Tuesday, March 15, 2005


Bloody birthday. And in honor of it, a link to an interesting article talking about age and software development (two things I'm concerned with). At this point in time, I haven't run into this problem much, but I've heard about it quite a lot. Having spent the last three years at a company who's average age is well past mine, I look young to most of my co-workers. But, I was living in NYC in the late eighties & early nineties when the computer revolution took off. I got involved in computers initially doing word processing and from there into desktop publishing. The desktop publishing industry was fascinating because it was right in the middle of the transition from the old cold type machines to the Macs (and PC's) that run the industry now. I got to see, first hand, as people's skills became obsolete over night. The older people that took the time to learn the machines not only stayed employed, but became more valuable because of their knowledge and experience with the old technologies and experience dealing with the customers. The others were out of work and bitter. I mean nasty bitter. I remember talking with people that simply loathed computers. My mother-in-law was one of them. The thing was, it wasn't the computers fault, but rather the fault of the people that weren't ready & willing to learn. I may have been young at the time, but being a history nut, I recognized the pattern and learned from it in a way that young people (myself included) normally don't. The cold type workers were buggy whip makers and those new fangled automobiles/computers were messing up their lives. While that was true, fighting progress is like fighting the ocean. You will lose. Better to float, ride the wave, whatever metaphore you like, learn the new technology, keep food on the table, and bring your experience and skills to the new job because they'll come in handy. It's something to take away.

The other points in the article, seperating coders from developers, I look at slightly differently. In my own department we have several people well into their 60's working on these here new fangled personal computers (these guys still pine for the main frame and the works stations). They use the skills that they learned 30 years ago. They only use the skills that they learned 30 years ago. We've also got a couple of people in the their 60's that are fantastic at their jobs and have a depth of knowledge that is endlessly helpful. I differentiate it this way. One group has a year of experience, replicated 30 times. The other group has 30 years of experience. I'm trying to be in that second group as much as possible.

The really good news is, the boomers will be retiring in droves. This will force employers to hang on to the aging, but knowledgeable, workers in order to keep the business running.

Some other people had thoughts on this as well:
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