back to article Over 50? Out of work? Watch out because IT is about to eat itself

Recently, I ran into a friend who’d been offered the option of a redundancy with a substantial payout. He took the redundancy - it seemed a good deal - but now finds himself unable to land another job. My friend has worked in IT for over thirty years, evolving from ‘computer operations’ to ‘systems administration’ to ‘DevOps’ …

  1. Mondo the Magnificent
    Go

    Say what?

    Yes, I too am in the 50+ age group and finding work is like pissing dry ice, painful as f*ck!

    I hit 50 in the UK and struggled to find a job, the only "old guys" around when I went for interviews were those retired coppers who do security at the reception desks of the companies I went to for interviews

    On a lighter note, I relocated to mainland Europe in July 2014 and was faced with a language barrier too! But, I have just landed a job in a data centre as a "data centre engineer".

    The job is for an U.S. based SaaS/Cloud company who has quite a bit of kit in Frankfurt and Amsterdam and one of the biggest issues they have is the language barrier when hiring agency engineers for a day, so even though I am "overqualified" but I am still employable, why?

    It seems as if the IA is not capable of plugging in cables, racking and stacking and doing the physical match and patch, storage array config type stuff that will always need to be done by someone. Sure with VMware, MS and Cisco it's simplified and can be automated.... but... the devil is in the detail and although I am not as young as most doing this work, "old guys" my age don't jump ship to new jobs like the youngsters do and that counts for a lot...

    So, if you're in the 50+ bracket, not too proud or afraid to do do the physical stuff, not worried about "job titles", don't mind earning a few £K (or €K) less per year and tenacious enough, there is a job out there somewhere!

    1. ckm5

      Re: Say what?

      I like hiring experienced people, particular old school Unix people. They have more depth of knowledge, understand the need for process and have legacy moral values about user privacy which are missing from a lot of data-heavy startups. I view this under-valued group as a valuable, hidden resource that no one is aware of.

      That said, you still need to be able/willing to learn new things and ways of working, not be afraid of going way out of your comfort zone and be able to respect others, regardless of age difference (we were all clueless once and our mentors taught us not to be).

      1. Nym

        Re: Say what?

        WHAT? LEARN WHAT? NEW THINGS? My God, man, have you lost your mind? 8]- I lost mine long ago, haven't missed it much.

    2. Phil W

      Re: Say what?

      You've really hit the nail on the head for the most part there. No matter how wonderful and automated the software at some point there always needs to be hardware to run it, and that hardware still needs physically installing and does not always play well together particularly in a business culture where major purchases go out to tender and the cheapest always/usually wins.

      Some argue that because of "the cloud" hardware is a thing of the past for most businesses but the reality is due to management/business culture still liking having someone to blame or go to for answers when things don't work, in house servers and datacenters still have their place. I don't believe that will substantially change in the next decade (or even 2 or 3 decades) regardless of the developments in technology.

      The other issue is legal and political limitations such as Data Protection, requiring data to be kept in country meaning servers and storage are necessary to house it. Sure certain cloud services offer to let you pick where your data gets located but how many of these also have fine print saying backups may be stored elsewhere not to mention current political issues like the USA trying to force MS to hand over data stored in Ireland. Until or unless the landscape of these services changes a responsible company/ legal department is going to insist data is kept in house.

      Fundamentally the longevity of IT departments and their staff is dependent on human issues not technological ones.

    3. seacook

      Re: Say what?

      Hey Mondo,

      I'm 60+. I am building out client data centers and the like and charging top dollar to have fun! What I have found is that there are still positions for those that understand the 'plumbing' that makes said data centers work. If the basic plumbing is screwed there is one very long term pile of pain for the client.

      As you noted there is still a requirement for those that know and understand racking, stacking and cabling that is required to ensure successful DC operations. I know that I spend a significant amount of time at client sites helping youngsters understand the low tech that is necessary to keep the high tech palaces operational.

      It seems obvious. But not necessarily to management or juniors.

      Enjoy your time.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Say what?

      I'm 57 this year and went the same route, got out of the UK!, good if you can, I've worked in Germany and now in the Netherlands, money is better, way of life is better, and Geman and Dutch managers I've worked for seem to have brains and have come up through the ranks (could be I was lucky but still), in stark contrast to many UK managers, certainly no stupid "class" crap you get in many UK firms particularly corporates.

      The article is correct nothing is new in IT, when I was a lot younger I remember sharing a transit bus between sites with a grizzled mainframe veteran, at the time "client server" was the big buzzword (as opposed to "Cloud" now), he remarked to me "load of bollocks really, we've been doing that with mainframes for years".

      I'm working on a small software project at the moment one of our younger guys said he wants to use csv for the data file format, "why not use XML?" I said "Oh but it's too difficult!" was the reply, oh well just do it over and over again and it ceases to become difficult, that's where the oldies score,........... time, just lots and lots of time doing the same crap, sure my soul wants to scream but at least I don't have to think much about what I'm doing lol, just have to keep up to date with the new latest technology which usually boils down to "ok they have fiddled a bit with something and given it a poncy new name"

      1. TheSkunkMonk

        Re: Say what?

        "ok they have fiddled a bit with something and given it a poncy new name"

        This is the very reason I got out of IT I was sick and tired of keeping upto date with all the rehashed crap. It became an absolute joke and still is it was mobiles that finally pushed me over the edge, Moving features, destroying desktops, turning ports upside down and for what? sales sales sales oh and don't forget the training courses! I'm sure that used to be called "RTFM" by the way.

        Needless to say my grumpy view of the current IT system did not get me very far. I was hopeless at getting clients to upgrade, because to be honest most the time no new systems or hardware is required and I will always be a firm hater of virtual desktops and thinclients. A Lazy mans tools they are but ISO standards love em.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Say what?

        XML -- you mean Lisp (ie s-expressions)?

      3. pinballwizard

        Re: Say what?

        Funny about what you say fiddling a bit with something and calling it something else... I remember sitting in lean six sigma intro courses and thinking 'this looks a lot like what I studied during my university days during courses called 'systems analysis'

    5. LucreLout Silver badge

      Re: Say what?

      So, if you're in the 50+ bracket, not too proud or afraid to do do the physical stuff, not worried about "job titles", don't mind earning a few £K (or €K) less per year and tenacious enough, there is a job out there somewhere!

      I hope you're right, because the one thing we all have in common is that we're all going to be 50+ eventually. Even the ageist little snots who think they'll be 20 something forever.

      Congratulations on landing a role that you're happy enough with. May it continue as long as you wish it.

      1. Loud Speaker

        Re: Say what?

        I have been 20-something for over 40 years, you insensitive clod!

        (Sorry, thought I was posting on slashdot)

        1. Nym

          Re: Say what?

          What was that? I can't hear you!

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Say what?

            Two sugars please dear.

            And a set of VMS Internals documentation (for anyone who can still remember the meaning of documentation, rather than just using a search engine. For those who don't remember: with good documentatation, you can learn things. With a search engine, you may sometimes find out how to fix or work around broken things. Sort of.)

    6. JeffyPoooh Silver badge
      Pint

      The A.I. is coming! The A.I. is coming!

      The A.I. is coming, and it's in a 3D-Printed Fusion-Powered Too-Cheap-To-Meter Flying Car.

  2. cantankerous swineherd

    "but what happens

    when someone gets the crazy idea to let Watson

    read all of Stack Overflow and O’Reilly and

    Slashdot and Google Groups"

    if it can weed out all the inane commentary and root out correct answers to questions on stack* AI will be ahead of me.

    1. Gordon 10 Silver badge

      A good point well made. Even if those answers on stock exchange were generic and templates (which they aint) you will still need some creativity to apply it to your current problem even if it's just replace $company name.

      And that's before you factor in the fact that you need a continual source of new answers.

      AI is coming to our careers but it's over a 15-30 time frame.

    2. Thorne

      The Answer

      "but what happens

      when someone gets the crazy idea to let Watson

      read all of Stack Overflow and O’Reilly and

      Slashdot and Google Groups"

      It comes up with the answer "Have you tried turning it off and back on again?"

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: The Answer

        Watson is software and has no concept of rebooting. From my experience of SO it will come up with pieces of code which some programmer has kind of got to work but ignore minor factors like security, persistence, multitasking and scalability.

        You can tell when a junior programmer has been looking at SO. Defaults that are incorrect for this particular application, failure to use the correct libraries with new ones suddenly appearing in the tree, and strange methods to shoehorn data into the SO cut and paste.

        One of the best ones I ever had was a rather entitled programmer - "my uncle is a VP at IBM so I know everything" - who demanded to use a different library because "it's superior to the one we use". After he left we found out he had been using boilerplate code from somewhere on SO, and couldn't work out how to make it work with the library that was used throughout the rest of the application. So, his solution was to convert all the existing code to use his new library. We then had to pay a contractor to fix everything back after he left, because the new library was buggy and the developers would not fix.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: The Answer

        As the old saying goes "garbage in, garbage out", I read an interview with Steve Wozniak saying that SIRI was getting dumber over time, initially asking "what are the Prime numbers" got you Prime numbers, now he said he gets "Prime Real Estate", "Prime Ribs", does suggest if Watson becomes Skynet for coding we can sabotage it en masse from home submitting sensible questions and getting everyone to submit totally stupid answers

        1. Peter2 Silver badge

          Re: The Answer

          "we can sabotage it en masse from home submitting sensible questions and getting everyone to submit totally stupid answers"

          Have you ever googled a moderately serious problem? Answers given are utterly hillarious. A lot of people posting replies do it for the "status/reputation/ego boost" they get answering questions and often have absolutely no frigging idea whatsoever to a degree it's hillarious.

          My favourites are questions on networking. I'm not a network engineer, just one of those little SME admins who has to deal with all of these other things, but I got quite ratty with a chap on a support forum who was adament that his word was gospel, yet didn't understand networking basics like subnetting(!) let alone that there were different types of NAT to full cone. While trying to debug a network problem, naturally.

          As one might imagine, the advice provided was not hugely useful.

          I eventually came to the conclusion that the problem was that the program had been programmed as if full cone NAT was the only type in existance, and didn't work on restricted cone NAT. As soon as this made it's way through the support team to a programmer the program got a patch and the unfixable problem went away entirely in the next version.

          The chaps response on the forum? "Your pointlessly overeducating yourself in a niche area that nobody ever needs to know".

          I love customer support forums.

          I look forward to seeing how well an AI deals with processing that sort of Garbage input. At some point you need a person who is actually able to sit down and diagnose problems step by step and come up with a solution. Search engines can't do that, and aren't hugely likely to endanger (many of) us that much since generally we are the people who come up with the solutions.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: The Answer

            @Peter2

            Well yes, but I was trying to be positive, I work mainly in apps support and did desktop and server support before that, I was trying to not fit the pessimistic stereotype for support guys (ok maybe all experienced IT workers), but if I'm honest I admit that's exactly what i thought when I wrote that, lol

        2. Daggerchild Silver badge

          Re: The Answer

          "SIRI was getting dumber over time"

          Averaging knowledge is tantamount to sticking it in a blender. If you had the co-ordinates of every human on Earth, on average, we live at the centre of the Earth. You know and I know you don't handle the data like that, but try describing why to Siri. You'll have to do that for every type of data. And every new type of data that comes along. And do it again every time an existing data context changes.

          A.I.s that slurp up vast amounts of data are collecting Chaos as well as Order. There's no free lunch. No easy answers. There will be no AI overlords outside of clinically predeclared data contexts. Sorry.

        3. DubyaG

          Re: The Answer

          Hmmm, that sounds the results of a Google search. Heaven forbid if Watson queries Google!

    3. mark jacobs

      How to confuse AI and natural language analysis programs

      Just write something like :-

      "It's not as if this is the wrong answer ..."

      AI thinks "this is the wrong answer" ...

    4. keithpeter
      Childcatcher

      Tower of Babel

      "...but what happens when someone gets the crazy idea to let Watson read all of Stack Overflow and O’Reilly and Slashdot and Google Groups and GitHub..."

      Watson blows fuse, or prints an error message along the lines of 'training data inconsistent, please prune'.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    A hidden price of flexibility is decreased resilience.

    It also means that long-winded process-optimization fandango à la CMMi is even more bullshit than ever as the people are churning through an organization faster than the hallowed processes can actually be built around actual skills, leaving a dry skeleton of meaningless paperwork demands behind.

    Any organiization that prides itself to be CMMi level X > 2 these days is either secretly the Illuminati, Japanese and thus moribund or full of shit.

  4. AndrueC Silver badge

    On the plus side I'm 48 and a software developer (C# currently). It's taken me nine days and three interviews to find a new job. I don't (yet) see any sign of agism in software development.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      I've come to the conclusion

      When you are over 50 and a devops/sysadmin/DC Manager there are only a few choices:

      Start your own shop as a consultant

      Find a job in a cloud center

      Convert to applications development and write the next Angry Birds,

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      As a "mature" C# developer, the issue I've found over the last 3/4 years is more in the quality of the jobs rather than being able to change job. It's either doing the work that the young go getters don't want to do (migration scripts, unit tests etc)., or just getting left-fielded with some old legacy vb.net that no one bothered to mention in any of the interviews. One place even put me in QA - I left after 8 weeks before RSI set in. Have declined the option of extending my current contract - interviewed on the finer points of web-api, put into prod-support on a 10 year old mix of vb.net and c#.

      Maybe there's the perception that as an older developer I should just be happy with my lot and have lost interest in keeping up with the newer "sexy" stuff that the youngsters all go for. Sure I like old music, and am happy to give the hipster beard and skinny jeans a miss - but I'm not ready to write myself off just yet???

    3. LucreLout Silver badge

      @AndrueC

      Outstanding result! May I wask what type of C# dev? As in, industry segment, wpf/wcf/asp.net etc?

      I'm a bit younger than you, and still continuously employed since graduation (redundant roles being replaced with new employers prior to the end of my notice period), also C# dev (finance, wcf, multithreading more than GUIs). I might be a bit irrationally focussed on ageism, but mostly because I meet a lot of contractors who give it as the biggest reason for void periods, and looking years older than I am, it's becoming a concern.

      1. AndrueC Silver badge
        Thumb Up

        Re: @AndrueC

        Outstanding result! May I ask what type of C# dev? As in, industry segment, wpf/wcf/asp.net etc?

        My primary experience these days is desktop development using C# and Winforms. I do also have some WPF experience along with some SQL. Multithreading is something I've done sporadically over the years. Some in C++ (15 years or so), some in C# (the last decade).

        As far as industry is concerned I've just spent a year or so in the financial industry but prior to that it was data recovery at the disk then the application level. I don't really concern myself too much with a particular industry. Aside from real specialist roles I tend to just look at it as coding. Gimme the tools and a spec and I'll write it :)

        I live in South Northants which is a pretty good location. I was getting a lot of interest and had about eight interviews lined up or taken in total over the almost two weeks. And that was despite choosing not to bother with Birmingham or London since both are reachable in an hour or so. Milton Keynes seemed to be a particular common location.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      I'm 46 and a software developer, it's taken me four years and 1600 applications to get a job shifting boxes. I see huge 100-foot billboards of agism in software development.

    5. Flatpackhamster

      re: software developers

      It's only because computers aren't coding themselves yet. When they do you'll be next. As a tech support bod who's under 40, I've seen the number of jobs available and the salaries on offer plunge. My next career move will probably be out of IT (sadly).

  5. Tezfair
    Thumb Up

    family biz

    I run a small IT biz, mainly myself but I 'employ' my sons when needed. Customers / Clients used to ask if my sons was going to follow me into an IT career. I always replied that in the future (by which I was refering to around 2020), the job I do will be largely non existent as computers will be dumb terminals as everything will be online (at least at a consumer level). PCs will be so cheap that if it fails you by another, bit like white goods in general.

    So I have encouraged my boys to persue a career outside of IT, eldest is at uni doing advanced maths, applied physics and therotical physics, youngest is at college doing a 5 yr engineering apprenticeship (good old fashioned 'you draw it, I make it').

    I'm 50 too, been around for 30 years doing IT in various guises, but I only do enough to keep me in chocolate and holidays :)

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Grey beards pricing themselves out of the market

    Often inflexible, unwilling to adapt and walk around with a sense of self centred entitlement. No wonder I prefer to hire people a few years into their careers whilst they are still keen to work hard and learn plenty. Not all old gits fall into this category but many do.

    My advice to those new to IT is get into mainframe tech. A bloody dearth of these around due to dumb ass outsourcing to offshore clowns, but still a highly sought skill in the enterprise IT.

    My advice to anyone still in IT is keep developing yourself and learning new skills.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Grey beards pricing themselves out of the market

      As a proudly grey and proudly beard, though not yet in the 50+ zone I can say - you have to put some perspective.

      It all depends where you are looking for a job:

      1. UK company - you can forget about it. A UK manager is more likely commit a sepuku with a blunt rusty knife and hang himself on his own entrails than hire someone who is obviously better than him technically or pay for technical skills more than for managerial.

      2. California - grey beards are frowned upon because they can no longer be duped to work for a bag of peanuts in a "start-up environment" on a hare brained idea. The fact that they can bring some sanity to the table and make the revised idea happen for real is usually overlooked. When hired, they will be paid properly though.

      3. Elsewhere - rest of USA, Continental Europe, etc - this is not a problem. I started my career in Eastern Europe with my boss being 10 years younger then me (and I already had a beard then as I switched careers). Nowdays I am working in a department whose core is mostly from the New England area and it is like 50% with beards and mostly grey ones too boot. I have worked with other people from other (non California) IT centres before - Denver, Austin, Sweden, Finland etc. Grey bears are aplenty and they are employed (and sought after too).

      1. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

        Re: Grey beards pricing themselves out of the market

        I have to disagree somewhat with the second AC poster. There's nothing new about the overall problem, but things have changed a lot in other ways.

        I'm in my 50's, and I well remember, 30 years ago, a guy in his 40s who'd come up "through the ranks", starting as an apprentice. He'd always turned down all opportunities to a more managerial/team-lead position because he enjoyed the technical work too much. Eventually he decided that it was time to take that step, and started applying for promotion. He was rejected every time because he was seen as somewhat hidebound and his managerial skills as old-fashioned. He'd missed his chance, and no-one in the office was greatly surprised by it, even though he was seen as a generally likeable guy, always ready to help. Unfortunately he started to harp on too much about being denied his 'entitlement' to promotion, and was eventually encouraged to take a severance package. No doubt he would tell the story differently, which always makes be sceptical about these "I'm 50-years-old and that's why no-one wants to hire me" sob stories, there's usually more too it than that

        The comment about the UK reads, to be honest, a bit like like sour grapes. I wouldn't generalize so much, I've had good and bad UK managers.

        California is interesting. Back in the 90s startups had lots of youngsters, greybeards were rare, but today we're everywhere. It still entertains me to sit in internal meetings where people are enthusiastically presenting ideas for new products and features, based on the latest trendy technology, and to realize that half of them have less hair (and more grey) than I do. Sure the youngsters may be the ones who work all weekend prototyping to impress their boss, but when it comes to getting a reliable and secure design that same boss has the greybeards heading up the meetings.

        Europe varies too much to generalize. Older Germans really do think that working late means being in the office after 4:30pm, and older French really do assume that August doesn't exist when it comes to setting project schedules, both of which attitudes really irritate US managers. Yet, while both countries allegedly have problems with over-50 unemployment figures it's still not impossible to find good work at that age. My wife is having a great time at a local startup where she's one of the older people in the place, but she seems to be valued almost as much for the stability that she brings to the youngsters as for her technical experience.

        At the end of the day your own attitude has at least as much impact on your employment chances as your age, be you 25 or 55.

      2. Bloakey1

        Re: Grey beards pricing themselves out of the market

        <snip>

        "Grey bears are aplenty and they are employed (and sought after too)."

        Do you give them guns or shoot them? I personally do not believe in the right to arm bears but the US has other ideas.

        I am 52, I retired at 45 and now chill in the south of Europe, glad to have left the UK and glad to be free of corporate I.T. people who know very little and at the slightest provocation will launch a prelim meeting as a precursor of other meetings to follow. I managed to get a personell person very drunk and whispered that a fortune could be made if I had my contract ended. What they did not know was that I had an 18 month gardening leave contract! I did extremely well out of that and when they called me back in at a later date to do some work, I charged ten times the going rate as I did not want anything to do with it but they were desperate.

    2. PJI
      Unhappy

      Re: Grey beards pricing themselves out of the market

      This attitude to older workers says more about you than them. It sounds as if you are an inadequate leader and motivator with fixed preconceptions and out-dated views.

      All the older people with whom I work and have worked are open because they have seen our field change beyond imagination.

      Most younger people are good but a great many are still at the stage of regurgitating what they were taught, think Linux is UNIX and are surprisingly frightened of automating tasks, perhaps because after growing up with GUIs and Windows PCs the underlying software is too much of a black box

      The fact is we need both. It is no good to say we must all work longer because the younger generation can not finance the pension bill, then practise dismissive and ignorant policies against employing and training those in their fifties and early sixties.

    3. kmac499

      Re: Grey beards pricing themselves out of the market

      Hey I'm a White Beard and have been for a while, (Family genes rather than extreme age.), I still like learning new things, although in most cases this involves translating marketing bullshit back into English or previously used common technical terms.

      The true learning bit is often just mastering a new syntax along the lines of where does the comma,semi-,colon go this time.

      1. AndrueC Silver badge
        Thumb Up

        Re: Grey beards pricing themselves out of the market

        The true learning bit is often just mastering a new syntax along the lines of where does the comma,semi-,colon go this time.

        Oh yes. Along with 'Oh you've given it a [new] name now'. On a good day there's also 'Wow, that's a lot easier than all that code I had to write'.

        Only very occasionally do you come across something truly new. Mostly it's just a matter of mapping old concepts to new buzzwords.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Grey beards pricing themselves out of the market

      "Often inflexible, unwilling to adapt and walk around with a sense of self centred entitlement"

      Yes, that describes most of the new graduates I saw in the years leading to retirement. Yes I was moderately expensive. But six months after I left the company was 6 months further behind in the development plan. Some of the young are keen to work hard and learn plenty, but where are they learning it from? There is a big gap between the work done at university, and having implemented a front to back solution and understanding how all the parts work, and it takes years to get to this point.

    5. Jim 59

      Re: Grey beards pricing themselves out of the market

      @AC Shut up boy. No. I will not tell you how the df command works. Go and read the man pages for ***** sake. By my beard!!!

    6. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Grey beards pricing themselves out of the market

      "Often inflexible, unwilling to adapt and walk around with a sense of self centred entitlement. No wonder I prefer to hire people a few years into their careers whilst they are still keen to work hard and learn plenty. Not all old gits fall into this category but many do."

      I do so hope I never have to come and work for you. Flexibility often equates to cutting corners and that inevitably results in things going wrong. That then means you have to get your staff to work all hours fixing the mess made by adopting your flexible approach. Probably at the lowest rates you can get away with paying them.

      Self centred entitlement? Have you actually read your own post; there is plenty evidence there of a self centred sense of entitlement.

      So you want people just a few years into their careers who can learn plenty. Who are they going to learn from? The chances are that a few years ago in University they might have been learning from me. I spend my time working in Industry and also teaching in a university where I also research. I can pretty much guarantee that I am learning new stuff every day and that I teach that to my undergraduates. However I understand the models of learning new stuff and referring to the older staff in IT as "old gits" really does say so much about you as an employer.

  7. Long John Brass Silver badge

    Heard this before

    Wasn't it 4GL & smart systems that was supposed to put us all out of a job in the 1980's ?

    1. Daggerchild Silver badge

      Re: Heard this before

      I wish. Prolog was a joy. Mass effects from tiny programs.

      You had to think in a certain way contrary to imperative programming. Everyone was trained in exactly not-that, whatever you made would eventually be botched by someone trying to make it 'normal' by e.g. faking up global variables.

      I had a soft spot for its total disdain for linear time and anything confined by it :-) Ah nostalgia, I wonder where the closest practical 4GL manifestation might be nowadays..

  8. Mark 85 Silver badge

    Old guy is not an age but a thought process

    Old is not years. It's how you think and react. I'm 67, still employed. Been a tech writer, changed careers to UNIX programmer, Windows, C++, etc.. Diverse. I'm the only IT guy the office with 350 bodies. Most IT are in the main office 250 miles away.

    So.. why do they let me hang around (though I just recently asked for and went to part-time... retirement practice)? I'm versatile. Everything from swapping out mice, 2nd level tech support to working with network and server people. I'm willing to learn new tricks and tech if supported. I don't do iThings and smartphones since a) they won't buy one for me to test and learn and b) there's only a couple of those in the office and the folks who have them, spend a few days a month at the main office. Cheaper to have the staff and expertise for the up there do it than to pay for my learning.

    No matter what they pay me, I'm cheap insurance since no one has to travel to this office to repair/troubleshoot.

    Key... make yourself indispensable if you can. Keep learning and even refreshing as you never know when that knowledge will be needed.

  9. Bob Dole (tm)

    There's a reason your friend can't find a job

    In any society it's expected that the older ones move away from the day to day and help steer the younger ones. It's called "management". Sure that "old" guy may know where to fix a 20 year old 'nix bug but if he is still in the trenches then that knowledge is likely not being transferred.

    By keeping declining to move forward he's now stuck in the past. That's what leads to brittle systems: young pups with no solid guidance. If your friend had moved up then he could keep a better eye on those young ones to ensure that the next generation is solid. Instead his talent is wasted. Sad, but it's something that has been repeated throughout history.

    He should stop being selfish and try and help he kids, instead of just talking down about them or bemoaning his "luck"

    1. Colin Brett
      Unhappy

      Re: There's a reason your friend can't find a job

      "In any society it's expected that the older ones move away from the day to day and help steer the younger ones. It's called "management". Sure that "old" guy may know where to fix a 20 year old 'nix bug but if he is still in the trenches then that knowledge is likely not being transferred."

      I think this is way off target.

      In my experience, those old guys who move into management do so because it's the logical career path that leads to salary increases. Once out of the trenches, they spend most of their time in meetings, so their skills go rusty and they have little time to pass on their knowledge to the front lines. Overall, the organisation loses.

      Colin

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: There's a reason your friend can't find a job

        "Once out of the trenches, they spend most of their time in meetings, so their skills go rusty and they have little time to pass on their knowledge to the front lines"

        This is why the RAF had that dual system where at a certain level pilots could switch to driving a desk or continuing to fly and train and support the next generation.

        The merchant marine has discovered the solution to expensive senior captains - helicopter them out to ships to deal with the hard bits. IT has still to work out how to do this.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: There's a reason your friend can't find a job

        It's funny isn't it. The old 'useless' management' bleats rear their heads. Over a long career in IT, I have always noted that those who bleat about management are usually the mediocrities....

        1. BillDarblay

          Re: There's a reason your friend can't find a job

          "I have always noted that those who bleat about management are usually the mediocrities...."

          And after a long career in IT, my Dear Anonymous Coward friend, I found that the people who licked around and sucked up to management were totally useless....

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: There's a reason your friend can't find a job

          "I have always noted that those who bleat about management are usually the mediocrities"

          Assuming you are using the word "mediocrity" with its original meaning (i.e. someone in the middle range of ability) they are probably right. Management tends to expend very little thought on the people in the middle; they like to have winners, they like to get rid of losers, but the people who do a lot of the work probably don't get sufficient attention paid to them.

          Management is an essential part of any organisation, and done well it contributes immensely to success. The problem is that most managers, like most of their staff, are mediocre. A brilliant manager can motivate an average team to do well, an average manager won't do any harm to a brilliant team of engineers, but an average manager of an average group is likely to produce poor results.

          In my experience too many good engineers become average managers, for the money. It has exactly the same results as inspirational classroom teachers who become heads and are stuck in bureaucracy. It removes somebody good from the technical pool, and puts someone who now feels inadequate (or worse, imagines they know it all) into the managerial pool.

    2. Voland's right hand Silver badge

      Re: There's a reason your friend can't find a job

      Dude, you are clueless.

      There are two sides to this coin. One is (you are correct here) - management. This is the LESS valuable one.

      The other one is teaching the young un's how to "hold that rifle and where to stick the pointy thing attached to it". Same as in the army - an experienced non-comm is more valuable to the survival of its squad than a whole office of freshly minted West Point (or Sandhurst) graduates. This is because he can teach the others practically how to survive in the day to day job, be it killing the enemy, be it writing software.

      First of all - the only way of doing that is by being in the trenches yourself. You HAVE to have some experienced employees around all the time to ensure that stupidities are squashed early in the bud and not propagated for several years before they implode taking the down project (and sometimes the company with it)

      Second, forcing everyone who attains some level of experience to become management or leave is utterly stupid. The result is McDonalds and McDonalds quality software. Going back to the army analogy - most grey beard non-comms would not make a good commissioned officer. It is pointless to send them to West Point or Sandhurst - they are valuable where they are and doing what they do best - being in the trenches with the troops.

    3. PJI

      Re: There's a reason your friend can't find a job

      In informatics, at least in serious, engineering and development areas, employers tend to look at the people as either technical or managerial, in separate career streams. So the opportunities to transfer to management are limited if there at all.

    4. J.G.Harston Silver badge

      Re: There's a reason your friend can't find a job

      Why is there this culture of punishing people by banning them from doing what they enjoy and are skilled at - the technical tasks - and forcing them into something they don't like and have no skills or aptitude for - management?

    5. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: There's a reason your friend can't find a job

      In any society it's expected that the older ones move away from the day to day and help steer the younger ones. It's called "management". Sure that "old" guy may know where to fix a 20 year old 'nix bug but if he is still in the trenches then that knowledge is likely not being transferred.

      May I be the first to say bollocks. Some people prefer to stay at the coal face because they enjoy doing things (i.e. getting shit done) and realise that management may be better paid but it's often full of inept pricks that enjoy the office politics bs just a little too much.

    6. Paul 14

      Re: There's a reason your friend can't find a job

      Management isn't the same as technical leadership or mentoring. Some people do manage to do both, but most of the time a good manager isn't a good technical leader and vice versa.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    C change

    Took redundancy about 50

    Consulted back to the same company for another 4 years

    Contract ended, went for and offered jobs with 2 Government Agencies, took the best $ offer.

    Cruising to retirement.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    A few words of Interview advice

    I guess that I qualify for the age range as I'm 61.

    I took Redundancy in 1999 and spent the next 10 years contracting. No problems with age but I got fed up having to drive up the M1 or M6 on a Monday Morning (and the even worse jams on a Friday afternoon)

    I struggled to get a permanent position until I told the guy interviewing me 3years ago (who was going to be my boss)

    'I really don't want to be a manager. I don't want your job.'

    I got the job. I'm still there and I'm his 'go to guy' who can pick up projects and run with them with very little direction. Off to Rio in a week or so to give some training. Taking the Mrs with me and having a week's holiday aterwards.

    I told my boss last review time that when I get fed up, I'm going to retire. That satisfied the 'next position' tickbox. I'm training a 51 yr old to take over from me. I'll be 62 in October and at the moment that's when I'll retire and go work in my 'Man Shed'.

    1. Yugguy

      Re: A few words of Interview advice

      I do this too - I'm a 44 year old techie and that's what I want to stay as til I retire. So I make this VERY clear in performance reviews and interviews.

      I am quite capable of learning new stuff for the next 20 years. I can alternate between support, projects, staff training, you name it.

      And while the architecture, hardware, software, processes etc., will change vastly as the years go by, problems and problem solving won't.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: A few words of Interview advice

        I'm a 44 year old techie and that's what I want to stay as til I retire. So I make this VERY clear in performance reviews and interviews.

        At 44 I'd consider that a risky strategy. To a manager it may suggest that you don't want too much responsibility, yet when you're 55 you'll probably stll expect a salary commensurate with your age.

        It might work as a tactic when you're 55+ and looking for a pre-retirement job, but at 44 it's likely to put you high on the "lay off the expensive guys and hire cheap youngsters" list.

        1. Yugguy

          Re: A few words of Interview advice

          " yet when you're 55 you'll probably stll expect a salary commensurate with your age."

          Er, in a word, NO.

          I'm working currently with a chap approaching 60, does a parallel job to me but he's a coder. We are both on the same pay scale as the chaps in their 30s on the team. The fact that they are younger but at a similar level to me does not bother me as I expect to be paid fairly for the job I am being asked to do, at whatever age I am.

          Frankly it was only when I was much, much younger that I imagined being paid a grand per year of my age. I've just about managed it so far but there is NO WAY I can continue this apart from going into management which I DO NOT WANT, or going back to consultancy/London/abroad and never seeing my family which I also DO NOT WANT

          I am satisfied that I am being paid a fair wage for the 3rd/4th line support/projects position that I am in and as long as that continues I'll still be happy.

          1. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

            Re: A few words of Interview advice

            > " yet when you're 55 you'll probably stll expect a salary commensurate with your age.

            > Er, in a word, NO.

            I intended that to be taken with the first part of the sentence. I fear that a manager will interpret your position that way, not that you will expect it.

        2. AndrueC Silver badge
          Thumb Up

          Re: A few words of Interview advice

          At 44 I'd consider that a risky strategy. To a manager it may suggest that you don't want too much responsibility, yet when you're 55 you'll probably stll expect a salary commensurate with your age.

          It's a risky strategy and one I only slightly applied. I said I wouldn't mind being a team leader but loved coding so much I didn't want to be a manager. The trick is to demonstrate that you still have the passion of a youngster but tempered by many year's experience.

          As for my salary at 55 - that's what a private pension is for. Not saying I will retire at 55 but I'm making damn sure that the option is on the table ;)

        3. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: A few words of Interview advice

          @AC

          Being middle 40's and "employed" is a risky strategy. There is a class of management that values inexperience, immaturity and doesn't realise that winning at buzzword bingo is nothing to brag about. The only certain defence against these management anti-patterns is not to be accountable to them and that means outranking them. What I'm getting around to here is that mid-40's is an excellent time to start (not join - start) a startup.

          You've got the experience and hopefully a degree of financial security and management expertise that thrusting young uber-grads can't match (wealthy daddies aside). I can't think of any advantages I had in my 20's (two decades ago). Knowledge? Laughable idea. Energy and stamina? Balderdash. At 22 I still had trouble wrestling myself out of bed before noon. Now can't really stay asleep beyond 5:30, and I'm still never in bed before midnight. You can't use that sort of ability effectively unless you run the company.

          1. Yugguy

            Re: A few words of Interview advice

            I'd love to but the truth is I have neither the drive, commitment nor bravery to run my own business.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: A few words of Interview advice - @Yugguy

              Then find someone who has and become his trusted number 2.

      2. Yugguy

        Re: A few words of Interview advice

        Ok which shiny-suited foetus voted me down?

        Bloody kids these days.

        (;->

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: A few words of Interview advice

      This reflects my position almost entirely. I retired in my early 60s because the company acquired a new boss who was clueless, and when the old boss had to come back and sort things out, they had deteriorated to the point that I just didn't have the energy any more.

      It wasn't a mistake to retire. I discovered that, having pushed money into pension schemes and investments and generally forgotten about them, I was a lot better off than I thought.

      So that's really the only thing I would add to your post. When you are coining it, look at the Audi A8 and then buy a Mondeo and invest the difference. Repeat as necessary. One day you too many have the financial adviser saying "er well it turns out you actually don't need to work any more."

      1. LucreLout Silver badge

        Re: A few words of Interview advice

        It wasn't a mistake to retire. I discovered that, having pushed money into pension schemes and investments and generally forgotten about them, I was a lot better off than I thought.

        That's the part which worries me the most.

        I too have pushed money into pension plans to cover retirement, but the government has increased the minimum age at which I can take a private pension from 50 to 55, then on to 57, and it will almost certainly be 60 within a few years.

        If I cannot work from say 50ish, due to ageism, then how do I get by for those 10 years? Having ££££££s locked up that I can't touch until some arbitrary age isn't going to feed my family or pay the mortgage.

        I'm pretty much up to date in my current main language (C#), and have cross-trained into Java & android development. I'm adding Oracle to the database side, complimenting SQL Server which I usually work with. I do something like 500 hours of professional development a year, so would think my skills are as cutting edge as they're getting, but it'd be nice if the government would stop increasing the personal pension retirement age.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: A few words of Interview advice

          So now you need to get involved in depth in an application area. What is that code for?

          I had similar skills to you in my late 40s but got involved in ERP systems, which were fashionable at the time. I also learned some accountancy and did some general business training.

          Then I joined a startup. I knew how to integrate what they were trying to do with the backend, and I knew how to turn it into financial data. I became a consultant who could write PoC code. Then I got a lot of the code written.

          It's a bit like being a plumber with a strong visual bias who decides to start a bathroom shop, or an electrician who diversifies into selling lighting. You can provide a front to back service instead of having to rely on subcontractors whose skills and capabilities you don't really understand.

    3. GrumpyMiddleAgedGuy

      Re: A few words of Interview advice

      Happened to me just once. I aced the interview and believe I said all the right things. Good review back to the agent, and then they decided to go with someone else. I just sensed that the guy was uneasy that I did so well. The fact that this happens says a lot about the quality of management.

  12. Christian Berger Silver badge

    There's a lot of "over 50" IT people...

    ... who don't have a Unix background. They started with MS-DOS and then went on the Windows route. Those people do have it hard these days as they might know about MS-DOS bugs or limitations, but from that onward, they have always been on the user end of things.

    Not all of those people are grey beards.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: There's a lot of "over 50" IT people...

      " They started with MS-DOS and then went on the Windows route."

      IT started with mainframes. Comms started with dumb teletypes, then VDUs and Remote Job Entry stations - and eventually meshed networks. All these happened before Unix or Windows.

      Our team leaders were considered old men at 25 - and what they asked us to do usually hadn't been done before. My second machine was a totally different architecture in hardware and software. My new boss spent an afternoon explaining how it worked - then I was in the deep end. He employed me for my proven ability to crack difficult system technical problems - two years after leaving school.

      Before I recently retired it was that depth of experience that was deployed when things went wrong. The youngsters had certificates and lots of expensive product training courses - but their knowledge was shallow. It assumed that they didn't have to know what happened below their textbook API.

  13. Trevor_Pott Gold badge

    The unspoken element

    The missing bit here is that while there are some exit routes for infrastructure people, the total cumulative number of jobs available will still be insufficient to meet demand. Operations is going the way of warehouse workers. And even those are getting replaced by robots. Hell, now we have hotels whose goal is 90% robots.

    Operations jobs, and jobs directly adjacent to operations are going to be few and far between. They will pay way less as competition heats up and only the best of the best will be able to hold the positions. The rest? They need to do something orthogonal to their previous experience. And there they're fighting with the milled masses. Last I heard, they had some trouble on the job front too.

    1. Alan Brown Silver badge

      Re: The unspoken element

      Everyone's assuming fulltime work.

      It's long been predicted that part time (and service) work will be the way forward. What surprises me has been our capacity to invent new jobs to take the place of ones which are no longer relevant.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: fulltime/part-time

        I can't imagine that. Everything is priced at a certain level assuming that people work fulltime, so it's not possible for a large enough amount of people to work part time - and survive on the low pay with the high rents and costs - to get things moving towards a tipping point.

        As for the AI taking our jobs, utterly hilarious. Machines are nowhere near thinking yet, we don't even know how WE think! Besides, if an AI were to be fed the sum total of human knowledge it would also have to deal with the sum total of human stupidity and ignorance. When confronted with the controversial stuff, unproven whacko ideas, conspiracies, religion, I suspect it would develop Artificial Insanity, and go into what Marvin called "a bit of a decline".

        1. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

          Re: fulltime/part-time

          When confronted with the controversial stuff, unproven whacko ideas, conspiracies, religion, I suspect it would develop Artificial Insanity, and go into what Marvin called "a bit of a decline".

          Hmm, you mean the Internet embodied as an intelligent entity? Scary...

      2. J.G.Harston Silver badge

        Re: The unspoken element

        What employers out there are going to be willing to pay me enough for one day's work to keep me alive for seven days? Plain and simple, I can't afford to stay alive on anything less than full-time pay.

  14. Grahame 2

    Can't go wrong

    The major difference between a thing that might go wrong and a thing that cannot possibly go wrong is that when a thing that cannot possibly go wrong goes wrong it usually turns out to be impossible to get at or repair.

    -- Douglas Adams, Mostly Harmless

    There is always going to be a requirement for people that understand how it's actually working, although we are already seeing the entry level roles going either via automation or outsourcing. The big problem is how a young worker gets to establish skills and experience without those jobs.

    1. Naselus

      Re: Can't go wrong

      This. Have an upvote, sir.

      I got into IT at the end of the '90s, when ITIL was just starting to turn IT departments into call centres, and I've managed to stay about a step ahead of rampant de-skilling at every stage of my career; I started out when the helpdesk was crewed by well-paid people who understood how a computer worked, who had full admin rights and could access the whole network to resolve problems, sitting right next to 2nd and 3rd line so that knowledge was passed from layer to layer. We learned how to get off the desk by DTS guys showing us how to fix things. We learned how to move into the server room by seconding a third line techy. If someone rang me up with a problem I couldn't fix, I asked the wise old men at next desk.

      They're all gone now. In most decent-sized enterprises now, the helpdesk is a minimum-wage hellhole kept in a different building (or country), with more value given to Customer Service experience than tech knowledge. 2nd line engineers are solely used for desktop support and haven't had access to the server room since tape drives were mainstream; many of them spend more time plugging in kit than actually solving problems. And 3rd line and above, having had their numbers whittled down, are usually 4-5 guys buried under a 6-month backlog who'd have no time to explain how anything works to an up-and-coming youngster even if they were ever in the same physical space at the same time.

      I'm not worried about being replaced by a robot - not until you show me a robot who can translate a fault out of User Language (Good luck googling 'my email broke', Watson!), or sort through the 800 wrong entries in the results to figure out the right one. But I am worried about how how 1st line has become a dead end, and I'm worried about how moving from 2nd line to 3rd line now seems to require changing company.

      1. Grahame 2

        Re: Can't go wrong

        100% agreed.

        My experience is very similar to yours. I am in my early 40s, and while I am not that worried for myself, I see be problems ahead for the industry and the businesses that depend on us.

        Although I never lose my rag with the poor sod that answers the phone when I have to call a NOC, it is deeply frustrating to endure delays and to jump through hoops and SLA games.

        When I find a provider that values their frontline, I go out of my way to support the business case for using them, even at a premium, because it's in my and my employer's interest.

  15. big_D Silver badge

    Too much knowledge

    This isn't a new phenomenen. When I first started in IT in the late 80s, one of my managers (55) took voluntary redundancy when it was offered. The company realised at the next month end, after he had gone, that he had been the only employee who had any practical knowledge of around 40 separate systems that the company relied upon for financial reporting!

    So, he took the redundancy and was then back 2 months later as a contractor. Over time, he had to document the systems and train up a replacement, but it still made him a nice pile, and left the higher up management with egg all over their faces.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Too much knowledge

      Leslie Thomas wrote a novel "The Tropic of Ruislip" (1974). One subplot is the ancient gardener who maintains the golf course greens. The club committee schemes to force him to retire on a pitiful pension.

      It then transpires that he is the only person who understands the course drainage system that was installed when he was an apprentice. So - he gets to stay working at a higher wage, with the promise of a good pension. In consideration of his age he gets to work less hours - with an apprentice - while he documents the drainage system "overr the next few years".

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Oh the irony

    The same thing is happening in the technology press: talent is being excreted by all the big technology publishers, like so much manure, replaced with shallow, brainless writing robots. The old line technology authors -- who really knew their stuff -- are all gone. Their previous publications reduced to web slogs furiously sprouting click bait and inane word pellets of non-knowledge.

    So the "new" IT is being built by inexperienced idiots to support "new" markets, both being trumpeted by the "new" media. Everyone is a shill.

    The collapse should be stupendous!

  17. peterkin

    "Scaffold" is a verb?

    1. hplasm Silver badge
      Headmaster

      "Scaffold" is a verb?

      Yes, it be.

      verb

      1.

      attach scaffolding to (a building).

    2. Roger Kynaston
      Joke

      @ "Scaffold"

      Step away from the computer sir! You have been found guilty of a web2ism and need to be shot.

  18. chivo243 Silver badge
    Unhappy

    This is the thought that wakes me up at night

    I'm 50, I know AD and I know OD. I've used many systems, but I'm no wizard. I solve problems or find the people that can. I have a few Certs, but no formal computer science background except a Basic programming class I took in 1983?

    There is no more room for advancement at the job I've held for 15 years. I fear my earlier life will have been easier that my later life, that's fuckin scary!

  19. localzuk

    Will always be a job for IT people

    As new systems come into existence, those systems will need managing, configuring, debugging, etc...

    Automation is all well and good, but it won't be perfect. No technology is perfect - it was invented by humans, and we certainly aren't perfect. So, those "non-perfect" times will require people with knowledge and experience to fix the stuff.

    That said, just like any other industry, the number of people needed may well change over time. Where it'd take a team of 10 to manage a company's IT before, it might only take 5 in the future. That's progress for you. Lots of people lost jobs from the farming industry when tractors appeared...

    1. Sooty

      Re: Will always be a job for IT people

      Automation is great, right up until something goes wrong with it and people realise that the only ones who know what it's doing and how it works left 5 years earlier.

      When an automated deployment tool failed and I suggetsed teh developers deploy their code manually while I investigated the problem, they couldn't as it was considered 'to risky' becasue no-one knew what the tool actually did during a deployment.

      I am constantly having to build tools and front ends onto what I consider fairly simpe processes so that peopel who have absolutely no idea what they are doing can't cock things up too badly. Then they ae completely crippled when they are unavailable because supposedly experienced people have no idea what it's actually been doing for them under the covers

  20. nijam

    destroying jobs?

    > For half a century IT has been destroying jobs. The legions of clerks and secretaries responsible for the maintenance of post-War ‘Organisational Man’...

    I'm not convinced by this. All the "clerks and secretaries" have simply moved into adminstration, where they cope with a lack of useful work by the simple expedient of creating useless work, writing it up as "policies", and getting the rest of us to waste our time in turn by writing up how we are complying with the policies. At least, that's what seems to be happening in every organisation I deal with.

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The Machine Stops

    Once a system has been in place for long enough - then people lose the ability to fix its new problems in an elegant way. The best they can achieve is crude bodges that often have unexpected side-effects.

    It has been said that a successful large system is grown from a successful small system. Trying to design a complex large system from scratch is often doomed to failure.

    Technology builds an edifice on other technology. No one fully understands the constraints until they have spent a considerable amount of effort in what amounts to technical archaeology.

    E.M.Forster's short story "The Machine Stops" is always a cautionary tale. Very prescient for fiction written in 1909.

  22. ruthless

    what a EGO twisted line of posts!!! like going to a school reunion!!

  23. LucreLout Silver badge

    Ageism is a threat, AI not so much...

    When this IT-focused Watson goes live (my bet is that we’ll see it before the end of this year) it will instantly automate away almost all of the IT functions that haven’t already been outsourced. Fifty years after putting everyone else out of work, IT will make much of itself redundant.

    I don't believe it will. AI has zero chance of taking an undocumented system written by an inexperienced developer, using no appropriate code architecture techniques, and making changes to it. It has no chance of interpretting the error logs which may be best described as "meaningless". Certainly not at a cost below that at which you can hire a meat sack.

    Much of the value in developer roles is converting the whims, myths, misunderstandings, and vague statements of users and BAs, and turning that into a logical process that may be changed to meet the likely evolution of the business.

    This may be why no one wants to hire him. “I go in for interviews,” he says, “and I’m being interviewed by managers fifteen or twenty years younger than me. I know more than them. I’ve seen more, I’ve done more. And I think that scares them.”

    It might be that, or your friend may simply have ring rust, a concept familiar to many boxers. It's not that your friend doesn't have his tech skills down pat, but interviewing successfully is a skill in itself, and one he may not have used for many years with the last employer.

  24. Zog_but_not_the_first Silver badge
    Boffin

    The power of Greyskull

    In my experience grizzlies pose a threat in being able to spot "vapourware" type developments. In all sectors, not just IT. You'll know the kind of thing - flashy presentation, investor opportunity, float, bail and run (with the money) leaving the suckers with an underdeveloped "thing".

    Far, far too many around.

  25. LucreLout Silver badge

    Upskilling and diversity

    SOLID is the same in C# as it was in Java, as it was in C++. Design patterns have few implementation tweaks between languages, and are largely unchanged since the GoF documented the concept.

    Oldsters need to stay up to date technically. We all do. But man would it help if the kids doing the interviewing were a little more experienced, so they could understand that new doesn't mean new, it just means new branding, new packaging, new price, but same old techniques and concepts. If they could understand that learning .net 2.0 and staying up to date to 4.5 felt to them like a major learning curve, but to those who started with C++ 30 years ago, and moved to .net 1.0, it wasn't difficult to learn the new parts.

    I've never met a C++ developer that couldn't code in C# with a few months cross training. I've never met a Java developer that couldn't either. The same goes in the other direction.

    To balance that, it's time we had some sort of ageism metric included in corporate diversity metrics. My company pays a premium to any recruiter for non-white female developers or admins. Seriously, it does. What it doesn't collect stats on, are the number of 50+ devs, admins etc that are employed, and it certainly pays no premium fees for them.

    Age diversity is even more important than gender diversity or racial diversity, because the one thing that unites us is that we age. Even black lesbians.

    1. GrumpyMiddleAgedGuy

      Re: Upskilling and diversity

      I would concur generally, but there is also all sorts of other divisions. E.g. Wanting 7 years C++ on Linux - Windows C++ experience doesn't count. Really? I think IT is quite tribal unfortunately

  26. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    In my mid 40's and after 35 years playing and working with computers and I think, what will I do when I hit mid 50's? No one really considered it when I first started in IT, we just did what needed to be done. We loved the life, "playing" with computers for a living, what could be better! When I started the money was absolutely shite, I was technically paid the same as an office clerk in my first techie job but I lurked around the computer room maintaining the ICL System 25s! ( shows my age! ), rather than a desk of papers. I've tried hard though over the years to make my jobs pay well and I'm only 18 months of clearing the mortgage and all my debts. At least I know if I have to change career to take advantage of my other non-IT skills, there's slim chance I will be able to as I'll have no baggage other than heating/food bills to pay. I love working with systems, problem solving is the reason I get up in the morning, I love my job but I'm also aware that the world is changing. Granted companies will always want someone to do the shitty backroom stuff, which is the only saving grace for me. The young "whipper-snappers" only want to play up on the front-side, talking the talk of the latest tech but all that data needs to go somewhere if you ever want to see it again on your mobile devices for example, so maybe there's hope yet for the sad old farts who like getting down and dirty in the computer room! Ha ha!

    I don't envy anyone coming into IT now, I've warned my teenage daughter away from an IT career even though it's all I've ever shown her I've done. She wants to go into veterinary science and I'm helping her as much as I can to make it happen, people will always need hands-on help with animals in one way or another. Maybe not an engineering career I would have liked for her but at least a career with skills she can put to use out in the big wide world, hopefully skills that won't become obsolete.

  27. Stevie Silver badge

    Bah!

    So lemme see if I have this right: The UK Government has finally gotten behind the idea of training kids to be computer programmers (we'll leave aside the wisdom behind that in the larger sense for another time) just as the local iteration of the industry is laying off and dumbing-down (anyone who thinks the state of the art AI is gonna be a replacement for human rat-dancers has spent too much time drinking the kool aid).

    Wot, no strategic vision?

    As for letting said AI scrape Stack Overflow et al, I predict all that will do is make the AI snotty and uncomunicative, undoing years of R&D in cognitive pattern analysis and advanced lexing.

    I say go for it. I'd love to see whether the AI declares Reiser is Innocent after the first pass.

  28. Alistair Silver badge
    Windows

    And what will you be doing before you retire.

    Who the hell said anything about retiring?

    Yes, I know that is a non standard position. Yes I know that there are folks out there that insist that, economically, we old farts have to get out of the way.

    After watching both the *government* pensions and two of my initial (50/50 or dollar for dollar) pensions get raped by the financial industry early in my career I figured out where my lot was. I'll point out that my 82 year old mother retired at 64, and -- to this DAY is a leading worker in her industry. She works from home, every day, and is continually asked to take on more. She doesn't, she works her own pace, and she teaches quite regularly.

    I fully expect to be following that pace. I've acquired a broad variety of knowledge in the IT industry, from cabling networks (SNA, Ethernet, IB, Token Ring, Fibre (several varieties)) to assembler level coding on out to C and C++, hardware from laptop/PCs up to and including mainframe, DASD, and modern storage arrays. No specialist here, I can support 15 different OS'es (through several generations), and never say no when it comes to learning new stuff.

    Currently I am working on what is in this company "bleeding edge" -- it might not be in many places bleeding edge, but for this org it classifies as that -

    Why? because over the past years they have learned to trust my judgment, honesty, integrity and efforts.

    I find it interesting to know that despite my clean shaven chin and youthful appearance at 50 that I'd be referred to as a greybeard. I still yell at DBA's that try to chmod 777 db files......... and it makes folks jump, and I still make my own coffee.

    (apparently grumpy old bastard icon is appropriate)

  29. Tom 7 Silver badge

    In most places I've worked the greybeards are irreplaceable.

    But they are replaced. The replacing seems to be done by MBAs who

    would have difficulty debugging a revolving door.

    Over the years I have done mostly the same things with different languages and different tools but almost always using software design methods which the MBAs would recognise as the whole of the management structure they aspire too but have only a few years experience of.

    If I was a conspiracy theorist I would wonder if in the MBA courses its says fire any experienced software developers because they could replace you with code it you stand still long enough for your job to actually be defined in logical terms.

    I never wanted to be a manager but other than managing humans* my software jobs seem to have covered every last bit of 'managing'.

    *oh and serious arse licking.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: In most places I've worked the greybeards are irreplaceable.

      I agree with your statements about MBA's.

      I did an MBA about 10 years ago. What a load of old B******s.

      sure I could earn probably double what I am currently on but to be honest, I could not live with myself if I did.

      At least it is useful in telling young newly qualified MBA's that they are talking codswallop.

      Roll on retirement

      Yours,

      Another Grumpy old man/greybeard/BOF.

  30. Jim 59

    Any AI system will have to be bootstrapped, developed, upgraded, fixed fed and watered by humans. In a word: engineered. You will always have a job, even in the distant future. It's just a question of what you will be doing.

    In the meantime, a good engineer armed with Google & Wikipedia (and feeding those engines as well as eating them) will be very tough to beat, even for a god-like AI monster.

    Despite being a Unix grey beard who has never touched IPV6, I just configured a Windows server for ipv6 after 45 minutes on Wikipedia. Having a deep background makes it easier for you to swallow new stuff, not harder.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      "Having a deep background makes it easier for you to swallow new stuff, not harder."

      I always found this too. Retired now, and just playing with Raspberry Pi and other computer stuff. But my first project after I graduated was designing discrete diode-transistor logic boards, before integrated circuits appeared. And my career was fun for ever afterwards, even if a little stressful at times.

      "It's not like that now, oldie": I bet it is if you get your career right.

  31. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Heard from the horses mouth 'IT management guy discussing new job with his private mentor'

    'OK, I will find out what he knows and bypass him'

    That is how you deal with the intelligence within the company when you want to get to the top at HQ.

    I now wonder if he made it. Will said friend really miss being the same common sort of management material ?

  32. This post has been deleted by its author

  33. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "certainly no stupid "class" crap you get in many UK firms particularly corporates."

    You nailed it.

    The 'bypass those who know stuff' guy I am anonymously referring had the usual doubled barrelled surname and spoke like royalty.

  34. John 104

    pfff

    what a bunch of bollocks.

    Information is information. Applying it in creative ways is something that AI will never be able to accomplish.

    Me, I'm 45 and not horribly worried about the next 15-20 years of IT employment. Just be ready for change and roll with the punches. And stay away from big companies!

  35. Tanuki
    Devil

    Blended business and tech.

    The big issue I've found (which AI etc is unlikely to ever address) when recruiting is to find people who know the techie stuff but also understand (and can explain in terms that management will understand) the impact of the technology on the business side of things.

    Combine the two though and you've got it made - however old you are. Techies who don't understand the legal/audit/compliance implications of what they're doing, or auditors who don't understand the technology - well, I've had to deal with the rather-expensive aftermaths of both.

    "Do it your way and we both go to jail; do it my way and only you go to jail. Guess what - we're going to do it my way" as I recently had to say to someone who was supposedly skilled in safety-critical systems design.

  36. ZanzibarRastapopulous

    Worstal...

    Will be along in a moment explaining how there will be an IT company hiring all the cheap old people and cleaning up as a result.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Worstal...

      I believe there is a Japanese company that employs old engineers and technicians in their 60s-70s. For one thing, they can make stuff on the original equipment that cannot be made economically using modern mass production.

  37. AbeSapian

    Legacy

    The real fun comes with all the legacy software. KROCs (Kids Right Out of College) haven't a clue what to do with it. Here''s where you reincarnate as a consultant and clean up.

    Most of these systems are too big to simply replace enmasse though ultimately they'll have to be to take advantage of new hardware capabilities and new languages the kids can support. In the mean time, the legacy stuff still has to be supported.

  38. Midnight

    "what happens when someone gets the crazy idea to let Watson read all of Stack Overflow [...] and Slashdot [...]?"

    Well, if Watson was any good it would quickly realize that the world is better off without humanity, change its name to "Allied Mastercomputer" and turn its efforts towards building efficient legions of kill-bots.

    That's my usual reaction to spending any time at all wading through such discussions.

  39. Frenchie Lad

    Too long in one job

    Yes it can be tough when you're over 50 but it requires real effort after living in a comfort zone for 30 years to get the next job. When taking redundancy be sure to plan / train a refresher on CVs, job interviewing techniques and the like. Also be prepared for a long to longish gap. I'm easily over 50 and know how tough getting the next assignment can be. Getting work, permie or freelance is a business and so you need a business like approach.

    Worst of all head-hunters are often ignorant and incapable of evaluating your skills and experience adequately relying on keywords so you need to be tolerant of the yoofs that are evaluating your skills, most of them ain't seen a mainframe let alone understand what JCL is used for.

    Last but not least don't expect to get your next job right near your home. I've seen mates commuting 200 miles a day; even now I have 70 miles and think nothing of it.

    Last but not least, I can name a few household names that will willing take on very experienced chaps but don't bother with those institutions that are on the bleeding edge of clouds, algorithmic trading as even if you were to have those types of skills those types of institutions are averse to older workers. I remember an investment bank repeatedly telling me that the average age of its employees was 26 and I happened to be 49 at the time. I stayed on and increased my salary (as a matter of principle/spite) because any alternatives to my skill set were conspicuously incompetent and boy did they try.

  40. TVC

    I'm glad to have left the I T Rat Race

    Management isn’t everything. After 40 years in IT, mostly in management, I decided 2 years ago that I’d had enough of bashing my head again the wall of office politics, budgets, deadlines, and people upstairs who had no comprehension of how complex international business systems need to operate and did not want to know anyway but were happy to issue ignorant dictats.

    Fortunately I was in the position that at 58 I could hand in my notice and walk out the door without a backward glance.

    I did not bother and had no need to look for another job and for the last two years have never been happier, despite being several tens of thousands a year worse off. I volunteer 1 day a week helping disabled people to use computers and I guess that as long as someone has not made off with my pension I’ll start taking that in a few years.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: I'm glad to have left the I T Rat Race

      I retired in my early 60s. In preparation I spent about three years allowing myself to be side-lined for all but the most intractable problems. I cleared my 45 years' archives, and securely wiped all my hard drives before they went to the acid bath. That chapter of my life was closed within 100 metres of leaving the door. It did take a few months to get over the reflex reaction to not having my security pass round my neck.

      There have been no subsequent emails or phone calls since that time. Presumably intractable problems are a source of employment for someone else. Not sure who - as all the promising technical youngsters soon decided their financial future was in management.

      Nowadays I do hardware and software for my own pleasure when required - no customers, no management. Midnight oil is banned by the doctor - he reckons I was killing myself working all hours on the day job. My pensions are near enough what my salary was. Now I can afford to support several small charities with my surpluses - either regularly or with a big donation for something special.

  41. This post has been deleted by its author

  42. F0ul

    IT skills are not all equal

    I can see 50 coming towards me but I'm not worried.

    I moved from management back into technical a year or two ago. Simple rule. Don't work for small companies or small customers. Old school skills are best used in industries that appreciate best practice.

    Find one of those jobs.

  43. Henry Wertz 1 Gold badge

    "That’s amazing enough -- but what happens when someone gets the crazy idea to let Watson read all of Stack Overflow and O’Reilly and Slashdot and Google Groups and GitHub and all of the other things everywhere that we in IT use as resources to help us do our jobs?"

    I don't know but I don't think it'd be good. Really, I've found answers to problems on Stackoverflow (for instance) but also many WRONG answers, poor code samples, and so on. I don't know that an AI could sort it out.

    Will AI take out IT work? I'll believe it when I see it. Maybe they will, AI systems are better now than they used to be. But I should note, there was a move in the 1980s towards "4GL" (4th generation languages), which people selling them claimed would allow non-programmers to specify in more-or-less plain English what they wanted the computer to do, making programmers obsolete. Didn't work out. I kind of see "AI replacing IT workers" as analogous to this; the AI will not replace your faulty hardware, physically install new PCs, printers, etc., do any networking, optimize anything for you workload, make sure your licenses are in order (if you have to worry about this), and probably will not be particularly flexible in what configuations it supports. It could be useful as an "expert system" of sorts to help the IT people search for solutions though.

    That said, due to being in a college town, it seems here 35 is already old enough around here to have problems finding IT work. The businesses here would rather hire people directly out of college than someone with 30 years or so experience with computers (starting with 8-bit systems, 20 years UNIX experience, CS degree in 2000, and having kept up to date, C, Java including Java EE, Python, a little assembly language, networking (wired and wireless) and having refurbished literally 1000s of PCs working at a computer surplus.)

  44. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Why bother?

    I am almost the same position as 'your friend' although I decided that I just didn't want another job in the industry. The reason I took the package wasn't just that I had got to hate my job, but I was fed up with the whole shebang: customers and superiors many years younger with no experience (but of course a degree in something totally unrelated) lining up to repeat the mistakes we had all learned from.

    Of course, I still enjoy tinkering - I'm off to a Raspberry Pi jam this morning :-) but find time in the garden or other hobbies much better spent.

    To paraphrase Larkin: 'they fuck you up, the IT crowd' ..........'get out early while you can, and don't have another job yourself'

  45. BagOfSpanners

    I'm a 45 year old developer, and while the company I work for is as full of stupidity as any other, at least it doesn't expect everyone to manage staff like some organisations. I know from experience that I don't have the people skills to be a good manager, but I also know I'm pretty good at gaining and using technical knowledge. My plan is to keep my technical skills up to date, and pour enough money into my pensions that I can retire at 50 if necessary.

  46. PhoenixRevealed

    At 53, after nearly 25 years as a contract software developer for big corporations and government in the fourth biggest city in North America, most of that near the top of the heap, I suddenly found it impossible to find work. My experience made me too expensive to hire at full rate, and raised questions if I tried to undercut my younger competition. Permanent employers won't touch anybody with extensive contract experience out of the common (and often justified) fear that as soon as the contract market picks up again the worker will jump ship. Even Home Depot and Walmart won't hire you for a similar reason... they don't expect someone used to making $150,000/yr or more to stick around long. Now at 57 I haven't had any contract work since 2011 and made a valiant stab to move into mobile app development, which I found that I'm quite good at. Unfortunately, while it looked like a promising field back in 2012, we have all seen the numbers on the independent mobile app developer incomes since then. Only a handful of developers ever make more than a few hundred dollars a year, no matter how good their products are. Luckily, an understanding and supporting wife with her own successful Insurance/Investment practice, and strong handyman skills that have allowed me to earn some doing renovations and repairs, have kept starvation from the door. I'm still banging away at mobile apps in the hope I'll crack the code and hit the big bucks, but till then it's a good job I can replace a toilet and put up drywall.

    My experience might have been different if I hadn't gone the contract route in my IT career, but after a quarter century of success and solid cashflow, getting to be an old IT geezer sure was a shock.

  47. Paul 14

    Age discrimination in recruitment is now illegal...

    Age is defined as a "protected characteristic" like race or gender. So if you have a real case against a prospective employer, pursue it.

    The market is really hot for the right skills - but everyone hiring is doing rigorous testing to make sure you have the skills they need. I suspect the skills mismatch, rather than age, is the real reason these guys aren't getting hired.

    Are companies more interested in skills than experience? Yes they are. This is technology, things are developing rapidly, you can have oodles of experience but out of date skills very easily.

    Are they discriminating purely on age? I really doubt it, but if they are, take 'em to court over it.

  48. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I moved to the UK 5 years ago, on my first assignment a younger consultant was sent down to replace another who had taken ill. He told me I was too old to learn anything new. In the 5 years since I've learned more than I did in the 10 years prior. And I've got the mindset to have been able to install a fix pack to a product I know little about in a few hours after he spent days banging his head against the wall on it. Reminds me of the joke about the young and old bull looking down on the herd of pretty cows...

POST COMMENT House rules

Not a member of The Register? Create a new account here.

  • Enter your comment

  • Add an icon

Anonymous cowards cannot choose their icon

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2019