Sunday, October 02, 2005

Young Persons Game

Young Person's Game
Recently, someone asked me what I thought about this article "Programming is a young man's game, so don't stay too long". My thoughts on it are rather simple, I don't agree with pretty much anything between the title and the first comment.

It is hosted on Joel On Software but is not written by Joel, take that into consideration when reading it.

The initial sentence reads:

As a programmer you reach your end level in about four years.

If that were true, I would have reached my end level some 14 years ago - I wonder why I'm still learning? I consider myself a database programmer, I learn something new, something I did not know every day. I look at the people with 4 years of experience and just smile wistfully and remember how much I thought I knew back them - but how little I actually did. I personally think if we had more mature (older) programmers - we would have better code.

 When you have 20 years experience as a programmer, you are no super experienced top gun, you are just an old farth (sp?).

Now that is something I really disagree with.  It almost sounds like it could be written by a someone being restrained, held back from plowing ahead by someone with 20 years of experience.  When I was taught to program - it was by a guy who was my age now.  I am so fortunate to have met him and I'm so glad he didn't fall into the "it is a young person's game" folly.  Without a mentor like that - I would never have had the benefit of his 20 years of experience (20 years of successes and failures).

For someone to think they hit the top in 4 years, well, sorry - that I cannot believe.  I still learn new techniques, new approaches from time to time - and I can pass on down my experience, my skills over time.  If I didn't keep up - if I didn't "still do it", I would not be able to convey that knowledge anymore (it rapidly becomes stale).

When you want to be director of a construction company there is no added value in laying bricks for five years.

Here the author seems to be saying "In order to be a software architect (whatever that is), you don't need to write code - you just start being architect person".  I think there is great value in laying bricks - or working in the field somehow - before running the show.  It is called "life experience".  Everything we do shapes our views, how we perceive things.  That brick laying experience - you would learn how the people you'll be guiding live, think, feel, what motivates them - what doesn't.  You'll learn what is possible time wise and what is not.  You'll be able to say "no, you are wrong, when I was a brick layer ......" and be accurate.  You won't have to guess as to how things could, should or might work - you'll know.

 The only reason I can think of why someone wants to be a programmer is fun.

I see nothing wrong with that.  I think there are other reasons, I love the 'thought' challenge brought about by problem solving.  It is fun, it is hard, I enjoy it - but many others do not.  But even if it were only about "fun" - so what. If you don't enjoy what you spend most of your life on - well, game over player one, you lose.

 But how do we see a 50-year-old visual basic programmer?

I see them as someone that probably really enjoys their life and job.  I hope they are mentoring the other 20 year old VB programmers, I hope they are the team lead - a developer with some responsibility.  They are probably the only one that can accurately guesstimate when it is possible for a project to complete, why the testing phase cannot be skipped or short changed, why a paper design before writing code is relevant and so on.  They might be viewed as impediments by the more youthful - but they should be.  Banging out code results in code as good as it sounds (banged out).

I very much disagree with "Jan from Rotterdam"''s premise.  In fact, I have angst because people might actually believe it. To think someone peaks with four years of experience (heck, I think it takes 3 or 4 years before someone could actually say "I am a very competent J2EE programmer, or Database programmer" - it takes that long to get your head around all of the concepts)...  I don't think so.


Anonymous paul said....

You're so right Tom. I've been programming for 20+ years now and I've come across so many 'young' programmers who take no care with anything they write. Most of the time (though this is in the environment I work in) exception and error handling is virtually non-existent, testing is sketchy at best and little if no thought is given to scalability and performance. Sure, they can get something up on the screen but you can usually break it in a few keystrokes. Experience counts!
My current tutor is .... Tom Kyte. Thanks for askTom !

Sun Oct 02, 11:55:00 AM EDT  

Blogger Thomas Kyte said....

I believe exception/error handling is one of the least understood/studied area. People believe "gotta catch it with when others, no matter *what*".

That is one thing my mentor drilled into me - code defensively, every other line of code is "instrumentation", error reporting is crucial, exception processing is something for exceptions you expect and can deal with.

It takes me longer to write version 1 of code perhaps (doubtful, I can write it pretty fast), but it takes me a lot less time to get to production. And when in production, I can maintain it much easier (it already has all of the debug code I might need...)

My early code only had this because my mentor made me, it was a pain back then - but I'm glad he made me do it.

Sun Oct 02, 12:15:00 PM EDT  

Blogger shrek said....

well, i guess i mised my peak a long time ago. i started in 1968 [you do the math, i'm afraid to;-)]. and i still keep learning. guess i'm doomed.;-)

oh and i started in assembler, and i still use some tricks i picked up there in modified form now. helped me get around unknown things... remember the upgrade that put two rows in dual?;-)

Sun Oct 02, 12:20:00 PM EDT  

Blogger Robert said....

I read that too.
Post + Comments ~= Reality Check.
Must say it got me a bit depressed as I aggree somewhat with what one commenter said "the essence of the posting." --- based on my impresion of the reality of todays IT env.(e.g. outsourcing).
I mean you reach a certain age/ responsibility level where you just can not put it in like a 20-something.
IMO, in general, today's IT wants "WalMartian Pros" - good (or good enough), cheap, quick, quantity-over-quality.

Sun Oct 02, 01:20:00 PM EDT  

Anonymous Anonymous said....

I often say the day I stop learning is the day I quit being a programmer. When I was young the what and how were very important to me. I've been in the business long enough to know the why is as important as the what and how put together.

Sun Oct 02, 02:06:00 PM EDT  

Anonymous Bob B said....

Why don't we just shorten that to:
"The day I stop learning is the day I quit."

Sun Oct 02, 02:37:00 PM EDT  

Anonymous Anonymous said....

On a different note,, what is your opinion on outsourcing?

Sun Oct 02, 06:09:00 PM EDT  

Blogger Aman Sharma said....

I read that article too.First things that popped up in my mind that I asked the same sort of question to you and I got a very valuable advice from you that nothing comes in short-cuts or short-timings.If I want to be successful,I must think about longer timings,not for some 1 or 4 years deadline and you are so right.Everything we learn,do,every art,technique requires us to spend time with it,research it,practice it as much as we can and than too we can never say that we are "expert" in it.Yes we may know so much about it but not all.Everyday is a new day and everyday there is something new to learn and old to be refined,accurated.

Sun Oct 02, 11:03:00 PM EDT  

Anonymous Enayet said....

"Time for something new. I became a java developer and started to develop web applications. I never created any shrink-wrap stuff, only business application. About 90 percent of the work is retrieving records from a database and present them on a screen. In the beginning I was overwhelmed by the complexity of the java web applications. The incredible amount of things that you need to know to get your first enterprise java bean in the air.
I kept my mouth shut because it was my own lack of knowledge. But after four years I have seen
a ton of java projects where people tried to create business applications with java. When I compare the productivity I had with ILE RPG on the iseries AS/400) I come to the conclusion that for big companies using java for business apps is the worst decision they can make."

Any comments?

Mon Oct 03, 06:30:00 AM EDT  

Blogger Norman Brightside said....

A few years ago, I worked for a small Internet company where, out of necessity, I managed an Oracle database. I used to tell people I was an Oracle DBA. Now I am older and wiser and I tell them I was a developer who ended up managing an Oracle database. This is simply because I now realise how little I knew back then and how much I have learned since then.

Mon Oct 03, 07:12:00 AM EDT  

Blogger Barry Cooper said....

I was mildly concerned about this article. The problem is that these ideals and beliefs are widely held by corporations as well as individuals.
I started out in programming in '87, and believe that I am still learning to this day.

I joined Oracle in '93 as a applications 'techie', keen to embrace RDBMS technologies for a first time (for me, at least). The problems I encountered as i progressed through the ranks was one of "as a senior guy, you should be leaving the grunt coding work to the graduates and juniors". Why!

This is why, with deep regret and some anger, that I left Oracle in 2004 (to go independent) - I had been promoted to a grade that meant I was way too expensive to be simply 'coding'. Anything that could not be done offshore was left to the juniors. The pressure was on forcing me into a role I did not want to do (management).

The thrill of coding is something i have enjoyed doing ever since I got my first home computer back in 1981.
I am happy, and proud, to do what I do, and am grateful that I am paid to do a job that I deeply enjoy. As long as I retain my sight, health and sanity, I will continue to enjoy it.

Mon Oct 03, 07:42:00 AM EDT  

Anonymous Ram said....

I have heard this from a few people. Someone I know of works as a VP and he said the same to me too: 'I cant be coding when I am 50'. He made it sound like a low level job. I am trying to think where all this idea came from.

In olden days there was probably one technology that existed predominantly (mainframe). There was no wide variety of RDBMSs, no WEB applications and tools, no internet, no 24x7 systems the way we have today, no data warehouses of today's size, no ERPs, multi tiers, etc.

From the way I understand (please correct me if there are additions) they had mainframe systems affordable only by a relatively very few big companies for a standard set of applications: billing, financials, HR admin, inventory control and may be a few more, not as diverse as today. I still think that the business rules would have been complex. They had business analysts like financial analysts, sales and distribution analysts, etc, who understood business rules and wrote specs for programmers. The programmers needed to know only one language (IDMS or DB2?). Might not have been much of a challenge compared to today's programming positions or the position of a manager from those days. Just a guess. After learning programming for few years, back then, it was all probably writing 'IF THEN ELSE' statements to satisfy the business logic in that one language.

Maybe the managers who talk that way today were programmers back then who think programming is nothing but a bunch of 'IF THEN ELSE' like the way it was (or atleast what they were doing) or DB Admin is tweaking a few parameters here and there. I have seen so many managers look down upon the 'lowly programmers'.

Today the financial, SD analysts still exist, but a project expects lot more from a technical person - he needs to understand a wide variety of things technically, let alone the business rules and other things.

How does my analysis sound?

This is like measuring a VP or a director in IT by the counting the number of people working under him. I was told that this habit came from the manufacturing era where measuring a manager by the number of people he controlled was the norm.

Tom, sincere thanks for challenging these kinds of ideas publicly. We owe you big.

Mon Oct 03, 07:56:00 AM EDT  

Anonymous abacaxi said....

Tom and all,

There have been studies that focus on learning foreign languages, ie. Spanish, German, etc., that claim that the most productive time to learn a language is early in life. Studies such as these always pertain to a general audience. No doubt there are people who learn foreign languages when they are older.

Do you believe this example has any truth when speaking of computer languages?
Has anyone out there started to learn a computer language after the age of 30? Did you find success?

Mon Oct 03, 08:29:00 AM EDT  

Anonymous Mariano said....

So it seems that the productivity life of a programmer is shorter than of a tennis player (or any sport for the matter).
I hope I become Andre Agassi some day!

Mon Oct 03, 09:06:00 AM EDT  

Blogger Bill S. said....

Unbelievable. That's all I can say, unbelievable. I've been in IT for nearly a quarter century now, started on IBM mainframes. Began my IT life as a computer operator and progressed from there (I think EVERY mainframe programmer should be required to start out as an operator). For abacaxi, I learned to program in PL/I when I was 36 years old. Now granted, it wasn't a big stretch for me as it is so similar to COBOL (which I learned at a much younger age). But there is NOTHING to the rumor that you are done when you've hit four years, except MAYBE you're done learning the basics. ;-D

Mon Oct 03, 09:07:00 AM EDT  

Anonymous Samuel said....

Hello Tom !
I really appreciate your work and discovered your blog just today...
I read Asktom everyday, and i've bought your first two books. I'll be off topic (even though i myself program too) but i have a question to ask since a few months and i never been able to ask it on asktom. Any rule/time/tip to be able to post a question on asktom ?
Thanks in advance !

Mon Oct 03, 10:28:00 AM EDT  

Anonymous Anonymous said....

I've been programming 'bout 20 years. A few aches a pains in the fingers and wrists that I didn't used to have but other than that still going strong.

China alone produced 2.5 million college graduates in 2004. And of course many are eager, smart and willing to work for a fraction of the cost.

In the future I would see outsourcing as a greater threat to programming longevity than ageism.

Mon Oct 03, 10:47:00 AM EDT  

Anonymous Anonymous said....

Good article. Nice to read about your younger days as a programmer. You are like a mentor and role model to somany young programmers, so it was nice to read about the person who mentored you. Why dont you tell us more about him, what is he doing now, are you guys still in touch with each other etc. He must be very happy and proud about your successes and your ascent to superstardome in the Oracle world.

Mon Oct 03, 10:55:00 AM EDT  

Anonymous Rob H said....

Could there be some sort of relation to appilcation lifespan to developer age/exp?

Rarely do apps live long (its been said in other posts and even written by tom himself).

I also wonder if this is the decline of companies like microsoft were you just feel like the apps are poorly designed and thought out.

I've also rarely to almost never met a developer who said "I wrote this app five years ago, oh, it was a masterpiece, I'd never go back and change it....."

Its often the exact opposite

Mon Oct 03, 11:28:00 AM EDT  

Anonymous andrew boocock said....

It took me about 2 years to learn to read a manual properly!
IMO once you've got that skill you're half way somewhere.

Mon Oct 03, 12:47:00 PM EDT  

Blogger Robert said....

Enayet said....
Any comments?

yeah I agree. <shrug>

Mon Oct 03, 12:49:00 PM EDT  

Blogger Tarry said....

IT as a whole has never been taken seriously in the Netherlands. It's depressing to see that *Project Managers* who have very basic knowledge in IT earn a lot more than seasoned programmers here. Infact DBA's earn more than programmers (OK I don't mean to start a debate here).

This can lead to utter disillusionment. I'm pretty darn sure lot's of guys in Holland would love to be(and stay) programmers. It's time that Holland started appreciating IT and realizing it's importance.

And BTW I don't quite agree with the 20+ programmer can be better than a young programmer. Habits is what is important. I bought a book sometime ago and saw this quote by one of the programmers saying "I am not a great programmer, I am a good programmer with great programming habits".

Mon Oct 03, 01:05:00 PM EDT  

Blogger Robert Vollman said....

Maybe it takes 4 years to get over a hump and have absorbed enough information to be an effective programmer, but it's nowhere near the "end-level" (unless it's a very trivial language).

I *wish* I had some 40-year-old mentors to help me step up my game. It's disappointing when 7-8 years experience makes you the most senior guy.

I think the author is just a young know-it-all who wants to feel good about himself. I've met a few C++ programmers with 4 years experience that think they know it all. Then you ask them about the STL, BOOST, templates, object factories, const correctness, or whatever and you find they're woefully novice at anything beyond very basic design and implementation.

Mon Oct 03, 01:06:00 PM EDT  

Blogger Bill S. said....

Rob H said....

Could there be some sort of relation to appilcation lifespan to developer age/exp?

IMHO, the answer to that question should be no. The application life span is directly related to the data usage - change the way the data is used, and you have to "change" the application. But related to developer age/experience? I've seen some very savvy young developers, and some very dangerous senior ones. As Tom is usually wont to say, "it depends..." :-P

Mon Oct 03, 01:20:00 PM EDT  

Blogger Peter K said....

I jump in and put in my 2 cents. I started in IT in 85 right out of university and was programming (COBOL) although I know a few other programming languages (PASCAL, PL/1, FOTRAN).

I think I stopped "programming" about 5 years after. "Programming" as in day-in and day-out coding and testing. That was by choice as I was moving away from coding into design and team lead.

I think if you planned to stay as a programmer for a career path, then the organization that you work for have to be of specific types (e.g. a pure software development company vs a IT shop). In a typical IT shop, if you are just programming, then the compensation grid is limited whereas in a pure software development organization, there is better room for compensation growth.

Mon Oct 03, 02:17:00 PM EDT  

Anonymous Rob H said....

Yes Bill, I suppose you are right. I've been a dba for only 6 years and have learned a lot. The problem(?) is that everyday I learn something new.

What I do notice with app development isn't just the lifespan of the application, but also the platform. Since I've started I've noticed a lot of a shift away from client server and into a middle tier web based platform. On top of that in the last few years the web protocol of choice has changed from all sorts (java, jsp, php, .net, etc.)

Add on the fact that the database has evolved to do even more and developers/dbas have to decide on which parts of the appication to put in the middle tier, and what should be inside the database (java, PL/SQL, Triggers, SQL/Views, etc).

Mon Oct 03, 02:19:00 PM EDT  

Anonymous abacaxi said....

Interesting possible connection. Read this article on Information Week, not forgetting to read the first blog post by "Keep it Real".
Quoting the author "Here is a dirty secret: Most IT people backed into their careers. They got some shabby degree, learned some 5th generation programming language and off they went on a 'career'".

With that in mind do you think the topic of the "Young persons Game" post could be from the point of view from a person that backed into an IT career? Maybe Jan from Rotterdam backed into his career and does not even like what he is doing.

I think for the people who enjoy what they are doing can still learn until they are 6 ft under.

Mon Oct 03, 04:08:00 PM EDT  

Anonymous Kashif said....

Hi Tom -

First off, thanks for taking the time to blog on this issue, I have a lot of respect for your opinions/thoughts on issues and I am glad you chose to address this particular one. I think there are 3 things that I would like to point out here:

College graduates - most IT graduates fresh out of schools these days want nothing to do with programming, and everything to do with project/program management. This shows a disappointing trend, but it is also a reflection on commonly held views in the market and amongst IT management, where programming is considered almost to be a blue-collar job, and that if you're doing it then you must either be young or incapable of moving up (bad attitude etc.). I have encountered this perception far too many times to put it down as an isolated or uncommon view.

Compensation - admittedly, the more you program the better you get at it, but there comes a point where you hit a limit in terms of the compensation you might receive for programming. So, much as us programmers may want to think of it as a complete career path, it frequently isn't, and to get to the next level, you need to jump into management of some sort.

Outsourcing - the increasing number of jobs being sent abroad makes for a bleak outlook for most programmers in this country. It may not be such a bad thing to look at management of programmers, especially offshore ones, rather than programming.

Anyway, I hope this adds to the discussion. Thanks.


Mon Oct 03, 04:15:00 PM EDT  

Anonymous Anonymous said....

"Programming is a young man's game, so don't stay too long".

It is these kind of people when they become project managers, they botch things up with their understanding of 'programming'.

Mon Oct 03, 05:03:00 PM EDT  

Anonymous Kashif said....

Tom, others:

Here's an interesting rant, more from the programmer's point of view. Perhaps another reason why staying in programming for too long isn't feasible is that you need to have the right "alphabet soup" (as Katie says) after your name everytime you're out there looking for a job. I don't agree with everything she says, but an interesting read nonetheless. Here's where I found it:

and here's where the actual posting is:


Mon Oct 03, 05:29:00 PM EDT  

Blogger Gary Myers said....

I think it's a mistake to lump all programming jobs together.

then we seem an environment that is massively unfriendly to its workers but one that, to me as an Oracle developer, seemed unfamiliar.
But even in database development, I'm sure we've all known projects that have been Deathmarched to unachievable deadlines. It can be very family unfriendly and, in many places, the managers are paid more than programmers and don't come in at weekends.
In short, I can see that indiviuals' experiences can lead them to the conclusion that "It's a young man's game", but if it looks like that to you, you've probably only been working in bad environments.

Mon Oct 03, 06:52:00 PM EDT  

Blogger Joel Garry said....

Why do so many people miss the second sentence that specifies a particular programming environment?

I was a hotshot 4-6 years into my first environment. Now I'm an old fart 8 years into a particular environment (Columbus day is 25th anniversary for me as a paid geek), four years ago I was a hotshot - with 4 years out of the environment (a production dba instead) in between.

I'd rather be a dba. But since the places I've been a developer or support analyst haven't had a dba, I get to do both.

It would have been nice to have had a job congruent with a career, but I know few people that have done that, it was already going away in my parent's generation. All one can do is try to match interests and capability with what is out there, for a few years.

I decided long ago not to compete with young'uns, and still think that is a good idea. Let them be passionate about the acronym-of-the-day, it doesn't affect me too much. Yes, coding has become the blue-collar task of the white-collar world, and that which can go overseas will, but that still leaves a lot of tasty morsels, especially in obscure "maintenance" work that is actually new development.

My Depression-era dad said "learn a trade AND go to college, and you will always be employed."

Mon Oct 03, 07:55:00 PM EDT  

Blogger Noons said....

It sounds like the TV attention span is now the norm when it comes to IT careers.

IMHO, this is a direct consequence of companies that support the "new black" nonsense in all things IT: it almost seems like the duration of a new technology is the same as the duration of the marketing campaign for it.

Promote it ad nauseum, flog a bunch of so-called experts to the unwary audience, make a fast buck and get out before anypone can pin you down as directly responsible for a failure.

That's pretty much the state of IT nowadays. Hence the comments from this guy. He's just a product of what we, the "old farths", have collectively allowed to go on in our field for so long.

I've been warning of this for nearly 10 years now, but all I got from everyone was: "there you go again ranting". Welcome to the thick of it, folks. Enjoy.

Solutions? Good luck. Turn it upside down and empty every single nook and cranny: only option now.

Mon Oct 03, 11:49:00 PM EDT  

Blogger Mark J. Bobak said....

Well, I have to agree with the overwhelming majority here. I'm approaching my 20th anniversary as a programmer. I started with Fortran on a 286 DOS machine, did a bit with SMC Business Basic on an Altos for a while, then back to PCs and Fortran. After that, on to QuickBasic, and then C. (A smattering of VB in there somewhere.) Eventually, I discovered Oracle. Started learning SQL and PL/SQL, and doing Pro*C development. Didn't have a clue how the database worked. But, once I got to a certain level, I started asking questions about Oracle itself, and how it works. (Why's this query so slow? What's this ORA-1555?) Eventually, my interest grew, and an opportunity presented itself, and I started learning to be a DBA. Wow, look at all this I have to learn! I was lucky, I had an opportunity to learn from some of the best early on. One of my mentors was a big follower of S. Adams and J.Lewis. (Sorry Tom, I'd heard your name, but I didn't really know who you were then.) And then I had an opportunity to meet Jonathan Lewis and take his class. That led to meeting more folks who kept me on the right path. So, I was very fortunate, learned from the right people, and, five years later, I think I'm a pretty competent DBA, at least in the core server. That journey has taken me nearly 20 years so far, and I'm still learning. (I wish I could claim that I learn something new every single day, as Tom does, but life gets in the way, and sometimes that doesn't happen.)

But, consider, that's only the core of the database product. I've never used 11i apps, replication, advanced security, row level security, and a whole host of other stuff. Now, that's not to say I can't or won't learn that stuff if/when a business need arises, but, the point is, there's still much to learn. I'm not ready to give up my slot to a kid fresh out of school. I've got more to learn and more to do!

Now, I did read the second sentence, Joel. It says "After about four years you are at your top in a specific development environment." I disagree with that statement as much as with the rest of the article. Four years? Well, that may be true. There may be an environment out there where four years, and you've got it mastered. (I've never seen it.) But, even if that were true, just cause you're a VB expert, or a Java or C# or whatever the flavor of the day is, expert, that doesn't make you a good programmer! Good programmers are good programmers regardless of the environment. The environment a programmer works in has little to do with how good a programmer he is. Object oriented programming, non-object oriented procedural programming, developing for databases, understanding the concepts of transaction managment, thinking in sets, understanding sound data modelling and design, these are big concepts. They are not mastered in four years. MAYBE in four decades. (I'll let you know when I hit the four decade mark.)

Point is, "mastering a development environment" does not a programmer make. Anyone can learn a language and an IDE. What's ultimately going to matter is whether they can understand and apply the concepts mentioned above.

Tue Oct 04, 04:08:00 AM EDT  

Blogger Aman Sharma said....

Very true Mark.When I started learing Oracle Database and was preparing for my OCP,I used to think that's all Oracle Database is.Once through with OCP,I will know all about Oracle.I won't say that it didnt help.It really gave me the first hand taste of what really tis marvellous s/w is and why its so popular and in demand!When I finished all I knew that I just learned the "A,B,C" of this.Is so much to learn.Things bugged at times,like one I recall very much is Fixed and Variable Sizes,what are they?why its a must to seperate tables and indexes tablespaces and so many like these.I was lucky that once I visited ASKTOM and I found yes there is so much learn and as I said before too,I asked the same question,how one can be the best in this Database.I was under the same impression that in few short years,I will be knowing it all.When I got the answer that think for a longer time,there are no short-cuts and time-limits,that was one of the best and most valuable advices.I am very fresh.I am nowhere even close to the level of knowledge among many over here but one thing I must can say,"master in 4 years",forget it!!yes one can cram the syntax and learn some buzzwords nothing more than that.

just cause you're a VB expert, or a Java or C# or whatever the flavor of the day is, expert, that doesn't make you a good programmer! Good programmers are good programmers regardless of the environment. The environment a programmer works in has little to do with how good a programmer he is.

100% right.Founder of the Hotmail,Sabeer Bhatia,once said in an interview,"a good programer is not one who can code very well in 1 or n languages.A good programmer is the one who understands the problem,proposes a solution and is able to implement it successfully nonetheless in whatever language it is going to be" but still I dnt think any programming language can be mastered in 4 years too:-)
just some thoughts.

Tue Oct 04, 05:17:00 AM EDT  

Blogger scubajim said....

I worked in an IDE that was internally developed once. The scripting language was very heavily object oriented. (back when MS Windows 3.0 was released, no VB then) It was amazing to watch these "good" programmers use these tools. It was a magnifier. The ones who had talent and disapline got better. The others who didn't got worse. The relevant variable wasn't the number of years, it was the talent, study, and ability to learn.

Let us look at it a different way. Would you want a surgeon with only 4 years of experience operating on you or a seasoned vet who keeps up with the latest and practices constantly? If you were in a tricky legal case do you want someone who is only 4 years out of law school or someone with 20 years of experience? (with sucesses and failures)

This will be my second year that I am volunteering to be the tournament director for a Lego Robotics tournament in my area. (Portland Oregon) In a Lego tournament youngsters ages 8 to 14 form teams to build a robot out of Legos. they have to solve a variety of problems and have their robot navigate a course and do tasks for points. They also have to do a technical presentation (as a team) in front aof a panel of judges. They have to do research and present what they learned to another panel of judges. Last year I ran and attended my first tournament and I must say I was impressed with all the teams.

I really don't think that these youngsters will be washed up in 4 years. (in the midst of college or high school at that point) My thoughts keep going back to where they will be in 10 or 15 years. They could very well have graduated college and be in an engineering meeting about a tricky engineering problem. I can hear the words now: "Well, when I was doing Legos we did it this way..."

Washed up after 4 years? Phoey!

Tue Oct 04, 01:21:00 PM EDT  

Anonymous Anonymous said....

I think we have to be careful here. I find that alot of people assume someone is a good technical person because they have alot of experience. I find that people with more experience are automatically assumed to be better than someone with less experience.

I think a really good person with 5 years experience who works at what he does will be much better in 10 years.

However, a knucklehead with 5 years experience will not necessarily be that much better with in 10 years.

Most technical people are incompetent. The average programmer is not impressive irregardless of experience.

When I interview someone I am less interested in how long they have done something(though it does matter) than how well they do their jobs. I have worked with too many people with 20-30 years experience who are incompetent(I have worked with many with 5 years experience who are worse) to rely totally on experience.

I worked with a guy who has 30 years experience who wanted to add almost 50 indexes to the database when one would do(because he didn't want to do joins). I worked with another guy with almost 40 years experience who just wanted to add columns all over the place and copy existing data.

If the java is still around in 10 years and people by then may have 18 years experience and they still think of the database as a blackbox, does it matter how long they have done it?

Let me state this again so it doesn't get lost. A good person who wants to get better will get better with more experience. However, since most programmers are incompetent most will stay incompetent the longer they do this.

Tue Oct 04, 01:33:00 PM EDT  

Blogger Alberto Dell'Era said....

My father learnt Access at the age of 65, and He's been rather proficient in that since then ... so I think we can rule out "age" as a discriminator :).

It's all about motivation in my opinion.

Tue Oct 04, 06:35:00 PM EDT  

Anonymous Anonymous said....

My father learnt Access at the age of 65

And I'll add that my mother is known as the local Excel "guru" at her office, and she just turned 60. She just picked it up by doing it over the past five or ten years.

Both she and I (I'm 40) enjoy studying foreign languages, and in the evenings we frequently discuss something nifty we just learned about, say, Italian or Yiddish.

In the programming world, I haven't worked much with Java, but due to its resemblance to C/C++ I can generally follow the logical flow of code snippets I've seen. I've little doubt I could pick it up fairly quickly, should I need to.

So no, I don't think you're ever too old to learn new tricks, provided you enjoy learning.

Bob Shepard

Wed Oct 05, 11:08:00 AM EDT  

Anonymous Mark said....

Another slant ... "what about the 20+ years programmers that endure their careers until eventually the business decides thay can get at least the same service from India at half the cost".

Age is irrelevant.

Value for money is all that really matters.

But how do you put a price on "experience"?

Thu Oct 06, 03:33:00 PM EDT  


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