He had a PhD in physics and then became a professional chess player (44th in the world IIRC). He hadn't done much programming, but I knew him from high school and figured someone as smart as him could learn to program pretty quickly. Which is exactly what happened. Now he's a CS researcher.
Tech is not any different from other professional fields like law, medicine, engineering, etc., other than being a much younger industry.
Being a much younger industry, it is easy for the young people in tech to believe that one must be young to succeed in tech. But in reality it's a sort of "anthropic principle"--obviously a young industry will be filled with young people in its early days.
But, those days are over, and the industry it maturing. With each passing year it gets easier and easier for older folks to break into tech.
Can they become dynamic founders of aggressive, entrepreneurial, successful companies? The answer is still yes, to the extent that anyone can do that. That type of talent is very rare generally, so it will also be very rare in older workers. But certainly there are examples of older workers who start hot tech companies. Marc Benioff was 35 when he started Salesforce. Martin Eberhard was 43 when he started Tesla.
My biggest fear career-wise is that, should my company go under or sell for non-FU money, I am basically un-hireable. I feel like I am a founder until death or retirement now. Most of me is fine with that because I love it, but part of me would like having the other option.
I even wonder if being an older founder makes it hard to hire young talent or raise money. Dave McClure even said on TWiS that they don't even want founders over 40 in their accelerator.
Fortunately, I've got plenty of skills, experience and I look younger than I am (I pluck the gray hairs out of my beard). We shall see ...
This is the same for any high competition job and I think Wall Street is a perfect example for this because it is very similar in practice.
There are way more parallels between Wall Street and Silicon Valley than I think either group would care to admit.
Obviously a top tier company’s roster doesn’t look like this. But it was interesting to see how much the job market for developers has changed. This is my first time looking for a new job in 7 years. Clearly the demand for tech has changed the landscape and made lots of opportunities for middle aged people with little to no experience.
I recently quit my job to run my own business, and I returned to programming for a living once again.
Some observations on the differences between the 22 year old me in grad school and the 41 year old me as a programmer:
In terms of raw stamina to power though writing code, 22 year old me won hands down. I recall taking about 45-90 days to churn out a 35KLOC piece of Java code, One sprint during those 90 days was a 48-hour non-stop effort. I still have that code, and although it still works (with some changes) it's not the best code I've written. 41 year old me can barely manage 10 hours a day of coding before being too tired to continue. But I'm an order of magnitude more effective in getting the job done. And several orders of magnitude better at estimating how long a programming task will take. This happens because I've developed an intuition over the years for avoiding design and coding paths that are 'risky' -- no threads in my code, for example.
To address your point of perception of others that you are moving downwards, there certainly seems to be a perception of it. Early in my business endeavors, I'd pitch my services directly as a contract programmer, and I found that folks would be very reluctant to hire me - especially as the resume had several years of marketing and product management on it. I also suspect they may have inferred that I was expensive. Not true. But that was the perception.
I changed tactics a little later. I would pitch similar services as a firm (with me as founder), and sales process went swimmingly! Now the resume, with a decade of experience in management at large tech companies and the MBA, would open the door to the CEO/SVP level.
In addition, many of my early referrals came from folks in my network who knew me as a 22-year old and were in CEO/VP positions themselves, and were glad to refer me to their colleagues.
So, my advice to you, would be to not handicap yourself by competing on the same playing field as your younger competitors. Simply competing on pure programming prowess, even if you're good, would take away your strengths. Just change the game. Use the management experience you have to your advantage.
I've been tacking towards "out of management" for a few years and it is not easy. Taking a "step down" is hard but only because of my own petty status-seeking and I've gotten past that. What I can't figure out is the salary problem. There are some developers who can get paid as well as I do, but not any in my industry where developers are a pure cost-center - I don't work in a software company. Changing industry with 7 year old tech skills (aside from open-source and side-projects) without taking a huge salary cut is impossible.
It was a great learning experience though, because before I became a manager I thought that was like a natural progression, something that I had to do, something that I felt I couldn't shirk from, something where people recognized me for my skills, but in reality it's just a shit job, a dead end, unless you're one of the few who advances up the latter, because you know what, all of my managers and my manager's managers were all just relaying their manager's will down the pyramid.
When you are a software engineer you see things you do create value. You build things that work and do stuff. When you're a manager, I have no idea what I contributed. What did I do last week where I earned my pay? I have no idea.
Anyway, I'm glad I survived and am back to writing code. It involved getting a new job at a new place as soon as possible before I got too rusty. I was writing code at home all that time so that helped.
I was curious because I had heard for quite a number of people who had switched tracks from engineer to management and found it unsatisfying but they didn't go into as much detail as you did in your post.
It's similar to how you'll hear people in academia refer to "industry." It's a popular thing to put down.
The typical reasons why a developer might not like management are because you're spending more time with people instead of code, you're looking at the product at a higher level rather than dealing with the details of coding, you have to deal with more politics, and you might not have the tools to be successful (i.e. current set of employees were hired before you, not enough budget, other business decisions aren't compatible with success, etc.)
The appeal of being a manager to an engineer is the ability to allocate projects and work on the interesting stuff. Of course, very few managers get to actually do that-- it might be the 5 percent who have managerial titles but few or no reports, all of whom are pretty self-motivated.
No it doesn't matter. Go out and do what you want!
For the record, besides AT&T I've never used my social-network to get a job. All of them since have been cold-calls from them based on my public-LinkedIn, or me sending a company I'm interested in my LinkedIn profile... then I cross my fingers.
At first everyone kind of smiled, but then smiles disappeared, as it turned out he was much better than most in class. Additionally he had a better job than the rest in the class as well.
So I agree, the answer is yes -I guess.
(At 30, you're still quite hireable, but you do start losing options. Most of the options that disappear from 22 to 30 are of horrendously low quality. I hope that is also true from 30 to 40, 40 to 50, etc.)
I'm already having problems in my current career when prospective employers google me and find out I'm building up my GitHub account. They either think I'm going to leave immediately or they think that I'm trying to backdoor my way into a dev position at their company.
This happened to me twice this week and both places decided I was doing this before even asking me about what my goals were. I was laid off two weeks ago and really need some work, but it seems that right now I'm unhirable.
Good for 24 hours. Let me know if that doesn't work out.
Wow. It sounds like those are some crappy companies. Where are you located?
After 30, the quality of jobs that is available becomes higher but the quantity is lower. That has a lot to do with capitalism's pyramidal shape. There just aren't as many good, age-appropriate jobs, as there are bad ones.
Thus, you need to be open to a national search. I'll warn you ahead of time that many startups are absolutely shitty when it comes to relocation: either none or some ridiculously small amount like $2,500 (pre-tax!)-- a full-service move, for a 1BR apartment, will burn up more than that. If you ask for 2 months' spousal unemployment to be included in your relo-- which is just a reasonable request at "a certain age"-- most startups will balk. So you need to save up for that.
After 30, every job search might be national. Sometimes you need to go into a beastly expensive tech hub to get the job you want, and sometimes the best move is to get out of those places. Strategically, the best thing to do (if you can stomach the moves) is often to switch between being a bigger fish in a smaller pond and vice versa-- similar to the dynamic of alternating between tech jobs to bid up your autonomy level and technical achievement and finance jobs to bid up your salary.
I've been working remotely for the last 5 years now and wanted to keep that up.
I'm pretty comfortable with relocating and don't have the life-baggage that would make it expensive but I'm not going to do it for the career I'm about to leave. When I start looking for dev work I plan to do exactly what you said.
The danger is that it might become a reality. VCs are the analogue of the last generation's Hollywood entertainment executives and Hollywood's age discrimination culture is horrific. (As a writer, you're done by 50.) If we end up with the ageism problem that Hollywood has, when I am that age, I plan on shanking the parties responsible with dental tools.
Jus trying to make a quick buck
get outta this tech game but still no luck
need to make it before i turn thirty
before i end up old and dirty
I'd love to be able to make hip hop beats, or learn music production, or travel, or learn how to play the guitar. Those are all things that I think are more beautiful than programming or tech startups.