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Here's the thing, the software-is-eating-the-world explosion really took off in the early 90's (or at least that's when myself and a bunch of friends I knew got into it). All the people that got into writing software back then are aging and most that I know aren't planning to stop. I myself am on the doorstep of my 36th birthday. For those of us that have slogged it out for multiple decades now aren't simply going to go sit at home and wish we were 20 again. The sheer number of aging engineers will cause this problem to reach a breaking point. Those of us that have been instilled with the "disrupt the establishment" ethos in the 90's and 2000's will find a new industry to disrupt...our own.



For a long time I looked around at the relative lack of 40+ developers and founders in my field and considered it worrisome; what will I do when I get to that age? do I need a massive bank of savings just in case?

But I think it's also easy to see it as an opportunity. We are staggeringly lucky generation; software is the future and it isn't going the way of mass automation or obsolescence any time soon. There is probably another two hundred years of foundational innovation left in the field, we're still just scratching the surface of information theory and what's possible. Experience is likely to increase in value.

As individuals; by cultivating just a little higher order thinking, and seeing above the surface layer of raw code, it shouldn't be hard to offer meaningful value and insight for the remainder of one's lifetime. I don't think the key is learning to "adapt", progressing from one fad language or technique to another, so much as it is to see the similarities between these fads and to understand them at a higher level of abstraction. To understand that SOA programming is the same thing as micro-kernels, or CSP, for example, and to seem to offer new wisdom by regurgitating the old.

In that spirit, I've observed that the successful senior engineers I've come to know don't decry constant change, but constant same-ness.


Interesting points but a few things I disagree with. Its not so much about offering meaningful insight as it is about being a bro you can hang out with..in a lot of cases..I.e. fitting in with the "culture". So I think the slightly older guys are going to have to find common ground to band together on because they aren't going to mesh culturally with the youngsters necessarily. Other thing about two hundred year, humans will be irrelevant within 40 years, and software development, if we were able to see into the future, will basically look like magic.. for example direct manifestations of simulated realtime imaginations of a multiperson via programmable matter.


Its not so much about offering meaningful insight as it is about being a bro you can hang out with..in a lot of cases..I.e. fitting in with the "culture".

People are talking about this a lot in the context of women too - is this "cultural fit" expectation keeping women out of the profession?

I think women in general are equally able to hang and be a bro, but in some cases it means they need to adapt, and some women are resistant to operating in a masculine space.


While we can try to disrupt, we are handicapped on the energy or the risks that we need to take to get this done.


Sure, older engineers usually can't take the "live off my friends couch and eat Ramen for a year" risks that 20-somethings can take. There are a lot of problems that can be solved in a 40-50 hour workweek though. Problems that can be solved with near-immediate profitability, etc. Or so my gut tells me.


Hopefully this is where things are going. I like this future much better than one in which engineers are disposable.


I think ageism in tech will mature along with the industry as well, that was the first wave and a very disruptive one, so this generation has disruption as a modus operandi.

Back then old meant something different as it was a new industry, older people didn't grow up with tech and there was a huge valley/difference between someone that gets tech and a generations before that didn't have it. Everyone below 40-50ish (and definitely everyone in their 30s and below) has had tech around their whole lives and at a more core level as it was new and attracted mainly young people then, but now it attracts all people and has had people working in it for decades (past mid 90s when the internet went mainstream, most are still doing it).

I have to say working for over a decade in tech/programming that most of the really good programmers were over 30s (and all good product developers were either close or over 30), this is because it takes 10 years to get good at anything even if you start in your teens, shipping products for 10 years can't be sped up. Someone out of college at 23-24 needs to work until 33-34 to be really good. To discard that is futile and young programmers might even be scared away from this line of work if there are no future prospects. I also believe it will be detrimental to our entire country as technology is so important now.

Funny enough in game development some of the best I have worked with were actually in their 40s nearing 50s even though it is also seen as a young industry, game companies wouldn't ship anything without experienced developers of 5-10 years, you can't get that experience and then be worthless at 35.

When there is a new industry, the people in it at that time sometimes gain more valuable lower level experience because the platforms/layer is still being constructed. So engine developers that are older were almost always better than younger because they have the core knowledge without the layers of fluff that product cycles can add. Just like back in the day hardware was more prevalent and a population of people that were in it then are sometimes better at it because they were around when it was big.

The market is also solving ageism by paying programmers better than managers many times. Noone will desire to go manage if it is a step down. There was a temporary moment in time when there were NO development managers, sales/marketing/bizdev couldn't manage it. So they NEEDED programmers to go into management to make sense of it and they are good at marketing so it stuck in the collective psyche. That has changed dramatically and I believe this will mature the industry.

Also, let's not confuse ageism for VC funding selectiveness, they will always choose younger because the term sheet is easier with younger that are less knowledgable about value. The 'problem' with older coders is they know they can ship and know their value.

Who knows, if the WhatsApp guys were younger Facebook could have gotten it cheaper. If older developers build more value, VCs will see they can flip for higher amounts and that may also help this perception problem.

Ageism isn't just a problem for older developers, it is a problem for younger developers as well in that they are smart contributors that will be shut off after 10-15 years of solid work, right when most of them will be in their prime and contributing to society.


Yep, I have around 11 years experience, and I would say I am starting to get good. I see younger colleagues and see lots of incompetence, (including mistakes I would have made a few years ago). Can I get a payrise now? No chance.




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