Win a copy of Design for the Mind this week in the Design forum!
  • Post Reply
  • Bookmark Topic Watch Topic
  • New Topic

Fellow Aging developers: So what's next?

 
John Kimball
Ranch Hand
Posts: 96
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I know there are other seasoned developers here--10+ years (or even 20+)--undoubtedly with far more impressive resumes than my own.

But what's the next step?

Systems analysts? Architecture?

 
Bear Bibeault
Author and ninkuma
Marshal
Pie
Posts: 64708
86
IntelliJ IDE Java jQuery Mac Mac OS X
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Try 30+.

Tried management. Hated it.

Tried product management. Hated it.

My preferred role is architect/developer (an architect with devo deliverables).
 
Bear Bibeault
Author and ninkuma
Marshal
Pie
Posts: 64708
86
IntelliJ IDE Java jQuery Mac Mac OS X
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
P.S. "Aging developers'? Harsh, dude!
 
John Kimball
Ranch Hand
Posts: 96
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Hey, aging literally applies to me too. Back hurts, hair is thinner and graying...

What I'm trying to figure out, though, what I need to do this late in the game to become an architect (ironically, I'm not even developing in Java right now). Fault is my own, for letting my skills stagnate in a well-paid job (which I haven't been in for the last couple of years).

The one thing that's become clear is I can't be a developer until I retire, as much I'd enjoy it. And I'm not management material.
 
arulk pillai
Author
Ranch Hand
Posts: 3387
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
-- Business Analyst
-- Own Ventures
-- Retire Early
 
Henry Wong
author
Marshal
Pie
Posts: 21000
76
C++ Chrome Eclipse IDE Firefox Browser Java jQuery Linux VI Editor Windows
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
20+ for me.

Tried managment. Didn't like it.

Tried project managment. Liked it for a while. Was actually good at it. Got tired of the politics.

Back to being a developer.


My advice? It great to try "what's next". But if after a few years, you liked what you did before the transition better, don't be afraid to transition back.

The one thing that's become clear is I can't be a developer until I retire, as much I'd enjoy it.


Why not?!?

Henry
 
John Kimball
Ranch Hand
Posts: 96
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Is it really possible?

I've noticed developers are either:
- Getting younger (compared to me )
- Or, their jobs are outsourced inappropriately. Or these days, brought in.

Similar to the construction world, people are looking for "cheaper"; even though we know companies are cutting themselves in the throat by cheaping out for all cases...
 
Luke Kolin
Ranch Hand
Posts: 343
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
John Kimball wrote:I've noticed developers are either:
- Getting younger (compared to me )
- Or, their jobs are outsourced inappropriately. Or these days, brought in.


Well, as you get older people are going to get comparatively younger. ;) There's two strategies IMO you need to follow.

The first is to NEVER let your skills stagnate, and never lose your sense of curiosity about new technologies, methodologies and ideas, and how they can make you more effective and efficient. In my own experience, there seems to be a point in one's career where family and seniority in one's position conspire to breed satisfaction and stagnation, and before one knows it one's spent a half decade or more doing the same thing, and the world has moved on. Set yourself a goal of learning at least one new language or technology each year; consider it preventative maintenance for your career, just like we do preventative maintenance on our house and our cars.

The second is to pick your employers and your positions very carefully. I personally stay away from larger organizations where entire divisions are nothing more than a line item on a spreadsheet, where the value that you provide is easily hidden and those who work with you directly are not in a position to affect decisions. Personally, I think it's easier to be a software developer (or any creative writer) in an environment focused on productivity, because it's obvious that the best professionals can be several times more productive than the mediocre. The task is just getting yourself in a situation where that will be noticed, and again it's something you need to focus on and make sure remains true. Places focused constantly on short-term savings tend to be disorganized, chaotic and filled with individuals who compete on price, not value. You'll learn to smell and avoid them.

Cheers!

Luke
 
Henry Wong
author
Marshal
Pie
Posts: 21000
76
C++ Chrome Eclipse IDE Firefox Browser Java jQuery Linux VI Editor Windows
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator

And to cut to the chase... Ageism exists. Let's not kid ourselves. Youth is cheaper. Youth is believed to be able to work longer hours. And working "better" is just given lip service, by all but the top managers -- which seems to be a dying breed.

Is it really possible?


Yes, it is possible. It is just much harder. But you also have years of experience to rely on. And hopefully, a huge network of former colleagues (now friends) to help.

Henry
 
Bear Bibeault
Author and ninkuma
Marshal
Pie
Posts: 64708
86
IntelliJ IDE Java jQuery Mac Mac OS X
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
John Kimball wrote:Back hurts, hair is thinner and graying...

Well, I've got the hair thing beat!

The one thing that's become clear is I can't be a developer until I retire, as much I'd enjoy it.

Sure you can. I'm just a glorified developer who's also an architect. You've just gotta be the developer that everyone wants, with demonstrable current skills.

arulk pillai wrote:-- Retire Early

You obviously haven't seen my savings. What 2001 didn't destroy, 2008 did. I'll be working until I'm 88.

Henry Wong wrote:
And to cut to the chase... Ageism exists.

Indeed it does. And while impossible to prove, it's easy to see it when you are on the receiving end. The trick is to locate the employers who are smart enough to appreciate the experience and skill, and are willing to pay for it. No small feat, but so far I've been lucky in that respect.

 
John Kimball
Ranch Hand
Posts: 96
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Thanks for all of the replies.

A lot to chew on and I think I have a long road in getting up to speed, regardless of what direction I take.
 
Marcel Wentink
Ranch Hand
Posts: 157
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Well I keep on track as developper learning the new stuff. But software is like this that, as a more experienced person, you do not have that much use of, technical, things you learned ten, twenty years ago. So I am trying to keep up with the technique, and meanwhile improving on the soft social skills, the social network, trying to see the general patterns in all techniques and methods. But I think in the pure developper job, experience does not count that much as in other professions. We just have to face that. Personally, for management roles, I am just too soft. I can always see the other persons reason for his actions, and I can never be mad at someone. I am too nice to be manager.
 
David Hawkins
Greenhorn
Posts: 11
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Whew, May 2009 is my 10th year in technology. I got a late start so I'm a little older than some of my peers.

I've worked with quite a few veterans of the field and it's been interesting to see the different directions some of them have gone.

Management, where I am currently at, seems like the place where everyone wants to go when they get out of college. Unfortunately, the skills it takes to manage are often very different than the skills you need to code. The other harsh reality is that going into management is like starting a new career. In my case I went from a respected senior engineer with a long track record of success to a novice with no experience and no established credibility. That is a hard transition for some people and even two years later I miss the respect I had at my old position even though I love my current job.

Software Architecture is hailed as some kind of Holy Grail but it is a very different role than development. The good news is that anyone who is looking to advance their skills should be picking up some of the knowledge they might need to be an architect. However, to be good as an architect you have to understand the foundation at a deeper level. I guess the analogy that springs to mind is concrete. Developers know how to spread the concrete to lay the foundation, the architect knows how to MIX the concrete.

For me, these were my two choices and what it came down to was I knew I could be a mediocre to good architect or a bad to excellent manager. Even though the risk is that I could be bad as a manager I seemed more likely to excel so I focused on that path, while still learning some architecture skills because I do enjoy it and wouldn't cry if I ended up doing that instead.

Beyond that I know some people who just stick with development and they enjoy it. I don't see anything wrong with that except that it comes with some drawbacks. For one thing, there is a cap on the salary, but you can still make an easy 6 figures as a developer and that's still far above the median income in the US. The other, more severe, problem is that the longer you stay as "just" a developer the more likely you'll be hit with ageism.

The other route is something a friend of my pursued and loves. He is a Support Engineer. Basically he provides tech support at a high level. He gets to do some coding, solve problems, but isn't stuck just blowing code all day. Of course, he also has to talk directly to customers and that is not something most developers strive to do. However, he is very happy and he has done architecture and management.

The last option I've seen is that some people leverage their technology skills into a non-development role but stay in the technology field. Some people have studied to become sysadmins or DBA's. They can often pursue senior level positions even though they may be novices in their new areas. I often thought about doing this myself as I like working with data and being a DBA or working for a Data Mining company would have been great! Unfortunately, I never found the right opportunity.

I hate to say it, but more than any other prejuidice ageism takes the highest toll. I've seen some racism, but it's relatively minor and often easily countered. Sexism has been a problem in the past but we seem to be getting beyond it. I've seen people dismissed for their age and it is discouraging. When I've interviewed I don't worry about your date of birth, do you have the skills to do the job. Unfortunately, I've even had feedback from my managers, who are not spring chickens themselves, about some candidates being too old to "work well in the team dynamic". They never overrode my decisions but I found that feedback very discouraging.
 
Gabriel Claramunt
Ranch Hand
Posts: 375
Monad Scala
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
What about "hands-on architect"? Is almost the same than "just a developer" but sounds a lot more sophisticated
 
chris webster
Bartender
Posts: 2407
32
Linux Oracle Postgres Database Python Scala
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
John Kimball wrote:Hey, aging literally applies to me too. Back hurts, hair is thinner and graying...

What I'm trying to figure out, though, what I need to do this late in the game to become an architect (ironically, I'm not even developing in Java right now). Fault is my own, for letting my skills stagnate in a well-paid job (which I haven't been in for the last couple of years).

The one thing that's become clear is I can't be a developer until I retire, as much I'd enjoy it. And I'm not management material.


Hi John - I feel your pain!

I'm a late-40s unemployed Oracle developer (still have own hair and teeth), currently studying for my SCWCD exam to build on my woefully inadequate Java experience, after several years in a mixture of dead-end old-tech roles and even deader-ended unemployment.

I can really recommend Chris Duncan's book "The Career Programmer" (Apress) which has lots of real-world advice on how to stay in work as a developer. One of his tips is to watch what the "alpha geeks" are doing, because that will give you a clue as to the Next Big Thing and maybe allow you to get ahead of the curve.

So for example, when I'm not working on my Java or messing around on JavaRanch, I'm watching what Google are getting into, looking at Python and thinking of trying to build a little cloud-based JEE or Python application, just to get a handle of how these things work.

But as I'm still out of work, maybe you shouldn't pay much attention to any advice from me, eh?

Good luck, old man!
 
  • Post Reply
  • Bookmark Topic Watch Topic
  • New Topic