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Ask HN: Any job boards and age-friendly companies for older developers?
452 points by nonines on May 27, 2020 | hide | past | favorite | 445 comments
I've spent last year interviewing only to find out that I'm considered too old (I'm 45) for most shops around. They won't spit it out directly of course but people talk and what they say is that I need to be stellar or young to be hired. Companies won't invest in me the slightest bit, so the moment I miss a question in the long interview process I'm out of the door without second thought.


1. I might be banging the wrong doors. E.g. FAANGs don't seem to be right. Any companies that don't drink/sell the youth cool-aid?

2. I might be searching at the wrong job boards. Any suggestions welcome.

3. Finally I might be better doing sth else altogether (but what?) rather than fighting a loosing battle against preconceptions that run so deep.

Anyway. Thanks for any non-insulting answers in advance.

PS: I'm based in EU and I'm a SW Dev working mainly in DevOps and Reliability.

My experience is anecdotal and second hand. I've seen it twice now.

It began with a friend who was in the job market as a 50+. More on the hardware side. This guy has some cool experience. He gets lots of interviews, they go well, but no offers.

As his frustration grows, he grows desperate to try something different. He dyes some color back into his hair, gets some tinted glasses, and lets his daughter take him shopping for some more hip interview clothes.

A month later and he's in bidding wars for who to hire him. He said the difference was night and day. He was now pointing out his age in interviews "are you sure I'm not too old?" and the interviewers were like "no way man."

I wondered how one off this was. A year or so later, knew another guy who was having this same struggle. We shared the story with him. He raised his eyebrows, hesitated for a week or two, the colored his hair, got his niece to take him shopping. And pretty much same thing.

Obviously, this is a small sample set. But the lesson I took from this (and haven't had a chance to prove for myself yet) is that it's not your age that will limit you, but your apparent age. If you are old, but look like a younger/fresher version of yourself, you do well. If you appear "old", you struggle.

Best of luck.

100% agree, it's not the physical age so much as it's the perception of age (and all the framing/baggage that comes with it).

Note: this also applies to personality - if you give off a "grumpy old person" vibe, or are far off the mark culture-wise, you're gonna have a rough time.

I'm over 50, and this is the killer. Not only for others, but also to avoid personally.

It's very, very easy to get into a "grumpy old fart" mindset, where anything new or changing is dismissed out of hand. I've had to fight hard to stop this from happening, and it's still my first response to anything new.

Having said that, there are sometimes good reasons for dismissing something new. But only after taking the time to understand it and why everything else thinks this is cool.

If I'm interviewing a 50+ for a job, I want to see evidence that they haven't fallen into Grumpy Old Fart syndrome.

The converse is also true - if I'm interviewing someone younger, I want to see evidence that they're not caught up in tech fads. Too many times I've seen good tech thrown away because it's not in the hip-and-happening language/framework/platform/etc. And there's a lot to learn from the mistakes of the past ;) And having some idiot kid explain to me why Mongo is soo awesome and SQL is obsolete gets tiring fast [0].

But to be honest, I'd be worried if I had to interview for a role. It'd be a sign that my network wasn't where I'd like it to be. Keeping that up to date is as valuable as keeping the tech skills sharp.

[0] example at random cough

> And having some idiot kid explain to me why Mongo is soo awesome and SQL is obsolete gets tiring fast.

Just an observation. This statement might fail the "Grumpy Old Fart syndrome" test.

The kid's _probably_ not an idiot and it might be a good time to educate the lad with real life experience and references to data to support your experience.

To be honest, I can live with people being keen on Mongo. I kinda get the enthusiasm for it - schemas are a pain in the neck.

It's the "SQL is obsolete" part, coming from someone who never bothered to learn it, that gets me every time.

Offering my two cents as an idiot kid working with a posse of late career SQL DBA's:

SQL isn't obsolete, but it's awfully tiring to deal with folks who treat it as the end-all be-all of data tech. The project I'm working on right now has a few dozen stored procedures stapled on to a Hadoop cluster because none of the industry veterans trust this new-fangled "Spark" technology. When the quarterly schema changes come around, the entire environment has to be redone so as to accommodate the hard-coded SSIS ingestion pipeline.

mongo is good if you don't use it for much and i'll refer to any of aphyr's analyses. i imagine whippersnappers don't read these. i personally won't touch a database which hasn't been in aphyr's private db hell. only a few gray hair, too.

>Having said that, there are sometimes good reasons for dismissing something new. But only after taking the time to understand it and why everything else thinks this is cool.

Yes, there's a fine line between applying experience to understand and explain why something has been tried 10 times before in the industry and the 11th time is not going to be a charm--and, as you say, routinely dismissing anything that even peripherally echoes something that didn't work last time even though a lot of things are different now.

> kid ... tech fads

The two times I was called a fad-chaser (literally) was adopting Scala in 2012 and React.js in 2013. AFAICT, that's the label boomers use to dismiss the people who are making progress. Getting the company to use Reactjs in particular drove a huge increase in quality, velocity, and recruiting.

I have been fixing bugs in our React front end. Its a bloated mess. It may make writing code faster, but tracking down bugs afterwards seems to be far more complex.

I'm near the age group being discussed here... I think about how variable people from high school can look when they hit you up on the social networks. The "presenting" age range of people from my graduating class feels spread across about 30 years. Some people look 30s-ish, and some people have definitely lived a hard life (all sympathies for people who haven't had a kind journey).

Yep, I remember a guy at our ten year reunion, we were only twenty-eight mind you. He went from jock to George Costanza look-a-like in that short time!

One of my friends was also completely bald by 27. I'm 46 now and these past few years I've been growing a tiny bald spot at the back of my head. It's weird how big those differences are, and therefore even weirder how much we are judged by them.

Yes, though it wasn't just baldness. He had the glasses and clothes to match too.

Probably hard to tease apart, but I wonder if the "dying your hair" part matters as much as the "dressing more hip" part. Someone that looks like they're dressing well and have a sense of style is likely to innately have a better first impression than if you look like you're an extra in a sitcom. It'll help you stick out in people's minds, for better or worse, and shows at least some level of caring about the position.

I'm a younger guy, but I know I try to pick my outfit carefully when going for an interview. I don't have a totally different interview wardrobe or anything, but I pay a little more attention to matching colors and generally looking more put-together.

You may not even need to get your kids to dress you - just find a friend your age who cares about fashion some to help. Even if you think you dress well, having someone else check you over or make small suggestions can help.

Interview clothing is a bit controversial. Not that I've had a lot of interviews over the years, but I've always tended to overdress a bit. Maybe I didn't need to, but it seems respectful. On the other hand, I've heard people who feel strongly that it someone shows up in a tie for a dev job that's a hard "nope."

I think the correct path here has not really changed in the past 20+ years: find out how they dress for a typical work day and then go one step more dressy. So if it's a jeans and t-shirt shop, go khakis and collared shirt; if it's business casual a jacket and tie is fine.

It's not so much about what you are wearing as it is about "fitting in with our culture". At least this is a bias that you can usually mitigate (if you want to)

My own policy is to ask the person who arranged the interview what I should wear. In the absence of specific requirements, I'll dress reasonably nicely (long sleeve collared shirt, etc, no tie -- a level or so up from what I normally wear to work). I'll wear a suit and tie if and only if I'm specifically asked to.

(That's for in-person interviews. Remember those?)

I was told the same thing as a consultant on Wall St. back in the 80s: Dress 1 level 'better' then the employees. I was told it makes the client feel like they are getting value for the money....

>It's not so much about what you are wearing as it is about "fitting in with our culture".

Absolutely. Fairly or not, if you show up at a shorts and T-shirts company dressed in a suit, there will definitely be people who will dismiss you for that reason--especially if your experience or age might make them a bit suspicious in the first place. Personally, I probably wouldn't dress down below business casual unless someone specifically told me to. (And that would be a bit of a red flag if that were seen as such a big deal.)

I think a lot of it is style more than the specific clothes. If you're wearing a tie that you didn't tie well, and doesn't match your outfit, that's going to look bad on you literally and figuratively. A lot of people "overdress" but still don't dress well. I'm not expecting you to show up in a suit, but if you decide on your own to wear a suit to the interview, it better be a clean suit you look good in.

I once had an interview set up by a "high touch" recruiter who insisted that I "suit up". I showed up at an un-airconditioned office to meet the VP wearing ratty cutoff shorts.

I've only worn a suit once for a job interview, for one of my first, because the company sounded like they cared about that (I even called them to verify!), and the company sounded interesting enough to make the sacrifice. But at the interview I was terribly overdressed, and sat opposite two typical techies in scruffy shirts and dingy sweaters.

I really don't see the point of suit and tie. Wear a nice button-down shirt. Then you're always good.

My interview performance actually got better once I stopped overdressing. I got more offers wearing a grey hoodie and jeans. And this was at big tech (not just startups).

I read it as a suggestion in the middle: you don't have to dress over, but you shouldn't dress "under".

Some people will benefit from rising to the middle.

That said, one of the most influential people I know at a FAANG dresses like a mechanic. But he already has the juice.

I think that's somewhat what I mean. It's less about having any particular style as much as having A style. I know plenty of folks whose style is "weird" or punk or overly-formal or other looks that aren't normal "business attire" and do fine for themselves, but if you're just wearing whatever you grab out of the closet that's worn and ill-fitting, it's not doing you any favors.

I'm a young guy who likes Cardigan sweaters. This won't bode well for me later.

Eh, I mean, fit kinda matters more than the specific garments anyway. There's an older man at my office who dresses in a style that looks like a Victorian English professor - hats, tweed and small glasses. It's totally a look that is "older" but he puts it together well and looks good in it.

Cardigans are somewhat fashion-forward and "cool". I have a couple that get compliments from people in streetwear stores (Undercover and John Elliott for any of you fashion nerds).

Hoodies are also comfy.

With the corollary advice being:

a grey beard will protect you from accepting positions where looks might be more important than skills.

No slight against your friends, if they needed the money they did what they had to do. But if one doesn't, there is nothing wrong with letting your beard guide you: somewhere out there is a lisp codebase just waiting for your love and attention.

> a grey beard will protect you from accepting positions where looks might be more important than skills.

OTOH if someone thinks you're a wizard because you have a grey beard, that's also looks above skills.

Haha, but flaunting a gray beard is just as superficial as dying your hair. Personal appearance is a primary signal, there's no way around it. Personally, I'd judge a gray beard more positively than a hipster get-up. Probably because my first mentor in the field, Denny, looked like Santa Claus, so I'll always have a soft spot there.

Anyone can dress hipster (some more convincingly than others), but not everyone can grow a beard.

The age bias is real. I am glad remote work is being embraced by many companies, it will help fight against age bias.

I feel the same way. The new wave of remote work and, hopefully, the normalization of remote will mitigate against the bad effects of ageism. People seem to care less about working with a person older than them (and more about that person's skill level and merit) if they are not in the same office with them. Maybe that's because a lot of younger workers have bought into the idealization of the "young, hip, uber cool SV office" with skateboards, pizza, and ping pong and so if the older worker isn't in their office there's no "danger" of spoiling that vibe. But I'm only guessing here.

IME, it's much worse.

The compressed interview process means that after the usual preambles, you get <30 minutes to convince a zoom conference of 2-3 engineers that they want to work with you. It leaves no time for you to overcome prejudice and preconceptions.

Except it will hurt chronoligcally old people who have a much younger age-attitude. I feel I act more youthful than a lot of my (much) younger co-workers because I'm established, curious and not focused on the rat-race as much as them. My hobbies are youth-oriented and my kids continually expose me to magical things. How do I promote this in a world that becomes even more focused on instagram presentation vs. reality?

Zoom deepfake?

There's a niche there for someone with the right skills....

I understand, but think about in next 10 years when all the hairs turn grey.

How so ? You still need to pass interviews.

Age bias doesn't only present itself at the interview stage, it presents in all aspects of work.

When companies no longer own physical offices, interviews will be remote and one can use software filters or dye hair to look younger and avoid age bias. I am not being sarcastic, i genuinely fear of getting rejected due to age.

Funny to read this today – last night I started reading the book Corporate Confidential[0], which gives exactly the same advice; it's not bad to be old, but it's bad to be perceived as old.

The book recommends what your friend did – go shopping for younger clothes (the book author recommends hiring a stylist every five years) and making sure you don't have grey hair.

0 - http://www.librarything.com/work/354311

Doesn't bode well for bald/balding people :-(

As a white male whose gone genetically bald at 25, I'm pretty sure I've ended up being a "diversity" hire multiple times.

And NO, I do not have plans to pay for products or scams to "get my hair back". Oddly, since flat out shaving my head I've gotten much more respect and positive looks from women compared to when I was still "in denial". The world is indeed a weird place.

Sooooo many people shave their heads nowadays, balding or otherwise.

Yeah, I think that's why so many choose to go Bezos Bald™. Hides the makes-you-look-old balding hairline and _also_ mirrors the look of so many executives.

I never thought about what i wore to interviews till a coworker who was a decade younger than me who was a part of my interview at the company said she voted no on hiring me because of my “douchebag” interview outfit. For reference my fashion sense is almost too fat for j crew.

> For reference my fashion sense is almost too fat for j crew.

I don't get this reference. Can you explain it or show an example?

There was a time where a popped collar was a sign that you were a problematic person. Probably still is in a certain context. I think people are going to do some pattern matching with your clothing and people they've met/seen in the past. It's just a bit of human nature.

Maybe everyone should dress like Mr. Rogers or something.


And I mostly shop at j crew factory and tend to go for floral prints. But, it’s crazy to me that this stuff matters, even though it clearly does

Huh. I don't think any of the guys on there look like "douchebags" because of their outfits.

Perception is confusing

Is this co-worker a good person in general or was that just one case of their noxious personality?

Did she proudly admit her terrible judgement to her peers in hiring review and meeting, or confide in your later that she tried to sabotage you? Did she still interview?

Is there a beard dye as well? (I can't believe I'm actually asking this)

Sure man, you can dye anything. Just for Men mustache and beard.

Should just be able to use the same dye you use on your hair. You just have to be extra careful if you have to bleach first. You don't want that stuff getting near your eyes or in your mouth.

Slightly related, are there any realistic-looking false beards? Asking for a friend.

Grey beards are cool as hell, just make sure it's clean and well trim.

Good luck to you

Yes! I use "Just for men" beard coloring.

They are 33 this year, rapidly approaching old age themselves.

Maybe twenty years ago they introduced a new product line that I thought was clever. The idea is you dye your hair with an inefficient dye, so after one dye job you still have a lot of grey left. You keep applying it over and over until the grey is gone, so you don’t just show up full silver one day and jet black the next. You just age backward for weeks.

That was "Grecian Formula." They don't make it anymore because it colored you hair with lead! It looked like a clear liquid, but the lead in the lead acetate it contained would bind with your hair, gradually darkening it.


What should I do if not much hair is left to dye? :)

Seriously, thanks for the anecdotes. I could imagine companies are a bit afraid of a grumpy old geezer having a bad influence on the company's work atmosphere. This may be less of a concern if they feel the person is trying to keep up with the younger people also for non-work related stuff.

I started losing hair like crazy a while ago, I'm 42 but there are other factors such as prolonged stress.

Supplementing Biotin worked well for me, and I've talked to others with similar experiences.

I think part of the problem is that with experience comes integrity, and integrity is the last thing most employers want to deal with.

Shave, especially if it goes with your face.

Been there, done that. But I like my hair and losing it early is a symptom of deeper issues.

Deliberately shave it? My plan is to keep cutting my hair shorter and shorter as my hairline recedes... My hope is that by the time there's not much hair left there's also not much length left...

At least a couple of forty-something dads on my street have broken out the electric razors in the last fortnight. With barber shops closed, this is a fine time to try out the look.

Yea, I don't think there's nearly as much of a stigma against being bald/short cut hair any more. If anything, I know plenty of younger folks who keep their hair pretty short these days.

People I work with in tech have, on average, much shorter hair than was the case if you go back a few decades. I don't even have especially long hair; get it cut a few times a year in normal times. And while I have some co-workers with very long hair, mine is almost certainly longer than average. Look at photos from a few decades ago and they're clearly recognizable as from another time in no small part because of the amount of hair.


Sounds a bit counter-intuitive, but i think visible tattoos (arms, neck) have worked in my favor as i got older, exactly because they help in the perception that i am younger or "hipper" than i actually am. I certainly wouldn't advise anyone to go out and get one if they weren't interested in it anyways, but i think in the tech industry it's no hindrance to getting work as a line manager or IC.

Attitudes towards tattoos have changed a lot, perhaps especially in tech. Go back a while and visible tattoos (and, indeed, probably tattoos at all) were a pretty clear indicator that you weren't a "white collar" worker or destined to be one at least in the US.

a beanie or hat with popular company logo?

Dress for the job you want still applies. Just don't over-do it or miss the mark so it looks like you're trying too hard but out of the loop.

It also helps (based on my own anecdotal experience) to be trim -- neither overweight nor obese.

So young, fit - should probably have perfect teeth and wear contacts?

you're right of course, just depresing that we've essentially not made much progress in the past 50 years... especially since the people who kicked off this whole thing were some of the least presentable first-impression guys you could ever find (see early photos and descriptions of jobs, gates, etc.)

Sounds a lot like rules 1 and 2:

1. Be attractive.

2. Don't be unattractive.

I'm 57. I'm just observing the truth when I see people my age go for months without work.

Had this happen as well. My ex, who had quite a sense of style, dressed me like Yahoo Serious or something for a FB interview. Felt like a complete fraud, but they were clearly entranced by it. (Not enough to offer me a livable wage in the BA, though.)

People are talking about clothes and hair, don't forget teeth. Get them whitened. I wasn't looking for a job but I did it because being 50+, coffee drinker, you can tell a difference. And since I did it I started noticing it in other people. A practical necessity if you're a smoker as well, and don't smell like smoke. Really, have a non-smoker smell you to check.

I have an autoimmune disease. Shaving means risking bloody sores that will never completely heal. I've starting shaving before interviews.

Can you not go for the short stubble look? Still looks neat if done right, less dangerous for you.

That's how I currently wear it. I have a middle eastern complexion, and it's too 'intimidating'.

After the initial preamble with HR and the hiring manager, and a technical test, most interviews I have had recently involved an extremely brief zoom meeting with several engineers at once, where they each have ~15-20 minutes to interview you and make a decision. So, they don't have much alternative to snap judgements and ultimately hiring people more like their social peers.

That could explain it. I have no problem finding work, but I look young for my age. Wild hair, no grey except in my beard, and if I shave, I could easily be 15 years younger.

It's weird that employers are so superficial. But maybe they're looking for someone flexible and energetic, and if you look too old, and give off "old man" vibes, they fear you may lack that energy.

Great advice. Practical.

works with women too!

The age bias is real, but it may not be as big as the perception is. My current position is with a company that pushes the "youth" message very loudly; and for that reason, I ignored them until a recruiter convinced me to allow myself to be presented.

During the first interview, I brought this up. The average age in the company was 28, so why would they want me? The answer surprised me: they wanted me because of my age, experiences (generalist), and wisdom. Lots of youthful, intelligent people are an asset - but so are a few veterans to provide perspective and keep a check on reality.

You are just as likely to get rejected for a reason other than age, so you might as well just approach with enthusiasm any opportunity that interest you. If you don't show up to an interview angry about age discrimination, you're more likely to be accepted irrespective of your age.

Lastly, remember that companies are made up of people, and people come with all sorts of mentalities. A few will indeed have a bias against people their parents' age, but I bet it's not as many people with that attitude as you might expect.

The only place we really cannot compete with is on salary (unless you're willing to work at entry/medior rates). Experienced people generally cost a good bit more, and the value proposition may not be there for some candidates/situations.

What's going to get you rejected as an older or experienced dev is whether you fall or don't fall for the typical recruitment cons and how well you play along with the usual interview game theory tactics i.e. prisoner's dilemma scenarios.

Last summer I interviewed at a ton of companies and truly I rejected them way before they rejected me but what I learned essentially is that if you fall for the typical recruitment razzmataz as a more experienced dev then they'll assume you're stupid and if you don't fall for it they'll assume you're too smart, if you catch my drift.

Where once we were meant to show enthusiasm now we're supposed to play cool. How many companies lead with "We're pretty casual around here" as if that doesn't actually mean "we'll fire you on a dime"

You have to tread a very fine line that shows you're willing to play dumb while at the same time showing you have the chops -- it's more about how much cognitive dissonance or doublethink you can stomach than anything to do with your vital statistics and all these technical interviews are bollocks compared to fourth year courses in a world where most devs barely speak English but I digress

I have literally seen everything in this industry from from y2k to working with distributed overseas teams to getting tattooed in San Francisco and there's nothing new under the sun except for rife imposterism and rampant entitlement.

They're sizing you up the same way you're sizing them up with respect to the developer stereotypes and management dramas and all that toxic crap while testing you to see if you're willing to play along with their dysfunction and so called "culture fit" aka groupthink mentality.

You can probably tell I have no love left for this lost generation of code monkeys, after having fathered them along with an entire generation of misfits and dreamers whereas now they're all trying to fit in and losing themselves to the machine.

Once they learn how to do adulting maybe they'll learn to have more fun. Until then they're just a bunch of lemmings at the gate.

I'd go further into this downward spiral but I'll show myself out. Think about what you'll look like as a sixty year old wearing hoodies and t shirts and ask yourself whether you've made the right life choices.

Cue the downvotes you filthy scoundrels.

I'm over 50, and I tend to agree - the perception of ageism seems to far outstrip anything I've seen. I'm also not sure how much of 'ageism' is really 'hire cheap college grads'.

An interesting note: Since I no longer have to raise kids, I actually have a lot more time and a lot less 'drama' then I used to. Makes it easier to keep up on new tech...

I used to think that, but for whatever reason, I slammed into a wall at 52. Don't assume that this will come on slowly.

I guess only time will tell. Though I have been lucky enough to work with a lot of 'grey beards' in my career, so I'm hopeful :-)

Fellows we need to get in touch

Not much disagreement, except that I plan on wearing hoodies at 60 because hoodies are great.

If you're real you'll rock a tonsure and cincture as well

Exactly! If a hoodie is good enough for the cloistered ecclesiastical devotee of yesteryear, it's good enough for the cloistered epistemological devotee of today.

Bless you! This comment has saved my eternal soul

Where can I begin but by offering you my sincere prayers and grateful brotherly affections

By the power of the holy spirit of Alan Turing allow me to humbly devote my entire life to the pursuit of divine knowledge and wisdom through the study of information technology

In the name of the the computer, the algorithm, and the data amen

Are we all not naked in the eye of the Webcam?

Funny because talk about hoodies always reminds me of my mother as a senior citizen. She was always cold and wore a hoodie even in summer.

Yeah I am 42 and I thought that was an awesome rant except for the part about hoodies and t-shirts.

I have always preferred hoodies over hats and scarves because they are easier and more effective.

And to me t-shirts are also easier and more comfortable than dress shirts. I am from California so maybe that has something to do with it.

Retro or inside-joke t-shirts do a great job of communicating "hipness". Your co-workers don't have to know that the vintage & aged Commodore 64 t-shirt you wear was bought new @ Kmart in '85

As a semaphore the humble necktie existed way before the advent of these newfangled printed T's and quite frankly it harkens back to the origins of computing technology way better but you know I'm just an anachronistic egotist so what do I know?

The whole t-shirt and hoodie scene basically started in California and emerged from the nexus of homebrew computing and the engineering culture of the day which was basically a mix of academic, surfer and hippie culture (yes I know drastic oversimplification) but if I had to pick a moment in history it was when the commodore 64 engineering team went rogue and challenged the 'suits' by wearing t-shirts to the office that the whole idea that engineers wear downright casual clothing began

I feel like it doesn't serve us any more and the younger generation is getting lost in the toxic sauce and we've just become the same as the suits but with way less professionalism but that's probably a romanticized notion of what corporacy is based on my own experiences running early software from Apple when it still kind of was a shirt and tie corporacy (before the black turtleneck became the standard)

Anyway, you'll probably defend your right to wear a t-shirt to the death while claiming 'what you wear doesn't matter' so ask yourself whether what you wear actually does matter?

For me, the T-shirt and jeans became my official 'uniform' back in the 90s. I used to keep a full suit, shirt, tie, and shoes in an office closet. These were strictly for client meetings (on wall st.). When sales no longer cared if I changed (or even asked me NOT to change) I realized the tides had changed, and 'techies' were expected to be dressed to run Ethernet, Haul boxes of mag tape, and be comfortable in front of a screen for 16 hours.

Now, I generally say, sales calls need 1 suit, 1 geek.

Bro I don't identify as a geek and if that's a label you want to put on yourself you'd better ask whether you have a right to call yourself a professional

I don't identify as a 'bro' and if that's a label you want to put on yourself, you'd better ask whether you have a right to call yourself a professional...

See how silly that sounds? To me 'geek', 'coder', 'programmer' are all compliments - I worked dam hard to earn those labels.

Geeks have a shared passion - Geek of Math, Geek of Law, Car Geeks, etc (look up geek code for some much better examples). A geek calling another person a geek is generally a compliment. An acknowledgement that they know what they're doing.

Coders and programmers were out in the trenches grinding code before 'software engineer' was even a thing.

There's lots of words like that but you're ignoring the perception framing the reality.

Usage of the word within the in-group may mean one thing but from the out-group it means a whole different thing.

You're basically calling yourself a slave and justifying it with blissful ignorance.

You're saying 'words mean what I say they mean and I'm ignoring all shades of meaning but the ones I choose'.

and you can't see that in a professional culture if some people are "suits" and some people are "geeks" it's a drastic disadvantage situation in favour of stereotypes over reality.

And plus bro I wouldn't call you bro at the office but you'd surely call me a geek.

dam - lot of assumptions there, not to mention presumption of authority.

Just for the record, I don't feel 'disadvantaged' or 'stereotyped'. If people feel their professional standing/opportunities are based on dress code, title or hanging around hoping to be the first person the boss notices - I'd say they seem more 'disadvantaged' then me. But that's just my opinion.

Seems like we're at an impasse - Let's just call it here. You can be a 'software engineer' and I'll be a 'Geek'.

edit: swap 'bro' for 'software engineer' as I could see 'bro' be taken as condescension.

Reminds me of the suits are back submarine article by PG.

That is an awesome connection and very grateful for it (http://www.paulgraham.com/submarine.html)

However it's also way off the mark because it doesn't treat the professional dress from a technologist standpoint but rather a socio-cultural one and doesn't go into the history of the shirt and tie (notice I didn't say suit and tie) as a communication medium

There's enough information here for a whole volume but whatever it's worth humans require signals to communicate and in the absence of something definite they'll use anything at hand

The traditional professional dress deals with social communication concerns we're no longer even aware of let alone leveraging to advantage and it's a pity to watch a whole generation of would-be professionals on a level the world has never seen in its billion year history lose the thread as it were and bring their shabby hand me downs to the arena when they could stand on the side of tradition and button up like their ancestors in the arts and sciences did for centuries before them

> a pity... side of tradition

Not sure what to make of this really. You're not wrong, there is something to the subject of course.

Still, I can't help feeling like it's a perspective from a different planet. Different folks are into different things, and that's fine. But hoping that the majority will get serious about a niche subject/behavior is usually a recipe for disappointment.

Personally, I like to dress on the nice side of casual (vaguely similar to Steve Jobs, sans turtleneck) and wouldn't be caught dead in impractical clothing outside of a wedding.

Bro it's the constant struggle between the individual and the group there's nothing new here

Anyone can examine the evidence and agree as to the evidence but disagree as to what the evidence entails

I look at the modern state of corporacy and the rise of working from home and I see we ought to go back to traditional principles whereas the majority view it as an incentive to dress even further down

I'm not sure about you but I don't feel good about siding with the hoi polloi on principle and for that reason alone I'd rather wear a shirt with a collar than a dainty T

Edit: by the way do you believe that every person you see in a shirt and tie is suffering in an impractical outfit?

Yes. I go to DC occasionally on business and the standard dress there is ridiculous for the swampy climate. It doesn't work most of the year in Southern California either, too hot. The thing that enables it is climate-killing air conditioning.

I don't care for anything tight around my neck. Shoes with no traction are another one of my pet peeves.

I think something like the traditional Asian suits would be the most practical.

There's something you haven't thought through all the way I can guarantee it

Asian --> Nehru, Kurta, Mandarin, etc

I agree with this. I worked at a big company that leaned very young, but that was because we couldn't find enough senior engineers, not because we didn't want them. It's important to have experienced people who can guide the young and enthusiastic away from rediscovering the lessons that experienced devs know by heart.

>unless you're willing to work at entry rates

How do you communicate that though? Isn't it considered wrong to just say it because that indicates a lack of confidence?

Bro don't quote dollars tell them percentiles based on industry averages as published by the Robert Half Salary Guide

Say like I'm willing to start at the 25th percentile for a Cloud Computing Analyst in exchange for an upward career path over the next 3-5 years or something like that

Yes, I was thinking the same thing. Absolutely nothing wrong with that kind of talk and recruiters and interviewers will be familiar with it and shouldn't bat an eye when you phrase it that way.

Has anyone besides me tried the "I will work for less than the other guy!" routine?

Never worked for me

Never even thunk about working for me

I actually think salaries for people should follow the bell curve

In part to help olds like me get hired

But maybe also for practical reasons

It never works -- you gotta get them to absorb the sticker shock if you want them to respect you

I've been programming since 1979. So long that "programmer" has become an integral part of my identity. I don't think I'll ever stop producing software.

However, starting around 2016, finding work started to become difficult. The work I did find was no longer enjoyable. It took a few years, but I finally did enough self introspection to realize: it's not them, it's me. I aged out of the industry. I didn't notice it in the moment, it just happened.

I cannot work in open-office fishbowls. I cannot stomach Agile process and how it has turned something I love into menial factory work (N.B. I get it, your [A|a]gile shop is awesome. I only had such luck once). There are many more things about modern software development shops with which I disagree.

Now, it hadn't occurred to me until later that this was showing through in my attitude. Of course, I really did not want to work on the 500th BBA in my career with six Scrumm Masters all demanding 30 minute meetings every morning. I did not want to write more JavaScript or deal with yet another hotness-of-the-week library that does the same thing as the previous 10 such beasts. I did not want to play Schedule Chicken yet again.

Is it my age? Sure, people change. I'm not bored with the programming I enjoy but I did grow bored of modern corporate software slave shops. Hey, more power to them. It's their shop; they can do what they want.

However, it does mean I have to move on. I'm not saying any of this is true for the OP. Just something to ponder if you're constantly facing rejection.

I like that Gary Bernhardt tweets every once in awhile something along the lines of "we have no actual evidence that any software methodology actually leads to better, less buggy software". We have people falling all over themselves to sing the praises of XP, TDD, Agile/Scrum/etc, and yet, we can't show software actually getting any better. I've been around long enough now to see these trends rise and fall. One thing remains constant though. Humans make errors. Humans try to find better ways to fix these errors (faster, more effectively). Humans like trying to notice patterns. It's a good thing. But trying to say any one of those patterns is more effective than another, is a hard sell. The result is always the same. The ONE lesson I wish all young developers could learn early:

You will learn new information that will cause you to question yesterday's "best practices". So quit holding on to what you know now as the "one true way". Be willing to learn from people you consider "old and irrelevant"... they may actually know something.

I agree with most of what you say, but this strikes me as wrong:

> We have people falling all over themselves to sing the praises of XP, TDD, Agile/Scrum/etc, and yet, we can't show software actually getting any better.

Software is absolutely better today than it was in the 80s and 90s. I used to have to reboot my computer 2 or 3 times a day due to unrecoverable crashes and taught myself to constantly save work after every minor change. Now my computer stays up for weeks to months at a time only being rebooted to install updates occasionally. Documents are often autosaved, and I don't even need to save anything when I quit an app. The next time I launch it's all there.

I agree that we may not be able to measure that any given methodology is better than any other one, but we've made significant progress along the way. Better tooling, like static analyzers and profilers have helped, too. I do think automated testing can be shown to improve things when used appropriately. (The drive for 100% test coverage seems fanatical to me, though.)

Damn, from personal experience I echo your feelings about modern SW development bullshit and I'm 30 years old, though I ground my teeth on embedded SW which is more conservative.

I don't think I can make it to retirement at this rate.

First, I had to wrap my head around something very simple: who one is (I am a software engineer) and what one does to acquire currency are orthogonal. This is simultaneously obvious and difficult to accept in modern western culture. I admit this took me a few years to digest.

Next, I had to honestly explore other aspects of myself. What else held interest for me besides electronics and software?

Further, of these other interests, which of them were reasonably "safe" from outsourcing, offshoring, and automation? I do not want to transition into new currency acquisition activities that are themselves a race to the bottom. Tangentially, I considered the perceived prestige of each of these. I could give two shits personally, but I've learned the hard way that the perceived prestige of an activity impacts how others will treat you.

Finally -- as I am a software engineer -- how can I use this skill to augment my effectiveness in performing any of these new activities?

This is an ongoing process for me. I've always had an interest in the law. Law school is out of the question, so I've looked into paralegal work and how I could provide a unique service in this space.

Additionally, there are mundane dirty jobs -- specialized trash hauling, electronic recycle brokering, etc. -- that are poorly serviced in many localities. I believe I'll end up doing something here as well.

I view this transition as open ended. It's no longer about "career" but staying in a lateral thinking mode about combinations of possibilities.

When I faced this question, I read Po Bronson's "What Should I Do With My Life" and it helped me decide. My solution was humanitarian logistics, yours will be something else. Go find it!

I've been through similar "searching" efforts and concluded the same.

What about working in legal or medical software, since those industries will never go anywhere? Or any other industry that is boring.

For me, the only model of acquiring currency from software engineering activities is via product sales (no more selling my time or expertise). To this end, I do have plans in motion; however, some very important points:

- the products I wish to build will take time to do properly and I do not want to be in any kind of rush;

- based on my research, I believe these products could be good earners; however, it will take time and the majority of the revenue will be from the long tail;

- this kind of activity is high risk and I treat it as such. What this means, in practice, is that I put in my 4 hours of focused coding every morning and then go do other, less risky activities;

My experience has taught me to prefer transactional business models. Consultative business models spring from the dark side of The Force ;-).

As a vague teaser: one of the products is a SaaS modernization of a classic desktop database/application dev program complete with a recreation of its programming language; and the other is a game based on the premise of "what is an episode of sleep paralysis and waking dreams like?" I'm excited to be working on both but I have my expectations very firmly in check.

>classic desktop database/application dev program complete with a recreation of its programming language;

I'm picking up what you're laying down and think this could be brilliant, especially given several trends in both tech and market demand today.

I share the same sentiment. I'm not even a graybeard yet, and I'm sick of the work culture/environment/processes. I'm in my late thirties, so I'm somewhere in the middle.

I've been around long enough to recognize that older, more experienced people are incredibly valuable to learn from. They also have one thing you can't shortcut: perspective, and knowing where the bullshit is and how to avoid it. There's shit I'm just not willing to put up with anymore, that I would have been eager to do in my twenties. It wears you down.

>I cannot work in open-office fishbowls. I cannot stomach Agile process and how it has turned something I love into menial factory work (N.B. I get it, your [A|a]gile shop is awesome. I only had such luck once). There are many more things about modern software development shops with which I disagree.

I followed you in the mid-80s, and one thing that bugs me is the lack of 'geeks' in coding these days. What used to be a passion you could make a career, is now a 9-to-5 shuffle for a lot of people. Seems like there's as many coders that are 'just in it for the money' as there are stock brokers. I guess that's to be expected with the growth of the industry over the years, but I still find it sad.

So the question is, what did you move on to? I'm echoing a lot of your sentiments internally, just haven't admitted it to myself yet. But what is left for us to go to?

> However, it does mean I have to move on.

To what, though? I came to the same conclusions a few years back, but I'm at a loss as to what to do next. So I plug along, take what work I can find, shake my head and watch the exact same cycle happen to React as happened to Flex.

I share a lot of the opinions of @nybblesio. By a miracle, I have stayed employed well into my 50s but I think I am reaching the end of my tolerance of conventional software development.

You simply can't expect to remain employed as a programmer until the conventional retirement age. Especially for younger developers, FIRE (Financial Independence and Retire Early) principles are essential to learn.

Amen Brother! I had the same revelation, that things have simply changed and I'm not willing to change with it. It ain't worth it. I made my move at the beginning of the year to a new career and while there are moments where I miss the cerebral joys of software, good riddance to the rest of it. Wishing you a bright future in whatever direction you go.

What have you moved to if I may ask?

I'm right there with you in my 40s. Not sure I was ever on board with the open-office and the managerial mayhem. This has kept me in contract work and startups. The general stability is lower with the rare but occasional lull between projects, but my overall happiness with my work and career is extremely high.

The question is, what are you moving to?

This is the hardest part. I think a lot of people feel this way, but it's taking that next step. Is it sys admin (or Zeus help you Dev Ops)? Is it some kind of database work?

The hard truth is development pays pretty well or at least better than average. Finding something similar at middle age is a challenge.

I retired a year ago, but before retiring in 2013 I was invited to work at Google on a Knowledge Graph project and I don’t feel like there was any age discrimination. In 2017 I interviewed at Capital One for a deep learning team manager job, which I got, and I never felt like there was any real age discrimination there either.

So, try those two places.

I did feel like I was the target for extreme age discrimination at WikiMedia Organization. All the phone interviews went great until one was a video call and the interviewer literally started laughing when he saw me and he quickly ended the call, and their HR immediately sent me a no thank you, thanks for applying email. The same thing happened at Electronic Arts about 15 years ago. They kept calling me with invites to come up to Vancouver for an interview. Three of people, when they saw me and realized that I was in my 50s, they literally started to laugh.

So, I would say to stick with quality companies and you will have better results.

Wikimedia was also one of the worst interviews I've ever had, but it wasn't a video interview. They sent me a take-home "test" that needed to sort some files into different folders based on the file contents and said it should take about three hours to complete but it needed to scale to several million files.

So I set a timer, and started working on it, and got a simple solution working, which ran using Docker so that I could package the dependencies... (some ruby gems, the test's stock files, etc.) I included a readme that said 'simply docker build and docker run'. At the 3 hour mark, I stopped iterating and sent the github link.

The recruiter called me the next day and said that the person who looked at the code said it didn't run, when he looked at it, it was the worst code they'd ever seen, I didn't use object-oriented design and didn't unit test it.

Wut? A 3 hour script to sort some files should be properly structured OOP with unit tests, and the examiner didn't know how to run docker?

Wow, I guess I dodged a bullet there.

They expected 15 hours worth of work on it.

That's 3 hours in sprint time.

And the remaining done over a weekend. Yep, he dodged a bullet.

What’s this Haskell you speak of? No classes, no factories? Get out!

Maybe it's a Vancouver thing. I seldom experienced age discrimination when dealing with SV companies, but in my experience it is rampant in Vancouver. Last time I was job hunting I was 45 and I was also literally laughed out of a couple of offices. The ones who did not laugh for the most part ghosted me after the first in-person interview when they saw my white hair.

Is this Vancouver, BC? If you're comfortable would you mind privately sharing what sort of companies treated you like that? Just started my career here and would greatly appreciate any insights about the market.


Yes, Vancouver BC. The companies with the worst attitude were mostly startups, up to 5 years or so. Which was ironic because my previous experience was exactly what they needed - elevating the business practices of startups towards sustainability.

It is a small comfort that these companies are mostly long gone now. I eventually found a great position at a more mature company, and am very happy with my career there.

I had an interview once with a team that was all remote and the person on the other end had literally just crawled out of bed a few minutes earlier

I treat interviews as a two way street hence the word "inter" and it definitely behooves both sides to be on best behaviour.

You'd think that an industry full of analysts and theorists would have understood the game theory of interviews by now?

> I had an interview once with a team that was all remote and the person on the other end had literally just crawled out of bed a few minutes earlier

Earlier this year, I had an interview with a fairly serious company which shall not be named. They'd sent a mass email on LinkedIn a couple of weeks earlier, so that was my contact with them. After a chat with their in-house recruiter, they asked me to do a couple of tests, one a simple server application, one an intermediate-complexity SQL query. I'm willing to say that my SQL is competent, but it's not a focus for me, so while I got the idea, my query didn't actually work. The recruiter told me that it would be a good idea to be ready to explain why, and how I would fix it, for the technical interview. I rustled up a couple of acquaintances with better SQL than I, we worked through it, I knew what I'd done wrong and was ready to discuss it.

Technical interview came, on Zoom, and it was a car crash. There were two interviewers, one was on time, one was late - the late one was also only on audio, and it turns out mixing one audio-only interviewer with one on video was a bad idea. They mostly asked me about my background and experience for about half an hour, then ended the interview - never asked about my tests, didn't go into anything technical at all.

I didn't hear anything back, so I pinged the recruiter a week later, only for him to tell me he wasn't working there anymore, but he'd pass on a message for me. I then pinged the one other person I'd had any actual contact with at the company, the HR/admin who'd setup the Zoom call, to be told "we will not go for further process as rejected by hiring team."

I was pretty unimpressed.

Exactly the same scenario! You'd think we could at least salvage some personal relationships out of it but nope too busy being false corporate

What irks me is that the real ones like the people on this forum are losing to the fake ones like the bozos on that call

I have some interview horror stories bro but seriously it really boils down to basic game theory how do we get it so wrong?

But I mean wow exactly the same scenario -- hit it off with the recruiter, their engineering team is a shitshow, recruiter leaves, HR tells you suck it

Definitely not you, it's them but the injury of being rejected is added to the insult that it's a band of fools doing it.. think of it as dodging a bullet

You know in some hiphop tunes where they say they love their haters?

Think about how many bullets you've dodged on account of your haters and be grateful to them.. It's twisted but it's true

Enjoyed reading your comment history. Some good stuff in there. Do you have a blog or anything like that where I can read more?

Hey that's very kind of you j-b

I'm trying court controversy as you might be able to tell

I've toyed with the idea of starting a blog but I suffer in that I can't write unless it's to someone.. Whenever I try writing for writing's sake it simply dries up I can't explain it

Do you feel like having a virtual cup of coffee or tea one of these days? I'd be very interested to learn your story and compare battle scars so to speak

I'm actually trying to write a book that captures the entire human condition with respect to corporacy and software professionalism but so far all I really have is a cover page

> the person on the other end had literally just crawled out of bed a few minutes earlier

To be completely honest, I've been brought on interviews myself for this reason... in a sea of fucking business guys, I ended up being the person from engineering they wanted on the interviews.

How do you mean because you actually brushed your hair or because they were going for toxic chic?

No, the HR guys always want 'business professionals' doing the interviewing.

A lot of kids today (I'm 57) look like this! I don't think Jack Dorsey, for example, owns a comb.

Steinbeck wrote that only the rich can afford to dress badly, the poor are forced to dress well

There are are deep sociological undercurrents to all this behaviour but people who ought to know better are too busy denying the evidence

> the interviewer literally started laughing when he saw me and he quickly ended the call

Wow. I have a hard time imagining being an interviewer and literally laughing at the face of a candidate before he even said anything. Unless he's dressed as a clown or something...

It was disappointing. But such is life and I would not have had the experiences of working for other companies if they had hired me. In Latin “Amor Fati” means to love your fate. Accept what happens and move on.

Love this mindset, hope you get something worthwhile friend.

I wonder if they would dare do this in a face to face context, or does the videoconference medium enable this extreme antisocial behavior? I've never ever considered laughing at a candidate face to face or for that matter even politely ending an interview early. Don't all companies give potential interviewers at least basic training that shows them what things you shouldn't do on an interview?

Similar experience here for wikimedia. Unbelievably unprofessional.

No great advice other than to look for tech roles in non–tech companies.

The FAANG gang will never see your resume or application as their automated screeners will silently reject you. Startups will advise you that you cannot possibly understand the complexity of the problem space they are solving because no one in the history of the industry has ever tried building complex software, which is why they are writing their own version of make in two week sprints.

I wish I had better advice but after seven years of trying I’ve moved on and out of the industry.

> The FAANG gang will never see your resume or application as their automated screeners will silently reject you

I'm an interviewer at a FAANG company. I've interviewed plenty of candidates who were over 30, over 40, and never once seen anyone rejected based on age. I've worked with guys hired in their 40s, generally very solid devs.

The key thing I have seen is that if you've been in the industry for 20+ years, we expect you to be at a senior level. If decades of experience doesn't make you any better than a college grad, what have you been doing for 20 years?

I'd love to have a senior dev with 20 years experience join my team.

Thanks for being honest. I get your point. But in other words, you reject equally qualified candidates just because they are older. So the old guy has to be _better_ then the young guy to get hired.

That pretty much confirms what the OP said.

I just got finished posting about ageism not being as big of a deal as people say it is. But, after reading this, I can see how it’s more nuanced. If your experience doesn’t match what it “should” be for your age, yeah I could see discrimination happening.

I wouldn't call it discrimination. If a company is looking for a principal engineer let's say (very senior in the FAANGs I know). They want to see you have experience showing operating at a principal level based on their expectations. If you worked for 20 years at the same company as a software engineer and never got promoted let's say, you wouldn't be considered. (maybe you're amazing and they are making a mistake, but unless someone at the company who worked with you can recommend you, they will prefer to focus on candidates that look more promising on paper. They cannot interview everyone)

I think the government would call it discrimination.

> The law prohibits discrimination [against people over 40] in any aspect of employment, including hiring, firing, pay, job assignments, promotions, layoff, training, benefits, and any other term or condition of employment.


Did I say age? I said they are looking for people who operated in a certain level for at least x number of years. If your resume doesn't show it (regardless your age) you are not qualified for the position. If anything they discriminate against young people since they require x years of experience which young people cannot have.

The important thing is that the `x` number of years requirement is a function of the role, not of the applicant's age.

It seems like he is applying for the same roles that are typically sought after by much younger people. I don’t think he is trying to apply for senior roles. He said that they say he has to be really good or young.

That's a problem then. I already mentioned those places are a bit like the army. They usually don't consider experienced people for junior positions. Academia is the same. What I've seen happening sometime is interviewing someone experienced to a senior position and then giving them an offer to a less senior position since they did well on the interview but not well enough (the thing that changes is the title they are given (less senior level), which affects responsibilities and salary).

I quit applying to youngster-roles (I can now smell them with quite an accuracy) and focused on SRE/Devops roles. They come with a tolerance for grey hair (or at least they claim to) albeit they are so broad and deep at the same time that is insane.

Yeah, I can't see working entry/lower level positions unless you're prepared to compete with recent grads on salary and hours as well as knowledge.

There are lots of reasons why someone who is qualified to be a principal engineer might have worked for a long time without being promoted. Many companies do not recognize or reward based on technical merit. For example, you might need to be buddies with the right manager or luck into the right high-visibility project. Many people also job hop for the sole purpose of being promoted to a higher level because their existing company won't promote. I've worked at several companies where the inside joke was "It's easier to get hired at Google than to get a promotion here."

I think a lot of hiring companies over-index on "what's the candidate's current job title/function" as an indication of potential.

It’s not about title. It’s about accomplishments. I have hopped around working for small companies all of my career. I am actively in the interview process for two of three major cloud providers (consultant not software developer). I have only worked for one company that anyone has ever heard of and only one company that I was anymore than “senior developer”. But working for small companies you get to lead a lot of initiatives if you play your cards right.

>It’s not about title. It’s about accomplishments.

TBH, I don't even know what my official title is. I'd have to look it up in the HR system. And I've been in pretty much the same boat my whole (pretty long) career.

My current job made up some external title for me when I got hired but it didn't actually really parse and was too long so I've just gone through a few iterations that I've basically made up myself for external consumption.

It is, but on a very subtle level. Since there are much less senior positions then non senior (it is a pyramide) there are basically less jobs for older (more senior people). This gets a bit compensated that over time each batch more ppl study CS (although there might have been a bulk 20 years ago, so not sure....) But if the hiring/available position per age group pyramide is narrower than the age distribution for developers, that it is leading to discrimination (although as mentioned very subtle, and with the best definsible intentions)

20 years ago, technology wasn’t as pervasive as it is now. Pre-Covid, in most major cities in the US, senior developers who kept their skills current and knew their market would be swept up as soon as they came on the market. My fastest time going from looking for a job to getting an offer with a subsidiary of a F10 company was 4 days in 2012.

I met a local recruiter for lunch on Monday, he sent my resume to the company Tuesday, I had a phone screen Wednesday in person and offer Thursday.

I was no special snowflake. Just a regular 37 year old Enterprise C# developer.

True on paper I had 15 years of experience. But in reality, I had been an “expert beginner” in 2008.

That wasn’t a fluke. Everytime since then the company I usually ended up working for was one that I was introduced to during the first week of looking.

Is there not a distinction here?

If someone has spent 20 years working at a trade, and is indistinguishable from a fresh graduate, is this 'ageism'?

We're not talking about someone who says they have 20+ years experience and therefore wants to be considered for <Top Wizard Role>.

It's rather that, if you spent the last 20 years building CRUD apps (some even made ppl money and were successful!) and some kid also built a CRUD app, you're fucked, because as you get older you're expected to be some kind of brilliant outlier -- afterall, what have you been doing for the last 20 years?!

This is what ageism really is, and it sucks because you can easily spend/waste a decade on some project/startup that goes nowhere, or worse still, some tech stack that's now defunct or deemed archaic.

This is why I like to joke that I'm a Senior Flash Developer with over 20 years experience, hire me please xD

If a master cabinet maker's work is indistinguishable from an apprentice's work is there not a problem?

If you spend 20 years doing the same work, do you have to be a 'brilliant outlier' to have insights a junior person doesn't?

edit spelling/punct.

It's a structural problem. If everyone expects 20 years of experience people to be principal engineers, and only 5% of roles are principal jobs, then after 20 years 95% of engineers need to leave the industry.

And so, the industry is mostly populated by inexperienced people and many of its pathologies and adverse outcomes are due to this.

> 20 years of experience people to be principal engineers and only 5% of roles are principal jobs, then after 20 years 95% of engineers need to leave the industry.

I'm not sure I follow your math. 5% of roles are principal jobs, but devs with 20+ years are not 100% of the talent pool. This doesn't hold up if devs with 20+ years are are 5% or less of the talent pool.

You're right - my comment was sloppy!

Still, given "20+ years of experience" represents all programmers of ages, say, 45-65 - or two decades worth of CS graduates - I feel that cohort far exceeds the market for principals? If you think it is smaller, maybe that's because everyone who wasn't in the top n% had to leave?

Although other commenters have pointed out that the growth of the industry counters that, that won't last forever!

I thought it was an interesting question and found this page[1] . It is a survey of 50k devs on Stack overflow. 3.8% percent of those surveyed were over 50. Cenensus data here[1] gives ~20% over 50



Is fair to say we have an up and out culture like big law, consulting and finance?

Yes, but nobody under 35 realises they're perpetuating it until its their ass getting upped and outed like everyone else

I agree with the sentiment, but in this industry which has exponential growth, the number of people in it doubles every 5 years, I think. So if you've been working 20 years, there are now 16x as many people as when you started...so you are in the most senior 6% of people if you managed to stick around.

Except after 20 years in the industry, there's a vast amount more work available...And the industry is still running at a shortage of tech. people.

(oddly enough, the 'average' programmers entire career was 10 years last I checked. People seem to burn out and move on..)

It's more nuanced than that.

I was on an interview loop the other day with a 30-something year old candidate. He had worked for nearly a decade in another industry, but got bored and got a CS degree in his spare time. He was applying as a new grad, and he was treated as a new grad. We hired him because he was pretty darned good- for a new grad. We hired him at a junior level, the same as any other new grad.

It's not about age it's about [growth / years of work]. It's about predicting the future of a candidate and asking if they will grow further.

Like I said, if you've spent 20 years in industry and haven't grown, what have you been doing?

Edit: A candidate who has not grown in 20 years is not equally qualified as a candidate who just graduated and can do the same things.

Up or out, amirite? Likewise, if they've spent 20 years in industry and haven't saved enough to retire, what have they been doing?

There's a lot of growth that can happen in 20 years that will be invisible to you in an interview loop. Things like patience, humility, perspective, compassion, ability to teach/mentor, etc. Focusing on technical ability at the junior level with leetcoding, and technical growth at the senior level, means you will filter out all but the most exceptional (or one-dimensional) senior candidates.

In your opinion, is it acceptable to have grown for the first 10 years of your career, hit a personal snag (burnout, parental healthcare, medical condition) and then reluctantly chosen to coast on your career and skills for 10 years? If this is not 'equally qualified' as a candidate who has been "only" been working for 10 years, then what are you saying about older candidates? Because this kind of stuff happens to a lot of us--and I might even be as bold to say it happens to most of us.

And as far as "predicting future growth", does this mean you wouldn't hire a 60-year-old who planned to retire in a few years? Keeping in mind that most hires leave before a few years anyway.

> In your opinion, is it acceptable to have grown for the first 10 years of your career, hit a personal snag (burnout, parental healthcare, medical condition) and then reluctantly chosen to coast on your career and skills for 10 years?

God I hope not- that what I've been doing, lol. But seriously though, if you've spent 10 years growing as a developer, you're probably at the level of a senior dev. Those soft skills are also interviewed for- we don't just ask technical questions.

I've been on interview loops where at the end, we've said "This person's soft skills are out of the park good, but they're technical skills lacked. Are there other roles we could consider this person for, like a project manager?" because soft skills are king. I've also been on loops where we said "This person's technical skills are out of the park, but there are too many worrying signs in our soft-skills questions to go forward".

> does this mean you wouldn't hire a 60-year-old who planned to retire in a few years

Hasn't happened to me yet. Most folks with 30+ years in the industry aren't looking for junior level dev jobs.

I hear what you're saying but you can't tell someone's day-to-day soft skills from an interview. They're either on their best behavior or nervous and/or trying to impress you with their skills within a limited timeframe. This does not inform how they will be able to use their professional relationships that they develop within your organization (over the course of months and years) to get the job done.

For that you'd have to look at their past work and their references. Neither of which were even checked during multiple interviews during my last job hunt in 2018.

> in other words, you reject equally qualified candidates just because they are older

Not quite - they said been in the industry for 20+ years, not 20+ years older than other candidates.

I must be totally missing the point here, I don't see the problem at all (as a non-FAANG developer in my mid-30s).

I've read that companies like Google evaluate employees in an up-or-out manner up to a certain level; before level X, if you've been a satisfactory junior engineer for Y years but have not been promoted to the next tier on schedule, your performance reviews will nonetheless begin being judged against the next tier's performance criteria and the "meets expectations" junior level work you've been doing will become unsatisfactory (even though you're still a junior engineer). You either grow according to expectations as you gain experience or you are managed out. Happy to be corrected if I've misunderstood the system.

Given that, if companies require current employees to progress in their careers to stay with the company, why should prospective new hires from outside the company with umpteen years of experience (for which they will be compensated with higher-than-new-grad pay) get a pass on that same expectation of showing growth throughout their career?

If you spent 20 years to be at the same level as a college grad, you are not equally qualified. The ability to grow and improve matters. When hiring you project growth and if someone has proven they have limited upside, they aren't as good of a candidate.

Also the old person probably has higher salary expectations.

No it doesn't. Humans aren't a constant box of skill, your intelligence grows or reduces. A young candidate with X amount of skill is more likely to reach 2X skills in 10 years than an older candidate who has stayed at X for past 10 years. Growth potential is what counts, and you saying that you have been at skill level X for past decade just proves that your ability to grow is reaching nil.

Or, a person is being unfairly passed over for opportunities for any number of reasons outside their control. Bad companies do exist, and not everyone has their pick of jobs.

It was in their control, they could have gained solid skills in those 20 years to set them apart from a college grad. 20 years is a very long time, you could master several disciplines during that time, so if you fail to master even your main occupation it tells us something about you.

> you could master several disciplines during that time

...if you were given the opportunity.

I don’t think that should be a factor. How many people stay at a job longer than 5 years in their 20’s these days?

How does staying at a single company improve your skills? You can switch 5 companies in 5 years or stick to 1 company for 5 years, the amount of skills you gain is not tied to duration of your employment but your inherent ability to learn and desire knowledge.

It’s a bit more complex than that, in my experience. This is a contrived example, but if someone has 20 years of experience, it’s unlikely that they’ll be willing to accept a job offer appropriate for someone with 5 years of industry experience, even if the interview reveals they have that level of proficiency.

In a FAANG you need to be competitive. If you are junior and 40+, you probably had different priorities and struggles in life, so you might not be willing to have the dedication required.

It also creates problems for both you and your peers - you will have a very ambitious 28 yo giving guidance, from a management or senior position, to a 40+ yo. You might feel bad in that situation and it's not going to be easy for the younger person having to guide you.

It's amazing the amount of prejudice and wrong data being spewed in this one sentence:

> In a FAANG you need to be competitive.

I've worked at Google since 2006 and have done well over 250+ interviews here, competition is assureadly not a quality we select for. In fact, as an interviewer, I tend to bias against that behavior.

> If you are junior and 40+, you probably had different priorities and struggles in life, so you might not be willing to have the dedication required.

"probably" and "might not" are strong words when talking about assumptions and prejudices. What "dedication" are you talking about? The interviews FAANGs use are amongst the most gruelling in the industry -- if a candidate expresses through them that they have the skills and are interested in the job, and the corp needs it filled, it should be filled regardless of age, sex, gender, background, race, creed, or color. Full stop.

I'll also note, most of Google's upper management is 35-40 years old, if not older, and the younger managers are trending closer to 35 these days, and actually not as prevalent as they used to be.

I've managed older folks underneath me in the past -- I never had a problem with guidance or behavior. In fact, they were often the most hands off because they usually already knew what was needed next.

Do either of these two things you’ve outlined come from things you’ve personally experienced or is this theory and speculation? The first seems to preclude the possibility that someone could be pivoting out of one career and into tech, and the other just sounds like that 28 yo needs to jettison their ego.

Actually no wait they BOTH sound like someone needs to jettison their ego.

Anyone remotely woke would realize that they are to ignore the unusual age difference of their manager (rather than feel bad, etc) to precisely the same extent that they are to ignore all other differences of protected classes.

I don't want to turn this to a flame war but please. I've went through all FAAG (no engineering for N in EU). The interviews apart from never-ending seem to be stacking odds towards fresh graduates. Why else do all of them insist so much on grad level things such as complexities, basic algorithms etc?

Regardless. I refreshed all that and more. But still there always seems to be a guy somewhere in this long way that will throw the odd question (open 'the Linux programmer interface' at a random page and shoot). I mean it is very easy to find a quirky question to ask and then use my flawed or 'I don't remember this off hand (but I can damn sure find it and understand it in 5 mins if you let me) to throw me out of the window.

I've seen the same play at least 6 times (wannabe startups emulate this hiring process - if google does it then it must be correct).

OTOH dunno - perhaps I just don't cut it. Perhaps the competition has been turbocharging while I was working. Dunno.

> but I can damn sure find it and understand it in 5 mins if you let me

Precisely this. That's one of the key things from our "experience" and "seniority". We've seen things, we know how to be pragmatic and learn/relearn X to finish Y and deliver value.

I'm yet to see an interview that covers this. I'm clinging to my current job because I'm not sure I can face the job market in my current age.

I've done coding interviews for nearly 10 years now where I present a coding problem, but I never expect syntax correctness. I'll explicitly say I don't care if the function signatures are right or you remember the exact method to call on a given class or whatever; so long as I can tell what you're trying to make the program do. I have to look basic stuff up online every day anyway because nobody can remember it all, I'm not going to knock a candidate for that.

Other than basic filtering questions so I can see if someone is trying to fake their way through an interview, I never ask functional specifics. Even then it's usually just to make sure they at least basically know everything they claim to on their resume - if you don't claim to know JS, I'm not going to ask you about what bind() does, but if you rate yourself a 10/10 JS expert, you should probably have a good answer.

Interviews should be about your thought process and how well you can solve real world problems, not trivia about how well you've memorized an API. I don't understand why so many other interviewers (Even at companies I've worked for) ask coding "gotchas" and reject candidates because they don't remember the semantics of some obscure language feature.

To be fair most of the interviewers seemed to work along these lines that you describe. (That's why I managed to get quite close quite a few times - I was never big on memory so it's impossible get the details on WB).

Yet, if the string of interviews is too long (and it is) the probability of hitting a "reef" is really big. And it seems that either you get a unanimous "yes" or you fail.

> insist so much on grad level things such as complexities, basic algorithms etc

Because they matter. Basic level complexities, algorithms, data structures, are all important for being a developer. That's why it's part of the undergraduate curriculum! You don't need to think about graphs or runtimes every day- but that one time each year or so that you do need to know it, it's critical that you do.

> open 'the Linux programmer interface' at a random page and shoot

Yeah, the heck with that interviewer. I mean, if you're interviewing for a low level systems dev job then I can see making sure the dev has some basic familiarity with important functions, but it's hard to see that making sense on a general developer interview. I hope that wasn't my company.

> You don't need to think about graphs or runtimes every day- but that one time each year or so that you do need to know it, it's critical that you do.

That one time a year when it's critical, I would want someone who is likely to engage on the rest of the team to come up with a solid solution together and spend at least a day thinking about it.

This isn't how interviews work so if you think you're selecting for that one time a year when its critical at the expense of the rest of the year, I don't think you're getting what you think you are.

For quick workarounds to deal with a critical error while allowing time to solve it properly, I think an experienced person may have an edge.

I see your point, but interviews are tame compared to the real world.

It's not about "Can the candidate solve this mission critical problem we'll spend a week on, in an hour?". It's more like "Can the candidate recognize a graph problem?". If they can't even tell that this is a graph problem, how are they going to know that today is the day we need to ask someone for help, and think about this very hard?

An example: Many times I've asked something like Word Ladder[0] to a candidate, and they can't tell that this is a shortest path problem, nor use the common tools to solve such things. Even with hinting and helping as much as I can, sometimes they just don't have those tools in their toolbox. And my job is to find out whether they do or not.

[0]https://leetcode.com/problems/word-ladder/ and no, I don't use this exact question.

I honestly doubt that a team of diverse engineers (young and old) would have a hard time figuring out whether it is a graph problem in a reasonable amount of time with the internet at their disposal under normal working conditions.

The interview isn't set up that way and introduces non-natural pressures that can easily alter the way a good engineer responds to such a question.

I would think younger candidates have likely been more recently immersed in problems such as graph problems and tend to be more aware that they need to spend time training on leetcode or hackerrank in order to pass an interview but I don't know.

You could always still get lucky or be making decisions for reasons you aren't aware of.

> You don't need to think about graphs or runtimes every day- but that one time each year or so that you do need to know it, it's critical that you do.

I downvoted you because it's unreasonable to expect people to memorize something they use once a year. Learn it, understand it, then look it up again when you need it.

Interviews should reflect the experience and knowledge you expect a candidate to use on a regular basis. Asking comp sci questions they don't need to know to do their job biases your hiring process to new grads rather than experienced industry veterans.

That was an interview for SRE role. One of the big ones.

SRE btw has come to mean "you must know everything...in order to do on-calls" but that deserves a whole post in itself.


I'm OK with complexities, etc. I get why they're so popular in interviews. I don't agree but I get it. They were an annoyance to review and keep in my RAM since I don't really use them in day-to-day work but I swallowed that pill.


"I'm a really good developer, shipped software, why do I need to know how to invert a binary tree on a whiteboard?"

Well, first of all, it's all out there, and you have all the time in the world to prepare. Know how to invert a binary tree.

Aside from that, the things you actually need to know for these interviews (from my experience interviewing at several FAANGs) are basic dynamic programming, BFS, DFS, and basic tree algorithms. Nobody's going to ask you to implement Edmonds-Karp from memory. This is something a smart non-academic who learned ReactJS should be able to easily learn.

Theory matters. If you care about theory, and applying theory to problems you face, you care about making your abstractions correct, which leads to code that has fewer edge cases and is more maintainable.

> Well, first of all, it's all out there, and you have all the time in the world to prepare. Know how to invert a binary tree.

I downvoted you because this is terrible reasoning. If you don't use knowledge on a regular basis you have no reason to remember it, and won't.

Interviews shouldn't require studying. They should test the knowledge you're expected to use on the job.

I don't spend hours every week studying comp sci in the off chance I might need it at work. If I need to do something I don't remember or never learned I look it up.

Theory matters if you're deeply involved in complex comp sci problems. If you're building simple web and mobile apps like 90% of programmers theory is irrelevant.

Again, ask interview questions directly relevant to the position.

> I downvoted you because this is terrible reasoning.

Well, that's just like, your opinion, man.

> If you don't use knowledge on a regular basis you have no reason to remember it, and won't.

I don't expect you to remember it. I expect you to study and be ready for it in the interview.

> Interviews shouldn't require studying. They should test the knowledge you're expected to use on the job.

A significant part of a software engineer's job is studying. Take your job in the last 3 years. Could you have 100% predicted, 3 years ago, what knowledge you'd need? I sure couldn't.

> I don't spend hours every week studying comp sci in the off chance I might need it at work.

You don't need to do it every week, only before you interview.

> If I need to do something I don't remember or never learned I look it up.

Looking it up is definitely important but I'm talking about the basics. If you don't understand the basics and the way of thinking about algorithmic tradeoffs, you won't learn it in 10 seconds from a Stack Overflow answer.

> Theory matters if you're deeply involved in complex comp sci problems. If you're building simple web and mobile apps like 90% of programmers theory is irrelevant.

I disagree that 90% of programmers do that, or we disagree on what "simple" means. I can guarantee you less than 10% of programmers in FAANGs just build no-logic CRUD mobile/web apps.

> Again, ask interview questions directly relevant to the position.

Theory is directly relevant to the position. I use it every day.

Sorry that your experience went poorly, but I'd still recommend not giving up. As someone who was trying for the better part of four years and finally made my way in a few years ago, here are a couple of my thoughts:

1) Utilize leverage and numbers. Reputable 1st party company recruiters as well as hiring marketplaces like Hired[1], and TripleByte[2] and AngelList[3] could become trusty tools for you. It'll be hard to get in front of recruiters at BigCos there, so you'll also want to make sure your LinkedIn[4] is up to date. Get a premium account and actively get in touch with BigCo recruiters. Connect with them and see how many are willing to have an unstructured conversation with you about your location in your career, your goals, and the possibility of working at BigCo. I know recruiters get a bad rap, but the competent ones are worth their weight in gold and most importantly are paid to put you into the process. You want to get in front of as many companies as possible. There is very likely an upper limit on the amount of "nos" you'll have to hear before you get at least one yes. But, it takes a lot of time and energy to go through the ringer with more companies, even if it does work to your advantage. The most recent time I went through the process, there were a good 50 companies I had initial conversations with, maybe 20 were I got to the phone screen stage, 5 that I got to on-site and 2 offers. And, this time was easier than last time, which was even worse. The drop-off there was brutal, and I knew that for any given company, there was probably a 96% chance I was spending my time on something that ultimately wouldn't pan out. But I was also honing my interviewing technique and "was going to miss the shots I didn't take". Keep at it. Even with a 96% failure rate, after 50 shots, there's only a 12% chance that you don't get at least 1 offer.

2) BigCo FAANG recruiting processes reflect BigCo processes in general in that they're meant to minimize false positives, not false negatives. The upshot of this for you is that there can be a lot of luck involved with your interview. But another upshot if this is that your interview is so structured and well known that it is very doable to prepare directly for the interview -- even if you're preparing[5][6] in a way that is a little synthetic and doesn't really reflect your job experience. Try doing a mock interview with someone who works at a FAANG that covers an algorithm section and a system design section. See how well you genuinely do. Every time I'm back on the market interviewing, I'm surprised at how hard this stuff is and how much I need to ramp up my interviewing skills again. I don't expect that to ever change.

2) It's normal to have interviews completely tank because of bad luck. Sometimes this can happen across every BigCo you apply to. It happens. It took several years and stages of being on the market for me to finally end up at one after wanting to be there for a while. Don't give up.

3) Behavioral interview performance becomes increasingly important. One technique I used was to put all of my major projects I did on a spreadsheet, left to right over time, and then figure out the company values and add snippets top to bottom for the relevant projects about the ways that project reflected a specific company value. This sounds corny and artificial, but it made it much easier for me to give prepared, pointed, real examples of my proven ability to add value to the company.

4) Startup interviews are more freeform than big company interviews for better and worse. At worst, you'll have the worst part of BigCo interviews with none of the competence. At best, you'll have a process that feels thoroughly modernized and personalized -- you'll probably work through some kind of a problem or collaborative design exercise together with one of the few engineers at the company (or the CTO), and based on how well you gel, you get hired. You'll be as much interviewing them for whether you want to work with them as vice versa. Or, you'll be hired to consult and if that goes well they'll want to bring you on full time. These kinds of gigs can be great because you are likely to be the most quality, experienced talent that they can get access to by a long shot, and the door is open for you to take a leadership role here. From that role, the door is open for you to take on a leadership role at a BigCo if that's what you want long term. BigCos love hiring talent that has been proven by the crucible of success at startups that they otherwise would have passed on when that talent wasn't necessarily "proven" to that level yet. You can probably guess why.

5) Consulting is a great play for those who are very experienced. You can sell your experience and not your fungible labor. But it does take the development of sales and positioning skills. I've never had success here but I've seen friends who have. My take? The pattern I see with friends who are successful on this route is they don't do it alone. They take on opportunities with other folks they've worked well with in the past. Companies love this because they thoroughly cut out an organizational integration risk, which is of putting together two otherwise productive individuals that clash destructively rather than coordinate.

Let me be the first to say please don't undersell yourself. Having been a hiring manager at a seed stage startup before my current role, I absolutely would have jumped on any candidates that fit your profile. In fact, I tried to, multiple times, and saw my firm passed over for a competing offer from another firm.







> Consulting is a great play for those who are very experienced.

Ref this classic: https://training.kalzumeus.com/newsletters/archive/consultin...

Thank you

Or there were 30 people applying, it was hard to differentiate, so they kept asking marginal questions.

That's the good scenario but after so many times one starts to wonder.

Defining “better” is complex. I mean software is a team game at most places so having all the same sort of people can be a disadvantage. So a team lacking an experienced dev can need one more than a team lacking a graduate. Then there is what are you working on and does it depend more on “knowing React now” or general good brains.

After 20 years you may go in circles - most places don’t offer Alan Kay style work, so you process invoices for company A and create api integrations for company B etc. You always learn but I don’t think it’s an exponential rise for most. Can it be?

I agree with this. In FANNG old and young people don't usually compete. No one will interview someone young to a senior position and vice versa. It's a bit like in the army... There are way more junior positions than senior which skewed these companies towards the young. Also, for senior positions the interviewers must be senior too, which means they are not young either.

In other companies that's not always the norm. I worked in companies with senior folks in their late 20 / early 30s while a few 50+ developers were software engineers (not senior).

This is the crux:

> No one will interview someone young to a senior position and vice versa.

Actually grad tech roles pay 200k and lots of senior people would like that. If you think that "No one will interview" someone like that you're right and that is blatant age discrimination.

So basically someone who has been a developer for 20+ years has to have 20+ years of React experience?

no. has to have 20 years of understanding algorithms and breaking up a solution into its sum to explain it. React or other current fad has nothing to do with it, nor will come in interviews at beginning. You live or die by your whiteboard skills.

And who decides if you have 20 years worth of understanding of algos? A developer with 5 years worth of experience? What less experienced people don't understand is that development is not necessarily a one way path like at FAANGs where you move from level 1 to 2 to 3 to lead to manager to director within 10 years or you're worthless.

For most of the developers, it's not a video game where you just level up. It involves working on projects small and large. A lot of time doing business analysis or some part of project management or documentation or various other things. Many of us work at small or medium sized businesses that don't have problems of scale, but rather problems of complexity.

Also maybe react or some other fad like Kafka or microservices won't come at the beginning, but at a later stage of interviews, even for a junior position, if you have 10+ years experience, I bet you'll be expected to know those things, otherwise "what have you been doing for 10 years?" Solving actual business problems and not inventing things to do so I can put them on my resume, thanks.

If a quantum physics specialist comes to you and starts explaining what it is and you understand, even if you have zero years of experience in it, I'd say he passed the interview. Same applies for this as well.

Exactly, what a crock!

I wholeheartedly agree with this comment.

An industry mentor of mine who runs a R&D for a large, and successful software/hardware business unit once explained their approach to building teams in a really interesting manner to me. They explained that they wanted to have experienced folks on the team, so that they didn't re-learn lessons that the team should already have learnt, and instilled the culture and best practices of good developers -- but they wanted junior engineers on the team to drive a healthy disregard for what was asserted to be impossible, or written off as folly based on prior experiences. Their experience was that this balance helped grow great engineers from the junior folks, whilst keeping the senior folks on their toes -- seeing that their bias against an idea wasn't always the right thing.

Something that stuck with me from this conversation: We naturally become more conservative in terms of what we view as possible as we become more experienced -- after all, we tried X before, and it really didn't work out -- let's not waste our time doing X again...!

I interviewed 10s of candidates at a FAANG last year. A significant number of them were older than me. A non-trivial proportion of those were interviewing for positions that were more junior to me. Of those folks we hired a good number of them. If you see age-bias in the interviewing process, it's already a red-flag as to the team not clearly understanding how to make the best of the pool of engineers that they can potentially hire, and I'd avoid them for that reason.

I'd also love to hire experienced folks into my team. A great thing about the FAANG that I'm at, is that we're explicitly empowered in the hiring process - and hiring managers really _have_ to care about what interviewers think. I would encourage not writing this class of company off as being only youth-focused. :-)

I understand every interview is different, but what happens if someone with 20+ years of experience fails a leetcode-type (say, LC hard or medium trivia problem) but aces system design?

My understanding is that you probably won't get the job

Yes. But the definition of fail is quite broad. My bitter experience shows that even simple syntactical errors (which are easy to make on a whiteboard especially if you are multilingual) were reason enough to throw me out.

Then don’t play that game. Three of the 5 big tech companies (not including Netflix) have cloud divisions where they are hiring consultants - no LeetCode or algorithms required.

What are those divisions?

AWS, Azure and GCP. They all have consulting and solution architect roles.

Let me tell you one day about the interview questions I got at a FAANG last year which were supposed to determine whether I was operating at a senior level...

We're in a pandemic. tell us today

> If decades of experience doesn't make you any better than a college grad

I doubt there is any such person. Even fairly crappy programmers with 20 years of experience have seen a lot, both technical and otherwise, and occasionally it makes a big difference.

It helps to have people on your team that can hear the faint hoofsteps of impending disaster.

But your interview process is tailored for youngsters - most seniors won't allocate time for leetcode/competitive programming preps.

> I've interviewed plenty of candidates who were over 30

Am I in the Twilight Zone?

Also, he's talking about 50+.

Same. Mid-40’s.

At a certain point, I just realized that no one seemed to want me anymore. I mean, I helped take three companies, with multiple complex software systems, to acquisitions. But, you know, that just doesn’t matter. At 39, I was hammered with job offers. But, now, I just get endless interviews.

Luckily, I saved a lot. So, I’m able to do something new. But, a lot of my colleagues are on a sad and downward path. I really hope you youngsters are saving.

> I really hope you youngsters are saving.

Some of the best "mentoring" I ever got as a young software developer was about saving and investing money. I was pretty late coming around, but at least I did.

I try to get younger developers to understand this; few care. It's probably the same percentage as when I was their age.

>> I helped take three companies, with multiple complex software systems, to acquisitions

Firstly, congrats on that accomplishment. Curious why you arent specifically looking for companies who need this very valuable experience (or are you?) If I had a company in this stage, i'd want to specifically find experience such as yours.

I’d love to. I mean, I still enjoy doing the work. But, I wouldn’t even know where to find such a job, nor how to convince someone that I’m qualified.

You need to work with a recruiter who specializes in these. They will be happy to have found you. DM me and I can tell you how to get noticed.

> So, I’m able to do something new.

What are you doing now? Where do you see good opportunities for people with good tech skills that don't fit the mold of what FAANG recruiters are looking for?

I am starting an educational media company for kids. And, I’m working on a video game, but who isn’t? ;)

> . Startups will advise you that you cannot possibly understand the complexity of the problem space they are solving because no one in the history of the industry has ever tried building complex software, which is why they are writing their own version of make in two week sprints.

This describes every project here https://github.com/uber

>"Startups will advise you that you cannot possibly understand the complexity of the problem space they are solving because no one in the history of the industry has ever tried building complex software, which is why they are writing their own version of make in two week sprints."

While this is indeed a sad state of affairs your articulation of it made me laugh out loud. Thanks for that.

Thanks for the reply. So what did you do? How did you move on and out?

I occasionally do some consulting but mostly manage a small portfolio of investments I made over the years which spins off enough income to be financially ok.

I don't have a CS degree, which is an immediate filter. I don't have any patents (due to a corporate edict). I made a small but apparently vocal group of enemies in a previous role (which I've written about previously but…never be the apex point of contact/control for a new technology in a F100 company if you can avoid it). On all the credential axes that recruiters / companies evaluate I'm a paper tiger.

To anyone offering advice to me personally: it’s been seven years since I worked FTE. Almost all companies (US at least) will not consider you for employment if you have not worked in the past three months, let alone six months or seven years. I know what your policies are, I'm just telling you what your practices are in reality.

I'm not looking for work. I am fine where I am. The industry is happy to pay to relearn the lessons I and others have learned instead of just…you know…paying people who’ve already had the experience.

And I'm at peace with that at this point.

I feel like my inbox is constantly full of recruiters directly from the big tech companies, and I'm nothing special at now 40.

Same for me, I’m 44 and the recruiters never stop messaging me.

I am 48 and passed the screening at a FAANG last year. The interview didn't go well but I was interviewed.

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