前辈civil engineer^old C programmers

Opening example — I shared with Wael… If you meet a regular (not a specialist) civil engineer aged 50, you respect and value his skills, but what about a C programmer of the same age? I guess in US this is similar to a civil engineer, but in SG? Likely to be seen with contempt. Key is the /shelf-life/ of the skill.

Look at Civil engineers, chemical engineer, accountant, dentists, carpenters or history researchers (like my dad). A relatively high percentage of those with 20Y experience are 前辈. These fields let you specialize and accumulate.

In contrast, look at fashion, pop music, digital media… I’m not familiar with these professions, but I feel someone with 20Y experience may not be 前辈. Why? Because their earliest experiences lose relevance like radioactive decay. The more recent the experience, the more relevant to today’s consumers and markets.


Now let’s /cut to the chase/. For programmers, there are some high-churn and some “accumulative” technical domains. It’s each programmer’s job to monitor, navigate, avoid or seek. We need to be selective. If you are in the wrong domain, then after 20Y you are just an old programmer, not a 前辈. I’d love to deepen my understanding of my favorite longevity[1] technologies like

  • data structures, algos
  • threading
  • unix
  • C/C++? at the heart or beneath many of these items
  • RDBMS tuning and design; SQL big queries
  • MOM like tibrv
  • OO design and design patterns
  • socket
  • interactive debuggers like gdb

Unfortunately, unlike civil engineering, even the most long-living members above could fall out of favor, in which case your effort doesn’t accumulate “value”.

– C++ is now behind-the-scenes of java and c#.
– threading shows limited value in small systems.

[1] see the write-up on relevant55

–person-profession matching–
A “accumulative” professional like medical research can 1) be hard to get in and 2) require certain personal attributes like perseverance, attention to details, years of focus, 3) be uninspiring to an individual. Only a small percentage of the population get into that career. (Drop-out rate could be quite high.)

For many years in my late 20’s I was completely bored with technical work, esp. programming, in favor of pre-sales and start-up. But after my U.S. stay I completely changed my preferences.

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