What I learned from Google – You Get Fifteen Years

by: Matt Heusser    Article

But what about the old dudes?

During my interview at Google, I realized something very important: You get fifteen years. That is to say, your half-life as a worker in corporate America is about age thirty-five.  Around that time, interviews get tougher.  Your obligations make you less open to relocation, the technologies on your resume seem less-current, and your ability find that next gig begins to decrease.

Notice I said half-life.  By thirty-five, half the folks who started in technology have gone on to something else — perhaps management, consulting, on to roles in “the business” or in operations.  Some have had a full-on career change, got that MBA and gone into management consulting, or perhaps real estate, education, or, well … retail store management.   Who knows? A few might go into journalism. Yet a few stick it out.  Half of the half-life is fifty, and, sure, perhaps 25% of the folks who started as line technologists will still be doing that when they turn fifty.

But by the time you turn thirty-five, you’d better have a plan. That gives a new college graduate fifteen years to build some savings, to get the house paid off, and to find a second career.  That’s plenty of time.

The good news

Is a different way to look at it.  That twenty-one year old, fresh-faced kid we are all so jealous of with the great gig at happenin’ company?  He isn’t really qualified to do anything else.  He goes and gets a job by default, because it’s the easiest thing to do.  He can’t consult, or at least he shouldn’t; you see, he hasn’t done anything yet.

That is where those of us in the middle of the half-life curve have an advantage. Hitting half-life may be a shock, but it’s kind of same shock as a bird, kicked out of the nest by a parent. You have to leave the nest in order to learn to fly. And, surrounded by twenty-somethings talking about order-n-linear algorithmns and the efficiency of recursive vs. linear solutions, that is what suddenly hit me. I didn’t fit in, and that was good.  It was time to leave the nest.”

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