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Ask HN: Programmers Above 50, Is It Possible to Have a Career Past Your 50s?
158 points by thewarrior on May 6, 2015 | hide | past | favorite | 133 comments
This article is on the frontpage so this might be a bit redundant but this article points to a worrying reality that we young programmers don't want to confront.


Many people just dismiss the issue by saying , "If you don't stay with the times then you deserve to be fired" but if MIT Grads , who are in the 99th percentile of ability and pedigree are in such a bad situation then one can only imagine how bad it is on the ground.

So , I'd like people who've been in this field for decades or those who are above 50 to share their advice and experiences.

I am 64. I wrote my first program in 1970 and have worked as a programmer since 1976. Programming was a good career choice. For many years I was a manager and pretty much hated it and returned to programming. I quit my job and went to work at IBM as a software engineer the year I turned 50. I was the oldest person in my department, and was a bit of a father figure to some of the kids there. Otherwise I did not fit in and left after two years. I worked at about the same salary on a job for the next ten years and now, at 64, I have a nice job helping to translate COBOL to Java. I am still making a six figure salary, but I will retire in 313 days (I wrote an app that gives me exact time down to the second). I had no problem finding a job when I was 62, but the job was one where I needed Java skills, plus in-depth knowledge of legacy programming languages. I taught myself Fortran, then Cobol, then PL/1, then Focus, then Basic, then VB, then Java, then Javascript, then Ruby. I find it easy to upgrade my skills. I code in PHP for fun in my off time, so when I retire, I will still program my little PHP projects for fun. Programming is not what I do, but who I am.

This is something I just had to to — http://teespring.com/programming-is-who-i-am

Good one, would have backed it if it had a round neck tshirt.

Edit — Yes, I made a slight mistake in the URL.

Here you go — http://teespring.com/programming-is-what-i-do

Would you tell me a little about your transition to and from management? Did you find it difficult to give up the management role at all, and were there things that you learned from managing that you were able to use when you went back to being a full-time engineer?

In the early 1980s I was hired as the Manager of Micro-Development at Lockheed Martin because I wanted too much money to work as a programmer. In these days the section I was in had no PCs so I brought my old luggable (not really portable) IBM PC/XT from home. I worked as a programmer for the large part and I was happy doing development work with two or three other programmers, but when PCs became ubiquitous I had a whole department and I spent much of time managing personnel issues and not coding. I switched the coding from COBOL to VB4 and Oracle and then Java, and produced hundreds of thousands of lines of code for a Document Management System that I wrote from scratch. At one point, when the Director was promoted to another department and the VP was fired, I was acting VP of the entire development group. Luckily this only lasted a month before they hired a new VP. All of the systems that I wrote (including the original EZPass system for reviewing toll violations) reached maturity and my job was managing small improvements and bug fixes and nothing new or original. It was programming hell. By the time I left, a new department had been formed to set up some the Web apps that would eventually replace the systems that I wrote, but I was left to maintain the old system. Basically I worked myself out of job. I was doing precious little coding managing people that were bored and unhappy. Younger and more ambitious people were getting the next big thing. In 2000-2001 people were hiring anyone that could spell programmer for big bucks. After 10 years I was glad to move to IBM where I hoped I would be appreciated. I have been a programmer acting as a team lead since then, but I never again want to be in the position where people call me in the morning to give me lame excuses as to why they can't come to work that day.

Maybe you didn't fit in because you referred to your colleagues as kids? Our Data Scientist must be pushing 70 and he fits in just fine with our young startup crowd. He is probably the most liked guy at the company and has more extracurricular activities going on than the rest of us.

Thanks for writing, I like this:

"Programming is not what I do, but who I am."

I think it is quote from Gibson.

I'm in my early 40's, but I've recruited software engineers for almost 20 years and I until recently I ran a large Java Users Group over 15 years, which gave me quite a bit of exposure to an older range of engineers.

I know many 50+ programmers who are doing quite well (monetarily, respect, responsibility, balance). Some independent consultants, some at startups, some with big firms, etc. A fairly wide variety. Not all had to go to management - in fact, I'd say most of the ones I know didn't.

The one trend I've seen is that older engineers that ended up staying with a single employer for the longest (say 10+ years in one job) generally have the most difficulty finding new work when the time comes.

There could be a few explanations for this. One could simply be that people who work for one company for a long time may have a smaller network. That could make job hunting more difficult. Another could be the whole "ten years of experience or one year ten times" cliche.

I do believe there is often some bias against candidates who had extraordinarily long tenures at one company, which may be associated with the thought that these candidates may either be too comfortable at their current job (not need to learn) or so ingrained in a particular work culture that other companies fear that they will not be able to adapt.

Spending 10+ years at a company gives you habits, habits that help you get things done at that company but which may not be translatable to other companies. You have to relearn how to get things done in each new company you join, and if you don't exercise that skill, or you don't think about it explicitly, you find a transplanted engineer becomes ineffective.

The trick of course is to manage them through that. And that requires both trust and good communication. Trust to know that you will get there, communication to see how things work (from both sides) and be able to match up skills with trends.

I'm EXACTLY RIGHT HERE, right now. Tomorrow is my last day at my current employer of almost 11 years. I moved to this employer from an employer I'd worked for for 16 years before that.

Things at my current employer are changing (tech stack; from open source development to Oracle packaged software). It was time to get out. And it was hard. I got told by one company I interviewed with that even after having an in-person interview that I thought went well, they didn't want to proceed because they did not think I would fit "in a dynamic environment." Which was crap.

Fortunately, I found a place that respects the skill set that those last 2 positions helped me build up. Looking forward to the new opportunity.

Why is tenure at one company automatically assumed to be tenure at one job? I used to work for a major defense contractor. For every engineer there who spent nearly their entire careers in a particular role on a particular program there was another who spent 20+ years moving from program to program, often as a sort of internal consultant. I would honestly put that latter person ahead of both the former and the person who changes companies every 2 - 3 years if I were hiring.

As the parent suggested, I think there is a certain assumption that--even if they've had different roles within a company--they've become so immersed in a particular culture and worldview that they're less valuable than someone who has a more diverse set of experience. That said, if someone has moved around every 2-3 years, especially outside of startup environments, that's something of a flag too.

I think that from the recruiter's point of view, there is an argument for either side. I really think that the employee that has been with multiple companies is often more 'talented' overall but they are usually less loyal.

In software - It's highly desirable for an engineer to be adaptable - Changing companies is a good way to expose yourself to different environments/perspectives (and therefore become adaptable). It's hard to get the same range of experiences from a single company.

This is especially true if you want to become a technical manager/lead (or CTO/CIO) - You need to be exposed to different approaches so that you know what works and what doesn't. You need to have a clear picture of what constitutes a good engineering culture vs a bad one.

I don't think it's always assumed, and I would absolutely agree that someone who has moved around as an internal consultant who may be building things for different parts of the business (some firms might call them SWAT teams or fire jumpers) would be coveted by other firms. It depends on the company.

You reference a 1:1 ratio between engineers in one role and engineers moving around. Based only on my experience I would estimate that ratio closer to 5:1.

I'm sure it depends on the company and how it is organized. We had design groups that handled most hardware and software design. Those engineers only worked on a program until the production design was finalized, at which point they usually went to a different program, sometimes in a completely different city.

We also had a third category, who were the engineers that worked in support activities like manufacturing and failure analysis. They might have the same "job" for years on end, but the job itself changed constantly.

I'd agree -- the outs for a mediocre developer are sticking in the same position, on a legacy product, for years where they won't be noticed, or moving to a new job after they've settled in but before they reach the apex of showing off their skills.

Being able to build a career moving between projects in a large firm, where your reputation is always right next to you, would be quite a bit more challenging for the mediocre developer.

"I do believe there is often some bias against candidates who had extraordinarily long tenures at one company"

I think that's interesting, because I was recently involved in a hiring process where we had the opposite view - long tenure was a hint that if we could provide the right environment, that person was likely to stay with us for many years.

I mentioned in another comment that I had clients years ago with the view you mention. They were primarily older, larger companies. Startups and small shops liked to see movement. Just based on my experience, I'd expect your employer is traditional and established.

Long tenures can indicate loyalty and good performance, but it could also indicate other situations. Perhaps they couldn't get interviews or job offers from other firms. Maybe they got comfortable and found a place that wasn't too challenging. It could show someone that is risk averse (any job change has risk), or who is non-entrepreneurial. People who are overcompensated also tend to stick around.

Just want to put a link on here to a guy I've seen on HN a bunch of times whose name I recognized:


Point being that it's obvious he's over 50 and also obvious he's a coding badass.

Inspirational, but he is also obviously exceptional. Not everyone has 16 books under their belt.

The problem with ten years in one company is that you're likely to stay in your comfort zone and not learn enough new things. In an industry that reinvents itself every 5-8 years, the comfort zone is very dangerous indeed.

I'd suggest that moving around (internally or changing employers) usually requires someone to learn new things. People with long tenures in a single company can also learn new things, but it may not be a job requirement - they have to learn off the job.

I think there is still an expectation to stay up to date on technology, even if you do have a long tenure at a single place. You will very likely work on multiple projects over a 4 year period, let alone 10 years, and requirements will change from one project to another. Plus, if you don't know about new technology, you will likely spend a lot of time trying to develop something that has already been solved.

Staying up to date (at least aware, if not proficient) should always be a job requirement, whether you are a new grad or industry veteran.

That is indeed a ridiculous statement. Many of us who stayed at one company for a long time (my case, 28 years) were in many positions over the years continually learning (and teaching) new things.

I have also spent long tenures at a company or two, and also took continuous self improvement seriously. And yet I can think of plenty of people I knew 15 years ago who are focusing on the same kinds of problems and technologies today that they were back then, who have fallen victim to the sweet lullaby of the comfort zone.

There tends to be a lot more money in management, consulting, and other areas that don't require daily coding. I've heard many non-technical people say that if you're still coding after ~35, you must be lacking important people skills. I don't agree with that kind of generalization, but it seems to be a common viewpoint.

The major problem for older programmers is that people believe that the ability to learn decreases with age. I think I've seen some research to back it up, but it was more about willingness to learn, as well as having to let go of long-held ideas.

For example, few grandparents will figure out how to use a new smartphone as quickly as their grandchildren will. It may just be because the form factor is new, and they have to forget a lot of their understanding of how such devices work. It may also be that they no longer want to invest the time learning something that won't pay them back before they die. (That may sound harsh, but my dad, who is 72, often gives this reason for refusing to learn how to use a smartphone. In his mind, things change too rapidly and the time would be wasted.)

Another problem is that older programmers have higher salary requirements. My company interviewed (and eventually hired) a 60-year-old iOS developer, and he asked us for double what the developers in their 30s were asking for.

(It's also a lot more expensive to pay for health benefits for an older person, but it's not that much compared to the salary issue.)

I hope that a solution could be provided by the anonymity of the internet. Perhaps older programmers could truncate their resumes and remove the years they earned their degrees, and then they could find contract work. I personally have had many contracts where the client had no idea how old I am. Toptal might be a good option.

> I've heard many non-technical people say that if you're still coding after ~35, you must be lacking important people skills. I don't agree with that kind of generalization, but it seems to be a common viewpoint.

I've never understood that viewpoint either - nobody ever says "if you're still a doctor or lawyer after age X you must be lacking Y"

Note: I'm not close to 50 like this topic asks, but I think this perception is a weird one I haven't personally witnessed.

I think this stereotype/assumption (east coast, FWIW) - is probably due to the radical uptake on the field. There are a lot of young people, and that's starting to die off a bit more as computers are "a given" and those people themselves get older.

Simply put - there will be a LOT of people in this bracket in not too long, and a lot of useful work to do. This group will also have some of the most architectural experience.

My last company had most of the developers in their mid thirties (as am I), for instance. Admittedly, that's not over 50, but larger companies tend to skew a bit higher in that direction.

New startups also generally pay less, which is also a reason more experienced engineers sometimes don't go to new startups - or even seek out larger companies. While there are some aspects that may be boring, larger companies also have more resources, sometimes have more interesting labs, and while you can see and change less of the system, you are less apt to have to deal with certain parts of the system you don't want to deal with too - because there's more specialization and organizational seperation.

As people get older, there's simply not going to be a management job for each of them, and not everyone is going to want to do management - and that's great. Management is not "better". I suspect the ageism will go away simply as more people get older and realize they too are not just out of college anymore.

And having that experience is good for everyone.

Hopefully it also slows down the rate at which javascript programming frameworks are replaced as these folks also get tired of replacing things every two weeks :) Ok, kidding on that last part.

Anyway, my guess is ageism in tech isn't really proven yet. it's a theory, based on the wrong assumptions.

However, yes, if your company is still shooting nerf guns at each other, and irresponsibly managing release schedules to be in constant crunch time, a wide amount of people aren't going to want to work for you.

>I think this stereotype/assumption (east coast, FWIW) - is probably due to the radical uptake on the field"

Hmm, I like this, and I think you may be right.

Unless you worked in a pretty scientific field, just 25 years ago "computers" were associated with games, and were something that "kids used". Now they're ubiquitous. And this just happened in a generation or two. Over the next couple of decades, the workforce will be chock full of people who grew up programming, or at least tinkering.

> 5 years ago "computers" were associated with games, and were something that "kids used".

Are you sure? 25 years ago I was around ten and I knew a ton of people with a NES, but computers were expensive and stuff for Serious People.

I think OP has a valid argument. People who are 50+ now started programming when not many people even heard of computers. The major increase in CS graduates in recent decade will mean that when 20-30 something will become 50+ year old in next 2 decades, there should be lot less ageism related factor as programming industry would have matured by then.

I think your counterpoint of a doctor or lawyer is particularly apt. These are both careers where I tend to look for someone that is older and thus more experienced. Yet both of those fields have a constant influx of new information much like IT.

Perhaps the real issue is that IT is still relatively new and as the industry ages ageism will change.

The answer to that as some one past 35 is that I code because I like to know I produced / created something.

Testing - Just confirms it works PM - Just ensured its delivered Programmer - I did that....

Yes I could earn more money as a PM but I'm happy with what I get attached to the sense of achievement of "I created that".

I write code and make more than any PM I've worked for, which I think is normal in my industry and location.

This would come down to IT changing at a much faster pace than medicine as practiced by people. If you get older as a doctor, people still come in with common problems that you can fix and you're very knowledgable by then.

If you work in IT, you would have had to constantly keep learning. If you stagnate, you would be unable to use technology that is relevant any more. In the analogy of the doctor, you would stop being able to service patients because new diseases have come around that you can't treat.

Now the fact that once you get older means you have kids, have commitments, probably get tired and want to rest after you get home from work, it means you have less ability than a keen 25yo able to work long hours.

And that is why you fail. See even in IT an older person's understanding of the depth of new technologies (seen that) is the hidden value that you missed. Doctors have to keep learning as well but the older doctor has seen the ups and downs of every condition just like an older programmer has already seen the pieces that make up the glorified new technology. As for working longer hours...that is a total sign of failure. If you have to always work extra hours your just not as good.

<Those people> don't have the ability to learn. <Those people> are unwilling to learn. <Those people> won't let go of long-held ideas. <Those people> insist on being given money they didn't earn.

Sounds like bigotry to me.

The only advice I can pass on to the "younger" crew is to simply be prepared. You can do so in two ways, both of which are necessary:

- Stay relatively current but continually grow your knowledge depth. Imagine a full-stack developer who has little awareness of anything new in the past ten years...don't be that person. Complacency for your career will kill your prospects fast. An advantage that you develop over time is that the latest tech is often nothing new, and is instead just a repackaging of prior concepts. Leverage that advantage.

- The "past your 50s" monicker is a moving target. Do not assume that 50 is the threshold that you cross when you have to start dealing with ageism. It will be different for many (it's often much earlier), and you won't see it coming. One day, you'll be relatively dismissed by someone younger than you due to your "age", and you'll think "what the $#@% just happened?"

In the end, I'm still an eager beaver who gets excited at seeing interesting ways to solve engineering problems more effectively than the past. And because of that, I feel like I keep the best parts of what is normally considered a youthful approach.

As always, your mileage may vary.

Do not assume that 50 is the threshold that you cross when you have to start dealing with ageism. It will be different for many (it's often much earlier), and you won't see it coming. One day, you'll be relatively dismissed by someone younger than you due to your "age", and you'll think "what the $#@% just happened?"

One of the things that galls me about this industry is its belief that experience (which is not the same thing as age) is a negative.

If you come from Microsoft or Google, you'll be assumed to be "political". If you come from a no-name company, people will think you're a loser who wasn't good enough for the tech giants or elite startups. If you have failed startups on your CV, people assume that you'll be bitter about the ones that got away. If you were at one job for too long, that counts against you; but if you had too many jobs and were a "job hopper", that ruins you as well.

It's ridiculous. It makes no sense. How are people not able to get past the idea that people are more than their experiences, and that most people improve with experience (even of the negative kind) and age rather than becoming "damaged goods" because they weren't millionaires by age 27?

End rant.

> One of the things that galls me about this industry is its belief that experience (which is not the same thing as age) is a negative.

I see this as something that shifts during economic cycles. For example, right now nobody appreciates much that came from those who survived the dot-com bust. Those skills will be invaluable in the next downturn, whenever that happens.

Regarding "TwiFaceGoogSoft": there is an old maxim -- never hire anyone directly from {big-tech-co}, if that's the only place they've ever worked. (In the 1980s, it was IBM. In the 1990s, it was Microsoft. In the 2000s, it was Google.) The maxim developed because those ex-big-co employees were perceived as failures when encountering a non-advantaged environment. The prevailing wisdom was to hire those people "once-removed" from those companies, so they wouldn't learn those lessons on your dime. It might not be fair, but the perception has remained for a long time, even as the big-co name has changed.

In the end, as an industry we need to simply get better at hiring. All these biases only serve to screw us up.

Industry attitudes have changed quite a bit over the past 15+ years I've been around it. Engineers from failed startups were actually pretty popular to hire after the initial dotcom bust, with the theory that they would recognize mistakes. I distinctly recall many clients preferring experience in a failed business for both devs and manager candidates.

Being at one job too long does often count against you, but primarily if (as is mentioned elsewhere here) you were in one role (one team, one tech, one product, etc.). EDIT: (Not condoning, just reporting it)

I had clients years ago that would only hire candidates who had been at their current job for over 5 years. That attitude has changed substantially, and movement is accepted in the industry so long as the movement is 'positive'. You can have several employers and not be a job hopper.

I'm 58 and have been continuously employed as a software engineer since my 20's. Even now I can find new jobs. I have watched friends & colleagues wind up in the situation of being unemployed (e.g. due to being laid off and being unable to find new work). Generally this was due to them getting complacent, staying at one place too long, and not keeping skills current. I've consciously avoided falling into this trap by continuously learning, changing jobs when no longer growing in my current job, and preferring start-ups (which tend to be new development using new technology). While this has kept me employed over the years, it does exact a toll. Sometimes I think if I had gone into another field (medicine, law, academia) I'd be coasting toward retirement now instead of working burn-out hours at a software start-up. The question in my mind is increasingly not "can I keep my career going?", but instead "is it worth it?". Sigh. Not sure what advice to give anyone, but the above is my experience FWIW.

I'm 55, and having a hard time figuring out what I should do for the next 10-20 years. Programming seems unlikely, though it's what I enjoy the most as a vocation. I am not as current as I should be, and that's probably a death knell for programming.

A comment on Dave Winer's blog post about "hiring Doug Engelbart" (http://scripting.com/2015/04/24/iWouldHaveHiredDougEngelbart...) in the 80's. I interviewed Doug Engelbart in the late 80's when I worked at Autodesk. The problem with Doug then (and, perhaps, with others in his situation) is that he wasn't someone that would work for you. He was only interested in "finishing Augment", the project he started over 20 years earlier. The likelihood of him being a mentor or otherwise being a contributor to an existing team was very close to zero. Dave Winer wouldn't have hired him in 1987 because he wouldn't have taken the job.

I'm not saying this is true about all graybeard legends, but Winer sure picked an improbable example.

I'm 54. Got my current job when I was 52 (prior to that, 11 years at Microsoft).

I think if you're not over-specialized that you can still do well. Doing be a person who just writes device drivers, or just does web stuff, or just writes toolchains. Do it all, and at depth when you can.

I tend to get into projects that are 2-3 years in scope and involve actually shipping new technologies at consumer scale. This will teach you all kinds of interesting things, from fundamental product underpinnings to making devices manufacturable.

Keep coding, that's for sure. It's not a young person's game if you keep at it. My father in law retired, a firmware engineer, at 75.

> I think if you're not over-specialized that you can still do well. Doing be a person who just writes device drivers, or just does web stuff, or just writes toolchains. Do it all, and at depth when you can.

When reviewing job reqs, I see the opposite. Outside the web and mobile arenas, companies seem to want people who are highly specialized in what they do.

I worked up until last year, when at age 62 I decided to retire -- mostly because I could! A good portion of my career was in traditional, more hierarchical industries such as rail and steel, where a sizable number of older employees were often the norm. I also tended to specialize in legacy applications that other (mostly younger) staff didn't really want to touch -- products like PowerBuilder or IBM (Lotus) Notes. Yeah, I also did work with newer technology, but I never really let go of the older stuff because 1) it was the core of my earlier experience and I didn't mind working with it, and 2) there always seemed to be a need for someone to do maintenance, updates, or conversions.

That doesn't mean they will get it.

We are also looking for pretty specialized people, but there are none. So we will take also those, who are willing to learn. The downside is, that the money that goes to their training would be theirs, if they already knew what is needed (i.e. they cannot ask for the same money/benefits as those who are "ready made").

What area of software development are you hiring in? My experience with low-level development (hardware, signal processing, and such) is that companies won't even interview people who don't tick nearly all of their specific boxes.

Geospatial - asset management, smart metering, integration, analyses.

We are also based in small country, where everyone known everyone :).

Perhaps, but in a few years when the company has a down year will you be replaceable by the next specialist, or are you able to get a few fingers in different pies by being diversified?

That's where I see a Catch-22. You need a specialization to get hired, but in doing so severely limit your job options. Of course, in some sense that is a side effect of demanding specialization in the first place.

I did real-time radar signal processing for six years, and hardware production support on radar electronics for 3.5 years prior to that. I can't convince anyone that these experiences are easily transferrable to other areas such as robotics and medical devices. In fact, I don't even get the chance; hardly anyone will even give me a phone screen. Yet I have been doing NLP for the past three years and can't get recruiters to leave me alone about it.

Well, you want a reputation as a "go-to" person. The ability to get your fingers into all kinds of pies can be pretty interesting (as in: when layoffs have happened, you are more likely to survive because you can work on anything).

Some organizations don't like this. They want to pigeon-hole you as "the mouse driver guy" or whatever, and when your company stops making mice you're in trouble. Avoid these places if you can.

I believe if your are over 45 and not very specialized you will not get a job anymore.

That doesn't bode very well for a PhD (though I'm only 40, I still have time to generalize!).

I am not a programmer but my father is. He is currently in his lately sixties and coding since the punchcard. He has work all over the country and gone wherever the work was. He had recruiter after recruiter contacting him.

The gaps between gigs started getting longer and longer. He was on top of his game, stayed current, but yet it became incredibly hard to get a job.

He has thrown in the towel and is now retired. Not because he wanted to, but because he had to. Nobody would hire him.

I don't have an answer to this other than anedoctal evidence. I suspect that it will become less of a problem than it is today as the current younger programmers age. Just a guess, maybe blind hope.

I'm 25 and find this kind of depressing, any good society takes care of its elders (read: not old, just older) These are the folks that toiled away on the compilers, libraries, and patterns that we have been standing on to build the current generation of tech, and this is how some of them have fared? I suppose the ruthless competition of this industry is a double edged sword.

They're also the ones who understand how things work!

As we've gotten more open source software out there and faster computers, programmers are naturally moving up the stack using higher and higher level languages. Where before you needed hand customized C++ (with some assembly!) to do something you often will now use a scripting language.

But in doing so a lot of hard core engineering and architecture understanding is dissipating.

People pick node because it's hot without knowing enough to know that it's going to be a problem for a large project, etc.

I've seen engineers toiling away with the wrong technology experiencing great deals of frustration but not even realizing that its' because they have the wrong tool.

I think a big part of the problem is that companies are too often run by business people who don't understand software. So the managers of programmers are often not programmers. (It should be engineers all the way up to the CEO, and including the CEO if you're a technology company.)

So we have business guys picking technology stacks and stuff like that.

Engineers have been commoditized, and they feel like we're interchangeable cogs, the certainly don't know enough tho tell the difference between a mediocre and good backend or fronted engineer.

And so, of course they don't value experience.

Over time people retire, some retire young, and so teams shouldn't have an even distribution of ages, but they do need wisdom. So, somebody should be wise on each team.

I'm 60 and my friend is 63. He does COBOL and finds jobs easily. I write Linux device drivers in C and have been looking for work for a long time.

I'm 51 and have had a programming, analyst, or architect position since 1985 give or take a few dry spells. I've been independent in Chicago for 18 years and outside of the .com bust and the recession, it's been pretty good.

The one truism is change and you absolutely must follow the trends. When web work migrated from monolithic stacks like ASP.NET to front-end smorgasbords based on JavaScript, I had to learn a lot of JavaScript frameworks. This was not easy on my psyche or my personal life, but the work paid off and I'm still employable.

I think living in a diverse economic area like Chicago helps. Chicago has finance, healthcare, travel, food service, consulting, and a very healthy entrepreneurial community.

And most importantly, I still like what I do for a living. I'd certainly trade it for other things (I'm not fond of sitting all day anymore), but as careers go, I feel pretty lucky.

I'm 64 and doing iOS development full time, and get hit on by recruiters all the time, so I guess the answer is yes. But you will find huge negative bias due to age (many companies desperate for iOS talent will ignore you - ask me how I know this.)

I'm 57 and doing iOS but yeah, I think some people want to ignore you if your resume is too long thinking you are making it all up. But I am in the DFW area which is basically a Silicon Black Hole for programmers anyway.

This said, I'm thinking that it's probably better to just list the last 5-10 years of experience and drop the older stuff. Though, when listing education, it's probably difficult to list your education without saying when you graduated (there by indicating your age).

I'm 38 and I'm reading these things, getting a little worried, though I'm a very quick learner and trying my best to stay on top of what's going on (it's getting harder, things move so quickly!).

A lot of people leave the graduation year off.

> I am in the DFW area which is basically a Silicon Black Hole for programmers anyway

So it's not just me. :P

I'm only 35, BTW, so my resume is probably not quite as long as yours. I have thought about dropping my publication credits and shortening it back to one page, though.

At 52 I became interested in F#.

By 53 I determined the future of software engineering is in strongly-typed functional languages. I left my job as technical director for a product line of CoreLogic's and began a professional sabbatical studying, writing articles, and speaking.

Eventually had to go back to some contract work.

At 55 I was hired by the young Stanford and Yale alumni founders of Tachyus as the first engineering hire to develop the strongly-typed functional software platform for the company. Tachyus is doing very well. http://www.breakoutlist.com/

I'm 46 and on my 4th founding engineering team. Coding every day, learning new frameworks with each new role. Home for dinner every night with my kids. My coworkers and I are all in the same age range, we've circulated from one startup to the next, some quite lucrative, others flame out, but no one ever questions our abilities. Don't work for the man, especially when the man is just a boy.

Don't work for the man, especially when the man is just a boy.

Hah, I love it.

Then again, working for older people that think they know something just because old is equally tiresome.

Boys can be found at any age. The difference between a man and a boy is whether you have a beard. Ok, I'm kidding.

Seriously, though, my boss, the CEO of the company I'm a co-founder on, is 25 years younger than me. He's not a boy, though he has boyish good looks. (Can't get him to keep the beard.)

There are a lot of boys running startups in the Bay Area, and it's true most of them are younger, because if you don't have wisdom or common sense, time tends to give it to you. So those who will learn do, when they've had enough experience.

I am 48 and a General Partner at a VC fund. On the board of five tech companies. Founded three companies where I was CEO. Coded and still code every day since my Stanford CS days in the late 1980's.

Right now: Scala, Node/AngularJS, Ionic. Use GitHub, CircleCI, and deploy to Docker clusters. Use JIRA to stay sane.

Worked at Oracle, so traditional database (DBA level) and now use Couch + Mongo.

Do my own UI/UX. Can do Photoshop -> LESS/SASS/CSS. Know how to get Gulp to generate spritesheets :-)

Go to tech/programming conferences and meetups.

A full-stack unicorn. How's that for a VC?

Kirill, even two years after we met during TechStars Cloud mentoring, I still haven't met a hacker-VC that comes close to you. Awesome you are using Ionic.

I apologize but I don't get it. If you are a good VC, you should not have time to code every day :)

I'm 44 this year -- my last job change was two years ago, and it was to a Top 10 tech company. Now I'm responsible for heavily influencing the hiring decisions in my group. Here's the thing: most programmers are awful.

They can write code but they don't understand half of the libraries or technologies used. They learn the abstraction layers but have no interest in knowing how things work. And these symptoms get worse with age.

There's a point where most people get tired of relearning their skills; they no longer peruse new information in spare time, or even at work. If you aren't always learning, and examining things on a deep level, yes you'll be sunk by your forties. But I believe this is a choice on your part.

I don't know, i have sent perhaps 25 or so applications during last few years for various remote Frond-End positions. I'm very-very good and i like what I'm doing, thank you very much. My happy day is when I receive automated rejecting letter, that happens in 10% of cases. In other cases, silence. I have failed to score a single interview. And I'm 50 :-) I guess i need to hold on of my current and boring job for as long as i can. Also i have been thinking, what those youngsters are so afraid of. In remote position i will not die in their precious Aeron chair and spoil their foosball game...

I'm curious how this compares to younger remote front-end applicants. My company doesn't hire remote. I wonder if competition is higher for remote positions.

You need to go where the jobs are or work really hard on Elance. Remote jobs are mostly still a luxury.

Why do you mention your age in your job application?

My impression is that age-ism is definitely a thing, but that it's a lot more complicated than just how old you are. The ugly truth is that a lot of people just don't present a very attractive package to the world as they get older.

There's a whole 'nother set of life challenges that we face in our middle years. Most folks do almost nothing to prepare themselves for these challenges, and that becomes increasingly obvious with age. But it's not simply the age that matters.

It would be helpful if you could give an example of those life-challenges. If nothing else, it could be a sanity check to other middle aged developers (like myself). :-)

I am afraid of saying almost anything about this, for fear that it will be taken wrong.

We all have a LOT of "life decisions" to make between the ages of 18 and 35 (or so), and I think most people make many bad ones. In a country where 2/3 of the population is overweight-to-obese, you can't very well look around yourself and say: "These folks are making a lot of really good decisions!" or "I'd like to hire all of you! You look like awesome, dynamic people with lots of gumption and sass!"

Eating really crappy food, and in great quantities for many years, makes you look and feel sluggish. Drinking booze every night after work, often in great quantities for many years, makes you look and feel crappy after a while. Letting yourself get gradually more complacent about your marriage, work, sex life, body fitness, personal habits and all the rest of it makes you look boring and feel bored.

I'm not saying that age-ism isn't a thing. People love to throw -ism's at each other, it's one of the eternal human flaws. But I think that some (perhaps many) people who cry "age-ism!" are not being completely honest with themselves. Most folks seem to let a lot of the air out of their tires as they get older, tend to get stuck in a lot of bad habits, and it shows on their faces, in their bodies, in their attitudes, in their energy levels, and in their eyes. You can't blame an employer for noticing.

He's now fully retired but my dad moved pretty heavily into microcontroller work at the very end of his career. It seemed to be an area that leaned towards older, more experienced developers with lots of electronics experience (which he had).

If I had to extract any pattern I see with older developers who are doing well, it's that those who can connect together a life of experiences (such as with electronics, management, medicine, law, or other areas they may have worked in) can really make more sense for many projects than less experienced developers. It's no coincidence that it seems to be the older developers who are the TDD, BDD, Agile, etc. gurus - they're the ones with the years of experience of dealing with people and applying that to our discipline.

Yes, it is possible. I am over 50 and various friends who are programmers are also. We are not disrupting x or changing the world in Silicon Valley, we are doing this and that for associations, non-profits, federal agencies, etc. around Washington, DC. And we may not (OK, do not) have the MITish resume that intimidates hiring managers, we might have made our previous job change nearer 40.

Having said that, yes, those in technical professions can be vulnerable. A neighbor, an electrical engineer, got pushed out between 50 and 60, and never again found paying employment. My father, a geologist, got caught in a purge of better paid employees when he was about 50, and took a while to find work again.

If I can offer another angle: I'm not a full-time programmer and never was, but I code in a number of languages to support my real day-job (finance). I'm getting close to 50 and I feel the value of my coding skills only increases year after year. Why? Because if you combine solid programming with deep subject domain experience, you offer something that is quite rare. I've always thought of my coding skills as an insurance policy should my day job implode. The premium is quite steep though - I spend a lot of time keeping-up with language developments, new frameworks etc.

I'm 43 and have not experienced any problems finding work. I picked up a CS/Math BS degree at the age of 37. I'd been working as developer for about 10 years, but got the degree becuase I find the field generally interesting. I leave my first degree off my resume which was 15 years prior. So, from my the graduation date on my resume people assume I'm a lot younger than I am. Plus I'm often told I look young for my age.

Edit I would add that my current job the majority of developers are late 30's early 40's similar to myself.

Yes. But, you have to keep up with current technology. My father is 65 and his phone is ringing off the hook with offers. But he knows C++, Java, Android, Win32, Python, D, etc. etc.

Put it this way, if you do not find keeping up with current technology interesting and fun, then you probably should not be a programmer

I turned 45 this year, and my career is on an excellent upward trajectory as an ops programmer, which is what I've been doing since I was in my early 20s. I hesitate to call myself 'devops', but that might fit. But I write code most of every day, and things have never looked better.

Many times this question has come up. All oldsters have different stories, but the one constant seems to be that programming is what we do anyway, and still a bit surprised people want to pay us.

I'm 67, wrote my first program in 1963, been employed in computers since 1967, traversed the entire stack from hardware through designing 4G graphical programming languages, with a focus (if it can be called that) on embedded Real Time dataflow systems. A classification that maps well onto many kinds of products. I've never been tempted into management. Yes, I don't have the first ten years in my resume. But at the same time I've never got a job by submitting my resume through the front door. Never. Even my first (at a computer manufacturer, as a commissioning tech) was by referral. My current one via an internal recruiter who liked my generalist CV on Linked In and called me. Others by coworkers who moved on and called me along. You need to be visible, to be found, to be reckoned good, and to develop some kind of rep. In my case, at the junction between hardware and software. The other thing you need is to always keep learning.

I have practically no sample size but my own father shifted into more project management into his 60s and he's as in demand as ever running a team of 10-12 secs.

And I've personally hired a developer in his 60s for a startup. He was retired but just loves to keep programming and so took up some work with us. He seems to be in reasonably high demand as another company has been trying to hire him in the last month too.

Speaking from experience... It's not easy getting a programming job after 50, after programming my whole career. The dating analogy applies, as usual. (Job is to old as date is to unattractive.) Yes, you can get a date if you are unattractive, it's just not as easy. You have to work harder, and/or have something special to offer.

Everyone in their 20s/30s worried about their jobs in their 50s... well maybe shouldn't worry about it too much. Definitely think and plan for it, but life's too short to worry about how you will work in 20 years because of current trends.

And I mean it in two ways. One, some of us won't make it to 50+, so why worry about it now? Two, in ~20-30 years there will be a lot of programmers in that age bracket. And maybe by then PHP or Perl or C# will be legacy and will require oldbeards to maintain them. And maybe the stigma of being an old programmer won't be there any longer. Or maybe by then all the robots will do the programming and a "programmer" essentially becomes a robot repair and maintenance job.

So I think it is way too early to worry if you're in your 20s, because by the time you're 50, everyone's stories about being 50 now may be irrelevant. Or you'll be dead. Or it won't matter.

Hi, I'm 26 but I've had my thoughts on the matter. Mainly panic. In my country one usually have to plan from he is 18 how to save the funds for his pension and I'm concerned about the past 50 mileage.

After reading about 50% of the comments here I feel such relief. Thank for all the commenters!

When I started in the late 70's the "horizon" was being 30 years old. There were almost no pure programmers beyond that age, they had all gone into management or consulting. It was quite scary to see your preferred career path stop short.

Then home computers (ZX81s, Spectrums, VIC20s) came along and created a new field. After that the internet happened and everything took off again.

I finally got into management at 52 purely based on the fact that I was the longest serving engineer at the company (all of 4 years) when my boss left.

I'm 54 now and the work is not slowing down. Changing jobs would probably be an issue as I have to give two months notice and that would be a pain for most potential employers and is not something I look forward to but lets stay positive here.

Age is a state of mind, for all parties involved.

I'm 59 and based in New England. I worry about this all the time. But so far, the worry has been a bigger problem than the reality: I've left stable employment situations to start up my own things, thinking that was my best insurance against hypothetical age discrimination.

I just turned 50. I'm a web front end guy having started my career in a multimedia startup. I have as deep or deeper experience in all the latest hip technologies as anyone I work with, as well as broad and deep experience most of them lack. One of my colleagues is roughly my age, most others are 20-35.

I have also worked in management, which I don't much care for. In the projects I work on, there are quite a few people around my age — some like me, others of the legacy tech variety. I think — some significantly older than I.

I don't think working past 50 is an issue if you have the skills and flexibility. But don't expect your salary to keep arcing up exponentially the way it does in the first few years.

52 here. I've had a mixed career, ranging from F500's to start-ups, to consulting companies, to solo consultant. At 46, just before the financial crisis, I took a Dev job with the most stable of the companies I'd consulted for. I'd still be there, probably through retirement, but I had/have one more ambition. So, I'm working on a PhD and hope to land in academia. Failing that, I left on good terms, and keep in touch with, the crew at my last job.

I don't know that I'd recommend rolling the dice like I have, but if you keep yourself curious, fresh, and focused on solving problems people have, I think there are ways to beat ageism.

I'm 53. I still program full time (embedded C++, but I may be moving into Android soon - like, this year). I've spent most of my career in embedded systems, which is kind of a different environment from most of programming.

My last two jobs, I've told them straight up in the interview that my career goal is to never be a manager. Both times I got hired anyway.

On my current job, I had to write the central piece that tied all the other pieces together in six months. There wasn't time for a learning curve. Experience is a big advantage in that kind of situation; I had 24 years, and it helped.

I work in mainframes and have always done pretty well. Worked for a few companies, seen the world. I'm late fifties. Maybe I'm 'lucky', but somehow the more I learn the luckier I get.

I'm 51 and was a programmer for most of my career, 20 years at a small company and moving from BCPL to C to VB to .Net At 40ish with family grown up I looked for a change and moved to being a tester - and then just before I was 50 moved from the UK to the US for a job. I've been active and made my name known in the testing community and there is a demand for good exploratory testers. Still learning ( mobile was a big learning curve ) and showing I can add value for all sorts of projects and at different parts of the s/w lifecycle

I continually find this idea that there aren't older developers really really strange, from my own experience. Every job I've had has included me being on the younger end of the spectrum and developers a lot older than me.

The lead developer at my current company is in his mid-50s and he's as interested as anyone I've known (and more interested than a lot of engineers I've known) in learning new APIs, etc.

I know, anecdata and all that :)

I'm 57 and still programming for a living. Currently I'm involved with a startup building an iOS app, and am building am Apple Watch app on the site. I've been programmimg for 41 years, starting in high school with FORTRAN IV and IBM mainframes, then PDP-11 minicomputers in BASIC and assembly, then the Apple II and 6502 assembly. And then all the other hot technologies of the decades - Windows 3.1/C, Mac/C, .Net, C#, ActionScript/Flash, Java, and now Objective-C and Swift. Did some short stints with COBOL and RPG-II, Lisp, Prolog, and even Forth.

I had no problems securing the position I have now, and last year, while looking for full-time work, recruiters who were less than half my age were interviewing me, and i did get to some initial phone interviews. I didn't see any evidence of ageism - not from recruiters and not from companies interested in speaking initially on the phone with me.

I think what really helps is to be current in the technologies, be a self-starting continuous learner, never being afraid to try something new and different, and demonstrating exactly how you can add value to any employer or client who's interested in you. Knowing more than tech is hugely important: You have to have outstanding social and emotional skills as well.

I intend to program until my last day on this planet. Can't think of a better vocation and avocation - to start with a blank IDE screen and, after a few weeks or months, have an application working for a client or fielded in the market.

So, don't despair, focus on all the other experiences you've accumulated, and demonstrate - don't just tell about - your abilities and how hiring you would add value to any organization.

I am a 48 full-stack developer and I (still?) get at least a couple of job interview offers a week. I am at an interesting point in my career, though, where the company I work for decided for me to try a more managerial role (not because of age or technical impairments... it's more complicated than that).

I've accepted the new role, just because I'd like to take a step back (as in "looking at the forest and not at the trees"), manage and mentor people and – why not – step out of the f*cking comfort zone. You should do that, right?

Anyway, now I am very puzzled about how to present myself in the near future: a 48 "rookie" manager (who needs to prove himself on the ground) or a seasoned, bad-ass developer with 25+ year experience on any software tier you can mention? I can sell myself very easily as the latter, while the former... I don't know.

Luckily I am not losing ground on the technical side, which means that I can easily switch back to a more technical role (architect would be awesome)... but this bound me to _this_ company, which provides me the luxury of this choice in the near future.

Interesting times ahead... you'll never get old unless you want to :)

I'm 40 and feel like my career is almost over. It's a big shock to go on interviews where I'm the oldest person there by 10+ years.

The best engineers I've worked with have kids that are my age.

For me that'd be a great interview. Being young in the mainframe business is a drawback!

I'm 52. Program full time. Had to learn new technology about 6 times or more (IBM/360, CPM/MS DOS, Win-Desktop, Win-ClntSrv, Win-3 tier, AS-400), now learning Web and Mobile. I've been a Manager and Developer and all together. Currently I am working in a team where half programmers are about 50. And we doing a popular international product, growing fast.

My experience is that an older programmer brings a wider variety of skills to a project. For instance the project I'm working on right now involves both old-fashioned serial NMEA data (6 bit ASCII anyone?) as well as big data skills. And I'm doing quite well. I'm in my forties now and working as a contractor. I do have to bite my tongue now and then to prevent me from saying things like "we already solved that in the nineties", but other than that I feel I'm really contributing as I am the only one who oversees the whole technological landscape.

It does take some effort to keep up though. I still don't feel I've quite mastered this "everything is an delegate" kind of programming young javascript programmers tend to use.

Other than that I'm really looking forward to growing old as a programmer. It's the job I love.

I'm 58. I started with Fortran in the 80's, C/C++/Perl/SQL in the 90's, Java/SQL in the 00's, and Python/JavaScript/a bit of Scala/SQL more recently.

I'd credit my interest and persistence, rather than skill, to whatever meager success I've managed to eke out.

I wonder if the "drop dead age" is getting older? I'm 44, and I cut my teeth on the first 8-bit home computers in junior high school. Most programmers ten or more years older presumably got their start on mainframes, likely programming COBOL, FORTRAN, and/or assembler. I can see how someone looking for Windows C++ programmers in 1995 might have looked askance at an old COBOL expert.

On the other hand, it seems to me what most people are doing today doesn't look that much different than 1995. Sure, the tools are fancier, the resources much greater. But it's still largely GUIs on top of C- and Lisp-like languages. Maybe it's just wishful thinking on my part, but it seems to me there was a lot more fundamental change from 1975 to 1995 than from 1995 to present.

Im almost 30, i will keep programming forever since its something i enjoy but i have a different plan for my 50+, i would like to have enough passive income so i can work on whatever i would like to and dont stress about having a job if it becomes hard to find it.

I'm in my 40s and working the same enterprise programming gig since the late 90s. I keep up to date with doing work and learning on the side. I don't want to manage, not do to the people, but the red tape and politics.

I do often wonder if I should leave and get another job before I appear 'too old'. The few interviews I've had over the past couple years my age didn't seem to be an issue, just weren't positions that would work out. At some point, if I choose to really leave or get let go, I'm rather worried that I will appear too old on paper to get my foot in the door, even though the knowledge and experiences should be there.

So I am 45, and it is definitely possible, but I think it is more that we are pulling it out on shear strength, after all, we are smart people. I think some kind of balancing would be beneficial, how exactly and what would be fair, I don't know.

I just know that we have to make space for people who are not as capable to be able to be productive members of our teams, we get them from two directions, senior guys who maybe didn't stayed as current with their skills and also young people who are coming into profession and not all of them are super smart and capable. I see no reason for not including those two.


>> Lesson: Unless you are confident that your skills are very far above average, don’t take a career path that subjects you to the employment market once you’re over 50 (and/or make sure that by age 50 you’ve saved enough for a retirement that begins at age 50 or 55 and during which you won’t have employer-provided health insurance for up to a 15-year gap between age 50 and Medicare age).

This pretty much sums it up.

I'd be curious to know what the answer to that is as you cycle through the ages. What percentage of people at 30, 40, 50 & 60 are able to have a career in programming?

There going to be people who won't be able to at all those ages, but what percentage is the question.

Anecdotally, I'm 49 and getting better and better (great yearly reviews as well) so it's true for me. So the answer the the questions is "yes", but that doesn't help much.

I'm 32 and I've been learning how to program for quite some time. Basically, I got bored of my career and wanted to change.

Sometimes I wonder if I'm not wasting my time because by the time I have enough experience I'll be too old to be employable.

Sure, I could always be a freelance programmer, but if that doesn't work out it would be nice to know I can get a job somewhere. But this industry seems incredibly ageist.

Thank you all for your comments. They are a big encouragement for me. This thread struck a chord and I feel like telling you my own story:

I am not that old (44) but still..

I practice programming since I was 14, tinkering with ZX Spectrum basic and then assembly. After finishing pharmacy school in my home country (Greece - my parents insisted not to study CS) i went to the UK where after one year of formal CS education I landed my dream job as a software engineer in a big, now defunct, telecomms company (Nortel).

The highlight of my career? meeting Linus Torvalds in a conference about operating systems in 1997, where I went as a representative for my company, and having beers with him afterwards discussing the Linux threading model. He was not that famous back then. Top guy.

Anyway, shortly after that I had to come back to my home country and and although I had good offers from companies in the UK and the US I decided to stop my career abroad and live in greece.

The problem was that money as a programmer here was not that good, but mainly that there were basically only windows application programming jobs, VB6, VC++, MSAccess and the like. Boring stuff which I disliked since I was doing unix systems - network programming up to that point (that was 2001).

So i decided to change career, working as an IS - business consultant in multinational companies (AA and Ernst & Young), jobs that had nothing to do with programming. I did that for some years but got bored and pursued a Phd while working part time in my family's real-estate development business. However the real estate sector totally collapsed in Greece in 2009 because of the financial crisis and I had to change career path Yet Another Time (yat, similar to yacc in unix terminology :) So now i run my own small-scale pharmacy business (Pharmacy was my first degree).

The thing is that I feel somehow unfulfilled. Although I never stoped programming, for the last 15 years this is a hobby for me and not my main occupation. I feel unfulfilled because I now know that programming is my true passion and I should have never deviated from it, professionally-wise. Anyway.

Sometimes I envision that, because of necessity (the economic situation in greece is deteriorating fast, to say the least) I will have to abandon my doings here and pursue again a carear as a programmer abroad. But how? not only I am 44, but for the past 14 years I had no formal Software Engineering job.

Meanwhile, I am building a webapp using all the latest and gratest sexy toys (javascript, laravel etc) hoping that it won't result in a total waste of time. At least I am having lots of fun.


I'm in my early 40s and I don't have a problem finding work. I tend to work for big companies though. I would like to work at smaller, startup-like companies in the future, but it sounds like there is bias against older workers in that realm.

I'd be more interested in knowing if it's possible to have a life before retirement?

My dad made it to a couple months before his 65th birthday (2005) as a Cobol programmer. At that point he was probably still employable as a Cobol programmer if he had been willing to relocate outside of Florida.

After 27 years in Structural Design, I became a programmer at 50 years old and I am doing fine with it. You can do what you decide to do, limits are only opinions of other people and only limit them not you.

This older discussion on HN is relevant to the topic https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=3437233

I would love to hear answers to the same question from operations and reliability engineering people.

If you have worked in both development and operations positions would you say that operations is harder to stay in?

Wouldn't be interesting people with certain age have more meetings with people like them, to improve network, know each other, make projects together, etc?

What do you think?

If you are awesome at whatever you do, you will be in demand.

I'm 51 - no way I'm getting hired as a programmer. But I am coding for my own business, doing better work than ever.

I used to be in general management, but retrained as a programmer because I love the tech, and to be location-independent. With today's development tools I am as productive as a team of ten back in the day.

It is strange to me that old people are pushed out of the industry.

I'm just surmising here, but at 35 it's something I need to start thinking about. If I can't find a job when I'm 50, this is what I'd assume I'd start doing: just start hacking.

I mean, with modern computing, the cost for creation is very low, so it seems like with some effort and a lot of knowledge (gained over a 30 year career), it shouldn't be too difficult to create a living wage outside of standard employment.

I mean, as long as you aren't looking for that billionaire breakthrough and constantly trying to figure out burn rates.

I started training on the dev tools at age 46. Big learning curve: linux, ruby, erlang, devops, sql, css, javascript, growth hacking, etc. etc. Now have my first customer, coding hard every day. Not aiming for billions but millions - yes. I started on this path because I felt the dev tools and hacker community were developed enough to support this independent style of work. So far everything feels very good. It is very sweet to forego the hassle of investors and employees. Since you're only 35 you've got time to prepare if you decide to go this route.

Yes, as someone who went to MIT I can attest that it is very bad, at least as of the mid-90s-early-00s when I was 35-45. I believe the primary reason I was able to get jobs in that period was that I erased all evidence of my specific age in my resume (in the middle of a job search so I had a nice before and after to compare) and could pass as a college student. Still had to be careful about what I said, e.g. no mentioning PDP-11s....

If it's not your calling, avoid the field unless you have solid and achievable plans to e.g. move to management or start consulting before you turn 40. If you're not "good with people", good or able to become good at playing the "political" game, be very very careful if not "avoid the field like the plague".

The difference w/r//t the people in the article is they graduated from MIT.

(Also I sort of recall jobs being thick on the ground in the late 90s)

I'm not at all sure about that. I was in the D.C. metro area back then, and very few of the people and places I worked for and with, let alone applied to, grocked MIT back then; that might be different now. It was very different in the Boston area in the '80s (well, until the end of the Cold War and the local recession simply ended the original area high tech scene, the web one that followed in the '90s did not grow from the old one), and I assume the Bay area.

I'm also not sure it would have made a difference, seeing as I was working towards becoming a scientist when finances forced me into a sordid life of professional programming. As in, a degree in chemistry wouldn't have necessarily helped all that much in getting programming jobs, whereas my history of serious success in such jobs did make it easy, until as I judge my age started to become a factor. There really was a significant difference in the middle of that job hunt when I erased all evidence of my age from my resume.

Just, a ridiculous question.

Why? This is actually a really interesting question - especially given the HackerNews readership - so much of today's code production is for vapor ware I.e. Here today, forgotten tomorrow. There is some value in understanding what leads to career longevity in this business.

In part because of betteridge's law, whereby a headline that is a question implies an answer of "No!"

The phrasing of the question simply re-enforces the stereotype that older programmers lack the drive, energy, quick-learning ability and so on that young superstars are supposed to have.

The reality is that of course older programmers can have a career, but they have to fight against those stereotypes, which appear to be endemic, at least in sillycon valley, and not to mention the lower wages that the capitalists want to pay these younger practitioners.

The question could (and should) have beens asked as "What should older programmers do to highlight the advantages they can offer due to experience, and how to combat the stereotypes and rapacious financial exploitation that the industry exhibits.

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