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Gavin Greig [userpic]

Too Old For The Job

September 28th, 2006 (09:23 am)
current location: DD4 9FF

That sounds worrying, doesn't it? Luckily it's the job title that may be too old, not me.

Because of the impending change to the law that will outlaw ageism, it's been suggested that my job title of Senior Software Developer might no longer be appropriate, as Senior could be taken to suggest that you have to be an old dude to hold such a post. At 39, I guess I'm an old dude in some people's eyes and a whippersnapper in others, so personally I don't feel too pigeon-holed.

Senior can of course be interpreted in ways that have nothing to do with age, but it's the ambiguity that could be a problem.

Apparently we're not dead set on changing people's existing job titles, but we definitely wouldn't want to advertise such roles with the same name, so I've been asked whether I can think of any preferable alternative descriptions of what I do, and it's quite difficult to come up with something satisfactory. It would also be nice, though probably not essential, if the suggested alternative could be used in other disciplines, as we have other "senior" staff who aren't in software development.

To give you a rough idea of what I do, I am responsible for designing our project architectures and for advising and encouraging best practices, but I don't have a lot of say in directing what we do when, and I don't have anyone reporting to me.

Although I'm in favour of development becoming more regarded as being an engineering discipline, I'm also in favour of Engineer meaning something in terms of formal qualifications and/or professional memberships, so sadly Engineer might not be a good word to include.


Posted by: Nik Whitehead (sharikkamur)
Posted at: September 28th, 2006 09:37 am (UTC)

Don't you just love political correctness?

How about Principal Software Developer? I know it sounds a bit civil service, but it might work. Or possibly Executive Software Developer

Posted by: Gavin Greig (ggreig)
Posted at: September 28th, 2006 10:04 am (UTC)

Principal kind of suggests "there can be only one". I like the sound of Executive, but I'm not sure I could carry it off. :-)

Posted by: Marcus L. Rowland (ffutures)
Posted at: September 28th, 2006 10:01 am (UTC)

Hmmm... I'm a senior laboratory technician, but the other technician is older than I am. Wonder if we'll run into this particular bit of PC idiocy.

Posted by: Gavin Greig (ggreig)
Posted at: September 28th, 2006 10:11 am (UTC)

It's hard to say. Apparently it wasn't something we were concerned about until it was mentioned somewhere external and there were some sharp intakes of breath. I guess it depends how widespread a reaction that is.

Posted by: Toby Atkin-Wright (tobyaw)
Posted at: September 28th, 2006 02:04 pm (UTC)

Senior has two distinct meanings - being of more advanced age, or being in a higher or more authoritative position. It all sounds rather silly to me, ignoring one meaning in favour of the other.

I agree with your thoughts on using engineer in a job title, especially as one can work towards being a real engineer with the BCS. Likewise, architect is an inappropriate title.

What about:

Class 1 Developer
Superior Developer
Programmer of High Rank

Or like American generals, you could be a one-, two- or three-star developer?

Posted by: Gavin Greig (ggreig)
Posted at: September 28th, 2006 02:37 pm (UTC)

Both "Class 1" and the star system suffer from the fact that unless a numerical system is broadly recognised it can be read in two ways - "What, you're still only a Class 1 developer?" - and the bounds of the scale may not be obvious, or strictly observed.

I rather like your other two suggestions, but as with sharikkamur's suggestion of Executive Software Developer I would anticipate some resistance! "Superior Developer" seems to be the most popular suggestion - a couple of people have given me that one verbally.

I should investigate BCS recognition as an engineer, but there's a certain amount of personal inertia to overcome first.

Posted by: Nik Whitehead (sharikkamur)
Posted at: September 28th, 2006 04:14 pm (UTC)

How about Executive Software Engineer?

I too need to get rid of some of that personal inertia - I really ought to join the BCS. I really, really, really ought to join the BCS. I really, really... :)

Posted by: Nik Whitehead (sharikkamur)
Posted at: September 28th, 2006 04:18 pm (UTC)

Or a three-layered system:

Programmer Sapiens
Programmer Sapiens Sapiens

You could naturally extend this downwards for new graduates to Programmer Neanderthalensis...

Posted by: Gavin Greig (ggreig)
Posted at: September 28th, 2006 05:20 pm (UTC)

One possibility I found after searching around a bit is actually a three-tiered system:

Software Developer
Software Development Specialist
Software Development Manager

...with Senior Software Developer being replaced by Software Development Specialist.

Posted by: Toby Atkin-Wright (tobyaw)
Posted at: October 3rd, 2006 08:30 am (UTC)



Posted by: Andrew Patterson (qidane)
Posted at: October 3rd, 2006 08:08 am (UTC)

So use a star system - you mean like McDonalds! I did a science degree, if I had wanted to have stars on a badge and say do you want fries with that I would have done arts...

Posted by: Toby Atkin-Wright (tobyaw)
Posted at: October 3rd, 2006 08:28 am (UTC)

Surely stars would be appropriate for people who studied astronomy?

Posted by: silverwhistle (silverwhistle)
Posted at: September 28th, 2006 06:13 pm (UTC)
Smiley Rosa

This is ridiculous!
What about "Senior Lecturers"? Are they to be renamed?

And... 39? You're still a boy!

Posted by: Cavolo (cavolo)
Posted at: October 2nd, 2006 07:29 pm (UTC)


At my work the HR department has been pondering this issue for some time. All the senior economists and so on are now 'lead' economists or whatever.

Which isn't really right as there are other levels above that. Speaking as a Principal Economist I'm not sure I'd appreciate people who were only 'senior' now being 'principal' as Toby suggested...

It's thrown a large metaphorical rock into that pool of job titles that some organisations have to use to create many impressive sounding but subtly different grades. I'm sure that the HR departments and philologists of the world will crack the problem in time. Maybe 'junior vice president' is still available?

Posted by: Gavin Greig (ggreig)
Posted at: October 2nd, 2006 09:00 pm (UTC)

Thanks Gareth. I think so far my favourite fun suggestion has been "Majestic Software Developer", but unfortunately there haven't been any great suggestions that are also usable. "Lead" is one of the more likely alternatives being mentioned here, but it has exactly the problem that you point out - i.e. there are other posts above it.

I guess it's over to the HR departments and philologists then...

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