Where Go Older Developers?

It seems like a long since I was the youngest guy in the office. Those days were pretty golden. The young turk is the one that everyone lives vicariously through. I remember recounting stupid drinking stories to a cube-full of older developers eager to relive their own youthful transgressions. The young turk can make mistakes that older guys would get reamed for. And he can get away with unsavory behavior because his unofficial responsibilities include comic relief. The young turk has it pretty good.

These days, I’m almost always one of the oldest guys on the team. At R/GA there are some team members about my age, give or take a year, but most of them are between 4 and 10 years younger. Of course, no one would be stupid enough to be caught arguing that age should imply much in terms of ability. The point is that I’ve spent a lot of time in the past couple of years wondering where all the old developers go. At R/GA there can’t be more than 5 developers (including the front-end guys) 35 and older. This is in a company with probably 150 or more tech people. At MLB I’d bet most of the tech group was under 32. With the exception of the CTO, I can’t think of anyone who would have been older than about 38. This is out of about 100 tech people. I have this fear that I’m going to just start melting away when I turn 38. Or worse – be forced to move into human resources. I mean, I know coding is a young man’s game, but this is absurd.

I suppose some become middle management, but since an organization might only need 1 or 2 managers for every 10 developers there are fewer of these to be found too. Lately I’ve been wondering if the older folk need something more stable and find themselves moving to investment banks. I can’t really say because I’ve avoided those kinds of jobs my whole career. Maybe they freelance, or start their own companies. Maybe they get fed up and go teach. Damned if I know. All I know is that it’s starting to freak me out a bit. How much longer until the developer police show up at my door and take me out to the shooting range? Come to think of it I’ve been hearing voices coming from my O’Reilly books – what if they’re really made out of ground-up developer parts? It’s starting to make a certain bit of sense.

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2 Comments so far

  1. kDog on April 13th, 2008

    sorry vDog but you aren’t as old as you feel/think, and more importantly there aren’t as much talent out there most developers are white trash compare to you.

  2. vdibart on April 14th, 2008

    Well, I don’t know if I’d go that far, but I appreciate the kind words kDog. Hopefully you’ll feel the same way when you’re running some hot new startup and you’re looking for an experienced hand.

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