True, people in their 50s who have families are less likely to have any desire to work 80-plus-hour weeks, but so what? Frederick Brook's The Mythical Man-Month, a classic of software management, blew out the delusion decades ago that simply throwing more man-hours at an IT problem fixes anything.
Sadly, while that should have put an end to the idea that long hours are a fact of IT life, this remnant of our factory-line past lingers both in high tech and in other industries. But what really matters is who's productive and who's not.
In some jobs, such as law and accounting, the billable hour is all. The system encourages people to burn as many hours as possible on any given task. That's not how it is in IT, though. We need to get work done as fast as possible with as few mistakes as possible.
That's not to say that older workers are always better. I've known far too many people who "retire in place." They don't bother learning new skills. They can't understand that the same old server thinking doesn't work in an era in which everyone is migrating to the cloud.
But -- and this is the important thing -- good older IT workers can deliver just as much, if not more, than their younger counterparts. Remember, grandpa not only understands technology, he may well have helped invent it.
Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols has been writing about technology and the business of technology since CP/M-80 was cutting-edge and 300bps was a fast Internet connection -- and we liked it! He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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