What Happens to Older Developers? 7

Found a great post which is about “Old coder(s)”, I’m not that old yet, however, just like the author said, I need to plan it, right now, cause what I am now is right what he was, experienced in manny fields, and a developer like that is the least one the employer wants, according to the author’s expierence.

There’s also a Chinese version of this post, you can visit it here: http://www.rosoo.net/a/201404/16945.html

Here’s the original post:

140313. Jeff Jenkins posted these questions and others recently at Ask Hacker News:

What happens to older developers? Is there a plateau in pay? Is there a drop in pay switching jobs after a certain number of years? Is becoming a specialist rather than a generalist the answer?

To read the original post, click here. Note: The link was valid as of March 2014. However, it may have broken since then.

This is my response:

Developers who go on long enough are expected to obtain high-level titles by their 50s or to retire at about that time.

I’d like to discuss an issue that you might not have thought about: What’s going to happen if you lose your job?

Employment in the 50s can be problematic. If somebody is skilled and employed, and has a high-level title or is a specialist or has useful connections, they should be able to obtain a new position.

Otherwise, they might go from well-off to homeless. It happens. I’m 55, my resume is pretty good, and I was worth $1M a decade ago. I’m a transient now. I’ve got some medical issues, no medical care, and no dentists. Potential jobs are largely unskilled physical labor, which I’m not able to do.

I’m taking a shot at tutoring. However, I don’t expect that to provide more than gas money. The head of an admin assistant firm said that I can’t be a secretary unless I already am one.

Two people considered sending me to care for elderly relatives, but we didn’t proceed. My title at one of those positions was going to be “poop scooper”.

Don’t let this happen to you. For what it’s worth, here’s my advice:

1. Don’t fall off of the employment ladder.

2. Become a specialist. Try to remain broad enough, though, that you don’t become obsolete.

3. Build a network of people. Make it a large one.

4. Diversify your investments.

5. While you’re employed, don’t let medical issues, even minor ones, go untreated for long. If you lose your job and your assets, you’ll lose medical care too and the issues may become serious.

6. Be kind to people. But don’t be a fool. Most people that you help are not going to return the favor.

Regarding specialists, I did recruiting for a while in 2011 and I can confirm that the filters are weighted against generalists.

I’ve spent about 35 years myself as a generalist. My jobs called for it. The place where I spent most of my career took any project that came along, code of any type. At a dot-com that followed, after the money ran out, I handled all of the technical roles; IT, websites, development, support, documentation, etc. I was able to do a bit of everything.

Later on, none of this made a difference. There are few job listings that say “a bit of everything”.

After the dot-com shut down, 2003, I made $1M in the stock market. Lost most of it afterwards and reentered the job market. Learned that middle-age generalists were not in high demand.

In my case, there were other factors that won’t apply to you. It’s a story for another time. But if you’re a generalist who falls off of the ladder in middle age, you can expect things like this:

“With a resume like that, why isn’t he a CTO? Why doesn’t he even have a job?”

You’ll be asked questions about algorithms that you haven’t thought about for 30 years. Or you’ll go through coding tests under adverse conditions that don’t allow you to show what you can do.

Plan ahead. Understand that the best-laid schemes of mice and men often go awry.

What Happens to Older Developers?

What Happens to Older Developers?

My own resume is located at:


These are my links. Yes, the technical site needs Twitter Bootstrap 😛

  1. Technical site (oldcoder.org)
  2. My GitHub
  3. My LinkedIn
  4. My Twitter
  5. OldCoder Nerdcore Song

Regards, Robert (the Old Coder)

Origial URL: http://christfollower.me/#D140313ADVICE

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7 thoughts on “What Happens to Older Developers?

  • Robert Kiraly

    I’m the Old Coder who wrote the original post. This may be confirmed by email to the address in that post.

    I’d like to say that if Mr. Wei is a “beloved son” and a “beloved father”, he has treasure indeed, something that will help to sustain him in difficult situations.

    Something that I didn’t say in the original post is that my younger brother, Ken Kiraly, is apparently the inventor of the Amazon Kindle. I did many things for him but he is less useful to me than a bag of rusty nails. The point is that you can’t count on family; but if you do have family that values you, this is something that you should be grateful for.

    The year that followed the post was interesting. The publicity brought startup work, but the startup wasn’t funded and the work ended in the Fall. After that, a $100M medical firm flew me to Mississippi for a one-week job at $1,000 per day. Then, with the help of a connection, I obtained temporary database work.

    I’m not sure what comes next. Suggestions are welcome 🙂

    The links in the copy of my original post are still correct. I’ve listed my weblog for this comment as an additional site.

    P.S. Mr. Wei, if you attend Linux user meetings in Shanghai, perhaps you’d like to meet a good friend of mine in the area, Bonsai Kitten of Gentoo; also known as Xiao Miao.

    • Jacky Wei Post author

      Mr. Kiraly, it’s great honor to have you dropped by my little blog and get to know you more.

      Your post/experience triggered a really big debate in my connections, coworks, and friends.

      I’m also in a awkward situation after resigned from my previous employer(Which just closed it’s Shanghai office after two years of my resignation). My plan for my new position when I joined my new environment wasn’t what I am doing now, but after two years of fightings in the once fresh new field, I’m trying to accept it, like it or not, following your advice no.2, to be a specialist, it’s not in a field what I’ve done/proven for over 10 years, but a field I fought for in the latest two years though. Lucky me, I’v brought them together now, wish I can get myself more chances to show and prove to my boss.
      However, the thing is, to the future, I’m not sure what comes next either.

      About family, I’m really grateful for my dears, and it’s a tradition in China to believe blood ties. On the other side, I really feel sad for Ken, in an opinion of Chinese, people who don’t value family could not be happy, no matter what he/she archived or invented. What I can tell you now is you are much more famous than your younger brother all around my connections, though lot’s of us are using Kindle, and, I believe you should consider writing a memoir, no matter what the book title is.

      P.S. Thanks to you for listing my blog as an additional site of your post. And thanks for your introducing of Xiao Miao, if there’s an opportunity, I’d like to meet him/she, could you share more info about him/she?

      • Robert Kiraly

        Mr. Wei, Hello:

        1. It sounds as though the end of your previous position was inevitable. It’s good that you made the transition before the office closed.

        I see that you have experience with streaming multimedia and Internet phone protocols. These are promising areas both for employment and for side projects.

        2. You mentioned a memoir. I recently finished a 62-page ebook about life in the 1970s. People are welcome to download the document. There is a PDF copy at the following link:


        The story is about social issues 40 years ago, diversity of human experience, and student life at the University of California, Berkeley. This was in the years before personal computers and smart-phones so things were quite different.

        For example, we did not have streaming multimedia 🙂 We did have prehistoric computers. The story includes a photograph of the place where I learned to code. It had Model 33 ASRs; teletypewriters that could print at the speed of 10 characters per second. This was considered fast at the time.

        Times change.

        3. The PDF is fixed width; it is not mobile friendly. However, I’ll release an EPUB format copy soon for mobile devices. If people are interested, the EPUB copy will be posted on my Twitter feed. The link for that is:


        By the way, I collect photos of pets, meals, people, and interesting scenes. If people would like to share photos, they may email them to the following address. The photos may be posted. People should indicate the name to be used for credit:


        4. Xiao Miao, or Bonsai Kitten, is one of the senior people at Gentoo Linux. He is from Europe but lives in Shanghai. He works on IT projects there. His actual name is Patrick Lauer. I will ask him if he plans to attend any specific Linux User Group meetings this Summer. If you are curious, you may also Google for these words:

        patrick lauer gentoo shanghai

        Regards, Robert (the Old Coder)

        • Jacky Wei Post author

          Hi Robert(May I call you Robert? XD),
          Just reading into the Ridge Project, it’s really a great work, art, in fact.
          Maybe things change, surroundings change, but human feelings don’t.
          When you were at Berkeley, I was just born. But I can still get your thoughts and feeling.
          Can’t wait to read it over.

          Sorry for late reply.

          Sincerely, Jacky Wei

          • Robert Kiraly

            Mr. Wei, or Jacky, it’s kind of you to comment.

            Sure, you can call me Robert, or Bob, as long as you don’t call me late for dinner 😛

            BTW Bonsai Kitten confirms that he might attend Linux meetups in Shanghai later this year.

          • Jacky Wei Post author

            Dear Robert,
            Just finished reading Ridge Project. Now I’d like to say, IMHO, it’s much more intresting and deeper that Hillary’s Living History, which I finished weeks ago, to me.
            English is not my native language, and I’m poor in, but practising, English, I can not find a perfect word to discribe this great.
            Yes, it happened in a time when I was just born and, yes, times change, but something about humanity and living will never change, I’d never went to U.C. Berkeley, to America. I didn’t know your family, your social connectings, thru it, I have a lively picture in my mind, and the events/details echoed in my heart, really!
            Simply put, I’m getting to know more about you, you are not only brilliant in programming languages, but also in literature languages, simple, humorous, but deep.
            Looking forward to reading more of your writings. If you finished or published more, let me know it, please!

            BTW: call me Jacky, please.

          • Robert Kiraly

            Jacky, very well. Here is a 10-page PDF about the life of a young IT worker. The setting is the U.S. Deep South and he is 20 years old.

            I was more the editor than the writer in this case; I based the stories on interviews conducted from 2012 to 2013.

            This PDF may be more difficult for non-U.S. people to follow because it’s written in the IT worker’s dialect. However, the stories are interesting. In the most significant piece, “Trucks”, the IT worker muses about the ordinary subject of trucks and comes to realizations about his family, life, and death.

            The link for the PDF is:

            I have an additional short piece related to my own life. It tells the story of my reunion with coworkers 15 years after the death of our Silicon Valley company. I can post that one later, if you like.

            Regards, Robert (the Old Coder)