Career Philosophy: Stack Chasers vs. Evergreens

One way of pursuing a career in software development is to perennially jump from technology to technology, or you may say, tool to tool. The idea is to keep a close watch on the emerging trends and invest serially in the trends that seem most promising early enough that you can command a nice salary (or contract rate) for the short period of time where the demand is cresting and the supply of developers is lagging.

Not 'Everdeen'

I flirted with this path for a time in my own career, until I realized that it was not sustainable for my temperament. I had to admit to myself that the only way I could sustain a career this way was if I genuinely enjoyed jumping on new tech continually. Because so few trendy tools ever sustain a high demand for more than maybe a couple years, this process must continually repeat, jumping again to yet another trendy tool until its 15 minutes of fame again subsides. I came to terms with the fact that I’m not actually the kind of person who cares about technology for its own sake, instead preferring to focus on solving real business challenges with proven, reliable tools, using software as a means to an end.

I’ll borrow some terminology I witnessed on a Hacker News discussion today, and refer to this career dichotomy as the Stack Chasers vs. the Evergreens. Hopefully it’s clear by now that I have sided with the Evergreen camp.

Eduards Sizovs, whose post started the Hacker News discussion, reminded me of the Lindy effect, which I had never thought about as being career advice, but I like it…
The Lindy effect is a concept that the future life expectancy of some non-perishable things like a technology or an idea is proportional to their current age, so that every additional period of survival implies a longer remaining life expectancy.
In Eduards’ case, he decided to spend 80% of his learning efforts on evergreen principles of software development and 20% learning a Lindy-approved boring technology: the Spring Framework, a 16-year-old application framework for Java:

The longer a technology is on the market, the safer investment it is.

Don’t rush to learn new technology – it has a high probability of dying.

Time will show which technology is worth investing. Time is your best advisor.

Amen from the Evergreens.