30 Sep 2014

Career Options for the Older Developer

I recently read a Hacker News post asking what happens to older developers, and thought it would be useful to summarize the various options discussed across the 60+ page post.  As I’m in my late 30’s is a topic I’ve been spending a lot of time thinking about personally.
  1. Become a Senior Developer/Architect - This is the route that majority of developers will follow. The main advantages are that you keep on coding (hopefully) and you continue to learn new skills and technologies.  The disadvantages are that as you grow more senior, you are increasing pulled away from development into team management (see below).  There are also the issues of burnout (seeing the same mistakes being made over & over again in new technologies).  You also need to beware of being side-lined into maintaining legacy systems, and having your skills and experience becoming less relevant. Senior developers will typically also see their pay plateau, and will earn significantly less than some of other career options listed below.
  2. Move into Management – Some developers will expect to move through the progression of team leader and project manager into an IT management role.  Indeed, many (too many) organisations encourage/force developers along this path, simply because they don’t have senior technical career path. The advantages are that is such a common career path, and will generally be associated with higher pay.  The disadvantages – the higher the management ladder you climb the less coding you do. Also, being a manager is an  extremely demanding role, requiring a very different mindset to that of a developer.
  3. Consultancy/Contractor – This option is particularly popular due to the current demand for programmers. The main advantages are obviously the higher salary you can command as a consultant/contractor. You get to work on the projects and technologies you’re interested in, generally for short engagements. In theory, you no longer need to worry about department politics. The major disadvantage is the greater risk you’re exposed to when you’re effectively self-employed. 
  4. Move into other Sectors - Some developers will step out of development and move into other IT related roles (System Security, Testing, Business Analysis), while others still will move into different fields where their skills and experience are relevant (i.e. sales, scientific and engineering roles). 
  5. Become an Entrepreneur – This is particularly popular at the minute, with a growing number of developers moving to startup their own company.  You build a product or a SaaS solution or service company.  You may gain financially, or you may not.  At least you are your own boss (or maybe you’re really at the beck & call of all your customers). It will definitely require a significant investment of time and possibly money to become your primary means of making money.
Know of a career path I’ve missed?  Let me know below in the comments, or ping me on Twitter (@AndyParkhill)

P.S. I tried really hard to find a gender neutral icon for a programmer, and the image of the Lego mini-figure above was the best I could come up with.  I’m not particularly happy with it, as it uses the usual lazy stereotype of software developers (male, geeky).  If you know of a better icon or image I can use, please get in touch!

* Photo by wiredforlego used under Creative Commons

29 Jan 2014

Tracking My Weight Over The Years

For the past five years, I have been recording my weight daily.  This year, I’ve finally given up on weighing myself daily, and have reduced it to weighing myself weekly.  As part of the change, I have finally combined the logs from the different years into one.  This has allowed me to track how my weight has changed over this time, and not just over a one year period.

You can draw a few conclusions immediately:

  1. Despite a plateau from March 2009 to October 2010, my weight has been rising over the past few years.
  2. Each year, my weight generally peaks at the end of December.
  3. Despite a number of periods of brief weight loss (generally due to illness), I consistently regain and gradually increase my weight.
  4. I need to lose weight.  And it is going to take time to lose it. After all, it has taken over 3 years to add it.

You can track how my weight changes via my bodyweight log.

17 Oct 2013


A few quotes that I’ve came across over the past few weeks that have really spoken to me:

“I Do Not Intend To Die, Washing A Teacup”

Attributed to Margaret Thatcher, The Iron Lady 2011 (courtesy of Jack Monroe’s excellent blog)

“A man of words and not of deeds is like a garden full of weeds.”

Traditional English nursery rhyme, courtesy of a comment on Barry Adam’s fantastic article “How I’ve been shafted by Darryl Collins from Banjax and Gingerparts”.  Take the time to read the comments – they’re a revelation.

“First we form habits, then they form us. Conquer your bad habits or they will conquer you.”

Dr. Rob Gilbert, Sports psychologist.

I think you can probably see a trend emerging from the quotes above.  It is time I got off my backside and started doing stuff again.

21 May 2013

Why sorry is the hardest word to say…

Especially for Athletics NI.

On Friday evening, I took part in the Les Jones Memorial 10K race at the Mary Peters Track in Belfast.  There were over 200 runners taking part, and the weather conditions were just fantastic as the race started at 19:30.  It has been several years since I last ran this race, but I remembered the course well enough to hold back before hitting the infamous hill at Barnett Demesne.  I was very happy to finish with a time of 39:42, a season best, and even better, it meant I had achieved one of my goals for the year.

But of course, I hadn’t, had I?  I was initially suspicious because I had went through the half-way point at approximately the 20:50 minutes mark, and it has been many years since I’ve ran a negative split in a 10K race.  Sure enough, a few minutes after I had finished back at the Mary Peters track, it was announced over the tannoy that there had been a mistake and the course we had ran was not the set 10K course.  And then… absolutely no further information. No indication of how short the course was off the 10K distance, and certainly no apology for the runners. It wasn’t until I got home that I learnt that the race course was approximately 400-500m short of the 10K distance, due to the runners being sent the wrong direction at Barnett Demesne.  A number of reports (here and here) state that the race organisers had apologised for the error – I certainly didn’t hear an apology on the night, and I’ve been unable to find one on any of the Athletics NI social media or on their own race report. [If you know different, please let me know via the contact form or add a comment below.]

I want to be very clear – I’m not getting at the unfortunate race marshal who sent the runners along the wrong route.  It is very definitely not this person’s fault.  Having acted as race marshal several times, I can say without hesitation it is up to the race organisers to brief the race marshals to make sure that the route is completely clear to everyone, and that each marshal is aware of their individual role in the race. Only last Wednesday, I acted as a marshal for the Purple Ladies 5K race in Ballymoney.  It was a new race on a route I‘m unfamiliar with, and after the race briefing, one of the race organisers took the time to walk out with me to my post, to point out to me the marshals before and after me on the race route, and the path that the runners were to take during the race.  It is pretty clear this didn’t happen as part of the preparations for the Les Jones 10K race.

As an aside, it seems this type of error is happening too often – see the Angry Jogger’s take on the Marathon of the North fiasco.  Isn’t there a set response for race organisers when this happens? If there isn’t, there should be!

It should be pointed out that this was a race organised by the Athletics NI team.  We should be able to expect better from the administrators of the sport.  It is also worth considering that the race is held to remember the late Les Jones, a former Athletics NI official who helped organised some great athletics meets and running races in the past.  Before the race, the MC hoped that we could see those glory days return again to the Mary Peters Track.  Based on Athletics NI team’s performance on Friday night, I think that is very unlikely.

Update 21/05/2103

John Allen from Athletics NI has emailed to confirm that an apology was made on the Results page of the Athletics NI website. I had missed this, as I had accessed the results directly from the race report. I also accept that I also must have missed an apology made over the PA system on the night. Given this,the tone of the initial post above will seem harsh, and you might wander what the point of it is. The fact is, I left the race not knowing exactly what had happened, and despite checking Twitter/Facebook and the Athletics website, still didn’t know until I read the race report posted on the NI Running site.  Despite John’s gracious email, I’m still unclear how this mistake happened, and what Athletics NI plan to do to prevent it happening again.  I also believe Athletics NI need to look again at how they communicate with runners when these mistakes do happen, so that all relevant information is easily available.  Think differently?  Leave a comment.

5 May 2013

Portrush Parkrun

I was lucky enough to run the wonderful Portrush Parkrun this weekend, and I was amazed at the number of runners taking part.  Checking the run’s history, yes, it was the largest attendance at the race.  Check out the race report here.  It is great to see this wonderful run (the only Parkrun course to use a beach) grow in popularity. 

You can see the full chart details here.

10 Apr 2013

Race Calendar - 2013

Just to post a list of the races I plan on running this year.  As you can see, I’m concentrating on 10K races (not surprising given my goals for the year), and a monthly attendance at my local Parkrun.  I’m also hoping to run a few slightly longer runs.
The races below marked in bold are races I have already signed up for:

Date Race Distance Result (Minutes) Pace (MPM)
Saturday 16th Portrush Parkrun 5K 5K 20:13 6:30
Sunday 21st Titanic Quarter 10K 10K 42:53 6:54
Saturday 4th Portrush Parkrun 5K 5K 20:55 6:44
Monday 6th Belfast City Marathon Team Relay C – 7.1 miles 54:00 (approx.) 7:36
Friday 17th Les Jones Memorial 10K 10K (actually about 9.5K) 39:42 6:44
Saturday 8th Larne Half Marathon 13.1 miles 96:56 7:24
Friday 14th Active Antrim 5 Mile Road Race 5 Miles 33:34 6:43
Sunday 23rd Great North 10K 10K 43:38 7:01
Thursday 27th Jude Gallagher Memorial Round The Bridges 10 Mile Road Run 10 Mile Road Run 70:00 7:00
Saturday 6th Portrush Parkrun 5K 5K
Saturday 20th Kennedy Kane McArthur Festival of Running 10K
Friday 26th NFU Mutual 5 Mile
Sunday 4th The World Police & Fire Games Half Marathon 13.1
Saturday 17th Portrush Parkrun 5K 5K
TBC Dessie’s Run 10K
Sunday 22nd Belfast City Half Marathon
TBC Seeley Cup 10K

So far, the Athletics NI race calendar doesn’t go further than the end of August, but I would expect that the biggest race of the year will be the Seeley Cup 10K , which is normally held in November or December.  As well as being the Northern Ireland championship event, it will be the race in which I hope to break the 40 minutes barrier.

Two other races of note – the Newcaste Parkrun in June. and the World Police & Fire Games Half Marathon in August.  The first race will be when I visit Gateshead to be a spectator at the European Athletics Team Championships.  I was lucky enough to be in London last year for the Olympics, and I am hoping that the Championships in Gateshead can be just as exciting.

I’ll continue to update this post with my planned races, and the times of the races I actually run. You can also check out my athlete profile on the Power of 10 and Run Britain sites.

8 Mar 2013

Classical Music Starter Pack

A few people have asked about the classical music I plan on listening to this year.  Which composers?  What symphonies? 

I’ve put together this list of essential classical pieces after reading Discovering Classical Music by Ian Christians.  The book gives a concise introduction to classical music, and then takes ten of the greatest composers and gives a pen portrait of each, before examining their most accessible music. These are the pieces of music that stood out for me:

If you are a classical buff, and want to suggest any other composers or pieces of music I should listen to, please add a comment below.