It's no secret that I'm not in my twenties. After all, I'm in my fourth decade of being paid to program. (To be fair, you enter that decade as you pass the doing-it-for-30-years mark.) I have gained a lot of experience in all that time, and not all of it is programming experience. I am slowly gaining wisdom and judgment in general. But am I losing things? Am I perhaps closed off to new experiences, or stuck in the mud? Is there anything you can in general conclude about a person because of their age?
I have two problems with that line of thinking. The first is that differences between any two individuals in a group are always larger than the differences between groups. I can easily find two 20-somethings who differ from each other more than either differs from a 30-something or even an 80-something. Women in general may be shorter than men in general, but I'm sure we all know a man who is shorter than most women or a woman who is taller than most men. What you know about the group doesn't necessarily apply to the individual. My second problem is specific to age - some age related effects are actually related to "you went to university in the 70s" or "you learned to code in the age of GUIs" more than to how old you are, others are actually about your life experience, still others your work experience. Two 60-somethings may not have gone to university at the same time as each other or learned to code at the same time as each other. That makes it even harder to generalize based on a single piece of information - when you were born.
A few months back, 'Dave' posted a series of myths about older developers and then debunked them. Do you find yourself believing any of these?
- Older software developers are more expensive
- Older software developers are less flexible and less capable of learning new
- Older software developers are less able to perform the arduous tasks of
software development (read: work long, painful hours)
- Older software developers are less mentally agile
- Older software developers are more jaded and cynical
My only issue with this list of myths is that it doesn't contain positive ones. It's also a myth that older developers are wiser, more tuned to business issues, better at talking to others, and so on. Some are -- I strongly believe I am -- and it takes a while to get there, but time passing isn't the only thing that brings about that change in a person.
I have to work with people a lot younger than me every day. Perhaps some of them think less of me because of my age at first. I'm pretty confident that doesn't last. If you're not an "older programmer" yet, I hope you aspire to be one someday.