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The 10 Tech Commandments for Employment After Age 40

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I'll be 40 in two months, which made me think about the ungrateful high-tech market that employs more than 15M software developers worldwide. At this age, software developers face the tremendous stress of being too young to retire, yet too old to continue in their profession.

These techies will find themselves and their families in a place that they need to get used to the fact that although they have much more to contribute, their position is under the threat of age. Now I know that you are thinking to yourself after reading the first few lines of this blog, "Well, there are anti-age discrimination laws." or "In the worse case scenario, I'll be back in a developer position." Nevertheless, believe me, time flies and before you can say "interoperability", you will find yourself trying to convince your HR department that you can take that open position published in your company's job portal.

If you're still reading this blog, it means that you either knew the guy in the next cubicle that didn’t show up after the age of 40 or that you are looking for a way to remain employable beyond this age.

For the past 10 years, I've worked in various management positions, all in the high-tech industry. I've held positions from senior HR to CEO in small-to-medium sized companies, and from start-ups to a huge IT services provider. Drawing on my experience, I've gathered the "10 commandments" of staying young and innovative while becoming older and wiser.

The 10 commandments of building a techie career – recommended reading before the age of 40

  1. Don’t marry the first one: Ill start with the toughest – by the age of 40 you should be ready for "marriage". You should come to this relationship after you have had one or two mates. In doing so, you not only gain experience, but you will be able to choose the right "mate" for you. Don’t misunderstand me; this first commandment does not suggest that you should move between companies yearly, but I strongly recommended that you search for a new place every 4 to 7 years. You might be lucky and even get promoted or learn new material.

  2. The Core: Be connected to your organizational core; don’t be in a position which merely supports other "important" projects or systems. Be there to create your company's revenue, be there to support the customer; think billable!

  3. Open your mind: Switch to another technology, at least once in 10 years. It doesn’t matter what you think about the software language you use, it’s a fact that software changes. Anyway, if you were good, you can always switch back. On the other hand, if you only know one language, you might find yourself trying to speak French, just because it was there before.

  4. Manager or Guru: Every software developer reaches a point at which he either chooses to be an architect or a technical guru within his zone, or leaves software behind and becomes a manager. If you have been a developer for more than five years and didn’t get to this point yet, get your resume ready for the age of 40!

  5. Tools and technologies: You must know more tools than what you use! I mean that it doesn’t matter that you are using FireFox, Windows, Linux, or whatever internal framework your company implemented; know them all, know the alternative; so it will generate activity around you in times of change and much more than that – you might lead a change!

  6. Open Source: At least once in your career be committed, or even better, create an open source project; you will be surprised at the amount of help you can receive from fellow developers, new ideas, and the quality of code you can create. In addition, it will help you to respect the following commandment…

  7. Networking: It's not about you, but the people you connect with, and NO, I don’t mean just your friends but their friends as well. Get into LinkedIn, Facebook, Naymz, or others to build your professional network – market yourself every day, and get more connected.

  8. Change management: Always be familiar with new technologies out-there, I remember when C++ or Cobol developers were laughing about Java saying "There is no need to know this Internet-oriented language" and they didn’t update their knowledge when it replaced the software at their bank or insurance company. You might ask yourself while reading this section if you know what Scala, Fantom, Objective C or Ruby are?!

  9. Social engagement: Keep going to the company's social events even though you sometimes feel too old for that.

  10. Stop saying "Cobol will be here forever"!!!  

Well, I'm 40 in just a couple of months; I'll probably write from an entirely different aspect in another 10 years. ;) Good luck!
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