you.
    • by tcopeland (32225)
      > Most of us have seen more product the never
      > made it to market than have made it

      Yup. This is where it's handy to write some open source code, some articles, or a book or two on the side. Then you have something you can publicly show after a year of working on a project that gets buried for some budgetary reason.
    • by barzok (26681)
      I am seeing more people with some gray and missing hair.
      A bit ageist? I'm barely 29, my hair is thinning, my hairline making a hasty retreat (my younger brother is worse off than I though), and what hair I do have is already getting grey. Stress, genetics, and the glow of new parenthood aren't helping me.
      • by mpechner (637217) *
        Not really. I've also been thinning since my mid 20's.
        My beard also started turning a bit gray then.

        The statement was meant to mean that there are more people staying in the field and being hired. After all, the point of the original posting is whether or not there is ageism. Whether or not you are expected to move from the trenches at some point.
    • Yup! The key is to keep learning! Coding for twenty years, I've rarely encountered age discrimination, but I have noticed that people only ever ask me about the last couple projects on my resume. It's all about what you know, and the skill you can show.
  • by MrYotsuya (27522) on Thursday January 18, 2007 @03:40AM (#17660258)
    Sure, it's called retirement. Next!
  • by akuzi (583164) on Thursday January 18, 2007 @03:46AM (#17660286)
    A related and somewhat provocative question that it hardly every asked is whether programmers 'peak' and are less effective after a certain age or not.

    I know it's widely believed that mathematicians have already peak by their late 20s or early 30s.

    I am now in my mid-30s, and i believe that my memory and ability to hold a lot of things in my mind at once has deteriorated quite a bit in the last 10-15 years. I have a lot of experience that makes up for it of course, but i think at some point i suspect i'm going to become less productive as a programmer (it may have already happened).

    I don't want to contribute to ageism because i know that there are a lot of great programmers in their 40s, 50s and beyond - i just think it's an interesting question. Anyone have any opinions?

    (I remember hearing that Steve Wozniak thinks that for him the magic age was around 40)

     
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by thogard (43403)
      I think as people age, they pick up more complex projects and maybe they get to a point where they get over loaded. To be a good programmer, you must be able to cope with complex problems and as people age, they are involved with more and more projects. Right now I've got a few complex but unrelated work projects, several for my own consulting company. Then there are other complex problems like home and retirement financing, managing home and family projects and hobbies. Even simple stuff like keeping t
    • by Dunx (23729)
      Like so many things, it depends.

      I'm in my very late 30s and I am developing better software than ever. What's changed is that I am in a more stimulating environment than I was before, working on stuff I care about.

      I've noticed that my abilities have changed over the years. I can't pull all nighters these days, even a 60 hour week is out of the question, but I also find that I don't need to do these things because I'm not making the same mistakes I did when I was in my early 20s.

      But if you had asked me this
    • In my experience, you lose memory and stamina (much harder to pull all-nighters) but you gain experience and intuition. Experience doesn't just "make up" for the other failings...in many ways, it's more important. I think that older programmers are better in project lead positions where they have more control over things like architecture and design, but perhaps with fewer hard core coding responsibilities.
    • by Surt (22457)
      I'm right at 35, and clearly still on an upward trajectory with my abilities.
  • Do an MBA (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Marcion (876801) on Thursday January 18, 2007 @03:53AM (#17660328) Homepage Journal
    People with MBAs are happy to pay people highly with MBAs... if you can't beat them, then join them.
  • develop yourself (Score:3, Interesting)

    by morie (227571) on Thursday January 18, 2007 @04:28AM (#17660588) Homepage
    You say you lack the technical and social skills to get to senior level. Develop either one or both.

    Specialise:
    Get some focused, advanced specialist trianing in a subect that interests you and is commercially interesting. Invest some money in doing this.

    Develop your social skills:
    There are courses in social skills, customer handeling, consultancy skills etc. Get a good training and develop what you already have further. You are asking for the opinion of others here, why not expand that communication urge to fields where it can be beneficial to you personally or, even better, professionally.

    Get some management skills:
    If it interests you in the least, get some business degree, a MBA or some form of management training. It may not be what you want to do now, but it provides an option to be of value to a company later and keep a job.

    Bottom line:
    Invest in yourself. Don't be scared of investing some money in this, but choose quality and choose education in a direction you feel confident will provide you options. Be cautious of things you like now and think are fun: They may not add extra skills. Also be cautious with things you do actively dislike: it may take a lot of effort to master something like that and you would have te grow to like it if you want to be succesfull in it.

    Good luck from a chemical engineer/project manager/sales representative/marketeer/manager. Yes, I chose the diversify option :-)
  • by wizrd_nml (661928) on Thursday January 18, 2007 @04:44AM (#17660688) Homepage
    I'd like to present an opposing view to the posts that have been modded up so far.

    I believe that yes your fears are definitely legitimate. You state that you don't see yourself moving up from your current position even though you expect higher pay. Unfortunately these two options are not compatible.

    Companies constantly judge the value that they get out of an employee versus how much that employee costs. The reason managers get paid more is that they are able to leverage more people (=value) and therefore create more overall value as a result.

    If you haven't already, you will definitely hit a ceiling in terms of pay. If your salary continues to go up past that ceiling (due to company policy or a friendly manager), you will be the first person earmarked to go when the company downsizes (as a result of the previously mentioned value judgment).

    I do understand that it might be harder for you to gain the required people skills to move up, especially in an industry that, at the lower ranks, requires very little in terms of people skills. But people skills, just like any other skill, can be learned and acquired by practice.

    The good news is this: if you do make an effort to acquire those people skills, you'll be able to move up the ladder much quicker than those younger than you because, as mentioned in another post, the level of maturity you should now possess will definitely play a big role in the more senior roles.
    • by Kjella (173770)
      Companies constantly judge the value that they get out of an employee versus how much that employee costs. The reason managers get paid more is that they are able to leverage more people (=value) and therefore create more overall value as a result.

      There's a lot of things wrong about being a consultant, but that is one thing they get right. You stay booked up at high hourly rates = high salary, considerably better than if you're just one peon at a company. I don't mean just as an independent consultant, but
  • by Kwiik (655591) on Thursday January 18, 2007 @05:44AM (#17661066) Homepage
    Hooters?

    Disclaimer: I only read the article title. Please mod me down!
  • In the programming business, the top 10% of the programmers are about 10x as productive as the middle 50%. The middle 50% are 10x as productive as the bottom 10%. Experience plays a big factor in productivity, but if you aren't in the top 50%, 12 years of experience won't make you as good as a person with 2 years of experience who's top 10%.

    At some point, if your salary requirements increase much at all, you're priced out of the market.

    And if you're at the lower end of the productivity spectrum, it can co
  • This concern is not limited to programmers, it applies to system administrators as well. I'm 42 and have little desire to get into management, but the pressure to do so is very strong. There are people younger than me who are directors and vice presidents. Some are good and some are total dolts.

    I'm a pretty good admin who can implement and manage several types of network systems (servers, switches, firewalls, messaging, etc). I'm probably at a dead end in the corporate world, so working for a consulti

  • by Spazmania (174582)
    Last I checked, you don't put your age on your resume. You can also trim your work experience list to the last 10 years and skip the dates for the education part -- most interviewers don't find that information relevant anyway.

    Once you're actually in the interview, its won't be about your age -- it'll be about your fit for the job. If they want someone with median skills and you have median skills, you'll be fine. If they want someone with expert skills but only median experience (which they often do) then
  • As you gain experience you should take on more and different projects, honing you skills to a higher level. If you are doing the same job in the same way you did 5 years ago you are either lazy or stupid.

    As you progress you should begin taking lead and then management roles, work on longer term R&D project, train jr. staff member, do less *grunt* work and more high level planning, work on infrastructure etc.

    Either that or go back to school. If you aren't growing you are dying.
  • by pauljw (1052906) on Thursday January 18, 2007 @10:26AM (#17663902) Homepage
    Number one: I love what I do. Number two: My phone rings. I actually turn down offers due to commitments. Started out back in the Middle Ages on mainframes and moved on to AS400's (love those beasts). Since I learned C early on in a Nix system, within a couple of years of when Linus put it out there on the Net, I set up a Linux box at home because I liked Nix so much. Eventually a company I worked for put a Linux box in front of their AS400 where the website was hosted in order to place a 'sacrificial' machine out in front with a lot of scripting on it. Suddenly my Nix skills got to be in demand there. Lately almost all I do is LAMP based web sites and web apps + Linux admin. Somebody here mentioned that you become the guy everybody goes to in order to ask, "How do I..." That happens on a lot for me.

    Keep on keepin' on. Get new languages as you need them. Be flexible. Number one, above, probably has an awful lot to do with it.

    When I started using the Internet there was almost nothing out there but Nix or Mainframe command lines. If you couldn't handle those you were SOL. I started reading /. very early on when it and the web were new. Still read it almost every day. Good going, Taco.

  • Career-wise, I think you should get into management or other supervisory positions as quickly as you can. Enrol to a management programme in college, or do anything possible to get entitled to add "management skills" on your CV (resume).

    Another possibility would be to become a teacher. Get any advanced computer science and education qualifications you can find, and go teach.

    Note that education may be too pricey in USA, but it may be much cheaper for you to enrol to a UK distant education programme, li

  • I don't believe age is a factor in most companies' hiring practices.

    Now you !@#$% kids get off my lawn!
  • Consider seeking a sizable "career company." These companies often put a priority on existing for the sake of providing their employees jobs, and like having a few greybeards who are very familar with their codebase. As long as you realize that your job is to get things done, you'll always be considered valuable. (Just don't become someone who's attitude is "My job is to keep my job.")

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