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What Happens to Older Developers? (christfollower.me)
357 points by dsirijus on Mar 19, 2014 | hide | past | web | favorite | 372 comments

I don't get it. This guy's resume says he's a double major of math/CS from Berkeley with high honors -- and apparently he's worked on pretty hardcore engineering projects.

    I've created a Linux distro of my own. Original and not a fork. 
    See articles on website. Geared towards CLI engineers.
    Patched and built about 1,800 packages myself. Supported 
    and customized standard distros as well.
    Double Bachelors in Math and Computer Science from U.C. Berkeley. 
    High Honors and Honors. Worked with Open Source
    since the 1980s. Led small teams in startup and similar environments.
    Considered to be good at writing and analysis of problems.
    Experience includes: Agile, Assembly, Back-End, BSD, C, CSS, Debian,
    FOSS, GIMP, HTTP, Java, Linux, Mathematics, Mint,
    MySQL, Octave (similar to Matlab), Open Source, Parser, Perl, PHP5,
    Python, Recruiting, Regex, Shell, SQLite3, Support,
    TCP/IP, Ubuntu, UNIX, Tcl/Tk, Teaching, Training, Transcoding, 
    VPS, Writing, XML, XSLT
What is wrong with Silicon Valley today that a person like him can't get a reliable job, and therefore is unable to live with medical healthcare, a reasonable place of residence, etc.?

edit: on the bright side, now that this post is on HN frontpage, I hope someone seeks this guy out and gives him a job. From what I can grasp, the quality of his code is pretty damn good.

So, if I saw a job description like that I would smell BS and never apply. Maybe handing off a resume like that gives the same smell.

You don't give resumes like this, you tailor your pitch to the company which is hiring.

If you are applying to a PHP job, then remove all the fluff and tell the employer that you are a PHP developer. Generalists dont' get hired, then don't be a generalist. Touching up your PHP skills should take a couple of weeks. ;)

I don't think there is a single thing right with his resume. Let's take the first line of his overview:

Software developer since the 1970s.

First of all, any development experience from the 70s is at best meaningless and at worst detrimental. Try teaching a Cobol programmer OOP and you'll find that they learn it slower than someone without that procedural coding experience. Second of all, the first line of your resume should not be to announce what protected class(es) you are in. Your resume shouldn't have "senior citizen" on it anymore than it should have your race, creed, religion or any other irrelevant facts on it.

Linux work started with the first kernel releases and continued through Slackware

So what? I used Slackware extensively in 1996 but the experience is meaningless. If I had that on my resume now it would tell anyone reading it that I'm probably resting on my laurels and probably have for decades.

Experience includes: Agile, Assembly, Back-End, BSD, C, CSS, Debian, FOSS, GIMP, HTTP, Java, Linux, Mathematics, Mint, MySQL, Octave (similar to Matlab), Open Source, Parser, Perl, PHP5, Python, Recruiting, Regex, Shell, SQLite3, Support, TCP/IP, Ubuntu, UNIX, Tcl/Tk, Teaching, Training, Transcoding, VPS, Writing, XML, XSLT

I've seen dozens of resumes that list dozens of technologies like this. Not even so much as a bold font weight to say the things they are masters of as opposed to "experience with". Early in my management career I hired a developer that had TCP/IP programming listed as a skill on her resume. After hiring her, I gave her the IP address of the server to do some TCP/IP programming. She asked, "What is IP address?"

As someone who is in their 40s, my advice to to someone without a job later in life is to drop all the extraneous things and focus on what you've done lately. Lose the moniker "old coder". Lose any technologies older than a decade from your resume. Lose any references to "35 years of experience with...". Take off your hobbies. Take off your reasons for leaving your past employment. There are too many other fixes needed to go into.

The interest is appreciated. However, we have different perspectives.

My 'C' experience dates back to 1976 and is probably still relevant. FWIW I never did much COBOL though my firm did have a COBOL-Lint.

I don't think that your 20 years of Linux experience, or mine, is "meaningless". Not if the experience has been continuous. And, in my case, I've not only used Linux almost daily since before Slackware existed, I've developed my own distro, I maintain copies of nearly 2,000 packages, and many of my copies have patches of my own design.

Regarding the "masters of" issue, I may not have made the "generalist" point in the post clear enough. I'm only a "master of" a few things. But I'm very good at getting back up to speed on the things that I've had "experience with".

This is what a generalist does.

I agree with the "Take off your reasons" point. I'm going to keep most of the rest. The difficulties that I'm facing are partly due to my own foolish mistakes. But they aren't about the fact that I've listed hobbies on my resume or that I have a nick that implies age.

I'm not going to pretend to be a twenty-something specialist. It isn't what I am. I'm a highly experienced generalist. In this context, the decades that you feel that I ought to hide are relevant.

If I was a recruiter, this would go in the not interested heap.

While some companies want generalists, this isn't tailored for that either. You indicate projects you've been on, but not what your specific responsibilities were. Describing the project's language, DB, and how the project is pipelined is not useful. What did -you- do? What experience do -you- now have that could translate to other projects? "Core was a Perl server that collected binary data from upstream devices, stored data using SQL, and relayed it to clients as XML over HTTP." tells me about the project, but not what -you- did, not what experiences -you- now have. Even better if you can highlight keywords for me. The whole 'typical projects' section is kind of a waste; it's project names that have no meaning to me, or which may, but tell me nothing about what technology you know. 'Email client programs'; does that mean you have familiarity with the various email protocols? TCP/IP? GUI development? Nothing anywhere else tells me what it is you know.

Most companies want to fill a niche. Highlight what niche you can fill (yes, preferably tailored for the company), and make that -obvious- in your resume.

In general, take this approach - assume a recruiter, HR person, etc, will spend 3 seconds looking at your resume before deciding whether to bin it, or continue reading it. They are looking to match a certain set of relevant keywords/terms. What message do you want to send to someone in three seconds/what words/terms do you want to be matched against? That should be what I as a reader get from the first sentence, the first item in your experience, and the first item in your skills.

The message you're currently sending is "Old coder, part of a large team that did...some stuff that isn't spelled out clearly, and generalist with a whole lot of bullet points". Not interested. But tell me "Perl, C, and Linux expert, extensive application development experience, double CS/Math major", and suddenly if I have a Perl or C codebase I'm interested. Right now I have to do too much reading and thinking to get that information out, and no recruiter will do that.

Also, in general, you are correct that there is a bias against age. You're making it so the first thing I notice is your age. Make it so the first thing I notice is your experience; make it clear that you fill the niche I have, that you may well be the ideal candidate for my needs, BEFORE I notice your age.

These points are sensible. But aren't you simply confirming what I said to begin with?

You're essentially saying that companies use checkbox filters to sift through applicants looking for specialists. Exactly what I was trying to say myself.

The solution that you propose is to create a targeted resume.

But I've worked on hundreds of projects. Many of which used technologies that are no longer relevant Is it possible for me to produce a tailored resume based on perhaps one project from 20 years ago that matches a specific niche?

It doesn't seem likely. So most firms are going to be out of reach. I'll need to acquire more specialties. Or identify firms that are interested in generalists.

You're making excuses. Stop it.

For some perspective... I'm 49. Last time I looked for a job (six months ago), I had two offers in less than two weeks. In general, I can get a job in no more than three weeks, just by answering the calls. And I don't think I'm all that special.

What I do have is a relevant resume, both buzzword compliant and impressive to humans who actually know their ass from a hole in the ground. It's carefully honed not to present me as a "generalist" (or some other self-perception), but to get me to the top of that pile for interviews.

Look at your resume as a piece of software. No matter how aesthetically pleasing and warmfuzzy your resume feels to you, if it isn't working, then it's buggy and needs fixed.

You are not a highly skilled generalist. That implies you are a master of everything. You are not because no one is. Being a master of a few things with experience with many things makes you a useful specialist. The proverbial T shaped person. This is a good thing.

Highlight the things you are actually very good at, put the rest as experience. It looks like you've written a lot of Perl, so you're highlight that. Highlight Linux package management. Despite what you think, these are specializations.

Yes; you're correct about the "highly skilled" part. I should edit the point. I'm a highly experienced generalist as opposed to a highly skilled one.

You're also correct about the fact that I do have a few specialties, including Linux and Perl. I'm pretty good at a number of languages, but Perl has been a favorite for 20 years.

Perl is friendly and fierce Perl all problems shall pierce Perl is the duct tape That holds together all things Of Perl we sings

Perl is all things beautiful and bright Perl is a magical sight Perl each day and each night


Site reliability engineering could be an option: fixing other people's code to work and run cheaper at scale.

For devs, it's important to have a github or similar because that's your real tech resume.

Btw I use Perl 7 (Ruby)

As a generalist myself, usually what other people consider "master of" I consider "back to speed in a few weeks." So I claim mastery on my resume because "mastery" is highly subjective.

For example, with my current position one of the reasons I got the job was that I claimed to be an expert with C++. Before jumping into this role it had been 5+ years since I had done any real work in C++. Shortly after joining I was asked to assist on a project written primarily in C++. Any time you join a new project there is some onboarding to learn how things are done in that project. I was able to get back to speed with the language and ecosystem within the period expected for onboarding. I was complimented on my expertise of C++.

I believe I am a seasoned software developer who has attained a fairly high level of mastery in the core skills required to build highly-complex software systems. Yet if I were to compare myself to some of my coworkers in the past I would be hesitant to call myself an expert on a particular subject like embedded programming (for example). However I claim to have this expertise on my resume as I have done quite a bit of embedded work in the past and I am familiar enough with that type of development to ramp up quickly again.

So even though I perceive myself as a generalist, many times my resume looks like that of a specialist. I am comfortable making these claims because I know I can deliver on them. You have to separate your self-evaluation (in which I tend to take a humble view of my abilities: that which I do not know vastly outweighs that which I do) from your self-presentation (in which I will make the boldest claim I believe I can support). Long years of experience are extremely relevant, but you have to connect the dots on your resume, you can't rely on the recruiter or hiring manager to see the intrinsic benefit of your experience.

You sound like a "T-shaped" guy: Broad knowledge and skills, with actual expertise of a few areas. Some companies, such as Valve, actually seek that. Have you sought them out? (I'm guessing that you have, but who knows…)

T-shaped is a good term. Thanks, I'll remember it.

I'm only now learning the ropes as far as some things go. I haven't sought out firms of that type yet and advice would be appreciated.

Here's how I look at it: The only job of your resume is to get an interview. So whether the knowledge is relevant doesn't matter - the only question is whether it'll help you'll get to the interview. And from that view, I agree with your parent and 300bps' comments.

Over time, it's hard not to become a highly experienced generalist if you're good at what you do.

When a developer starts out its easy to find and beat a tribal drum of specializing in a few things.

This is often due to only having one or two cycles of learning and experiencing "a few years specializing in x". Add to the mix the veiled glorification of the twenties as a magical time to go hard (where ultimately everyone goes home), it can become an incredibly distracting echo chamber that one has arrived.

Something happens every few years though on the path of being a specialist, you get deep enough into one skill that it overlaps into another skill. The specific few skills collected in the first few years, become a specific 5-10 with equal depth.

Take someone who has developed 15 to 40 years and imagine how many cycles of learning they have been through to implement similar algorithms in multiple syntaxes.

That's someone I want to learn from when I shape my aporoaches, instead of having to feed my own snowflake quotient to relearn the same lessons before me.

As a polyglot, I've been programing for 20 years and am only in my mid-30's. Most developers will end up the same. way I've ended up with enough web, desktop and mobile development, along with the hardware and networking experience that building these solutions once required in addition to programming alone. It's full stack across hardware and software and networking, not the full-stack of frontend and backend dev that specialists espouse as full stack. I sure as hell didn't plan on this path, maybe it's the path of a lifelong problem solver.

One thing that some twenty something specialists may not yet have noticed is that programming is a separate skill from the syntax of any given language. The experience of figuring out how to do what you already know in a new syntax. It seems there can be more fascination in recreating libraries that have existed for decades, but not what the next leap is.

There's a fundamental mistake most recruiters are making too. They aren't qualified or trained to hire for technical positions. In the hiring I do and references I give, recruiters are generally clueless without their checklist. Programming isn't a skill like knowing how to drive a forklift. It's much deeper, and with the correct type of polyglot developer much more transferable between languages.

I'm inclined to work with an experienced generalist more often than not because I prefer to work with others who not only keep up, but help lead the strategic charge. Depending on the problem, younger specialists often go through relearning what experience has already taught. Both skillsets are valuable and necessary on any team, but I have my preference.

My advice, is to consider focus on a highly fluid and evolving area of technology that is in high demand, pays well, and you can effortlessly pick up. It's where you're talents shine. One area is mobile development. Build some projects and spin current skills into the next area. It will better highlight your ability to integrate everything from top to bottom.

I admire and am in respect of your experience and journey through creating so many solutions. If there's an interest to connect offline I'd love to learn more about your story to see if I may be able to help and if I may be able to learn more from your experience.

Will anyone who is half good at what they do will end up in any different situation than this in 20 years? Our creators need to keep creating. Maybe there is an evolution and growth needed in our field for the highly experienced.

"any development experience from the 70s is at best meaningless and at worst detrimental"

"but the experience is meaningless"

Taking that approach, almost all experiences are 'meaningless' in the context of "i need someone to do these exact steps XYZ". But, as someone who was programming (hobby) in the 80s, I think there's some value here (and of course I don't think it's purely defensive and me-focused, but maybe it is).

You mentioned elsewhere "Drop the me of 30 years ago into the technology environment of today and I would be completely lost." Perhaps, but many people today are completely lost too. The "you" of 30 years ago had characteristics - curiosity, problem-solving, etc - that informed the experiences. Over time, perseverance was demonstrated with an accumulation of related experiences.

The specific experiences of programming in 1985 are not relevant to most problems of today, but a demonstrated history of successful logical thinking applied to a variety of computers/data/projects is not irrelevant nor meaningless.

EDIT: Rereading the second half of your post, I agree with you on the second half - drop hobbies, drop older tech references, etc - lose the extraneous stuff in general from general purpose resumes. Lose date references in general, I think (graduation dates, etc). Focus on things that are relevant to modern work practices/tools.

Perhaps you were meaning all that older stuff is meaningless in terms of a resume? I agree. It's the sort of stuff that might come out in an interview or two, depending on who you're talking with. Telling a 24 year old about doing C64 assembly programming does no good, and wastes time - that is essentially meaningless in terms of general tech job hunting. There are rooms for these nuggets, but you need to be selective.

The "you" of 30 years ago had characteristics - curiosity, problem-solving, etc - that informed the experiences.

As I said in that other comment, I see the basis of your argument. Having learned many languages over a 30 year time frame shows you probably are a hard worker that keeps their skills up to date.

You know what shows that with almost no doubt though? When you submit a resume to an employer in 2014 and you show a mastery of commonly used 2014 technologies. That literally is the only thing that matters to most employers.

So yeah, if one (not speaking of OP) does not have experience with modern languages or frameworks for whatever reason, you can make an argument that your previous experience might hint that you possess desirable traits. But unless you're looking for maintenance job on some old Cobol or C code, there's nothing betting than keeping your skills up to date continuously which proves you have those desirable traits.

Again, in principle I don't disagree with your point. The danger is in the reverse - someone hired because they know tech 2013X, but don't really know how to do anything else with it, nor how to problem solve. At the same time, someone with 20 years of experience who perhaps just finished up working with tech from 2010, because that's what that client/company was using, and gets ignored as "not modern".

But your bigger point - yes - have modern skills, and being able to show those with relatively current tech is the best way to go. Personally, I'd take someone who is older but within a few years of current tech vs less experiences with only modern tech. 8 years of Java and Ruby with experience up to Rails 3 vs 1 year of Rails 4 only? Should be a no brainer for most situations, unless the job is "writing Rails 4 tutorials" ;)

There's a huge spectrum of middle ground there, and good companies/recruiters should be able to divine that. ("should" being the operative word).

There's a big difference between listing Rails (a new technology -even rails 1 is a new technology- that is currently widely used), and listing COBOL. Don't even bother listing cobol/perl/whatever unless the company you are using uses those technologies.

I think it's more about being able to distinguish skills from products. Products become obsolete, skills do not.

You have dBase II experience? Not relevant.

You have experience building database-backed interactive applications in resource-constrained environments? Could be quite relevant, with the rise of mobile.

So: go through the list of products and cull the old ones, but as you do so, ask yourself what you learned from using each.

I think it's probably best to split the job search into two bits.

a) The bit where some recruiter is looking through CV's. b) The bit when you talk to the gaffer.

I agree with the 'drop everything off a cv' line. Most recruiters have at best a basic understanding of IT buzzwords and next to no IQ. Keep it simple, sell yourself as the answer to the problem and save the interesting chat about what you did in 1987 for more important people.

> First of all, any development experience from the 70s is at best meaningless and at worst detrimental.

"Hmm, this Brian Kernighan fellow is going in the reject pile, since he worked with this 'UNIX' and this 'C' in the 1970's, and clearly his experience is at best meaningless and at worst detrimental. And this Vint Cerf character... we don't want to hire someone who didn't grow up using the internet!"

This sort of thinking is toxic to the industry, and prevents software development from becoming a proper engineering field. It prevents the development of institutional knowledge and stagnates forward progress. It's why the industry keeps rehashing the same memes in new fashions. It's why everyone thinks the latest JS shit is cutting edge, when it's just a warmed over re-skinning of fundamentally 1980's technology: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Self_%28programming_language%29.

Every generation thinks their ideas are new. When in reality it's all the same thing, just recycled. Sure computers are smaller, faster, and cheaper - but fundamentally, the systems today are the same as the systems in 1985.

We have 4th generation languages today that are really just front-ends to c; created to make it easier for the masses to write code. Which is a good thing, cause I'm 50, and I remember the days working in the cold, dark basement walled off from the rest of the company.

I find it funny listening to the "youngsters" talking about the great new thing of today; be it agile, the cloud, or whatever. But I remember I was saying the same type of bs when I was 25.

Why's Brian Kernighan's resume going in the slush pile with everybody else's.

"Try teaching a Cobol programmer OOP and you'll find that they learn it slower than someone without that procedural coding experience."

Have you any evidence to back this up, as it sound like rubbish to me. I learned Java as my first language, and basically used it as a procedural language, until the OOP parts started to make sense. I don't see how knowing COBOL will make you slower at learning an OOP language.

> I don't see how knowing COBOL will make you slower at learning an OOP language.

what a lot of employers don't want to do is to pay somebody to learn on the job. It sucks, because such an employer is a good one, but to people who don't care, and is in need of a job getting done, they just see it as extra cost and lost productivity. Why hire somebody smart who can learn fast (and thus can adapt to new roles as they come), when you can pay someone with the _exact_ experience at solving your current problem!

Of course, this is probably a major contributing factor to companies having trouble hiring programmers. Finding someone with the exact experience of your current problem is actually pretty difficult.

Its kind of stupid really.

In my past maintenance programming jobs, I would say it took 6 months to get up to speed. I would put less than two months of that down to new languages. Most of it is getting to know the code that is already written (and usually poorly documented) and some of it is gaining domain knowledge.

Had to reply, could not agree more. People may hate it but there is an art to writing a resume and it's focus, just like a company needs to focus, so do you to get a job.

It's a fact of life that resumes are crucial and that structure makes a difference. But I've noticed that people often disagree about approaches.

This particular resume is based on a template that people in a channel liked. I've received a number of compliments IRL regarding both the layout and the content.

The only thing that people IRL seem to agree should go is the part about reasons for leaving.

The resume does need a new release. For example, I should start to fill in the years after 2009. But it isn't the resume that's the primary issue here. It's the fact that the market has shifted away from generalists, combined with mistakes that I've made.

FWIW, I've heard multiple recruiters and managers/directors compliment me on my resume style [1]. It's a bit more narrative and a bit less focused on bulleting out skills. This seems to attract more progressive forward thinkers (if you're into those sorts of companies).

At the same time, it does highlight my skills at the top of each area of experience, so some developers reading my resume may skim over the narrative part, focusing on the listed skills. So it works for them too.

It's also quite honest in a few areas that may turn off some people, but to me, it turns off the right people (those I don't want to work for).

[1] Check it out in my profile if you're interested.

That sounds about right. In my experience most recruiters are only capable of matching two words, with very little understanding of what the words actually mean. They have no idea that RDBMS / Oracle/ SQL are synonymous to a degree.

Be careful about trusting compliments people give you when they're physically standing in front of you. When people are looking you in the eye, they tend to tell you what they think you want to hear. Online communication creates a distance that makes people more likely to speak their mind.

Do you write your resumes to get compliments or to get job interviews?

And what are those mistakes you keep alluding to?

Are you saying that in 30 years all experience you have accumulated up to now will be completely irrelevant? It all depends on how continuous and recent your "current" expertise is. Someone 10 years retired suddenly looking for a job will do worse. Someone who had been actively honing their skills for 30-40 years is going to be the rockstar everyone wants and cannot find.

Think about it this way: would you rather have a fresh out of school or a veteran mechanic work on your car?

Are you saying that in 30 years all experience you have accumulated up to now will be completely irrelevant?

30 years ago I was coding in BASIC and 6502 Assembly on my Commodore 64. That's also around the time I got my first modem - a Mitey Mo 300 bps modem on my Commodore 64. It was before the Hayes Compatible days of modems so you had to POKE and PEEK registers to control it or get data from it.

To answer your question, that experience is totally irrelevant. Drop the me of 30 years ago into the technology environment of today and I would be completely lost.

I've been in IT professionally since I was 17 years old. The hardest lesson I had to learn was to let go of the past. Almost every major mistake I've made in my career was caused by me wanting to stay in the comfort zone of already known technologies. My years of installing Novell Netware 2.15 off 360k floppies just aren't relevant to the MVC web coding I do today. I was a Certified Netware Engineer (CNE) in 1990. It was the hottest technical certification on the planet back then. Should I put that on my resume today? Of course not, it's totally irrelevant.

The years I spent with Borland Turbo-C, Borland C++, Turbo-PASCAL, etc. just aren't relevant either. In fact, my opinion is that knowing those languages made it harder to learn newer languages. One could argue that listing 100 languages shows the skill to learn new languages but nothing shows that better than being an expert at a modern language. There's no better thing for an old coder than to really master a modern language and framework and to present that succinctly on their resume.

Think about it this way: would you rather have a fresh out of school or a veteran mechanic work on your car?

This is actually a good analogy, but says the opposite of what you think it does. If I had an old out of date car, I'd want the veteran mechanic to work on it. If I had a modern car run by computer chips, I'd want the guy fresh out of school.

25 years ago, I was programming in C, Scheme, Common Lisp and Prolog (some Pascal, too, but I don't think that has aged as well).

Drop me of 25 years ago into today's coding environment, everything is just a lot easier. Java is intentionally designed to be as close to C syntax as possible, but much easier to get right (garbage collection!). For a class project, we implemented an object system in Scheme, so I understood OO concepts, again much easier today when it's already baked into a language. Ruby, Python and Javascript don't have much beyond what was in Scheme and CL back then in terms of concepts, just maps the same concepts to an Algol syntax. Prolog concepts show up in various languages from time to time (pattern matching in functional languages seems to match the part of my brain I remember using when writing Prolog).

Source code management, IDEs, continuous integration, all things that just make a developer's life easier than back then.

So, no, frankly, I honestly don't think the me of 25 years ago would have much trouble getting up to speed and being productive writing code today. What the me of today offers over the me of 25 years ago is skills for thinking about big picture design and architecture, building software as part of a team, understanding requirements, estimation and planning. The technology part, though, certainly isn't harder to understand today than it was back then.

> My years of installing Novell Netware 2.15 off 360k floppies just aren't relevant to the MVC web coding I do today.

The deep and abiding irony of your post is that MVC was invented in the 1970's for Smalltalk.

> One could argue that listing 100 languages shows the skill to learn new languages but nothing shows that better than being an expert at a modern language.

Unless by "modern language" you mean Idris or Agda or the like, you're barking up the wrong tree.

> This is actually a good analogy, but says the opposite of what you think it does. If I had an old out of date car, I'd want the veteran mechanic to work on it. If I had a modern car run by computer chips, I'd want the guy fresh out of school.

The more appropriate analogy in reference to Ruby/Python/JS/etc is that you bring a 1980's Chevette into the shop on top of which you've glued the sheetmetal from a late-model Aveo.

Sorry, I don't agree. I have not been in the industry for 30 years, but I have been programming since a very young age on similar hardware to your Commodore 64. No I cannot translate the skills I learned when writing Basic for that 8 bit architecture directly to the modern web app project I am working on. I can however relate better to memory constrained environments such as Arduino's and MSP430's. I can say that getting started with a very limited piece of hardware and a very limited language did get my interest peaked to keep exploring what I could do.

Later I got into Linux and FreeBSD. While I have never worked with any BSD professionally (other than OS X, but that doesn't count), I do think that knowing how FreeBSD works makes me a better Linux user/admin/developer. Certain ideas (kqueue, core system vs packages, etc.) are good concepts to keep in mind when developing for a platform that does not have them.

I also learned Turbo-PASCAL and used Delphi for a spell. While not directly relevant, they did have quite an influence on today's languages and development environments. NetBeans which I did use professionally for a bit was a far cry form Deplhi but knowing both made NetBeans easier to use.

But all that aside, the point of having years of experience is not about enhancing your current knowledge. It's about enhancing the process of acquiring knowledge, organizing it, and using it. Someone that knows JavaScript is going to get coded under the table by someone who knows JavaScript, C, Haskell, Erlang, Lisp, Python, etc. In fact I would wager that someone who knew C, Haskell, Erlang, Lisp, and Python but not JavaScript would in the long run beat out a JavaScript expert simply because the penalty to learn a new paradigm is much smaller than perceived, while the benefit of being able to think in a multi-paradigm fashion is a huge benefit.

Finally, the mechanic thing: I am comparing a veteran mechanic, with say 20 years experience, including current experience with latest cars vs a mechanic with 1 year experience with just modern cars. I listen to CarTalk, the NPR program, and they had a few very interesting stories on there. For example, there was a woman who called and said that whenever she turned on the fans in her car it smelled like gasoline and it very often happened after she got her car worked on at the dealership. The suggested reason was that when the mechanic worked on it, he put dirty parts on the cowl of the car where the air intake is and some gasoline and oil dripped into it. This is something experience teaches you and it has nothing to do with the modern chips.

"One could argue that listing 100 languages shows the skill to learn new languages but nothing shows that better than being an expert at a modern language."

I think it's important to show both breadth and depth, and to be up front about how much you have of each. I don't list every language I've ever touched, but those I've used at least recently enough to be able to brush up on quickly I group into three categories ("fluent", "conversant", "familiar").

> The years I spent with Borland Turbo-C, Borland C++, Turbo-PASCAL, etc. just aren't relevant either.

Actually, my experience with Turbo Pascal helped a great deal when I moved on to Java. And I still believe that Turbo Pascal, in particular, would have been a tremendous help if I opted to pick up C#, because one of the leads of TP is one of the designers of C#.

I've been working at a large dotcom lately and one thing I've noticed is how much enterprise Java code starts to resemble Cobol after enough time. "Separation of Concerns" starts to look like Cobol's "Divisions," excessive amounts of boilerplate, etc.

Comments that add no value while the hard stuff isn't documented: knowledge hoarding.

Over-engineered, massive codebases: job security.

>> Lose any technologies older than a decade from your resume. Lose any references to "35 years of experience with...". Take off your hobbies. Take off your reasons for leaving your past employment. There are too many other fixes needed to go into.

And in that process lose any traits that might command a premium? Do senior developers not deserve to be compensated according to their experience?

You tailor your CV to the job. The CV is to get you the interview. The interview is to get you the job. The pay negotiations happen later.

Any job is a premium over "jack shit."

300, can you recommend a preferred way of listing technologies on a resume? I've struggled with how to show what I'm proficient at, versus what I'm only familiar with. Mainly because I don't want to be the only resume admitting only slight knowledge of tech x,y,z whereas everyone else is "experienced with" them.

Then drop the `slight knowledge of' bits. Resumes are not judged by number of bullet points. Just like with any writing, a big part of success is to cut, cut, cut.

I advise you to also: "Take off the bureaucratic hats".

If a developer has source code/projects available, why only look at his resume? Look at what he's DONE, and take your judgment from there.

also, quite important to the style: leave that 1st person "I" away. Every time when I read a resume like this I see a much overrated person, full of him/herself, former glory seeking new validation, etc. A big sign DON'T HIRE.

Hints: make it simple, objective, no complex sentence structures, just information to the job and assignment. Use nice fonts and do not clutter the information, structure it with max 2 headings.

So you see how difficult it is to please armchair psychologists: leaving out the first person pronoun from sentences is also considered bad style by some (with the suggested pseudo objectivity). Others conclude even that the person has no self esteem etc etc.

A resume is about the person presenting him/herself, isn't it?

I personally leave out "I", but yes, I have seen HR professionals suggest that you leave it in for the reasons you just stated (lack of self-confidence).

This is why it's important for hiring companies to have an open mind, for both their sake and the candidate's. Yes, a resume should be well-written, to the point, and free of errors, but realizing that everyone has their own idiosyncrasies will go a long way.

Agree with rewording the narrative part but not sure yet of the best way to handle some parts.

An advice I have been given is, "don't break expectations". I'm not talking about the content, which can easily have good surprises. I'm talking about the form. There, conformity is probably king. This means things like being a young white male with short hair.

Breaking conventions in your résumé can elicit positive reactions, or catch someone's attention. But it will often elicit such a strong negative reaction that your reader even look at the content. This thread alone contains examples of this.

For instance, saying "I" in the resume is breaking a convention. Nobody will reject you for not writing "I". But some will reject you for being cocky or narcissistic, or whatever. Same for your recommendation citation. It is not expected in the résumé, it is expected in a separate reference. (Edit: that last one may be an obviously good surprise, though.)

Try making a boring, conventional résumé. It should give you a second point of reference, and may help you out of a local maximum.

> you tailor your pitch to the company which is hiring.

This specific point is very important. Design your resume to save time for the recruiter. The recruiter has hundreds of resumes to parse. If you make the case you are a great match for the job opening in the first paragraph your chances of being noticed increase enormously. You are not telling who you are - you are selling a solution to a specific problem.

> If you are applying to a PHP job

There is little point in mentioning you wrote key parts of MVS/370 because the recruiter will have no idea what it is. If the company uses Ruby on Rails a demonstration of your expertise with JBOSS will be (correctly) treated as noise.

I think knowing C makes me a better Python programmer, but unless the job asks for it, I wouldn't mention it before the first technical interview with someone who agrees knowing C makes someone a better programmer.

Tip: using a spreadsheet to keep CV parts saves a ton of time.

Tip 2: find out who the recruiter is. If you can understand more about the person and his/her expectations and background, you may fine tune your CV even more perfectly.

I used to think that the cover letter was where I could point to the parts of my resume that were very specific for the job. But I've done more than a few online applications recently that simply didn't have a place for a cover letter.

The cover letter also should be designed to save time for the recruiter. Make space for some very targeted items (name, company, position) so it doesn't look like you are sending exactly the same to every recruiter, but don't make the mistake of spending more than 15 minutes on each letter.

Since you don't know which one, the letter or the CV, will be read first, you should optimize both.

Recruiter here, and this is exactly right. Three good sentences in a 'cover letter' and you won't even make me need to read the resume at all. You should be able to do it in under five minutes.

I wrote an article a few weeks ago on the same topic which is relevant (http://lifehacker.com/tips-from-a-recruiter-dont-make-me-rea...)

Why do some companies not accept cover letters at all (and you really only find this out after you have applied)?

First, if you are exclusively (or primarily) applying through online applications I'd strong suggest you reconsider your search strategy. That strategy is not nearly as effective as getting in through a side door - the front door is crowded, and the bottleneck tends to get most candidates ignored. These online applications, with some exceptions, are usually the resumes that get only a few seconds to make an impact - you might lose your reader in the first few sentences (note: I haven't worked in big company recruiting from an internal role, but this is pretty widely acknowledged and studies have been released confirming how little time is given to a resume in these conditions).

Why do some companies not accept cover letters? For one, nobody wants to read them. Keep in mind, nobody wants to read cover letters OR resumes. They want to have a conversation, and they want to be able to determine as quickly and accurately as possible whether or not that conversation is worth having. This can be quite prone to bias.

Most cover letters simply reiterate what the resume says, but in a condensed format, along with some fluff about how hard they work and how strong their soft skills are. It's usually fairly pointless, and some companies ask for them as a bit of a test of your interest. Companies that don't ask for them likely don't feel they are useful, and would rather have their recruiters looking at resumes (and hopefully actually having conversations) than reading traditional formatted letters.

Investor interest and hiring manager interest has this in common: inbound to the candidate is far better than shaking bushes. Even YC alum mentioned how outbound is basically desperate and futile. Not that it can't be done, it's that the probability is much lower.

Cover letter is the TL;DR as how the resume applies to the req with 2-3 top selling points. The resume is like a marketing specifications sheet to sell a phone chat. Etc.

They don't even give me a place to put a cover letter. Last week I spent a half-hour writing a cover letter, and then went through the application and there was no place to put it.

Since most online systems require a doc or pdf format, I've started combining my cover letter and resume into a single pdf. If there's room for both in an application then I'll submit two individual pdfs, but if there's only room for one attachment then I submit the concatenated pdf.

If that's the case, the problem is simpler. You just optimize the resume.

Put a small 'summary' at the top of the resume. I do recruiting 'part-time' for work. Mainly non-computer positions but still in a very specific field. Summaries like this really help. Especially if I'm trying to look through 100+ resumes in an hour or two.

Exactly - you want a generalist background so that you can do many things, but a specialist resume tailored to the job you're applying to. The goal is to be "the perfect fit" rather than "someone who can do this."

> Tip: using a spreadsheet to keep CV parts saves a ton of time.

I usually keep it all in one LaTeX file, and abuse that as my macro processor (to include / exclude sections). Text files work well with version control.

I would always hire an experienced generalist first. Being generalist means being smart and fast learner, and those are IMHO the crucial skills for any small or medium sized team. You will end up in new and unexpected situations here and there and the "specialist" mindset is not very good in dealing with this. You need a generalist to come up with the best hack, simply because he has a much wider perspective...

The problem is that you'll never see the generalist's CV. The gatekeepers ahead of you (HR or recruiters) will always find someone with more of the right keywords or more of the desired experience to push first.

You might also end up with a jack of all trades - master of none. They often appear competent at first, but will fail once stackoverflow and their $LANG cookbook doesn't have a copy and paste answer. This does probably not apply to OP obviously.

not all generalists fit this stereotype. it is possible to be a generalist and not be a copy/paste drone

Of course, but who do you tell which is which just from a resume of an otherwise unknown person?

It's tough; when I was doing tons of tech screens a few years ago working for a consulting firm, I got pretty decent at picking out good resumes more than half the time. Mind you this was not my full time job. But you really need to do quite a bit of resume reading and phone screens before you get a good feel for it.

so, experience will get you so far.

Excellent point. And, conversely, how do I demonstrate, on my resume, that I'm proficient as a generalist without listing the things that specialist-oriented readers here suggest that I omit?

Look at the generalist's source code to make sure it's coherent and original. It's not a problem if they use something online as a model, especially when they're unfamiliar with an API or something, as long as they understand what they're doing. Also, good generalists tend to be more prolific when it comes to entrepreneurial endeavors, so look for a bunch of original side projects. What's most important with a generalist is his creativity and ability to learn a new technology. How he does this is not really important as long as he can do it. But originality in side projects probably indicates a desire for originality in code as well.

Yes, they will make it if they are interviewed. But I thought we were talking about a situation where the recruiter needs to decide which people are invited to an interview? And than its much more difficult because in some situations you can't read the code of all applicants for volume alone.

You interview them, just like we do for every unknown person. If you don't want to take the time to do that, then you do a quick search for work they've done, and then come back to the 'do I want to interview this person?' question. Ask them what their timeline for having a job is. Tell them that the interview will involve coding on this specific thing, give them weeks or a month to prepare for it.

Help your candidates do the best they can. Don't set them up to fail at a task they weren't expecting.

One of 'pg essays is about this. So finding low risk / low investment ways to work with someone solving a real problem cuts through most of the bullshit.


> Maybe handing off a resume like that gives the same smell.

And taking 2 minutes to actually look up the references is obviously too much work for a very hard working and responsible HR specialist.

That's 2 minutes for each of the hundreds, possibly thousands, of resumes that the hard working and responsible HR specialist has to sift through.

It's triage. If you're in the stack, make sure you obviously belong in the next, smaller, stack. Repeat until you get an interview.

If you get hundreds of resumes as a HR specialist for the programming jobs you offer, any claim that there is a shortage of programmers for your company is a big lie.

Could be a shortage of qualified candidates. Just cause hundreds of people apply doesn't mean that even 10s of good candidates apply.

If you're passing over qualified candidates because you fail at sorting the wheat from the chaff, then the 'shortage' is not due to the market...

Then the company should better advertise more exactly in its job ads what they expect from their candidates so that less unqualified applicants submit their applications (while - of course - not preventing suitable candidates to submit their applications). Is this nontrivial? Surely it is; but that's why HR is a distinctive position in most companies.

If you want to learn more about this topic, begin reading about statistics - especially type I errors and type II errors, since this is the mathematical formulation of the topic I was talking about in the previous paragraph.

A shortage of qualified candidates is an indicator that your stated salary range doesn't line up with the market rate for your job description.


I applied for a position at a company a year ago and was a great fit (both from my perspective and a company rep) but my salary expectation was higher than their budget. That position remained open on their website until about a week ago. What happened a week ago? They sent an email to my almamater highlighting the position and included their current salary range. Guess what - the salary I was asking for last year fell smack in the middle of that range and they were inundated with applications!

edit: silly typos!

Yeah. Depends if the recruiter was retained or contigent.

It is. I do some recruiting work for my job. When you're looking over 100+ resumes for a position you don't have time to research every little acronym that you don't know. Sure ideally you'd know exactly what they're talking about, but in the real world that often doesn't work out.

I agree that you should tailor your pitch to the company that is hiring, but bullshit like "generalists don't get hired" is one of the reasons I left software development. People who have the fluidity of thinking to be able to grok say Ruby as well as assembly are an asset, not a liability. They can see the forest rather than the trees. There are times when you need a specialist, usually because you need some domain specific expertise, but to penalize generalists is totally insane.

What made me excise all PHP work from my resume (except for PHP security work, which honestly is like shooting fish in a barrel) was when a company looking for "PHP experts" asked "how much of your last job was PHP?" and "about half" was considered too little. Because using Ruby makes your PHP knowledge rot or something.

So I'd tell him to lie to get that PHP job. It sucks for lots of reasons, but so many employers in the PHP space all have their heads up their garbage collectors.

Yes, yes, a thousand times, yes. You don't have a single resume; you have a collection of data points that you coalesce into specific resumes for specific positions. The "vomit everything" resume is invariably a sign of:

1. a new graduate, in which case we need to be having a different sort of conversation than with an experienced hire, or;

2. a graybeard who hasn't looked for a while and doesn't realize how many more layers there are now between his initial resume and the hiring manager.

In the former case, the resume is going to be useless and I'd really rather there were a common format specifically for someone with very little work experience. And no, a transcript isn't useful, either, although it has strengths that a standard resume format doesn't.

In the latter case, these guys (and at 42, this is my cohort now) need to learn about the volume of incoming data, and how useless for decision purposes a 30 year large pile of acronyms is.

Disclaimer: Every employer is different. My advice may be completely out of phase with someone else. But during my career I've had to unfortunately interview a lot of people (as I think anyone in this field has), and frankly this is a really bad resume. Even in non-tailored format. I don't mean that in a bad way, I just think this person could really improve his prospects with some changes.

To nitpick one example, I've always felt that after your first job you should drastically cut down the importance of your degree on your resume. As far as I'm concerned your degree/major/whatever is a poor indicator of the kind of developer you're going to be, to be used only as a last resort when you are young and haven't had the chance to demonstrate yourself in the workforce. After that, your previous job titles/accomplishments are way more telling.

This guy is in his 50s and he's still got individual line items for honors and high honors. I don't care. I don't even know what that means back when he got his degree. He points out he has a double major. Then tells me his majors individually. Then tells me how he did in each major separately. This after the fact that he's already told me all this in his overview. This reads like a recent grad's section (look at me, I graduated!!!!). I half expected him to list projects he did in school (hell, maybe some of those projects at the bottom WERE school projects -- that's the mindset I'm put in by the schooling section).

Then he tells me his hobbies. This isn't as bad as telling me he likes to ride his bike or something, but "working on a couple of books" sounds so "I've been working on that big idea in my spare time for 10 years..." It conveys zero useful information to me. Clearly he has no finished books (because then he would have listed them, but somehow he is working on more than one at once). The ONLY thing interesting to me here is "Open Source projects". But thats lost in a bunch of stuff I don't care about. This should be ONE LINE which has specific github projects where I can go check out what he's done.

"MS-DOS, Win 3.1 through 7" Ugh. Unless your goal is to maintain old systems or something this just seems ridiculous.

Then you've got gems like "Voting Software; 50% of U.S. market" LOST in the stockpile of buzz words. Something like that should be a bullet point under the employer you did it under in the top section.

People go through hundreds of these things. This thing is visually exhausting. It doesn't read like a list, its jam-packed with information in different styles: top looks like an essay, then a list of short answers, then "how can I maximize information per square inch" at the bottom. I'm intimidated to read it.

Your overview should MAYBE be 3 sentences. Then immediately drop into the jobs you've had, with bullet points about interesting standout things done in them. Then ONE LINE with your degree to prove you have one, then maybe "skills" or whatever to fill out the bottom. If you've done your job right no one will be reading by then, you'll already have been placed in the "follow up" pile.

> You don't give resumes like this, you tailor your pitch to the company which is hiring. [...] Generalists dont' get hired, then don't be a generalist.

IMO this is stupid, self-destructive for companies and likely the result of cargo cult management.

My "generalist" palette is exactly what got me hired at each one of my previous jobs. I learned programming as a hobby long before going to university, and I got a degree in Instrumentation Engineering with what essentially amounts to a minor in Power Electronics. During the last two of my undergrad years I worked in a research team at my university and did a fairly good job (papers and all) in a third field, computational electromagnetism, mainly with applications in microelectronics.

This means, on one hand, that I can be very helpful to anyone in my team. I can help those of my colleagues who lean more towards software than hardware troubleshoot their instruments and development boards, and I can serve as a buffer between the hardware designers and the programmers. I can make good trade-offs between circuit-level design and high-level programming abstractions and I can design applications for low-power operation instead of writing something and tweaking it until it has decent battery life.

What this also means, though, is that people in management are ecstatic about how they can give me pretty much anything to work on, and I'll munch it, or stick me in the same room with people who think JS is the best thing and people who think computers are evil and still understand what each of them says. This enthusiasm comes from precisely the same people who whine about candidates who are "miles wide, inches deep", and I know of at least one instance when the lead developer who interviewed me had to kick and scream to get me hired because my CV painted me "undecided" and "not having a good career discipline". It's even more ironic considering that the people who whine about it are typically millimeters wide and deep.

I often hear this kind of discussion in the middle management circles. Our people are way too specialized and it makes communication and collaboration difficult; we could use people with a more diverse range of skills; we depend too much on one or two people doing this thing, but they're the only ones in the team who can do it. This is especially problematic in teams of people who have been in the company since they were juniors. Well no shit it is, since they just spent four out of the six years of their careers doing precisely the same thing.

And no, "side projects" are not a good solution to this, and I've walked out of interviews because of HR folks strongly implying that my side projects are for learning skills the company needs. Fuck off. Thinking and learning aren't free. You want it, you pay me.

I think the generalists will beat the specialists in the long run, but if the current fashion is for assembling the perfect team of specialists, a job seeker has to (unfortunately for everyone) adapt to it.

I've walked out of interviews because of HR folks strongly implying that my side projects are for learning skills the company needs.

Could you explain what you mean here a little more? Did a company, at the interview phase, tell you they wanted you to work on side projects for free?

> Could you explain what you mean here a little more? Did a company, at the interview phase, tell you they wanted you to work on side projects for free?

What they told me is that it's a good thing that I am familiar with so many technologies, since that probably indicates that I spend a lot of my own time perfecting my skills. Which is actually true. But then they began to rant about how that's a good thing because this is a competitive field and it's really hard to keep up with all the new technologies popping up, so I might have to put up some of my own time to learn the technologies we'll use.

I actually raised an eyebrow and said that no, I'm not willing to do that. This opened up a discussion about dedication and loving one's job beyond the matters of workhours and payment, which are true signs of a professional programmer, at which point I really just told them I'm not interested in their offer anymore and left.

At that point, I'd have left even if they'd have sworn I wouldn't have to do that and that they were just checking. It's really impolite. I don't presumptuously boast about how I know what really makes the difference between a professional medic and one who just has a license to practice. It's also manipulative in a really poor way, implying that if you don't do all that stuff, you're "just" a programmer, rather than a "professional" programmer. Yeah, no shit I'm a "professional programmer" -- I don't have kids, I live close to work, my girlfriend works from home so her schedule is more flexible than mine, everyone in my family is in good health and back in college I fucked up my sleep schedule so hard that the occasional all-nighter doesn't do much damage anymore. But I'm exactly as professional as the dude who comes in at 9 and leaves at 5 because his kids want their father, not his toys.

If customizing a resume is likely to work at a company, according to the conditional probabilities I have estimated, working there will make me less happy than working at a company that does not exclusively prefer specialists. Since it also involves an additional investment of time, that means the posting itself would have to be closer to my ideal vision for a job working for The Man.

Companies use barely-functional pattern matching algorithms to automatically toss your resume into the garbage. It is very likely that any effort you spend hand-tailoring your self-advertisement will be wasted anyway. But let's assume that you're doing it to pass the bozo filter and talk to a real person.

If you have to feign specialization to get past the auto-rejector, it is safe to assume that the company sees fewer qualified candidates. Supply is lower. As long as the posting remains open, demand remains the same. Therefore, the more specialized the role, the higher your expected remuneration should be. It's fine that companies are picky, but not both picky and cheap.

My advice is to use a general, unmodified resume for all your initial applications, and only to tailor your resume if the company does not respond in person after the first 2 weeks. If that generates a response, remember to ask for a higher salary if you reach the negotiation phase.

Of course this, like most other advice, should be taken with skepticism, because it is based on my experiences, not yours.

Honestly, I don't spend much time customizing a resume, because I already have a job, even if I don't like it, and a lot of the postings that I see are just as flavorless and uninspired as an untailored resume. My primary criteria for applying are whether the job itself seems like it could be interesting after you subtract the HR boilerplate and whether the company makes it easy for people to submit themselves for consideration.

If applying is as easy as writing an e-mail with a resume attachment, I will take the time to write an original cover letter. If I have to jump through 8 pages of hoops where I have to re-enter my entire resume into a series of tiny text boxes, I will not customize anything. And on the 8th page, where I am asked to list 3 of my weaknesses in an HTML form, just above a request for my entire salary history, I will almost invariably list "I get snarky when confronted by foolish or wasteful hiring practices." At that point, I have already invested that much time on an application that I know will not yield fruit, so I can't help but feel bitter about the utter waste of it.

I concur, my generalist resume listing 10+ technologies is what interested my current company in hiring me. It turns out they hire polyglots/generalists.

Maybe not BS, but in either case it doesn't tell me who you are and what you want.

And that sets off all kinds of alarm bells, be it on a resume or on a job description.

If I get a resume like that, I'm assuming the applicant doesn't really want to work with us, they just want any job, and other than a paycheck they don't give a fuck about what we're offering.

So HR skips this kind of resumes from the start to save them trouble, very professional.

yeah but it also says:

"Bug fixes, manuals, mock-ups for investors, ..., IT, web and FTP sites (both servers and content), support calls, sales calls, marketing"

and at that point you are thinking was this really the best use they could make of this guy? IMO even if you did this stuff, just remove it, unless you want to be doing more of it. Make more of the "GUI and Internet layers for old products, design of new products" bit.

Also, maybe because I'm British, I think the tone of some of the stuff is a bit off. I would remove all the "Reason for leaving bits"

And maybe you should make a call as to whether you want to do software development or system administration, and trim or include the "my own distro" bits as appropriate, and put in more about software you have built.

Heh. I had to do all that at the dot-com because they fired everybody else after the money ran out. I was the only rank and file employee left except for one left-over junior marketing person. I turned him into a coder and he wrote a GUI for one of the CLI products. I did pretty much everything else for a couple of years.

I think you're right about the "Reason for leaving bits"

The "my own distro" part is about more than sysadmin. I'm fairly proud of it and recruiters have sometimes contacted me specifically because of the project.

  The "my own distro" part is about more than sysadmin. 
  I'm fairly proud of it and recruiters have sometimes 
  contacted me specifically because of the project.
Yeah, I agree that this is really impressive. Everybody's advising you to trim older things off of your resume and perhaps that's good advice but starting/maintaining your own distro seems like something to leave on. One question: why not name the distro on your resume so people can check it out and verify and/or be impressed by it?

What I would say is rather than trim old stuff indiscriminately, focus on what it is you want to do (or what is relevant to the position you are applying for) and remove stuff you've done but don't want to do again (I've done COBOL programming but I've NEVER put that fact on a resume). Resumes do not need to be exhaustive lists of everything you've ever done.

I would suggest applying for university IT jobs. Their salaries will pale compared to what SV pays, but you will be able to live, the hours are sane, the work environment tends to be decent, the benefits tend to be excellent, and if you are at least moderately competent and ethical you're unlikely to get fired.

The distro is named LACLIN.

LACLIN will be 10 years old, in its current incarnation, on Christmas Eve 2014. I use it for all of my work. But I haven't created a public release yet.

I'd hoped to create a public release this year but I needed to suspend development in 2012 due to unforeseen circumstances. Work will resume if things stabilize.

I looked at OldCoder.org and saw that you do have extensive screenshots of your distro. Very cool!

I don't mean to myopically focus on your distro but since you said you're quite proud of it (and you should be!) ...perhaps mentioning the distro by name on your resume, and also by name on your site, could make it much easier for people to make the leap from your resume to finding out about it on your site.

Best of luck to you!!

Thanks both for the suggestion and the best of luck. I'll do as you suggest at some point.

Well, you're overlooking mistakes that I made. I feel that generalists should be valued more highly; this is a significant issue. However, I should have built more of a social network, taken better care of myself physically, diversified my investments more, and kept up more with how the market was changing.

I agree with that; I think people undervalue generalists, get stuck with a specialist which is nice while you are in that particular field, but the world changes. Specialists are specialists because they spent a lot of time on one thing; depending on your age that means you didn't spend a lot of time on anything else and that might turn out to be VERY difficult when you get older. I don't know many PHP 'specialists' above 30 who can actually 'change' their calling. They have an extremely hard time picking up anything else as they have been coding PHP (and a tiny bit of JS) only for the last 15+ years. It takes serious effort to switch at that point if you're not used to that flexibility in your brain.

Keeping up with the market is a big thing though; as someone who was in the dotcom boom and who did backends at the time, I only noticed that everything changed years 'too late'. It wasn't really too late, but my eye wasn't on the ball for sure as I had a cushy position anyway I didn't need to, but when I sold my stock and went looking for the next interesting thing to do I noticed that the world changed significantly.

I don't deny that getting older has an impact but your statements above are applicable to anyone and probably more so to older developers. Reading over your story the main thing that stuck out with me is that you've had a it rough for the past few years and its obviously had an impact on the career.

What I would add is to focus on your health. I don't know what problems you have but if you can work on the diet, work on the fitness, get on some kind of weight training program. The better you feel, the more energy you have will make you more effective everywhere else.

I started a few days ago. It hasn't been a good week for medical issues but things are looking up.

I've been to the Emergency Room twice since Sunday. And I had a fever of 102 degrees just a few hours ago. But I'm feeling O.K. and I'm scheduled to go back in a few hours to nail down what's happening physically.

Due to recent changes in U.S. laws, I might be able to qualify for medical care now. If it works out, this will be a big help.

Still, you should be preferable than any college graduate in any kind of junior role. Correct me if I'm wrong, but doesn't a junior role mean 100K in SV? Or do you want a more senior position?

There is a bias against having highly experienced people in middle level jobs.

Apart from the stereotype of the jaded guy that has seen too much shit, there is the power balance between a youngish manager and a very experienced programmer. Sometimes the programmer will see a flurry of incoming problems very soon and flood the manager with them, and the latter won't know how to deal with this kind of situation. He'll be relying a lot on the more experienced person, but the power balance is reversed and the responsibilities as well, and it takes a lot of tippy-toeing and ego swallowing to sail smoothly. It's tricky on both sides, and company would prefer to avoid that kind of situation.

This is highly unfortunate and seems like the problem is with the younger managers not having adequate support.

In my early 30's I had the the privilege of being able to recruit 50+ developers onto two separate teams at a startup. These were people who's experience vastly outweighed my own. I was still responsible for guiding my teams to meet the business needs, but what I learned from these people literally changed my life.

Completely agree. I had the chance to be on project where I was the least experienced in programming, and got to deal with the management stuff (in the most basic meaning: I was doing just anything needed to let the other devs focus on their tasks, not telling other people how to do their jobs). I learned a lot, I got explained a lot of tricky problems that I wouldn't have understood otherwise, and on their side they didn't have to care if the client answered their email or not.

It was a really nice experience, but more an exception than the rule. I never got to work in another place where people wouldn't focus on the titles as a hierarchy thing, but just as different roles in a projet.

>Or do you want a more senior position?

From the post it doesn't sound like he's picky.

I'd be pleased with a junior role if it's a good match for both sides. That's important to me.

So what's your plan going forward here on out, to secure financial and medical stability for yourself?

If I stay in the S.F. Bay Area, I think that a junior tech position here might work out. Above entry level and below lead. The trick will be staying above water long enough to find a good match.

I'd expand my options, both tech and non-tech, if I took the right courses and obtained certifications. I'm seriously considering doing something like this.

For example, the person who did my LiveScan recently (it was a background check for a tutoring job) teaches an EKG Technician class and said that it might work out for me.

A police detective who I phoned by mistake one night told me that I should consider getting a Digital Forensics certificate. He seemed to feel that I might be a match for that. Note: The story of the call is on the same weblog as tonight's post.

The medical care issue may be looking up. I had to go to the Emergency Room the other day. Didn't wish to, but no choice. I learned that the laws changed in January and that I might qualify for assistance after 10 years without care.

The digital forensics suggestion seems quite good to me. It's a growing industry and people with decent skills are hard to find, where decent skills means being cable of working with technology from hardware up to data structures and encryption, while also making sure processes to capture and present evidence is followed properly.

Honest question, how well do you do in programming interviews? Do you blow data structures and algorithm, etc CS questions out of the water?

In everyday situations, outside of job interviews, if I feel confident about a situation, and I'm not under time pressure, I often come across as polished.

I've been mistaken for an attorney repeatedly over the past few decades. At least twice, people have thought that I was a government official of some type.

If the confidence isn't there, I do poorly. And I haven't felt confident in interviews because of the types of questions that you're referring to.

I don't memorize data structures and algorithms. I start with projects and learn what's needed in each case.

Coding tests are another problem for me. If you review my GitHub repos or technical site (oldcoder.org) you'll see that my code is reasonably good. But it involves flow. If I drop into flow, I can do anything. But it's difficult to reach that state while somebody is waiting.

I understand, of course, that companies have their processes, and that I need to be the one to adapt as opposed to the other way around.

I'm around 40 and I struggle with the exact same issues, at least with algorithms (I'm pretty much OK with data structures).

Funny thing is, I've enjoyed doing things like Project Euler just for fun, and I can usually work out an algorithm given a little time and the ability to work on my own in an environment I'm comfortable in.

But put me in front of a white board, or phone interview, with one or more impatient interviewers in front of me? I'm toast. Many of these interviewers were studying these algorithms in depth in school only 4 or 5 years ago.

Anyway, I've resigned myself to the fact that I have to earn my own living by freelancing and side projects. I'm doing OK with that, and I hope that an upcoming side project will provide even more financial stability.

Have you considered starting your own company? These days, you don't need much.

"Have you considered starting your own company? These days, you don't need much."

Also a good resume builder, shows you have still been coding since your last job in 2009.

> [..] same issues, at least with algorithms (I'm pretty much OK with data structures).

What's the difference?

On the off chance that you'll look back and see this, I'll response. Your implication is that data structures are algorithms, and while that certainly may be true, both traditional computer science curricula and hiring tech companies make a distinction between the two.

In the latter case, what they call algorithms usually tend to be similar to the kind of "brain twister" problems that Microsoft was famous for.

In the former case (academics), data structures include things like stacks, queues, deques, linked lists, and on to graphs and trees. Whereas algorithms are specific procedures carried out with data structures, like sorting and searching, and dynamic algorithms. And then on to much harder stuff, like FFT.

My point is simply that I feel comfortable creating stacks, queues, linked lists, graphs, trees, etc., whereas when someone asked an open-ended algorithmic question to be solved on the white board or phone, I struggle under the pressure and gazing eyes of multiple interviewers to solve these problems (whereas I do fine in my own environment with only the pressure of finishing a job).

Thanks for the reply. Yes, I was going for "data structures are algorithms" bit. Eg what good is a Fibonacci tree without the operations on it? And on the other hand, lots of `algorithmic problems' fall into place naturally, once you have the right data structure.

> My point is simply that I feel comfortable creating stacks, queues, linked lists, graphs, trees, etc., whereas when someone asked an open-ended algorithmic question to be solved on the white board or phone, I struggle under the pressure and gazing eyes of multiple interviewers to solve these problems (whereas I do fine in my own environment with only the pressure of finishing a job).

I actually do way better in the interview than when I just have to convince the computer (or myself). Enough confidence often persuades interviewers to accept handwaving.

That advantage is unfair, and makes the interview less predictable of success on the job; but I won't complain. For you, I can only recommend practice, or looking for companies with different hiring procedures.

You should study up on algorithms and data structures. You should get some coding interview books and do the problems in them. It will make you more confident, and it'll let people see the skills you have. Unfortunately, traditional interviews are really bad at actually figuring out if someone is a good coder... but if a company you want to work at uses those methods, you have to be able to pass their tests.

You mention social network, I think it is also critical to build up a good professional network. The group I am part of has a couple of individuals in their 50s, one a specialist and one more of a generalist. They joined the company through professional connections they had worked with before.

I'm purposefully making a distinction between "a random set of contacts" and a more targeted group of people who you have worked with, know your strengths, and want to work with you again.

The quoted text is a classic example of not talking to your audience, i.e. the person who is actually able to sign your paycheck and who wants to know "what do I get?"

Take the first item:

    I've created a Linux distro of my own. Original and 
    not a fork. See articles on website.
How did this help anybody? Did it save the company time? Give them a competitive advantage? Did it increase server uptime, increase developer productivity, increase the price of the packaged product? SHOW ME THE MONEY.

So is the resume supposed to be "how can I make money for the company?" I thought that the resume was supposed to present the skills of the candidate to the person looking to fill a role. If said role already exists at the company, than the definition of how this role will generate revenue for the company should already be fairly well defined (or they wouldn't be looking to spend money on hiring someone).

Maybe this is the difference between applying for an open position, and cold-pitching yourself to a company?

> I thought that the resume was supposed to present the skills of the candidate to the person looking to fill a role.

It's always about making money for the company. (Or making your hiring manager's life easier.) Filling a role is just a means to the end of making money.

A targeted resume, intended to present me as a specialist in Linux, would zoom in and do precisely this.

However, if I tried to add this level of detail to everything on the resume at once, I'd end up with dozens of pages. Remember that I've done hundreds of projects.

In the 1990s, I tried to produce a complete resume. The result was a short novel :P I'm kidding, but it did take me years to get the thing down to a single page.

  > However, if I tried to add this level of detail to 
  > everything on the resume at once, I'd end up with dozens 
  > of pages...
If we saw a function in a program that was twelve pages long, we'd think there was a problem: The code is trying to do too many things at once.

Resumes are a bit trickier because they have several purposes these days:

    1. It lets the hiring manager *quickly* scan the resume
       to see if it's a good fit for 
       an *already open* position.
    2. It lets the recruiter/HR database index all of 
       the keywords for future candidate searches.
    3. It lets hiring manager use it as a template 
       for *creating* a job description to give to the 
       HR manager that they've already selected 
       the candidate to fill.
Note that (1) and (2) presume that you're applying for a job the traditional, ineffective way. (3) presumes that you've actually had a face-to-face conversation with the hiring manager, have convinced them that you can help out, and left them with a copy of your resume as a courtesy. You definitely want to be doing (3). (There are many, many books and articles on how to tap into the "hidden" job market that will help you with (3).)

The point is that you should be highlighting your Linux skills for a company that is seeking someone with Linux capabilities.

Applying to a Java shop? Same deal, highlight your Java capabilites and projects. Instead, you are highlighting nothing.

Another issue is that you have been out of work for a long time. I can't find a reference right now, but being out of work reflects poorly on you.

Perhaps you could fill that period in with "Freelancing?"

Resumes are like landing pages, you've got to hook people and then get them to commit or dig deeper. If I've got a stack of 50 resumes on my desk, several meetings scheduled, and some actual work to do, I'm going to be doing some serious thin slicing. I'm sure lots of strong candidates get eliminated before they even come in for an interview, but I don't want a strong candidate I want the guy I'm going to hire.

But really all that aside. I think hiring managers probably just Google your name and get scared off by the legal drama. I know you can't help that, but there it is.

"Jobs" are highly overrated. I would truly push any older developer to consider consulting. So much freedom, I have more than quadrupled my pay, work is generally interesting and I have plenty of free time to work on what I want. I don't think I'll ever be able to go back.

Most contract jobs that I see seem to be apps or webdev.

I expect to get up to speed more on native apps and/or web apps. So I've got a shot at this side.

I've done basic webdev. I might be able to make a go of small sites. But I don't know much about building a client base. Note: I've held onto an octocore server with 32GB RAM, so I could probably combine webdev and hosting.

Take that server and learn OpenStack and/or (preferably and) Docker. Private clouds and containers are the hotness in enterprise computing now.

That does sound nice. Did you start your own consulting company or are you employed?

Initially subcontracted for a friend to help his business out on a couple of contracts. His business grew and in a different industry, so I took them over and started my own business eventually. It took time, but 2 years into it I still consider it the best decision I have made.

Another story on the same page suggests he is autistic. Isn't it possible that all of the factors work against him? Subtle age discrimination, inability to interview and seem "normal" due to his disability, and the fact he's been out of work a while and seems indigent. Trained HR recruiters would see red flags even if they knew to suppress them.

And who claims recruiting as a skill when seeking a coding job?

What's wrong with his resume is that the last work experience seems to be 5 years ago, and that his skill set doesn't list anything that hasn't been around at least since the 90's.

Age discrimination is a real thing, I have seen it happen, and this resume implies 'probably expensive and not quite up to date'.

It's a little unsettling, because I'm probably not that much younger. It could have been me.

So, get up to date. The victim mentality is not helping. Programming skills are maybe unique, in that everything you need to get better is actually available from the internet. Try learning plumbing that way.

Do you list things as experience on your CV after you've followed a tutorial and played around with it as a hobby?

If you include those, the list would be pretty long.

Anyway, what I wanted to say is not that it's a bad skill set, but that it's a bad CV.

Maybe one of those recruiters can help him polish it

If I'm going to become a specialist, this is entirely correct. But is this the right path? Or is there a way to salvage a generalist career?

I think you should polish your CV.

Maybe one of those recruiters can help you prune out a bit of the fluff, and expand on things that are relevant.

Also, since the CV clearly implies you're coming back from retirement, you should probably mention it explicitly and make what you have been doing the past 5 years sound good. I don't know how to do that, but those recruiters probably do.

Sure. Learn something specific and up-to-date. Then get a job. Then apply the generalist skills to out-perform expectations.

0. Ageism is rampant. A research dept I worked at briefly fired an admin for being "old."

1. Lack of persistence (hustle) on the candidate's part.

2. May or may not have personality or skills issues.

As a former hiring manager, and a middle-aged guy myself, I see hiring as (basically) a two phase process. The first step is to get noticed, and the second step is to close the deal (get hired).

You get noticed by appealing to what your prospective employer is looking for. In this context, everything on your resume either helps get you noticed, or it's a nice-to-have, or it's a negative.

Extraneous technical experience and a great college background are pretty much always nice-to-haves. Recent, relevant experience and accomplishments are generally the real things that get you noticed.

Once you're in the door, you close the deal by demonstrating that you can kick butt on whatever your prospective employer needs to get done, and fit in well with the team while doing so. It's true that different people want different things, but if you can show you're an expert at what your employer needs, and if you are pleasant to be around and work with, your odds of getting an offer go up tremendously.

The OP is right that if you fall off the job ladder, it's much harder. Your first priority should be to get some kind of job doing what you want to do, at the best salary you can negotiate. But, you're negotiating from a position of weakness, and that probably means you won't initially make as much money as you want. I don't have a magic bullet here. You have to get back on the horse, put in your time, build your resume, and from there you have much better prospects in future job negotiations.

Note that all these things are true regardless of your age. No doubt, age is a factor sometimes (just like, say, ethnicity is a factor sometimes). But if you sell yourself right, and if you can really do the work in an awesome way, ultimately that will carry the day, regardless of age.

> You get noticed by appealing to what your prospective employer is looking for. In this context, everything on your resume either helps get you noticed, or it's a nice-to-have, or it's a negative.

Too much volume of things is negative in itself, even if all of them would be nice to have by themselves.

Not a clue but I shouldn't imagine he'd have any trouble picking up a contracting gig in London (which isn't specifically helpful to OP, I know) - his resume is much better than mine and I do ok at 42.

IT industry is in a bubble since 10 years or so. To sustain its economy it needs to generate so called new technology that obsoletes in a few years. It is called progress. Our web pages in Perl became web apps powered by frameworks like rails, that became apps on mobile written in C. They are fundamentally the same. Just using more and more resources, more unstable, less secure.

That's the price to pay for not having an industry anymore and keeping people that took a 90k$ loans employed. Old programmers are a pain: they have knowledge. Sack them all.

I wonder how much of this is age discrimination. A common complaint I've heard against older workers is, "Why isn't someone they're already worked with eager to hire them?" It gets to the point of networking, and once you've had a bad spell, it's tough to recover.

Feedback on this from both sides of the table. Every dev esp. entry level students list the same keywords: Java, Oracle, Apache, ... Zzz.

Recent specific accomplishments that furthered tech or business plz. What makes you uniquely relevant to the role?

His problem isn't his age, it's his resume.

Here are the reasons I would circular file this resume

1) Fix your website. Leading (or including at all) the story about your family squabble makes me think you're a nutter.

2) Overview section is useless. I don't care about your Linux distro: I care about how your skills help my company. In the modern world, that means you should talk about the server code you've built, or the clients (web or native) you've developed. If you're truly a generalist, you've done these things.

3) Pare down experience/key points. I don't care if you used DOS or AIX. Only list things that matter now, and only list things you know well. When I see lists this long, I assume you've just written every keyword you can think of. Also, get rid of nontechnical crap. I know you can write, I'm reading something you wrote.

4) No one measures code in pages, which makes me think you have no idea what you're talking about.

5) Give me more information about what you did at more jobs. I don't care about what the product did, I care about what you contributed. For example, the Grumman job has a lot of fluff. I hate fluff. Distill it down to what you really did: "wrote a Perl simulator of the CRM-114 for automated testing" would be much more interesting then the paragraph you've written.

Fix up your resume, and cleanup or hide your web presence, and you'll have a better chance.

I'm a 53 YO developer who reads a lot of resumes.

You want to tailor a resume like this. Indeed don't mention essentially obsolete things like DOS or AIX unless they help you get the job you're applying for. I don't mention that stuff at all now.

"Reason for leaving" isn't necessary.

I also like to see metrics. "I did X, Y and Z and we got Q fewer support calls" or something like that.

I'd also like to see some evidence of teamwork ("worked with Frobozz group and got Z shipped with important feature F").

Interesting that you like metrics. I always consider them B.S. Especially the ones where they say they saved the company X millions of dollars.

Chiming in here -- some metrics are B.S. metrics (like how much money you saved company, I gloss over these myself), but some are valuable. For example: "designed and developed system Foo which ran in production for X years and processed Y events per second utilizing Z nodes."

I agree. Some projects have SLAs. It could be beneficial to mention that those were met or expectations were exceeded.

In some cases saving a company that much money is very believable. For instance if you fixed a transaction processing bug at a company who does $84K a month and it lasted a year, you saved them a million dollars.

I've often wondered how most people do that (metrics, I mean).

I don't feel that I'm in a unique situation where I have worked in groups on projects. The work is divvied up but often multiple people have at least some amount of hands on many things. I feel like there is very little (perhaps nothing) that I can say that I and I alone have done which led to some interesting metric.

Perhaps I'm being overly cautious/team player here? Or do people really mean that they singlehandedly did X, Y and Z to resolve Q? Because to me the latter doesn't sound realistic, at least not at the places where I've worked.

Quantifying yourself is the most important thing you can do in a resume. If you can't figure out what you've accomplished in less than 10 seconds, consider revising.

Yes, regarding reasons for leaving. I'm going to drop those.

DOS and AIX are included to illustrate breadth as opposed to depth. Not because I expect anybody to be impressed by 20-year-old work in these two OSes.

Metrics are an interesting point; I'll need to look further at this.

Regarding teamwork, the resume mentions that I was considered a "mentor". Does this count?

DOS and AIX might well be measures of your breadth, but unless your potential employer cares deeply about that, they don't do you much good. Think of some other way to say "I know a lot of different systems" than mentioning systems that don't garner much modern respect.

I don't mention that I used to frob PDP-11s, nor DOS, nor anything else. There are hints in my resume that I know that stuff, but I don't explicitly say it.

I think that mentioning dead technology creates a kind of taint. Sucks, but there you go.

The problem isn't presently the age or the resume.

With you, the resume would be a problem. But this might be a good thing.

As I've said elsewhere, I'd be pleased to obtain a junior tech position if it was a good match. But you're looking for specialists, aren't you?

I might be mistaken, but perhaps you're not familiar with how generalists operate. If this is the case, I'd prefer that you proceed to "circular file" my resume. It will save my time as well as yours.

Regarding the points that you've raised:

1) The website you've looked at isn't my professional site. The post went there, but the professional site is located at:


Yes, I know that the professional site is sorely lacking in polish. I'll Twitter Bootstrap it sometime. :P

2) If somebody does not understand what it means to build a Linux distro from scratch, and feels that this is irrelevant to their firm, they are not looking for a generalist. Accordingly, I'm not a match for them and they're not a match for me.

As a side note, yes, over the past two decades, I've written literally hundreds of small servers and clients from scratch, plus a number of large ones.

Should all of the different servers and clients be listed on the resume? If so, would you look through the list, searching for some past project that matched some current need?

Do you understand what a generalist does?

3) I feel that this point is incorrect. You're thinking like a specialist here.

Nobody is going to hire me to work on DOS or AIX. Well, not AIX anyway; there is still some DOS work going on. But it's the range of things that I wish to convey here. Not the specialties.

If somebody such as yourself looks at my resume hoping to find a specialist, and dismisses the parts that illustrate a generalist background, it's best for all concerned, including me. that they toss the resume.

4) No idea what I'm talking about? :-) Heh. I maintain a fork of "sloccount".

First, it's about both code and documentation, not simply code. Or did I forget to note that? Regardless, I had a specific reason for mentioning the page count originally.

However, due to ongoing revisions, it may no longer make sense to include it. You may be correct about this point.

5) This point is confusing. You asked for more details but criticized the details for the Grumman job as "fluff".

The project included a Java GUI, Perl database code, network protocols implemented using multiple languages, a large OO Perl framework, the simulator that you mentioned, and numerous other components.

Which part is "fluff" ?

What I "did" was to design each component from scratch and implement it, except for the ones that I based on FOSS (which I then modified or extended).

Regarding the closing point, "Fix up your resume, and cleanup or hide your web presence, and you'll have a better chance":

It doesn't seem as though you've read much of the original post. You've commented on the resume and on the website where the post appears. You are not fond of either. It is your right to feel this way.

However, these two things are not presently the key issues. Nor were they the subject of the original post.

> I'll Twitter Bootstrap it sometime. :P

You don't have to go that far. Replace the water background and the top pattern with interesting solid colors, with a little white noise pattern if you're feeling froggy, change the menu bar color to fit, find a couple of nice-looking free fonts, and spend a little time on your table styling and your website would look plenty spiffy.

The ":P" was intended to convey tongue in cheek. But the suggestions are useful and appreciated. And I like the idea that one might feel "froggy". I'm not sure what this means but it sounds lively.


To feel 'froggy' is to be ready to jump into something new at a moments notice for no real reason other than to feel good going the extra distance. One of the more useful idioms I've picked up.


I have a lot of "creative" friends. I suspect you may be like them. I have to tell them: Your resume gets you in the door. It's not about being original. It's like the gas in your car that gets you to an interview. The individuality will start to come out in the cover letter (but not too far!) and then fully in person.

I have no doubt that you're a skilled person, but if you don't choose to comply with the simple standard of resume-writing, then how can an employer count on you to follow other conventions and rules?

Now if you'll graciously accept my critiques, you'll find you'll get a lot more impressed reactions than bewildered reactions:

That resume is very non-standard. The PDF version isn't congruent with the web version.

Overview is too long.

Bolded first letters are weird and non-pleasing. Too much space between heading letters: same.

You have a mixture of phrases, sentences with omitted subjects and full sentences. Swapping between those is uncomfortable. Pick one style a stick with it.

Reasons for leaving not useful on resumes.

Key Points has good info. C for 30 years, but no C++? Why not?

Linux distro: what's it called? You've listed custom distros about 4 times on your resume. It's worth one mention.

Your education is listed twice. Only list it once.

Overview should not have specifics such as the census and Adobe projects.

Languages are listed twice, no three times. Only needed once.

Good luck and I think if you make my suggested changes, your responses will be much higher quality! As I said, I think you have a lot of great experience and would improve many work situations!

I consider myself a generalist as well, and while there are some problems with it, there are upsides too. I wouldn't consider that a barrier.

You look like a very talented and productive coder, and I don't think your skillsets are out of date, as some people seem to imply. If you know both Java and Unix well, then you're employable in spades.

Are you actually looking for work now? What happens when you apply for jobs? Are you stumped by algorithmic questions (i.e. textbook style questions)?

You seem to say two contradictory things -- first, that you're getting a lot of "algorithms" interviews, and second, that being a "generalist" is hurting you. It seems to me that you're getting a lot of generalist interviews, but they're asking questions you're not prepared for.

As a female coder in her late 40's working at <Big Famous Software Company>, my advice to you is -- please, please pick up your algorithms book, and just study! I just helped a guy aged 60 ace the famously difficult interview at my company -- he's now working as a dev there. Basically, my role was to relentlessly tell him to study algorithms, and write code on a white board. Algorithms do NOT discriminate by age.

It seems to me that your biggest problem is that you want these guys to take all your experience into account, and they just want to know if you can code and do algorithms. There is no reason older coders can't do algorithms -- just study!

When I got the job at <my big company>, in my early 40's, I took three months off and pounded CLRS, even read a bit of Knuth on hash tables, and wrote code on white boards. These interviewers don't want to discriminate -- they're going to be old, too! You just need to give them what they are looking for. And you can do it!

From a programmer approaching his 40s, thank you for the great advice, and for the inspiring story of your 60-year-old friend.

This was after I was reading on HN last week about 12 year olds freelancing.

Bottom line, you have to learn how to hustle. You find a way, or you don't.

If you can't get employment as developer, then create your own job. Or don't.

As a freelancer, nobody knows my age. They don't ask. I work from the Philippines, but as long as I'm reasonably available, people don't care. I have friends doing the same thing who aren't nearly as technical or knowledgeable as I am making a good living in the most expensive cities in the world.

Reid Hoffman is co-author of a book called "The Start-up of You." I haven't read the book, but the title says it all. You have to treat yourself as a start-up and put in the same sorts of blood, sweat and tears that you read about other people doing here. Maybe you have a job that you can coast in and have work-life balance. Maybe you are nearly on the street and one notch above being completely fued. If you are the latter, then you probably need to be doing some serious disaster mode action. Really, what else do you have to do? Being a transient gives you a lot of time to think, but that gets old.

But it's all about people, really. A developer who is just okay at dealing with computers but great at selling to people is probably in a better position than someone who is the opposite.

The Philippines could shape up (or maybe is already shaping up, judging from your remarks) as one of the best places in the world to freelance from. Cost of living is low, and the culture in the RP is friendly to outsourcing. But most of those jobs aren't software engineering. The biggest hurdle in the RP is infrastructure—being somewhere that has fibre optics and broadband internet. But that's something that can be solved with enough investment.

I agree with your overall point: increasingly it's not going to matter how old you are, what nationality you are, or where you live. It's just down to "can you get the job done?"

Sorrt, what is RP?

Republic of the Philippines

I have spent half of my career around developers in their 50's. It's true that in a lot of cases the work becomes less exciting. Of those who don't exit into management, many become "solutions architects" (i.e. the technical guy who tags along with the sales guy, and makes bad promises that some other developers have to deliver on later). Others tie their career to particular vendor products... and spend their older years tweaking Oracle Financials, SAP, WebSphere Commerce, etc.

However, there are also plenty who have kept their skills current along the way, and wind up coding on cool projects well into their 60's. They generally work for large companies rather than start-ups, and that entire world is a blind spot for most people on HN.

I'm going to go way out on a limb and assume that the original poster's REAL problems are:

* His resume looks terrible. It's a one-page bucket of random meaningless buzzwords (e.g. skills include "open source", "parser", "VPS"... wtf?!?). He puts more energy into highlighting his age than he does his relevant skills. If he wasn't constantly reminding me that he's near-60, I would assume at first glance that this was a junior-level recent grad's resume.

* His email, website, GitHub account, etc are build around his "brand name" of "OldCoder". That's a pretty horrible brand.

* He's blogging from the domain name "christfollower.me". Nothing against anyone's religion... but politics, religion, etc do not mix with professional career-related writing. Even if it is religion or politics that match my own, it's still a turn-off to see someone wearing it on their sleeve during the recruiting/interviewing process.

Nationwide, the United States has a NEGATIVE unemployment rate for computer programmers. Almost every large company is filled with middle-age and older developers. I'm not saying that ageism doesn't exist, but if you are a "near homeless" computer programmer then you are doing something very wrong. You might have a bad resume, or be a bad interviewee. You might live in a small market, and be unwilling to move to where the jobs actually are. Your salary expectations may be out of whack with your current market value, and you're not willing to hear that. Etc.

> but politics, religion, etc do not mix with professional career-related writing. Even if it is religion or politics that match my own, it's still a turn-off to see someone wearing it on their sleeve during the recruiting/interviewing process.

I hope you realize that this is a bigoted attitude as some religions require their practitioners to literally wear their religions, though perhaps on their heads or faces instead of their sleeves.

Likewise, prejudice against "old" people is also a bad thing.

That being said, your conjecture that some sort of -ism might be at fault here is apt. And a reasonable person could believe that someone should hide his identity in the service of getting a job. However, if it's a tragedy that Jew or homosexual has to hide their identity and lifestyle to get by in the world, why would you want to force a middle-aged Christian into the closet?

I'm sorry that I did not paint a real-world picture with sufficient tears to satisfy you. My comment was not directed at the way the would "should be"... but rather at the way the world "is", if you want to maximize the effectiveness of your faceless resume on a pile of them.

Besides, I didn't say that you have to "hide" your identity or opinions on the job. Just that it's dumb to mix your personal identity with your professional identity in materials that fall solely in the latter realm (e.g. resumes, TECHNICAL blogs, etc).

A significant portion of my colleagues over the years have been Sikh, and another significant portion have been non-heterosexual. Who cares? We work in one of the most diverse fields on the planet. However, if your blog about Node.js is hosted on "sikh-time.com", or if you list "homosexual" as the mission statement on your LinkedIn profile, then you are not "refusing to hide". You're just being flaky. It's not the identity that's the issue, is the signal you're sending about boundaries and judgement.

EDIT: Hmm... reading your comment more carefully, you may have had the impression that I'm turned off by seeing outward appearances of religion during a face-to-face interview. That could be an issue for certain religions, such as Sikhs or Hasidic Jews, where outward appearance is a part of it. However, to clarify... I was not talking about a face-to-face interview, but rather the faceless materials such as resumes and technical blogs that are seen prior to that stage. Again, the issue is not so much the identity as it is the judgment. Moreover, if you share your politics or sexual orientation during a face-to-face interview, then you're definitely doing it wrong.

So the author of this post had a restraining order filed against him by his parents. He hired a lawyer. He later accuses the lawyer of colluding with his parent's lawyers, but he hopes that his former lawyer won't take that accusation of professional misconduct too hard, since the author is only making the accusation to further his goal of writing some kind of book, which his former lawyer approved of. http://christfollower.me/topics/legal/130430_declaration.htm...

To sum up, if the author is having a lot of trouble finding work, I think he may want to look at the copious amount of documentation he has posted online, much of it explicitly claiming that he is suffering from profound mental illness.


    It seemed possible that my attorney John Perrott was colluding with Opposing Counsel Michael Bonetto. It was clear regardless that John wasn't focused on my interests. He'd missed deadlines for filing paperwork and had told me things that weren't true.

    Note: No offense towards John is intended here despite the implications. It's my hope John remembers I'm working towards goals that he approves of. I've tried to do what's right from the start. This isn't a claim that most of the people involved in this situation can make.

In earlier posts he makes mention of being sexually/physically abused by his parents. It seems (and I'm not very sure here - there's too much text), he tried to "expose" them to their neighbors, peers, etc., which ensued the restraining order.

Anyway, the thing is, everyone has family or relationship problems here and there (Github's co-founder's wife story this week?), everyone says pretty screwey shit one time or another (Zuck calling his users dumbfucks for trusting him with their data) -- it's a hard one to deal with. What is one supposed to do when this stuff surfaces? There's really not much that one can do.

Indeed, according to the current version of social code, you're supposed to keep it hidden and distant - or make some effort to keep it hidden. This guy isn't doing that too well. He probably should. Just don't air your dirty laundry. No-one (besides your close friends or whatever) needs to know the minute details of your family problems.

>>5.If you lose your job and your assets, you'll lose medical care too and the issues may become serious.

I hate every system which allows that to happen to people. It's disgusting that there are societies which allow it and can't see how this is the first thing that should be changed, pronto.

First thing I do each time I get access to money - get a systematic check-up by GP, fix teeth, eat well, and use free time to get exercise.

That's basically the only reason why I'm not a complete mess body-wise.

Guess point 5 is very much for US workers at the moment? Might happen in the EU in the future, but that's not going to be soon.

Yes, it's U.S. specific. I don't think it will happen in the EU. The EU may go through some changes, but I feel that health care will continue to be seen as something that countries need as part of a sound infrastructure.

Unfortunately the change is inevitable, just as with pensions, because the population is aging and there isn't enough youth left to pay for it. And due to automatization or outsourcing, cheap labor is less and less needed anyway and high unemployment rates will be pretty common.

This reality in fact highlights another reality - our economic models based on scarcity don't work anymore and we need to either transcend it, maybe with technological improvements that drops the price of basic necessities, like food, energy and medical healthcare, or we're fucked.

> our economic models based on scarcity don't work anymore

Wait, isn't the premise of your comment that healthcare is too scarce?

Well, yes. I also believe it shouldn't be.

In the UK, it could be fairly soon.

I have a lot of close personal acquaintances from the UK and ask them quite often if it's built-in that people from the UK are so conspiracy, negatively, gloomy driven. More than most countries I've been to, Brits are overly negative about most things and admit they are if you ask. Almost with pleasure they explain soon pensioners houses on the coast of Spain will be demolished, soon pensions will end, soon hospitals outside the UK will stop helping UK citizens (but ONLY UK citizens!). Then the go on that the UK is the most expensive, horrible, crappy country to live in, the NHS sucks, all hotels are bad, a cup of coffee costs gbp 20 and real ale isn't real anymore. And more expensive than in the rest of the world.

It won't happen soon in the UK. It's just your and your fellow country folks' nature to think that.

To be fair I think that's a minority of people in the UK who think like that - one cause is that reading the Daily Mail rots the parts of the brain capable of positive thinking.

Meanwhile, my family has had excellent experiences with the NHS recently, I live and work in the center of a fantastic city (Edinburgh), I know plenty of excellent hotels and restaurants, I don't drink expensive coffee, I know plenty of good beers and outside the sky is blue...

[Amused to see the other comment mentioning the Daily Mail - it really is poison.]

Daily Mail headline generator:






The main themes in the Daily Mail headlines being: cancer, property prices, immigrants and celebrities...

I did always wonder...


I've lived in the UK on and off for a big part of my life. I think there are several reasons for what you hear. The most common is that expats tend to complain about their country of origin, hence why they are expats. The other thing is that it's probably the general negative sentiment of the population of a former empire that is declining in status. There is limited optimism about the future, this shows in their fiction too. I think part of it is also the weather, the message of doom seems to take a break when the sun comes out. The other things are probably true, like how much the NHS sucks, and how expensive and poor service in the leisure industry is. The UK, like other parts of Europe, also has an aging population issue, and this has a lot of big impacts. The most prominent is that the structure of pensions will have to change dramatically at some point, but it also has other effects like the bulk of the voting population just naturally having the kinds of opinions that are reflected in the Daily Mail (get off my lawn, not in my back yard, get on your bike and get a job, etc.), and because of this younger people and their political opinions aren't catered for by politicians since there are limited votes in it.

> It won't happen soon in the UK. It's just your and your fellow country folks' nature to think that.

While you do have a point about the temperament of people in the UK. And even leaving out the Daily Mail - I don't go near it and friends don't let friends ... etc.

But. The NHS is changing a lot under the current administration. There is a lot of privatisation. That is fact. There are fairly good reasons to believe that it may be a "protect it or lose it" situation, especially if the Conservative party continues in power after the 2015 elections http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/farewell-to-the-nhs-1948...

And complaining about losing it is a start to protecting it.

TL;DR : it is "Argument from fallacy" to say that "your nature is to think that everything is going to go wrong, therefore this will not go wrong" http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Argument_from_fallacy

Try asking your friends if they read the Daily Mail. Then get some new friends. I'm glad that I don't know anyone that remotely fits your description.

Asked one of them who is online now and he said his parents do but he would never touch it :) So I guess he's been raised with that kind of talk around the dinner table.

But only for UK natives.

Benefits tourists from any foreign country are invited to set up shop in the UK for free welfare, medical care, dental care, and a black cab to the welfare office where you can pick up your free money.

Gypsy and Muslim families with 15 children are particularly welcome. Criminal record in your home country optional.

(OK, did I do the Daily Mail right?)

That kind of talk goes on in a minority of livingrooms of families in every country. However I was going on about a slightly less right wing version of that which I think is far more common in the UK than elsewhere; so not the underbelly 'everyone is getting a break, especially foreigners' feeling, but more like the everything is shit and our government is doing nothing for us feeling. Seems that very negative thing is something Brits seem to be far more vocal about than others. Still could mean I meet the 'wrong' people; I just don't have that feeling; I wouldn't really be able to get along with the typical 'Daily Mail' reader now that I have identified and matched up with an equivalent in my country (Netherlands).

It'll happen over time. I'm not sure of the right answer, but people on all sides are aware that changes are needed.

if the government isn't stepping up to help old developers, shouldn't there be a developers' union to take care of them?

Old age and ill health can happen to anyone. Even crack developers.

Yes, but we are doing sooo well in our twenties and thirties, why would we unionize....

it's the usual thing. we all want to be zuck. we don't want to cramp the lifestyle of zucks by unionizing in case it hurts us when we become one. Like lottery ticket buyers oblivious to the fact that buying a ticket is an expected negative.

You say hiring is weighted against older generalists, but in your resume you call yourself a generalist on the second line and call yourself OldCoder everywhere. Maybe you aren't doing yourself any favors?

The best job hunting advice I ever read was from Nick Corcodilos' book Ask the Headhunter: Reinventing the Interview to Win the Job. The takeaway is that companies are trying to make money, and if you can demonstrate how you'll contribute to the bottom line, they'll have no choice to hire you. If the interview or recruiting process isn't giving you a chance to demonstrate that, then you need to restructure the interaction.

(Oldish coder.)

You've made two good points here. I'm inclined to keep the nick but I think I'll purchase the book you've mentioned.

If you're currently a jobless transient, you might want to consider the library instead of purchasing books...

Oh boy, I'm often reminded of how lucky I am, being born in a Scandinavian country. I'm basically set for life; there's simply a comfortable lower bound on how bad things can get. I am just so completely unfairly privileged that I sometimes feel guilty about it.

Don't feel too guilty about it, we pay our taxes and are proud of it.

It's their own choosing, they have three major political parties that are all right wing (reps, dems, libs).

If a political leader even hints at raising taxes the only valid excuse for it would be to go to war.

They despise caring for your citizens so much, they made a slur out of the word 'social'.

I'm sorry for making such harsh generalisations about the U.S. folk, but from a European standpoint U.S. anti-social culture is just so outlandish.

IMO, "social" is a slur due to Cold War baggage.

I think that it's unfair to say that we despise caring for our citizens. We're just really bad at it.

We have old age retirement (Social Security; for workers), disability insurance (SSDI; for workers), welfare (TANF; for families), food stamps (SNAP), universal healthcare for the aged (Medicare; 65+), healthcare for the poor (Medicaid), subsidized housing, unemployment benefits, and so on. Much of the aid is temporary.

All in all, it's a confusing, rickety system with different rules for different localities. Much of our social spending is devised to be "means tested," so it's confusing as hell to determine what kind of help you can expect based on your income, family size, state, city, etc... It's a mess.

Things are improving on the health care front, thankfully. Though, not all states chose to go through with Medicaid expansion.

That said, you have certainly painted some truth with your broad brush.

As I understand it, many European systems are tilted towards higher taxes, lower economic growth, and more social welfare spending. America's system is tilted towards lower taxes, higher economic growth, and lower social welfare spending.

For us, things like social welfare fall by the wayside. From my American perspective, things like economic growth tend to fall by the wayside on your continent (unless you're Norway, blessed with fossil fuels).

I found this an interesting article on various tax rates, and the US is surprisingly high[1].

Difficult to compare countries, but (unless you've got kids) the tax you pay in the US is pretty average. And if you are a high earner, it seems you'd be better off in Germany or China.


* What's with the tax breaks for having a couple of kids, are the government really keen for Americans to breed?

Libertarians aren't a major party. There are a lot of people in the Republican party who call themselves libertarians, but the actual Libertarian party is extremely minor.

Two parties. (Dems = libs)

He may have been referring to "libertarians" and not "liberals", but I'm not sure it really affects the GP post's point.

I think he means libertarians, maybe?

I do yes :)

While they're the third largest party, they are by no means major. That said, libertarians of various stripes are represented in both parties.

Our democratic system is flawed and invariably leads to just two major parties.

USA has 300 million people, the problems to organize a society does not increase linearly with the population size. I doubt the Scandinavian solutions work even in Scandinavia, long term! It is typically Swedish to judge that different places by your own irrelevant standards.

> USA has 300 million people, the problems to organize a society does not increase linearly with the population size

I see this stated all the time, but I've never seen a good explanation of why that is.

You could also make all kinds of claims about why a small and sparsely populated country like Norway or Sweden could never be prosperous - they don't have the economies of scale to attract investment, they speak languages that not many people outside of those countries know, etc. But they seem to have figured it out.

Rather than just giving up and saying that we cannot replicate their success, maybe we should be looking for novel ways of implementing such a system (after first confirming that what they're doing actually doesn't work in a much larger country, rather than just taking it as fact).

Assume best case, that the problem size increase linearly with population. The US has 30 times more population (and probably a similar amount more complexity) than Sweden.

Would you say in a job interview that you think a problem 30 times larger is just 30 times as hard to solve...? (That is a different class of problem.)

> Would you say in a job interview that you think a problem 30 times larger is just 30 times as hard to solve...?

That depends entirely on whether the problem scales linearly, sublinearly, or superlinearly.

Your response is just another example of the defeatist attitude that most Americans have when it comes to comparisons with Scandinavian countries that have solved many of the social problems that plague the US these days. You can give no concrete reason why it would be so difficult to replicate these solutions in the US, instead repeatedly stating that it won't work because there are 30x as many people.

If we had taken the same attitude when it came to building out the interstate highway system after WW2 just because we have significantly more land area than European nations, we would have never been able to connect the whole country. But instead, we came up with workable solutions and successfully implemented them.

>>Your response is just another example of the defeatist attitude that most Americans have when it comes to comparisons with Scandinavian countries

I am from Sweden, please check so personal attacks are relevant first!

I try to make this point: The Scandinavian systems do have big problems too, which isn't that publicized. I wouldn't recommend anyone to carbon copy it. Look at e.g. the German implementation instead, larger population and (from the outside) it seems to work less bad than in Sweden.

See my other comments. (And yes, the US health care is uniquely fubar:ed.)

Re scaling:

Nothing I've ever seen says that organising big groups of people in complex endeavours (companies, societies etc) scale [sub]linearily! (Consider network effects of people. And all the differing areas/cultures. And organized crime/gangs in USA.)

But sure, I am certainly no specialist. References welcome?

Germany has 80 million, but the US has a low overall population density. Which makes area-wide coverage more expensive I guess.

You say that, even though the U.S. is actually composed of 50 largely self-governing states, most of which are within the scale size of a scandinavian country.

Just assuming a more social system wouldn't work just because the U.S. is larger seems rather speculative to me. Have they tried, and did they fail?

I am also not swedish :P

> You say that, even though the U.S. is actually composed of 50 largely self-governing states

Each war and crisis has ratcheted up centralized power, typically by way of granting war time powers that never seem to completely fade away.

To help illustrate, money is an important proxy to government power, and the federal government spends roughly twice that of all state governments combined ($3.8T vs $2T).

> Have they tried, and did they fail?

The federal government has welfare programs that can be augmented by the states. California, for example, does this with food stamps (SNAP to CalFresh), health care for the poor (Medicaid to MediCal), and welfare for families (TANF to CalWORKS). To fund these, among other services (e.g., the University of California system), California has the highest state income tax in the nation (topping out at 13.3% for those earning over $1M).

I imagine that some states do not go much beyond the minimal federal programs.

For example, starting in 2014, Medicaid (health care for the poor) was expanded to cover those earning under 138% of the poverty line (a perfect example of the confusing way in which assistance is determined). Many states chose not to expand Medicaid, so they will not receive additional federal funding for the program. States that did, however, will.

On the health care front, some states have attempted to introduce universal health care. California successfully passed a bill, only to be vetoed by Arnold Schwarzenegger. Only two successful instances come to mind: Vermont and Massachusetts.

Vermont passed a single-payer universal health care system in 2011. Unfortunately, I am ignorant of details on its implementation.

Massachusetts has "RomneyCare," which has since been augmented to strongly resemble (in my eyes) the Swiss health care scheme. Insurance is mandatory, but coverage cannot be denied. Private insurance is subsidized by government. Health care costs are heavily regulated.

> For example, starting in 2014, Medicaid (health care for the poor) was expanded to cover those earning under 138% of the poverty line (a perfect example of the confusing way in which assistance is determined). Many states chose not to expand Medicaid, so they will not receive additional federal funding for the program. States that did, however, will.

It's worth noting that the law as written, did not leave much of an option for the states to not expand Medicare. However, the law was gutted by the court system, so most of the right-leaning states chose not to expand it.

You say that, even though the U.S. is actually composed of 50 largely self-governing states, most of which are within the scale size of a scandinavian country.

True, but not are as populous as a Scandinavian country. Additionally, it would take a massive (massive!) restructuring of the tax code across the federal, state, and local levels to allow the states to increases taxes enough to provide sufficient services on their own. The federal government would also need to cede a fair of power to the states (think education, health care, social services).

I'm not necessarily suggesting this is a bad idea--there are just considerable obstacles to implement such a policy shift.

Every country has different levels of organization. (And I am Swedish.)

I'm Norwegian, and I think a lot of people don't realise how big of a deal this feeling of security can be. I left university to do a startup. It happened literally over the course of a week: We decided we wanted to start an ISP, wrote a business plan, found an angel investor, rented offices that we moved into (as in, we lived in rooms in the office) and got started.

While I was certainly willing to take bigger risks then, with no dependents, at no point did things like healthcare or my ability to get food or shelter enter into my considerations, and the extremely low risks for us involved in potential failure made the decision process for deciding to go for it very different on a personal level from the ones I've been involved in later, in the UK and US.

We did live on tiny amounts of money for the following two years - the first year we financed with our student loans, while still notionally studying. But the prospect of the business failing and leaving me destitute and without access to healthcare, for example, were not really possible. My worst case prospect of going on social benefits for a while would in fact quite possibly have raised my living standards above how I was living out of choice to try to get the business off the ground.

In retrospect, it's a fantastic level of freedom to have to never really have to worry about being put in any truly awful situation. I didn't really realise until I moved to the UK - while the healthcare system here measures up well with the Scandinavian systems, most other things are far less generous here (and contrary to what most people think, I don't pay all that much less tax than I did in Norway)

It definitely is nice that you get to live in a Scandinavian Country, it's funny but I know two American girls that have totally changed their lives by meeting Scandinavian guys and moving across the ocean.

Anyway I'm just a low level system admin that looks at this stuff and always freaks out. It's ironic because the perceived situation is not unlike how women often feel the need to settle down before their looks go away.

When I'm healthy and I can take a step back (I'm 28), I kind of feel like if you are interested in technology you should be able to find work into old age. Maybe the reality truly is something different but I hope not.

The people I really feel bad for are Indian H1B workers. At least Chinese have a decent shot at getting citizenship, I know quite a few Microsoft employees (I live in Seattle) and the Indians are basically high paid slaves. They all make more than double my salary, but they can build a whole life here and then if they get too old or their performance suffers they get kicked out.

Anyway there are lots of hard things in the world I hope that old IT workers really don't have as much of an issue finding work as seems to be implied on a regular basis by my preferred news outlets

> I'm basically set for life; there's simply a comfortable lower bound on how bad things can get.

You are only set for life if the political climate in your country remains the same, and your country can afford the current model in the future, and so on. That is a lot to bet on, in my opinion.

It's getting worse though... I think only healthcare is the biggest advantage.

First, the US health care system is uniquely dysfunctional. But there are lots of mosquitos in Scandinavia.

For instance, the health care is a centralised system. Those never work. Doctors don't have time/incentive to diagnose problems unless they are obvious (or you're related to a politician -- yes, like in Soviet). Many Swedes (how many? No one knows) drag easily cured problems around for years and decades.

From my own and friends' experiences -- simple knee problems that stopped favorite exercise, lack of iron/vitamines that gave depressions, hard to recognize allergies that resulted in tiredness, thyroid problems etc.

I am here to tell you Scandinavians that it doesn't have to be like that!

If you go into a health care place in Romania, you are a valued customer they want to make happy. They will screw you over by giving you extra tests, not telling you something (anything) to get you out the door (because they only have minutes with any given client)!

You can't get that for money in Sweden. If you have health care problems, go to East Europe or something for the next vacation. (A recent article on BBC discussed that Polish doctors were working in Britain, because Polish immigrants were spoiled with the health care and the British system seemed similar to Sweden).

Please remember this when you're too chronically tired to make enough fuss so the doctors will try to find your problem to get rid of you.

(I have experience with the Swedish and partly with the Finnish health care systems, e.g. the Norwegian is a bit different but I don't really know enough to have an opinion.)

The difference is one of philosophy. The Scandinavian systems largely are based on the idea that it is unfair to allow anyone to pay to cut in the healthcare queue given that it is an essential public good.

It aligns everyones incentives when it comes to healthcare funding (as individuals at least). Conversely, while the UK NHS is excellent, the wealthy often "opt out" of depending on the NHS (as well as the state schools), and so have little incentive to support NHS funding (and in fact, the Conservatives were strongly against the NHS until they realised just how popular it had become in just a couple of years after it was introduced).

The Scandinavian model is inferior from the point of view of those who can afford to pay their way to superior care. It is also strongly dependent on a rough consensus on how much health care is worth, as those who believe health care is worth more does not have an easy option for getting more if they're in a minority, and this is certainly a problem.

I'm Norwegian, but I must admit I prefer the UK model - as much as people in the UK complain about the NHS, it's still one of the public services with the highest approval ratings, and so popular it is pretty much untouchable, yet there are "outs" for those who believe they are particularly badly served and it doesn't seem to majorly affect other service allocation in the UK. On the other hand, there are aspects with the UK model that demonstrate exactly what the Scandinavian models tries to prevent: The UK NHS is often accused of a brain drain from Africa and other regions, by hiring large numbers of doctors and nurses away from poor countries.

'the wealthy often "opt out" of depending on the NHS'

I don't know how practical it is to really opt out completely of the NHS - I'm not aware of much private emergency care and if you have an accident you'll almost certainly get taken to an NHS hospital. Also we had an experience where although we have private health insurance (I get it from my job) - when my son had a nasty eye infection we were actually better off going to the specialized NHS eye hospital rather than waiting to see the same consultant at a private hospital a few days later.

I wrote that the Scandinavian health care systems destroy many lives because it fails to diagnose health problems (again, I don't really know about Norway. It do seem less bureaucratic. Or Britain.).

I also wrote about how people can get real health checkups. (This might drastically improve the life of 0.5% - ?% of the population, no one has examined this afaik.)

A philosophical/political discussion as answer to that -- arguing why it is morally right to have a system that doesn't work (here, even destroy people's lives) -- is very Scandinavian. And very "Animal farm".

Edit: About Britain's NHS and Eastern Europe. tl;dr: NHS sucks, Eastern Europe health care cures people. I.e. same as in Sweden. http://www.economist.com/news/britain/21579018-health-clinic...

> For instance, the health care is a centralised system. Those never work.

Seems to work great for all my relatives in Norway. However, if your statement is more that a centralized system is not perfect I agree.

The single payer system in Norway works generally so well that health-care is something a norwegian does not have to worry about. This is very different from the USA where it has to be on the top of your mind, and a significant portion of the population has no insurance.

> Doctors don't have time/incentive to diagnose problems unless they are obvious (or you're related to a politician -- yes, like in Soviet)

You are still buying in to the cold world propaganda where socialism equals communism, and because soviet was communist then all socialism is bad?

Even america has socialism in all it's confusing array of emergency and social support infrastructure. However, the system here is not well organized and therefore confusing and inefficient.

I think the discussion would be more productive if we focus on if there should be more more socialism in the US, and if that is a good thing. Pretending that socialism does not exists in the US government is not productive.

> From my own and friends' experiences -- simple knee problems that stopped favorite exercise, lack of iron/vitamines that gave depressions, hard to recognize allergies that resulted in tiredness, thyroid problems etc.

I know people that have been diagnosed and treated for all of these and more complex issues in Norway. And no, the people that got treated was normal working-class families with few connections. However, anecdotes are not very useful since I am sure you can find those in any health-care system.

I see a lot of these anecdotes from opponents of single-payer health care, and I am sure you can find plenty of anecdotes in any health care system. However, do you have any study comparing health care systems that supports your claim that a single-payer system can never work?

Evidence seems to suggest otherwise and Dr Danielle Martin answered some of the more common "evidence" given by opponents like e.g Sen. Bernie Sanders:

Also, the wikipedia page on the topic cites plenty of studies that seems to cotradict your conclusion http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Comparison_of_the_health_care_s...

You are arguing against something I didn't write.

First, I explicitly mentioned that I'm not familiar with Norway, but it is similar to Sweden/Finland, where I have lived.

Second, I argue that lots of cases, but hardly a majority, fall between chairs in Sweden/Finland. Diagnosis (access to doctors etc) is bad in Sweden, according to international benchmarking.

No one knows how large these problems are since this is not researched, which is typical for Sweden with the big Ol' Boys networks where media, politicians and big corporations have understandings.

>>However, do you have any study comparing health care systems that supports your claim that a single-payer system can never work?

You are reacting by reflexes on internal US discussions here. See my other comments.

I am arguing something else: Centrally planned systems, like the Swedish/Finnish health care, are inefficient with lots of problems. This is not controversial. And have nothing to do with all possible "single payer systems".

See my other comments for a link to the Economist, re British health care.

A few of "Silicon Valley stories" that showed up lately (this one, the one about jobless Satoshi Nakamoto, the one about sexism and harassment in GitHub, or about Google/Apple wages conspiracy, or falling FX studios in Hollywood) got me wondering: why developers put so much faith into libertarianism, free market, and a good will of corporations and their HR departments; and/or are so strongly against state social protection, labor unions, etc. - basically all that uncool "heavy industry" stuff that could help in these and many other cases?

Are there any labor unions in Silicon Valley? I know about one in Apple, but it is (was?) formed mainly by the folks working at Apple retail stores, not the devs.

Living in an European country and having some experience with unions by hearing stories and watching the news - first of all, unions are highly political and aren't really meant for the protection of the employees.

Also, the existence of unions ends up working against the public's interest. Tell me, what scenario is better for the economy, for taxpayers, for you - (a) company fires 10,000 people and survives, (b) company goes bankrupt, or (c) company receives government bailout and execs go home with fat bonuses.

In the end, it's a harsh world we live in and we have to cope with it. I don't know what I'll do when I'll be 50, but seeing all the morons that do have jobs, I have high hopes that even if I won't be able to do software development anymore, I'll be able to change my line of work - because seriously, software developers are amongst the most adaptable people of all industries - think about how many times you had to go in depth to understand a business model, in order to build some software for it.

Or maybe I'll be fucked. But one thing I did learn in my 10 years of experience is that successful people in general find time to market themselves, to do networking, etc... even if they don't need to do it.

> Living in an European country and having some experience with unions by hearing stories and watching the news - first of all, unions are highly political and aren't really meant for the protection of the employees.

That's a bit like saying "I read the news, and I've come to the conclusion that all corporations are plagued by internecine war and exist to steal money." Unions were formed to protect employees. Yes, some unions have become corrupt and greedy, but that does not mean all unions are corrupt and greedy.

> Or maybe I'll be fucked. But one thing I did learn in my 10 years of experience is that successful people in general find time to market themselves, to do networking, etc... even if they don't need to do it.

The disgusting "anti-poaching" hiring scandal in Silicon Valley that involved almost all of the big companies, e.g. Google, Apple, Adobe, etc. mulcting around 100,000 employees for billions of dollars of wages for several years is good evidence that self-marketing skills are valueless when companies illegally discriminate against you and refuse to hire you because of your employment history. Thousands of talented engineers could not negotiate, switch companies and adapt because the disgusting avarice of the former CEO of Apple prevented them from doing so.

having some experience with unions by hearing stories and watching the news

That's not really an experience, is it? Yeah, I heard lot of dark stories about unions as well (corruption, nepotism, violence, dirty politics, mafia connections - usually it's one out of these), and there's a lot to improve but then again: unlike governments and corporations unions don't own powerful media outlets to fix their PR, do they? Also, who says the developers' union has to be like the other unions. After all we are the people who "think different".

Anyway, just take a look how it works in Hollywood. Basically the only profession there which doesn't have its strong union/guild are the special effects people. And while the movie mega-corporations make billions on superhero franchises the FX companies go bust one after another.[1][2] Do you remember the Writers' Strike?[3] The corporations agreed to share their profits with writers only after 12 000 union members were striking for over 3 months.

Another example: the case of Julie Ann Horvath at GitHub. She asked HR to be a mediator between her and the company's founder[4]. She cried during that meeting and HR did nothing. I wouldn't blame them, they too risked their employment there. That's unions job, that what unions are needed for: to protect you from your employer.

In the end, it's a harsh world we live in and we have to cope with it.

So, why don't we make things a bit easier for ourselves? Historically, every major technological advancement (industrial revolution, introduction of cars, and so on) poured vast new wealth into the hands of entrepreneurs and investors, while common workers either lost their jobs or had to work much harder. That's when unions were "invented", that's when eight-hour working day was fought for[5] - basically that's when current shape of the Western society was molded. We have various means that protect the existence of the middle class[6] to this day. Yet, we now observe a new industrial revolution and - that amazes me - the hard-workers that propel this revolution are voluntarily waiving their most valuable rights. Not only that, they (we!) are more eager to defend billion dollar corporations' not paying a cent of taxes than to ask for medical aid for a colleague.

software developers are amongst the most adaptable people of all industries

When you're 40-50, got over 20 years of experience, two kids in high school/college and a mortgage the last thing you ever want is to adapt to a new line of work and start from scratch. This one, I believe, don't need a citation.

1) http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB1000142412788732386430...

2) http://www.ibtimes.com/vfx-oscars-march-visual-effects-worke...

3) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2007–08_Writers_Guild_of_Americ...

4) http://techcrunch.com/2014/03/15/julie-ann-horvath-describes...

5) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eight-hour_day

6) http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/who-owns-the-future-jaron-la...

When I said stories, I'm speaking of stories of close acquaintances and family.

When I said news - I'm speaking of mass protests of employees from the public administrative sectors, that blocked the city I live in several times for, tam, tam, political reasons, right before the elections, with their only purpose being to show up on TV - while the people that pay their salaries, the rest of us, didn't have the time to organize protests against them, since we actually have to work for a living. I'm also speaking of teachers in public schools that are paid with dirt and their union doesn't do shit about it, with my old high-school teachers literally worrying about putting food on the table.

> Historically, every major technological advancement (industrial revolution, introduction of cars, and so on) poured vast new wealth into the hands of entrepreneurs and investors, while common workers either lost their jobs or had to work much harder.

I totally agree that this sucks. I'm not convinced about unions as the solution. Maybe you're right.

Maybe because some people put morals over personal gain? 'Hey everybody vote socialist, you'll get free stuff!'

Weird how the "morals over personal gain" argument works as both a pro- and anti- libertarian point.

Not so weird I think - without wanting to start an 'moral objeectivism vs relativism' discussion, I think we can all agree that there are, between people, wildly varying interpretations of what 'morally good' means.

Not being able to afford healthcare without a full-time job at a megacorp isn't because markets are too free.

Also, if devs that are older (or women or parents) are undervalued, there is a competitive advantage waiting to be seized by companies that can create business models around that.

In other words, being bigoted is not profitable in a free society. Only companies resting on their laurels (or otherwise abusing people) can afford that sort of nonsense in the long run.

What if it is profitable to be bigoted? What if young coders are more profitable -- willing to work longer hours for less money, lower medical expenses -- than old coders?

What's the plan for all of us young coders when we become old coders? Be dead or retired by 40, because you won't be employable after that?

Basically, yes. Its like asking what the world needs to do, to provide jobs for old pro football running backs. First of all the pool is immensely larger than the number of slots, so its statistical randomness that got any individual a slot, secondly its like the arts where you have to get used to the idea that most guitar players are not going to get thru life by playing guitar.

STEM jobs are cool for those who can get them, but you need a backup plan to live the rest of your life. Just like you'd tell a kid who thinks he's going to get thru life playing basketball or a guitar.

Isn't that basically why football players have such a strong union? To negotiate contracts which give them a fighting chance to retire at 35 when they stop being useful?

The players' union is a bit of a special case because the NFL and its teams have special exemptions from the usual anti-monopoly and anti-trust laws.

Given your assumptions, young developers would require more compensation so they could retire (or at least retrain) at 40. Like VLM said, there are parallels in other fields. In most of those fields, there's a strong up-or-out pull that:

- helps the successful be financially secure when their careers are over

- encourages quick failure so a dramatic career change isn't as difficult

There are plenty of young 20-year olds with nothing to lose and lots of bills to pay.

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