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Ask Slashdot: Re-Entering the Job Market As a Software Engineer? 435

First time accepted submitter martypantsROK writes "It's been over 15 years since my main job was a software engineer. Since then I have held positions as a Sales Engineer, then spent a few years actually doing sales as a sales rep (and found I hated it) and then got into teaching. I am still a teacher but I want to really get back into writing code for a living. In the past couple of years I've done a great deal of Javascript, PHP, Ajax, and Java, including some Android apps. So here's the question: How likely would I be to actually get a job writing code? Is continual experience in the field a must, or can a job candidate demonstrate enough current relevance and experience (minus an actual job) with a multi-year hiatus from software development jobs? I'll add, if you haven't already done the math, that I'm over 50 years old."
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Ask Slashdot: Re-Entering the Job Market As a Software Engineer?

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  • Good Luck (Score:5, Informative)

    by najay ( 733875 ) on Sunday January 01, 2012 @06:45PM (#38558890) Homepage

    As someone who just went through this, it is going to be tough

    • Re:Good Luck (Score:5, Insightful)

      by sycodon ( 149926 ) on Sunday January 01, 2012 @07:08PM (#38559054)

      Forget it. The idiots in H.R. won't even consider you.

      Stick with what you have and retire, then start your own business.

      • Re:Good Luck (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 01, 2012 @08:52PM (#38559774)

        The trick is to avoid the idiots in HR... and it's a trick best learned, even with recent direct experience. It's always much easier to get in via networking and referrals than it is to get hired by just shipping out resumes.

        • by cshark ( 673578 )
          The best way to get in for the interview is to limit your resume to your most recent ten to twelve years of recent experience. If you can get into the interview, you're set. Sell yourself as a "seasoned" veteran of the industry. Sell your "years of hands on experience" in the field. Age is only a problem if you let it be. If you live outside California, you'll be fine.
        • by tsa ( 15680 )

          For scientists, like me, it's basically the only way. I've never managed to get a job in the 'normal' way.

      • Re:Good Luck (Score:5, Insightful)

        by grimmjeeper ( 2301232 ) on Sunday January 01, 2012 @09:15PM (#38559934) Homepage

        It's not hard to bypass the idiots in HR. Recruiters often deal directly with the hiring manager because that manager is sick of dealing with the idiots in HR. But then you have to deal with idiot recruiters. (And no, not all recruiters are idiots but it's the 95% of them that ruin it for the rest). To connect with recruiters you need to get your resume on job websites. They'll contact you, mostly for jobs you don't have any interest in or capability to do. But you may get a lead there.

        A better tactic to get back in is networking. Old contacts may know of places that are hiring. Former students may be able to help as well. Even friends that aren't in the industry may know someone who is.

        But the biggest hurdle will be lack of experience. Doing some relatively recent things like Java and Android development will certainly help but don't expect a senior position or higher right out of the gate. There's a lot of young and hungry engineers out there competing for jobs and they probably have more recent/relevant experience over someone who's been out of the game for a while and they'll take a junior position for less pay. Competition may require starting over at nearly the beginning.

        • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 01, 2012 @11:49PM (#38560650)

          If you apply for an entry level position, they won't hire you because they expect you will will keep looking for a higher-paying mid or senior level position, and that you will jump ship as soon as you find it.

          If you apply for a mid or senior level position, your resume will be outclassed by others who don't have a large experience gap.

          Also, because of rampant agism in the industry, potential employers will prefer people 20 years younger than you who are also applying for mid or senior level positions. Employers will (perhaps wrongly) expect that your old brain isn't as effective at learning new technologies like their young brains are, and that they are therefore more valuable. Also, they are less likely to suddenly die of a heart attack.

          So do yourself a favor, and don't bother entering an already over-crowded and competitive labor market that no longer wants you.

          • by Grishnakh ( 216268 ) on Monday January 02, 2012 @12:01AM (#38560730)

            The addendum to this is that if there's any kids reading this and thinking of going to college to get into this profession: think again! It can be lucrative if you're one of the 0.0001% like Mark Zuckerberg or Shawn Fanning who starts a new company that becomes the Next Big Thing, and it can also be useful if you just become a regular employee and avoid places like EA that work you to death, and then use your experience and skills to start a company doing something perhaps not as popular as Facebook or Napster (circa 1999) but still decently profitable for you and perhaps a small number of employees.

            But if you're looking for something that can be a lifelong career without either starting a company (and all that entails, which is a LOT of skills beyond just writing software, for any business), or going into management, then forget it: this career is a dead end.

            • by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 02, 2012 @08:36AM (#38562528)

              I'm intrigued to know what you think specifically it is about software development that makes it a career dead end over any other job role where you choose to not go into management?

              Do you think there is some mystical job out there where you can keep growing your career without ever becoming a manager? Well, I suppose you may be right if you're going to become a sports superstar or something, but in general things like finance, HR, engineering, teaching, nursing, law enforcement, and so forth all tell the same story.

              Really, if you've written off mangement as a career advancement opportunity then you've put a cap on your career anyway.

              Software development at least has the benefit of the fact that it's been recession proof (unlike jobs such as engineering which are hit hard), and that at sub-management levels there is still a lot of scope for growth (junior developer through to lead developer, and all the way up to head software architect if that sort of thing floats your boat). The field also pays well above national average wages relative to level of experience too. Another fundamental point is the size of IT companies, they're some of the biggest in the world, and when that's the case for your industry it means there are employers with the funds to pay high salaries for the best candidates for roles that otherwise couldn't command them.

              When I see posts like yours I can't help but imagine seeing some burnt out old geezer who was hostile to the idea of management and so never took that route, and sits bitter that as a result his career has reached his peak, and has hence decided it must be this way for everyone and that the whole industry must hence be fucked.

              No really, it's not like that, your career would be just as stunted if you'd gone into HR, teaching, finance, whatever. There is no mystical industry for the person that wants an office job where you can sit doing what you want to do and only what you want to do until retirement whilst seeing no cap on your career as a result. Unfortunately if you want progression, you have to provide what industry needs, not vice versa. The positive side to all this though is for those who realised that management isn't actually all that bad, particularly if you're happy to push your way upto CTO, or even CEO of a software firm then software development is at least as lucrative a career as any other, and far more so than most. Kids, ignore the parent, and the GP, ignore the "Never going to be happy" brigade, they're just bitter, burnt out, failures, who wrote off their own career through sheer stubborness and/or laziness and now think everyone else should be persuaded away from succeding where they failed.

              Disclaimer: Yes, yes, I'm aware finance includes the bankers, but they're really a minority in the industry, they're the Zuckerbergs of the industry. They're few in number compared to the millions of bean counters spread across every company in the world that has it's own finance department (i.e., most of them).

          • by JimboFBX ( 1097277 ) on Monday January 02, 2012 @01:21AM (#38561152)

            The agism is reverse from what I've seen.

            Most job requirements look like this:

            Need 3 years experience in something basic and simple like C++ or Java (preferred)
            Need 2 years experience in obscure item 1
            Need 1 year experience in obscure item 2
            Need 5 years experience in industry A
            Need 10 years experience

            So what 20 something year old is going to have 10 years experience?
            What person with 10 years experience is perhaps not going to have 3 years experience with C++ or Java? How do you manage to miss the two of the most predominate programming languages out there?

            Seriously, most job requirements look like someone quit, and they just asked him to list out everything he knew rather than figuring out what was truly necessary for the job.

            As a 26 year old, I exceed the requirements of most Level 3 job positions except for the obscure items that probably take a week to learn and a month to master. But I'll never get those magical years of industry experience without growing old and wasting my time in a beginner position. I mean, shit, I've been programming since I was 12 for christ sake. I write code as well I as write english sentences.

            And yes, I know that most of these items are obscure. I've worked with a machine instruction language that was particular to only one manufacture of one particular machine used in probably only my industry, and yet I've seen my company put out job requirements that somehow expect someone with 2 or less years of programming experience to somehow have experience with it. I had to be trained in it and I didn't understand it until I was properly taught in a class since none of the managers had time to train me properly. I don't see why they can't reciprocate that same expectation on new hires. Essentially they're trying to hire people who they already fired or quit. And the job itself was easy once you get past that learning barrier.

            And with a kid, i barely have time to clean my house, let alone try to learn something I see in a job application. My wife gets mad if my free time isn't spent with her...

            • by Mr. Underbridge ( 666784 ) on Monday January 02, 2012 @01:53AM (#38561288)
              I love crappy recruiters who take a list of skills and reflexively put 5 or 10 years of experience on it. My favorite is when they slap that one on a new programming language. Frequently you'll see a requirement for 5 years of experience in a technology that hasn't been around that long. I recall around 2008 I started seeing postings requiring 5 years experience in Hadoop. That's when you know you're dealing with an HR weasel who really takes the job seriously.
            • by IICV ( 652597 )

              And yes, I know that most of these items are obscure. I've worked with a machine instruction language that was particular to only one manufacture of one particular machine used in probably only my industry, and yet I've seen my company put out job requirements that somehow expect someone with 2 or less years of programming experience to somehow have experience with it.... Essentially they're trying to hire people who they already fired or quit. And the job itself was easy once you get past that learning bar

            • by LostMyBeaver ( 1226054 ) on Monday January 02, 2012 @04:24AM (#38561806)
              These days... I'm a 36 year old guy with 20 years C++ programming experience in senior level positions, and I started programming BASIC on a Commodore PET when I was 6 years old. What I have learned since which makes a huge difference between the guy who is an awesome C++ coder and the guy who is an awesome C++ coder with 10 years experience is how natural the structure of code develops itself when you're writing it. I am just about finished with a module I'm working on for a fairly complex protocol implementation which now weighs in at 50,000 lines of code (much of it comments and white space). Everything was "designed" and is there is extensive error checking and logging.

              I won't say a young guy wouldn't have the skills to do this. What I will say however is that after 10 years, you'll have spent a great deal of time pissed about how other people write code. You'll eventually learn to fix instead of rewrite. And when you write new code, you'll set a standard for the other developers to live up to. I used to say that the way you could judge a new programmer best is to see how long it takes before he's been working on nearly a million lines of legacy code written by 50 people over 10 years and say "We need to rewrite this"... which almost certainly is true... but not practical. Then how bright he/she really is is measured based on how long the developer takes to recognize that the code can never be rewritten in whole... and instead finds a way to adapt where necessary and clean up what they can when they feel it's useful.

              Sadly, I have been through many projects so far where we've spent ages and even massive numbers of hours trying to decided whether or not to switch to a string class. And then arguing over how to handle unicode. Some will say "There needs to be an 8-bit class and a 16-bit class, sub-classed from a common class", others will say "The string class should use a void * internally and store the string data as 8-bit unless there are unicode characters in it. At which time it should be 16-bit", then guys like me will say "I don't care how the class stores the data internally as long as it has calls to receive it as either unicode or Latin-1.". Of course, while everyone else is arguing, then I or another will simply sit down and write the class and say "Done... here it is... use it. If you want it done 'better' then fix it. But this is the interface".

              There are billions of lines of code based on code written during times when systems were more limited. A developer with more experience will have been in the industry long enough that they will understand why certain choices were made the way they were and then, change what should be changed or understand why some things were done the way they were. I still intentionally code some things the old fashioned ways to make it perform better. There's really no reason that code designed to pack bits into a stream should be heavily object oriented. A flat design is nicer for that.

              So... There is a benefit to programmers that are "A Bit Old School".

              But... I will say this... the 27 year old guy who sits to the right of me... even though his coding style is not quite refined and sometimes he introduces structural complexity beyond reason to make sure "He uses the right pattern". He gets the job done as well. Sadly, documentation is an after thought for him, but there's no reason if he and I were to apply for the same job somewhere else that they should pay more for me than for him.
            • by Xest ( 935314 )

              I've yet to find a company that doesn't completely ignore those requirements themselves if you send them a compelling enough CV.

              Your complaint is common on Slashdot, but believe it or not, many software development managers are as pragmatic as you are, and if you're the best they've had along in a while then they'll take you on regardless and teach you what you don't know.

              Software development managers know the chance of ticking every requirement box is pretty low, but by putting out what they expect, they a

      • Re:Good Luck (Score:5, Insightful)

        by luis_a_espinal ( 1810296 ) on Monday January 02, 2012 @12:44AM (#38560964) Homepage

        Forget it. The idiots in H.R. won't even consider you.

        Stick with what you have and retire, then start your own business.

        Bad advice. A better advice would have gone as follows:

        Be mindful of the H.R. idiots that might not even consider you. Look for small-scale operations in which you get a better chance to be filtered by the software team directly as opposed to being passed by the H.R. filter. Look for moonlight work, part-time coding opportunities done via telecommuting, LAMP development and the like.

        Yes, it is though, but not impossible. In particular, if this is what the OP really wants, he should go for it and assess how hard it will be vs how badly he wants it. As Michael Jordan once said : "I can accept failure, everyone fails at something. But I can't accept not trying."

        • Mod parent up. The key for you are small companies -- ones too small to have an HR department. Hole in the wall outfits where you probably not only program, but answer the phone, and make coffee some of the time too.

          Not sure the best way to find these outfits. Many are too small to bother with a yellow pages listing.

          Try searching by industry. Find an industry that interests you,and dig into who does what. See if they have an annual trade fair.

          Try the local classifieds. NOT the career section. The sma

    • Train in the latest and greatest technologies offering the newest advantages, where the labor/skills pool has not fully developed yet, and you will find yourself in greater demand. People won't care so much about how old you are, as long as you can show you can do the job.
      In IT, the old guy is the one with the old obsolete skills - which sometimes correlates with him being an older person, but not necessarily. Conversely, if they find your skills have gone obsolete and are no longer useful, they will throw

    • Re:Good Luck (Score:4, Interesting)

      by macs4all ( 973270 ) on Sunday January 01, 2012 @07:14PM (#38559126)

      As someone who just went through this, it is going to be tough

      I will second that. If I hadn't gotten a job from a former employer (who already knew my bona fides), I'd still be unemployed.

      HR will never pass your résumé up to the person who can actually appreciate your experience and knowledge.

      • by honestmonkey ( 819408 ) on Sunday January 01, 2012 @07:32PM (#38559278) Journal
        I went through this as well, and as macs4all above mentioned, if it hadn't been for a job offer at a place I used to work, where the people knew me and trusted I could do the job (as I'd already had), I'd still be out of work. Don't put your age down on your resume, that might help. I stopped putting my graduation date, and only put jobs 10 years old or newer. Before that, I lumped everything together, if I put it down at all.

        Of course, it didn't really work for me, so who knows if it's even good advice.
      • Re:Good Luck (Score:4, Insightful)

        by Gorobei ( 127755 ) on Sunday January 01, 2012 @07:34PM (#38559296)

        HR will never pass your résumé up to the person who can actually appreciate your experience and knowledge.

        Any shop that has let HR insert themselves into the hiring process like that is pretty much doomed. Avoid at all costs.

        • Re:Good Luck (Score:5, Interesting)

          by macs4all ( 973270 ) on Sunday January 01, 2012 @07:54PM (#38559432)

          HR will never pass your résumé up to the person who can actually appreciate your experience and knowledge.

          Any shop that has let HR insert themselves into the hiring process like that is pretty much doomed. Avoid at all costs.

          Well, when the company gets beyond about 50 employees, that "Just happens". It sucks big time; but every Head Hunter I have spoken with has lamented the "Checklist" type of HR résumé-culling.

          It's almost enough to make you want to stuff your résumé full of impossible experience, like many of the résumés of particularly Chinese "engineers", where it seems like the vast majority will list 30 years-worth of experience on every high-level engineering project in China they can find a reference to on the internet, and then being of an age where they would have started to work 10 years before they were born, knowing full well that there is absolutely no way to verify any of their claims. I don't want to sound racist (I most assuredly am not!); but I have seen some pretty laughable engineering-candidate résumés come across my desk, and it seems like Chinese engineering candidates seem particularly inclined to "pad" their experience (and I would suspect their schooling in some cases, too).

          So, you might give that a shot, just to get past the HR gatekeeper. Then, when you get to actually talk with the person who will be your new boss, be prepared to SHOW them what you can do, and get off the subject of specifics in your résumé.

          I aced an embedded developer interview a few years ago by taking out a sample of a particularly compact and component-dense product I designed the hardware and software for, and tossing it on my (future boss') desk, and saying, literally "Any Questions?"

          The moral of the story is, if you can get past the HR droids, you can usually demonstrate that you have the skills. It's just getting to that point that is soooooo difficult!

          • Re:Good Luck (Score:5, Insightful)

            by bloodhawk ( 813939 ) on Sunday January 01, 2012 @08:08PM (#38559514)
            There is a good reason for HR to be involved. Large companies nowadays get head-hunters that submit every wannabe for a job regardless of their qualifications. I just went through a hiring process where even after the cull by HR the amount of people being submitted for jobs they were completely unqualified for was horrendeous, I hate to think of how bad the resume's of the ones that HR culled were. HR being in the culling process is a necessary evil nowadays.
            • Re:Good Luck (Score:5, Insightful)

              by HornWumpus ( 783565 ) on Sunday January 01, 2012 @08:19PM (#38559564)

              As bad as HR is at eliminating bad applicants they are even worse at keeping good ones. Simply throwing out 90% of your responses would do a better job.

              So now gaming HR is a necessary skill to get a resume looked at. Which might not be the result you are looking for.

              • Gaming HR (Score:3, Insightful)

                by Anonymous Coward

                or figuring out a way to work with them is also necessary for a hiring manager to find the best candidates.

                I had an arrangement with HR where I'd do their work for them if they would just give me access to the raw resumes because I knew what might be unconventional but promising and they didn't. They got "credit" for the hires and we both were happy. Probably the top 6 hires I made in 30 years on the job were people who would never have been pulled by some key word screening. And the worst were perfect matc

                • by reiisi ( 1211052 ) on Monday January 02, 2012 @01:23AM (#38561166) Homepage

                  I mean, logically, the odds that a perfect match is going to be real are high against.

                  So management should probably tell HR to toss the perfect matches first.

                  But, more to the point, why aren't tech companies training their HR people? A lot of the issues in this thread could be dealt with by having the HR participate in projects at some level and watch the employees and comparing their work to their resumes.

    • Not sure I agree. If he can demonstrate that he's smart, has the requisite basics covered via his education, can show that he's competent with some current skills, and is willing to accept pay equivalent to what someone might learn who's just coming out of college, then I don't see the problem. Especially if he wants to get into a "niche" like Android development.
    • Stay passionate!

      I am 54, and I started to become passionate about programming in 1977, initially writing Fortran 2 on punched cards, then I went on to Simula, Pascal, assembler, C, etc, etc.

      During the eighties and first half of the nineties I was probably best known as one of the better x86 asm programmers.

      Since then I have never stopped programming, even though most of my professional career over the last 15-20 years have been involved with solving performance problems in other people's code and/or systems

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 01, 2012 @06:45PM (#38558894)

    It didn't work out so well for the dog.

  • Try non-profits (Score:5, Interesting)

    by emkyooess ( 1551693 ) on Sunday January 01, 2012 @06:46PM (#38558900)

    My university employer tends to hire older people for development (especially DBAs). They often do a lot of interfacing with external vendors in terms of customizing canned solutions... with sales experience, they might see that as a bonus. Try them.

    By some friends' words, you'll have a much tougher time in the private sector.

  • Old Timers (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Nittle ( 1356899 ) on Sunday January 01, 2012 @06:46PM (#38558906)
    I've been doing a lot of interviews lately, and as long as you can demonstrate you have the skills necessary to complete the work in the job, I could care less how long since you've had an "actual job." Though, I'm not sure how much HR screening goes on before I see any resumes. The hard part is just coming up with a good way to demonstrate that you have the necessary skills. The last applicant we hired brought a laptop with him and was showing us parts of a cool project he'd been working on, there isn't a much better way to show of your skills than to talk intelligently, then just show off what you can do. Good luck!
    • Re:Old Timers (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Hatfield56 ( 2543518 ) on Sunday January 01, 2012 @07:14PM (#38559118)
      I was in IT for 24 years, starting in 1985; worked for a lot of large companies and was highly sought after. Following a typical vector, asm, C, C++, VB. .NET, T-SQL, PL/SQL, JSP; managed some sizeable projects for many years, never stopped coding. Actually I think I'm an excellent coder. Reliable. Then, job was outsourced in mid-2009 and I, stupidly, partly because I had hardly ever looked for work (always came to me), just took some time off; first big vaca in decades. Error! Well, that was it. Lots of bites on Monster, etc., but between not currently employed and as soon as they did some math, no call backs. Oh yeah, one, I was yelled at. I'm > 60. So, now I have to change my field to paralegal. Hopefully, that will be a bit better; who knows. All I can say is, give a job hunt a whirl but after 6+ months of rejections, start rethinking. Grim news. (and of course 50 is not >60; >60 is the kiss of death, at least for me.
      • Re:Old Timers (Score:4, Interesting)

        by haruchai ( 17472 ) on Sunday January 01, 2012 @07:29PM (#38559248)
        With your experience, try technical project management, maybe in something related to healthcare.
        No luck with any of the big consultancy firms, like Cap Gemini?
        • by Kjella ( 173770 )

          While that's certainly a change of career, he won't be writing much if any of the code he's talking about. If what he wants is a hands-on job, a hands-off job is a pretty poor substitute. Some of the most annoying and useless managers are those who don't understand their job and still try to be a coder.

          • by haruchai ( 17472 )
            It's about getting your foot in the door. As a tech project manager, he'll be exposed to a variety of projects where his past experience may or may not be highly relevant.
            If he's able to make a direct contribution on a significant project, he'll be noticed, trust me. If he ends up leading a team, the amount of code he gets to write is up to him. Upper management won't care if the job gets done well.
            And, speaking for myself, I'd rather be a tech proj mgr who dreams of being a coder than an ex-coder who's
    • Re:Old Timers (Score:5, Interesting)

      by msobkow ( 48369 ) on Sunday January 01, 2012 @07:19PM (#38559180) Homepage Journal

      The best DBA I know was a fellow from Florida named Keith Grey who STARTED his tech career when he was in his fourties. He learned a little database and supported it for a small company, learned Oracle, enhanced the prototypes I'd written for them using Oracle a year earlier, and just kept going from there.

      He's now one of the most experienced and skilled DBAs I know, riding herd over a clustered Oracle RAC installation with multiple data warehouses hanging from the main systems.

      In other words, it's never too late to start a new career, much less resume an old one. The question is whether you have the skills, the dedication, and the willingness to learn it'll take to succeed. Personally, I'd much rather recommend someone with the "right attitude" and a background in business for a tech job than any of the impatient, inexperienced hot-shot kids whose resumes crossed my table over the past few years.

    • Ah ! The old US of A (Score:5, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 01, 2012 @07:30PM (#38559266)

      In the UK (and most places in the EU I guess ) asking your age is illegal, and screening old timers out would be suicide.

      To top it all, you can request to see in which basis they didn't give you a job.

      I know, I know, evil socialist Europe.

      • by Anne Thwacks ( 531696 ) on Sunday January 01, 2012 @07:45PM (#38559366)
        you can request to see in which basis they didn't give you a job.

        Just dont espect to get an honest answer.

        • by Kjella ( 173770 )

          Just dont espect to get an honest answer.

          If it's the US we're talking about, expect to get the answer least likely to qualify for a lawsuit.

      • in the us you can only verify that they are old enough for the job (16,18,21, and in some cases at least 15.5) and not hiring based on being over 40 is blatantly illegal.

        • by RMingin ( 985478 ) on Sunday January 01, 2012 @09:06PM (#38559866) Homepage

          That's why, when they don't hire you based on age, they will NEVER say so, they always come up with some excuse. You didn't get passed over because you're 50, you got passed over because we liked that $OTHER_APPLICANT has $UNRELATED_USELESS_SKILL, and we chose for that reason. You were quite evenly matched otherwise.

          EEO laws did NOTHING to make hiring equal. They only made employers less honest about why they chose who they chose. It's still entirely WHO you know, and not WHAT you know.

  • by modmans2ndcoming ( 929661 ) on Sunday January 01, 2012 @06:47PM (#38558910)

    you should continue teaching and sell your apps on the side. It isn't worth the headache of getting back into a field dominated by a bunch of 20 somethings who think they know everything there is to know about writing "good" software.

  • Forget it. (Score:2, Funny)

    by kurt555gs ( 309278 )

    Coding is for the young. It's way to stressful. Design is better done by us "superannuated" types.

    Age can not be un-done.

  • Well... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by BrownLeopard ( 876112 ) on Sunday January 01, 2012 @06:51PM (#38558936)
    At 34 I've re-entered the job market myself after giving my own business a shot and I landed a job as CTO of a start-up game company. We're developing a couple of games now (one while will be in beta tomorrow) and when I look for programmers, I could care less about a space in employment as long as they can demonstrate the skills needed for the job.
  • do it (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward

    honestly our young software engineers are uninspiring, we give them lots of opportunities but they don't seem to have the work ethic of the more mature and experienced engineers, they make a lot of mistakes and won't work very much (if any) overtime without complaining. On my project we have about 8 software engineers, only one of them is under 30, the rest are all late 30's to early 50's.

    • Double do it (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Concerned Onlooker ( 473481 ) on Sunday January 01, 2012 @07:03PM (#38559030) Homepage Journal

      You'll find no end of people who will tell you that you can't do it, you're too old, blah, blah, blah. Forget those people. What is it you WANT to do?

      I'm telling you that it is possible to do what you want. I went back to school at age 43 and got my masters in computer science. I was lucky enough to land an internship at a NASA center and I managed to turn that into a full time position. I'm sure some degree of timing luck was involved but at the same time I'm a hard worker, conscientious and reasonably smart. I work with plenty of 20-somethings and I can tell you that they're not automatically brilliant and they don't necessarily always have great work ethics. You can do it if you want to.

  • by candeoastrum ( 1262256 ) on Sunday January 01, 2012 @06:53PM (#38558954)
    I would advise you to find a small company that doesn't specialize in web/software development. If they don't specialize in web/software development their standards won't be too high and the pressure will not be there because they don't have an understanding of how things normally work. Most likely though you will have to take a lower salary than the industry standard and you will probably be doing techie work also because to smaller companies anyone who knows anything about computers knows everything. Two years of this and you should be good to step it up to another company.
  • I actually worked at Microsoft awhile, quit for a couple of years, and then decided to freelance. You've just got to be stubborn and have a lot of passion. It can be done.

  • We have three people who are have been at least semi-retired, now working full time and one on contract... --dave
  • Been there (Score:5, Insightful)

    by HangingChad ( 677530 ) on Sunday January 01, 2012 @07:00PM (#38559002) Homepage

    It's pretty much an uphill slog. What's totally frustrating is then reading about those same companies complaining in the press they can't find qualified applicants and need more H-1B visas.

    When I was CIO I never had trouble finding qualified people. I did have trouble finding qualified people willing to work 70 hours a week for $35,000 a year, which is what I think most companies really mean when they say they can't find qualified applicants.

  • If you know either Java or .NET you can easily find a job making good money coding today. I am always hiring top talent and right now for the .NET and Java skill set there are currently FOUR jobs to every ONE candidate looking for work. My company has four openings right now in Orlando, FL.. Sell what people want to buy - right now that's .NET, Java, SQL, Oracle. You'll be fine - I know plenty of software developers over 50 and none of them is currently unemployed. After a decade of managment I recently

  • I will advise ensuring that your appearance is top-notch. A loooooong time ago when hiring I interviewed a lot of older candidates (40-60s.....I was in my 20s at the time) since I was determined not to be biased; however the barrier was less the skill set than the general presentation level. Suit REQUIRED, tie REQUIRED, teeth REQUIRED (sorry), male grooming REQUIRED....male/female hygiene REQUIRED!!!

    As geeks there is a classical mindset that we can get away with those things and the late tween/twenties prob

    • by Anonymous Coward

      I don't even own a suit and I've been selected over others in competitive positions on several occasions. Sometimes I work for start-ups which don't last long, hence so many positions. But I have worked for a few big companies as well and had no problem qualifying for a position with little more than a quick shave. The only time I don't wear blue jeans to an interview is when I'm representing a consulting company.

      I think your assumptions as to how to get hired are not universally true. I'm not sure where yo

      • While your statement is certainly true for some places, it's far more dangerous to underestimate the dress code. Showing up in a suit *and* being the right one for the job puts you above the guys in sandals and shorts in most places. It answers an unspoken question: "*can* he dress up if needed?" Even if the day to day position does not require anything more than business casual, there are a few situations that may arise:

        -Is the incumbent capable of showing up for the Regional Manager's "east coast divis

  • prove you can code (Score:5, Interesting)

    by rubycodez ( 864176 ) on Sunday January 01, 2012 @07:03PM (#38559026)
    write some open source wares that do something useful. nothing like a project on the top of your resume. worked for me....
  • by nurb432 ( 527695 ) on Sunday January 01, 2012 @07:11PM (#38559084) Homepage Journal

    Wont matter how good you might be, you are far too old to come back into a 'young persons' world after that long of a hiatus.

    And no, not casting stones, i wouldn't try it either and im not quite as old.

  • by MichaelSmith ( 789609 ) on Sunday January 01, 2012 @07:12PM (#38559102) Homepage Journal

    ...not to accept a non-engineering position. There is always demand for people who can make and fix things.

  • Craigslist. (Score:4, Interesting)

    by crankyspice ( 63953 ) on Sunday January 01, 2012 @07:15PM (#38559138)

    Seriously. I've also had a non-traditional career trajectory vis-a-vis programming, though I still enjoy doing it here and there and like to stay current with my skills. (I'm also a lawyer, and I deal a lot with "software law," so one helps the other.) I wrote a quick-and-dirty Perl script that polls the local Craigslist every few hours and shoots me the more interesting leads; I pick one or two a month (time permitting) and I've had about a 50% success rate in landing the positions. Everything from BlackBerry GPS development to some embedded code that went up in a recent rocket (one of the CALVEIN launches, nothing too exciting). Build a résumé of smaller projects while you're teaching... Get back into the game that way. In 6 months to a year you'll have the 'current cred' to interview seriously for like positions that are on longer term projects or permanent-hire...

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Google Reader does this without having to write your own solution. When I was job-seeking, I had it looking at the local software/qa/dba and sysadmin Craigslist entries. I also use it to find music equipment I'm interested in - Hammond/Leslie/Rhodes/Clavinet. Google Reader also has a handy Android app so you don't have to be sitting at your desk to receive timely notifications.

  • by ghostdoc ( 1235612 ) on Sunday January 01, 2012 @07:16PM (#38559150)

    Small companies and start-ups care less about immaculate CV's and care more about actual ability and really value being able to fill more than one role, so look for a small company that will love a sales-experienced coder.

    Your sales experience will be an advantage for some roles (for example pre-sales support building demos) and it's very rare for someone to have both sales and coding experience, so you just need to find the organisation who needs that.

    Of course, as it's so rare you won't find many organisations advertising for the role, and smaller organisations tend not to advertise or go through formal recruiting processes anyway, it tends to be more word-of-mouth and friend-of-friend, so get networking!

  • You will do great (Score:5, Insightful)

    by spatley ( 191233 ) <> on Sunday January 01, 2012 @07:28PM (#38559246) Homepage
    PHP, Ajax, Java, apps? You are on the subjects that are hot hot hot in most tech segments. Your experience with customers and the business side of things is a real asset and will be considered a major plus for any reasonable employer. You will not be suited for all possible coding jobs, but nobody is. Age is only considered a determent because people think that you will be stuck up and set in your ways. Show that you are flexible and hungry for new challenges. If you are looking in Seattle, SF, New York or other comparable market you will find a home. Maybe not tomorrow, but soon enough. Concentrate on your strengths, be awesome, be passionate and the world is your oyster.

    Buy a whiteboard and google for interview questions and write code in dry-erase every day. Once you get in the interview chair you will be ready.
    And best of luck to you.
  • easy peasy (Score:4, Insightful)

    by jakethesnake ( 52875 ) on Sunday January 01, 2012 @08:01PM (#38559476) Homepage

    In the NY area, provided you'd settle for a job in the 90-120k band, there's shortage of capable developers -especially with good communications skills. Don't mention your age on your resume and play up your ability to work as a team player. Seriously.

  • by fbartho ( 840012 ) on Sunday January 01, 2012 @08:16PM (#38559550) Homepage

    If you are looking in SF or the bay area, you'll definitely find a job. Be sure to specify what you actually want to do. Be honest about your transition, and explain your desires. That way, you shouldn't have people trying to force you into the activities you're no longer interested in.

    My company is hiring: [] and on my team we've recently had other engineers transition back from more marketing-focused jobs into day-to-day coding.

    Contact me if you want to chat.

  • by quax ( 19371 ) on Sunday January 01, 2012 @08:36PM (#38559668)

    Large software "solutions" provider, Oracle, SAP, Information Builders etc. need pre-sales consultants, that code up demos and tailored business cases on top of their software stack. Going for this kind of job ties your resume together and seniority can be spun as an advantage when addressing C-level customers.

    Fast paced, continuous learning and some travel required but typically very well paid.

  • by decora ( 1710862 ) on Sunday January 01, 2012 @08:52PM (#38559772) Journal

    you realize a lot of those people working in apple stores, radio shack, and target are also experienced software and electronics engineers? some with decades of experience?

    im not saying its impossible, im just saying, good luck to you.

    • you realize a lot of those people working in apple stores, radio shack, and target are also experienced software and electronics engineers? some with decades of experience?


  • by Livius ( 318358 ) on Sunday January 01, 2012 @11:59PM (#38560718)

    If you have to deal with HR, this is what you need to know about how they think.

    They are not interested in doing what is in the interests of the company, they're interested in making life easy for HR.

    Now, some of them are thinking in terms of avoiding the expense of lawsuits or having to fire unsuitable employees, so they may tell themselves that the two are the same thing, but they're not. HR wants people who will not do anything original, which is the exact opposite of you want in any creative field, including most technology jobs. They don't realize that creating code or designing hardware is a different kind of job from the line workers assembling hardware.

  • by Tim99 ( 984437 ) on Monday January 02, 2012 @01:12AM (#38561102)
    I was in my mid 40s when I wanted to switch from a science career back to writing software, which I had done previously as an extension of my 'real' job. In spite of having significant experience with database design, networking and coding; and having actually produced working demonstratable systems; I got nowhere.

    Agencies were interested until they found out how old I was - One even said "I can probably get you a job in Singapore, where they value older workers, but it will be difficult to get you an interview here except in sales support."

    So I collected my savings and went into partnership with somebody else in his late 40s who was also looking to change careers. We set up a consultancy company that looked after small/medium business. We set up networks, advised them on what to purchase and wrote customized software. After a while we realised that we were of a similar age to the owners of the businesses that we were servicing. Our main USP was that they trusted us because we would give them unbiased advice, and that we related to them because we were running something similar to what they had - Very unusual in their experience, where they normally saw people who only wanted to sell them a product on behalf of someone else.

    After 10 years we restructured the business so that we could retire. It is still thriving, and now concentrates on a software product that started when I wrote it as a favour to someone - It now used by over 600 local government and not-for-profit organizations.

    So, you may have to work for yourself. If you do, what is your USP that distinguishes you from everybody else out there? Ours was that our "maturity" had given us a perspective that our younger competitors probably did not have, and that we would be successful if we served smaller organizations run by people who could identify with us. Yours might be your teaching and sales experience.

The only function of economic forecasting is to make astrology look respectable. -- John Kenneth Galbraith