Hacker News new | comments | show | ask | jobs | submit login

I'm 60+. I've been coding my whole career and I'm still coding. Never hit a plateau in pay, but nonetheless, I've found the best way to ratchet up is to change jobs which has been sad, but true - I've left some pretty decent jobs because somebody else was willing to pay more. This has been true in every decade of my career.

There's been a constant push towards management that I've always resisted. People I've known who have gone into management generally didn't really want to be programming - it was just the means to kick start their careers. The same is true for any STEM field that isn't academic. If you want to go into management, do it, but if you don't and you're being pushed into it, talk to your boss. Any decent boss wants to keep good developers and will be happy to accomodate your desire to keep coding - they probably think they're doing you a favor by pushing you toward management.

I don't recommend becoming a specialist in any programming paradigm because you don't know what is coming next. Be a generalist, but keep learning everything you can. So far I've coded professionally in COBOL, Basic, Fortran, C, Ada, C++, APL, Java, Python, PERL, C#, Clojure and various assembly languages each one of which would have been tempting to become a specialist in. Somebody else pointed out that relearning the same thing over and over in new contexts gets old and that can be true, but I don't see how it can be avoided as long as there doesn't exist the "one true language". That said, I've got a neighbor about my age who still makes a great living as a COBOL programmer on legacy systems.

Now for the important part if you want to keep programming and you aren't an academic. If you want to make a living being a programmer, you can count on a decent living, but if you want to do well and have reasonable job security you've got to learn about and become an expert in something else - ideally something you're actually coding. Maybe it's banking, or process control, or contact management - it doesn't matter as long as it's something. As a developer, you are coding stuff that's important to somebody or they wouldn't be paying you to do it. Learn what you're coding beyond the level that you need just to get your work done. You almost for certain have access to resources since you need them to do your job, and if you don't figure out how to get them. Never stop learning.




My favorite reply so far. I'm 37 and am starting to worry. I haven't run into any issues yet.

I have noticed though that experience become a liability. If you wrote JavaScript for IE 6, a lot of the optimizations and things one did to make sure things worked in IE 6 are no longer necessary. One should be ready to let go of things as soon as they aren't necessary anymore. Always keep learning and know why you do the things you do with code.


Yes. Just keep leveling up, and one day you will be an ├╝ber-developer that can solve any problem by thinking about it for 2 weeks, then spend an afternoon writing a 100 line bash script.

Sort of. All that experience adds up.


It's funny: I was betting on WPF at the time but it seems dead now, with only some XAML knowledge transferable. Still have to do JS, but at least Angular doesn't suck too much.


Here's a tip: never bet on something proprietary.


Here's my 20+ years of experience working as a contract in Australia.

In all that time I've only ever worked with proprietary tools and have never had trouble getting high paying contract work.

I would say I've done very well betting on something proprietary.


Parent comment had to be qualified a bit: Never bet on anything proprietary which doesn't offer significant advantages over non-proprietary competitors.


Sliverlight would be a great example of that.


LOL. I know guys who have worked the last 20 years on Oracle, and they'll have no trouble finding work for 20 more. The same for Visual C++. Or a whole host of other things. The world isn't as simple as GNU ideology would have you believe.


Yeah, like that article from yesterday about the Perl6 guys doubling down because in 18 months when Perl6 was done, the speaking/writing/consulting gravy train was coming...


I've always done this naturally, some days I read a blurb about some technology I used to use and realize, huh, I used to do that all the time but haven't touched it in years.

I think one of the key things is to have a passion for learning. I've always been bored doing the same thing over and over. Learning new technologies, design patterns, architectures, skills, etc is what interest me. That also, coincidentally, is what keeps me up to date and productive.


Whole-heartedly agree with this post. I will be 58 this year, and have been a developer for the last 20 years, after having been in academia for the first part of my career. As you say, the key is to never stop learning.


I've been a little worried about the plateau, because I am 30 and have a fairly high salary as it is. I suppose on one hand it's good to know that perhaps the plateau isn't as serious a problem as I thought it was, since there's a little bit of rumbling pressure for me to start that journey to management (which, to be honest, I don't know if I'm a good fit for since I'm not exactly a "people person")


I really don't understand why a plateau is such a bad thing when you're already paid a high salary. It's a strange culture that you have to have a raise every single year (beyond inflation).


Kids are expensive. They become more expensive as they age.


You do. One change as one gets older is you become more accepting as who you are. A high pay senior engineer is not a bad place to be. I used to read about all these entrepreneur stories and wonder why I isn't one of them. Now I accepted that I do not really have the caliber and leadership. I admire and I'm happy to work with those young entrepreneur who are so talented.


This is great for me to read. I'm 37 and I didn't graduate from college until I was 30 so I'm constantly worried that I will soon lose relevancy. However, even though my experience is on par with a developer ten years my junior, I often find that my age can sometimes give me an advantage. I'm less affected by politics, more able to see the big picture, and occasionally looked up to even by those I work for. That said, I don't have a family so I am still free to work long hours if I want and spend my free time in pursuit of whatever I want.


Yeah I have to agree - I'm in my mid-50s and this is my experience - I've changed what I do roughly every decade or so - compilers, chip design, satellite protocols, embedded everything, board design, all round kernel hack - keeping your skills fresh is very important, it stops you getting burned out and bored


I am glad to hear that generalists are as valued as specialists. At my company, it's the other way around.


Hello, future me. It was nice to see you time traveling.


Great answer!

Just for curiosity, detracting from the original topic, what was your favorite language to code professionally?


Clojure, hands down.




Guidelines | FAQ | Support | API | Security | Lists | Bookmarklet | Legal | Apply to YC | Contact

Search: