Do People Lose Interest in Programming as They Age?

By Michelle Johnson
28 Oct, 2015
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People tend to lose interest in programming as they age. There are several factors cited as reasons for this loss of interest.

Losing Curiosity: The first major reason found is that they lose the natural curiosity with age. Youngsters are usually seen agile and enthusiastic compared to older people. As one progresses with age, many added baggage in the form of family tensions, health issues, financial insecurity etc start to bother them. Most of them have shattered professional aspirations. While people in young age can still manage to maintain the curiosity of the child inside them, very few people in old age manage to pull off this.

Another observation is that, as people move ahead with time and age, programming is done for a purpose, rather than for the pleasure of programming. People may enjoy hacking Aurduinos in their spare time. But doing work, they tend to become serious and feel that writing code is a liability. They prioritize the work and try to do work only that is very necessary; Yes, coding too. They write minimum possible code to make maximum impact. If writing code was done out of pleasure, people would have written it in pages.

Lack of Time: Time is yet another important factor that makes people feel programming or writing code as a burden. One of my friends I knew during my college days, used to have a passion for programming during our days of studies. She would meticulously follow the class room exercises, and while working on projects, she would search bundles and bundles of reference books for the correct syntax or a piece of code, just to make her work perfect. She used to get a lot of appreciation from our faculties. Everybody believed that she would climb the corporate ladder so fast and some day we would see her as the CEO of some renowned IT Company.

After studies, we all moved apart and slowly lost touch with each other. But, the last day, I received one of the greatest surprises of my life. The same lady, whom we all thought would become an IT career woman, was seen in my kid’s school as a kindergarten teacher. “What is this?” I asked with utter disbelief and shock. “Nothing” She said; “It is just that I badly wanted time for my family. After serving a multi-national company as a Senior Systems Developer for almost thirteen years, finally I had to call it quits. I had to choose between my career and my family” she continued. “I could no longer give enough time to my growing kids and lovable husband due to my tight schedule of work. I never attended my kids’ school days or Parent Teacher meetings. Many often my husband was left alone during our anniversaries. I never got time to enjoy weekends with my family or a simple dinner with them during week days. Now my kids are in their adolescent years and atleast now if I don’t give them time, I wouldn’t be left with anything in my old age other than money. This job gives me more time and satisfaction of attending to my loved ones.” She stopped with pride.

Change in Priorities: The example also shows that people as they age, even if are able to maintain curiosity, the interests and priorities change. They start to realize that this world has much bigger things to offer than software engineering and there is lot more in life than writing lifeless codes to create something virtual. Efforts can be put in and money can be earned from other fields too. After a certain point of time, learning to Crochet or learning pottery, hanging out with friends and family, or just writing a short story will yield much more satisfaction and will give you a lot of de-stressing moments than writing a Lisp interpreter for the twenty fifth time.

There are several other reasons why many competent and passionate programmers quit programming jobs and move to other jobs like those in management or education. These reasons may or may not have anything to do with age.

Opportunity:When a programmer is given an opportunity to become an entrepreneur, he will be more than interested to take it up, if he has a natural flair for doing business. He can earn more staying in the same field. He can start a development firm and engage some entry level developers or somebody with mediocre experience and take up projects with clients. After paying his employees he will still be left with some margin as his profit. The risk involved will be comparatively less than in other business ventures as this is an area he is well aware of.

Acceptance to young brains only: Firms may want young fresh developers and may not welcome older programmers. This is because the scenario in information technology is ever changing. What was considered as a rage in early 2000s is now treated as something outdated. This is what a house wife said recently, “I can remember that when I stepped into the world of software development, mastering C programming was considered to be elite. Slowly World Wide Web was introduced and languages like Java, C#, .NET, HTML, XML, web and graphic designing etc started to gain popularity. But after child birth, I settled myself as a house wife and was unaware of the time to time developments that was going on in the scene of Information Technology and programming. Recently, while speaking with some young developers I realized how much things have moved forward; how the old languages have given way for many new ones and how plenty of programming techniques for mobile programming etc have taken over.

So when older programmers are interviewed, the employers are always in doubt whether they will be able to match the new industry standards and deliver with the same zest and innovative approach of anew young developer who is just out of college and has mastered all latest techniques.

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