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Getting the Best Out of Older Software Developers

Some IT companies hire younger software developers due to common misconceptions about older staff. Here is why they should reconsider this policy.

Age discrimination is rife in the software development industry. When it comes to hiring new staff it is commonly thought that younger equals better in an industry that instinctively embraces the new and discards the old. When it comes to software developers however, younger does not necessarily mean better. The following are a few reasons why it can pay to have more experienced developers in your team:

software development

Cheaper does not necessarily mean better

While it is true that younger software developers are cheaper than older ones, the same is also true in any industry. In addition and as with everything else in life you get what you pay for. If all you have in your development team are young developers, this will almost certainly cost you in the long run. Cheaper developers abound Freelancer and Upwork, but nothing beats programmers armed with solid experience.

The older developer will have encountered and learned the lessons of failure that younger developers have yet to experience. No developer goes through their career without making mistakes and although you would be paying a young developer less money, they are more likely to make the mistakes that lead to missed deadlines and incomplete projects. This will cost you more money in the long run than the amount you have saved on wages. For this reason it is much better for companies to employ a mix of experienced and less experienced software developers.

More experienced developers can adapt quicker to new technologies

It is a common misconception that older developers are less able to adapt to new technologies. However, in all likelihood the more experienced developer will have experienced migration to a new technology before. As a result of this could be argued that older developers are in fact better equipped to deal with new technologies more quickly and in greater depth.

The first time you learn a GUI framework, you learn about the concepts involved as well as the syntax. Once you have migrated to a new GUI framework a couple of times, you notice that the concepts are very similar and it is just a matter of learning new syntax. Some can even make do with better equipment like soft touch silicone rubber keypads that make them more productive programming-wise. The older developer will also have insights into the new framework that would be lost on a less experienced developer.

Older developers may have better time management skills

It would be truer to say that experienced software developers are less willing rather than less able to work long painful hours. This is mostly because their years of experience have taught them about the dangers of burnout and about the importance of time management. Older developers may have more commitments than their younger counterparts but this means that they tend to be more motivated to get things done within the allotted time.

They may not be able to put the same amount of hours in due to their external commitments but the hours older developers do put in tend to be much more highly focused and productive. Developers with families learn through necessity to become ruthless time managers or they would get buried under a deluge of work.

Older heads bring better judgment to a team

It has been proven by scientific studies that aging does indeed affect the brain. However, what older more experienced developers lack in mental agility is more than made up for by their high level of judgment. Is thinking quicker always better?

Many would argue that it is more important to use better judgment than to do things quickly. A bad decision made in haste will cost a company money. For this reason it is better to have a blend of youth and experience in a development team with youthful enthusiasm and creativity being tempered by older, wiser heads.

The argument is not that young is necessarily bad, or that old is necessarily good, the argument is that if you are looking to hire software for your software development company that it is important not to discriminate on the basis of age. A good blend of youth and experience is the key to a successful development team, so it is important for IT recruiters to bear this in mind if they do not want to miss out on top quality staff due to misconceptions about older software developers.

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