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I'm almost 39 and have been developing for 17 years. The new 20-somethings seem to know newer ways of doing things and it's taking me A LOT longer to get up to speed. I used to do .NET but I took a new job where they do mostly Java and wow, it's a lot harder!

What should I do?

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closed as not constructive by GlenH7, Glenn Nelson, Walter, gnat, JeffO Jan 18 '13 at 16:58

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Similarly to you, I am 39, been developing for about 17 years, still doing lots of .NET but have had exposure to Java on occasion. What can I say - Java is a lot harder... And has different idioms. It takes time - just take it one day at a time. –  Oded Jan 18 '13 at 16:13
There's no magical solution. Just spend some of your off-hours getting more familiarized with Java. –  Charles Salvia Jan 18 '13 at 16:15
How much longer is "A LOT"? A factor of 2, 10, 100, 1,000,000? The order of magnitude could matter here. –  JB King Jan 18 '13 at 16:28
Just curious... at your age, I'm surprised that you started on .NET and not Java, or did you start later in life (mid 20's)? I think .NET betas were first available around 2000. If you've been coding since 1996, it would have been Java or C or C++ (or maybe even something like Perl?) for the first 5 or 6 years of your career, right? –  FrustratedWithFormsDesigner Jan 18 '13 at 16:54
To tell you the truth, I find it hard to believe that this is an actual question from a person seeking an answer. For one, these is nothing specific here beyond "I'm having trouble keeping up.. because I am old!" . Keeping up doing what exactly? It's hard to believe that someone who's been programming for decades is that inarticulate and non-specific. THAT kind of statement frankly sounds like the way a (very) young person thinks about people older than, say, thirty. Sorry, I don't buy it. This is coming from a user with no specific name who has only asked one oth –  user78874 Jan 18 '13 at 17:04

3 Answers 3

I'm younger than you, but this is what I have to say:

First, stop worrying about what people younger than you (or older than you for that matter) 'seem' to know more than you do.

I can find you thousands of developers younger AND older than you who still know far less than you do.

Secondly, everything you are not totally familiar with seems harder, sometimes a lot harder than it really is. You just need to spend time with it. Persistence is key here.

You're 39 and still living, so there are high chances you'll continue to live happily ever after, just don't think too much about what other's are up to. If you are married with 3 kids, you'd probably have more things to do off-work than your average 20-something who has nothing but his own life to live.

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I am just 25, so sorry if I am missing a piece of wisdom here. But here how I keep up anyway :

I read books that don't have an expiration date.

Not book about a specific piece of technologies, those get outdated quickly, but book that are timeless. Design Pattern, Clean Code, Refactoring, Code Complete, Growing Object Oriented Software, Domain Driven Design. Most of the architecture tip can be applicable to Java and and .NET software.

Also, you can find those time in your life when you have brain capacity available. My boss is 40ish and keep up with tech with his kindle : he bring it with him we he take his kids to the park. As for myself I listen to tech podcast when I do my chore or exercises, and I read book on my tablet when riding the bus. Those new gadget aren't only there to allow kid to send stupid message on Facebook :) .

So good luck with that, and don't forget that in ten year those young programmers that know everything will be in the exact same situation as you once they have kids, a loan to pay and a wife.

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Yes, it is harder for us older guys (I'm almost 48) to pick up new stuff; our brains have hardened over time, so less stuff sticks to it.

It's also true that the development world is a lot more complex that it was 25 years ago; when I started out in the mid-80s, C was the state of the art in programming languages, almost everything ran as a monolithic native binary on physical hardware (client-server was still the new thing), and the Web wasn't even a gleam in Berners-Lee's eye yet.

Now you have the Web, you have a bunch of managed languages running in VMs, you have dozens of frameworks for building Web-based and distributed applications, and it's a lot to learn, especially for someone who's idea of "abstract" is 0-terminated arrays of char acting as a string. There's simply more stuff you have to know now than you did back in 1986. I was first seriously introduced to Web programming last year, and it was not a pleasant experience (although the complexity of the environment was only a small part of the unpleasantness).

I've managed to find a niche where I'm happy working in C++ on Linux; all that matters is that you can find something you enjoy working on, whether it's the Hot New Thing or not. Just remember, paradigms come and go, but legacy code is forever. There will always be work for us old farts.

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If it helps, I'm 26 and I too am finding it hard to keep up! I basically code in C and C++, but didn't find the time to even learn the new stuff in C++11 yet. –  Shahbaz Jan 18 '13 at 18:26

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