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Ask Slashdot: Will Older Programmers Always Have a Harder Time Getting a Job? 379

Posted by Soulskill
from the recommendation:-stop-aging dept.
Theseuss writes "Given the strong youth culture associated with the modern day Silicon Valley startup scene, many times it falls to the 40-year-old programmer to prove that he can still use the newest up-and-coming technology. Yet the rate at which the tech sector is growing suggests that in 20 years there will be a an order of magnitude more 'old-hat' programmers in the industry. As such, do you think the cultural bias towards young programmers will change in the near future?"
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Ask Slashdot: Will Older Programmers Always Have a Harder Time Getting a Job?

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  • by turgid (580780) on Wednesday March 19, 2014 @06:22PM (#46528515) Journal

    Ignore Silicon Valley.

    50 years ago it used to be a hot-bed of science and technological innovation. Now it is a magnet for designer coffee-swigging social cloud blog web 2.0 get rich quick smartphone app hipsters.

    Look for real companies designing and building real products for proper customers. Silicon Valley's day is gone.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 19, 2014 @06:26PM (#46528565)

      Oh dear. Sorry you couldn't find a job.

    • by mwehle (2491950)

      Ignore Silicon Valley.

      50 years ago it used to be a hot-bed of science and technological innovation. Now it is a magnet for designer coffee-swigging social cloud blog web 2.0 get rich quick smartphone app hipsters.

      Look for real companies designing and building real products for proper customers. Silicon Valley's day is gone.

      Can you give us a hint as to where we would look for those real companies? "Outside of Silicon Valley" covers a lot of ground - where specifically are those real companies designing real products located?

      • by mrchaotica (681592) * on Wednesday March 19, 2014 @06:56PM (#46528853)

        The "real company" I work for (which makes boring-as-shit medical billing software) is in Atlanta, and the programmers seem to be pretty evenly distributed in age from 20s to 50s. I'm sure similar companies exist in every decently-sized US city except maybe for the Bay Area and Manhattan.

        • by Eric Green (627)

          I'm in the Silicon Valley. I work for a 16 person startup. Our youngest engineer is 22. Our oldest engineer is sixty-something and kicks a** and takes names while accomplishing more in the past week than the youngest engineer accomplished in a month. As someone else noted, it's all about ownership. Our ownership doesn't care what age their engineers are, just that things get done. Same has been true of the last three startups that I worked at, there were greybeards and college interns and everything inbetwe

          • by Terje Mathisen (128806) on Thursday March 20, 2014 @04:25AM (#46531765)

            I'm 56, should I be forced to retire?

            Programming is still something I do more or less 7 days a week because I like it, not to get rich or just because I'm paid to do so. When I started out this was pretty much the only way you could get into programming, i.e. my (technical) university didn't even offer an IT degree when I started there.

            I've been programming since the seventies, I have written MBs of source code in many languages, but of course I'm getting about a year older every year. :-)

            The main difference between today and 25-30 years ago is probably that now I'll spend a bit more time up front thinking about the problem _before_ I sit down to write the code. I've taken part in 3 of the 4 Facebook Hacker Cups that have been held so far and I've noticed that I get into trouble in the later rounds when time pressure becomes critical, but I like to think that I'm still coming up with good solutions even if it takes me more than 30-40 minutes to do so.

            The international competitions that I've won have been for the fastest possible code but with some weeks to deliver the solution.

            Terje

          • by rk (6314)

            This is spot-on, and true in real cutting edge companies everywhere. If you're 40+ and give a damn about technology at all you don't want to work in an ageist place anyway. Most of them are doing "me too!" boring-ass shit you don't want a part of.

            The ones that get it know that age is just a number, and while it may take my 46 year old brain a little longer to catch on to stuff than my 26 year old brain did, it still catches on just fine, and has a quarter century of experience to contextualize that new info

            • by Eric Green (627)

              I was especially amused when they invented "agile" and "scrum". Remember when we were doing that in 2000? :)

              • by rk (6314)

                Well, to be fair, some of the guys that came up with scrum methodology were presenting it at OOPSLA 5 years before that, and if I memory isn't totally swiss cheeesed, I recall Kirk being heavily involved with OOPSLA back in the day. But it would be a couple years before I first heard the word "scrum" and a year after that before I realized "Oh, huh. I've done that." :-)

      • by bhcompy (1877290) on Wednesday March 19, 2014 @07:01PM (#46528891)
        ADP, Kronos, SAP, IBM, Boeing, Northrop Grumman, etc. They hire legions of programmers and they prefer older types that arent going to jump ship at some chance to work for the next Twitter
    • by real gumby (11516)

      Ignore Silicon Valley...it used to be a hot-bed of science and technological innovation. Now it is a magnet for designer coffee-swigging social cloud blog web 2.0 get rich quick smartphone app hipsters.

      Close, but you described San Francisco. We have some of those loons too down here in the Valley, but we also have real stuff.

      The out of town reporters are up in the city too, and don’t know the difference, but frankly it’s easier to get work done with them not around as well.

    • by Darinbob (1142669)

      There are still parts though that aren't so "hip". There was a NYT article recently about a sort of disconnect between the fluffy young industry interested in web apps and the stuffy old industry that actually makes it all work but doesn't get the glamor. Flash in the pan startups versus old economy industry. Ie, someone needs to make the network work such as by building routers and hubs, someone needs to create the operating systems that the apps run on top of, someone needs to deal with the communicati

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      The irony is strong with this one. "Silicon Valley is sooooo 50 years ago" hipster much?

  • False premise (Score:4, Interesting)

    by tlambert (566799) on Wednesday March 19, 2014 @06:24PM (#46528531)

    False premise. Assumes a bias without providing evidence.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by bobbied (2522392)

      There has been a traditional bias away from hiring older workers that I've never really questioned. I have no evidence beyond my 25 years of observations, but it seems to me that the submitter of the article is right.

      But, looking back, it seems explainable that older workers are less likely to be hired. They usually have experience, but this usually requires that you pay more. If younger workers can do the job well enough, why not go cheap? Also, older workers have higher costs for medical and sick lea

      • Re:False premise (Score:5, Insightful)

        by TheRealMindChild (743925) on Wednesday March 19, 2014 @06:55PM (#46528847) Homepage Journal
        They usually have experience, but this usually requires that you pay more. If younger workers can do the job well enough, why not go cheap?

        Because the cumulative of 20 years experience they are looking for can actually be had by the older worker.
      • Re:False premise (Score:5, Insightful)

        by gstoddart (321705) on Wednesday March 19, 2014 @07:24PM (#46529095) Homepage

        Also, older workers have higher costs for medical and sick leave and are more often injured on the job.

        Oh for crying out loud, he wants to be a programmer ... do you know of a single job related injury of a programmer that didn't involve something involving a nomination in a non-fatal Darwin-award category (like chair races)? A freak mouse accident in which someone lost fingers? The coke machine falling on you?

        Finally, who wants to hire somebody they know won't be working more than a few more years?

        Ever heard the joke about the two bulls on the hill, and one says "hey, let's run down and fsck one of them cows"?

        Sometimes experience and having learned some mistakes along the way can be very valuable, because not all of the kiddies have learned these things.

        Kids straight of school may churn out large quantities of code and do cool things. But they also haven't yet learned all of the reasons for doing things with caution and diligence and all of the things which come with having spectacular failures.

        Eventually, your skillset becomes more valuable for your breadth of experience and knowledge, than your specific ability to code.

        For the poster, I would suggest that either you tough it out, or recognize that your ability to provide adult supervision and a longer view might be more valuable to companies (and in the long run you).

        At a certain point, if you look like you're just gonna hang on in the corner doing the same old thing until you retire, your company might decide to get rid of you. I know people who started as Help Desk grunts, and have moved on to become Directors of entire departments, because they were smart, learned stuff, and became responsible adults. I don't know many programmers in their 50s who have done nothing but.

        I'm in your cohort, give or take a little, there is life after programming. These days, organizations have more of an "up or out" mentality.

        • by bobbied (2522392)

          Also, older workers have higher costs for medical and sick leave and are more often injured on the job.

          Oh for crying out loud, he wants to be a programmer ... do you know of a single job related injury of a programmer that didn't involve something involving a nomination in a non-fatal Darwin-award category (like chair races)?

          I knew an older lady programmer who fell down the stairs at work, so Yes! I have stories to illustrate my point. She slipped on a pen that somebody dropped and didn't have the strength or coordination to keep from going down 3/4'ths of a flight of stairs. Paramedics had to be called. She was out for months for a broken hip. I know of an older guy who was rolling across the floor in his office chair and hit a bump. He got dumped onto the floor and because he tried to catch himself messed up his arm and hand

        • by raymorris (2726007) on Wednesday March 19, 2014 @08:32PM (#46529673)

          Where I work, we have several divisions.
          One division trains firefighters and EMS. We have an incredible training facility, so not only do we teach Firefighter I, we also train veteran firefighters on extra-hazardous stuff like oil refinery fires. They also teach search and rescue in our rubble piles and collapsing buildings.

          Another division trains cops, tactical drivers, etc. That division includes an on-staff sniper.

          A third trains people to work on high voltage electric lines.

          Then there is my division, "administration". We're the IT people, bookkeepers, etc who keep the agency running. Guess which division had the worst safety record last year. Yep, us nerds. For my employer, the people clicking a mouse had more injuries than the people putting out big fires, crawling under collapsed structures, or performing dynamic entries (seat raids).

          Yes, we nerds are suitably embarrased by this fact.

      • by lgw (121541)

        When I had 10 year's experience, I had to struggle to find new work. With 20 years experience, recruiters beat a path to my door. Even without updating my LinkedIn I get a couple of pings a week from company recruiters.

        But then, I've kept my skills current, and built a network of former co-workers who think well of me, many of them managers now. Are there companies who won't hire me? I'm sure there are. I don't care. Engineers have never been interchangeable, and your particular skill set including dep

      • by GauteL (29207)

        I believe most of your arguments have been answered by other posters... except this one:

        Finally, who wants to hire somebody they know won't be working more than a few more years?

        What is the difference between hiring a good 60 year old and good 25-year old? You will probably have the 60 year old for 4-5 years. The 25-year old will leave after 2-3 years for greener grass elsewhere. If you really want a steady hand who will stay for a long while, hire a 50-55-year old with grandchildren nearby and target extra incentives to make them stay longer. I'm not talking about throwing money at them, but ra

    • False premise. Assumes a bias without providing evidence.

      Well, to be fair, the story does make a claim.

      it falls to the 40-year-old programmer to prove that he can still use the newest up-and-coming technology.

      It falls to ALL programmers to demonstrate that they can use the technology for the job.

      If you are a programmer who has no documented experience in (technology) and want a job that asks for a job requiring (technology), either get some experience with (technology) or expect trouble finding that job.

      Swap in whatever technology you want. For an example, are you a 40 year old programmer with pre-standard C++ experience and 14 years of Java experience, but lookin

      • Re:False premise (Score:5, Insightful)

        by mrchaotica (681592) * on Wednesday March 19, 2014 @07:02PM (#46528903)

        For an example, are you a 40 year old programmer with pre-standard C++ experience and 14 years of Java experience, but looking for jobs requiring C# experience?

        Anybody who gives a shit if somebody's experience is in Java instead of C# (or vice-versa) has no business making hiring decisions.

        • Depends. Young coders with little or no actual work experience are going to be doing enough on-the-job learning to keep them quite busy. Many will have a limited experience in documenting, test procedures, version control mechanisms, and they will need some help in learning the ropes in soft skills: team working, talking to the non tech departments, etc. You want those young programmers to be at least somewhat proficient in the language you hired them to program in, instead of having to teach them that a
          • Re:False premise (Score:5, Informative)

            by mrchaotica (681592) * on Wednesday March 19, 2014 @07:47PM (#46529293)

            You vastly overestimate how much effort it takes to learn a language, at least for somebody who already knows a similar one. As a "young programmer," I started a job at a company using mostly VB.net a few months ago. I had a decent amount of experience with Java, a tiny bit with C#, and more experience with less-related things like C and Matlab. The last time I looked at anything VB-like was VB 6 in elementary school.

            You know how long it took me to start being productive in VB.net? 30 seconds, maybe less. OMG, I've got to declare variables as "dim x as whatever" instead of "whatever x;" -- whoop-de-fucking-do! Yes, I've had to look up syntax occasionally (e.g. figuring out how VB.net maps concepts like C#'s ref and out), but as a percentage of my time it's negligible.

            Now, if you're asking somebody to switch from Lisp to Smalltalk or something, then yeah, there's going to be a learning curve. But if a Java programmer can't hit the ground running with C# or VB.net then they were never competent at Java either (or vice-versa).

            The biggest part of starting any new programming job is not going to be learning the language, API, or any tools; it's going to be learning the company's codebase -- something which job candidate is ever going to have preexisting experience in, unless the company is rehiring somebody who worked there before!

            • Re:False premise (Score:5, Insightful)

              by Actually, I do RTFA (1058596) on Thursday March 20, 2014 @01:26AM (#46531303)

              As a "young programmer," ...[y]ou know how long it took me to start being productive in VB.net? 30 seconds, maybe less.

              Yeah, you really weren't productive after 30 seconds. As you said, you can declare a variable, whoopdie-fucking-doo. I fully believe that you could figure out how to write functions that did math functions in 30 seconds. Being productive requires more than that. It only took you 30 seconds to, I dunno, use VB.net to use a COM process to read cells from an excel document?

              Which isn't to say you cannot get anything done. But your "general programming knowledge" with a barebones syntax knowledge is not as valuable as you think. If a page of your code can be replaced by a callt o an existant function, you're not being productive.

              And I say this as someone who has written professional code in... I lost count somewhere around 15 languages and cannot be bothered to go back and start again. Sometimes I was very productive. In some languages I was not. And in the case of small modifications or small projects, it was okay to be fairly unproductive (I'm using the term how I think you understand it, which means I was fairly inefficent in the use of my time, and the solution, while working, was probably suboptimal). But, the fact that me being unproductive lead to a good solution doesn't mean it wouldn't have taken 1/3 of the time with someone who actually knew the language.

  • by organgtool (966989) on Wednesday March 19, 2014 @06:26PM (#46528563)
    I personally believe that the experience older programmers provide over younger counterparts makes them a desirable hiring option. The catch is that the price has to be right. Some of the older developers demand two to three times the salary of younger programmers. When you do that, you have to ask yourself if you deliver quantity and/or quality two to three times greater than those younger programmers. If you honestly believe you do, then your next task is to prove that to prospective employers, but it's going to be a tough sell. It can take close to a year for someone to realize that they hired a fraud, so you're a more expensive gamble to that employer than a younger employee.

    There are certainly older programmers who can produce much better software at faster rates than their younger counterparts, but it is difficult to prove and requires the employer to take a greater risk in hiring you.

    Finally, is it me or was there no article at all? Seriously, Slashdot - WTF?
    • by dave562 (969951)

      This is the biggest discriminatory factor that older employees are facing. Their salary expectations are considerably higher than the people they are competing against. In a lot of situations, the only way to justify those salaries is in the ability to lead a team of developers, or to check the work of less experienced developers, or to work at a higher level where the programmer is actually doing design and architecture work. For in the trenches, banging out code type of jobs, the older programmer will

      • by mrchaotica (681592) * on Wednesday March 19, 2014 @07:12PM (#46528993)

        At 40, a person should be managing a bunch of 20-somethings, not competing with them for a job.

        Given that there are just as many 40-somethings (or at least, 40-somethings + 50-somethings) as there are 20-somethings, it's mathematically impossible for them all to be managers. What are the rest of them supposed to do?

        • by PRMan (959735)
          And what if we like writing code and hate office politics and nonsense.
          • by dave562 (969951) on Wednesday March 19, 2014 @07:47PM (#46529295) Journal

            Reach up and touch that glass ceiling. Caress it. Press your face up against it.

            Then realize that you are putting it there.

            I hate office politics and nonsense myself. I also realized that I was never going to make the salary that I wanted if I remained a sysadmin / engineer. Now I manage a team of DevOps guys and mentor their professional development. My goal is to give everyone of them the experience and potential to operate at my level, either when I move up, or when they get tired of working for me / the company and want to go somewhere else.

            If you have not read The 48 Laws of Power, I highly suggest it. There is a quote in there, "Either you are playing the game, or you are a pawn in it." It is a harsh view of reality, but it is also inescapable. Either you take control of your own career and move up, or you end up reporting to people who are more ambitious than you are. In my situation, I had to do it out of self preservation. I cannot work for incompetent people, it drives me insane. So I out perform them, make sure that everyone sees what my contributions are, and accept the fact that I cannot succeed on my own.

            That last piece is the most important. At the end of the day, you can only do so much as an individual. There is only so much that a single person can contribute to the organization. To be truly valuable, you have to be able to guide others and help a team collaborate to achieve a goal. As a programmer, if your code is so damn good that it belongs in a textbook, then you should be mentoring other programmers and helping them become better at what they do. If you are so fed up with politics and nonsense, you owe it to your organization to show them how to get things done, without resorting to all of that nonsense. Anybody can gripe about how things suck. Very few can provide alternatives.

        • by dave562 (969951)

          Adjust their salary expectations to reflect the dynamics of the marketplace. Or form a cartel / union to protect their wages.

          Everyone in IT is facing the downside of the economic cycle at this point. Twenty to thirty years ago, there were not enough people with the skills required by the marketplace. Therefore those who had the skills could command very high salaries. Now that the demographics are shifting and there are more people able to do the work, salaries are going to face downward pressure. This

        • by Darinbob (1142669)

          Plus the skills that make for a great programer or engineer have little in common with the skills necessary to be a good manager.

      • by profplump (309017)

        Age is no more reasonable as basis to determine pay than gender or race. If you accumulate skills and knowledge that make you able to produce more value, that's worth more money. If you produce at the same level for 20 years you should expect to make the same money.

        If you want household income to be tied to household size and factors like that you need to stop pretending that job-specific wages are a reasonable way to accomplish that sort of economic distribution.

    • I personally believe that the experience older programmers provide over younger counterparts makes them a desirable hiring option. The catch is that the price has to be right. Some of the older developers demand two to three times the salary of younger programmers.

      So basically you take the classic evidence of age discrimination. You assumed they will demand more money.

      If the person has the skills you want, REGARDLESS OF AGE, you make an offer you think is fair.

      Applicants usually do not say, "I require $145,000 per year". They instead say, "I'm looking for a job".

      If they apply and you think they want lots of money, you can tell them "I'm not sure this is a match with your experience, we are paying around $50,000". If they say "That is wonderful, let's have some in

      • I said that because most companies use hiring agencies to gather candidates for interviews and it has been my experience that the first question these hiring agencies ask is what you are looking to be paid. The second question is how firm are you on that price. The reason for this is that the employer gives the hiring agency a very specific salary range they are willing to pay and the hiring agencies want to get the best possible candidates without wasting the employer's time with candidates out of their
    • by turp182 (1020263)

      This is where right to hire, say on a 1-month but extendable (monthly basis) can really help. Every organization should have one or two "true pros" that can spot frauds and lead architecture and strategy (not the CIO, someone in the trenches to do things like code reviews and standards enforcement).

      Right to hire has become popular in IT (at least in the midwest), and I don't see any downsides unless a company keeps a valuable contributor off the payroll so long that they seek greener pastures (I've seen th

    • by Darinbob (1142669)

      I'm certainly being paid more than I used to, but I haven't been "demanding" that salary. The entry level people really are making a lot more money these days, it's no longer a matter of working yourself up the ranks before you get a livable salary in SV. I do not think I'm making double of a junior engineer at all, though I may be double of a generic corporate IT support person.

      The other thing is that the older people are not necessarily faster at coding. Fast coding is often not that useful of a skill.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Its more about their attitude. There are some solid patterns and just software development knowledge that is great to have and haven't really changed regardless of the technology. I hired a guy at the end of his career (programming for 30 years, he worked with punch cards in college) he said he just wanted to program, he picked up everything easily, contributed to design and implementation with some JPA 2.0 db interfaces from an AngularJS front end. Unit testing, in memory databases and all sorts of stuff

    • by Opportunist (166417) on Wednesday March 19, 2014 @06:44PM (#46528737)

      In my experience, actually being "old" can be a huge benefit, depending on what you're looking for. Old programmers may not know the current fad in programming languages, but they know the basics, something contemporary "programmers" (I'll use the term loosely now) often sorely lack.

      The label "programmer" has been diluted to the point where schools pump out people who can kinda-sorta somehow slap together something that compiles, but when you ask them how they do a binary sort, their reply is either the API function name for the binsort or they start digging for the documentation to find said name.

      And yes, of course I don't expect anyone to reinvent the wheel and implement their own version of a function the API provides. But I do expect people to know what they're doing and why they use what they're using! Because some of those standard algos can have quite interesting side effects that manifest themselves only under certain situations, and then only someone who KNOWS what he is doing will KNOW that these quirks exist!

  • by madopal (308394) on Wednesday March 19, 2014 @06:30PM (#46528607) Homepage
    I can say the difference between now and the last time I had to do this (~12 years) is stark.
    Seriously...if I have to take another test checking my ability to O(N) a problem, I'm gonna scream. I've been living in ginormous game engines for 6 years, and the amount of times I've had to, in the span of a timed half an hour, optimize a routine to make sure it was running in the optimal time has been....zero.
    I'm sure it comes up, and I'm sure it's useful, but this all reminds me of the older assembly guys who used to put in all kinds of wonky tricks that eventually got optimized out by the compiler. Bubblesort has been solved. If your company has to implement it again, you're doing it wrong. There's a routine lying around somewhere in the company. Really.
    I don't know what the solution is for evaluating tech talent, but this doesn't seem like it.
    Also, web guys...if you're really concerned about speed, maybe you should consider writing some of this code in a lower level language. Plus, if your ad server takes 5-10 seconds to respond, then all of your optimization is for nothing anyway. But hey, you got the O(log N) solution. Bully for you.
    • by MightyMartian (840721) on Wednesday March 19, 2014 @06:39PM (#46528683) Journal

      Boy I remember the old days of writing web CGI apps in C, way back in the 1990s. People would look at me like I was insane if I were to suggest writing web apps in a language that compiles to machine code. There seems to be a whole industry dedicated to declaring native apps an evil that must be extinguished.

      • by madopal (308394)
        Sure, I used it. It totally has its uses. But I'm not being old fart about it. I actually love working in Python for many, many things. It just seems totally bizarre to me to be trying to cycle optimize what is ostensibly an interpreted language. It's kinda like hypermiling SUV hybrids.
        But you're right, there's some fear of every writing compiled code these days. Heaven forbid you even directly interface with hardware, either.
    • by nblender (741424)

      a thousand times this. I'm close to 50. Over 30 years of SW development experience that is easily verifiable should I suddenly find myself looking for work 'the hard way'... My friends who are out looking for work tell me the latest fad that all the cool hiring managers are doing is giving you timed tests to make you prove you can write a "C" function to find the bottom of a linked list or some equally inane task... Maybe that's great when your hiring pool is a stack of resume's from fresh-out-of-schooler

      • by Darinbob (1142669) on Wednesday March 19, 2014 @08:25PM (#46529603)

        Not true. Those resumes are often lies. I see a great resume that says someone can do the work. And yet they can't wrote up a very simple function on the board, the sort of thing they'd have to do every day on the job. Maybe searching for something in a list is inane, but you'd be surprised how many people with years of C experience on the resume can't actually do it. I feel stupid just asking some of these questions in an interview because they're so basic, but so many people just can't do the basic stuff. Now granted, maybe the recruiters are scraping the sides of the barrel to get these candidates (my theory is that with the current economy that the best engineers are staying put instead of changing jobs).

        Ie, Joel on Software mentions some of this, saying that he expects that for the simple questions he would like to see the programers just start writing out the code without pause. And yet I have seen people pause because they can't remember whether to use '~' versus '!' and the like despite a resume that says they should know this completely. I have a really simple question which can be done with a one-line answer that 9 out of 10 candidates can't do.

        And besides the programming examples aren't just for checking if someone knows the syntax. We also want to see how the candidate can think about a problem. I try to ask something that they would not know if they just crammed the night before so that it requires them to think. That's important to do on the job: thinking is an important part of the job, whereas bullshitting about what's on the resume is really only useful in the lunchroom. Can the candidate think logically about the problem, or are they flailing about?

        Believe me, someone can spend 30 years in the industry and still be clueless. Quite a lot of programming jobs are very basic; in fact right now I think that most programming jobs require minimal thinking, they instead either require mostly gluing together different frameworks, or else making minor tweaks to a large existing body of code.

    • by ruiner13 (527499) on Wednesday March 19, 2014 @06:45PM (#46528755) Homepage

      I've been living in ginormous game engines for 6 years, and the amount of times I've had to, in the span of a timed half an hour, optimize a routine to make sure it was running in the optimal time has been....zero.

      Do you happen to work for EA? That would explain a lot...

      • No.
        But the games biz has a ton of legacy engines all over the place. And most of the work on them isn't getting it to run more efficiently. It's adding features; it's testing user input; it's gathering data; it's keeping things from blowing up. And these problems aren't unique to the game industry.
        There is plenty of work to go around adding features and improving/bug fixing that don't involve simply finding algorithmic solutions.
        It's always been a peeve of mine that programming courses have been, for my
    • by swillden (191260)

      Seriously...if I have to take another test checking my ability to O(N) a problem, I'm gonna scream. I've been living in ginormous game engines for 6 years, and the amount of times I've had to, in the span of a timed half an hour, optimize a routine to make sure it was running in the optimal time has been....zero.

      I'm a firm believer in those sorts of interview questions... and they have nothing to do with O(N). They're just a convenient way to see how the candidate responds when given an underspecified, mildly-complex problem to think their way through -- but a problem that can fit within the time constraints of an interview. It's definitely not ideal, but I think it provides a lot more insight into the candidate's problem solving skills, mental agility and the attitude with which they approach problems than anythin

      • That's a great idea (Score:4, Interesting)

        by madopal (308394) on Wednesday March 19, 2014 @07:41PM (#46529245) Homepage
        But I've been on 3 interviews so far where showing your work merited a "sorry, that's not fast enough" with nary a discussion on thought process, coding style, etc. I even explained my thinking with the dataset and worst cases.
        It'd be one thing if it was used as a way to glean a thought process, but when the bottom line is merely O(n) vs. O(log n), you're not looking for candidates who can find a way through a problem. You're using specific knowledge as a sieve. And that's where the age bias comes in. The experienced programmer knows that the answer is rarely X or Y, it...depends. And sometimes that "depends" and the design around it is the key to scaling later or blowing your leg off. I'm not saying every experience programmer knows it, but the young ones rarely do. But they're sure up on their mergesort implementation.
        I've yet to have someone give the version of that test where the hard coded array or hash is the solution, because that's what you get to from experience: knowing when to be fancy and when to be specific. The academic solution seems to be built in from the start. And that favors the recent grad, period.
    • I recently took a multiple-choice C# quiz for a hiring interview. I didn't like it at all. I think that a test or quiz should give you the opportunity to demonstrate skill and knowledge. The test I took seemed to be designed to trick me with corner cases.

      For example, there was a question that demanded that I know what happens if a variable in a using clause is set to null inside the using block. Why on Earth would I ever want to set the variable in a using clause to null!!! That makes no sense.

  • Yes (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Dcnjoe60 (682885) on Wednesday March 19, 2014 @06:35PM (#46528645)

    Yes, older programmers will always have a harder time getting a job, just like older people in all other professions. Age discrimination isn't just an computer industry problem.

    • by argStyopa (232550)

      It's not age 'discrimination', it's simply a fact that companies would rather hire younger workers for a number of reasons:
      - they generally work for less
      - they will generally work longer hours with less complaints (often, they have nothing BUT work to do)
      - they're gullible, and aside from 'millenial ennui' are easily motivated, where older workers have "seen this crap a dozen times before"

      What a middle-aged or older worker USED to bring to the job was a collective wisdom, a collective memory of what's worke

      • by Dcnjoe60 (682885)

        You just described age discrimination. There is no proof that any of the stereotypes you listed are true, but the assumption is. When you base hiring decisions on assumptions about a class of people, you are in fact discriminating.

    • But my point above about interview questions is that the bias is built in. The interview process, involving pointless tests and white board coding, seems geared towards the recent graduate. It's inherently biased against the experienced coder, because most of that academic stuff is long in the past by the time they interview.
      I can't speak to whether or not it's intentional, but it's there, and it's very different than other industries.
  • by CohibaVancouver (864662) on Wednesday March 19, 2014 @06:36PM (#46528655)
    The other advantage 20-year-olds have is they can give their life to the company. They don't care about having to work 60-hour weeks as long as there is foosball and free pizza. Why go home when 'work' is cool?

    A 40 year old often has a spouse, kid or two and a dog they might like to take for a walk. They don't care about BS phrases like "Work hard play hard!"
  • by bogaboga (793279) on Wednesday March 19, 2014 @06:41PM (#46528705)

    There are certainly older programmers who can produce much better software at faster rates than their younger counterparts, but it is difficult to prove and requires the employer to take a greater risk in hiring you.

    It isn't difficult at all. At my company, an "older programmer" solved a bug in code written by a younger fella by introducing a function that we all never knew about. This fella refactored code, cleaned up the mess we had in our AIX/DB2 system and saved my company lots of cash by single handedly writing code that verified that our data migration to PostgreSQL from the mentioned DB2 system was worthwhile.

    Specifically, he wrote code that printed cheques the way we wanted (Numbers to words), in about 1/4 of the lines of code we had. All this by employing functions we never knew existed. Nothing can beat knowledge/experience. Nothing!

    • by Krishnoid (984597)

      There are certainly older programmers who can produce much better software at faster rates than their younger counterparts, but it is difficult to prove and requires the employer to take a greater risk in hiring you.

      ...

      Nothing can beat knowledge/experience. Nothing!

      You can see how the effect is amplified [paulgraham.com] in the case of programming and a subset of other fields, due to the nature of the problem space and power of the available tools.

    • by PRMan (959735)
      And unlike the young whippersnapper, it sounds like he understood how to speak $. This comes from wisdom finally understanding that businesses don't care about the latest cool new thing. Only money.
  • What is the newest up-and-coming technology that programmers have to deal with?

    All the new technology is just an API library.

    Programming languages have remained the same for the last 20 years.

  • No (Score:4, Funny)

    by Megahard (1053072) on Wednesday March 19, 2014 @06:43PM (#46528727)

    Not when 2038 approaches.

  • I found age discrimination 2008-2011 but not now. I expect it will return after the next stock market or dot-com 2.0 crash.

    But I'm not in Silicon Valley.

  • by technomom (444378) on Wednesday March 19, 2014 @06:49PM (#46528787)
    Honestly, any programmer that is worth his or her salt is going to be employed no matter what their age. There are plenty of schools and non-profits looking for help. Of course they may not pay as much as the corporate office, but you'll be working. I also think you should start looking to strike out on your own as a contractor or freelancer soon after 45. I say this as a 52 year old who is exploring other options now. I'm writing some mobile apps for a local school district as part of my community service and I know from speaking with the administrator that I've got at least one way to earn should my company decide to push me out the door with my gold watch.
  • I like hiring new grads for some things, experienced folks for others. In this case I needed a Java guy for an app dating all the way back to 1999. I preferred somebody who had lived Java in those years.

  • As long as the quality of work continues to be an imponderable - not sure why this still is the case, unless management continues to remain clueless - decisions will be made only based on how much money someone costs, and older people want more money. Perhaps they imagine that experience is valuable.

  • both unlink health care costs that are higher for older people and there needs to be more forced OT pay as the older people really don't want to work 60-80+ hour weeks even more so if they don't pay OT.

  • by time961 (618278) on Wednesday March 19, 2014 @07:07PM (#46528953)
    As others have observed, older workers tend to want to be compensated for their experience... so they're more expensive.

    In a rational hiring world, that might not matter much--they usually deliver greater value, too--but it's often not rational people (or, let's be polite and say, people who could be better-informed) that are making that decision--it's people who want to minimize costs no matter what.

    Hire an expensive engineer who really understands the work? Or two young cheap ones who might not? The latter, of course--for the same reason that outsourcing to the third world is so popular despite the incredible hurdles of management and quality. And if the bet fails, and neither of the young'ns can get it done (despite the 80-hour weeks that they can deliver and have come to expect), well, you'll be off to another job by then anyway and no one will know.

    It's a vicious cycle: VCs like start-ups that live on ramen noodles because they're cheap to fund, unlike ones that have a real staff and a real track record. And sure, some of those cheap ones will succeed, and they'll get the press (in no small part because they are young), and that will perpetuate the myth that only young folks can innovate, leading the VCs to believe in their own decisions.

    I don't see the bias going away. As a general rule, young people are less expensive, more dedicated, more attractive, and just more fun than us old farts. The market want crap in a hurry, and this is one of the primary reasons they get it.
  • by mt1955 (698912) <mt1955@nOSpaM.gmail.com> on Wednesday March 19, 2014 @07:08PM (#46528963) Homepage Journal

    You might be able to surmise from my username that I could be about 3 years from retirement (as if I would -- I love what I'm doing)

    I've always stayed current and learn something new every day. I have found it definitely does depend on the culture of the company you are dealing with but also on the nature of the work. For freelance work, just about everyone I deal with seems quite happy to depend on "the old guy" to get it done, especially if they would consider the project a grind. They know they will get a good result and I can tell it just feels like a safe bet to them.

    It happens sometimes that after a few freelance projects a company will want to talk about hiring me full time. On the East/West coast is where I have encountered the "I'm young and smart so you must be old and dumb" attitude. I sure don't take it personally. And in the Midwest decades of experience still counts for plenty and they will wine & dine you to get you go full time.

  • No (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Greyfox (87712)
    But I've noticed that the ability of bad ones to get hired tends to fluctuate with the boom-and-bust cycle. Are you a bad one?
  • It's not a question of age. It's a question of whether you're willing to work 50-60 hours a week, often without being paid overtime. Cut your rates, and you have no problem finding work.

    All you have to do is settle for half of what you're really worth.

    You're not only competing with the youth, you're competing with the overseas sweat shops.

    The only way to maintain an income comensurate with your experience is to specialize in tools and technologies few others know. And as more and more people enter

  • by justfred (63412) on Wednesday March 19, 2014 @07:22PM (#46529077) Homepage

    "Age and treachery will always overcome youth and skill"

    New programmers may have skills with new software, but they may not have skills and experience with organizational politics, system design, product architecture, code reviews, QA, all the rest of what makes great programmers great.

  • In the 7985 years they'll start upgrading everything to have 5 digit years, so they'll be looking for people experienced with legacy software.
  • by digitalhermit (113459) on Wednesday March 19, 2014 @07:40PM (#46529237) Homepage

    We have one guy that understands build processes. I have done any serious code in years, but some of the crappy code I've seen is pretty horrid.

    Here's an example:
    Just over a year ago we had some Java developers doing some web code. This was on a Linux/pSeries hardware. I.e., it's a Power chip, not Intel/AMD. I was asked to install the JVM software by the developers. They gave me an Intel binary. OK, no prob. I asked them to send me the Power installation package. They responded that it was Java and the underlying hardware didn't matter. Oh really? One of the developers actually got pissy and started trying to explain that he ran it on his Windows machine and another guy ran it on his Mac. Tried again to explain the difference between the jvm executable and the jar but then I realized that if he didn't understand that, it wouldn't be much point.

    The guy we brought in knows that. Lots of other things too.

  • My boss can hire two fresh-outs for what he pays me. He knows this. A short sighted person might think two fresh-outs are more effective than me. My boss knows better. I regularly deliver way more than two fresh-outs, and I show up on time every day, not hung over. No drama.

    Not every boss is like mine. Many think that more cheap labor can get the job done. Good luck with that. You get what you pay for.

  • by BLToday (1777712) on Wednesday March 19, 2014 @08:02PM (#46529415)

    There's a job, if you're a COBOL programmer. In the last few months, I've had friends and relatives wishing they were proficient in COBOL or their company needed someone proficient in COBOL. I hear it pays $100K+.

  • by MpVpRb (1423381) on Wednesday March 19, 2014 @08:49PM (#46529813)

    Today, the digital world is young and new

    The managers are young, the employees are young, the customers are young

    Once upon a time, the railroad was the hot new tech, then radio was, then tv..etc

    Someday, software will be as mature, professional and boring as ball-bearing engineering

    I suspect that ball-bearing engineers suffer no age discrimination

    BTW..I am a 60 year old programmer who is turning away work. I work in the totally non-sexy world of embedded systems and industrial equipment

  • by Harlequin80 (1671040) on Wednesday March 19, 2014 @10:28PM (#46530519)

    I am a recruiter who recruits in the engineering spaces and in particular the Oil & Gas space in Australia.

    So while not IT it probably crosses over in that we see a significant difference in attitude to years of experience between Australia and the US. For example a Senior Drilling Engineer with 20 years of experience can find it hard to get a job in the US. There seems to be a real preference for people with less experience ie younger.

    In Australia the attitude is the opposite. Here the attitude is a 10 years of experience they haven't seen enough to know what not to do and that 20 is what you need to be useful.

    Makes my life easier I guess, as we bring a load of skilled people over to Australia but the difference in attitude is interesting.

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