Whenever I hear "We need more programmers! Make more young people interested in programming! Teach programming at kindergarten!" I always get the urge to ask "What did you do with the old ones you had?"

Where are all those programmers you hired 5-20 years ago? Why is no programmer at your company older than 40? Why do you have *senior* software engineers that are 25 years old? What did you do to all those people?

If you can't take care of your employees, no wonder you never have enough.

@deshipu I think it's not JUST that (it is certainly also that). It's also that we (capitalism?) keep demanding that new software be written and don't want to spend time decommissioning old software. To the work burden doubles every however often, requiring the workforce to also double. Which it actually doesn't. I often talk about this in a metaphor where we (an engineering team, a company, an industry, a society) keep picking up new things, but very rarely put old things down.

@benhamill I was mostly thinking about the game development industry, where you are basically burned out after three years, unless you are very careful and lucky.

Maintenance is certainly a problem, especially since it's harder than making new things, but viewed as much less cool. You are a cost, not an investment.

There is also a third factor there, where most of the stuff we write these days never actually gets finished and is lost in the sea of startups — basically squandering all that work.

@deshipu @benhamill Game development is a relatively small part of the whole software industry, though.

@naavis @benhamill It is, just like pop music scene is really small compared to all those bands playing at weddings. But it is very visible and influential, and there is recently finally some movement in there to change things, so maybe the rest of the industry could piggy back on that.

One will never learn programming before he/she learnt math. Programming is a high school thing, no need to rush it.
What? You code css? Never mind =_=

@gxtony I think that it's not an on/off thing. It starts with being comfortable with having control over the device, even if that is simple customization. So yeah, kids putting stickers on their stuff are beginning to get into programming. Then you can start using more sophisticated and advanced tools as you gain more knowledge and need more control. What tools you use exactly, whether the language is descriptive like CSS or procedural like Python, doesn't really matter that much. You can learn either.

Controling your device is more related to sys administration I think?

@deshipu I do wonder where they go because I'm approaching my 40's sooner rather than later and starting to get worried.

@brianl They get burned out and find safe bullshit jobs doing the same pointless thing every day, most likely in middle management.

@deshipu @brianl I know one who left the industry to become a carpenter, and another who left to make knives.
That kind of work (using your body, still able to employ creativity, but with well-defined and documented physical properties of things like wood and metal) can seem very attractive after a long day(/week/month) of committee design meetings, fighting buggy frameworks you don't own, and other familiar nonsense.

@Tak @deshipu Well aware of that and can empathize, I enjoy gardening to stay away from screens when I can (although my video game habit interferes)

@Tak @deshipu @brianl the handwork Trades are underappreciated but making a comeback; I would have loved to be able to go to the Elective-linked trade-school available in HS but by the time I even KNEW about it, all classes were full. as it is now, I'm doing all the gruntwork for rewiring my (90 year old) house

@Tak @deshipu @brianl Interesting thread: My 57 year old little brother is staring at doing something different after coding professionally for over 35 years. He may end up running a pizza joint and kissing C++ good-bye!

@GoatsLive @Tak @deshipu I really wanted to learn how to do my own plumbing, but the cost of making mistakes is thousands of dollars in potential water damage

@brianl @Tak @deshipu
I found myself plumbing most of yesterday! My brother in law needed a new bathroom sink. *(I really hate plumbing)

The key to plumbing is to take your time. It's pretty easy to tell if there is a problem and fix it. Just always know where the main water shut-off is!

@deshipu and that's not even starting on the idea that we don't really need that many programmers in the first place! The only reason there are so many of us now is the woefully inefficient processes. Most of us basically constantly solves the same old problems over and over.

If you're older than forty, you're expected to be too much of a dinosaur to be useful any more. I'm 56 and having a hell of a time finding a new job.

@FASA_Andrew_1879 @deshipu Spouse will be 50 in September and started his own company a couple of years ago because people were beginning to find him too old and expensive to hire.


This is what worries me. It's not easy to prove age discrimination.


@starbreaker @deshipu It's almost impossible. My father was able to, because it was blatantly obvious when he was fired and the company replaced him with a guy half his age at half his wage. The government lawyer got him a nice fat settlement. Proving it in hiring practices would require visibility into the company, and as a candidate I don't have that.

@deshipu "You can't have any new ones until you've fixed the ones you mistreated."

@deshipu Tons of companies are complaining how hard it is to find qualified Technicians, machinists, and engineers.

But they want a bachelors and 5 years experience, and the job pays 20/hr

@Motodrachen @deshipu and of course all their positions are entry level, which of course means getting started in their company and not the industry, which is completely opposite of what that's supposed to mean.

@deshipu I'm one of the youngest devs where I am at age 31, our company tends to take care of employees benefits wise tho has only recently come around to investing more in training, etc. still, it shows that people stay working & stay interested if you make sure they're well cared for.

@deshipu It seems to me that programming has become not unlike aviation in WW1: the purview of cocky young people who can and will push themselves over the limit on a regular basis with no concern for their own well being, or the next day.


I'm glad I didn't go into programming when I saw my programmer friends gradually start being turned into Contracted "Employees" with no job security and one promising Contract got outsourced to a team in India at the last second.

@deshipu capitalism is about voraciously consuming resources and then discarding them when done

@bamfic I thought that capitalism was about private ownership of the means of production. Maybe you meant corporate capitalism specifically?

@deshipu They don't want us old hands. We know our value and know enough to demand a living wage and reasonable hours. They want young programmers who still think they're immortal, still think they're going to get rich, and thus are less likely to recognize or object to exploitation.

@deshipu It's not just an age thing, although that's a factor. It's that people hiring generally want ready made employees who are experts on absurdly specific technologies. For example, not just knowing a language but a very particular old version number of the language.

What this is really about is a game over who pays for the training of developers and neither companies nor universities wanting to do that.

@deshipu Usually, those people want to be paid a lot of money, are poor value as engineers and become managers or similar.

@johnribbon Why do you think they are poor value? Do you have any source on that?

@deshipu Poor value not because they're not good, but because they are too expensive. People in the later careers tend to want to be paid twice as much as younger engineers, but there are few applications where those engineers can deliver twice the value.

After all, it doesn't take someone with 25 years of experience, including knowledge of assembly, C, etc, to knock out a few nodejs endpoints.

Those engineers are not going withoit jobs at their requested pay grades. They're getting paid by companies more willing to invest in experience.

@cathal @deshipu I think most of them become managers or something similar. There simply aren't enough jobs at that grade to absorb the mid-levels/"seniors" of yesterday.

@johnribbon I would really want a source on that, because it goes against my experience, so there must be something interesting going on there, and I think it would be useful to look at it closer. Do you know any research or maybe just statistics that would confirm it?

@deshipu Just my own experience and a kind of concensus among other people who have been in the industry a while.

It is certainly true that older professionals want to be paid a lot more. It's also true that much of software development is routine and not demanding of that level of experience. So there are fewer principal level roles because you just can't justify them from a business perspective.

That's all I got, no source as such. 🙂

@johnribbon I'm especially doubtful of the "much of software development is routine and not demanding of that level of experience" part — experienced engineers will just automate and/or generalize the routine parts and focus on the actually demanding parts of the problem, or move on to the next one. The idea is to solve problems such that they remain solved.

@deshipu Ok, but can an engineer with 20yrs experience, wanting twice the salary of a young engineer, always offer twice the value on every task?

I think not. Can they build a Jenkins pipeline twice as quick? Can they turn out an API twice as quick? Or write "normal" app code twice as well? Generally they can't because, unless you're working on the Linux kernel or something hard core, most problems are just not that hard. After, say, 5yrs, you can do most things.

@johnribbon You say this as if solving problems was just about writing code.

@deshipu The thing is, what experience does help enormously with is the task of picking the right problem to solve. There is a lot more value to be gained or lost by working on the right thing, than in doing the thing well. Even the best engineers working on something that nobody wants (happens all the time) provides no value. That's why a lot of experienced people become managers or product people.

Also, they get sick of those people telling them things they already know.

@deshipu They care ... if they are to old and, to expensive to pay then they get fired ... so, they need always more / new programmers.


I think it's also worth noting that tech companies push these ideas not because they don't have enough programmers, but because they want to be able to pay their programmers less

@deshipu I also wonder what the field is like once someone reaches 40s. Maybe they moved out of tech, or in tech but not programming. Or they are working remotely or they now freelance out of necessity or choice.

@superruserr I can tell by myself (not quite yet 40), that while I'm still a software engineer, my work increasingly involves more thinking, making people figure out what they need, and finding and adapting existing solutions than actual coding — though figuring out what exactly went wrong is always a big part of it. Actual programming is just such a small part of solving the real problems, and it takes less and less time as i get better at it. I do work remotely — it doesn't make sense to go to the office.

@deshipu @superruserr

I'm in my 40s but (other than a brief spell working in public service where I did do some very basic coding (mostly VBA macros for spreadsheets) have I worked as a project engineer for embedded systems and more recently as a generalist IT manager for healthcare (I do still do some coding but more often its remote support work or hardware installations and maintenance including specialist embedded systems, (fixed and wireless), CCTV, telephones and even smartdoors)


Thinking is overrated. At least from the POV of MBAs. 🙄

@deshipu I'm afraid, they need more than there are/were

@deshipu I hope they have real jobs at IBM instead of working for stock options at shittr, the startup that disrupts defecation.

@deshipu The whole industry fucks over experienced programmers by arbitrarily adopting new technologies that are worse than the old ones but being chosen by people who lack the experience to realize that they're garbage. For example the whole NoSQL fad. And those get discarded before they even catch up to what existed before.

@deshipu As Alan Perlis said, "It's easier to write an incorrect program than to read a correct one." All of programming seems defined by people deciding to write an incorrect program to avoid learning to read a correct one.

@freakazoid As always, it boils down to who gets to declare what is "correct". I'm on the side of Humpty Dumpty on that one.

@freakazoid Or you could say the speed of progress accelerates exponentially ;-)

Sign in to participate in the conversation
Mastodon for Tech Folks

The social network of the future: No ads, no corporate surveillance, ethical design, and decentralization! Own your data with Mastodon!