Like Wine, Geeks Get Better With Age … and the Mentoring

Geezer Geek and Uber-Coder, Robert C. Martin of Clean Coder Blog shared some amazing statistics from StackOverflow. Peter Knego gleaned the information and originally posted it on his blog.   Here’s what we can understand from the data:

  1. Older programmers have higher reputations because they answer more questions than young ones.
  2. Robert doesn’t include this, but a higher reputation on StackOverFlow is also earned by getting the right answer more often, not just frequency.
  3. Most of the coders using StackOverFlow (and its widely used by most coders) are very young (under 6 years experience).
  4. Older coders have more time to answer questions … speculation … they are more efficient at their jobs and can make time.
  5. Older coders are not dropping out, but rather there are just more coders in the workforce.  The pie is expanding.
  6. Since the pie is expanding and getting younger, few teams have access to the experience of older coders. I think this is why they are hitting StackOverFlow for advice from older coders, who freely give it.
  7. There is a 1/16 ratio of Geezer Geeks (over 40) to Young Geeks.  We are a valuable resource since Robert, and experienced mentor named the ideal ratio of juniors to seniors at about 1/5.  That would reflect my experience too.

Here’s Robert’s most important insight and something the IT industry should take note of:

As a leader, that programmer can teach the team about principles, patterns, practices, and ethics. That leader can temper and curb the youthful enthusiasm that leads to premature decisions about frameworks and architectures. That leader can help to instill the value of refactoring and clean code, as a counterweight to the youthful thrill of gettingittowork

The great dopamine-rush and even high, which we coders experience is gettingittowork, however be in this industry for more than a decade and you’ll understand that maintenance-kills.  You can get crap code to work, but then find it blowing up several pushes down the road.  How many of us have been passed a system only to discover there is not even any comments, let alone a rational structure to the code.  Code produced at 4:00am after seven red-bulls is often crap code!  Well, not mine. 😉

Experience teaches that following QA standards, writing friendly code, learning how to create a logical maintainable architecture is worth it in the long run.  One of the most expensive decisions that the software industry makes is to hire a Young-Geek only team.  Hiring seniors, who’ve demonstrated a design to mentor, will pay off with much higher value code.  It will also, in most cases, allow juniors to advance along more quickly as coders.  While StackOverFlow is a useful tool, nothing beats one-on-one mentorship.

Send me more stories like this one, since my goal is to become a Geezer Geek Evangelist.  Who knows, maybe there is even a master’s thesis somewhere in all this.

Have you ever been mentored? Or have you mentored?  What was your experience.  Is there any training in IT mentorship?  What are the best practices which would be included in a certification?  Are there any IT companies you know which have grasped the value of multigenerational mentoring?