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Ask Slashdot: Joining a Startup As an Older Programmer? 274

Posted by timothy
from the ask-slashtot dept.
First time accepted submitter bdrasin (17319) writes "I've had a series of interviews with a late-term startup (approx. 300 employees) and I think there is a good chance they will make me an offer. The technology is great, my skills and interests are a good fit for the position, I think the company has a promising future, and I like they team. Frankly I'm damn excited about it, more so than for any job in my career. However, I'm worried about what could euphemistically be called 'cultural' issues. I'm a few years over 40, with a wife and kids, and all of the engineers at the company seem to be at least 10 years younger than I am. Being at the company's office gives me a distinct old guy at the club feeling. I don't think the overall number of hours the team works is more than I could handle, but the team does a lot of young-single-guy-at-a-startup group activities (rent-a-limo-and-go-clubbing night, weekends in Tahoe, Burning Man, in-office happy hour) that I wouldn't want or be able to participate in; I need to be home with my family for dinner most nights and weekends and so on. I'm wondering if anyone else has had the experience of working at a startup with, or as, an older programmer, and how it worked out?"
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Ask Slashdot: Joining a Startup As an Older Programmer?

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  • by Sarius64 (880298) on Sunday May 04, 2014 @03:37PM (#46914553)
    Maybe you should just do your work instead of trying to co-exist with younger people raising hell. If these activities you mentioned are part of the company requirements then the company isn't focused on success; just spending their investors' money.
    • by Z00L00K (682162)

      I agree - if it's more a party mode than work company then it might not work out well in the long run.

      But a startup company also needs a few experienced persons that can take the lead and support when needed.

      • by mikael (484)

        And move into an "architect" role as soon as the new project manager decides that they should follow the Agile/Scrum model. My experience is that no development role lasts for more than a couple of years or even a year. Then the odds are that you'll get moved into something different, and that it's usually away from what first attracted you to the company.

        • by AuMatar (183847)

          Unless its a late stage startup, there's unlikely to be room for an architect role. Leadership roles yes, but not a dedicated architect.

          • by mikael (484)

            I worked for a start-up that got bought out by a larger company. The larger company started melding the two together by taking on new people and moving them into the structure they wanted.

            • by gbjbaanb (229885)

              very good point - if the startup has grown in usual startup ways, then they have a load of kids who are churning out crap code, continually "refactoring" and partying thinking they're the biz.

              And now the people with money are going to make it into a real company with things like support and organisation. If the kids start to leave because the culture is turning into real life rather than a party then there's plenty of scope for career progression there - so you need to show you're adult and able to cope wit

              • by AuMatar (183847)

                Funny, my experience is the exact opposite- when the business takes over development slows to a crawl, productivity plummets because you're now dealing with corporate BS, decisions by committee and "stakeholders", and the culture turns to shit not because it's less of a party but because nobody gives a fuck at large corporations about anything but not getting fired.

                • by mikael (484)

                  Both things happen. First the kids crank out the code and "refactoring" and partying. But they then get bought out by a corporation that needs to enter that market. More money comes pouring in, the kids leave as millionaires and go on to do other things. Customer support improves, the code starts to be cleaned up, bugs fixed, and documentation written. Then the corporations start trying to fill out the other roles like project managers, architects. But then as the corporation takes over, over time, there ar

                • by sjames (1099)

                  That's the problem with stake holders, they think productivity is a vampire.

                • by gbjbaanb (229885)

                  maybe that's your attitude - but at all the large corporations I've worked everyone gave quite a damn about shipping quality product.

                  Sure, we had to deal with the bureaucracy but even in the small companies I've worked at, you had to deal with it - it was just closer to you (ie lareg company you have to justify things via paperwork, small company you have to justify things to the director)

        • by Darinbob (1142669)

          Hmm? Most development roles last the full term of being at a company for most developers. A FEW become managers but you can not expect that to happen to everyone or there would be more managers than developers. Maybe in the agile world there are in-between things but generally if you're hired to program or design and that is what you want to do, then that is what they will keep you doing until you leave.

    • by khasim (1285) <brandioch.conner@gmail.com> on Sunday May 04, 2014 @04:09PM (#46914771)

      Seconded.

      Where's the money coming from for all these party events?

      ... weekends in Tahoe, Burning Man, ...

      That's not a startup. That's a frat. Startups want you working all weekend, every weekend.

      Even a successful, established company would probably not send its programmers away for a week to Burning Man.

      Sounds like they're throwing a non-stop party because they have venture capital to burn through.

      • by matria (157464) on Sunday May 04, 2014 @11:49PM (#46916465)
        I worked for a startup like this, pure software (a website). When I started, there were ~80 employees in one office. Within two years this grew to over 400 employees in three offices, with regular outings, breakfasts, etc etc which I never attended, except for one breakfast that was held at a fancy hotel within walking distance of my home.

        At one point, my department manager "volunteered" us to work on the weekend. He was quite surprised when all but one or two of us were not at all agreeable.

        During the third year, the layoffs started. My department manager was in the first wave of layoffs, and the poor young man was actually in tears from the shock. By the end, after the fourth wave of layoffs when I specifically asked to be laid off since I couldn't handle the stresses in the office any more, there were around ~60 employees left, and the owners sold out for several hundred million dollars. The site did go on to become a part of a very large corporate web presence, but in a different country.

        It was all done deliberately, to build the business, then "downsize" until the bottom line looked good, then sell. Meanwhile, young people had gotten married, started families, bought homes. All based on this huge lie. During one of the performance reviews, just before the layoffs began, everyone was asked "do you believe in (x company)?" Not being young and inexperienced in corporate behavior, and having researched the owner's previous start-up behavior, I baldly said "No". Their long-promised IP (I'd been given 2,500 of their vaporware shares in an effort to persuade me to stay) didn't happen until just a few weeks before the sale.

        In four years they had burned through $70,000,000 in venture capital.
        • Man that sucks. Sounds like the standard pump-n-dump get-rich scheme. :-/

          And companies wonder why they can't hire good coders -- maybe because we've seen all the bullshit before, while the young coders have delusions of grandeur of being the "next hot thing" being "naive".

    • by gtall (79522)

      " in-office happy hour"..what's wrong with this picture?

      1. the company is clueless and doesn't care about their insurance premiums should anything go wrong?
      2. the kiddies are immature and think drinking at work is a good idea?
      3. the management is immature and thinks drinking at work is a good idea?
      4. tech and alcohol goes well together, "Hey Boomer, I've got an idea, let's see if we can connect the gizmo with the whatsit".

      • by Aighearach (97333)

        I knew one big-name, large, successful security software company that had Friday drinking, starting after lunch, with a couple kegs of different micros every week. I think the theory is, not a lot gets done after lunch on Friday anyways, and it improves team morale and bonding.

        Of course, nobody was working weekends except for on-call support staff.

      • by billstewart (78916) on Sunday May 04, 2014 @11:33PM (#46916393) Journal

        What surprises me about it is that they're still having the party even though they've got 300 employees. My experience watching startups in Silicon Valley over the last few decades is that the typical pattern is that somewhere between 100 and 200 employees, the company hires a professional HR department instead of doing it informally, and the first thing the HR department does is shut down the beer party.

        The purpose of the beer party isn't drinking beer. It's getting everybody to hang around and socialize and have unfocused discussions about what they're doing. It's especially valuable after the company reaches the first dozen or two people, because cross-organizational discussions tend to slow down by that point, and you desperately need them.

        And if you're the old-timer joining the group? You really want to be at that beer party, because you'll have heard all those discussions a dozen times before at your previous companies, and you've got a lot to add. (On the other hand, you don't actually need to go to Burning Man with them, and going skiing depends on whether you're the skiing type; at one of my wife's previous startups, the 50-somethings were more likely to be skiers than the kids.)

        • by gsslay (807818) on Monday May 05, 2014 @06:47AM (#46917639)

          The purpose of the beer party isn't drinking beer. It's getting everybody to hang around and socialize and have unfocused discussions about what they're doing.

          And if you don't drink beer? Maybe you don't like alcohol. Maybe its against your religion. Maybe it's a medical thing. Maybe you just don't like being the sober one hanging out with drunk people? Suddenly your "everybody" isn't really "everybody". Now it's just "The guys who like beer parties" (TGWLBP).

          So you weren't asked about the latest idea on your project? That's because you weren't part of the TGWLBP focus group. No-one got to hear your great idea that could have save the project? Guess that's because you didn't attend the TGWLBP brainstorming. Too bad, everyone loses, but at least TGWLBP got their beer.

          HR shut down the beer party because they know that beer parties aren't everybody's idea of fun, and are an excellent way of having company sanctioned discrimination and fragmentation. The best time and place to discuss company work are places that everyone can be comfortable and feel included. And that's even before you consider the legal minefield of company responsibility if anyone falls over drunk.

    • by Ogive17 (691899)
      What they do during their off time is their business. The submitter is worrying about potential issues at a job he doesn't even have.

      I'm not suggesting he needs to go out and participate in activities that make him uncomfortable.. but the guy is already making excuses to not fit in.

      I am in my mid-30s.. got a wife, kid and house to all take care of. I can still hang out with friends/co-workers once in awhile. We don't do crazy activities.. but a round of golf or a beer exchange are quite common.
  • by retroworks (652802) on Sunday May 04, 2014 @03:40PM (#46914563) Homepage Journal
    Don't try to make any jokes or allusions that would get modded funny on /.
  • by mcmonkey (96054) on Sunday May 04, 2014 @03:41PM (#46914565) Homepage

    Because what you describe sounds more like the Hollywood version of a tech start up than any of the actual start-ups I've worked for and with.

    Not that there can't be issues from the cultural differences between established companies and start-ups or between 40-something married with children and 20 & 30-something single, but if I'm looking to join a company as a programmer and Burning Man is on my list of concerns, I would not be looking to join this company.

  • If it were a very small company and that were the culture, I'd be wary. But 300 people is reasonably big. Can you get an impression of whether the limo-and-clubbing type activities are something everyone participates in? It's quite possible that, despite being a high-profile part of the "company culture", it's only a smallish subset of people who actually go to those events, not all 300 employees. In that case it might not be a big issue, you'd just join the other people who don't go.

    • by plopez (54068)

      The company may be 300 but the poster's team may be 5 or 10 eith a unique culture.

    • I would like to second this. I'm a programmer in my 20s, and my preferences run against the limos-and-clubbing stereotype. We do exist!

      Chances are that there are some people who really like to go out on the town, some people who are indifferent, and some people who stay behind. And if this company employees great people, they will (1) treat you well no matter which group you're in, and (2) make it easy to tag along for the occasional thing that you actually want to attend. My coworkers are this way, and the

  • Startup? (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday May 04, 2014 @03:43PM (#46914577)

    300 employees doesn't really sound like a startup to me.

    Are you sure they're not just leveraging the startup culture to sucker employees into working insane hours without compensation?

  • by IV-Swamp (744272) on Sunday May 04, 2014 @03:45PM (#46914595) Homepage
    They all knew I had a family and could not experience all the single-guy-out-on-the-town stuff. I instead, genuinely, showed interest in hearing about their antics, which they enjoyed sharing with me. I also kept up on all the newest techniques and news of the languages and frameworks we used. Thus instead of "old guy" I became the quasi guru. Having a beard helps.
  • If enough of them have young kids (and your 40+ years - 10 puts many of your peers in the mid-30s), then they'll be going through the same stuff, only have less experience. Come in as the voice of wisdom and experience. It's useful!

    Just don't spend too much time talking about old systems. Some older programmers do that, and it just distances themselves unnecessarily. Having used an older system isn't a technical merit, it's just saying that you're old. Interesting anecdotes, special features, and spect

  • and it won't matter that you don't show up to every outside team-bonding event. Good people won't fault that you already have a life outside of work. If they do, you might reconsider working there for that reason. Otherwise, focus on the work, be engaged and open-minded, and you'll be fine.

    Let go of the age thing. That is all a state of mind. And if applied right, your experience will be valuable. I say this from experience. I'm almost always the old guy now. But I keep my skills sharp and current and I lis

    • Really good programmers, of any age, are not easy to recruit and hire. If you're consistently hitting home runs with your actual work product, and you're easy to work with, it should more than make up for any shortcomings you might have in the social/cultural aspects of your job.

  • Go for it! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by jonxor (1841382) on Sunday May 04, 2014 @03:50PM (#46914641)
    This question so accurately describes where I currently work, that I'm seriously wondering if you're talking about my company. If so, I can tell you, I am one of the younger guys who works at a company exactly as you described and we recognize that we lack experience. We have youthful vigor, time and energy, but we are hungry for experienced people who have seen the pitfalls and mistakes that can be made and give us guidance. There are always the people who put in the extra time because they are young, with no spouses or children, and the culture is sort of transitioning from a startup to a more compartmentalized corporate culture. We recognize the people who put in the extra blood sweat and tears, but we also recognize the value of an experienced worker who doesn't have to do that, and as such, there is no negative stigma from the company culture around people who want to go home at the normal time, and stick to putting in sane (40 - 50 hour weeks) time. I say go for it, because the older guys in the club get respect and recognition. If you really have wisdom and have not wasted your years, then your experience will be plenty to show for it.
  • by pupsocket (2853647) on Sunday May 04, 2014 @03:51PM (#46914647)

    The firm, now large and organized, can no longer be a roving band of inspired friends. It has to dock onto the household world.

    Just admire your co-workers and invite a few to dinner now and then. They've already decided they like you.

  • My first company was a startup, the CEO was 30, and we had an older programmer. It was great because he was the most experienced guy on the team, he didn't try to boss us around, and I learned a lot from him.

    As long as you don't try to say, "I'm older than you so I'm smarter" it should be fine.
  • Teach them something they don't know

    Solve a problem they can't solve

    Become the go-to guy when stuff goes wrong

    Do this, and the rest won't matter

  • ...a 'startup'?

    That's a mid-sized to approaching large company...

    • by Aighearach (97333)

      Since when can a company with 300 people be called a 'startup'?

      That's a mid-sized to approaching large company...

      When they're funded and just wasting the money while it lasts.

      • by Assmasher (456699)

        Lol... Touche... ;)

        Wait, does that make SIEMENS a start-up? ;)

        • by Aighearach (97333)

          Didn't Siemens assist with STUXNET? They're innovating AND losing money, they're most of the way there. Maybe it is their second youth.

  • by minkie (814488) on Sunday May 04, 2014 @04:04PM (#46914751)

    I'm 55. 4 years ago, I left a good paying job at a Fortune-100 cube farm (where I was miserable) and went with a startup (where I'm having fun again). Best decision I ever made. I'm the oldest person in the company. Many of the people I work with are half my age. It all works just fine. Get over it. You're there to do a job, not be a frat buddy. If you don't want to go clubbing with the guys after work, don't go clubbing.

    On the other hand, go into it with your eyes open. Startups are not the most financially stable place to work. Before I took this job, I discussed it with my wife. We've got no kids, no debt, and enough in the bank that if the startup went bust in 6 months (as, statistically, startups are likely to do), we'd still be OK. I would be more worried if I had kids to support, and loss of a paycheck might mean missing a mortgage or car payment.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      If you're a developer and the loss of a single paycheck means missing a mortgage or car payment then you're doing it wrong.
      Most people can live a successful life with those things with half the financial resources a software developer has. Build a cushion!

      (captcha: reform)

    • by Kittenman (971447)

      I'm 55. 4 years ago, I left a good paying job at a Fortune-100 cube farm (where I was miserable) and went with a startup (where I'm having fun again). Best decision I ever made. I'm the oldest person in the company. Many of the people I work with are half my age. It all works just fine. Get over it. You're there to do a job, not be a frat buddy. If you don't want to go clubbing with the guys after work, don't go clubbing.

      Well said. OP, just do what you want. Some kids want to go clubbing, fine. Some don't. Some want to go see a movie, a theatre show or something - maybe that's your thing. At one place I objected to the high number of athletic groups in the company (I live in NZ). I started a lunchtime bridge group, and we had a 'triathon' one night of three events: bridge, chess and backgammon. I didn't get a huge turn out, but I had about a dozen there (out of 400 or so).

      I was in my 30s at that time... ok, so I

  • If they've got 300 people with degrees and a little bit of experience, surely many of them are old enough to have commitments at home. You might be taking your 10 year old to soccer practice, well they might have their first baby or whatever. Plenty there will have time consuming hobbies and not show up, no matter what phase of life they're in it's far from everyone each time. And to be honest, if they're 25 and single they probably don't want to have the 40+ married guy with them any more than you want to

  • You are in your forties? When I was 45 I joined the most interesting start up and did some of the best work of my career. They were much smaller too, only a bit over 40 people in total. I was probably the oldest there at the time. It was absolutely not a problem. 40s is nothing. It is very common is the valley. Including many start ups started by people in their 40s and 50s. Why on earth would you even worry about it. Be yourself, kick butt, take names.

  • by larwe (858929) on Sunday May 04, 2014 @04:15PM (#46914805) Homepage
    I'm working at a similar second-stage startup (has had significant second/third round investment but still very young). I'm turning 40 this year [yay birthday vacation to Chernobyl!], there are a lot of young'ns in the office. I came from a Fortune 500 company full of processes and requirements and paperwork and ... NEWSFLASH: NOBODY CARES. We are a startup. Many of the MVPs are actually remote. They may not be wearing pants on any given day; I'm not sure. One of the reasons I was hired was to add maturity/realworld regulatory-compliant experience to the company. I have about 7 people in the USA reporting to me, and a few more than that in different countries. Average age of my team is probably mid 20s, but it ranges from "just turned 21" to "early 50s". I need all of those people, for different reasons. Be excellent. That's why they're going to hire you.
  • What is "late-term" in this context?

    Number of employees is not a particularly relevant measure (except perhaps of how much money the investors are willing to throw away). How long since the first employee was hired? How many employees were there a year ago?

  • My situation is not exactly like yours, but I joined a startup, but quite mature, product was out, money was coming in, just a couple of years short of IPO. I was not in the 40+ crowd, but was among the oldest (by age) coder, coming in with FORTRAN experience into a C++ shop.

    I thrived and became one of the more important cogs mainly because of the understanding of the management. They judged me more holistically, taking into account minor things like helping to keep the morale up and non coding contributi

  • by RetiredMidn (441788) on Sunday May 04, 2014 @04:18PM (#46914825) Homepage

    I'm turning 60 this month. My current (startup) employer had less than 50 employees when I started a year and a half ago; my previous employer was at about 200 employees, pre-IPO, when I started my 2+ year stint there. At both places I had co-workers younger than my youngest child.

    I don't think missing the extra-curricular stuff is going to be a big impediment. What's most important is whether your skills and knowledge are current, and being able to adapt to the work environment. I have contemporaries who have struggled with new technologies, languages or methodologies (i.e., scrum vs. waterfall) and therefore haven't thrived in the same environments. I haven't gone out of my way to adapt "culturally" (music, entertainment, etc.), but there's usually something of common interest to talk about.

    If you've gone through several interviews and there is a mutual desire to work together, go for it. The startup could be the best place to keep you from becoming sold a calcified before you're 50! :-)

  • Been there (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Strudelkugel (594414) on Sunday May 04, 2014 @04:37PM (#46914975)

    I was involved in a startup in my 40s. It ultimately failed, but I learned lessons that will hopefully be valuable to you to. What you describe sounds like a dream job for most people. As long as you get it, I don't think you have to be concerned at all about being older than the others. They will appreciate the times when someone comes up with a bad idea that looks good, but you can say "I've seen this before, here's what happened..." - as long as you are right. Even better will be the times when someone has an unproven idea and you can say, "I remember a couple of times when one of our developers had an off the wall idea that we all wondered about, but it was appealing enough that we went with it anyway and it worked." As for the hours, there will be 20 and 30 somethings who will go on 24+ hour coding binges. Did you do that when you were in your 20s? Do you think you would be productive doing it? Does management expect you to disrupt your family life? It's hard to believe a company that has grown to have 300 employees would have leadership that expects all of their employees to destroy their personal life. If they do, the company won't be the success everyone hopes for anyway. (Well, the founders might walk away with a lot of money before it implodes, but you won't. You have to assess that risk.)

    The great thing about a good startup is the chance it offers to to new kinds of work and see it succeed in the marketplace. This can be really exciting. It's possible that you might have a similar opportunity in a large company but the odds are very low since you will be separated from the product or service by layers of management and bureaucratic rules. Yes you will get a steady paycheck, but it will never compare with the huge win you can get at a startup and the satisfaction of knowing you had a direct role in the success. You can also ask yourself if the startup role will make you a better developer. If the company fails, will you have improved your technical knowledge so that you are still valuable to other companies? In an established company it's more likely that you will just be a code monkey whose skills slowly evaporate without you realizing it, although you don't sound like the kind of person who would let that happen. If OTOH, the company you work for is run by PHBs who are forcing you to work on obsolete stuff, you have to leave anyway. Some large companies do have great jobs, though, but I don't think you would be looking if you were really happy where you are.

    From your description of the job and given that you don't sound like the Get Off My Lawn type, I would suggest that you join the startup if they make you an offer that is reasonable.

    • by jrumney (197329)
      I'm now in my 40's, and (in my late 20's and most of my 30's) worked for three startups before, all with team members in their 40's and 50's and/or with family commitments. They never had any problems fitting in with the company, even if they didn't join us often I've never had to do a 24+ hour coding binge, but I still think that some of my best coding happens around 1 - 2am (at home, I think the latest I've stayed at the office is 11pm, and that only 2 or 3 times in my entire career). Beyond that, fati
  • I need to be home with my family for dinner most nights

    A person who needs to be home for dinner most nights it a terrible fit for a startup.

  • by AuMatar (183847) on Sunday May 04, 2014 @04:51PM (#46915039)

    I'm only in my mid-30s, but I've worked at 2 startups with a successful exit, and am currently at a 3rd. Both of the successful ones had older programmers (the new one doesn't because it's tiny. When we hire next older programmers will be considered). They were all respected for their contribution at work. Both startups had some of the "startup atmosphere", but there was never more than friendly invitations to join in, rather than pressure to be there. If you want to join in once in a while you'd likely be welcome, and a beer with your colleagues every few weeks can be a great way to lower tensions (or in my case a soda as I watched them drink).

    The main thing is to remember to treat the younger people with respect. At a startup you'll likely hire a lot of young people because they're cheap, especially for non-critical roles. Remember that they're young, not stupid (at least most of them)- show them why they're wrong politely and show them why your way is better respectfully. There's great opportunities for mentorship there. Do that and you'll fit in just fine. You may even make friends with the more mature younger people- the age difference tends not to be as big a deal as people think.

  • If all you are worried about is cultural bias, don't worry about it. I'm in my mid 40s and I've been in start-ups for much of my career. If you have the skills they are looking for and the product(s) interests you, you will fit in well enough. If all that interests you is your offspring, you won't. (That applies to pubs/golf courses/spas too).

    You will have insight into problems that the 20 somethings will never have. You will have strategies that are different and desires that are refined for the products y

  • by LordNimon (85072) on Sunday May 04, 2014 @05:45PM (#46915293)

    rent-a-limo-and-go-clubbing night, weekends in Tahoe, Burning Man, in-office happy hour

    I'm 44 now, and I have never wanted to go to Burning man. A weekend in Tahoe might be okay. In-office happy hours, however, are just a gathering with your co-workers for about an hour in a conference room with free food and beer. Almost all of the companies I've worked for (of all sizes) have people of all ages, and these happy hours were a nice, quick break. I wouldn't fear them.

    I honestly think you won't have a problem fitting in. Being the only person to show up early in the morning without a hangover might be to your advantage, anyway.

  • I know when I worked in I.T. for a medium-size company (not a start-up, mind you - but a long established place that only fully embraced computer technology relatively late in its existence), the staff were all 20 and 30-somethings, with interests in things like going clubbing, attending big concerts, partying late into the night ... the usual for the demographic.

    At that time, I was a 30-something myself, at the tail end of any interest in that social scene. But interestingly, they hired a Java developer who was in his early 50's, and amazingly, he fit right into the group. The 20-something developers quickly learned to respect his years of experience they lacked, and he found a middle ground with the socializing that worked well. (Basically, he'd attend most of the Friday happy hours, but make sure to leave fairly early. By making an appearance, he got known as "part of the group" and got a chance to chat with his peers about programming-related issues and non work-related stuff. Especially after a few drinks, people usually didn't even notice or remember what time he left. If it was ever brought up, people would quickly forgive it as, "Hey... he's 50 years old. It's cool as hell he hangs out with us at all!")

    Even now, as a 40-something, at my current job? I'm one of the older employees in the company, except for upper management and the owners. I'm probably a bit left out of the socializing, truth be told. (I get half-heartedly invited to some of the after-work gatherings, but I'm sure it's more because they feel pressure not to leave anyone out than because they really want me to go.) But the culture is slowly evolving.... Some of the younger folks are getting married and starting families, and you can feel the shift in priorities with them. I'm even noticing the upper management starting to attend the after work events less than they used to, which I think is an acknowledgement of a cultural divide starting to happen .... "Older folks doing one thing, while the younger ones do another -- but all working as a team during business hours."

    Bottom line? If you really like the rest of the job, go for it! Maybe put in a token effort to socialize ... tell the family that *sometimes* you're going to skip dinner. But find a good balance. If they care at all about what they actually do there, they'll keep you for your skills, regardless.

  • by dhaines (323241) on Sunday May 04, 2014 @05:50PM (#46915313)

    I'm working in a similar situation. Bigger outfit, and I'm a bit older, but unless the culture is really off the rails then I believe it's all about how you handle it.

    In my case, the key is to not exclude myself. I definitely don't participate in all the extracurricular activities, but I do join in enough to stay part of the scene. Yep, I've been to one of those epic Tahoe long weekends. Disc golf at the park. Drunk at the office. Barhopping in the Mission. But only once in a while.

    Even the occasional late-nighter is doable; in my case the girlfriend travels for work occasionally, so I just load up on coffee and Dew and code-rage with the gang when she's away. Your situation will be different, but I bet there's a way you can crunch hard a few nights a year.

    I've found that if I go out of my way to fit in, others go out of their way to include me. It helps that I'm "youthful" (a nice way to put it) and active for my age, and have hipster-friendly interests since before they were cool, like rock climbing, cycling, and whisky. But I only participate in a fraction of the party mentality and no one seems to mind.

    So I'd suggest jumping in! Just be yourself and don't let the grown-up pants get too tight. Focus what you can do, not what you can't. Hang out late once in a while, teach the young bucks how to hold their liquor, go on one of those Tahoe trips. Chill with the crew on a Saturday afternoon, then bow out when it's time to hit the clubs. Just keep it at the level that works for you, stay positive, and have fun.

    I've even been able to bend the culture where I work a bit. More stuff is SO-friendly. A few peoople have quietly aspired to more "balance." And some days the chess set gets more action than the (obligatory) foosball table. It's okay to be the old guy. Own it. Make the place better for it.

  • I'm 35. I recently left a startup where most of the people there were about 10 years earlier. The difference is a bit more than age for me - I spent most of the 10 years I had on them working for a University, but the combination of age and differences in interests were very rough - I didn't feel that I fit in, I didn't hang out with them after work, I didn't want the same things out of life, and so on. It can be rough.

  • by Coeurderoy (717228) on Sunday May 04, 2014 @06:55PM (#46915525)

    I'm 10 years older than you and worked for a variety of startups in the last 20 years, and am just starting in a "new one" yes they are all 20 years younger than I am, but ... somehow they think I can bring something to the table...
    Including BTW a large network of contacts ...

    About the "cultural thing", you should probably discuss with your familly and negociate that you will be very late about 4 days in each month (but not necessarely friday night)... then decide what you would like to do there night, it could be going to gothic festivals, play pool or snooker, go bowling, organize Maker's event, go to steampunk events, real time go language programming, what ever ...
    Pick stuff you like and could convince "them to do", stuff they like and you could tolerate (or even enjoy) doing... things you find interesting and that you could actually organize and be seen as a kind of leader in .. (think tech oriented meetups at meetup.com or similar stuff)

    Then try to find once a month an event you can tolerate and that is organized allready...
    Organize once a month or every two monthes a meetup or something similar about something techy you care about and invite the rest of the company to attend
    Invite everybody once a month to something you find fun (if they do not come it's their problem, just make sure it is something that they just might be interested in ...)
    And think about what the fourth "free pass" in the month could be ...
    nb: try to find a baby sitter if necessary for these days so that your wife can do whatever she wants also...

    Even if you only organize a subset of this plan you will find out that you will have more than necessary time to "network" with the team, you do not need to go clubbing all night (you allready found your wife, and if you are thinking of cheating on her doing it in front of your colleages would be the worst possible idea...)
    In office happy hours are not really a problem if you remember that you can also drink a coke without rhum, just explain if somebody is jocking about it that you are going to drive home, and they both your children and the companies investors would rather see you alive tomorrow ...
    And other "week-end", holliday activities can be fun & interesting (burning man !! :)) but are not necessary, particularly if you get to speak to the same people "off road" during pub&pool or bowling or the "meetup.com about " event you organize or help organize ...

    And at the end of the day, what people care the most is "code that actually works", and "answers to a couple of hard questions" ...

    So don't worry if you stay cool you'll do great ....

  • by mrand (147739) on Sunday May 04, 2014 @10:03PM (#46916121)

    Even if long hours are called for, I assume it is flex hours?

    During the mega crunch times at the start-up I was at, I'd come home and eat dinner with the family and play with the kid. After they went to bed, I'd sometimes work from home, or even go back in to the office if necessary. Question is how much sleep do you need? I do ok with 6.5 to 7.5.

    If you're really really concerned about it, after they've made you the offer you could tell them that you are super excited and interested, but that you have this one concern and want to know what their expectations are, and what common understanding you might be able to work out.

            Marc

  • by plopez (54068)

    Startups are a crap shoot. You could be out on the street looking for work in a year in an industry hostile to older workers. You could end up dipping into your retirement accounts and the kids' college funds. And God help you if you were dumb enough to work for stop options. 40's is about the time to stop gambling. Let the 20 to 30 somethings take the crapshoot as they have time to recover if they lose. Which is what I did and why I realize I can never do it again.

  • you get payed to do work not to go clubbing.
    Why do you even give a fuck?

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