- cloud? but ask Zhao Bin
- big data
- machine learning
Context — professional programmer career till my 70’s. The #1 derailer is not physical health but my eventual decline of “brain power” including …
— Josh felt that the harmful stress in his job was worse in his junior years when he didn’t know the “big picture”. Now he feels much better because he knows the full context. I said “You are confident you can hold your end of the log. Earlier you didn’t know if you were good enough.”
— Grandpa gave the Marx example — in between intense research and writing, Marx would solve math problems to relax the brain. I said “I switch between algo problem solving and QQ knowledge”
— Alex V of MS — Ask yourself
Q: compare to the young grads, what job function, what problems can you handle better? My mental picture of myself competing against the young guys is biased against my (valuable) battlefield experience. Such experience is discounted to almost $zero in that mental picture!
Mental gymnastics is good, like board games and coding practice and Marx’s math practice, but all of these are all secondary to (hold your breath) … physical workout! I personally enjoy outdoor exercise more.
Also important is sleep. I think CSDoctor and grandpa are affected.
Sudhir hinted that lack of time affects sleep, workout and personal learning.
Sudhir also felt (due to current negative experience) an encouraging team environment is crucial to brain health. He said mental stress is necessary, but fear is harmful. I responded “Startup might be better”.
Q: what things can derail my work-till-75 plan. Let’s be open and include realistic and theoretical factors.
There’s a concept of “best practices across industry”, as I experienced in Macq. Using new technology, things can be done faster, at a large scale, and more automated, even though I may feel it doesn’t make such a difference.
CTO’s don’t want to be seen as laggards. Same motivation at MS-Iceman, Quoine …
You can call it “ruthless march of technology” — a ruthless progress. At a fundamental level, this “progress” can wipe out the promised benefit of “slow-changing, stable domain knowledge”
See also post on CivilEngineers.
Context: speaking to interviewers, colleagues, I like to say my native programming language is … C. C is the first language I studied in-depth on my own, in 1994. C was also the first professional programming language in my very first job. I’m proud of my association with C because :
Holy grail — Long-term sustainable (hopefully intrinsic) motivation + modest level of expertise, with reliable (albeit low) income and (a bit of) social value.
I need a purpose, a goal to work towards… Without it, the absence of a … job would create a void. Depression, lack of purpose, loss of energy. None of the below is easily achievable or easily available. Whichever I choose, need to work towards it.
Tim (RTS), a friend in his 50’s gave 3 points
I use these sites so I know their value and impact for millions of users. I don’t have to be a hardcore developer if i work for them
In my 60’s working as a software developer, I want to celebrate every small improvement I make to the system, however short-lived, like
You don’t need to reply. This is my periodic review of “everything in my life”.
I have recently implemented a few controversial decisions about my career, investment, family..
(As an example, the biggest is moving back to U.S. alone and starting the green card process.)
I make major decisions carefully and slowly (unless decisiveness needed), but an observer may say I’m not a good decision maker and point out my track record. Actually I don’t remember anyone pointed them out, not even my family members. The person who point a finger at my “unwise” decisions is the “judge” in my head…
Here are some of those controversial decisions
There are many valuable observations below, but let’s not spend too much time polishing…
C++ has survived more than one wave of technology churn. It has lost market share time and time again, but hasn’t /bowed out/. I feel SQL, Unix and shell-scripting are similar survivors.
C++ is by far the most difficult languages to use and learn. (You can learn it in 6 months but likely very superficial.) Yet many companies still pick it instead of java, python, ruby — sign of strength.
C is low-level. C++ usage can be equally low-level, but c++ is more complicated than C.
Let’s ignore zbs or GTD or biz domains like mktData/risk here …
I had blogged about this before, such as the blogger-pripri post on “many long term career options”
Hongzhi asked what if you can’t go to the US.
* Some Singapore companies simply keep their older staff since they still can do the job, and the cost of layoff is too high.
* Support and maintenance tech roles
* Some kind of managerial role ? I guess I am mediocre but could possibly do it, but i feel hands-on work is easier and safer.
* Teach in a Poly or private school ? possibly not my strength
* Run some small business such as Kindergarten with wife
Teaching is rarely a profession of choice for talented coders, largely because of the huge difference in remuneration. It is not uncommon to see freshers making Rs20-30 lakh (around $31,000 to $46,000) per annum at tech companies and startups in India. Compare that to the average Rs3-5 lakh a tech university teacher earns annually.
It’s often easier, more lucrative to focus on the affluent consumers, but consider “value”.
Example — trading techniques. This kinda teaching doesn’t really have much social value, except .. risk reduction? Zero-sum game … you help some win, so other investors must lose.
Example — coach some brainy kids get into gifted classes. This is gaming the competitive “system”. Actually the poor kids need your help more.
Example — coach table tennis kids win competitions. Arguably you help improve the table tennis game, but how much social value is there? Mostly you are helping those few individual kids
Many other teaching subjects do have social value
The ERE author enjoys learning practical skills as a hobby. In fact, his learning programs could be more than a hobby, since he has no full time job.
However, I am very different human being from him. I feel very few such learning programs can the mainstay during my semi- or full retirement. Why?
I might consider a job where part of the paid work is spent reviewing and documenting open source software
Singapore is a small country
After my prime years, when I can only work half the time, I may be able to work towards some meaningful cause, but not completely voluntary work. If there’s no income, I will have low motivation to continue.
With a salary, I feel more commitment, more responsibility.
In our later years, my wife and I also have a non-trivial financial need. I don’t want to depend on my kids or welfare to support ourselves. I may have to continue my drive for more income.
Grandpa became too old to work full time. Similarly, at age 75 I may not be able to work 8 hours a day. Some job functions are more suitable for that age…
I guess there’s a spectrum of “insight accumulation” — from app developer to tuning, to data science/analysis to academic research and teaching. The older I get (consider age 70), the more I should consider a move towards the research end of the spectrum…
My master’s degree from a reputable university is a distinct advantage. Without it, this career choice would be less viable. (Perhaps more importantly) It also helps that my degree is in a “hard” subject. A PhD may not give me more choices.
For virtually all of these domains, U.S. has advantages over Singapore. Less “difficult/unlikely” in U.S.
In theory I could choose an in-demand research domain within comp science, math, investment and asset pricing … a topic I believe in, but in reality entry barrier could be too high, and market depth poor
Perhaps my MSFM and c++ investment don’t bear fruit for many years, but become instrumental when I execute a bold career switch.
Grandpa pointed out that there are Actually-bigger factors than finding things to do
See also post on top 5 expertise I could teach.
In the US job market, people often ask “What do you specialize in?”. I think most non-managers in this industry, esp. the successful ones, do specialize in something. Whether you like it or not, you are often perceived that way.
Clearly, many professionals are jack of many trades (or a jack of few trades), and don’t have any real expertise, depth or insight. Depending on your view, this may not be a problem for them.
Like property evaluation, I have a list of criteria:
Some specific domains (See the spreadsheet for more details):
Bigger than property investment, bigger than CPF annuity, bigger than my unit trusts is … healthy working condition.
Remember Connie’s PR chart? My Prime years could extend beyond 55, towards 70 .
In the US I could work till 70 and possibly branch out to other domains of specialization. Singapore only respects medical specialists.
Q: what aspects of health?
A: diet, fitness
ez2get jobs; abundance of jobs — At the risk of oversimplifying things, I would single out this one as the #1 fundamental
justification of my bold and controversial move to US.
There are many ways to /dice-n-slice/ this justification:
* It gives me confidence that I can support my kids for many years. * I don’t worry so much about aging as a techie
* I don’t worry so much about outsourcing and a shrinking job pool * when I don’t feel extremely happy on a job, I don’t need to feel trapped like I do in a Singapore job.
* I feel like an “attractive girl” not someone desperately seeking on “a men’s market”.
Look at Genn. What if I really plan to stay in one company for 10 years? I guess after 10 years I may still face problem changing job in a market like Singapore.
See my other posts on civil engineers.
I told Raymond about Junli’s lament over constant learning expected of an IT guy. It’s an imposed extra workload that eats into our spare time.
Raymond’s sister is an accountant, and Raymond is now in the infrastructure team. Raymond pointed out that network engineers don’t need to learn anything new. So the constant learning is not the key difference here.
We do see accountants in their 60’s but why we don’t see the same among network engineers? Perhaps it’s supply/demand.
Explanation – demand. Accountants enjoy much bigger demand. Every big or small company need accountants. Raymond felt only big companies need network engineers. If indeed one out of 50 professionals in each domain is 60+, then old accountants are easier to find because the absolute number is much higher than network engineers.
I feel network engineering is a more specialized domain. How about brain surgeons? Specialist too. The bigger demand doesn’t translate to higher salary — look at taxi drivers. So specialization is not the explanation.
Explanation – globalization. Supply is in Accountant’s favor. It’s less common to hire accountants from developing countries. (Those who have worked locally for years would be treated like locals.) IT skillset is more globallized and standardized, as standardized as it gets. Employers easily tap into overseas candidate pool. That’s Raymond’s observations. However, in the US there is also the presence of overseas candidate pool, but there are old techies. So overseas talent pool is not the complete explanation.
The value of experience is higher in medical, accounting … and less in c++. I know c++ didn’t change a lot over 20 years, but ….? But the young programmers can accumulate the experience very quickly, often in a few years. The entry barrier is too low. Many aggressive, ambitious and determined young programmers can pick it up at home, just like I did. How about network engineers? Higher entry barrier. So entry barrier is still not the explanation.
Hongzhi pointed out Singapore salary is lower for accountants (not auditors) than network engineers. If indeed a typical old accountant earns $4k but a network engineer typically earns $8k, then this would be one valid contributing factor. The less lucrative/competitive jobs would be easier to get for an old job seeker.
Hongzhi also pointed out the Singaporean perception that every IT job skill is churn and therefore favors the young. The lay public doesn’t realize network engineering vs online app — have vastly different churn rates.
Q: why I don’t see a network engineer in their 60’s on the Singapore job market? Maybe there are but they are not job hunting! I think in Singapore there are electronic equipment engineers at that age.
In the US, at 65 you could work as a developer. (Actually that’s not the mainstream for most immigrant techies. What do they do? Should ask Ed? Anirudh? Liu Shuo, ZR…)
Why SG is different? Here’s my answer, echoing my earlier posts.
A letter never sent out…
(This is more like a personal blog, to record my thoughts and conversations.)
I never considered those options you posed today
Q: 2nd master's degree?
A: I liked the part time study experience so far. Will take a 2nd Masters if someone pays for me.
Q: I did think about teaching at polytechnic level, but teach what subject?
A: Either IT or financial math, or perhaps data science — after I spoke to Bernie.
The most sought-after Expertise I could develop.
#1 personal investment – FX/option, HY and unit trust investment
Watching an in-depth documentary about an architect (I.M.Pei) in his 80’s, I started thinking (again) about what app dev technologies/experiences would be relevant when I turn 80. I think there will be more “winning” software tools (software are tools) adopted, each dominating a specific domain displacing old guards. But what about mainstream technologies? What are truly resilient in the face of destructive sea changes.
Note many of these technologies could be sidelined and dethroned but still relevant!
* RPC, web service, corba, RMI… Resilient model, but not implementations
* [L] system calls? Actively used by few coders but relevant underneath the surface
* batch jobs? Requirement yes; implementation no.
[L=Low Level, closer to the metal, rather than application level]