I am prone to ranting at people in their twenties, or younger about how they need to panic big time about job prospects. As I have a nice job, that pays ok, and I love, people never take me seriously. Here is why you should:

1) I’m naturally a workaholic, and highly motivated. I already have that as an advantage, and it’s a big one. If you can’t make yourself leap out of bed at 8AM on a Sunday to go do some work, you are at a disadvantage. I just got lucky here.

2) I’m just over 40, meaning I was 11-12ish when the first home computers hit the UK. As a result, I am a first generation programming geek. A few years older, and I’d be old enough to not have found them cool, a few years younger, and I’d have missed it. The ZX81 and its ilk forced me to learn programming from the ground up, with no help. This is another advantage.

3) I started an online business before steam, stardock, gamersgate etc. As a result, I sold direct because I didn’t have any other option. Thus I now have a very long-established site, business contacts, history, experience of selling online. If I’d started a few years later, I would have been tempted to just rely on portals, and I’d not be truly independent.

4) I got a free university education. Sorry to the kids now who are paying for theirs, I can’t help being the right age. Exactly the right age. A bit older, and there wouldn’t have been the push to go to uni, later and I may have skipped it due to cost. This is not going to change, except for the worse.

5) I started my business before china and india really went bananas with economic growth. I never had to worry about someone from china or india taking my job. Right now, I’d be VERY worried about that. Unlike people in the rich west, Indian and Chinese kids have parents who were in real poverty, and grandparents in extreme poverty. You bet your ass they will get pestered to get better grades than you.

6) I started work before robots got good. Robots now are very good. There is going to be NO work in warehouses or doing assembly line stuff soon. All those factory workers will HAVE to reskill to do something, and that may include doing what you do. I’ve got lucky yet again! I’m the right age for robots to help me in retirement, but not young enough that they take my job. Unless your job is creative, or involves direct people skills, are you really sure it will exist when you retire. If you are 20 now, will your job exist in 2061? because don’t pretend you can retire at 65 if you are 20 now. Don’t forget to factor in all those ex-warehouse guys working as robot technicians to make them even better each year… Say goodbye to warehouse, security patrol  domestic and many military jobs.

7) Complexity. Things were simpler for my working life. I commanded serious money because I had an MCSE qualification as a network / IT engineer. That isn’t so rare now, and the tech is more complex. You need to know more stuff now, much much more.

8) The interweb. People everywhere on the planet can take your job now. Telepresecence, video conferencing, skype etc… I employ people all over the world. You don’t compete with other locals, but 7 billion people.

9) Property boom. I thought UK house prices were insane when we bought, but that was 10 years ago, and they have tripled since then. How young people can afford a house now is beyond me.

TL,DR: Study hard, and work your ass off. You need to. More than I needed to. Sorry!

16 Responses to “I’m lucky, and mostly because of the year I’m born.”

  1. Mike says:

    You’re overestimating the value of hard work… Today a kid isn’t competing against a kid in India or China for a job, they are competing against 10 or 20 kids in India or China. Even if you are 2 or 3 times harder working and better at your job, labor prices are such that companies can simply throw more bodies in a position until the job is covered. As part of my current job, I’ve moved a facility from the US to Mexico and now 8 years later, they are still struggling to manage 75% of the throughput with twice the number of workers.

  2. Justin says:

    You’re not lucky because you were born in the right year, you’re lucky because you stumbled into a lot of great opportunities at the right time. Also, like Mike said, you’re overestimating the value of hard work. But I only partially agree with his assessment that people today compete against 10 to 20 kids in Asia – they’re also competing against the same amount of candidates local to them, and in some industries even more – and not just the kids, anybody who has a job with skills that may be in an industry oversaturated with qualified workers, ‘kids’ and adults alike.

    Personally, I found this opinion article narcissistic and condescending. Hoorah for you, you came into a lot of great opportunities and used them to your advantage. Flaunting that in today’s global state of economic depression, then tossing off a glib ‘sorry’ isn’t very nice at all.

  3. “I’m just over 40”

    I’d have pegged you as being in your mid-thirties!

  4. RFDaemoniac says:

    As a 19 year old in university I am constantly thinking about what I will do with the rest of my life. I am in computer science and for now it seems as if web design and implementation is a safe job that pays well. This is something that I do not find as satisfying as my dream job, (high hopes for a.i. and a tech company), but it is certainly a good job. Of course another dot-com burst could end that for me…

    I appreciated your message and didn’t find it condescending, simply something that’s there that needs to be taken into account. I too am lucky and thankful for the foothold that my parents have provided me with.

  5. Arowx says:

    What about your parents, friends, teachers, colleagues, competitors and mentors who have helped you get where you.

    The makers of the pyramid of technology that others have created that allows you to be good at what you do.

    No to mention your fans and customers.

    Now consider a future with smarter easier to use software that could allow the younger generation to unleash their imagination as games, worlds and films.

    Tools that give the user the power to create without having to learn DirectX and C++, Tools like Unity, UDK, Crytek ect. and the next generation of tools and assets that could allow people to build games as easily as we used to play with Lego and Mechano!

    I think the next generations are really going to show us what these new toys can do, in effect they already are just look at Zynga and Facebook!

    Technology is moving faster and faster I just hope we (the older generation) can keep up!

    Good Luck!

  6. Mike says:

    Justin, my point is that in order for an American or Western European to be paid to do a job that could be done overseas they have to be ten to twenty times as productive as overseas workers. Creative jobs are a limited exception to this, but more and more companies are outsourcing design work as well since design follows production, at least in the manufacturing world… the next generation’s of Apple products aren’t going to be designed in California, unless they ship over the Chinese designers.

  7. ajb says:

    “The ZX81 and its ilk forced me to learn programming from the ground up, with no help. This is another advantage.”

    Cliff, can you explain why you think this is a significant advantage?

  8. Mike says:

    Someone who has to be explained why understanding what happens “on the wire” is an advantage will not appreciate the answer, nor will they understand the value of profiling and optimization. You probably think it’s just fine to trust the JIT-interpretter/compiler for any software, especially if *medical* companies like Cerner are using it. Surely it’s good enough for *games*. (I’m tempted to make another assertion about a certain MMO (EVE) and Python..)

  9. Mike says:

    Nichetechguy Mike: It would be truly morbid if you weren’t already aware of situations like at Epic. Significant % of their workforce lives in dorms built for H1B Visa that are only maintained if they keep their contract/salaried jobs (limited or no overtime protection). So true..

  10. Alstein says:

    You mean Epic Games in Raleigh, NC does that?

    On a serious note, if the situation was really that bleak, I’d rather just tear the whole thing down then live in that system. What good does it do me to suffer for the sake of say, the proverbial 1%ers.

  11. Den says:

    “5) I started my business before china and india really went bananas with economic growth. I never had to worry about someone from china or india taking my job. Right now, I’d be VERY worried about that. Unlike people in the rich west, Indian and Chinese kids have parents who were in real poverty, and grandparents in extreme poverty. You bet your ass they will get pestered to get better grades than you.”

    How come we fail to see them become GOOD programmers?

  12. ajb says:

    “Someone who has to be explained why understanding what happens “on the wire” is an advantage will not appreciate the answer, nor will they understand the value of profiling and optimization.”

    Er, it was a question … so you’re saying, it is, but you can’t say why? OK.

  13. anon says:

    Hi,

    You shouldn’t be worried about 1 or even 10 kids from India taking your job.At least not if you are a programmer. I stopped thinking that it would happen after I spent some years in companies that outsourced some stuff to India (they quickly stopped doing that). The culture difference and attitude towards work is horrific. They always pretend that they are doing tons of stuff. You ask if they understand something and always the answer will be yes since in their culture it is impolite to say no…
    How come there are no games made in India in our days? The most successful ones come from well payed employes (take DICE as an example). Sweden is a really expensive country.
    They might have the numbers, but lack the education needed to do a good job. In china the situation is a bit different because of the work attitude, but the good game developers in that country are well payed (I worked from shanghai with a big game company for an year), with comparable salaries with the ones in Europe.
    So the bottom line is if you want quality you have to PAY for it. The only concern for young people these days is that they need to STUDY hard in order to justify their price. If they have the SKILL needed, there will be no issues.Just keep learning.
    People need to stop complaining that the Indians and Chinese are stealing their jobs. It’s like complaining that niggers are stealing jobs. You get replaced if you can’t justify your price by the quality of the work you make.
    Second of all you are over 40, that means that you start getting old, making it harder and harder to assimilate new information and learn new things. Being older is both and advantage because of experience and a disadvantage.
    I also disagree with this statement:”The ZX81 and its ilk forced me to learn programming from the ground up, with no help. This is another advantage.”
    Since you had no help I can only guess that it took longer to figure out stuff and I don’t see that as an advantage. I learned algorithms with help and it is nice to have someone who you can discuss your ideas with. Having help also means you have less chances of screwing things up or developing bad habits.

    Bottom line is that as long as people can JUSTIFY their price all is good.

  14. sid says:

    Let me tell you my story of how I became a developer in India.

    I went to the second best college in my state, and when I came out I had absolutely ZERO knowledge. Nobody taught me anything, our professors never came to classrooms, and for C/C++ examinations, they just checked whether each statement ended with a ; or not, because that all the know about C.

    So, out of college I spent months reading books like ‘The C programming language’, ‘Unix network programming’,.. and hours coding on my laptop (I still do that) and of all the people I know, I’m the only one who did that. My friends still call me crazy. But thats how I learnt things.

    The other day I was taking to my other friend, who’s an ‘Senior PHP and Android developer’ about OpenGL ES 2.x vs 1.x, his response ‘open what?’

    Why’s that? because most of the bright people from my country go out and study/work in some foreign country and never come back. The good-to-go, like the Senior PHP/Android guy, work in most of the top organizations and the remaining crap becomes teachers at colleges.

    Yes, we have a large workforce of engineers, almost every person I know is in the computers, but how many of those are really good? less than 1%.
    That should explain, that why doesn’t any good thing ever comes out of my country.

    Look at every technology you’re using, and notice how little engineers from my country have contributed to it.

    All in all, we have a huge collection of software engineers, that you can outsource the boring part of your project, like testing, but you shouldn’t be scared of us, no revolution is going to happen here, at least in next 20 years!

  15. > Cliff, can you explain why you think this is a significant advantage?

    I know I’m not Cliff, but it’s worth a shot at a minor answerlette: Cliff’s advantage in this case was that he had the opportunity to learn how computers worked. He gained an understanding of the fundamental building blocks that make up both hardware and software and as a result is able to use that knowledge to make better use of modern computers and their capabilities. When attempting to hire programmers over the years I’ve found that as time went by it became increasingly difficult to find people who had the faintest idea how to write high-performance code because they could not form the relationship in their mind between the buttons they pressed and the approximate object code the CPU ended up executing. Phrases like cache misses, fetch-execute units and why you can use OR to set bits were like talking to a brick wall (“What you you mean divide takes more time than a multiply? Are you MAD?”)

    Computers and operating systems being so vast and complicated helps not. I had/still have high hopes for that Raspberry Pi thingie but it’s still a complete Linux box. The days of just switching the machine on and starting to WRITE CODE IMMEDIATELY have gone. The things that you have to learn to get to the meat of even the simplest software project astonish me. Back in my days (Dai personal computer – 8085, Oric 1 – 6502) my friends and I used to get together with a 48 pack of Coca Cola and write five games in a day. You’d be lucky to gather enough framework code together to even compile a blank screen these days unless you really knew what you were doing.

    I am not sure it is helped by some modern high-level languages that obfuscate the details of what’s going on to the point that you can write entire applications without even the tiniest, teeniest clue about memory, threads, process organisation or performance optimisation. There is a generation gap of programming skills that I worry about, especially when I see the over-engineered, unreliable or just crap solutions that some of the younger programmers come up with.

    Sad times out of incredible times.
    A9 41 20 EE FF 60, etc.

  16. […] knowledge gap was highlighted by Cliff, an independent developer, when he wrote a post recently about the advantages that he has had that allowed him to get to a position where he can make a good […]