Legacy Programmers Will Be In Demand

Forbes’ Ed Sperling has a unique take on the IT job market.You may not agree with him, but it’s worth thinking about. His thesis:

Hiring is up in the technology sector, particularly for legacy programmers and those specialties shared by companies such as Google, Yahoo, and Facebook. While all of this may not seem immediately relevant to the corporate enterprise, it will.

Why would legacy programmers be in high demand? Because, Sperling says:

Instead of just operating systems and applications, the focus now is on algorithms and efficiency in coding.

In many respects this is about speed – the time it takes to search and make connections, which are based on the same skill set.

He goes on to point out the value of being able to separate out the parts of computing that require lots of computational power from those that don’t and placing those two things on different virtual machines. “There is no reason that a Web search has to drag down the entire corporate computing apparatus. There’s no reason it even has to be connected over the same network as other applications.”

Sperling points to Dell’s dual-processor PCs, which use an ARM cord for Web surfing and and e-mail and an Intel processor for application work. Expect to see much more of this, he says, and expect programmers who can make this kind of bifurcation happen through software tricks to be in demand.

6 Responses to “Legacy Programmers Will Be In Demand”

  1. As an engineer, I’ve found that most job descriptions are written for the IDEAL candidate (i.e. wage levels for new graduates, 40 years of experience, from top schools in that area, and less that 30 years old. These descriptions are written by the manager or programmer, the job opening is posted, and all of the resumes’ are screened by the personnell department who are looking for ALL of the qualifications in the job description. All of the resumes’ not meeting ALL of the descriptions are then dumped into the recycle bin.

    It’s a wonder anyone gets hired!!!

    Realistic job descriptions and review by technically knowledgeable personnel are really needed to select the right candidates. I’ve found that often any job consists of about 50 – 60% of things that any competent high school grad can perform, and that about 70% of the stuff you learn in school is used very rarely in your job.

  2. A quick spelling lesson for one of the previous commentors:
    Descent: To go down: John planned to make his descent from K2 on Monday.
    Decent: Good, moral, ethical, clothed: A. decent programmer can possibly be immoral, unethical, or naked, (non-exclusive list) but if you happen to find one that is also moral and ethical, snap him/her up, no matter what their state of dress is. (Exception, it is possible to be too moral and vocal to be able to stand being around the person.)

  3. I completely agree. 90% of all languages are the same with few exceptions. Sure being adept at exploiting the 10% of a language that is unique to it can bring rewards in speed and efficiency, but at the end of the day, any good programmer can learn any language rather quickly.

    It’s the programmer than is not bound by a particular language or set of languages who has enormous value.

    Unfortunately the job market zeroes in on people who have x years experience in y language or database or platform.

    The ILLUSION is that this will allow the programmer to come into the organization and be of value DAY ONE. But, certainly the time it takes to orient one’s self on the platform and procedures of ANY new job is fixed REGARDLESS of past experience, so in that time any descent programmer (especially where code already is in place) can come up to speed rather quickly.

    Personally I’d hire a programmer with skills in many languages and excellent problem solving and algorithmic abilities over someone who has a lot of experience in a particular language.

    The difference between similar languages is more of syntax than structure, depending upon the languages, of course, and syntax is just a matter of a quick lookup.

    Same goes for databases. Even when you are talking about stored procedures and their languages, one database will have a feature that another does not… but in practice, how long should it take a descent DB programmer to pick up those peculiarities?

    Not long if they’re good.

    Very few companies understand this refusing to reward the Generalist for the myriad tools she/he can bring into the workplace, preferring, instead, to hire someone with years of experience (aka: “expert”) using the exact same tool box. Which causes them to postpone indefinitely filling the position until they find the Cinderella for which the shoe fits perfectly, rather than her talented little sister whose foot may be a tad smaller than the glass slipper, but whom, no doubt, will grow into it beautifully.

  4. MaryRose Cassell

    Great! Legacy programmers are going to be in demand. I guess companies have decided that their current youthful and/or foreign employees “throwing code” at systems is not the best way to run a business. Tell me when the jobs start to be available, especially work from home positions, and I’m there – for a SURPRISINGLY low cost. Until then, I hope to get one of those minimum wage jobs available in my area.

  5. Tannette Calderon

    I have been a legacy developer(BA, PL/PM, programmer, trainer, writer, involved in change management, consultant, etc.) for over 25 years, so this is good news. I know of many legacy deveopers that are out of work and want to get back to work asap. One thing I think is needed is to offer any (free) training to these people so that we can utilize our abilities to their fullest. I am a very creative and an innovative person, so I am wanting to get back into developing high impact projects. We all need a little boost to get back into the great projects we know we can develop and make them work well. My mind is always thinking of new ideas and would love to implement all of them. If there is anyone that is interested in starting a new business and in the Chicago west suburban area, email me at tcalderon2004 at yahoo.

    I have a myriad of languages and can pick-up new languages, software packages, business requirements, and what people are asking or needing very quickly.

  6. Steve Holmes

    I like the original article but I also agree whole heartedly with the comment about being expected to have X years experience with product Y. That’s what kills us when trying to regain employment in this industry. I really wish hiring managers and their associated HR departments would follow the suggestions from the original article concerning diversification and willingness to learn the tools on the job.