Young Persons 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.