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Monday, 17 August 2009

Thirty Years of Experience - A Perspective, part 1

Having recently felt the need to update my CV, which now lists nearly thirty years of computing experience, I couldn't help noticing that quite a few of the skills I list are somewhat out of date. Fortran IV, Algol68, DEC VMS--who uses these any more? (More to the point, would I want a job using them anyway?) In fact, for most of my first decade in employment I was working on computers, operating systems, and languages that have all but vanished. Much of my second decade has already gone the same way. (Now that I think about it, most of the companies I've worked for no longer exist either. I'm pretty sure that's not my fault, though there does seems to be a pattern there.) So what use then, is thirty years of experience?

Does our field change so fast that there's a maximum amount of useful experience that you can acquire? After which, your total experience is being rendered redundant at one end as fast as you can add to it at the other?

Not liking the way this argument was going, I came up with two counter-arguments that show why it is still useful to have a many years of experience in computing.

Firstly, even if the languages I wrote in are dead, the knowledge of how to write good software is timeless. I've spent thirty years learning how to program.

Secondly, I have acquired a sense of perspective, useful in a field like software engineering where the landscape changes at exponential rates.

It's been three days since I started writing this entry (work, chores and childcare not being conducive to creativity), so I'll get back to these points in my next blog.