Issue #12: Being A Senior Developer

Not Being A Developer After 46

Three years ago I gave a talk named “Being a Developer After 40.” Maybe you have heard about it. It was – and still is – my absolute bestseller article of all time. It struck such a strong chord among software developers, that many offered to translate it to the most incredible languages (among which Russian, Czech, Vietnamese and Persian) and got a lot of attention and reprints all over the place. I gave that talk subsequently in other conferences twice. You can find it in this very magazine if you want to read it. Go ahead, I will wait.

I now wish I had never written it.

The reason I say this is because I simply stopped enjoying being a software developer. In the few years that passed since I turned forty – I am about to celebrate my 46th birthday as these words hit the web – I grew tired of this industry. I still love to code, I still enjoy learning new programming languages, I still fiddle with my Raspberry Pi devices at home. I still consult about software, to a large degree, although I am not really involved in software development projects anymore.

I stopped recommending young people to become software engineers or to study computer science. I do not think anymore that learning to code is such an important skill for “the workforce” in this 21st century of ours.

I grew tired of the lies and the misplaced optimism in the future. Technophiles all over the world are convinced that any problem can be solved by throwing technology at it. Experience shows that this is not true; and actually, all things considered, this attitude makes the world a worse place.

The whole “Agile” thing – about which Graham wrote extensively in this issue – is another point of conflict. “Agile” has become a shadow of what it could have been. The ideas behind the Manifesto have been manipulated to create a new industry of consultants and teachers and coaches and managers and books.

And the common answer to the shortcomings of “Agile” (the now common and nonsensical “You are doing Agile wrong”) is an insult in the face of the whole industry. Teams all over the planet are having their “standup meetings” without purpose or direction, just for the sake of it. Losing time in retrospectives that are merely an exercise in pointlessness and hypocrisy. Some teams here and there, sometimes, somewhere, achieve some decent levels of productivity with some Agile practice (I assume XP being the one easier to gauge of all.) Somehow. We all have to endure those typical Agile (in particular Scrum) ceremonies, celebrating them as if we were part of a secret occult group, summoning the Gods Of The Agile Manifesto™®© so that we can finish all the tasks in the backlog for this sprint.

Then there is that continuous “reinvention of the wheel”; every ten to twenty years, some programming language appears and all of the wheels must be reinvented in that new language. I grew tired of it. From C++ we went to Java then to Ruby then to JavaScript then to whatever comes next, and the same ideas come along, and functional developers come back every time, loaded with hubris and disdain, to tell us how wrong we all were, even though these days you can do functional and OO programming in any language, yes, including good old PHP.

The software industry specializes in hubris and disdain. And rejection.

I had many managers throughout the years who literally told me “I do not hire women” or “I do not hire people of color.” I have witnessed with my own eyes, how unexperienced, grotesque, “opinionated” and disgustingly inappropriate white young men got jobs that belonged to knowledgeable, experienced, sane, human, empathic people from other cultures, nations, ethnic groups, or genders. I have been fired for cuestioning those choices. I have been made feel guilty for not being part of the “team.”

I suffered three consecutive events of burnout and depression in this industry. I have had no support from my superiors, supposedly very “committed” to the wellbeing of their employees.

And the list could go on and on. Micromanagement, particularly by non-technical leaders taking technical decisions. Lack of accessibility, security, privacy, education or basic human decency because of “business drivers” that take precedence above all logic and understanding. Open space offices. Obnoxious software platform vendors. Useless documentation. Hostile online communities. Carpal tunnel syndrome. Technology becoming obsolete by default every six months. And did I mention dwingling salaries, too?

I personally am finding ways to walk away from the software development world, slowly but surely. I started by not looking for any more software development jobs. It is incredible to watch the same recruiters call me 10 times per month, the same person, repeating to them that I do not work as a developer anymore, in writing or by phone, and to see them come back once and again. Because, oh yes, I forgot to mention the beautiful recruiting industry and its lack of attention and its wonderful focus on bonuses at the end of the fiscal year.

But I still work in the industry, of course! One cannot shake 22 years of professional experience out of the window as simple as that. My resumé screams of software. But I decided to use my writing and speaking skills to become “Developer Relations” or “Evangelist” as they call them. This way I can use my knowledge, but for another purpose. And I speak openly about the issues in this industry, using the stages of conferences all over the world to state openly what nobody can (or want) to say.

And even better, I have decided to go back to school, and learn something completely different, and move on to other horizons. Maybe related to software and technology, or maybe not.

As you could read, this is not a hopeful article. I am tired of how this industry has wired itself. I do not think it is healthy, I do not think it is worth the effort anymore. I do think it is worthy to speak up and wake up people to some realities. I do hope this humble publication, reaching its first anniversary soon, will contribute to that.

Writing that article, “Being a Developer After 40,” was an effort to find some sense in an industry that had none. This is the reason why I removed the article from Medium, and hid it at the bottom of this magazine. This is the reason why I am writing a rebuttal of that article here.

The lyrics of “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road” come to mind as I write these words.

Cover photo by Gary Chan on Unsplash.

Adrian Kosmaczewski is a software consultant and evangelist. He is a published writer, trainer and speaker. He holds a Master's degree from the University of Liverpool.