Programmers: Before you turn 40, get a plan B | Improving Software

Welcome to geezer town, junior. While researching my recent article, “Age discrimination and Programming Jobs” , I discovered a 1998 Op-Ed piece from The New York Times that cited some startling statistics from the NSF and Census bureau about the longevity of a software engineering career. [S]ix years after finishing college, 57 percent of computer science graduates…
— Read on improvingsoftware.com/2009/05/19/programmers-before-you-turn-40-get-a-plan-b/

Unfortunately, age discrimination is a real thing that I never thought about before. As I am approaching 40, I am getting more aware of it.

Programming is such a unique profession in that people expect programmers to give up programming eventually and move into management. For a while I believed that and moved into leadership position as Dev Lead. But I hate it and probably will move back to pure programming job.

No one expect doctors, lawyers, writers, artists, etc to eventually become managers.

I guess it is because as programmers get older, they get expensive and acquire work/life balance while don’t provide enough value to justify their cost.

My Plan B is basically real estate license and real estate investments. This may generate enough money and give me enough flexibility to work on my programming side projects.

Developer Hegemony by Erik Dietrich

I am not sure how I found this book by Erik Dietrich. Maybe Google or Amazon recommended it. But I found it very inspiring. There are so many things in it that I agree with and so many new things that I am still having hard time believing.

As a developer, who is having a hard time figuring out his career, this book provided an interest perspective. The basic idea in it is that in any big corporation, developers are unlikely to find fulfilment. They may truly believe in their employer’s mission and try to climb corporate ladder. When they do that they will get stuck in middle management. They will keep working hard, hoping to move on to executive roles but very few would do by believing and hard work alone.

Those who move to executive roles are different type of people. He basically based his idea of corporate hierarchy from The Gervais Principle. I am not sure if I agree with this 100% but I can see some of famous CEOs who would be very close to sociopaths or have other personality disorders. But for me the useful information was that at executive level, it is your political skills that matter. If you want to move to executive roles, don’t waste your time mastering new technologies. Instead attend right networking events and make right friends.

Finally, at the bottom of hierarchy is developers who actually get the work done. They will happily code and at the end of day will feel accomplished. Only problem is that they don’t realize their business value and they are shortchanged. But they have life outside of the organization and enjoy their lives.

Author recommends that developers should start their own companies, either consulting or product-based. I see real estate as a good option to diversify my skills, especially sales skills. These skill will help me if I start my own consulting company or I might just build products for real estate industry.

I will be re-reading this book, I found it very helpful.

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Photo by Jefferson Santos on Unsplash