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Is web development for grown ups?

     
10:54 am on Aug 10, 2015 (gmt 0)

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Lately I've been thinking about my future in the business of web development. I'm now 32 years old.
Maybe it's just me, but I find it hard to imagine a serious 50 year old dude writing javascript for a living. I can imagine middle-aged doctors, hardware engineers, lawyers, accountants. For some reason, I can't imagine the same for web developers. In most companies I couldn't find a web programmer over the age of 35. So what do you think - is web development for grown ups or not?
11:11 am on Aug 10, 2015 (gmt 0)

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I find it hard to imagine a serious 50 year old dude writing javascript for a living


I'm 55 and that's what I do, along with Perl, PHP, Python, C, C++, Assembler, Basic, so on and so forth

I fail to see why it's any different than any other job.

You can even move up into management and maintain your technical skills at the same time, lots of people do it, me being one of them back in the day ;)
However, it sounds like it's not your life's passion so maybe you should find something you can see yourself doing the rest of your life.

Me, on the other hand, I was born to write software. It's all I ever wanted to do. Unless something really unexpected happens, it's what I plan to do until they pry a keyboard out of my cold dead blue hands. Computers are my passion and I love to tinker so even when I'm off the clock for work you can still find me at the keyboard. Computers are my job, my hobby, my recreation, my joe de vie.

YMMV
12:02 pm on Aug 10, 2015 (gmt 0)

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I think people may well stop calling themselves "web developers". Some people will move into management, others will get fancier job titles reflecting seniority, etc.

Then freelancers, who choose our own job titles, realise the web developer makes you sound like someone who knows how to install Wordpress and tweak a theme and that is about it. I tell people I am a "software developer" and I think a lot of back-end developer probably do the same (and in fact I do not only develop web sites). It is a bit harder for front end developers, when apart from "front end developers", there are things like "UX/UI" etc.

@incrediBill, what do you describe yourself as when someone says "what do you do?"
4:53 pm on Aug 10, 2015 (gmt 0)

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I'm 43 years old. The beauty of the internet is you can spend a load of time doing something when you have nothing else on, then you can get free money for it for years afterwards. Sometimes the free money pays way more than the cost of the work, and sometimes (so long as you do quality stuff) you just added a resource that will benefit people. It is difficult to tell in advance which it will be. I gave up proper employment at 32 years old but still work in my old field 50% of the time as the internet (the way I do it) doesn't pay enough, and it is high risk anyway.
5:10 pm on Aug 10, 2015 (gmt 0)

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As a pure coder, older workers will be hard pressed competing against coders right out of college. Unless they're willing to work at the same rate as a current grad. As others have said, coders need to expand their skill sets and/or move into management or go off on their own (but as a freelancer/consultant, you're competing against young kids and offshort workers who can often under price you).

I've been "holding at 29 years" for a couple of decades and I still code. I've transitioned more into the backend of things (and do more work on the database side) and rely more on CMS frontends. But I still code. I wouldn't call myself cutting edge and haven't kept up to date on a lot of the stuff today's younguns focus on. In fact, a lot of the languages/platforms I use are several versions old.
5:53 pm on Aug 10, 2015 (gmt 0)

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Just hit 50 here, used to do web dev, grew along my own path into owning a small marketing company - our motto... Dare To Be Very Different. So for us, we say, to each his own. Just do what's good for your soul, inner smile, whatever you call the fun button you own deep down. The ride is the thing, not the destination. Nobody gets out alive! Be the best coder or alligator wrestler you can be, but most of all, enjoy it along the way! And never let others decide for you, what you like doing. Get your own personal zest on!
9:08 pm on Aug 10, 2015 (gmt 0)

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I find it hard to imagine a serious 50 year old dude writing javascript for a living

Oh, good grief. Do you also have trouble imagining 50-year-old dudes having sex, playing games or watching movies?
1:39 am on Aug 11, 2015 (gmt 0)

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@incrediBill, what do you describe yourself as when someone says "what do you do?"


If it's someone looking for a web site, then I'm a "web developer extraordinaire" or an "ecommerce specialist" when I did that for 10 years :)

However, for me it can be an interesting question since I've always been an engineer, even when I was doing management which was most of my career. I've done a few startups and owned a company or two, so it often depends on who's doing the asking. Depending on the context of the conversation.

you're competing against young kids and offshore workers who can often under price you).


Au contraire, young kids are competing against me. While they can "under price" they can't deliver as quickly or as cost effectively due to their inexperience so you end up paying more for less with the kids. Not to mention they usually don't have the skills to build a product and ship it from scratch or launch massively scalable sites. Even better, they usually don't know how to harden software so it's not easily hackable.

IMO the only time you're in competition with the green college kids is when a company just needs a pile of warm bodies just to get the job done, but that's usually after they've hired a core team.

When someone needs a developer that can work without much management, that can just go off and get the job done, it's usually not the kid until they have a few years of experience under their belt.

FWIW, I've never felt I was competing with college kids but foreign developers willing to work for absolutely nothing is a serious problem. Even worse, when these cheap developers burn some company then they get skittish to pay PLUS assume everyone will work for those cheap rates yet they often get ripped off. Hard to sell yourself at $50/hr or $150/hr when someone on Freelance.com says $5/hr.and they think they can get 10x the number of people for your rate. Go ahead, you try to manage that mess, see what you get besides an empty wallet and a migraine.

Historically, I've had a couple of clients that took my initial quote and then got someone "cheaper" as my hourly rate wasn't cheap but I always gave them a fixed price, fixed schedule. No overruns unless they made changes to the scope. That's how I always did consulting work. You all know those kinds of things make the difference between a site on time and under budget as I'm now motivated to get it done quickly vs. someone working hourly who's only goal is to keep getting paid hourly.

Well a couple of clients got fixated on my "rate" instead of the total cost of the job. Then they came crying back to me as they'd spent as much of more for someone billing hourly, not per project, and had nothing concrete and no end in site. The topper, which blew me away, was they then wanted a discount because they'd spent all that money and I shouldn't have to do as much work based on what was already (not) done.

My response was always the same, I have to start from scratch because it will cost you even more if I have to figure out what they did, debug and fix it, and most often discard it and rewrite it anyway so they would just be paying for me to waste time until I chucked the code.

Regarding the fact they'd already wasted all that money on a green cheap developer, that's not my problem, it's theirs.

That's what often happens when people go for the cheap.

YMMV
6:32 am on Aug 11, 2015 (gmt 0)

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My recent experience is very much like incrediBill's except that I have stuck to reasonable hourly rates (despite being in a low cost country).

There are enough clients around who have learned (the hard way) that they need to pay for quality. I also find clients happily pay a premium for communications skills and for someone who can understand their business, both of which come with experience.

Also, do not overestimate the supply of cheap off-shore developers: good developers here either:

1) prefer the security and status of a permanent job (or have family or social pressures to have a permanent job with a well known employer),
2) have emigrated and are no longer cheap off-shore developers,
3) have realised that they are in a global market and have raised there rates accordingly,
4) have other weaknesses, such as an inability to communicate clearly (either unable to express themselves, or simply do not know the right language), a lack on initiative, an unwillingness to take responsibility - which keeps them out of the other three categories.
6:35 am on Aug 11, 2015 (gmt 0)

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Hard to sell yourself at $50/hr or $150/hr when someone on Freelance.com says $5/hr.and they think they can get 10x the number of people for your rate.


Some people need to read The Mythical Man-Month!
2:05 pm on Aug 11, 2015 (gmt 0)

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Oh, good grief. Do you also have trouble imagining 50-year-old dudes having sex, playing games or watching movies?


I can perfectly imagine 50-year-old dudes having sex (though I usually don't do that...), playing games and watching movies. I even think they can be excellent programmers. But when I look around, I hardly ever see web programmers over the age of 35, and it makes me wonder why. Maybe the employers are saying to themselves: "Hey, maybe I'll hire some kid with 2-3 years of experience, possibly without higher education, and the result will be the same as hiring someone with a master's degree and 20 years of experience". I'm not sure that employers take the same approach in other fields of engineering such as algorithms, DSP, optical design etc., or say in medicine or law.
2:10 pm on Aug 11, 2015 (gmt 0)

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Web programmers are not just those who are salaried..I know plenty who are not subject to what "employers are saying to themselves"..The world where one is not working as a salaried employee is intensely liberating :)

( Not a "web programmer" but someone who has only very rarely worked "salaried", the last time, briefly, over 3 decades ago, never again:)
3:07 pm on Aug 11, 2015 (gmt 0)

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ALL of you are in for some serious "back issues" (L5S1) once you become a grown-up - especially if you continue down this path - TRUST ME!

And I only do HTML/CSS. Oh, and lots of cutting and pasting of scripting.
3:23 pm on Aug 11, 2015 (gmt 0)

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I hardly ever see web programmers over the age of 35


Might be that all of us 50yo web developers are doing our own thing and not out for hire.
3:31 pm on Aug 11, 2015 (gmt 0)

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So what do you think - is web development for grown ups or not?


As I inch up on 60 y/o these questions still flit around my slowly calcifying brain:

1) When WILL I grow up?

2) Is it play time?

Here's a question for you: Should web development for grown ups be assigned to the minds and bodies of those who aren't . . grown ups?

Given the economic clout of grown ups I can see a solid argument for the existence and/or emergence "grown up agencies": digital marketing and development agencies populated by those steeped in the experience of grownupness. Skilled, not by imagination or or reading, in the grown up gestalt and weltanschauung.

I'm not arguing for reverse age discrimination nor claiming to be grown up, however, in my work of late I AM exploiting my innate grown up advantages in my webwork.
3:49 pm on Aug 11, 2015 (gmt 0)

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Common to the whole IT industry, the problem with being an older person in full time employment is that your existing skills are essential for keeping the legacy stuff up and running. When cut over time comes you don't have the demonstrable track record, regardless of how much you have done to train yourself, so you end up top of the list to be laid off.

An older worker gives a lot of added value as they have transferable skills and experience. When I finally retired my successor, about 20 years my junior, so no youngster himself, was horrified at all the non core stuff that made the job work that, with that much less learning time, he didn't know.

The trick is to sex up your CV and to jump before you are pushed.
4:01 pm on Aug 11, 2015 (gmt 0)

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Au contraire, young kids are competing against me. While they can "under price" they can't deliver as quickly or as cost effectively due to their inexperience so you end up paying more for less with the kids. Not to mention they usually don't have the skills to build a product and ship it from scratch or launch massively scalable sites. Even better, they usually don't know how to harden software so it's not easily hackable.

Valid points. But that value is (or is not) perceived by the company. Many companies/hiring managers don't always value things that way- they just know they can get a recent grad at half the price as someone with a lot more experience. And it's not just the basic salary- older workers generally have dependents (and associated obligations for time off- sick kids, parent/teacher conferences, soccer practice chauffeuring) and higher healthcare costs. Feed the recent grads some Red Bull and they'll pull all-nighters for a week. It's harder to get 50+ people to do that. :)
4:20 pm on Aug 11, 2015 (gmt 0)

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I don't think it matters what age you are. What's important is that you can do the job. If you enjoy coding at 60, then do it.
The other thing to consider is that with age comes experience and more knowledge, meaning, in simple terms, you've learnt from mistakes and won't make them again. You become wise, and informed, which can mean greater efficiency, and as others have said, can open up new opportunities in business, and for self-satisfaction.

If people won't employ you as a coder because you're out of diapers/nappies, then more fool them. Many countries have laws against such restrictive employment.

If banging your head against the wall hurts, stop doing it! Enjoy your coding, whatever age, or stop doing it.
4:51 pm on Aug 11, 2015 (gmt 0)

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. Feed the recent grads some Red Bull and they'll pull all-nighters for a week. It's harder to get 50+ people to do that.


You're right, having recently pulled an all-nighter, at 50+ we don't do Red Bull :)
5:48 pm on Aug 11, 2015 (gmt 0)

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All-nighters is what we ( some of us ) used to do when it was "northern soul"..and then we did "speed" ( and others from the family of amphetamines )..non of this namby pamby redbull nonsense..
7:51 am on Aug 15, 2015 (gmt 0)

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Mister L: I find it hard to imagine a serious 50 year old dude writing javascript for a living.

Oh yes, web dev is for grown ups, grown ups = major leagues.

A lesson I learned here on WebmasterWorld is many old school are kicking it but make little to zero noise about it unlike today culture of posting everything they done to appear bigger. Many members here created their own powerful frameworks and libraries based on years of work, no, many won't post it for free or sell it so it's unknown for the rest of the world, but surely growing old doesn't always mean doing better, wiser, etc, some people grow up wisely and with style, some don't.

This might sound surprisingly logical to you or not (or weird) depending on your background, but many were considered obsolete when some languages appeared, the "new generation" programming languages, then web, portable and mobile apps appeared and didn't based their stuff on the "new" thing, but rather they used old stuff or old stuff like, then people considered obsolete find it really easy to catch up, and catch up nicely.

One can end up writing powerful stuff on javascript, perl or php if that's what one wants (and specially if one finds a niche and market), but also years do not only teach you to be better on X language, you also learn good practices on programming and that's very useful for business in my opinion.
2:01 pm on Aug 15, 2015 (gmt 0)

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Actually most of the people I deal with (consult for) don't want puredee coders anymore; they want developers who have at least some slight notion of technical SEO, site architecture, usability, conversion science, and other marketing skills. Nothing advanced - but at least enough not to develop something that sends users running for the hills and can't be negotiated by search engines. Can't get that for $5/hr an hour, and most of you younguns haven't been around long enough to know how all that works. That's where people in MY demographic shine.
6:55 pm on Aug 15, 2015 (gmt 0)

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It's hard sometimes to not become cynical.
In my world it's hard to shake the word rookie every time I hear those other two words "rockstar" and "guru" --

It's even harder for me to hire a job out to someone who claims to have never spectacularly crashed a server, or totally borked a website solution somewhere along the way in their experience.

I understand the aggressiveness and the need to be accepted from some of those who would be younger. But sometimes one has to slow down in order to speed up. A concept that isn't readily grasped by those who would hope to become some of the greatest on the planet in the internet web development world.

Diversification is another excellent point brought to the table. It's always going to be more than just language, or coding, or flipping some obscure switch in the back room somewhere. And though a particular platform might be discontinued and/or phased out for another one newer, one can never dismiss the experience of those who spent the time nursing those older platform builds along, because having the patience and the tenacity is a big player in the world of the web - It's something that pays some of the highest dividends for those who are older and much more well rounded in their overall experiences.

As far as sex is concerned? .... It's just like the administration, maintenance, and deployment of anything internet/web related --- We're so much better at it than the "rockstar" or the "guru" ... We don't really need to brag about that though, because we already know - Our work both past and present is pretty solid and does all of our bragging for us ;)
6:20 pm on Aug 16, 2015 (gmt 0)

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In most companies I couldn't find a web programmer over the age of 35.

Maybe the Web programmers over 35 have moved up or started their own companies?
10:14 pm on Aug 16, 2015 (gmt 0)

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Lately I've been thinking about my future in the business of web development. I'm now 32 years old.


64 and still coding. Not much has changed in the last 20 years.
11:55 pm on Aug 16, 2015 (gmt 0)

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I've thought about this on and off for years. I used to wonder if I'd eventually lose the required mindset to create intricate applications... Or maybe lose interest. So far not so much.

But when I look around, I hardly ever see web programmers over the age of 35, and it makes me wonder why.

Two reasons... First, the internet isn't that old. Someone who started in web development as a teenager around the beginning of the commercial internet probably isn't even 40 yet.

Second, a creative developer doesn't need to do grunt work at some corporate job. Especially those who've been doing it long enough to really understand the landscape. When you look around the office you're seeing the people who aren't motivated enough to find a way to work for themselves. Or maybe they just don't want to, no offense meant to anyone. The point is that coders doing grunt work aren't necessarily a good cross section of software developers in a world where being a software engineer means that, provided you're reasonably creative, you can create an income stream from thin air with a few days of devoted coding.
1:07 am on Aug 17, 2015 (gmt 0)

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Gosh
Everything IncrediBill says in this thread sounds exactly like what I would have said.

I don't know, I'm mid-50 and pull all-nighters (off to bed ~6:30am) nearly every night... of course I sleep until well after noon as well... something about screwed up sleep patterns they tell me. I just find it's quieter and less distracting to work those hours.

Also started coding (Fortran, BASIC, C, Assembly, Novell Clib) in the 70-80's and html in the 90's, after graduating with a BS in CS. I left a Programming Project Manager position in the early 90's to start my own programming company, and never worked for anyone else again since. Don't even OWN a suit that isn't 20 years out of date and haven't worn one in 20 years. The hardest part is convincing the disposable newbie (i.e. under 25) new graduate, department managers the businesses are hiring because they're so cheap, that they in fact "do NOT know it all." Then when they get let go in 6 months because the company realized they don't know anything, you have to start all over again with a new one. You call back a year later and they've gone through 2 subsequent people in the meantime.
I think a LOT has changed in the industry. Btrieve has been all but replaced by SQL and Ruby on Rails wasn't even thought of yet. Elegant C is nearly completely replaced by that atrocious C+/+. HTML 1.0 on a line editor (Norton Editor is still my fav) finally got past Dreamweaver and Frontpage and has now passed version 4.0and XHTML and is now almost all Wordpress WYSISWYG generated and thus overly bloated and slow (although this appears to be considered by the young-uns at G as preferable to HTML 1.0/2.0 for SERPS. I can't believe (and was rather offended that) I got a warning from some testing app that said my pages were "suspiciously under-code-filled" or something like that). I can still make just about any single page both desktop AND Mobile compatible using just HTML3.0 and a few self-shifting tables and perhaps other supposedly obsolete features (gosh I sure miss the 'blink' element, lol.)
Unfortunately, looking through the job listings now and then, it appears that all the hiring managers have never heard of any buzz words but the very latest fads, so if you were to apply for a mainstream salaried job with only what we learned and used 20 years ago, I doubt they would even look at a resume let alone think it was even for the same industry. Titles have become so much more specialized and they have some interesting obfuscated terms for generic things we used call other things. Personally I think it's simply so that no one really can figure out what they do (or don't do). [ok, end of entitled-generation rant]
2:01 am on Aug 17, 2015 (gmt 0)

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The only constant thing in life is change. Don't expect what you are doing today, you will be still doing in ten years.
6:07 am on Aug 17, 2015 (gmt 0)

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Feed the recent grads some Red Bull and they'll pull all-nighters for a week. It's harder to get 50+ people to do that.

You're right, having recently pulled an all-nighter, at 50+ we don't do Red Bull happy!


Exactly! Never needed a Red Bull (it could be Coke-like or coffee-like... No comprehension) and while I don't do 72 hour shifts anymore... If a kid wants to suck up some BULL I'm happy that works for them.
7:34 am on Aug 17, 2015 (gmt 0)

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Actually the most hardcore coders I know are all over 50. I am talking people who wrote the first codec packs for LINUX and the likes. Most of the lead engineers in big software companies are all in their late 40-s. Hell the company next to our office codes proprietary software for wind turbines and they are all over 40. So yes, Coding has no age. Just like with chess and other games of the mind, the older you are the better you perform in general.
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