Old programmers

I have recently stumbled across this blog┬átalking about the hostility of developer working environments to women and more “mature” worker.

I must admit, I haven’t noticed it in the UK so far. There are fewer women, but I haven’t noticed sexism in software development. Maybe I’ve just been lucky who I worked for. Also, I’ve seen plenty of older developers earning alot of money.

Partly, it could be explained by the fact that programming of itself isn’t well respected and if “all you do is program” by the time you’re 40 people consider you in the same light as if you had stayed delivering pizzas your whole career. You seem to need to be called an “architect” or “consultant” to progress beyond a certain point even if you do the same thing.

I see difficulties for young developers as the “simple” work that you used to be able to train up on is now all outsourced. Maybe I’ve just had a strange career path… I’m not counting here grads marked as “high potential” who need to get their software development tick in the box before they can be sold as “Architects” at the age of 22 (if you have worked with me you will know to which company I am referring).

What have other people experienced?


  1. In my eyes we are old already mate.

    A motivated and intelligent person remains so, well into old age, so I hope to be doing the same kind of mentally productive work aged 60 (assuming my “retire at 45” plan fails).

    Throwing in another point, I’ve worked with some older developers who haven’t moved on with technology and really shouldn’t be doing the job anymore. I think certain companies aren’t very good at weeding out or indeed training up staff with outdated skills. A few years back I really did hate having to direct people several grades above me in basic development tasks.

    Yes, I agree, job descriptions. I’m less particular though, call me whatever you like pal, will you pay what I want to earn? Yes? Good. Since some companies give you generic job titles there are ways to brighten your CV by also giving the role you did on that project instead.

    I’m quiet happy to tell a 22 year old architect to go back to school and if they are over confident then they are bound to be beaten down within minutes.

    • aShawThing
    • April 18th, 2012

    Are you implying that reaching the age of 40 makes you an old programmer?
    Personally I’ve never liked the term ‘programmer’ maybe it is because I come from an embedded software background. I’ve always called myself a software engineer (which probably annoys ‘real’ engineers who think I am devaluing their job title).
    Although you would probably call me an ‘architect’ I spend at least 50% of my time developing software (see I can’t say programming).
    At my last company there was a very competent embedded C developer who had been working there for 12 years and put an amazing amount of personal time and effort into the products we built (digital video devices). He was sent on a C++ course but struggled a little bit to put it into practice and was given a written warning for being unproductive. It was a joke – there was plenty of C development still to be done within the company. He left before the second warning and I left under protest a few months later. They went bust in the end… put probably more because the MD has a nervous breakdown than the fact that we left.

    • I just threw 40 in there as a typically silly generalisation. Like caring if your CV has “MCAD 2012 v3” on it rather than whether you can do the job and “we need a programmer”.

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