It’s a humiliating process. I’m sitting across from them and I’ve been programming longer than they’ve been alive. I’m wearing a suit. They’re in jeans. My hair is gray. Their hair is jelled and spiked. My resume is six pages. But it doesn’t matter.
The technical questions come fast and furious, and I swat them all out of the park. I’ve kept current for nearly 35 years. I’m Microsoft Certified. I’ve programmed two dozen systems in the full life-cycle mode. I can keep my checkbook in hex. I can write programs fluently in more than a dozen languages.
They are bored. I am bored. Their trivial questions make me nuts. I fake enthusiasm. They fake interest. I want to dive deep on one aspect of modern development. I want to know how they design. I want to know how they debug. I want to know how they handle problems in the middle of the night when everything is broken. I have asked questions and listened my entire life.
One of them says, “We still have more time. I feel like we haven’t asked enough questions, but that is all we have.” In come the next interviewers. Amazingly life-like clones of the last group.
I wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for the last young manager who thought that “people of age” should be relegated to “big iron” programming. Green screens for everyone over forty. Leave the new technology to the bright newcomers. Young people don't carry the baggage of past generations of computer platforms. They aren't resistant to new ideas and new “paradigms."
Heck with that. I was vested and I left. I wasn’t going to spend the last 10 years of my career retired on the job. I need challenge. I need action. I need leading edge.
They want to deny me all of that. That’s ageism. It’s blatant. It’s rampant. It’s everywhere.
I’m a year older than Bill Gates, but I am a hell of a programmer. I helped businesses go from Mom and Pop to Warren Buffet properties. When I drill down into designs, forget the atomic level, the shards of atoms fly everywhere.
Still, no matter. I am not young anymore. My face is wrinkled and my brow is furrowed and my humor is dry and my interests are old. I don’t hunt, fish, play golf, or chase women. I code. And I read. I play with robotics and microprocessors. I get a charge out of the technologies that we gray brains used to hand-code that now have become frameworks. I love computing. It’s the best thing.
I guess I could have taken those management offers. But I damned well didn’t want to manage. I wanted to lay hands on keyboards and make magic. Real magic. Connecting dots that no one in the history of the universe had ever connected before. Publishing new techniques that changed the industry and the world.
Yes, I did that. Not one question about it in an interview, however. They were too interested in checking things off their list.
It's their loss.
— Joss Miller is a programmer specializing in cross-platform computing