the codist - programmerthink

Am I Too Old To Be A Programmer?

Published: 08/16/2007

One of my 5 job prospects in progress decided after the first in person interview to pass on me despite acing every phone interview and hearing great feedback about my experience. It could be something else, but some people react negatively to my 25 years of experience. It's not the first time, nor do I expect it will be the last.

So am I kidding myself thinking I can still work as a programmer in today's complex software world?

No, I'm still as good as I was 20 years ago with more experience to boot. I keep up with the industry, with new technologies as much as anyone can (and more than most), and still write good code, understand how to design and architect different kinds of applications, and generally am as productive as I was in the early days when I was "the kid". But that doesn't stop people from thinking that anyone over 30 is over the hill.

Heck, I even thought that when I was the 25 year old "kid". There is truth to the idea that as people get older, they get more settled, become less interested in taking risks and possibly become dated in their thinking. Yet like all "truths" it's not a given; stereotypes by their nature are never uniform. I do know people my age who long ago gave up on programming as their original skillset became obsolete; they simply never saw the reason to stay up to date until it was too late. But I know peers like me who still love to program, stay up to date, constantly learn new technologies and generally are even better than they were at 25.

Comparatively I've known 20 year olds who were brilliant and coded well beyond their experience (and in fact "web 2.0" is filled with them). I would never stoop to say that of everyone however. I've know people in their 20's who totally sucked at producing any useful code and would never make it as a programmer for long. High age or low age you can't force everyone into the same barrel.

Programming, being adaptive at new technologies, and general coding productivity are skills not some physical trait (like my bad knees from years of playing basketball) that has to decline with age. It's true that brain function does deteriorate over your lifetime; but the brain is surprisingly resilient if it stays in use. You only get old if you let yourself be old; then it's too late.

So people can judge me based on my age and ignore any other evidence to the contrary and that's OK as long as I find reasonable people who do understand that finding good programmers is not limited to certain age groups (either too low or too high).

The thought that I am unable to code anymore and should be "retired" to just being a manager to me is pretty laughable. As long as I still stay on the bleeding edge and keep enjoying the creative art of programming, there isn't any reason for me to doubt my own ability.

It's weird to go from being too young to be that good to being too old to be anything good. Neither viewpoint is correct; I can do what I can do and that should be all that matters.

I don't even own a rocking chair, don't put me in one.

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