According to Payscale, the median age in some high tech companies is under 30. The more established tech companies like Dell, IBM, Oracle have older workforces with the median ages over 35.
As we age, we find it hard to keep our skills up-to-date. We prefer to stay in our comfort zone and not take any risk to make another move. It’s very likely once we have secured a job, we will be able to hold on to it.
Even if companies pay their senior programmers well, usually they invest less in their training. It’s easy to get stuck in old technologies that aren’t in use in the high tech companies.
In addition, our free time is so valuable because we have much more interests beyond writing code and learning new programming skills.
But the biggest risk is you’ll lose your passion for coding as you get older. It’s possible to be really excited about coding when you’re young, but then after doing it for decades, it’s just not so exciting anymore.
What happen when things go bad? Companies lay developers off and the market is flooded with expensive old developers that may have a narrow skill set.
Skills in software development are usually hard to measure, and management may only see the cost of the older versus the younger and don’t consider the quality of the code!
How to survive layoffs as an old programmer?
Cultivate contacts over the years. Cultivate is really the word here, as you need to maintain your connection and not only call them when you need them. You will probably need your connections to get jobs when you’re older. I got my last three jobs thanks to my contacts.
Generalist vs. specialist debate never ends. What to choose between being good enough vs. enough good in many things or specializing in one specific area or a programming language. There’s no clear-cut answer, but the ability to quickly adapt to new types of technology is key for programmers wishing to stay relevant.
Keep up-to-date and constantly learn new stuff is a key. You need to keep your skills sharp and keep learning new tech. Simply put, you have to learn something new all the time to keep current. If you stagnate, you will run out of options.
Side projects is an interesting way to demonstrate what you can do and learn new stuff.
At the end, you need to be honest with yourself as to what your motivations are. If you have an inbuilt love of programming, age doesn’t matter so much. If you’re just looking to make a comfortable living you may have bad surprises and the wake up call may be brutal.