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How to Successfully Retire as a Senior Software Engineer?

 
Greenhorn
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I've had a long career as a Senior Software Engineer. I've got a few years to go till retirement, and I just wanted to request advice on how to deal with new grads. A lot of kids these days have no respect, and often will correct without professional courtesy. I also have a strong reputation at this company, and I've built up a large infrastructure that I have control over. These new kids, though often with better ideas, would undo what I've done, and possibly risk the hard work that justifies my position.

Unfortunately HR still seems convinced that new grads are worthwhile, and occasionally I wind up interviewing them. So I'm having to come up with workarounds.

So far I've found the following useful:

1 Telling HR that new grads are flaky. It's easy to convince HR that every single one will leave in a year or less, especially these hipster kids that are interested in the latest startup.

2 Telling HR that new grads will take forever to add value, even if we have a smaller component that needs working on. This is still easy to convince them, given the ramp up to some of the prototypes that we do. If the new grad actually makes it to the interview stage, I just finish my questioning and tell HR that the candidate has an attitude problem. This works even if they get every question right, or if they go into detail. The latter works especially because they think they're showing value, but they actually make themselves easy to label instead as arrogant up-jumpers with a "behavioral problem"- and I can easily convince my HR of that.

3 Telling HR that new grads don't know a specific tech well enough. Even if that tech has a ramp-up of a week or less. Because again, HR will take my word for it.

So other than these, I'm wondering if there is any other tips and advice that you may have in preventing these kind of people from getting in? I would really appreciate the help. I've got quite a few grey hairs, and I just want to finish my time without any serious headaches.

Thanks!
 
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Hello Mike, welcome to the Ranch!

It sounds like you've put a lot of hard work and effort into building up that infrastructure, and it's something that you're very proud of. Rightly so.

I understand your fears with regards to bringing graduate members into your team. By definition, they are inexperienced and often don't understand "the way things are done". However, young developers are full of ambition and enthusiasm and, with the right coaching and mentoring, can be a positive addition to any team. This is the view that your HR department share.

Take into account the fact that you, as a team, will have coaching and mentoring duties with a graduate and view it as an opportunity to craft an excellent Engineer out of that person. With that in mind, you may approach interviews differently and start looking for applicants with a good attitude that you think you and your team could work with. Perhaps it would be advantageous to bring in another member of your team to help you interview them, someone who would still be there to work with them once you've retired.

When hiring graduates, it's more about attitude than experience. But no matter what; I would always stick by the 'no assholes' policy.
 
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As a grumpy old programmer myself, I can relate to some of your frustration at the sometimes astonishing ignorance (and occasional arrogance) of new recruits. But we were all young and inexperienced once, and I don't see how young grads are supposed to learn better if nobody gives them a chance to learn from their more experienced colleagues. If your main focus is on preventing your company from hiring any grads at all, then I'd have to question whose interests you are really defending: yours or your company's?

I understand that you have put a lot of effort into building a solid infrastructure for your employer, and obviously want to maintain the benefits of that infrastructure. But so what? That's your job, surely? If that infrastructure needs to be modified - or even replaced - in order to serve the needs of your company, then your job is surely to help that process, not sit there in your little castle refusing to allow any change to happen before you retire. You are not being paid to enjoy a quiet life, but to deliver value to your employer. One way you can help your employer - and protect the infrastructure you have put so much work into - is by planning for your replacement: if you're already coasting towards retirement, who is going to take over from you, if you won't allow any youngsters into the castle?

Right now it sounds to me like you are being every bit as self-centred and short-sighted as the youngsters you complain about. It's tough to stay in a technical role as you get older in our industry, so good luck to you in navigating a successful completion of your career. But don't just confirm all the worst prejudices against "older" staff in IT by being stuck in the past, refusing to adapt or accept new ideas, and treating younger colleagues with contempt. Ageism works both ways.

In the meantime, you might find The Career Programmer could give you a different perspective on how to manage this stage of your career.
 
author
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Yeah, as I get older (still more than a decade to retirement though), ageism is becoming a concern. And of course, I find such a practice to be dreadful.

Based on the language of the OP, such as using terms like "these kind of people", this actually sounds clearly like ageism -- except it is discrimination against the young. And IMHO, is also dreadful.


Hopefully, the OP is just venting, and not really asking for help in committing discrimination.

Henry
 
chris webster
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I wonder if you've thought about the impact you are having on these applicants? You say you are effectively ruling them out as having "an attitude problem" even "if they get every question right, or if they go into detail", claiming they are "flaky" and "every single one will leave in a year or less", and insisting they can't possibly learn a new technology "even if that tech has a ramp-up of a week". It sounds like it's a long time since you had to go through a competitive recruitment process, but it's not much fun at any age, especially if you are desperate for a job - whether it's at the very start of your career or because your employer went bust just as you were coasting towards retirement. The least you can do is give them a fair shot.

And what is your company's HR policy on discrimination i.e. ageism, sexism, racism etc? From what you say, you are systematically discriminating against applicants, regardless of their actual qualifications or performance. That's got to be a risky strategy for any company with a reputation to preserve, and it hardly helps the company to attract good quality candidates if they find out they are going to be discriminated against on such arbitrary grounds.
 
Henry Wong
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chris webster wrote:
And what is your company's HR policy on discrimination i.e. ageism, sexism, racism etc? From what you say, you are systematically discriminating against applicants, regardless of their actual qualifications or performance. That's got to be a risky strategy for any company with a reputation to preserve, and it hardly helps the company to attract good quality candidates if they find out they are going to be discriminated against on such arbitrary grounds.



Considering that ageism is illegal in many countries, I would think that HR would like to stay away from it as far as possible. This is why large companies, either because they are global or they deal with global partners, treat discrimination as a fireable offense. Even small companies would like to stay away from it as it attracts lawsuits.

Assuming that the OP is serious, I would turn the question around ... With the OP being so close to retirement, why would he want to do stuff that is, at best, likely against company policies, and at worst, against the law? Isn't getting fired (or having to defend yourself in a legal manner) considered a "serious headache"?

Henry
 
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Mike Steinberg wrote:Unfortunately HR still seems convinced that new grads are worthwhile, and occasionally I wind up interviewing them. So I'm having to come up with workarounds.


That's because many are. They come with a blank slate and are therefore easier to train. They are usually enthusiastic and eager to learn.

In addition to mentoring them, don't you want the infrastructure to live on after you retire?
 
Jeanne Boyarsky
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Thanks Shresh.

Mike: Cross posting is fine, but we ask you to post links to the others. That way we aren't duplicating the same answers.
 
Greenhorn
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I find it hard to believe that Mike Steinberg (OP) is an actual professional in the tech industry with many years of experience as he states. In so many years, if all he has learned is how to behave unethically and discriminate against young enthusiastic newcomers just starting out in the profession, then I am afraid he has not learned much at all. It would be better for him (and all the qualified young candidates whom he turns away) that he retire right now.

This could be the reason that he has remained a senior software engineer throughout his career. He refuses to hire people whom he could train and mentor, which would have given him opportunities to contribute more effectively in more senior roles.

Could it be some prankster, seeing that this has been OP's only post in the past year or so?
 
Jeanne Boyarsky
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Ajoy,
Moot point since the post is a year old. However, some people have a lot of experience and are still wrong. Luckily most places don't feel the way he does!
 
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