Background: I have this feeling that companies do not prefer engineers who are older than 40. I often hear companies bragging about the how low the average age of their employees is. I want to know what would be the life of a typical software engineer after 40.
You create your own destiny.
I am 54 and started in the profession in 1981. Advice? Always always always keep your skills up to date. Never get comfortable with the ‘I am set, I got it all, I made it, I can now walk into any job with what I have’ attitude. That would be the kiss of the death. I don’t care who you are, where you have worked, what you did, what school you did or didn’t go to, if you don’t constantly keep improving your skills, constantly dive into new technologies, stay on the upward curve of what skill sets are being asked for in the profession, you will fail eventually. This is a world of ‘what have you done for me lately’ and ‘tell me why I need you’. Doesn’t matter if you are 22 or 52, you need to provide value, period.
I had to make some major technology skill changes since I started. People laugh when I tell them when I started in ’81 I was a COBOL programmer. Well, that was still a popular language at that time and I got hired immediately. In the late ’80s I had to make a transition into C/C++/OOP/SQL because that is what companies were hiring for. In the late ’90s I moved to Java because that was the hot thing….everyone wanted Java. In the ’00s it was J2EE, hibernate, spring, late ’00s distributed systems. Now I am working on graph databases, python, NoSql. What’s next? Scala seems to be a smart move.
All along the way I have seen people ‘fall of the edge’, that is, think they knew all they ever needed to know until it was too late to realize their skills were out of date and that happens fast. Today, if you are a java developer with Spring and Hibernate only and have worked that same job the last 10 years, you are the COBOL programmer of the ’10s.
If you passionately love software engineering and thrive on the latest to the point where *you* are the driver of trends, age will not be an issue. Companies want impact players there will be a place. You will be able to make your own job.
Your motto should be ‘you need me more than I need you’. Having in demand skills will put you in that position. Take data science as an example…if you have those skills today you are an important piece of many companies business plan they won’t be too concerned if you are over 40.
Get comfortable with the ‘I made it’ attitude because it is your 1st, 2nd or 3rd job, you will take the pipe sooner than you think pal. This is the technology industry, not the Boy/Girl Scouts.