It’s scary to think that there might be an age limit on programming. Especially since I’m not going to finish my CS degree until I’m 29.
Hopefully the 6+ years experience I already have will help me climb the ranks faster than a regular grad.
I got my CS degree when I was 28, I am 31 now. I had no problem finding a job after graduation, and I only had 3 years of experience at that point.
Personally, I wouldn’t worry about it. I have never turned down a highly skilled older developer. On the other hand, I’ve not even met that many programmers in their 50s, and the one time I interviewed one, they were trying to switch into programming from a different nontechnical career. Several current coworkers of mine are in their 40s, and they are easily an order of magnitude more competent than everyone in their 20s. I suspect this “trend” is a combination of FUD, ageism, and a genuine lack of supply.
Also, I think worrying about current trends and ageism in the Valley is wasted emotional energy. By the time you are in your 40s, I hope we all look back at the ageism of this era with shame.
My view on this is somewhat cynical. As a programmer about to turn 30 and whose company employs a lot of programmers in their late 20’s and early 30’s, I think of the whole economy in terms of technology skills. It’s hard for me to believe that programmers in their 40’s or 50’s will be less employable than people of any age without programming skills.
This is because software is becoming critical to basically every aspect of life. Certainly, in 10 or 20 years, there will be many up-and-coming 20- and 30-year-old programmers available, but in 10 or 20 years, much more of the world will rely upon software, and much of the software we create today will be running that world. It may be strictly true, however, that small technology startups are always challenged in terms of how much payroll they can afford, especially if they aren’t VC-funded. This is probably nearly 100% of what contributes to Silicon Valley’s “ageism”.
These jobs will always be for the young, who can sacrifice some present income for a company they believe in. But every other company – that is to say, every company BUT small startups – will be glad to hire experienced programmers to automate their systems. And this work will always be paid well because it can always be made to be extremely ROI-positive (at least, until we’ve automated everything).
Take this anecdote. I was recently visiting Menlo Park for a conference (I’m based on the East Coast) and called for a cab ride via Uber. The cab driver and I chatted about how Palo Alto has changed over the years. He then asked me what the conference was about and I said, “Python”. He quickly replied, “Oh! I’ve been trying to teach myself Python.” I asked him why. He said, “Well, Google has already developed self-driving cars. I figure within 3-4 years, all taxis will be self-driving. It’s natural for that to be the place to start with this technology. So, I’m pretty sure I’m out of a job soon. On the other hand, maybe they’ll need someone who knows how to program to help run the new machines.”
I don’t think we have to worry too much about eating our own colleague’s job prospects. I think we have to worry much more about a large segment of society who knows nothing about programming, and whose jobs will increasingly be replaced by automation, due to no fault of their own.