I'm a regular attendee of the Riviera Software Craftsmanship Meetup. It's so good to listen to fresh ideas. And of course, to have a good craft beer ;)
I always get some inspiration as a takeaway.
There was a new member at the last event, a 41-year old developer.
The way we operate is that everyone writes down the topic title on a notecard, then each presents her own in a couple of sentences. After finishing the introduction of the topics, we do what people love to do so much in their life. We do fingerpointing! We'd discuss for 20 minutes the topic whose creator has the most fingers pointed at.
This guy proposed a topic called I'm 40 and I'm still a developer.
All fingers were pointing at him.
Marc (which is not his real name) has been a developer for 15 years. He loves coding, he has always loved. Marc always tried to learn and make himself better. More than that he has been trying to help the people around himself evolving.
Yet he found himself alone. People are not buying Marc's ideas and try to put him on the sideline.
He is turning 41 years old and still a developer while most of his former classmates started to walk the manager's path up on the ladder.
Marc asked in a rather desperate voice: What is he supposed to do?
My colleague who is a co-organizer of this group gave him a prompt answer. Do what he does. Celebrate his birthday, be happy for himself and keep coding.
Although I'm barely 34, in my opinion, coding beyond 40 - or any other age, by the way, is perfectly fine.
But this guy brought up an important topic.
If you ask a fresh grad where he sees himself in like 5 years, most likely he will say that he'd like to become a line manager, a project manager, a product owner, etc. There are more and more options if you want to escape coding.
If you look for the average age of developers you'll encounter different data. Some say around 30, some other around 40. Let's take something closer to the higher end, let's say 37. If you are forty, you are above the average, even though if you are driving on the slow lane most probably you still have to work for at least 20 years if not more.
But it's not just the average age that is relatively low, the average professional experience as well - which is not the same as coding experience. While this might makes sense, an average age of thirtysomething could easily mean an average experience of 10 years. But it's not the case, most probably because there is a lot of gold diggers fresh coders entering the market with the hope of easy and a lot of money.
What does this mean?
We need more coders. Experienced ones are relatively rare. If you are a good and experienced one (remember 19*1 year != 19 years), you have a lot of options to choose among. Consider the Cobol Cowboys. Still, a lot of financial applications are coded in Cobol written half a century ago and there are not a lot of people capable of maintaining them, or adding features to such systems! The few who can, they can earn ridiculous amounts of money (in terms of slowlane terms, of course).
If you like coding, you don't need an escape. You need to stay sharp and hone your skills.
You even have the options to become a fastlaner. There are plenty of options to create a business based on software that you can write.
In fact, moving to management or project management definitely narrows down your possibilities, I think. Both in terms of professional and financial possibilities. Unless you're playing the who becomes a big CEO lottery. That game offers great financial possibilities, but they don't come with a huge probability. That's why I call it a lottery.
If you like coding, you enjoy creating software, don't change a career path. You might want to check a management position once in a while, but keep your focus on coding. It's not just fine, it's awesome! Don't worry if you're in your forties, fifties or even in your seventies!
Keep learning and happy coding!