Stack OverflowOld Developers - any future?
[+190] [78] Sylvain
[2009-06-09 21:30:32]
[ career-development future experience age ]

I'm 44 now and I just love code!

And software and programming. And MSDN, and Communication of the ACM and Programmez (French magazine) and Stack Overflow and McConnell, Cwalina/Abrams, J. Skeet and J. Spolsky and... every great post ever made about software development !

Call it a passion...

Well, I really love my job and I still don't believe someone could pay me for what I'm doing - I'm most of the time eager to go to my workplace in the morning and a little sorry to quit....

I would do it for half the price, I think ^^.

But when I look around me, most of my fellows at Université de Montréal are now Product Managers, Directors, Project Managers, or even something completely different...

And looking around, at my place, I see young clever boys and girls of less than 5 years of experience being paid as much as I am. They are pretty cool and clever of course, I agree on that. But their code is unmaintainable, as cool as they can be.

My question (sorry for this long introduction :) is pretty simple : can anyone hope to write code after 45 ?

Any experience on that subject ?

All the best.

(19) TO ALL : thanks for your warm answers ! I'm out of credit today but I will add +1 to all of you in the comming days :) All the best. - Sylvain
(10) I was able to code up until the day I turned 46. Since then...nothing. - Nosredna
I hate to say it, as this applies increasingly to me, but this is a duplicate of…. - John Saunders
@John - you don't have to be sorry, I did not find that question at first and it is pretty related. Well, having read all the responses it got and all the responses I got, I think we have fresh new ones here. Should we close the question ? Your call. - Sylvain
(1) Not quite the same question, and you got some different answers. - Nosredna
@Nosredna, what's happend with you ?? - Sylvain
(8) I turned 46! Brain shrunk up. When it was finally small enough, fell out of my ear. - Nosredna
(1) Mmm, ok... Thanks God, you are not as ordinary as I am ! :) - Sylvain
(1) Here are two more questions that are closely related: 'Where do all the old programmers go?',…; 'Should developers worry about ageism?',… - Jonik
(1) I'm one of those with less than 5 years experience who truly tries to write maintainable code. :) Anyway - it seems that coding is your passion - don't stop! - Arnis L.
Mere youngster! - Jonathan Leffler
On the similar topic:… - Peter Kofler
Some of the best developers I've known were rather old men. - Pavel Minaev
I'm 56. The only thing I would worry about is doing what you enjoy. If you enjoy programming keep going. I don't plan to stop, even after I retire. - bruceatk
I would do it for half the price Has your employer read this question ? - this. __curious_geek
after having read all the answers - this question+answers realy feels like a support group - Marek
[+132] [2009-06-09 21:35:41] David Thornley [ACCEPTED]

I'm 55. I can't seem to learn quite as fast as I used to, but I have a heck of a lot of general knowledge and experience to draw on.

My advice: don't stop learning.

(12) +1 and I will review all you'r answers on Stackoverflow :) Just kidding - thanks for your answer, David. - Sylvain
People just vote for you... :) All the best. - Sylvain
(4) Do you think it would be wiser to pursue a position as a project manager and use the general knowledge when I get older? Or try to maintain a position actively coding? - Jonathan Sampson
[+82] [2009-06-10 04:09:15] Steven A. Lowe

I am 46.282191780821917808219178082192 years old as of this moment.

I make more $ now than ever before - mostly due to starting my own business, and being more willing to travel. And more willing to say "No" to projects that don't pay enough or don't interest me.

I have far less tolerance for trivia than I used to - no time to waste. Code Golf, for example, or - not a productive use of my time.

Similarly, I have much less enthusiasm for the newest shiniest widget - not because I don't care, but because they are so rarely a significant improvement.

I have managed other programmers - 25 of them at once for one project - and hated it; I prefer to keep the team small and my hands in the code. I just don't get any satisfaction from other people's achievements; not that I wasn't proud of my team, they were (almost) all stellar coders, it's just that architecting, mentoring, et al are just not as much fun as actually creating things that work.

The code I write gets better each year; that's what experience can do for you.

The lessons learned from 30 years (I started pro very early) in this career field make me far more efficient at analysis, research, learning, and coding than the five-year guys. Experience in a dozen industries makes for a big 'ol bag 'o tricks, and several different viewpoints to bear on problems.

I am a Google master, and know how to time-box tasks so they don't run away with the schedule.

I do not multi-task; I focus on one thing and do it well, then move on to the next thing. Texting, talking on the phone, chatting, emailing, and reading SO are all distractions that make me less efficient.

I cannot code for 36 hours straight subsisting on nothing but Mountain Dew and cookies any more. 20 hours is about my limit these days - and if I have to do that, it is a planning failure on my part [the aftereffects get more severe past about 35].

I value family time and non-technical time much more than I used to, but still love what I do.

I still have Big Ideas, more of them now than ever before...but less time to pursue them. So I choose only the best of the best to spend my time on, and let the rest fall to the floor.

I don't think I want to be coding for a living when I'm 65, or even 55 - but then again, the tools should be really really cool by then, so who knows!?

Couldn't have said it better. Amen, brother. - John Pirie
(9) No time for Top Coder... but plenty of time for Stack Overflow ;) Well put. - trenton
(4) heh - topcoder is good practice but rarely teaches me anything, while i learn new and interesting things on SO all the time - Steven A. Lowe
right on spot with the fact that as you get older, very long coding session becomes harder to deal with. This is one thing I have noticed :) Alcool gets harder to eliminate too... - cocotwo
(1) At 52, I feel mostly the same way. Compared to when I was younger, I'm more selective about what I do, make way more money doing it and have a lot more fun, and also value family time. Except I won't mind coding for a living at 65 or even 75. And I still love cool new stuff - as long as it's really an improvement. I'll be doddering around open source hackfests with my walker. They'll pry the keyboard from my cold dead fingers. Well, if I don't die while cuddling my wife or getting beaten up at the dojo. - Bob Murphy
Send me your Big ideas, I will pursue them, I'm young :) - Khan
[+51] [2009-06-09 22:01:36] m_oLogin

And looking around, at my place, I see young clever boys and girls of less than 5 years of experience being paid as much as I am. They are pretty cool and clever of course, I agree on that. But their code is unmaintainable, as cool as they can be

This is the number one reason why you should get a raise. Your added value and experience can be clearly identified with time, you end up saving your company a lot of money in the long run because you code knowing what maintainable code is.

So... Get a raise, buy more programming books, and keep enjoying what you're doing!

(5) I was going to answer something like this. At my work place, I don't think we have an active programmer over 35, and I think it's hurting maintainability but I can't know for sure. - Christian Vest Hansen
(2) it definately is... at our place, we have a place called the "Lab" where we have all of our gurus writing mighty pieces of maintanable software. We usually end up sending a lot of new comers there so they can learn how to truly code for our clients. - m_oLogin
Sorry, M_OLogin, did not see you answer at first - but yes, you are right : I should buy books as soon as they are published - but it is exactly what I'm doing :) All the best and thank you for your opinion ! - Sylvain
(1) there's "cool" in the real world and "cool" in our world. If you can see that someone is writing code that cannot be maintained, then you have something to give. Even though these guys might convince their friends otherwise, "cool" still very definitely has nothing to do with doing a(n at least) decent job! - David Archer
[+44] [2009-06-09 22:21:18] RBarryYoung

Real Programmers never quit, their baud rate just starts to diminish a little...

I am 52 and still coding. I have several friends the same age whose jobs are 100% coding.

I have another friend who is almost 80 and is about ready to release his C++ based genealogy program.

And I promise you, I will die at my keyboard. :-)

(5) "Their baud rate just starts to diminish a little" Superb !!! But I'm veru pleased to eard that REAL PROGRAMMERS never dies ! All the best, Barry and a warm thanks for your very king message... - Sylvain
(2) "... their baud rate just starts to diminish a little..." I love it. ;) - Stephen Cox
You may need to invest in a better keyboard if it's that bad. - Michael Myers
(4) Your baud rate may decrease but your signal to noise ratio will increase. - Guge
waat dhu hew meen buy dat?#@>? - RBarryYoung
Very inspirational, specially the thing about your 80 years old friend releasing his C++ based genealogy program.. - waheed
(1) Thanks waheed. Like I always tell him "Use good typing, but reject all stereotyping!" :-D - RBarryYoung
[+43] [2009-06-09 21:36:24] S.Lott

52 and coding.

[Well, wasting time with Stack Overflow, but mostly coding.]

The big deal is that newer tools make it easier to be a one-person show. With a few decades of experience, I'm very productive, relative to n00bz. Even including the time spent on SO.

Didn't start learning Python until mid-40's. Looking forward to learning how to do better-looking web pages (particularly controlling CSS).


Back in the early '80s (I wasn't even 30 yet) I spent some time as a manager. Went back to programming.

In the late '90s (I was 40) I spent some time as a director of a product offering. Went back to programming.

All with the same company! They call me an "architect" and I do have to spend a lot of time on proposals and planning and directing other programmers. Right now, (outside stack overflow) I'm expected to spend my day programming, the other stuff is an interruption.

Mmmm, 52. Would love to work with you :) - Sylvain
work speaks for itself, really. thought the name sounded familiar. i studied "Building Skills in Python", pretty much cover to cover (including how to dl and install python)--must have been a recent effort because it's current. It's hard to imagine someone w/o an ocean of experience writing something like that. - doug
[+32] [2009-06-09 21:32:26] Carl Manaster

47 and still going strong...

Nice comment body ! - Sylvain
(22) Nice beard too :) - EightyEight
(5) It's a true programmer's beard! - Ree
[+25] [2009-06-09 21:33:56] Alan


A good friend of mine, whom I still have the pleasure of working with, is 60 years old, and he codes still.

He was smart, and went back to school, and continues to stay current with the modern movement of software development.

He is fully using all the latests and greatest that .NET has to offer, with no signs of using old programming paradigms (Like declaring all your variables at the beggining of a function (Yes, Mister C to C++ guy) or naming your variables aaa (looking at you, Fortran Guy!))

So can you still code, meaningful projects after 45? Yes, absolutely, but you gotta have passion for it, and the desire to stay current.

Wow ! 60 years old ! I have to know him ! :o) All the best. - Sylvain
(6) declaring all your variables at the beggining of a function: is that a bad thing at all? it lets the reader know what variables are involved and their types, i find it very helpful... - Beau Martínez
(18) In "Code Complete" by Steve McConnell on pp241-242 there is a good discussion as to why one should both initialize each variable as it's declared and initialize each variable close to where it's first used. - Lee
Beau and Lee, +1 both... You are a little more clever that my current coworkers (who are a lot) :) - Sylvain
There are no hard rules in dev but the accepted practice in most modern languages is to declare variables close to wher they are used. C requires you to decl them at method start and for many C devs that moved to c++ they brough that habit fwd. I wont debate the merits of this but if you search SO most examples follow this paradigm. - Alan
(1) Beau: The reason is because it's bad to give people that extra information out of context. Better to let them see the variable definitions nested within their natural environment. It's same reason we shouldn't define for loops and other things up front. - LegendLength
hmm, ive always declared my variables at the beggining of a function (well to some extent). Just think it looks a little better, but you guys make some good points - Petey B
(2) There's also the idea that uninitialized variables are bad, which leads to the idea that default-initialized variables are bad, and therefore that variables should only be declared when they can be initialized with something meaningful. That's frequently just before you want to use them. - David Thornley
[+19] [2009-06-09 21:37:54] James Conigliaro

The best software engineers I've ever worked with have been doing it for longer than much of the work force has been alive. The fundamentals of good software development haven't changed. Languages come and go, technology changes, disk drives keep getting bigger but that doesn't change the fact the software development, good software development, requires disciplined, experienced, creative problem solvers. No age restriction on that.

(1) Excellent comment ! Well, to me.... :o) A little big +1 to you. And all the best. - Sylvain
The ability to identify problems, strip them down to the bare essentials, and design a solution that can be implemented with sand never ever goes out of fashion... but hey I still wear brothel creepers, so don't ask me about fashion. - corlettk
Someone might mention this view to a few employers. - C.W.Holeman II
Principles do not change but new technologies come like e.g. parallel programming having multicore computing even on PCs nowadays. - schoetbi
[+14] [2009-06-09 21:34:44] TStamper

Maybe you should take a look at Neil Butterworth's answer to this question:

Why do programmers have to learn for their whole lives and aren't you afraid of that [1]


(1) he's 55 and currently teaching himself Haskell - TStamper
Thanks for the link, I really appreciate it. - Sylvain
[+11] [2009-06-09 21:40:04] Adrien

Approaching 40, I've been in the IT business for a while (programmer, analyst, phone guy, network guy (my MCSE and $3.50 will get me a cup of coffee), etc, etc). Still haven't finished the CS degree I've been working on for the better part of 20 years.

Although I intend to still be a developer in ten years, I've recently changed majors to something not technology related. (Lots of reasons for the change).

The problem (as I see it) is that our field usually doesn't have room for the guy with lots of years of experience that doesn't want to move into management. So, you get the kids that make as much as we do fresh out of school, the managers that know even less than the fresh-faced college kids, and the occasional Dev that's been promoted to management and discovered that Good Dev != Good Dev Manager.

I realize that I'm just ranting rather than answering ... Oh, well. I'm old and cranky, and deserve some concessions.

Basically, if you're still enjoying it, and are happy with your income level then keep going, keep learning and keep enjoying it.

One of the best comment I got here -- really ! Thank, Adren :) - Sylvain
(2) Good dev != good manager ... it's such a common problem. I wish there was some kind of solution like a non-code manager + senior developer type partnership where they could work together on the different facets (e.g. dev controls the coding style and technical problems while manager controls the human side). I'm sure setups like that happen but unfortunately nowhere that i've worked. - LegendLength
(3) promoting a good programmer to management often kills two birds with one stone: you lose the productivity of having a good programmer, and you lose even more productivity by creating a bad manager! - Steven A. Lowe
(1) I've often wondered if business should create a career track for technical professionals that models the U.S. Army's Warrant Officer ranks (or at least, how I understand them to work). In short, highly skilled, somewhat specialized, usually technical skillsets, representing long service times and advanced knowledge ... Leaders, mentors, etc, but not true managers. They exist "between" the Enlisted and Officer ranks. Just a thought. Anyone with (U.S.) military experience care to chime in? - Adrien
[+10] [2009-06-09 21:34:27] Daniel Moura

You can code even if you are 100.

Well, I hope u r right, Daniel. All the best. - Sylvain
(7) You might have to exercise some of the accessibility features of your OS, but I agree. - Chris Farmer
@Chris : hehe, I still not use accessiblity features on my computer. But it was nice to ask ! - Sylvain
(26) 100? Hey! Is that a binary joke? - Nosredna
(8) @Nosredna haha there is 10 kind of people. - Daniel Moura
@nosredna hahahahaha! - Beau Martínez
So... 4? :p - Svish
(3) More likely an octal joke. For people old enough to remember octal :-). - Stephen C
[+10] [2009-06-09 22:24:16] erwin

I'm 36 and just as passionate now as when I was 14 when I started programming. I had the pleasure to work with a guy in his 60s. I can still see the fire in his eyes whenever I ask him about how he started and why he's never stopped. He's "been there, done that" and kept asking for more!

(1) Very nice comment !... I really appreciate Erwin :) - Sylvain
[+9] [2009-06-10 16:24:12] Jim Evans

I'm 62 next week. Have been a manager but it's not for me. Still a developer - learning and working with lot's of the new technologies - AJAX - Silverlight - .Net 3.5 and so on. Still loving it. I think that the smarter organizations realize the benefit of experience.

(6) Some organisations get bad code nearly every time they create a new software. They think that technologie is the culprit so they rewrite all using the latest technologies. But they still get bad code. They don't realize that technologie is just something that can help. If you don't have good programming habit, no pattern, no managed language, no fxcop can help you. All the best Jim ! - Sylvain
@Sylvain - I agree - 1 up vote :) - Jim Evans
[+8] [2009-06-10 14:51:43] Cruachan

And another one - I'm 49 and still coding for a living. I absolutely love it, can't think of anything I'd rather do - although of late I keep having regrets that I'm not 20 years younger because there's so much cool new stuff coming along and of so little time to play with it.

What I'd like to add to the general discussion is that I'm self employed and running a consultancy where I have around half a dozen core clients and another dozen or so more peripheral ones, with some churn. My clients are SMEs or 'SME-equivalents' inside larger organisations. I don't just code - I provide analysis and business consultancy too and I don't seem to have any problems obtaining and keeping clients. I think by the time you reach past your 40s even pretty hardcore programmers will have gathered some quite considerable business knowledge and your advantage over the young whippersnappers is that you can combine this technical knowledge.

With most of my clients I'm basically providing the full solution to a problem rather than working as a pure code-monkey. I think what they value is I can go and talk to the boss (I try to work only for companies where I can have a direct relationship with the owners) and discuss their issues in business terms in business language - I can then go away and spec that up, code it (sometimes bringing in extra resources as needed) and basically make the pain go away that most managers experience when dealing with software requirements.

Where I think I do differ from many older programmers I come across (but expressively not the ones using SO) is that many have a tendency to identify a legacy market and stick in it rather than always looking to play with the new shiny. These people are often coding something like VB6 or Access and are absolute wizards in those fields, but really have little interest in moving outside their comfort zone. Generally these people remain as coders for a while then drop out into something else - and of late I've been hearing several articles about such people made redundant by the recession who complain of not being able to get a job - it just makes one want to scream at the media 'why are you not coding a startup then?

Myself I'm still hoping to create a new market busting product from scratch. For the past 10 or 15 years with growing offspring just churning the money to keep the family living comfortably has been the priority, but as the end of this draws into sight I'm wondering - hoping - that I'll have the opportunity to go out on a limb a bit more again - can there be a second flowering for entrepreneurial coding in middle age? I certainly hope so!

Sounds like my business model. I'm 45, write plenty of code (Java, C/C++, Delphi, SQL...), provide business consulting and deliver complete end to end solutions. The product idea is worth pursing, though a LOT of work all around ;) - David Taylor
Yes, age may be a flaw when you are employed but it can also be an advantage when you are a consultant... Very nice post. I read it twice (I do the same thing when code is well written and interesting :). All the best :) - Sylvain
[+8] [2009-06-09 21:50:08] Led

Only 33, but I'm wondering the same thing.

I don't know what my future has in store for me, but sometimes I wonder - suppose I just don't want to get into project-management, but 'just' want to stay coding ?

The usual carreer-route would be to progress to team-lead, get more and more into project management etc., and you'll earn more money.

If you stay where you are 'cause you like it - coding away - you probably won't get the pay-rises etc. Sometimes I wonder where to go - the choice between career & money, or just doing what you love. Once I find out what the best thing to do is I'll get back to you, but it might take me 40 years to find out... :)

If you want to earn big money, do not hesitate : be a project manager. You can even love it (I have a lot of friend who does). If you want to code AND earn big money, you can be a software architect... All the best. - Sylvain
[+8] [2009-06-09 21:43:54] RolandTumble

Still at it at 50. Learning new stuff all the time....

Cool comment, really. I appreciate. I would love to work with a guy like you, I think :) - Sylvain
[+7] [2009-06-09 21:33:24] Paul Morie


I know of at least one person doing "hardcore" programming well after 45. This person is primarily working in assembler on Z/OS mainframes. In general, this seems to me to be the kind of thing that you want to get experienced people to do. I would imagine that there are a lot of programming problems requiring people with difficult-to-master skill sets (such as competency writing production code in privileged mode assembler on a mainframe) or highly developed analysis skills that are more suited to people with 20+ years of programming experience than they are to folks that have 2 harvests writing webapps under their belts.

+1. Cool comment. - Sylvain
[+7] [2009-06-11 03:16:19] Jreeter

I'm 22 and coding as I may be "cool and fresh" but at work I often find myself looking towards my older colleagues for help or asking what's the best way to do something is, because I know they have much more years of experience than me. You should code till you die.

I will :)) All the best. - Sylvain
[+6] [2009-06-11 08:40:13] Simon Knights

What a good question.

I am 50 now and have been coding since I was 18 - Fortran IV on an old (it was old even then) IBM mainframe. I went through Assembler, C, C++, Smalltalk, Java, Ruby, a bit of Python, C#, and now I am looking at F# and thinking that I really must learn that too.

But when I was 18 I worked with a group of programmers who were in their 30's and 40's. I looked up to them and respected them. I learned a great deal by working with them - all of what I learned then has been useful to me - whether it was about the right or best way to look at something or whether it was about how NOT to do something. It was all useful.

The thing is, you just need to keep learning - something new every day - the interest is deep.

So you have young people who are quick to learn but lack experience, and older people who have slowed down a bit (well, I have anyway) but who have a vast experience of languages, techniques, people, and life.

It seems obvious to me, but if both groups work together then it benefits everyone. I just wish that all employers would see it that way!

To me, this is one of the greatest comment ! I just would love to ask you questions about Fortran IV and about this fabulous time ! I begun with a Vic 20, 10 or 12 years later... All the best and thanks ! - Sylvain
[+6] [2009-06-09 21:59:09] Luixv

I am 48. Still coding as well as leading a team. I am a reference for new programmers.

Well, I'm too. Nice to ear that I not the only one old chap around :) A great thanks for you answer, Luixv. - Sylvain
(8) I'm a reference for new programmers as well. But only because I can't remember a damned thing--I've had syntax for most languages tattooed on my arms. - Nosredna
@Nosredna: Nice ! +1 - Luixv
You can get some reference clothing from, but so far nothing I'd find real useful. (Partly because it's a bit harder to read the bottom of a T-shirt I'm wearing than it used to be.) - David Thornley
[+5] [2009-06-09 22:16:49] Cyberherbalist

I'm 57 and still coding. Graduated from COBOL to VB6 in 2000, and C# and .NET in 2002. Now coding ASP.NET and mainly keeping up with the trends. I probably couldn't manage a project to save my life, but I think I can keep up with the coding until I'm 90. Ha, ha, in this economy I might have to!

Wow, this is just one of the very best responses I got on that question, Cyberherbalist... I did not learn COBOL (ok, just a little in 1989), but I really think that the more languages you did learn than, the more professional you can be now.... All the best of course :) - Sylvain
[+5] [2009-06-09 21:44:27] gkar

I am 41 now, and I am still a developer. I don't find myself very attracted to play architecture position, that is why I didn't push myself so hard, to be an architect. But I like to be a technical manager, and I am trying to be. I was contractor, and I made some money, but now I am back to be "Senior developer" for a stable company, and I am trying to go up in the ladder.

Technical manager : it does not exists here - maybe I should invent it ? But what is it exaclty ? - Sylvain
[+5] [2009-06-09 21:45:12] dverespey

The last I checked universities and research labs were filled with older and respected folks who were pushing the limits and learning/teaching.

As our industry matures so will the idea that only the young can lead the way.

Well, dverespey, I do not have a great opinion about what university guys are doing. We got a lot of bright young peoples who, when they are asked about a subject, cannot ask amything but : "What about the perfs ?". This is the wrong question. What about the maintenability would be the right one. Our universities are a little 30 years behind, I think. But thank for you comment, I really appreciate. +1 :) - Sylvain
[+5] [2009-06-09 21:41:38] Armandas

There is no reason why one should stop coding at any age. Even if companies don't want you, your passion and experience would still be much appreciated in schools, IMO.

Cool comment ! +1 tomorrow :) - Sylvain
And in Open Source projects - Daniel Rodríguez
[+5] [2009-06-09 21:49:49] Eric

Are you kidding me? Of course a 44+ yr old can write code! I work with a couple of older guys that I look up to. My colleagues that are the same age as I are smart but the older programmers with the experience are normally the ones that answer my questions and handle the heavier part of the workload. Yeah, technology and languages are forever changing but if you held on to your logic, you shouldn't be paid less because of Age! Just make it known that you can still write code!

He, Eric, you're great ! Thanks for your comment :) - Sylvain
[+5] [2009-06-11 03:35:14] Stephen Cox

I'm 46. You know, it's my eyes. I can't can't look at a screen filled with code for 8+ hours anymore. I'm good for like 3 hours, and then a break is required. Other then that, I think us "older" geeks bring much to any table. Nothing is better than experience.

[+5] [2009-07-23 17:48:56] Umesh Aawte

It is not about how old are you. Development is all about your creativity and I must say how much you are addicted to the coding.

How naive!..... - nalply
[+4] [2009-06-10 15:19:40] Kevin Jones

Am 47, been programming for 28 years started with PL/1, then C. C++, Java and C#. I'm still learning. Now doing Ruby for fun and also trying to learn LISP.

I never got to grips with Perl though, it's the language of the devil :) (please no flames, it's supposed to be a joke!)

(1) Ok with you : Pearl is really a bad language... at first, but with some insane practice, it can by handy :) All the best. Sylvain. - Sylvain
[+4] [2009-06-11 01:22:45] Dale Wilbanks

I'm 42, and over the years found that I'm more valuable as a "Coach" to those young developers. I can share the painful lessons of my years coding, and hope to prevent them from making the same errors. Leadership is more valuable than coding I've found, because someone has to lead the way and make the right application design and architectural design decisions. As we grow older, I'd suggest we code less, coach more, but still keep coding.

Thanks for your comment - it is what I think BTW :) But how do you do to keep up with new technologies ? - Sylvain
It's very difficult to keep up, I spend way too much time managing/coaching to do code at work, unless I work more overtime than normal! One of the things we have done is reduced the adoption of new technology. For example, who needs LINQ 2 SQL, Entity Framework, etc., when good old ADO.Net and sprocs do just a good a job or better? When a technology is a game changer, ex. SilverLight, then I'm going to have to find a 'learning project' to do. I'm hoping to write a SilverLight LotusNotes client, so I can IDispose.Dispose my Notes client. - Dale Wilbanks
[+4] [2009-06-09 21:46:40] johnc

I'm nearly 40, though I look younger which, although it shouldn't, does appear to help in interviews. That being said, I have worked with some terrific people, both young and old, as well as some awful people, both young and old. I would hire the good people in the future, but not the bad people, regardless of their age.

If I have ever got a 'why is he still coding, why doesn't he go into management' initial impression, it's very quickly replaced by 'he's a good coder, I hope we can keep him'

I also believe that a passion for coding, as I certainly have and it sounds as if you do to, is the most important thing. If it is obvious that you love your trade, people will want to hire you.

Regarding your comment that you can't believe they pay you to, I remember my first coding job, sitting warily, with a big smile on my face, hoping no one would notice that this was actually my job and yell at me to 'go serve someone' or 'move those boxes' :)

Hehe... I would love to work for you :))) All the best. - Sylvain
[+4] [2009-06-09 22:22:07] Steve Wortham

I'm only 26 but I've known some skilled 50+ year old programmers. So I don't worry about it too much. In fact, I'm starting a Micro-ISV this year and I'm relying on my ability to continue to develop quality software for many years to come.

Well, you are doing well ! Learn, just learn as much as you can. Keep learning. You will never regret. All the best :) - Sylvain
Thanks. Everything is new & exciting in the Micro-ISV world for me right now. I hope it works out as I've always wanted to do this. - Steve Wortham
[+4] [2009-06-09 22:07:15] stpiker

I'm in my late 30's and have gone through periods of my career where I wanted to "move up the ladder" into management and beyond - and while I was a good technical manager, I didn't have the passion for that type of work. I realized that what I most enjoy is building (and breaking and fixing) things - it's my nature.

So I'm now an independent contractor, make more money than I ever did in management, and enjoy my job 99% of the time. I'll never be a CIO, CTO or VP of Technology - but that's ok with me.

Will I be able to continue doing this into my 40s & 50s? I sincerely hope so - and I don't see any reason why that can't happen.

i've tried beind independent; but selling unwritten code is so hard, even more if it's just you. how do you manage to make money? or maybe you sell support? - Javier
I don't see any reason too, but past 45, well, I don't know. Really hope you will be having a great carrier until 70 :) - Sylvain
[+4] [2009-06-09 23:46:22] alchemical

The thing is, with just 2-3 years of intense training, a new person can learn all the latest jargon and technologies. Then they will often pass the interviews, get the same salary, etc., as someone with more experience.

The subtle qualities that can be gained with more experience are more difficult to detect, so sometimes mistakes are made in interviewing, etc., that might not be caught until later (i.e. unmaintainable software).

So yes, you may be making no more than someone 20 years younger. But you can certainly keep up with them, and on top of that, you'll be more accumulating more real world experience, understand the SDLC better, etc.

The reason many people move to something else is, I believe, that it is demanding to keep up on the latest stuff. Some people decide for various reasons that it is to time-consuming, or difficult, or not a high enough priority for them anymore.

If you are passionate about development, then you are right where you should be! Actually, my team now has 4 people about 45-50, myself (39), and one 25 year old. Everyone is a good contributor, and the team works together pretty well. By the way, I few more enlightened companies like Microsoft, recognize a dual route for career growth, either on the manager route or the pure technology route.

Very nice and bright answer (to me :o). Will have it tomorrow in our team meeting man :o) Thanks again. - Sylvain
[+3] [2009-06-09 23:39:05] Jay

I just turned 47. Currently working at a large software company, which was a big goal of mine 10 years ago, but am looking forward to layoffs hitting my division soon. Meanwhile, the company is, in the middle of layoffs, still continuing with their college hires from overseas. This bodes of a desire by the company to get rid of older folks, in my opinion. I have recently become convinced that my future as a software developer will probably require me to either a) start my own company (not sure I have the business expertise to make a go of that), or b) gain some more arcane, specialized knowledge and skill. I believe the body of experienced device driver writers to be much smaller than other areas, like .Net framework coding, so that might be an example of a way to distinguish myself. I am sure there are other areas as well, that is just an example.

To answer your question: first, keep the passion, that is vital; next, find a way to either make yourself stand out, take control of your destiny in some way. You can definitely do it, but the road ahead will different from what you have already traveled.

Cool coment. I appreciate, really. And I hope you will keep your job or find a better one. Myself : I never wait to have any formation - I get them at my own risk. I got some .Net cetifications on my own (just 1 week of full time study for each) and I get reward for them. All the best and keep smiling, Jay :) would love to work with guys like you, I think. - Sylvain
They're only getting rid of the older folks who are "looking forward to layoffs". :-) - Peter J
[+3] [2009-06-09 22:20:25] community_owned

I am 44+, and still coding. I have successfully avoided getting into management so far, while moving up the ladder. I can identify with your passion - I learn one language every year (after reading Pragmatic Programmer), lurk on tech chat rooms, and don't want to slow down. 44? That is when the going gets good :)

Krishnan, we are brother here :o) Love to learn any new languages too... And I really hope you will keep busy and learning until 80, since you like it. - Sylvain
[+3] [2009-06-09 21:38:19] DaveN59

I admire your passion. It's easy to "slow down" as we age, but the field we have chosen doesn't really take well to that.

Stay current, keep the passion alive, and we'll make it to whenever we feel like quitting!

50 and still going strong!

Would love to work with you :) All the best, Dave. - Sylvain
[+3] [2009-06-09 21:39:07] bastijn

If you are good enough, there is always a need for you. There will always be a need for good people, no matter the work you are doing. You just have to be outstanding :).

And specific for you, if you don't mind getting paid the same as some rookies (like me =]) nobody cares for your age i guess. Maybe on friday nights in the pub when that chick comes i like but not while working ;).

If you do mind getting paid the same as rookies it comes down to your company and their views on how many experienced people they need for the job. This again comes down to your experience and to my first point :).

Really, I don't care how much I earn ! I still earn twice what I can spend :o) Thank for u comment Bastjn ! - Sylvain
(1) O man, I myself for sure would love a devoted guy like you if I had my own company <3. - bastijn
[+3] [2009-06-10 10:01:16] Owen B

Many of the best engineers I've been fortunate enough to work with were programming before I was born and in that time they have accrued incredible knowledge and experience. In a team environment that experience is priceless and often provides a great stabilising force especially in times of stress.

At the end of the day if you are still passionate about learning, improving and (hopefully) teaching, there's no reason why you can't be writing code.

Hope I will :) Nice answer. - Sylvain
[+3] [2009-06-11 05:22:36] community_owned

I myself don't understand this corporate mentality of placing an "age barrier" on the developer position. Experience is valued in every other field except ours. I guess my point is, I wouldn't see the added life/career experience as a detractor when finding a job.

I'm 110% with you on that ! All the best, Sylvain. :) - Sylvain
[+3] [2009-06-27 15:31:28] community_owned

I turn 40 this week. I grew up in Silicon Valley and have coded since I was 10, went on to get a BS and MS in computer science. I've worked at several software and Internet companies, many startups, managed large teams of 30+, including offshore teams. Long story short I've played many non-programmer roles as well in my career which have been very beneficial in developing my career skills.

I still code a lot as an independent contractor. It seems I have to re-invent myself every year to stay current with the marketplace (Rails, iPhone/Objective C, jQuery, keeping up with .NET changes, which is the platform I work on mostly).

It's great because I enjoy being able to hack on any number of platforms and languages, but it takes a lot of work to become proficient at each one and to know the inner-nuances of them and get involved in their respective communities. It's hard to remain expert in many platforms if you're not using them on a regular basis (my enterprise Java skills are shot).

While I love to code, I think I'm getting tired of coding for other people, the stress of hitting deadlines and their budget restraints, especially when they don't pay me or have trouble paying me on time. It's very demoralizing and makes me seek out a more stable source of income.

Lately my passion has been coding trading indicators and automated trading strategies for futures and currencies markets. I've always had a passion for trading and have been trading the markets as a hobby (sometimes, a very expensive hobby) for years and now I'm using my coding skills for that.

Eventually, I think I will make enough income trading that I can trade for a living, and coding will just be a tool that I use for trading or any other software product/web services that I may want to launch, or not.

The great thing about that is I can trade/code any where in the world and not need to be in-front of customers. We're already setting goals for which countries my wife and I want to bring the kids to and live in for a few months out of the year. I should have never read "The 4-hour Work Week" :)

At the end of the day coding is a tool, a trade skill, that can be used for many things above and beyond having a job writing code for a company. I'm very grateful to live in an era of computing and the many opportunities and conveniences it provides.

[+3] [2009-06-29 17:07:56] community_owned

In our team, we have 3 guys around 52 - 53, including me. Still going strong and ranking no. 1 and 2 on peer reviews. The best way it to keep updating your skill set. Attending a conference like JavaOne [1] will help. Another tip is getting a certificate once a year with the whole team. We had SCJP ( Sun Certified Java Programmer [2]) and SCWCD ( Sun Certified Web Component Developer [3]) sucessfully and working on SCEA ( Sun Certified Enterprise Architect [4]) this year. And help your young peers, of course.


[+2] [2009-06-26 22:35:27] pho3nix

I have 26 and I going crazy. I want a reform :) I love to code and I die if can't code every day. Long live for all coders.

you are like i ever be :) Keep going man ! - Sylvain
[+2] [2009-06-11 09:54:45] BM.

I used to think that there was no future in software development as programmer's got old, Until I met some really smart programmers and in their 50's in my third job. During my previous jobs, I used to be the "Senior Developer" in my late twenties. However to stay in programming as you get older, it's important to develop other skills besides coding, such as ability to write & communicate specs, ability to manage own project, ability to gather requirements from clients, ability to run the QC process independently etc.

From what I have seen, during downsizing, people who are let go first are employees with single skills, such as QC Testers, Project Managers and finally programmers who do only one type of programming.

Of course, one cannot hope to write code 8 to 5 until the rest of his/her life. To me, the skills you named are mandatory to be in love with software development. All the best ! - Sylvain
You would be surprised to know how much some of my current & former co-workers hate to do anything other than code - BM.
[+2] [2009-07-23 17:53:52] RoadWarrior

I'm 51.

Life is short. So code faster.

[+2] [2009-09-06 04:17:29]

I'm 46. When I talk puppies listen. I will code until I die.

Actually - I just want to add, I'm better developer now then even 1 year ago but the rule is - never stop learning new stuff. Right now I read Scala book before going to sleep and it's wonderful sleeping aid I may say -
[+2] [2009-06-10 13:04:46] corlettk

The flashing cursor is as a great leveler.

The CPU cares not how old you are. The HDD seek time is the same, regardless of how clever you are. And the keyboard knows not, and cares less how pretty you are.

Go forth. Create. What have you got to loose?

Do, or do not. There is no try.
~~ Yoda.

Cheers. Keith.

(1) You can try the best you can. You can try the best you can. The best you can is good enough. ~~Radiohead - Nosredna
The HDD and the keyboard are not my employer - they are giving me no $. But well, I would work for free for a flashing green cursor ! :) - Sylvain
[+2] [2009-06-10 14:19:07] community_owned

I'm 51 and still coding and going stronger each year. :) I have no formal degree in programming, however, I am employed as software developer for an engineering firm. From HP Basic to VB and Powerbasic, I learned the languages by self-study. I have to move up to C# lately to make sure that my next job won't be something like flipping burgers. I estimate that I will be coding for the next 15 to 20 years. :)

Jigo, nice comment ! Hop you'll have great years for the 15 to 20 years comming :) Buy the way, those who learn by themself are always on the pole position when new projects are starting - at least in my world. All the best. - Sylvain
[+2] [2009-06-10 14:29:02] avstrallen

Can anyone hope to write code after 45?

God, I hope so! I'm 38 and in the process of trying to turn my code-writing hobby of 25 years into a second career. I'd hate to think it's only going to be 7 years long (particularly as I intend to live to be about 150)...

I'm relying on P J O'Rourke being right when he said:

"Age and guile beat youth, innocence and a bad haircut".

Hehe, nice quote ! Hope you will be programming until 120 :) - Sylvain
[+2] [2009-06-10 03:37:32] Aamir

I am 30 Years old with only 5 years of programming experience and I would love to have somebody alongside me with this much experience and real knowledge of all the things. I live in a world where all the senior guys don't stay here. I don't know whether it is true for other such countries or not but here in Pakistan, anybody who gets around 5 years of experience under his belt just flies away to US or European countries due to which there is a shortage of really experienced guys like you. I don't know what I will do in 2,3 years time but if I would be in the same situation, I will most probably follow the suit. :)

At my place, I am a Senior Software Engineer :), I know it is only a designation and I have to code a lot but I would love to have this kind of designation when I had at least 10 years of programming experience.

I would say , keep programming but make sure that your management knows the true importance of your experience.

Aamir, You need for your development to "fly the coop"... but have the guts to return when you feel you deserve the "Senior Software Engineer" title... Every developed nation had it's developers... many gained valuable experience from and through international travel. The world, and especially "developing" nations such as Pakistan have never needed bright people more than than they do today... Go, learn, return. And be quick about it. Chop chop ;-) Cheers. Keith. - corlettk
Very nice comment Aamir. You can be sure that my (current) management know my value. Since I'm a freelancer, I can ask a little less than the rookies at my place and earn a little more than the boss of my boss :) About countries : I'm Canadian and I'm currently working in France. The only reason is money. My 2 cent about you : if you can work somewhere and earn twice the price, DON'T GO THERE ! Unless you're sure you will be happy with the job :) I really would have love to work in the US, but it is very hard for Canadian. All the best. - Sylvain
[+2] [2009-06-10 16:09:29] Ray

You shouldn't be employed at 44.

You're too old to be a "programmer". You can be more than that.

At 43, I started a software company (an ISV). I program 70% of the time, but I'm also a salesman, a businessman, a graphic artist, and a number of other things I never dreamed of being.

It's time to go beyond just programming. Stop working for The Man. Be The Man. You know you've got the skill. And you've got the passion. So make something! Make something great and change the world.

(2) Why is it considered "settling" to be a highly-experienced individual contributor at 44? - Peter J
"Highly-experienced" today means "Out-dated" tomorrow. Keep learning and improving. - Ray
Cool answer ! You seem to be a passionate and I just love to talk to passionate peoples ! Well, I am too, but in a different way. I would love to change the world by having it to write solid code, and i try hard every days. Money is not really relevant to me (just need it to make my wife and my kids as happy and confortable as I can). I'm already freelance and I have more offers than I can accept. But you are right, I could make more money. Well, I do not want to. I really love what I'm doing :) - Sylvain
[+2] [2009-06-09 22:26:32] hipplar

Some of my best years of code (and learning) were when I was working with a mentor that was over 45. He was also one the best developers I have ever had the privilege of working with.

I am 28 and have been the youngest developer in all the shops I have worked in for several years. From the “young guys” perspective I have seen both sides of this. I worked with developers that far exceeded my experience that couldn’t/wouldn’t adapt to the new languages, methods or even work with the younger guys and I have worked with some that have lead the way. I think this is the distinction. Being one of the young guys it’s how I see I need to be (always able to adapt and learn) to stay successful for a long career.

Younger developers cost less; most of the time. This is an issue I see for myself as the years go on.

All in all I think if development is a passion it shows in the work you produce and hopefully management finds value in retaining the best developers for the job regardless of age.

Now, as the young guy should, I will go back to my cube and hope no one is offending by me saying anything….

Great comment - reading it, I saw myself 15 years ago :) Thanks for sharing ! Love it. All the best. - Sylvain
[+2] [2009-06-10 00:06:23] TampaRich

Wow, what a great post. I have been thinking the same thing recently. I am 33 and often think about what the landscape of IT will look like 20 years from now. Personally I love to keep learning new technologies. It keeps thing interesting in life. Now when kids come along I am sure that is going to put a dent in my "learning" time. Personally I hope age does not matter for any job. If you can do the work, then there should not be any issues.

I would love to think so :) Actually, I do not have kids (my wife have children that are 20 and 22), so I can give all my time to my passion. Would love to code until 70 or 75. And would love to know that you will be too :) Software developpement is really the niciest thing I came across in my life. All the best ! And +1 :) - Sylvain
[+2] [2009-06-27 05:32:29] Ray Tayek

I'm 62. I started programming when I was 20. I still love to write code and make it work (but it does seem harder sometimes).

It seems like there are two kinds of programmers: those that love to write code and those that don't.

I tend to view code as an end in itself as opposed to a means to an end.

[+1] [2009-12-01 00:35:29] EddieN120

Real programmers never die, they just get kicked up to that great server room in the sky.

[+1] [2010-06-29 11:35:32] Norman Gray

An important aspect to this question is what are the hazards of being an older developer? Mostly, it's don't get sidelined.

I've worked alongside a few very valuable developers who've been coding up to the point they retired, partly because they enjoyed it, and partly because they sure as hell didn't want to become managers. Based on that, the traps I think you want to avoid are:

  • It's easy to end up being seen as The Dependable One, and so become the one who looks after the insane/crusty/dull bits of the code-base, because no-one else can face it, and you've at least been there before. This is good for job security, less so for your motivation.

  • Be careful how you say 'that won't work'. If you, say, express scepticism about this year's software development bandwagon, it's deplorably easy for people to mishear it as some old guy muttering about how it was all harder in his (less often her) day. Being up to date on current stuff is useful, not only CV-wise, but also because it gives you the credibility to be able to pass on your advice (I've spotted myself slipping into this trap).

Short version: make sure at least some of your war stories are about architectures people have heard of.

[+1] [2010-06-29 12:51:34] Mike Byrd

I'm 66 and still going strong as a database developer. I've done the management thing and even been a CTO, but I just love solving problems. For me, software development is like sovling sudoko or kenken puzzles, but only getting paid of it. When I took my current job, I told my boss and his boss that I didn't want their jobs, I just wanted to be their database expert and they've let me do that. I'll probably "retire" in next 18 months, but I don't see myself stopping. My current company is willing to let me "taper" off plus I consult on the outside. In my mind when I stop programming my life is over.

[+1] [2009-06-10 00:11:12] Nosredna

We joke around but I know there is ageism in programming. I regret that when I was a hotshot in my late 20s I had a very bad attitude about older programmers who seemed slow.

I think it's absolutely vital that older programmers jump into new languages and avoid ruts. If you're 40 and all you know is C++, learn Python and JavaScript--you should have started yesterday!

I agree ! Well, actually, most of my co-workers are a bit slowers than me... Must be the mouse (I use the keyboard). But we're having a great time every day and I really hope it will last until my 70th birthday... Thanks for your comment, Nosredna. (and waht about you, btw ???) - Sylvain
Three kids, two dogs, one wife. I'm barely alive! - Nosredna
Wow ! Just 2 kids, no dog, and it is really a circus, here... But I like it, go figure :) - Sylvain
[+1] [2009-06-10 00:25:19] eschneider

Well I hope you stick around, we need more balance, also when I get older I won't feel so bad. I'm 36 now and I feel the pressure to be a lead or manage others, but I have no desire. I just want to write code...

I felt the same thing at 36. And 37, 38, .. 44. And I really want to keep coding until 70 (well, 65 and maybe 70 !). Keep coding if you are doing it well -- good programmers are backorder since 1980, I think... :) +1 - Sylvain
[+1] [2009-06-09 23:21:07] Liran Orevi

What you're really asking is can an experienced very passionate programmer program? I think it's a no brainier....

(On a side note - your passion is priceless, you really should consider writing a book...)

Mmm... I will consider to write a book (I was, by the way :). And you will get it for free if I got it :) All the best ! - Sylvain
Looking forward to read it... All the best! (printscreened your comment about the free part `-) ) - Liran Orevi
You just pushed me a little bit more in the right direction :) Thanks. - Sylvain
[+1] [2009-06-10 15:02:46] community_owned

Yes, there's a future in training new recruits and then ensuring they do a good job (possibly through means of paired programming). You could always stay where you are as long as money isn't a big issue for you. After all, you seem very happy doing what you do.

You get it : I prefere to earn less but to go to work with a smile (nearly) every morning. My experience : developpers who love what they do do not know how much they are paid every week (well, not always, but often :). Having the chance to do what they want to do and being paid correctly for that is enought. :) - Sylvain
[+1] [2009-06-10 16:30:32] community_owned

I'm 46 and coding. Maybe I am getting a bit slower in bragging out code lines, but I think it's because I have learned to think first and then avoid the unneccessary lines. And then one learns to avoid some of the bad ideas without even thinking. So all in all you're getting faster. And my definition of cool code is that it has to be as simple as possible and just works from start and has not to be touched again.

"it has to be as simple as possible" - I think this sentence IS, in a large part, what experience bring to programmers. Usually, I work with young and very cool guys. But when I ask them a question, they very often add a comment or two about the "poor perfs" or the "poor extensibility" I will get if I go ahead. "Hey, why don't you use (name a new technology) ?". Well, just because I don't want to code until 11pm on saturdays and because I want my customer to get a product that will be maintenable, that will be on time and on budget. And eventually on target :) All the best ! - Sylvain
[+1] [2009-06-10 19:41:57] Bratch

I hope we have a future in it and I plan to make it mine. I typed in some BASIC on a TRS-80 about 26 years ago and have been around computers since then. I'm almost 40 and plan on doing it nearly 26 more years. Even if I manage to retire before that I think I'll still be working on something involving code. I don't see any reason why not.

Update - check out this recent article linked from reddit: programmers Before you turn 40, get a plan B [1] and the reddit comments [2]:


This is a great paper, thanks for the link ! BTW, I begun on a PET :) - Sylvain
[+1] [2009-06-10 06:23:11] bashmohandes

I am very pleased to see some people fight the "Be Manager" to get promoted kind of behavior, I really like working as a developer, and I also hate managing other people, and this problem makes the software business always lose the highly experienced developers, because the average life time of a developer "who writes production code" is about 6 years, which is very short compared to other careers like Doctors, Actors, Pilots, ... etc, it is like always flying with a fresh graduate from aviation school

My guest : like Jeff Atwood said somewhere on his blog, there is 2 broad kinds of developpers: those who want to get paid and want to be at home at 5pm, and those who just love what they do. The formers do not read books nor blogs related to programming. The latter just can't stop hitting refresh on these blogs, buy a lot of cs books, read them with emotion, and will never surrender their DasKeyboard! :). The formers count for 80% of the programmers - It seems that most developers just can wait to do something else. This could explain that 6 years your talking about, no ? - Sylvain
I totally agree, The reason I see is that the developer life is not a family friendly life, once a developer starts having a Normal life like a family of wife & kids, it pushes him into more time respecting job where he can work on normal work hours & days to spend more time with his family, it is very important part of everyone's life and I never blame somebody for this - bashmohandes
[+1] [2009-06-10 06:43:26] agsamek

I'm 29, 12 years of experience in IT, 5 as manager (50 persons dept), now running my own business for a year.

From what you have written - I would be happy to have a programmer like you in my team, on the other hand you haven't written anything that would justify giving you a higher salary than young programmer with 5 years of experience, nor that you should get less.

Try to emphasize your strong points and not only visible conditions. I believe you have something in your resume that you are proud of and it is more than your age.

Well, I'm really happy with my salary and I'm really happy that the young programmers can get something similar - I did not make it clear, sorry. My point was : I think that (generaly speaking) older guys can be better at coding then young ones. But I'm not sure that there is a place for older ones... Thank for your comment. - Sylvain
[+1] [2009-06-10 10:45:27] Victor

The more experience you have, the higher you will be paid. If you are over 40 and have more than 10, 15, 20 years of experience (or something like that) you will receive, huge, huge salaries. The clever boys and girls may be smart, but they are not making as much money as experienced professionals.

(1) Yep, and sometimes, this is a problem : want you can get 2 young programmers for the price of 1 old timer, many do not hesitate. Not sure that they win on the long run, but sometimes yes. :) - Sylvain
[+1] [2009-06-10 10:52:34] shanyu

The problem is not that you cannot code or keep up with juniors, I think. I'm 33 and a better professional than I was ten years ago in nearly every aspect, and when I look around I see that it is more or less the same for my friends. The problem may lie in this short-sighted, ill perspective that unfortunately a lot of people may have: "well, he's 45 and if he is not director/manager/CEO, then he must be incompetent in some way". I don't know, maybe we can call this age and position matching.

Unfortunately, an excellent developer can be a pretty bad manager. And once you have managed full time for 4-5 years, well, you are out as a developer (chances are what were hot when you were coding are now legacy languages/frameworks/systems...). :) - Sylvain
@Sylvain You're right, managing and developing are two vastly different worlds. And after you manage for a few years there's no easy turning back. On the other hand managing has its own strong points that you don't want to let go. As a resolution you keep on managing in day time, and code as you like at night. - shanyu
Not a bad advice... All the best :) - Sylvain
[+1] [2009-06-10 11:47:49] SNA

I think with experience, you get a very high level view of each project. You can predict what go wrong with a particular design, methodology. I have seen people with 17+ yrs exp writiing the core components of a product. These components have remained unchanged over different versions of .NET framework. I feel, with experience, you can code in a much much better way.

As Robin Sharma says,

the only way to reverse aging, is by learning.

Keep rocking...

Very nice quote - I will keep it (with a little modification, maybe : the only way to reverse engineering age, is by learning :) Thanks for the comment. - Sylvain
[+1] [2009-11-09 03:00:39] Xepoch

I went to a startup in 2003. I was shocked to see mostly older folks there (I'm a little more than in-between age-wise I guess) where the other company that we had earlier "taken public" was filled with young developers and half-seasoned management.

Long story short, the quality of the software was far better than any other environment in which I worked. The DBAs were tried and true. The developers talked FORTRAN. Absolutely no-frills software. Software code was tight, fast, maintainable, had failsafe actions and any software esoterica of any age could be answered by a walk over to the next desk. They over-purchased servers (by millions) and kept the desktops antiquated. Team work, maturity and I learned more from them both in code and in tact than anywhere else.

When I get funding for the next big thing, personally I'm looking forward to hiring seasoned software folks.

[+1] [2009-11-09 20:11:17] Scott Frye

I think there are a lot of reasons most developers aren't over 45 but it doesn't have to do with ability:

1) There weren't a lot of people programming 40 years ago so there are not a lot now over 40. 2) Of those that WERE programming 40 years ago many made a fortune before the dotcom bust and retired early.
3) Software Development is REAL hard and a lot of people that don't have a passion for it don't do it for more than 10 years. 4) Management, in general, pays better so a large number of the over 40 programmers are now managing the younger generations. 5) Unforutately, most companies seem to favor younger fresher minds...especially start ups. But not all of them!

I'm approaching 45 and still active in my industry. My father in in his late 60's and still developing. I wouldn't say it's very hard to keep developing as you get older, I would say its hard to find someone older that has a lasting passion to stay in the field! But when you find them, hold on to them!

[+1] [2009-06-27 02:30:07] Ariel

My advice to Allain - look for a company that has a technical ladder where you can grow doing what you love, instead of growing proportionally to the people that report to you.

There are such companies, like Microsoft, Google, etc. Microsoft keeps inventing titles for people that grow tehchnically, like Technical Fellow, or Distinguished Engineer.

Also - you mention that your company hires people that writes unmantainable code. You have an opportunity in there to correct that e.g. by establishing a better hiring process and carrying it out. You can become a "Hiring Consultant" in the company, which I bet you would love doing.

(BTW - great words Allain. It's nice to read those kind words of love for a profession.)

[0] [2009-06-11 17:31:26] Daniel Schobel

Of course you can code until the day you retire, but I think as a pure code guy or gal your earning potential peaks 5-10 years in. This is just because of the pace of change of technology.

If I'm looking to hire a coder will I care that they programmed delphi for a decade and c++ for another? Probably not. Or at least not enough for them to be worth the premium over some kid 3-4 years out of school with the same amount of relevant experience.

You can have a philosophical debate about how all those years programming and thinking in different languages make you a better developer, but in every interview experience I've ever had or even heard off, it's always been: "how well do you know the tech we're using?" and "how good of a general problem solver are you?".

This is a good article on the issue: Programmers: Before you turn 40, get a plan B [1]

With a quote from Craig Barrett (Mr. Intel): "The half-life of an engineer, software or hardware, is only a few years."


I'm usually involved when we hired new developers. To assess theirs skills. The 1st time, they gave me Q/A tests for some languages: C, SQL.. Example in C : What is the output produced by this code (and then, you got very hard code, with a lot of ** and casting). I throw it away after the 3rd interview. I change it for real questions : What was the flaws of the last software you worked on? What do you think about comments? Tell me what is the last book you read about development? To me, being techno-savvy is a no-show - you have to be a developer first. But everybody do not think as I am :) - Sylvain
[0] [2009-11-09 20:16:26] Kelly French

My wife and I are both developers. We have both been working as developers for 15+ years. One thing we noticed was that there were alot of people working as developers who really shouldn't be, they didn't have the aptitude, interest or sometimes even the background. Those folks usually decide that programming is not for them and move on to different job. Some go into management, some become analysts, while others change careers completely.

What's left? The ones who are passionate about development and are interested in doing it right. They love learning new stuff and don't gripe about how things used to be in "The good ole' days." They might be grumpy but they usually know their stuff.

The main problem would be in finding management who doesn't have a pre-conceived notion about what makes a good developer. If they feel that only the younger ones have the stamina to keep up with the pace, I'd wonder whether those same employers were the same ones who believe that the 'Deathmarch' style of project management is standard operating procedure. They'd rather grind through fresh-meat developers than listen to the experienced ones and change their management style.

Lastly, I've noticed that doing nothing but coding holds less business value than being able to communicate with customers, users, and vendors. One reason you start coding less is because finding answers to ambiguous requirements takes more experience and provides more payback to the business.

My advice would be to find a place where they need experienced developers to help with the overall task of creating or maintaining software, that also gives you the opportunity to code regularly. That way you can have the time to keep up with industry changes.

[0] [2009-10-11 09:49:57] e-satis

I won't reach my 30 before some years and have been working only with young so told "dynamic" dev. Ok, coolness is fun, but I really miss a wisdom representative sometime.

Cocky and risky can be boring if not balanced with some long term values. Things I guess only living can teach you.

[0] [2009-11-01 01:51:11] bruceatk

56 in a month and a half. I have no plans to stop.

[0] [2009-06-09 23:11:02] Frank V

I feel bad. I just, not more than 30 minutes ago, announced to my wife of how old I feel. We were driving back from FedEx; I mailed my undergraduate transcripts for a master program that I am enrolling in...

I guess I need to take the "I feel old" back. ::Sigh::

Edit: Part of what fueled this though is the fact that it is our 4 year anniversiry. In addition, wifey wants a child. I'm 26 (so you don't need to look at my profile).

Ultimately, I think you can code to any age as long as you keep your knowledge up (like any programmer) and as long as you continue to enjoy it. I hope to be enjoying programming at 70!

Best Regards,

Hehe, I got some bad feeling with my wife before, probably for the same reasons :) But now, she's 47 and she loves the quiet home we got with my salary. We have 2 chidren that are 20 and 22. And they are doing well. Mmm, I just would love to be at your place - I would say "Yes, my love, you are right." (Ok, not computer related now, but it will be in 5 or 6 years...) 26 year old is very young ! You have a lot of time ahead of you ! All the best. - Sylvain
[0] [2011-04-14 21:25:57] Ed Pichler

I'm 26 right now, and you see just young besides you because you are pioneer. Now the software industry is big, that's why all the new people get this area to work.

I have a friend that is 56 years old, and code good, but he don't like software process, he likes to code, and avoid bureaucracy.

I think coding is one of the best mental exercises exists. Good to health, if you like, continue till die. I will.

I prefer management, but I always had a spare time project to do in Java. Just to be updated.

[0] [2010-06-28 23:30:22] JonoRR

"You know what they do with engineers when they turn forty?" [to Aaron, who shakes his head] "They take them out and shoot them."

  • Primer. Watch it. Anyone on Stack Overflow will love that film.

[-8] [2009-10-11 09:34:45] Lee

There is really no room for older programmers. It doesn't matter how good you are, the younger programmers don't want you around. Of course if you are an American and most of the staff is foreign, for example Indian, then forget about it, you are the outsider in your own country. The best thing would be to transition into a second career where experience won't count against you. If you really love programming so much that it's the only thing you can stand to do, your only hope of survival is to start your own company. But I would encourage you instead to broaden your horizons and realize that one reason programming is becoming a domain of the young and of 3rd world types is because it is after all not a very good career. I think in general having any kind of business where you are self-supporting and not dependent on bossholes is the way to go, at least here in the U.S. where workers have relatively few rights and no security compared to Europe. But even in Europe I would stay away from IT at this time. Frankly it's much better to make a living running a hotdog stand and being independent than working for some company that will simply exploit you. By the way, if you set up a hotdog stand and make really good hotdogs, you will be contributing more to society than most software companies!

By the way, I see someone mentioned Google and Microsoft as companies that will keep good people around even if they are older. That of course is total rubbish. Both companies have reputations for tremendous age bias, and so far I haven't seen any hard data that would refute that.

"if you set up a hotdog stand and make really good hotdogs, you will be contributing more to society than most software companies" <-- LOL. -1 - Hippo