May 28, 2012

Old Farts

Marco Arment (Instapaper):

I’m about to turn 30, I’m married, and we just had a baby. This will implicitly (and illegally, of course) disqualify me from working at almost any startup.

I’ve been the guy in charge so long that I’m not sure I’m entitled to an opinion, but I think that, while this may well be true, there must be some startups run by people who know what they’re doing. And they, at least, should know that good developers come in all sorts of packages.

The best I ever worked with was Tom Dowling, a FORTH wizard of the early PC era. He evolved, almost in isolation, a programming style that incorporated lots of what would, twenty years later, emerge as modern programming style:

He was astonishingly fast and he was a fearless programmer who assumed the code would be fast enough and, if it wasn’t, that he’d find a way to make it faster. He was the perfect tech lead for a startup.

And he was not young. I was about 30. I was in the process of getting married. I was pretty much in Marco’s shoes, in other words, but I was the kid of that team. (I got brought in as an extra set of hands willing to handle UI-intensive chores that bored Tom.) He died several years ago.

If your startup isn’t looking for people like Dowling , it’s not looking for the people it needs. If startup managers have forgotten this, you’re looking at the wrong pool of startup managers.