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59, programming for 42 years, the last 35 professionally. Here on HN for 7.5 years.

I've always been very busy (one of the main reasons I don't post on HN as much any more). I don't have a resume. I'm not on LinkedIn. If I ever ran low on work, it would probably take me a day or two and a few phone calls to find something.

I don't work on anything unless I find it incredibly compelling. I write applications. I've seen tons of different technologies, many old ones I still use. But I also get very jazzed learning new stuff and incorporating it into my toolbox.

I know tons of programmers in my age group. I'd classify them into 2 groups:

25% - just like me. You don't see our resumes because we're very happy building cool stuff and rarely look for work. We've also seen it all and can smell something we're not interested in a mile away. You don't see us at many events because we're so busy with work and life, we only pick the ones with the most promise of bang for the buck. Most of the programmers I know in this group would make phenomenal additions to many startups, but don't recognize this as a compelling alternative to what they're already doing. The best way to engage us is to seek us out, make friends, and share some stories about something cool you're working on.

75% - one year's experience 30 times, not 30 years experience. Unaware of modern technology. Couldn't write Hello World in anything other than BASIC, FORTRAN, or COBOL (and would probably misspell 50% of the words). No imagination. Limited ability to visualize the possibilities. Hiding under the radar in some enterprise. You don't want these people.




I build cool stuff, I have kept up to date on new technologies, and languages. But I don't have a big network of people who "need a website" and I don't build websites, so I don't have people constantly calling me offering me work. That doesn't make me someone who has "done the same job for 30 years".

My skill is not marketing my skills on a freelance basis. My skill is in engineering.. and a variety of others (like startups, people management, etc.)

I hate 80/20 like splits that are so binary.

Part of the problem here is that it's very difficult for many people under 30 to imagine someone over 40 is not falling into your %75 category. They already think that most people can't do fizz buzz.

I once had an interview with a 20 year old with 2 years of experience. HE was the head of development at one of those startups that raised millions on kickstarter.

He asked me the question: "How would you do feature X in language Y?". I pointed out that you couldn't do it in language Y but that you could do these other things that were similar. He then said " In language Z you do this and that's the answer I was looking for". But language Z is not the same as language Y.

Flubbing a question? No problem. Everyone can get nervous. Giving a BS question and then using the "wrong" answer as a reason to not hire me? Suspicious. So, why would he try to do that? Well, it turns out we were on a video call.

Who wants to hire someone old enough to be their dad? I understand that sentiment.

But the Software Industry hasn't developed a pyramid of job titles you can climb.


> Who wants to hire someone old enough to be their dad?

I do. They almost certainly know more than I do about anything of any substance. Maybe they don't know node.js and mongodb as well as some young person, but they can figure that stuff much faster than I can learn any of the stuff they've learned throughout their life. I worry more about the opposite: who wants to work for someone young enough to be their child?


"Maybe they don't know node.js".

Exactly, there is nothing magical about implementing the Reactor pattern in a 25-year old language.


There's nothing magical about any of it. It's all incremental progress. We place way too much value on specific technologies, and not enough on broad experience. If someone has been successfully building software for decades, it is stupid to think they can't figure out rails or play or clojure or {{whatever}}. They may not want to learn, but that's a different issue.


There are plenty of older developers who are interested in the latest thing. Because us older developers get bored with the old stuff, and we are definitely aware of the issue of falling behind. I am 36 and have been doing Node.js for 3 years.

I was just reading a response to this article with someone who was much older, like 50 or 60 or something, also said he was a Node.js programmer.

I've actually been really paying close attention to trends, new programming languages, etc.

Node.js is kind of old news. The coolest new programming language I know of is Nim.

Stuff that I think that matters for the future is higher-level semantic metalanguages for information exchange and information systems factorization, fully distributed computing, connected devices, and custom circuits/electronics.


It's so absurd that 36 is "older".

I didn't mean to imply that no "older" developers are interested in newer things, just that it really doesn't matter if they aren't.


I am finding a bit difficult to understand the "I am not good at networking" angle. Assuming a job change every 3 years, and 2 people to vouch for you at each, one would have a 10 people "marketing team" after 15 years. I am not talking about schmoozing with higher ups here; just impressing peers with the quality of work.

Am I missing something?


There are introverts, and then there are introverts. I can easily see somebody who is particularly introverted not developing a deep network after 10, 20, or even 30 years of experience, simply because they are very introverted (or socially maladjusted; the two are different, but in a world run by extroverts it is arguable that they may as well not be). I'm not that introverted, but I'm introverted enough that it is by sheer luck I have more than two people from my first few jobs I could ask for references or even directly for work. My last couple of jobs, however, have been another matter--I "got over it," as they say, and have put more effort into networking. I even recently developed a connection completely outside of work!

Leavnig that aside, sometimes people move or switch focus or have to take jobs at crappy "body shop" companies to make ends meet during a bust, etc. Hence the quality of the network isn't necessarily good enough to have the kind of "I need a job, whatcha got" connections you mention.


I'm spectacularly bad at keeping up with previous co-workers. I'll certainly admit to that---it's one of my "listen to my advice, what I'd do, and then do something completely different" points.

But then, I spent 8 years at one job and in grad school. Anyone I knew before that would be really hard to find even if they could be a useful network.

And I was really bad at connecting with my committee--I graduated, but without a good network there.

Then I moved across the country.

I've never had any problem finding work, if I shop my resume around to local contractors and "body shops". In fact, I've made a pretty good career out of that. But "exciting" work? Not so much.

At this point, I'm considering getting out of the field. And I love what I do. I just hate what I'm doing, if you can see the difference.


The problem is you think this is somehow normal. That's not how all engineers work. Maybe you work a job and do good work, but then the team disintegrates, people quit, you lose track of co-workers because they were just co-workers and not friends (even if you had an excellent working relationship). It's not necessarily normal at all to retain close relationships with past co-workers, even less so to routinely network through them let alone retain them as references.

The entire reason LinkedIn exists is because most people, even many very highly skilled people in professional career roles, find it difficult to make effective use of such networks, for example. And if you're an engineer who has experienced a rough patch of employment or worked at a company or in a role or under a boss they hated or experienced a period of burnout or underperformed somewhere due to any of those circumstances the whole thing gets that much more difficult.


What am I supposed to do exactly? Call up some co-worker from 3+ years ago and say "hi, remember me? Can you get me a job?"

I don't have a network. I have friends and I have colleagues, but I don't really have anyone that could get me job leads (maybe a couple of my friends)


Or you could call them up, ask them how they're doing, meet them for a coffee, then ask if their company is hiring for X and if they could refer you. At the very least this gets your resume put in front of the hiring manager and lets you bypass the HR nonsense. At the very worst, they say no and you go back to talking about his dog or whatever.

Keep in mind that most companies offer referral bonuses and programmers like to work with people they know and trust. I used to avoid doing this like the plague because I thought I was being a burden to people I consider friends. In reality, asking for a referral is mutually beneficial for both parties.


> Or you could call them up, ask them how they're doing, meet them for a coffee, then ask if their company is hiring for X and if they could refer you.

Every single one of my former coworkers, managers, and other people I dealt with on a regular basis is still at my former employer or retired. How do those contacts help me?


Quit overthinking it an go for coffee already! They know people; they hear about projects you don't; pick their brains. They will be glad to help, because they obviously are NOT interested in leaving their current job so you're no competition.


That might work if my former employer was not a defense contractor. Unfortunately, I left in large part because my co-workers seemed to have little clue as to what was going on outside their own little bubble and little interest in correcting that.


That's a perfectly fine reason for leaving, but you're the one who wants/needs help, so it could serve you well to temporarily drop the judgments & assumptions, and just give a few of said ex-coworkers a try.

If it turns out none of them can help you, you're out an hour or two and the cost of coffee.


Fair enough. You could go to meetups, go to conferences, engage other devs on social media. Send thoughtful emails to people who know people. Ramit Sethi has a couple of blog posts showing email scripts for getting busy people to say yes to coffee[1][2].

A longer term alternative is to make cool things and tell people about them. Write some open source or a side project and post it to HN. Lather, rinse, repeat until you get people emailing you asking you if you have time to talk.

Whatever strategy you use, the goal is to make a personal connection with a hiring manager directly.

[1] http://www.iwillteachyoutoberich.com/blog/ramits-definitive-... [2] http://www.iwillteachyoutoberich.com/blog/video-how-to-use-n...


That is what I am working on, and it is clearly on me that I have not accomplished anything along those lines yet. I have made a few good contacts this way, but nothing has panned out from it.


Hanging out with salespeople is the best way to learn how to network.

Something you notice immediately is that they never feel like they're being used when someone wants to "meet for coffee" as transparent cover for getting something out of them.

They realize that someday they'll need their back scratched, and there's always the possibility that they'll get something (a tip, a lead, etc.) out of an unexpected meeting.


Yes? Assuming your relation with this co-worker was good, why not? Many companies have recruitment bonuses so he would probably also be very happy to refer you.


> Assuming a job change every 3 years

There you go. I spent (really too many) years at one small company after moving from a top-5 city to a top-20 city. And some of my contacts have left town.

Also, even if I've got people who can vouch for me, how do I tell them I'm looking for work? (This might sound trivial but I haven't figured it out.)


I suspect no amount of networking would protect against moving away from the centres of industry.

Given the alternative is being stuck in a boring job, or low pay, or unemployment, what is so difficult in shooting an email asking if they know anyone hiring? What would your reaction be if you got such an email from an ex-colleague?


Yes. I"m 48, and I've worked in software for 26 years.

For two companies.

I think I'm probably the last generation that looks at long-term employment as a good thing, and the older I get the less risk I want to take in being "the new kid" who would be the first to go if anything went wrong with the company.


My network consists mostly of people who know I'm a "programmer" and that's about it. I hang out with tabletop gamers, artists and costume designers, video editors, etc. We're more connected by our hobbies than our jobs. Most tech people I've tried to hang out with aren't all that into discussing tech when we're not on the job. Heck, my enthusiasm for tech usually ends at 5pm.

I also don't talk to former co-workers much because I've moved on to different problems.

So, yeah, I'm bad at networking.


I think no one is like Ed. There maybe be 25% of programmers that have a long standing experience, even with the new tools, but they don't share wisdom like Ed does.

Ed why can't you have your own company? Why can't you be the one who is hiring or at least teach others how to hire. I bet you can smell a talent from 1000 miles away - even if someone did not finish a good school; the world of software engineering would make so much more sense.

[EDIT:] I imagine a job interview; an interviewee says: "I didn't program this but I did program something more difficult"; interviewer makes a frowny face; Ed comes round the corner, puts his hand on the interviewer shoulder and says: "He did not call you stupid; he just said he is ready for the challenge - he has the experience".


He already answered your question:

1. He doesn't take a job unless it's challenging. They don't post on HN or go to conferences because they are busy with so much work and life (hence no wisdom sharing).

2. If he is a freelancer (which his post makes him sound like), than he does own his own company. It's just not a software startup looking for VC or articles in big magazines.

3. He's not hiring because he wants to program, not do HR. Also, Michael Jordan can't pick players for shit and he's the best BB player in history. Skill in a job doesn't mean you can find talent, and the level that he would jump and say a person has talent is probably the level where said person doesn't need recognition to know their skill.

4. If a team does a good job outlining job requirements and interviewing, they too can smell talent from 1000 miles away. But interviewing every applicant with a 2.0GPA from a bottom tier school takes a lot of time and most often does not reveal a hidden gem. Regardless of what their potential is.


I'm like Ed! Except I do engines, libraries, network and backend code, including embedded stuff. But I don't have a resume; don't apply for jobs; don't need to look for work because it looks for me.

I've owned a company but its lonely, so now I earn less but work as a peer in somebody else's company.


Upvoted because I never heard anyone until now say that owning a company is lonely. Food for thought...


I own my own company too, and the loneliness is a very serious issue. I miss having someone else to bounce ideas off of. And often it feels like I'm the only one that cares whether I'm working during a given 1-day period or not, which is very difficult for me sometimes, particularly when the work isn't very challenging.


Takes iron discipline to keep going, 4 weeks into an 8-week project with nothing to do but turning the crank.


I think it's interesting people would assume so. Good programmers don't always make good managers. Or business owner. The same reason why not every good carpenter runs a business and manages a team of people. Highly skilled experts are probably disciplined enough to freelance or work as a contractor. But the skills necessary to grow an enterprise are often a very different set of experiences outside of what they do for a living.

Or they simply aren't interested. They are happy with what they do.

On the other hand, seasoned programmers do make great interviewers. And a good interview often include them in the process. Their insights are very valuable.

Also as a sidenote, if there is no senior/lead developer during your interview process. Or the people do not appear to have a clue. Run. Unless they are going to hire your as the senior/lead, and they admit they lack the knowledge.


I think no one is like Ed

That seems highly unrealistic.

- What are the odds HN would attract and recognize a one-in-seven-billion individual? HN is not THAT special.

- You believe Ed holds great wisdom, and it is Ed himself telling you he is not the only one.


"one year's experience 30 times, not 30 years experience." is a fantastic sentence and I'm stealing it. I've seen too many developers to whom it applies, and it's a great way to express that.


An HR manager said this to my mother's face once. Please consider people's feelings before using it. It's likely to be interpreted as "you've wasted your career and/or life".


It is true though. Some of my friends work for huge corporations, their job title sounds very advanced but in reality, they are repeating very narrow task over and over again for years like a trained monkey.

The worst part is that most people don't recognize this, they live in the bubble, being proud of themselves they know it all. Unless they lose this job and suddenly realize they are basically unqualified for anything outside of their narrow field of expertize.

Either get lucky, never lose that job, so you don't get your feelings hurt when looking for new job. Or get out of the bubble before it's too late and start challenging yourself with new opportunities.


It's not necessarily a bad thing to hear something that sounds bad. Even after years on this planet people can rediscover themselves and start a kind of life they didn't even know it exists. Not telling people who are bad that they are bad is a concept I have a hard time to understand. Instead of worrying about feelings why not worry about really being this better person people can't complain (as much) about?


> Not telling people who are bad that they are bad is a concept I have a hard time to understand.

You might be wrong, and you should factor that in. Perhaps you're not helping people towards a bright new future of self-realization, just condemning them out-of-hand based on your own limited experience or misconceptions? (Not using "you" to imply you do this, btw.)


I really wish English would develop a pronoun similar to the German man. I guess we used to use "one" in a similar sense, but it sounds really stilted now.

> Perhaps one isn't helping people towards a bright new future...


I myself have the experience of overestimating myself drastically many times. Also there are a few things I got good enough in. Therefore I think, when you get feedback and the person giving the feedback is wrong due to their lack of skill, not yours, then you are not really hurt. The only thing that is harmed is your impression and respect for that person. When you are sincerely hurt, it's often you who's lacking.

Never the less it's important to think carefully before criticising others. You are absolutely right and I'll try to keep that in mind next time I want to tell someone how bad they are.


No it's not a bad thing. Problem is that way too many people use this as an excuse to be an asshole. Remember that no one likes to be criticized. If you need to do that, you owe the person the basic human dignity of considering their feelings and being diplomatic.


Oh I would never use that kind of language to somebody's face. It's blunt, and usable when describing (for example) why you wouldn't hire a candidate after a job interview, but not as a form of criticism. There are better ways to bring up the intention to the people themselves.


"One year's experience 5 times" is a very old expression. I first heard it applied to real-estate agents, and it was very old then.

I went Googling for its origin and the first link just took me back to HN: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=4627373


Are you one of the people who use it to describe serial contractors or "job hoppers", or are you one of the people who use it to describe people who've been iterating on the same project/technology system for X years in a single place?

That's the problem with the generalization: it's too general, can be applied to almost any normal career, and isn't really a good heuristic to use when analyzing somebody's work experience in most contexts.


I'd use for people who claim X years of experience, but haven't made any progress in ability in those X years. You can spend 30 years evolving, or you can spend it standing still and only moving when you have no other option. This kind of phrase is for the latter kind, doesn't matter if they're serial contractors or have been working on the same project for 30 years.


Why is this comment getting upvoted? It's pretty insulting and arrogant to paint a massive swathe of our community as stupid, unambitious people who never progressed past hello world.

Let's remember that in those 42 years the number of BASIC, FORTRAN, or COBOL jobs has diminished through to almost nothing. The last person I met who described themselves as a COBOL programmer was about 10 years ago, and even they said they did it for the money as there were so few of them left.

So the programmers edw519's knows have in all probability probably managed to switch from COBOL to to VB6, then Java or PHP and then maybe even C# or Ruby and are probably nowhere near as stagnant or unambitious as he's portraying them.

It's that or he hangs round at COBOL programmer's meetups.


I felt the same, but I've come to realize that the comment you take issue with perfectly encapsulates the tech industry. A no holds barred race to the bottom. That's why work conditions, salary, stability and prestige are nowhere near comparable industries such as finance, heavy engineering, medicine, law, etc.

Something about programmers makes them think they are all the destined one true hero, and as a result, programmers tend to disparage and disrespect their own peers, at great cost to themselves.

My favorite is this guy [1], who was literally adding billions of dollars of revenue for Goldman Sachs, but was getting paid peanuts. When he left to pursue more interesting work (not for salary!), they brought the FBI down on him.

I don't call myself a programmer, computer scientist, or any such low class term anymore. I'm a consultant, and I don't associate with self-deprecating professionals who denigrate their own fields.

Humans are primates, and we form status hierarchies. Proudly exclaiming that your tribe is at the very bottom is the definition of stupidity. Good luck to those that do, I sincerely wish you the best. But when your salary stagnates, you're asked to work 80hr weeks without overtime, and you get no respect from management, maybe its time for a little self-reflection.

There is a reason software dev is such a low status profession, and it's not because we're "nerds". It's because we self-denigrate and self-deprecate like no other profession on earth.

1. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sergey_Aleynikov

EDIT: It is worth reading this article if you'd like some more details on this problem, from a fellow HN member who has dedicated a lot of time to thinking about it [2].

2. http://michaelochurch.wordpress.com/2014/07/13/how-the-other...


> That's why work conditions, salary, stability and prestige are nowhere near comparable industries such as finance, heavy engineering, medicine, law, etc.

As a combination or individually? Medicine is about the only one in the list that's strong in all of the listed characteristics. "Heavy engineering", to my knowledge, doesn't pay much more, finance doesn't seem that much more stable, and law certainly has good work conditions for those at the very top, but not for the newbies.


How did you get "other programmers" as the villain in Aleynikov's disgusting tale? Just wondering.


Actually in his case, his worst enemy was himself. He did not accurately value himself within the organization either politically or economically [1]. He thus paid the price.

The programmer types were different from the trader types. The trader types were far more alive to the bigger picture, to their context. They knew their worth in the marketplace down to the last penny. They understood the connection between what they did and how much money was made , and they were good at exaggerating the importance of the link. Serge wasn’t like that. He was a little-picture person, a narrow problem solver. “I think he didn’t know his own value,” says the recruiter. [2]

1. https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=7577872

2. http://cryptome.org/2014/04/goldman-sachs-code-thief.htm


You should take with a grain of salt any assertions you see that Aleynikov was bringing in billions in revenue. The sub-industry he worked in doesn't see those kinds of numbers from any individual's effort.


Please elucidate exactly to which sub-industry Goldman-Sachs belongs. I'm all ears.

Last time I checked, banks are the most powerful industry, and GS is the most powerful bank[1]. Aleynikov was single handedly building, deploying, maintaining and updating Goldman-Sach's HFT framework.

If you believe that key people like Aleynikov don't make the HFT industry profitable, a certain Medallion Fund and a Dr. James Simons would beg to differ.

[1] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FzrBurlJUNk

I don't know of any big software companies getting government bailouts after gambling with money they scammed from average citizen . Once you can get away with that, and not have a single executive do jail time, come back to me. Every industry is subservient to the whims of banks. They'll tell you otherwise, but actions speak louder than words.


Aleynikov worked for a specific trading desk at Goldman-Sachs, which carries out high frequency strategies in some equity markets. High frequency equity trading is the sub industry I'm referring to. Since you're apparently confused about this: Goldman is a large bank. It has many lines of business, same as Microsoft produces many software products. Some of Goldman's business endeavors fall within the US high frequency equities space, but you'd be making an enormous error of scope if you confused one of their high frequency equities desks with their entire business.

I call shenanigans on the claim that Aleynikov was single handedly running the trading infrastructure for even a single one of their desks. That's complete nonsense.

As for Jim Simons: It's generally believed that the main cause of Renaissance's success is that they have a couple hundred of the world's smartest people all working together. It's not a 'key man' shop at all. (Also: You seem to be suggesting that Simons himself did all the work. The fact is that he spends most of his time smoking cigarettes and handing out wads of cash.)


Let's remember that in those 42 years the number of BASIC, FORTRAN, or COBOL jobs has diminished through to almost nothing. The last person I met who described themselves as a COBOL programmer was about 10 years ago, and even they said they did it for the money as there were so few of them left.

They haven't really diminished to almost nothing, they have just been outsourced to Indian shops. You'll have a really hard time finding Westerners who still write those languages, but Indian firms are happy to step in and fill that void, maintaining the hundreds of millions of lines of COBOL code still in production at Fortune 500 companies, on a contract basis.


> Let's remember that in those 42 years the number of BASIC, FORTRAN, or COBOL jobs has diminished through to almost nothing.

That's true, but it's a hockey stick / logarithmic thing. When I started coding, the BASIC and COBOL technologies were waning-- still bringing in paychecks, but it was clear that their peak was a few years in the past.

There are lots of people right here on these forums using technologies today that are in the exact same situation. Citing these examples by name usually erupts into a flame war, but for sake of illustration, a good example might be PHP.


PHP's not there, no-one's been able to replace its ease of use and it will remain until someone does. Also it's had some good face lifts recently. There's plenty of new code being written today in PHP.

Perl, on the other hand, is.


one year's experience 30 times, not 30 years experience.

This exactly and it happens at all ages. I interviewed someone not long ago who had 5 years experience. It turned out they learned their job in 3-6 mos. and just repeated that same job for 5 years. I was amazed how little else they knew.


Right now there is a firehouse of job offers from recruiters on linkedin, and all a good developer has to do to find work is take a drink from that firehose.

While I enjoy the current situation, it's unlikely to last. Sometimes we forget that there's plenty of people who have simply built up a clientele and a repuation through plain old networking. These jobs tend to be more lucrative and probably don't require you to learn the flavor-of-the-month js framework. It's no surprise that we don't see many experienced professionals competing for what are essentially entry-level jobs (despite the use of the word senior in the job title and despite the high salaries inexperienced developers command). Obviously not all experienced professionals have built up that network. Those are the people you see applying for jobs.

Source: I spent a couple years getting to know a network of CTO's and architects who have been doing ecommerce since it's inception. They are in demand, they don't apply for jobs, and they are paid handsomely, and yes some of them are grandfathers or grandmothers.


If you're an older tech worker, for the most part, LinkedIn is just a firehose of crap. At worst, it's:

Hi, I see you're doing [JOB] at [COMPANY]. How would you like to do [JOB minus 4] at [COMPANY minus 2]? We have Beer Thursdays and your fellow employees will all be young enough to be your sons (and yes, they're all male).

And at best it's:

Hi, I see you're doing [JOB] at [COMPANY]. How would you like to do the same job, but at a different, but very similar company, with the same lack of a future career path?

What you never see is:

Hi, I see you're doing [JOB] at [COMPANY]. You probably feel like you're in a rut there, and are ready to advance to [JOB + 1] at [COMPANY + 1].


It's a firehose, not a high class wine tasting room, you are correct. But one is at least unlikely to go thirsty, which is far better than it has been from time to time over the last couple of decades.


THIS. oh a THOUSAND times this.


"All".

All you have to do is sift through that firehose for jobs that match your expertise, at companies you wouldn't hate to work for, at rates and hours you'll accept, and that don't seem like they're just jerking you around. Then after you've expended that effort you can begin the actual process, which may fall through for any one of a billion reasons, not the least of which are that most recruiters are jackasses with little understanding of the actual field of work.

For anyone with a slightly complex set of skills just getting to square 1 of having a recruiter or HR person be able to understand your skillset is damned near impossible. And there's no way they'll actually be able to have a proper appreciation of your competency except in the crudest, most oblique manner possible (e.g. years of experience, "big" projects completed, expected wages, etc.) It's hard enough to have a conversation between talented, highly knowledgeable software devs which actually parses the differentiation between various job roles (like, say, systems engineering and web dev), which can span enormous ranges of differences. Trying to get the human resume regex parsers we know as recruiters and HR personnel to understand such things, good fucking luck. And yet today those people often stand between you and a job.

I could only imagine the state of the industry without word of mouth referrals.


> Right now there is a [firehose] of job offers from recruiters on linkedin

Interview offers, and they only come to the people who have the right combination of keywords and location. Miss on one or both of those counts, and you are invisible. The second seems to be much more important than the first, too.


I'd agree with that. I'd add that I live in Salt Lake City, Utah and still get a fair amount of offers. I realize it might be quite different in other countries.


I know Texas likes to claim is is "a whole other country", but sometimes living in Dallas it feels like that. It seems like nobody comes looking in Dallas from outside the area.


Having tried to drink from the firehose in the past, I can say that I have never once had a recruiter lead actually result in a job offer. It's one gigantic catch-22. The companies themselves aren't great at hiring, or they wouldn't need to use recruiters doing semi-random searches on linkedin. If you yourself were any good at interviewing, you wouldn't need to rely on the recruiters either. You're an unqualified lead that can't get a job on his own, which to a hiring manager screams "high risk hire." So you start the interview process in the negative column and have to really shine to get a job offer. But, if you were any good an shining in an interview, you wouldn't need the recruiter in the first place. The whole thing becomes a high stress waste of time.


> But, if you were any good an shining in an interview, you wouldn't need the recruiter in the first place.

If you need the recruiter in order to get the interview in the first place, it doesn't matter how well you shine in the interview.


Yet more catch-22. Just out of curiosity, have you had success using recruiters to find jobs?


I have gotten a few potentially good leads from third-party, but the vast majority don't seem to even read my resume. In-house recruiters generally go better, though Google's seem to misread my experience often and approach me for roles I am not really qualified for.


Why the downvote? It's an honest question. If my assumptions are wrong, I'd like to know.


I think you're very wrong here. In-house recruiters also use Linkedin, I don't know why that would put anybody in the "high risk hire" category. I got my recent job through a recruiter contact on Linkedin and I'm pretty happy about it.


Generally true. But I spend some time now and then in a small/mid-sized Midwestern city where going through a recruiter is a requirement. A very high percentage of the businesses are in the same economic sector, and they use the recruiters as the first line of HR, in order to keep their hands as legally "clean" as possible.


"I have never once had a recruiter lead actually result in a job offer."

I once had a recruiter (he had my resume) contact me for a Novell admin position. And there was nothing related to Novell on my resume. Then I knew not to waste time with 'recruiters'.


I've landed two excellent positions through outside (not in-house) recruiters. Though the first was 20 years ago; the last, 14. They were respectful, didn't waste my time or the company's, knowledgeable, and selected people based upon experience or qualified reference (the first position, they contacted the head of a user group who knew me well and referred me; then experience counted).

The experience I've had with outside recruiters in the past 10 years is atrocious, though. All they're looking for is warm bodies to toss at a company, and hope one of them sticks. No or limited experience--they still want to present you...after modifying the resume you've sent them in Word.

Today's outside recruiters are inexperienced in and ignorant of the field ("Your last job was a fitness trainer??"), and borderline unethical.

I'm still surprised so many of them are in business.


75% or perhaps 85% of programming is CRUD applications. It's very easy to fall into the trap of thinking you're advancing technically when in fact you're just becoming very knowledgeable about a cul-de-sac.

Most programmers don't take this path by choice. They just don't see it as its happening. You have to pro-actively manage your developer career if you want it to grow over the long haul.


Thanks for sharing.

I find it quite amusing, but in my observation, this 25%/75% split can be found in each age group you'd look at...


>>75% - one year's experience 30 times, not 30 years experience. You don't want these people.

You are basically saying 75% of the developers after certain age are useless. I don't agree or disagree with your statement . Just startled. What does it say about software development as a career ? Would you say the same thing for lawyers or doctors with 30 years experience? This is depressing.


I think that after 30 years you're left with only the very best and the very worst still programming. Everybody in between have probably drifted of towards other responsibilities.

You also could uncharitably argue that 75% of developers of any age are useless. Furthermore programming has a much lower barrier to entry than being a doctor or lawyer and it's much easier for a terrible programmer to hide their terribleness for 30 years than it is for a doctor or lawyer.


I've seen this stated this as another occurrence of the 80/20 rule, which close enough to 75/25.

It doesn't really have anything to do with after a certain age, either. Some percentage %x of your 5 year experience programmers haven't really moved much past their first year at all.

To be fair, I think of it really as a series of plateaus, not a hard and fast rule. People get stuck at a level of professional development for all sorts of reasons, internal and external.

The thing is, it gets more noticeable the longer time period you are talking about. Comparing two people with 3 years experience where one of them hasn't really progressed past the first year or so, and the other has 3 solid years is a lot different than comparing two people with 30 years experience where one of them hasn't really passed the 10 year mark of development and the other has a solid 30.

And "useless" is the wrong way of looking at it. There is a lot of use for a developer with 5-10 years of experience, so long as you don't expect them to perform like a developer with 20-30 years experience. This is true even if they have 30 years on paper, which can be a bit of sticky point w.r.t compensation, but that's a different issue.

This absolutely happens with lawyers and doctors, by the way. A real difference is that a doctor has been forced into a good 10 years of professional development before they take the training wheels off, so the base level of competence is much higher. Some of them don't progress significantly beyond that for the rest of their careers, but that doesn't mean they aren't productive for that whole time.

As an industry, I do believe that software development is pretty weak on developing talent internally, particularly beyond the entry level.


Lots of employers want to pigeonhole you in the "same year of experience, 30 times" group. You can sometimes tell this during the interview; one warning sign is that they want someone with their exact technology stack experience they are using right now.

But I've always thought a team of generalists beats a team of specialists, which is swimming against the current tide.


I don't think this is as simple as specialization vs. generalization.

Considering nearly any situation your team encounters, junior people, experienced people, and very senior people are likely to take different lessons for it, because they have different perspectives on what happened and what could have/should have happened.

To me, a "same year of experience, 30 times" person is someone who runs into similar situations over and over, but fails to grow in how they understand and react to them. This is true of architectural issues, interpersonal issues, schedule management issues, ... everything really.

Technology stack isn't so important here. If anything I expect the experienced people to pick up a new stack faster, if they've done this before, all else being equal.

I'd expect insight and ideas from a 20+ year developer I'd never dream of asking a junior (< 5 years), and if you don't get them - you're probably looking at someone who has repeated many of those 20 years.


I'm 47* and I've been around a bit (dotcom era startups to banking and telecoms) and I'm familiar with the 75% mentioned. There is a type of programmer that works away in blue chips turning up to work on time, doing what's asked of them and then knocking off at half five.

Sure they maybe repeat the same one year's experience year after year perhaps with some technology transitioning years from COBOL to VB to VB.NET or C# or maybe Java, that kinda thing. They'll know Oracle or MS SQL or DB2 well enough to make stuff work, or maybe they call into a message switch (with a pre-wrapped library for their language/framework) to read/write their LOB data.

They work there for years and years collecting their salary and annual (if there are any) bonuses and many will be the last lucky few to hang on to a decent occupational pension, in return to knocking out code to meet business requirements. But they do it well, they know their line of business apps for their organisation's market sector and "how things are done". These are conservative people working in conservative business environments.

The thing is who cares? Many of these folks have interesting lives outside their corporate bunkers which involve travelling the world, renovating houses, flying small aircraft, model trains and enjoying friends and family...and much, much more.

It's just a job and I'm sure these folks will have their own measure of job satisfaction which will be different from ours. It might not be as exciting as the seat of your pants local startup but it pays the mortgage and provides reasonable financial security.

Sure there are no absolute guarantees about job security, but I live in the UK and we're at a lot less risk of being fired for no reason other than "at will". It takes quite a bit of legal effort and cost to make employees redundant, especially in finance where you're fairly likely to be a member of a union (mass redundancies have to be negotiated and consulted on and redundancy payments agreed etc).

It's not depressing, it's just that these folks have different priorities in life.

Scott Hanselman described some of these folks as "Dark Matter Developers"[0].

[0]: http://www.hanselman.com/blog/DarkMatterDevelopersTheUnseen9...

* To address the Ayende's question, being 47 I'm probably an "older dev" I've worked for the same company since 2003 (ISP/Web Hoster), I like the work, I'm happy there, they treat me well, I work from home, it's (fingers crossed) reasonably secure. It'd take a really seriously good offer to make me change employers. This is not to say that I don't keep abreast of the latest tech and frameworks, the fact that I follow HN should make that abundantly clear; for example we're looking at how we could monetize Docker for our clients - first heard about here.


>> It's just a job

I can understand this mentality, but cannot sympathize with it. Personally, I refuse to treat my job as "just a job." I want it to mean something. I want to look forward to coming to work everyday. I want to feel like the work I do makes a difference, as opposed to fizzle out and die in the massive corporate bureaucracy. I hate the idea that I'm just spinning my wheels, looking busy, collecting a paycheck. Doing so is just... soul crushing. That's the best way I can describe it.

I'm actually literally 15 minutes away from giving my two-weeks notice. Just waiting for my boss to come in. I'm glad I had the chance to put my feelings in writing somewhere other than my resignation letter because I wanted to get them off my chest but not burn bridges. Thank you teh_klev. :)


I think one way to do this is to get a sense for what are sometimes boring corporate missions that actually do have a huge impact in the world.

I remember when I was early in my career I talked with an older engineer who had done lots of time in the insurance business and I said something like "I don't know if I could ever work in something so boring".

He replied "making sure that claims are paid out correctly can be the different between somebody having a home or going homeless, or somebody being able to feed their family or not having transportation at all. Keeping in mind the lives of the people you're ultimately serving keeps me motivated even if the day-to-day is boring"

It's advice I've always kept at heart and it's been helpful.


> Personally, I refuse to treat my job as "just a job." I want it to mean something.

Well, some people don't build model airplanes after work. They raise families, work at food banks, take care of their elderly parents, sponsor people in AA, and so on. Ideally, every waking minute of your life will make the world a better place, but it's a luxury to expect a career that really means something.

Good luck on your career decision. It sounds like you've already made up your mind, but in general it's a good idea to talk to your boss about the soulcrushingness of work well before you want to quit. It's possible that she would be willing to give you more variety, responsibility, or freedom to keep you around.


Personally, I refuse to treat my job as "just a job." I want it to mean something.

That's fine for you, and quite a laudable position to take.

But the reality is, in a great many environments, across the board -- in blue chips as well as in startups (often quite insidiously so) -- as soon as you start personally investing in your work, you start taking on considerable risks. It means, almost by definition, you're going to start butting heads with people -- or at least take on a heavy risk of appearing to others like you're butting heads with them, even though you're not. Because they'll have to start justifying their own decisions, and exposing their own lack of depth and experience. And that's really, really threatening to a lot of people.

The safest route, by far? Keep your head down, and don't become "personally invested" in your work. Otherwise you risk becoming (per the Japanese proverb) "the stake that sticks up."


Be careful doing this. One of the things I've done to shoot myself in the foot, career-wise, is to repeatedly take more interesting jobs at lower salaries. As a result, I don't have an increasing salary history and expectations. I was blown away when I discovered that the good salary I thought I had was 20% lower than the average in my location for my experience.


I was once like you, and I still am a wee bit. There's a era on my CV where I jumped ship every ~18 months until I landed in my current role. I did this because I wanted to experience working in different market sectors and then when I got bored I moved on.

The present role, where I've been for the past 11 years, is very enjoyable and gets me out of bed in the morning...but paradoxically I do treat it somewhat as "just a job". I have to do that because otherwise I'd just burn out, and that happened once before and it nearly killed my development career.

But anyway, I wish you all the best and hope the future's bright for you.


"It might not be as exciting as the seat of your pants local startup but it pays the mortgage and provides reasonable financial security."

I'm skeptical of the "financial security" claim. Obviously this is not true in the U.S., where there is zero hesitancy to lay people off and very rare to have legal recourse as an employee when laid off.

But even working in the U.K. or other nations with stronger worker protections, you are still vulnerable to your employer hitting hard times. Companies can very quickly go from profitable to out of business or close to it, especially where technology is involved. Not having skills applicable outside of your current job does not seem like a secure strategy.


> I'm skeptical of the "financial security" claim.

I guess it depends on how you define 'reasonable financial security'. As someone in the US, I define financial security as having a couple month's pay in the bank, and a retirement plan of some sort, while making enough money every month to pay the mortgage and the bills and have some left over to spend on entertainment, then it is doable, even in the US.

A mediocre developer who has a bit of experience, making $75k/yr anywhere but San Francisco or New York, could afford to be in the situation I describe.

What does 'reasonable financial security' look like elsewhere?


>"Companies can very quickly go from profitable to out of business or close to it"

Sure, but types of companies I'm talking about where these folks work are big blue chip FTSE 100 companies. It's a very rare event where a company the size of Lloyds or Barclays or BAE snuffs itself out of existence.

Ok sometimes you get a perfect storm such as the 2008 banking crisis but even then the UK government and others stepped in to prop up the likes of RBS, Bank of Scotland and Northern Rock. No-one turned up to discover the doors locked in the IT department and life very quickly went back to business as usual.


Lawyers and doctors are not too different.The premise is true for most of white collar jobs, if not all.


Yep. Most of the folks who are only doing it for the money fall into that 75% group.

If you don't have passion for something you'll never be truly good at it.


That's a somewhat naive assumption and sentiment. I've known plenty of devs around my age (40-50 yrs) who are really very bloody good at what they do and yes...shock horror...they do it for the money. Otherwise what or who will finish the paying the mortgage, help with paying for your children's further education, top up your pension, etc, etc.

Sure they may not have the "passion" but it also doesn't mean they're grinding away through their days. As I said in another comment, your priorities change and your perception/measure of job satisfaction changes as you get older. Mine certainly has despite being a techy and developer to my core.


Down here in Los Angeles the talent pool is very shallow, now we are starting to see the first companies offering equity down here that is meaningful since 1998, seriously. If I hadn't had to go the last 14 years without equity I wouldn't still be coding pushing 43, I'd be an angel investor, basically making a living helping to fund companies. With no equity life is a kind of living hell, no ability to have the normal human experiences of say starting a family, instead its a twilight world of paycheck haircuts and forced unpaid overtime, that leaves you feeling permanently like a zombie as everywhere you turn, its the same demand, everyone here wants 100-140 hours a week, offers you 40 hours pay then tries to haircut you back to 20 hours pay, management through extortion is common down here, either work 100 hours for free or you don't see your next check.


Don't overplay the importance of equity. It's like a lottery ticket - you can't win if you don't have it, but the chances of winning big are still remote.


Sounds like LA is a pretty crappy market for employees. Move someplace with a reasonable cost of living and some big corporations, stick with corporate-friendly technologies, and it's not too hard to pull a six-figure salary in an easy 40 hrs/wk.


Not after a certain age. They're equally useless young too. These are the people who fail at FizzBuzz.


I think this failing at FizzBuzz thing is becoming a meme.


Unfortunately, it is real. I've interviewed "senior software engineers" with "12 years of C++ experience" who could not tell me the difference between an int and a char*.


> Would you say the same thing for lawyers or doctors with 30 years experience?

I don't have a reference for this, but I remember reading that other than surgeons, doctors' skills decline the further out they get from medical school... of course that's doesn't take into account a lot of the other important parts of being a doctor like how you interact with patients, etc.


Doctors and nurses are required to take continuing education to stay licensed.


why are you startled? Have you never heard of the 20/80 rule? It appears in almost every dataset. The top 20% of any set do 80% of the work.

Example: The top 20% of a population owns 80% of the wealth.

And yes, this applies to other occupations as well.


It's called the Pareto Principle(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pareto_principle) and it does not need to be a symmetric 80/20 split. 1% of the people own 50% of the wealth is one other application of the same math.


Wikipedia doesn't do narrative justice to the interesting history behind Pareto. We tried to correct that in this blog post (http://www.emphatic.co/blog/know-stuff-think-shouldnt/).


Yes and even among the 80% who are useless, they are useful 20% of the time. I work with a few people like that... They either need a challenge, an end date or other creative ways of being motivated.


actually he's saying they are equally as useful as they were 29 years ago.


Not useless, but perhaps useless outside of their small niche. The problem is in technology small niches can disappear in an instant.


I for one would welcome the opportunity to find and learn from people like you. If you guys don't hang out at the latest hot technology meetup and you don't change jobs that much (or that publicly) where does one go to seek you out and make friends?


An observation and a questions...

I've observed that Group 2 (your 75%) frequently winds up in "Director of IT" positions where they can productively re-use that year over and over again keeping the ship running. Some of it is a lack of imagination, some just a simple desire for stability. Either way, they get very stuck. Their firms can't afford for them to do anything else, and they have to take a pay cut if anything bad happens.

Now my question.... By keeping a low profile, do you feel you are artificially lower your wages or opportunities? You're in the same boat as the top 3 or 4 developers I know - very talented, well paid, jobs find them, and employable in any market. But sometimes I wonder if they could get paid more if they were more visible, simply from supply/demand. (They have a scarce skill, increasing the demand for it should increase the wages) Or is it that anyone who would properly employ them is by definition outside mainstream hiring and would know them already?




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