Presentation: Getting Old(er) in Tech: Staying Relevant

Track: Optimizing Yourself

Location: Majestic Complex, 6th fl

Duration: 11:50am - 12:40pm

Day of week: Wednesday

Level: Beginner

Persona: Architect, CTO/CIO/Leadership, Data Scientist, Developer, Front-end Developer, General Software

What You’ll Learn

  • Discuss how to stay relevant in a rapidly changing technology world.
  • Enhance your motivation to stay on top of the technology wave.
  • Learn about tools and strategies that help one keep on learning.


Is software a field just for twenty­somethings? In our fast­-paced industry, it can often feel that way. In this talk, Don Denoncourt will explore how to stay relevant in the tech industry. Don has over three decades experience with numerous tech stacks. He is currently a Lead Code Whisperer at Corgibytes and intends to be a programmer until he dies.

You'll learn:

  • Ways to keep your coding skills sharp, no matter how old you are.
  • Perspectives for technical growth.
  • How to be a life­long learner.

Whether you manage technical talent or want to keep your career deep in the code, this is one talk you won't want to miss.


QCon: What kind of work do you do?

Don: Today I'm working on refactoring, and that's what Corgibytes does, we efactor software. We look for legacy software that has too much tech debt, we write unit tests, clean things up and change the processes to support continuous integration and test-driven development.

QCon: Where is the talk coming from?

Don: I have folk that are of my age call me from time to time asking me for work. They know of me because I've been doing technical presentations, articles, and books for years. Also, I'd be at conferences and folks would come up and start talking to me.They would actually be looking for work, and they're my age. I didn't have much to tell them other than they need to get more training. They let themselves go for 10 or 20 years. I also go cross-country doing Java training, specifically for the IBM i community, and I would see the same people come to my same Java training classes. They just didn't work at it. What I found is that people lose the ability to learn. One thing I tell people to do their first year of programming every year where you have that energy to learn as much as you can every year. The talk was driven by phone calls that I would get from folks that knew me and were looking for work, and wanted me to coerce that person to work or find how they should improve their career. They were losing their jobs or the technology that they were working on was not no longer marketable.

QCon: You're talking at QCon on staying relevant while getting old in tech. How do you do that? Keep on learning?

Don: It's more of a mental attitude. I will cover my ideas for how to keep learning and learning strategies, making learning goals and learning mechanisms (because there's various types of learners.) I will have bullet lists in the presentation, but mostly it's going to be different ways of looking at your career. I try to coerce them to think about their career differently. It's more about changing their mental strategy and perspective on learning. Then I will give guidance about different types of tools and blog posts or seminars or more formal training.

It's important to find your particular learning type. It's become more prevalent today where you might only have five minutes to learn one little thing from a tutorial. So there are various recommendations of the things that I use on a regular basis to enhance their learning strategy.

There are some of the stronger parts of the presentation that I'm going to be talking about. Maybe you need to find a new job. Maybe you're at a dead end where you're at. Maybe you need to pull different developers in as mentors. Maybe you're not comparing yourself with the right groups of people. It's about directing their career for longevity. I've seen too many people that stayed at the same job, at the same company, did the same thing, didn't really improve the code that much. They did that, and they ended up being valuable to that company but to no one else. And then the technology was outdated or dead.

QCon: What do you want someone who comes to your talk walk away with?

Don: The biggest thing is to have a better attitude and more energy to enhance their career through continued learning and interacting with other other folks that they can learn from. The second point would be some different strategies that they can do short term.

QCon: If the conference participants are interested in learning, if they have been in software for 20 years and have continued to advance their career, what does that persona going to get from the talk?

Don: Continued motivation. When somebody reads self-improvement articles, it's to increase their motivation, to continue what they are doing already. They are looking for that spike of motivation to continue the track they already are on it. Certainly there's got to be some people that have been at one company too long, or with one technology too long, or haven't been enhancing and taken advantage of the skill sets that are within their own company. For some, the only training they do is to go to a conference. They'll walk away from my presentation with a better motivation to take advantage of a variety of other learning strategies and tools.

Speaker: Don Denoncourt

Lead Code Wisperer @Corgibytes

Don has been a developer for over three decades. He started as a developer coding RPG and Cobol on punch card machines. In the early 90s, Don moved on to C and C++. He adopted Java before it was real (1996.) In the early 2000's Don was wooed by dynamic languages like Groovy and PHP, and more recently, Ruby and Rails. For a three year stint, Don was a full­time technical editor. He has published several books and hundreds of articles. Don leaves a long trail of successful projects ranging from a Cobol debugger to K­12 online education, retail web sites, and even a social shopping app. Don is a learning addict. Besides continually honing his technical skills, he taught himself Italian and is currently working on fluency. When not writing code, Don can be found riding his unicycle, reading novels in Italian, or taking his German Shepherd and Sheepadoodle for walks.

Find Don Denoncourt at


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