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Ask Slashdot: Am I Too Old To Retrain? 418

Posted by Soulskill
from the not-unless-you're-an-mma-fighter dept.
Talcyon writes "I'm a 40-year-old developer, and it's become apparent that my .NET skillset is woefully out of date after five years of doing various bits of support. I tried the 'Management' thing last year, but that was a failure as I'm just not a people person, and a full-on development project this year has turned into a disaster area. I'm mainly a VB.NET person with skills from the .NET 2.0 era. Is that it? Do I give up a career in technology now? Or turn around and bury myself in a support role, sorting out issues with other people's/companies' software? I've been lurking around Slashdot for many years now, and this question occasionally comes up, but it pays to get the opinions of others. Do I retrain and get back up to speed, or am I too old?"
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Ask Slashdot: Am I Too Old To Retrain?

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  • I've been lurking around Slashdot for many years now, and this question occasionally comes up, but it pays to get the opinions of others.

    Right, this sounds somewhat similar to this question [slashdot.org] and you can take or leave my old advice [slashdot.org]. Some good replies to my post as well.

    I don't get it. This is such a fatalistic and defeated attitude! Will I, too, give up the ghost at age 40? I don't think you're ever too old to learn something knew but I'm 30 years old and my idea of a fun weekend is reviewing a book on a new fledgling language or framework. And there's plenty of room for criticism for me concentrating on diversity rather than depth.

    I'm a 40-year-old developer, and it's become apparent that my .NET skillset is woefully out of date after five years of doing various bits of support.

    I'm sorry. Honestly, I really am sorry. I don't like that framework, I don't like that language. Also when I was growing up it was largely a "pay to play" realm and largely still is (although I know I can get my hands on an express IDE).

    I tried the 'Management' thing last year, but that was a failure as I'm just not a people person, and a full-on development project this year has turned into a disaster area.

    Again, a fatalistic attitude. It's possible you never found a good role of management for you. It requires more time but there's always a "lead by example" model for leadership. It's not as easy as delegating but you can earn a lot more respect. It does suck up a lot more of your time though. Also, good companies offer at least two ways to advance in development. One is management and the other is technical lead. If your company has technical leadership roles you could look into them.

    Do I give up a career in technology now? Or turn around and bury myself in a support role, sorting out issues with other people's/companies' software?

    Look, if you hate your job, get out of it. I don't care if you're 40 and have a mortgage to pay, start looking for something else that makes you happier than where you are now. Life is too short. You can't waste years hating your work. Support role will probably pay the bills but it's gonna suck, I suggest you give it a go and pick up some new languages in your free time and work on projects that you can host on github, Heroku or some VPS even if they are just functional and have no users. You can at least put those on your resume and say "I made this by myself and I can make stuff like this for you."

    Do I retrain and get back up to speed, or am I too old?

    It would be a lot easier if you were asking me how you get from A to B but what I'm hearing is "I'm at A and it sucks so do I retrain or what do I do here?" Tell me what you want to do, tell me what satisfies you at the end of the day and I'll tell you how to get there. That "or am I too old" part at the end of your question isn't even an option. It's quite inane, actually. How daft would I have to be to say "Naw, dude, you're forty years old, you're long in the tooth, your bones are half dust, you've got one foot in the grave, you're on borrowed time, give it up already and just roll over. Me, on the other hand, I'm never gonna be in your shoes, no sir. Gonna be twenty one FOREVER and Java's always going to be the de facto standard or I'll just YOLO out." I mean, seriously, who's going to answer that way?

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      /thread.

    • by thereitis (2355426) on Friday October 05, 2012 @04:27PM (#41562545) Journal
      40 years old is so young if you take care of yourself! I'm pushing 40 and I know as well as when I was 20 that tech is what I love to do and that's what I am going to do. I have noticed changes in getting older, like getting in the zone takes a little longer, but using age as an excuse to not get the job done has never entered my mind. Figure out what you want to do, and fricking do it!
      • by Archangel Michael (180766) on Friday October 05, 2012 @05:10PM (#41563021) Journal

        You know, 40 wasn't where it it me. It was about 46 or so. And then it HIT me. I love learning, so don't get me wrong, but a couple years ago, I really noticed that stuff was just not sticking like it used to. Abstraction helps, but specifics come and go. I no longer try to remember them, Google search everything.

        • by happyslayer (750738) <david@isisltd.com> on Friday October 05, 2012 @05:42PM (#41563333)

          You know, 40 wasn't where it it me. It was about 46 or so. And then it HIT me. I love learning, so don't get me wrong, but a couple years ago, I really noticed that stuff was just not sticking like it used to. Abstraction helps, but specifics come and go. I no longer try to remember them, Google search everything.

          I'm 42 now, and have had a full-time .NET dev job for the last year. Before that, I was going back to grad school for a degree in Computer Science. I loved the education environment, but left because a) I needed the money (loans were stacking up), and b) this was just about the ideal position.

          On top of that, I have never worked with .NET before, but the business was willing to take a risk because they needed the experience and were setting up a shop to take over a lot of legacy tech.

          Turns out it was the best move I could make. There's only one other developer in the group my age; the rest are in their late 20s to early 30s--several with .NET only experience. But the other "old" guy and myself are pretty much running the place from an expertise point of view*, because depth of experience can matter more than single-language expertise. An array is an array, string functions work pretty much the same across the board, and it's more a matter of Googling "How do I do X in .NET?" than trying to figure out what the hell you need to do in the first place.

          If you love learning, you never get stale; if you're tired of or worried about learning, find something that will excite you enough to want to learn how to make it happen.

          * This is not to say that I am all that and a bag of chips--I struggle with the way .NET handles certain things, but I enjoy learning how to do it. And, if something isn't working, I can usually figure out what is going wrong on a fundamental level instead of just throwing in a cookbook answer and saying, "Magic happens..."

          Also, I am sure that in a heavy .NET shop that's been around for a while, the story would have ended with me as "that old guy who didn't know what LINQ was," but my point is that it's not all doom and gloom.

        • by gbjbaanb (229885) on Friday October 05, 2012 @05:44PM (#41563373)

          was it not sticking, or did you get to the age where you realised you didn't give quite as much a damn over the next damn thing that's been pushed as the next big thing only to realise it was just crap?

          That's what happened to me, but fortunately I had already given up bothering to learn all the new nonsense that is designed to make you buy the next version of whatever toolset they want you to buy, and concentrated my efforts on actually making stuff that works (properly, ie I no longer really cared what technology I used, the product was the thing for me).

          Mind, we're now doing an "agile" system that isn't anywhere near as agile as the iterative development I used to do 15 years ago... and the tooling is auto-conf magic bits that "just work" (yeah, right, until it doesn't). So maybe it wasn't me but the dumbed down kiddie tech we're pushed to work with.

          • by Fuzzums (250400)

            Part of what you say is right. There will always be a new BS system that is hot and new and whatever, but with the experience you have by now, you should be able to make good decisions about using them or wait until they're mature.
            Tools WILL help you, until they don't, but at that moment your experience should help you understand the problem and help you solve it.
            "concentrated my efforts on actually making stuff that works" makes me think you're not just making fancy websites. If so, your experience with de

        • Yeah, pretty much. As you get older, learning means knowing what to forget. You learn patterns, and forget the specifics. In the past 12 years, I've had to work on 6 gaming platforms, 7 languages, 4 development platforms, 8 API's, and on web, console, PC, and Java targets. This is the nature of the business. I would love the luxury of working on any one of these for more than 6 months, but that has never happened.

          And I'm 52.

      • by NeutronCowboy (896098) on Friday October 05, 2012 @05:29PM (#41563203)

        The problem is not whether he can actually retrain himself, but whether someone will hire him for his new .NET skills. 40 year old junior - or even regular developers - are rare: they normally want to be paid more than kids out of school, but don't have the productivity of the old .NET hands. Furthermore, even if he were to become a .NET expert, many companies feel that it is more efficient to hire a kid with some .NET experience right out of school and pay them a pittance, instead of forking of lots of money for an experienced developer.

        A developer at age 40 should be getting very concerned about his/her career path. Old coders are not very common, and there's not much interest in hiring them. Architect is a very different skill set, and something that people are willing to pay an old person lots of money for.

        So my recommendation: retrain, yes, but retrain with an eye on running developers, not being one. And by the way, being a people person is not a requirement for managing people. The question is, can you get them to do what they need to do, and can you remove roadblocks that hinder their productivity? Oh, and if you want to go into management, get an MBA. It's just a piece of paper, but unfortunately, it's an important one.

        • by angel'o'sphere (80593) on Friday October 05, 2012 @05:57PM (#41563505) Homepage Journal

          Old coders are *very* common.
          Everyone who started coding in 1950 is now *old* considered by mainstream standards.
          New coders only know new tools, but have no particular new skill. As a matter of fsct new coders (below age of 30) likely have no experience in anything (except a certain platform/language). For solving problems you need problem solving skills, abstraction and an ability to express that. This comes by experience. Experience implies age.
          The main reason why this original question is not insightfull is: someone focuses on one platform (.Net) which runs basically only on one OS (windows) which implies: he has no clue about computing even while he is already 40, cough cough.
          At that age I would expect some mainframe assembly experience, some old school languages like fortran or cobol, perhaps smalltalk, but certainly C or Pascal or Modula 2. With over ten years experience I would expect basic knowledge about UML, some random agile method, some also randome more traditional method of project planning/conducting/managing.
          So: do you have those experiences? If so, what are you scared about?
          If not, hello! What are you doing in the software business anyway? Running for jobs where some one told you they are paid well? That only brings you so far ...

      • by tqk (413719)

        I'm pushing 40 and I know as well as when I was 20 that tech is what I love to do and that's what I am going to do.

        So true. I'm late 50's, and my best gig was in 2008. A year after that, I pulled off a brilliant four day perl hack. Find something you've been itching to bang your head against and go with it. You'll regardless be far ahead of the twenty-something know-nothings who barely speak English but will work long hours for peanuts. Then sell yourself on your strengths.

        Either that, or enjoy IT as a hobby and retrain yourself in something that will pay the bills (I like Heavy Equipment Operator; big toys, good d

    • As Anonymous Coward said, you just about said everything that needs to be said.

      I'm in a partial management role. I suck at it. I've bought books on the topic and I'm trying to learn from my mistakes. But as much as I enjoy teaching other developers and learning from them - and I genuinely do - I like designing and writing code more.

      There are free online learning courses at coursera.org and codeacademy.com and MIT Open Courseware for learning. If you're not ready to write an application for Heroku or Red Hat OpenShift, take a few free courses to learn the concepts.

      Something I finally started to learn in my early 30s is that for most people most of the time, if you get really good at something difficult, it will become entertaining for you. Learning how to write my first programs sucked. Even working on code in a lot of my 20s sucked. But in my late 20s and now 30s I had kids and if I didn't get pretty damn good at my job, I couldn't command the salary I needed to pay the bills. I started busting my ass to go from low-mediocre to something better, and suddenly I was having a lot of fun. I can't judge my skills now, I'd like to think I'm competent but I may be barely past low-mediocre. Regardless, I can do a lot more than I could before at a lot faster pace, and I get to tackle interesting problems instead of relatively routine things. Those changes make the job fun in a way I never imagined even as a teenager dreaming of writing video games.
    • by samkass (174571) on Friday October 05, 2012 @04:51PM (#41562843) Homepage Journal

      If you enter the work force in your early 20's, at 40 you're less than halfway to 65, which is a "normal" retirement age... in other words, at 40 you're still in the first half of your career. No matter what you decide, it's not because you're "too old" that you'll succeed or fail. But in technology it really pays to like what you do and be willing to try lots of technologies, languages, systems, etc. Do side projects you like and if you find one you REALLY like see if you can make it your job. Or just find the highest buck-for-the-bang, slog through your workday and spend the money on insanely fun weekends and vacations. There are a lot of paths here, and I don't think Slashdot can tell you how to live your life.

      (Disclosure: I'm 39)

    • by Penguinisto (415985) on Friday October 05, 2012 @04:56PM (#41562871) Journal

      I'd elaborate on the parent post, but it's hard to, since he covered a mountain of ground.

      I'm approaching my mid-40s. I'm still learning new things, almost on a weekly basis as new things pop up. In my humble opinion, OP is approaching the question wrong - it's not "should I re-train", it rather should be: "...why did I let my otherwise continuous training slip so horribly?"

      I know the answer, sort of. It's hard to get deep into a new language when the kids bug you with requests or questions that never end, and the wife wants to know when you are going to put that damned laptop down and cuddle with her in front of some stupid chick flick that you'll instantly forget once it's over. On the other hand, in this biz, you have to keep the training continuous. Slow down, and you fall behind... unless you specialize in COBOL or FORTRAN, falling behind too much is pretty detrimental to one's career.

      As for the management thing, maybe it was just a shit position? I've done the management thing, and still do when the job calls for it... I find that the 'people person' skills are a minor (albeit powerful) part of it - the majority is paper-shoveling and leadership, coupled with a knack for keeping a billion disparate tasks prioritized as they arise and (hopefully) in deadline. I've seen asshats with a complete lack of people skills succeed wildly in management, simply because they can keep ten thousand different priorities and tasks all wired tight and done on time. May want to give that another go, but do it in a way that you report to other people - hopefully under people who are good mentors this time around.

      Overall, yeah... it sounds like a life change/decision. Personally, follow what you love to do, and to hell with the rest. Dying a happy old retired garbageman or janitor is far preferable to dying as a miserable middle-aged CEO, yanno? It's your life - do what *you* want to do with it. Even if you (eventually) retire as a code-monkey? If you enjoy it, then for heaven sakes - do it!

      • by sjames (1099)

        The good news is that with the way fads come and go, he can probably catch up by skipping a cycle. That is a key to remaining relevant as an older developer. The superior experience tells us which fad cycles we can skip while deepening our knowledge of more useful long term things.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      I don't get it. This is such a fatalistic and defeated attitude!

      The original poster wants a reality check. He wants to know a realistic path and idea of what he can do.

      If you keep at it not wanting to be a "quitter" and never getting any bites or feedback, one eventually has to wake up and smell the coffee. And in IT, the attitude is if you're out of work then there's something wrong with you so get the hell out! So we're SUPPOSED to "quit" because we're no good. So, _I_ can't blame him at all for his "quitter" attitude.

      The parent's post above is a nice vague motivatio

    • by Wrexs0ul (515885) <mmeier&racknine,com> on Friday October 05, 2012 @05:07PM (#41562999) Homepage

      Parent poster basically won the internet award for the day, heed his words.

      Programming at it's core is creative work, and if that's what you love you need to stick with it a form that fulfills your passion and talents. For example, with your time in the field consider if you have what it takes to do more senior development work:

      - it's not management though you will be responsible for code review and progress meetings
      - you're less code-monkey and more architect which lessens the burden of bringing peak knowledge of new languages to the table

      Q/A is also a relatively good side of things to consider. You need a functional understanding of code, but the work focus is shifted to your analysis skills on how real-world scenarios will beat the living tar out of someone's project :)

      At this stage you're going to want to recognize your experience with software and the environments they run in as much as being able to make f(x)=y. It's very honest to recognize that you're not a people person, but that doesn't mean well-paying specialist jobs like what's above are out of your reach.

      -Matt

    • by man_of_mr_e (217855) on Friday October 05, 2012 @05:21PM (#41563123)

      Here's a hint. If you don't want to be sidelined as you get older, you must take all those years of experience and make them valuable.

      People will hire you, at good rates, if you provide value. If they can get the same from a 20 year old, then they're not going to pay you enough to make it worth it. You have to give them something they can't get from a 20 year old.

      Experience.

      That means being better at your job than a 20 year old. Knowing when to make the right moves and when to mea culpa. Knowing what NOT to do. Becoming good at your job.

      The original poster seems to have made the mistake that he didn't stay on top of things. And now he has a long hard haul to get back up to speed, plus he needs go the extra mile that makes him worth paying for.

      If you didn't actually gain experience... that is, you just did the same things over and over without really thinking about it... then you might as well go flip burgers.

      Otherwise, take control over your future.

    • I'm 45 and a little over two years ago I got back into an engineering role after over a decade in management. It's never too late.

  • by Spectre (1685) on Friday October 05, 2012 @04:23PM (#41562497)

    ... oh, wait, I'm 46 years old.

    Other than that, the entire original summary could be me ... spooky.

  • I am 45 (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday October 05, 2012 @04:23PM (#41562499)

    I never ask myself this question. When faced with a new technology I dive in, start tearing in with gusto, and master it.

    If you need to ask yourself this question, maybe you are just tired of being a developer in general.

    • by mcmonkey (96054)

      If you need to ask yourself this question, maybe you are just tired of being a developer in general.

      I don't think asking the question is an issue, but how you answer it is key.

      To the OP I say, go out an interview for jobs that sound like what you want to do. Go on a fact finding missing. Treat this as a project--first thing you gotta go is meet the customer where they live and gather requirements.

      I'm in a similar situation. 41-yrs old, spent the last 5 years doing configuration and project management at a company that mostly uses OTS SW, and now I want to get back to coding. I've been through a handfu

    • by bfandreas (603438)
      Same here. And I successfully did the transition into management/consulting. AND I kept up with the tech by coding and owning features and refectoring the code the youngsters thought was good. It's like Joel Spolsky never gave this advice over and over and over again.

      Could you people just please STFU? Jeez.
      It's like a couple of twens sitting around one of those XBox things talking about how it would be like to be old. Like really old. Like, you know 40.
      Stuff doesn't fall off your body. Brain don't go p
      • This.

        At 41 it appears to take me longer to code because I can give an accurate estimate instead of a BS shot in the dark. Also, I spend more time preparing than I do hammering crap out on the keyboard, so it to the naive it appears that I'm not doing anything.

        I've never stopped honing my skills and probably would be asking myself if this is really the job for me if I ever did.

        Short answer to OP: Yes, re-train to another profession. You don't like programming. The longer you stay at a job that you don't like

    • I am 63 (Score:3, Informative)

      by mnooning (759721)
      I agree with "I Am 45", in that if you have to ask this question maybe you should switch fields. That is not sarcasm. That is a very serious statement. You absolutely cannot dig in to a new technology unless you are actually interested in it. When I was in my mid 30s, then again near 50, my skill sets were out of date. They are fast becoming out of date now so I see myself in the same situation.

      When I think back at the times I most enjoyed, it was when I was engrossed in designing or coding, whether c

  • by davidwr (791652) on Friday October 05, 2012 @04:25PM (#41562527) Homepage Journal

    ... it's not because of your chronological age.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      I am 62. Wrote my first nontrivial program in 1968. Learned java around 2001 and have been part of large java projects since then. For the last five years I have been working in the area of bioinformatics and the associated big data. I also have been picking up large chunks of statistics and reviving my linear math skills in the last few years all as part of a VC funded start up.

      You are only as old as you think you are. Just get on with it, life it is too much fun to restrict it with worries about whether y

      • by hughbar (579555)
        So agree, I'm 62 in a couple of weeks. I'm mainly a Perl person, been somewhat in love with it since about 1995, but in that time, I've done a part-time MSc with a Java project at its core and, apart from programming, some consultancy and project work. I'm currently doing some work for a university in Europe right now involving Perl, Java and some messy SOAP calls [they should be clean shoudn't they?!].

        There are a ton of things that I'm interested in too, big data, sensors, 3d printing and some of the ne
    • by evil_aaronm (671521) on Friday October 05, 2012 @06:05PM (#41563611)
      I agree. I'll be 46, shortly, and, after decades of C, perl, shell, etc, I'm just now digging into Objective-C, iOS, and electronics / Arduino / mbed. If there's any limitations, it's time: I wish I didn't have to sleep so I could spend more time learning this stuff; I'm having fun. My chronological age is just a number and means just about nothing. Having said that, I find that my years in the field allow me to pick things up quickly; I recognize patterns from earlier projects. Talking to the original poster, with your background, if you can't pick up what you're missing relatively quickly - at the least the 20 percent that will comprise the 80 percent of what you do, day in and day out - then I guess the question is whether you were ever suitable for a technology career in the first place. Either that or I'd suggest a neurological consult to see if you have early onset dementia, or some other neurological disease that's preventing you from groking this stuff.
  • Retrain? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Kohath (38547) on Friday October 05, 2012 @04:27PM (#41562543)

    Personally, I've never understood the idea of needing to be "trained" to program or build software or systems. Why not just figure out how to do it? If you can't figure out how to solve problems and be valuable in something besides VB.NET, then maybe age isn't really the issue.

    • by Havokmon (89874)
      My first word in response to that is SECURITY - but then again, it's not as if the 'trained masses' are much better..
    • Personally, I've never understood the idea of needing to be "trained" to program or build software or systems.

      As a person with many diverse skills but few accredited credentials, I can answer that - Most employers want to see that piece of paper that says, "This guy paid us a shit-ton of money to 'teach' him Subject X." I think they're called degrees or certifications or some such BS.

      In other words, defacto mandatory resume padding.

    • Re:Retrain? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Friday October 05, 2012 @04:44PM (#41562737)

      Here is an idea for the original guy. Say these words 'what do you want me to work on?'

      If your boss says 'uh i dont know' move on or find something to work on that interest you.

      Someone asked me a few days ago 'what language do you work in'. I responded 'whatever I need to use at the moment there are plenty to choose from in this project'. "you a linux guy or windows guy" "again whatever I need to work on in this project".

      Again for the original guy you have cornered yourself as a 'I am a xyz guy'. Move up to the "I am a person who produces results using the tools I have available".

      Specialization can produce very good results for your paycheck on a short term period. But in the computer realm specialization can get axed in 2 seconds by anything (merger, replacement tool, cut backs, whatever). Then you are stuck with 'starting over'. That can be acid on your resume.

      For example I have learned java, .net, and python in the past couple of years and dabbling with perl. Not because I particularly like them. I think they are crazy in the pre-reqs department. But that is not the point. I need them to do my job. People come to me about my 'old stuff' (c, c++, tsql, atl, win32, mfc) I joke with them "i have no idea how to do that" then show them how to do it. I actually like the old stuff I worked on. But you know what I will not be able to work with it any more unless something else pops up. I have to deal with that.

      If you stay as the 'xyz guy' yes you will be out of a job and replaced soon enough.

      Will do! Can do!

    • Thank you, that was the thought I came here to express. I am somewhat older than the person who posted the question and when I need a new skill set, I acquire it. When I was job hunting for my current job, most of the places I interviewed at said, "Oh, we like your experience, but you haven't worked with X. We want someone with experience with X." In almost all of those cases, I was confident that I could pick up what I did not know as it was needed on the job. My current employer hired me even though I did
    • by tilante (2547392)

      It depends on the stuff in question. For example, for expensive, proprietary hardware and software, sometimes it's not possible to just go practice on your own, because you can't get the stuff. I've had training from EMC that was like that -- proprietary software that ran on proprietary hardware, so the only way to get any practice with it at all before the stuff got there was to go to their training. Thankfully, that's becoming more and more rare.

      Sometimes, though, "training" is essentially an excuse

    • Training allows you to avoid common pitfalls and get up to speed much quicker than being self taught. However self taught people know their shit much better than "trained" people for a given skill set.

      Trained person will know "don't do that" and may or may not understand why. Self Taught will know "don't do that" and why not. (generalization based on experience, exceptions do exist).

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday October 05, 2012 @04:28PM (#41562557)

    Which tells me it's not your age ... it's your ability. You have none. Oh, and I'm a 45 year old .NET 2.0 developer who has just learned .NET 4.0 for a new job, with a 20% raise.

    • by TheRaven64 (641858) on Friday October 05, 2012 @04:41PM (#41562707) Journal
      Seriously, .NET 2.0 came out in 2005. What's changed between 2005 and 2012 that makes you unable to learn something a bit new? Even .NET 1.0 which (aside from similarities to Java) was basically a new platform is only about a decade old, yet you apparently managed to learn it. If you're asking whether you can learn a new platform, rather than just learning it, then you might be to old...
      • Seriously, .NET 2.0 came out in 2005. What's changed between 2005 and 2012 that makes you unable to learn something a bit new? Even .NET 1.0 which (aside from similarities to Java) was basically a new platform is only about a decade old, yet you apparently managed to learn it. If you're asking whether you can learn a new platform, rather than just learning it, then you might be to old...

        Yeah. I saw the question and thought, "so take 3 or 4 weekends to write a few programs and catch up? What's the problem?"

        • by gbjbaanb (229885) on Friday October 05, 2012 @05:51PM (#41563447)

          I imagine he's concerned that his old .NET 2.0 skills (where you programmed) are now replaced with .NET 5.0 skills (where you write config files that magically make a framework do stuff). and if you don't know how to work VS to the level his colleagues expect (as they're busy busy busy reading the latest codeplex and msdn and other MS sites to keep up) then he will find it difficult.

          My new place, I'm dropped into a world where VS is king, and if there's a way to do it in VS, sure as hell a setting to reference a project is there, linking things together with some magic, that if you get wrong ever so slightly, will bollocks the whole thing up royally.

          Mind, I'm coding with WCF frameworks against unit test frameworks with database frameworks all linked with VS magic, and we still have to generate an old-fashioned sql file for deployment (as the DBAs rightly expect to know exactly what's going on and would never let a generated auto-deployment project run on the live servers. Can't blame them really... it begs the question why I have to generate such crap only to do it manually all over again... but I know the answer.. VS has the bits to click, so someone has decided they absolutely must be clicked!)

          So, maybe he's an old kind of guy, the one who thinks you write code by, well, coding.

          Still, here's hoping MS's C++ renaissance will blow all that away and I can get back to writing performance-oriented services instead of 'generate a project for me' services.

  • by onyxruby (118189) <onyxruby@@@comcast...net> on Friday October 05, 2012 @04:31PM (#41562583)

    Your in technology, like it or not this is a field that requires more continuing education as a matter of course (if not law) than a lawyer or a doctor. You should never ever be retraining or training. Instead you should constantly be working on your next thing skill and never ever become complacent.

    You can't afford to work in this field in a job where you know everything. You have to find a job where you have 80% of the qualifications so that you can learn the other 20% and expand your skill sets. If you don't you become the expert who is 100% qualified at something that was relevant five years ago. The expert who is 100% qualified is also known as tomorrows dinosaur.

    Never, ever rest, never ever allow yourself to be in a position where you cannot be challenged. Whatever job you find, it has to be one where you are picking up new skills and learning new things - whatever those new things are.

    I have also learned it can help to talk to your managers and explain that you want to start learning more about the business side or whatever else you have an interest in. It is called initiative and it will set you apart from all the other people that show and simply do their job.

    • by tlhIngan (30335)

      Your in technology, like it or not this is a field that requires more continuing education as a matter of course (if not law) than a lawyer or a doctor. You should never ever be retraining or training. Instead you should constantly be working on your next thing skill and never ever become complacent.

      Actually, if you're a professional, you should be constantly learning (which is the goal of higher education - less to impart necessary industry knowledge, and more to continue to learn). Lawyers and doctors are

      • by onyxruby (118189)

        Once you are a few years into your career you should be constantly learning as a matter of routine course.

        I would argue about giving away a lot higher level training though. Beyond the basics a lot of training is expensive and requires going to a specialized training center to get. I recently designed a training class presently being taught to IT professionals where companies are paying a grand a day a day for each day in the course.

        I'm big on training obviously, but if you think can simply get by with trai

  • by bfmorgan (839462) on Friday October 05, 2012 @04:31PM (#41562587)
    I was in your same position in my forties. An old mentor gave me this advice...What is the general area in computer technology that you like to do and then build on that. Building, in my case was finding a job in data architecture (starting position) and start doing and learning. This way you are interested enough to slog through the learning curve and still getting a pay check. Hope this helps,
  • Buckle Down (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Kagato (116051) on Friday October 05, 2012 @04:36PM (#41562633)

    40? Seriously? You've got another 24 years until retirement so you better get your head in the game.

    Tried management? Okay what went wrong? Did you just hop in without any personal and professional development? Take classes, do things like toastmasters, you need to refine your skills.

    On the other hand maybe you want to stay on the technical side. First realize you are in control. You let yourself get out of date YOU need to fix it. It's not like the concepts are all that foreign. Put your nose to the grind stone. Take classes, join open source projects, Most importantly you're going to need to change jobs. You are likely typecast as the old guy with out of date skills. Figure out what strikes your fancy be it more .Net or Web Stuff, JavaScript whatever.

    I would only leave if you truly aren't enjoying computer work anymore.

  • Family (Score:4, Insightful)

    by JeffSh (71237) <[gro.0m0m] [ta] [todhsalsffej]> on Friday October 05, 2012 @04:36PM (#41562645)

    I find the problem is not so much age but family. I've got 2 kids and I can't spend as much time engrossed in tech as I used to. This is depressing, but I rely on my coworkers to understand as I grow as a person into, hopefully, something more than the straight tech I was before as I learn patience and other traits from having to deal with my life as a father and husband.

  • Keep On Truckin' (Score:5, Interesting)

    by handy_vandal (606174) on Friday October 05, 2012 @04:36PM (#41562647) Homepage Journal

    I am 51, and currently enjoying the best phase of my career to date. Front end development -- lots of work for JavaScript/jQuery developers at present, here in Minneapolis/St. Paul.

    The best part is, I seem to be getting more respect as a Senior Man in my field ... mind you, that's not my job title, I'm just another contract developer ... but I hold my head high, let my confidence shine, and enjoy the generous measure of respect that people seem to give me.

    Twenty years ago, my assumption was that I would be obsolete within twenty years, and that I should expect to degrade (as gracefully as possible) from developer to technical writer. That hasn't happened: I'm still a developer, and more in demand than ever.

    This is only possible, I suppose, because I love to learn; in effect, I am constantly in training. If you have a similar mindset, I would advise you to Go For It.

    • by bfandreas (603438)
      Experience never becomes obsolete. It might become too expensive. But who want's cheap clients anyway.
      And experience becomes much easier to market once you become a bit grey.
  • by morcego (260031)

    (I'm going to disregard every single anecdotal evidence that is going to pop)

    I started my career as an ASM developer, coding firmwares. Later I did projects in C and C++. I've seen serious projects in several languages, ranging from COBOL, FORTRAN, C, C++, FORTH, REXX, DELPHI, JAVA, C# and a few others.

    If you want to get ahead in your career, stop playing with TOY languages. VB.NET is ok if you are doing a small 1-2 person project to manage your uncle's gas station, or something equivalent. If you want to w

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by tngaijin (997389)
      VB.Net is not a toy language. It is exactly as capable as C#. I do think it is uglier though. As to the original question, No its not too late to retrain. It never is.
    • by iONiUM (530420)

      I do both Java and C#/ASP.NET/MVC4 projects, and I have to say, Java is terrible. I never want to touch it again.

      Rag on .NET and Microsoft all you want, but I swear, C# is a very powerful and easy to use language, and Visual Studio is an amazing IDE. If you truly disagree with that, I'd love to see a logical and concise argument on the specific points that you hate about it.

    • by bfandreas (603438)
      VB.NET is not VB6. It's not exactly a toy language. But everybody assumes it is. Also all object oriented languages and plattforms are basically the same. They mostly differ in syntax and libs. But the core principles remain.

      Also this is the first time I've heard of REXX as a non-toy language. I remember it from my OS/2 days. What's next? TCL/TK? Hot diggity-damn. I've just shipped a version 1.0 of a product written in PHP running pre-packaged on a NAS just to see if it floats. Once the sales guys return
      • by dbIII (701233)
        Now PHP is the toy language - the sort of toy that ships from China with shiny lead paint covering the sharp edges and removable easy to swallow parts.
  • 40 is plenty young enough to re-train...or in this case I would just say "catch up". If you are already familiar with the .net namespace (even older versions), it's not that hard to switch to C#. I had years of experience with VB6 and VB.NET but no C experience of any kind and made the switch to C# on the job and have never looked back. While I still can (and have to to support old code) switch back to VB, I actually prefer C# now and will code in it if given the choice. I spent a few years in Delphi, w
  • It might be too late for you, but age has nothing to do with it. This is technology... you can't ever stop learning new things, unless you really enjoy maintaining legacy systems. If you want to work on new-project development then yes, your skills are woefully out of date, and you have nobody but yourself (and certainly not your age) to blame for it.

    Get yourself onto a stable project with a future, any project. Heck, even a support job as long as it keeps you employed. Once you are there, throw yoursel

  • by TechnoGrl (322690) on Friday October 05, 2012 @04:37PM (#41562661)
    When I was in my 30's everyone told me that I wouldn't be getting jobs in my 40's.. I spoke to a lot of people at the time who were older and leaving the business because they could not get hired. At the time I thought such people just weren't keeping up with the times or were just B level people. Wrong. As I turned 45 and older I found less and less people willing to hire me.

    The problem is not in your ability to learn new tech most likely - the problem will be that people will not want to hire you. Why is this? Several reasons:

    1. You cost more. Even if you are willing to work the same wages you will be perceived as costing more.

    2. Your medical insurance costs to the company will be higher. Even if you don't actually use that insurance the company will be charged higher rates if they have an older workforce.

    3. You will be perceived as willing to work less. Maybe you have a family or heaven forbid - a life! Unlike a 22 year old who likely has neither of these things you will probably be less likely to work 60 - 70 hour weeks on a salary.

    4. Your boss will likely be younger than you and knows less. Hence you will be perceived as a threat.

    So welcome to the wonderful world of I.T.! Now go away :(
    Your best options for future career are to get out of development and into management or to start your own business.
    Me? Eventually I opted to get out of the field and am retraining as an RN.
    • by bfandreas (603438) on Friday October 05, 2012 @05:58PM (#41563531)
      That is only a problem in the US.
      In Germany you are not constantly expected to work overtime. In fact it is highly undesired by employers(that'd be me) and employees. Medical insurance is tied to income and in the end comes out of the employees pocket. You may need more salary due to family, kids, mortgage, Porsche and so on but you'll get it if you are worth it.
      At the moment and for the last couple of years it has become really hard to hire experienced, battle-scarred techs because there aren't any left on the market.
      One of my team members tried to settle down in the US a couple of years ago and he didn't get any offers. A couple of would-be employers even called me in Germany for references(forgetting the whole time-zone thing, I might add) and I can tell you your hiring process, the work conditions and job security suck major ass. The questions they asked me were dorky, fuzzy, and cover-your-ass stuff. In one instance I even had to phone the guy to ask him if it was OK to answer since asking some things during the hiring process is down-right illegal here.

      It's like watching the world through Charles Dickens goggles. And we even spent the last 10 years downsizing benefits for everybody.
  • by nurb432 (527695) on Friday October 05, 2012 @04:38PM (#41562667) Homepage Journal

    Now get out the way old man!

    Oh wait, I'm older than you... All kidding aside, as long as you are still breathing and conscious, its never too late to learn something new.

  • by roc97007 (608802) on Friday October 05, 2012 @04:38PM (#41562671) Journal

    First of all, I'm a mite suspicious that this article is a plant. If being behind on .net was a career killer, we'd have folks jumping off their squat, ugly tilt-ups right and left. It'd be like 1929, with geeks.

    At 40 the sky's the limit. At 40 I moved to a different state, got a job in a different field (shifting from tech to marketing) got married and had a kid. At 45 I changed careers again, (tech management) and again at 53 (business intelligence). Age is a number. It's will, focus, and energy that's important. You can always retrain, regroup, and succeed, if you have the will. Reading your article, I suspect you're having fun with us, but if you actually feel that way, and don't just need minor assurance, you've already lost.

    Short answer: You can hone your skills or retrain at any age. If you think you can't, that'll be true also. It's up to you.

  • by nospam007 (722110) * on Friday October 05, 2012 @04:42PM (#41562719)

    "I tried the 'Management' thing last year, but that was a failure as I'm just not a people person.."

    Not people persons are perfect for the job, take a few breath courses, so that you can yell at people without exerting yourself and you'll be OK.

  • Yes. No one over forty can learn anything. You are "old people" now, to be treated with contempt and condescension.

    Actually, the fact that you have allowed your skills to become rusty so quickly indicates that you are not really interested in programming.

    • by bfandreas (603438) on Friday October 05, 2012 @06:11PM (#41563663)
      Being Abe Simpson at age 40 is a sad thing indeed.

      We can't bust heads like we used to, but we have our ways. One trick is to tell 'em stories that don't go anywhere - like the time I caught the VPN over to corporate HQ. I needed a new update for my employee handbook, so, I decided to go to the BBS, which is what they called a web download site in those days. So I tied a 28k modem to my DSL, which was the style at the time. Now, to phone a BBS cost a nickel, and in those days, nickels had pictures of Steve Jobs on 'em. Give me five jobs for a quarter, you'd say.

      Now where were we? Oh yeah: the important thing was I had a modem around my neck, which was the style at the time. They didn't have 56Ks because of the war. The only thing you could get was those big yellow ones with a phone set...
  • 2. Start your own company, or
    3. Learn MVC. Unit testing. Factory Methods. DRY.

    But MVC is mainly what you mean by "woefully out of date." That's the biggest wrinkle in the Microsoft world for you to get your head around. Get your head around it, it's not that alien.

    http://www.asp.net/mvc [asp.net]

    • by hoggoth (414195)

      > 2. Start your own company

      I went this way. It's rewarding but tough. The biggest challenge is you have to spend 100% of your time being a salesman for your company, and the other 100% of your time DOING THE WORK that you sold. If OP is "not a people person" he may find it difficult to become a salesperson.

      Although let's face it, no matter what job you have you are a salesperson and the product is yourself.

  • clueless? (Score:2, Informative)

    by kipsate (314423)
    "I'm mainly a VB.NET person with skills from the .NET 2.0 era."

    Implied are .NET 2.0 skills. Taken literally however, .NET 2.0 skills are not confirmed by this statement.

    Why this unclear statement? I will conveniently jump to conclusions and say: this person is a mediocre developer having only done some VB.NET stuff and can't make the jump to .NET. Has nothing to do with age.
  • Too old !?!?! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by byHeart (1408157) on Friday October 05, 2012 @04:44PM (#41562747)
    Gimme a break! I *began* my software engineering career at 36 after leaving an electrical engineering career, and I am still going full steam ahead at 62 (including earning a MSc in Computer Science at 51). I will consider myself too old for something when I reach 124. Until then, I see no reason to stop doing what I love. Ask yourself why you cannot do the same.
  • I tried the 'Management' thing last year, but that was a failure as I'm just not a people person

    ...

    Have you ever met a manager who is a 'people person?'

    Assuming an affirmative - are they hiring?

  • by tilante (2547392) on Friday October 05, 2012 @04:45PM (#41562763)

    I'm 42. I've been a Unix/Linux sysadmin since I was in college -- about twenty years now. Or I was. You see, last year, I got a job with a new company, and after I'd been there about four months, my boss came to me and said, "Hey, you know how we've been looking for a new programmer? Well, we noticed you'd done some programming in the past (which I had, in college for my CS degree, as a hobby, and writing Perl and Bash as a sysadmin), and we're having a much easier time finding sysadmins than programmers, so we're wondering if you'd consider trying being a programmer."

    I said yes -- with the agreement that if I wound up really hating it, I could go back to my old job. In the six months since then, I've gotten up to speed with modern Java (last time I'd touched it was way back when Sun was originally introducing it) and the Spring framework. The programmer who did most of our DBA stuff left in the course of that, and since I was the guy who was least important on the programming side of things, I also got tasked with taking over that -- so I'm learning MySQL administration now.

    It's working out fine. I've found that I can't do like I used to in college, and read a book on a new subject and retain a ton of it without any real effort... but I don't need to. I've got enough general tech background knowledge that I can quickly find out what I need to know, when I need to know it. The stuff I do on a regular basis starts to stick pretty quickly -- and for the minutiae, it's really enough that I can remember "Oh, I read something about that." These days, with Google, if I remember that much, I've generally got the answer within ten minutes. Often less.

    Some of the stuff I'm learning, I'm having fun with it. Some of it I'm not, but hey, it's a job -- if I enjoyed it all, they'd make me pay them to come here. And my old knowledge is still coming in handy -- when the systems crew can't figure something out, they come to me to ask about it. My old non-Java programming experience still applies in a lot of ways, and my knowledge of networks and Linux is often useful as well.

    Honestly, unless something goes physically wrong with my brain, I can't see me ever stopping learning -- hell, my dad's in his 70s, and he's still learning new things keeping up his hobby of restoring and working on cars. It might get slower, but really, the big thing is just to keep going. If you give up and stop, you definitely won't learn whatever new thing you're trying to learn.

  • by Hjalmar (7270)

    If you like what you do (i.e. develop in .Net), getting up to speed isn't that hard. The differences between .Net 2.0 and 4.0 aren't all that great. If you're worried that doing it on your own won't be enough, take a class. There are tons.

    But your tone suggests that really the problem is you don't want to make the effort. I understand that. I'm 43, and often when confronted with the need to learn some new technology, I feel loathing rather than excitement. If that's your problem, then maybe it is time to sw

  • Of course you can retrain. Buy some books and get to it. In the past few years I've learned several languages, tons of libraries, and many new concepts, all from reading and doing, no courses or formal training necessary. I can keep up with developers in their 20s and 30s. Frankly, I'm amazed that you're so negative about this at the still-wet-behind-the-ears age of 40.

    • You forgot to say "Now get off my lawn!".

      Kudos to you. Old is when you can't adapt because you won't (not can't) learn new stuff.
  • Hey, I'm older than you are so don't let age be a barrier to your success. The first thing you need to ask yourself is what do you enjoy doing? Not what pays me the most money, not what hot skill can I chase, not am I washed up - what do you like doing. If you like coding, and it sounds like you do, then get some books or look at some online offerings. The good news is that .NET is object based so at least you're not coming from a COBOL background. That would be a lot tougher hill to climb. You might want t

  • What do you want/willing to do? It doesn't sound as if you really cared to be a software developer in the first place. You can't stand still with respect to your knowledge/skills and everyone knows (or at least should know) that. Presumably you went to school and/or read books, etc. to get the skills you presently have. If you want to get back into software development you're going to need to bury your nose in the books once more and then unlike before make a practice of keeping it there. Are you up fo
  • As a 52 year old developer - no!

    I'm currently a Java developer. Played with it on-and-off since about 2000 (when I was 40). However didn't become a fully fledged Java developer until 2009. Before that I was a VB6 developer (which I started learning when I was 41!). Next challenge, GWT.

    What is more, in any other profession (e.g. medicine, law) where there can be rapid changes in knowledge and skill required, you don't get the issue of 40 (or 50 or 60) being too old.

    You're never too old! I intend to
  • I'm 58. During my career, I have worked with PDP-11 assembly language, 68000 assembly, FORTRAN and PL/I on VAX/VMS, x86 assembly and C on MS-DOS, "C with Objects" [wikipedia.org] and later C++ on Classic Mac, C++ and Java on Windows, server-side Java for a short time, Curl [wikipedia.org], client-side Java, Objective-C/C++ on MacOS and iOS, and I'm currently doing cross-platform Qt development while I spin up a new phase of my career doing independent and/or contract iOS development.

    The thing that saved my career was the personal computer

    • by hAckz0r (989977)
      Suddenly I'm feeling Nostalgic. Did we work together? ;)

      I think you hit the nail on the head when you mentioned "motivation". If you are not having fun doing what you are doing, then you are doing the wrong thing. In the Tech or Computer industry, if you don't look forward to what you are doing then its probably time for a change. The submitter should take a serious moment for introspection and figure out what they enjoy in life, and do _that_ instead. For those of us who love technology and computer sci

  • by miltonw (892065)
    The day you say to yourself, "I'm too old to change ..." is the day you start to die. I can't remember how many times I've made major changes in my life. I'm always learning new stuff and I will as long as I'm alive. It is never too late to retrain, learn new stuff or even begin a whole new career.
    • Same here. Mental attitude and physical health (and you have to start taking more care of yourself starting in 40s) are the keys.
  • With little to go on, I would question whether you were/are good in software anyway.

    There are a lot of cheap, young, up-to-date, mediocre, programmers. If you've hit 40 and can't identify an area where your experience puts you ahead of these people, and your only chance is to compete with them, I'd seriously be looking for a change where what experience you do have will help you.

  • What would you do if ./ answered 'Yes'?

  • by wcrowe (94389)

    I am 50.

    Since the age of 40 *I* have learned:

    VB.NET
    C#
    Java
    SOAP and XML
    SSRS

    As well as continuing to keep up with the IBM AS400/iSeries/Power7 platform I've been on since 1989. It isn't easy keeping up with technology, and personally I'm starting to get weary of it, and would like to transition to more of a BA role. But it is possible to do it, if you have the will to do it.

  • I'm 47 and was a Novell consultant until 3 years ago. I managed to persuade a friend who owned a small ISP to let me virtualize his infrastructure (5+ years old crappy boxes that miraculously had not fallen over in that time).

    Bought 2 hosts and a SAN from an IBM reseller. Built it all completely from scratch learning from a book (this one [amazon.co.uk]) using iSCSI to connect to the SAN. Rebuilt it twice or three times to make sure I'd captured all the steps.

    Put it into production, virtualizing all the server that would

  • I wouldn't worry about it. Really, if you're not really good at the current .NET stuff, don't sweat it.

    I recently had to install Windows from scratch on some brand new dell laptops. I try to keep the amount of cruft low, but I was defeated when I found out that the drivers for the motion sensor, a little sensor that tells the hard drive that the laptop is falling and parks the head, required a 400+ MB install of the .NET framework. Then the wireless network drivers required a different version of the .net
    • by geekoid (135745)

      Either you had no idea what you where doing, or those where all the worse possible .net app. Really, there ins't an excuse for that, and I would just pack my bags and walk into the sunset if that was an actual problem with competently written applications.

      BTW, I've seen similar problem with many other programming languages. Special 3rd part libraries, some on rewrote a standard library for their precious program, all kind of crappy shit. So, while yes you need the framework, what you describe is..odd.

  • So you have two choice:
    Do something else, or decide you are going to suck it up, and get a job at an organization with pretty fixed hours. So you can enjoy the other aspects of your life.

  • by Sarusa (104047) on Friday October 05, 2012 @05:58PM (#41563527)

    We have engineers here learning entire new systems and languages at age 60. We enjoy it - it's one of the benefits of the job.

    If you're looking at it as a chore, then the answer is that you should probably be looking at something else.

  • by Omega996 (106762) on Friday October 05, 2012 @06:00PM (#41563555)
    ... but you may be stuck in a rut. I think the aphorism "Adapt or die" applies particularly well to IT. I turned 44 this year, and I've been working with business systems since 1993. From then to now I've managed System/3x minicomputers, AIX big iron, Linux and FreeBSD servers, and of course the plethora of Windows operating systems from WfW 3.11 and NT 3.5 to current. At times during every era, I surely thought that I would never be doing anything else (sometimes with smug satisfaction (UNIX days), or with fatalism (Windows systems management)). In every case moving from one area of expertise to another required learning how to apply the knowledge I'd gained previously with new stuff. I think the only reason I still do IT work is because there's so much to learn, and the learning keeps me motivated and interested.
    If you can't (or won't) get with the times in .NET development and you aren't interested in starting over with another platform maybe you should look to moving outside of development. Put your years of platform experience to use doing something within the IT field but outside of development. Generalists who actually know how things work and why are hard to come by these days; it seems everyone's a specialist who only knows how to do tasks associated with their chosen sphere. Smaller companies especially need people who know how to do a whole lot of things, and who can come up to speed quickly when something new presents itself.
    Adapt or die.
  • by MpVpRb (1423381) on Friday October 05, 2012 @06:17PM (#41563755)

    As for me, at 59, I am still programming professionally and learning whatever I need to get the job done

    The most important skill a programmer has is logical problem solving

    The particular details of languages and tools are relatively unimportant

    I definitely don't consider myself to be "too old"

  • by Jaywalk (94910) on Saturday October 06, 2012 @03:15PM (#41570467) Homepage
    I've been doing this for over thirty years. I started programming in Basic and Assembler and have a long list of technologies that I used to do. They've all gone off the boards and I'm still always picking up new skills. When you stop learning, you're done.

    Someone asked the 87 year old Da Vinci how long it took him to accumulate his vast knowledge. He replied, "I'm still learning."
  • by LostMyBeaver (1226054) on Saturday October 06, 2012 @03:16PM (#41570477)
    I am 37 years old... spent 31 years programming as a hobby or for a living. I got tired of coding for a living and became a Cisco instructor. In 6 months I've gotten 3 CCNPs, 5 CCNA, a CCENT, multiple specialist certs, juniper certs etc... I'll take my CCIE R&S lab exam in January.

    I've studied 3-11 hours a day minimum every single day since I quit my job in February. I've also been a father of two young kids full time and taught classes most of the time.

    Back when I was 18 I could stay awake and alert for nearly 48 hour at a time... now I make use of Red Bull, chain smoke and drink coffee by the liter. But I'll be damned if anyone will tell me I can't keep up with the 22 year olds or learn as quickly as them.

    So... what the hell are you whining about... you recognized the problem... get off your ass and fix it.

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