Being an Old Dev ManagerTech, Development Manager ·
I’ve been struggling recently with accepting where I am in my career. For the first time, I’ve been thinking about how old I am compared to my peers, and how the folks who are my age are now so much senior to me.
Since we shut down Scimatic and I went back to work for other folks, all of my managers have been younger than me. Most by 10+ years. And that, actually, has been great. I’ve really enjoyed working with and for all of my managers.
Ageism certainly exists in tech. Zuckerberg famously said, “I want to stress the importance of being young and technical. Young people are just smarter.” Well he was wrong then and will be wrong again. But my experience with it has just been less bad than some of my friends, like those in advertising.
But I look around, and the people doing the role I’m doing are 15 years my junior. The people my age are Directors or VPs. I feel that I’ve missed out. The reasons I’m 15 years behind are obvious in retrospect; I spent seven years doing a Ph.D., then seven more at zombie startup. That’s 14 years right there. It wasn’t until Scimatic and then Wave where I hit my stride.
And I think that’s the main advice I’d give to anyone 15-20 years younger than me; when evaluating what you want to do (an advanced degree, a start-up), I’d consider four things:
- Does this endeavour have value in and of itself, or is it just a stepping stone? My Ph.D. had value to me, but it didn’t advance my career significantly. It was worth doing on its own for me.
- If you take a role, make sure you set your trip wires for when you reevaluate staying or going. For example, I stayed at the first startup for far too long (I should have left after 3-4 years). For Scimatic, we tried for too long to keep it going, even foregoing salary for six months, when we should have called it. We finally called it when we lost a number of customers in the same month.
- Luck plays a huge role in terms of what works and what doesn’t. You have to be okay with elements beyond your control. This is the thing I struggle with the most.
- Finally, the experience you get in taking the risk can lead to interesting places. Never undersell yourself. Calculate that experience when going for your next job. I didn’t do this enough.
Not sure where this all leads. As with all the things written during the pandemic, I do have an undercurrent of “what’s it all for?” That’s just part of the vibe right now. Still something to think about.