Too Old At 34 For A Software Engineer

My dad was the person who pushed me into software engineering in college (I was drifting a bit with no goals)

But after working for 5 years in SGI, my dad saw how crazy my hours were and commented to me to start preparing myself to exit the industry and find another line of work because I couldn’t sustain the long hours.

He thinks that the new grads from college will just take over my job because they can work faster and longer than I could at 30 years old.

Then came the reports of the jobs moving overseas to India, he again told me to prepare myself to be replaced.

Now I’m 34 years old, he tells me I’m over the hill and how I can possibly compete with the young kids coming out of college?

I could see his point, does experience really matter in software engineering?  Since we are supposely working in the bleeding edge of technology, does what I learned 10 years ago really matter now?

Yes and no is my answer

  1. experience matters because you know what worked and what doesn’t work and you can make a decision quickly
  2. software engineering is still stuck in the dark ages, every project pretty much starts from the ground up usually.  in C I still have to start with main().  I still use my editor to start writing code
  3. you would think that software engineers like to change, but NO!  How many engineers are still using variants of VI, Emacs, using GNU?  my guess is 90% of yahoo engineers.  I don’t know why, but we are very set in our ways, especially when we get old.  I guess we are all human :-)
  4. I am an optimist and I do hope that new grads can come in a bring all the new cool stuff they learn from school and jump in and be able to replace me.  But given the large number of resumes we go thru trying to hire someone, that is not happening any time soon
  5. coding fast doesn’t make you a good engineer, usually coders are not the most important members of the team.  Planning, architecting, explaining your ideas is more valuable skills.  coding can always be farmed out once the design is finalized
  6. writing software has not changed since I was college (1992) 13 years since I graduated.  The programming languages have changed but they have gotten simpler not harder.   Today software systems are more connected, bigger, more complex, but the language is simpler.  Think assembly, pascal, c++, c compare with PHP, Perl, Java.  If you ever programed for the Atari 800XL (PEEK and POKE)
  7. It seems like everything I learned in the last 13 years has only made me better, every year I grow as a software engineer.  I guess experience does matter.  One day when I’m not longer growing, then a young stud will come along and tell me to get lost.  Then I’ll head over to live in France.  Can’t wait!

Kate Taking  A Picture Of Herself
Kate Playing With Lunar Lander At The Exploratorium