The biggest challenge for older developers is…

This is a post in response to John Somnez’ article on DZone.

The biggest issue for older developers is exactly this attitude that you have to “keep up with the trends”. Note the choice of words. We’re not saying “technical improvements”. We’re really just talking fashion. Herd mentality, if you will.

Now, one of the skills you learn as you go on is how to filter out fluff. In every other field (for rhetorical values of “every”, of course) the increasing discernment of older professionals is valued. In software development it’s too often seen as inflexibility.

The chasing of the bright shiny object has been elevated to a core value of the profession. There was a prominent article a few months back by the technical lead of a household-name internet business talking about their recent reinvention of their technology platform (sorry, reference to follow if I find it). On close reading, one thing jumped out – the part of the document on the rationale for change was packed with fluffy phrases like “old hat”, “past it”, “time for a change”, and even “we were bored with Java”. That’s right – these guys went public with the admission that they spent five-figure sums of shareholder money because they were “bored”. And the punchline? Nobody called them on it. This is seen as normal, even laudable. Possibly even “visionary”.

So what do you do when you realize that much of what people around you are talking about is fluff? When you realize you’ve seen the same hype cycle 3 or 4 times? Heaven forbid you should actually say it – that’s the quickest way to get labelled a dinosaur, and unwilling to change or learn. The best you can do, as an older developer, is to try to add value, point out the pitfalls (because you’ve seen them before), and try to gently nudge the herd away from the worst cliffs. Stay positive. Keep learning, of course, because it’s never all fluff. And avoid eyerolling and audible groans wherever possible.

That, to me, is the biggest challenge of being an older developer.