If you’re a software programmer with a “few miles on the odometer,” it can be tough landing a job in this tight economy.
One anonymous programmer offered some sobering observations. "Many programmers find that their employability starts to decline at about age 35. Employers dismiss them as either lacking in up-to-date technical skills—such as the latest programming-language fad—or 'not suitable for entry level.' In other words, either under-qualified or overqualified. That doesn’t leave much. Statistics show that most software developers are out of the field by age 40. Employers have admitted this in unguarded moments. Craig Barrett, a former chief executive officer of Intel Corp., famously remarked that 'the half-life of an engineer, software or hardware, is only a few years,' while Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook has blurted out that young programmers are superior."
Massimo Sutera, 45, a microprocessor engineer who was laid off from video chip maker Zoran Corporation, noted that the job market “is not the same as it was years ago.” After Zoran was acquired by the British firm CSR, it reduced its operations in Sunnyvale and jettisoned its digital TV "systems on a chip."
Yes, web-based companies like Facebook and Google are on the prowl for new software talent, but many older tech workers have faced the cold, hard fact that their skills are no longer in demand. Analysts place part of the blame on a growing number of technology manufacturers who are being replaced by Internet-based firms.
Application software is king right now, particularly programs that serve mobile apps. The trouble with these jobs is getting older programmers up to speed in specific industries. Luke Melia, co-founder of NYC startup Yapp, notes that regulated industries like finance present "a pretty steep learning curve" for developers outside that domain. Yap, which offers software for consumers who want to create their own mobile apps, says that when hiring developers, they won’t turn away candidates without consumer mobile app experience, but will insist on passion, the right attitude, and the willingness to master new tech and business skills.
Melia observed that software developers tend to operate in two domains. "The first is the technology platform and the skills they bring to that. The second is the domain of the problem you are solving," said Melia. In a perfect world, the best job candidates will have both technology skills and industry experience. "As a developer, you can overcome the barrier to switching industries," he said. "But you cannot overcome it accidentally."
If you’re an older software engineer, your options may be limited, but not gone. There are still companies that value what you have to offer. Passion, the right attitude, and the willingness to master new skills can help you land that next job.
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