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Old Programmers Never Die ...

September 23, 2014

A reader sent us a link to a discussion he thought would interest us and it did (thanks, Bill!). The subject is "Do people lose interest in programming as they age?" Hmmmmm … whatever do you think made him think of us?

It is an interesting discussion; the lead-in is as follows:

"Some younger programmers expect that older programmers are slower, make more mistakes, and would rather be doing something else such as managing programmers. Are they right to think so?"

Of course, we have our own thoughts on the subject, but reading the input from others was interesting, if not surprising. Most the of respondents seem to be in the "older programmer" category. For purposes of this discussion we'll affectionately call them (us?) "geezers" as was suggested by one of the early responders. So many of them had similar thoughts to us.

In general, many of the geezers felt they certainly don't churn out code as fast as they did in their younger years, but feel they spend more time thinking and designing the code and questioning how to best meet the user's needs rather than just diving into code-mode. So (not surprisingly) these geezers feel they are at least as valuable--perhaps more so--to their companies now than they were in their younger years.

Of course we're also interested in why the "youngsters" would have such an opinion of the geezers. One person in the discussion may have summed it up well saying:

"… I suspect the premise of the question is probably often true for programmers who didn't really have a passion for the work to begin with, or who haven't had the motivation/opportunity/self-awareness to make a regular habit of changing their area of focus so as to never stop learning new things."

"Never stop learning new things"--we think that's the big difference. We work with a lot of RPGers and, not surprisingly, more of them are in the geezer category than the youngster category. Although, as we've blogged about in the past, some would be surprised to see the number of young RPG fans that are out there. Yet, we've seen older developers who are doing great, innovative things with their applications. And we've seen younger ones who seem to be stuck in the coding styles and approaches they first learned and unwilling to change.

By the way - we should point out that the online discussion we're talking about here is _not_ about RPG or IBM i developers as one might think given the talk of age. The developers in this discussion are talking about working for companies like Google and Facebook, probably not a lot of call for RPG developers there.

Age probably does make a difference in some people, but we agree with the respondent who postulated that perhaps the geezers who lose interest in programming as they age may not have had a passion for the work to begin with. Those who do have the passion for it, for the most part, seem to never stop learning new things, no matter their age.

Our RPG & DB2 Summit event is coming up in Minneapolis next week. We anticipate that, as usual, we'll see our share of impassioned geezers as well as some eager youngsters all of whom will be there to keep learning new things.

This gives us yet another excuse to keep up our mantra of encouraging RPG shops to give the youngsters a chance. A mixture of youngsters and impassioned geezers makes for better more innovative application solutions. Read about the "must-we-hire-someone-with-years-of-IBM-i-experience?" dilemma that our friend Steve Pitcher wrote about recently. We particularly like his two rules for development managers in IBM i shops! All of it very well said, Steve!

Posted September 23, 2014| Permalink

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