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At Google, You're Old and Gray At 40 543

theodp writes "Google faces an imminent California Supreme Court decision on whether an age discrimination suit against it can go forward. But that hasn't kept the company from patting itself on the back for how it supports 'Greyglers' — that's any Googler over 40. At a company of about 20,000 full-time employees, there were at last count fewer than 200 formally enrolled Greyglers working to 'make Google culture ... welcome to people of all ages.'"
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At Google, You're Old and Gray At 40

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  • Not just Google (Score:5, Insightful)

    by walterbyrd ( 182728 ) on Tuesday June 22, 2010 @08:09AM (#32651522)

    I think the belief that IT workers are washed-up at 40 is fairly widespread. Some believe that the H1B flooding is actually designed to get rid of older IT workers.

    • Re:Not just Google (Score:5, Interesting)

      by AnonymousClown ( 1788472 ) on Tuesday June 22, 2010 @08:20AM (#32651602)

      Some believe that the H1B flooding is actually designed to get rid of older IT workers

      I think that's just to keep wages down in general. Our universities are pumping out plenty of CS and MIS grads as well as math and engineering graduates to keep up with demand. The companies that say there are shortages are just saying that to justify going overseas or to bring in H-1bs.

      My father in law in quite an accomplished design engineer but as he got older, he has been gradually moved into testing positions.

      It starts off with a lay-off and he gets it, finds another job that's not quite what he did before, lay-off, then another job not quite like what he did, and so on until now where he's writing Perl scripts to take data from testing equipment and putting that into Excel spreadsheets. Pretty beneath him, but he's grateful to have some sort of technical job at 70. All his contemporaries went into management (if they could) a long time ago, changed careers or they're now retired.

      In my programming experience, I've known very few folks who stayed in programming after 40. One was well into his 50s but he grabbed onto a product and stuck with it for years. When I left, he was still programming C on Dos. But folks came and went because they didn't want to work on old shit and he was very lucky to have gotten a product with a very long market life - cash register software.

      • Re:Not just Google (Score:5, Insightful)

        by dkleinsc ( 563838 ) on Tuesday June 22, 2010 @09:09AM (#32652020) Homepage

        I think that's just to keep wages down in general.

        Age discrimination is about one thing: companies would rather have a 20-something desperate for work working 60 hours a week at $40K/year than they would a 50-something with some financial security working 40 hours a week at $70K/year. There are also some factors involving health insurance that can make it cheaper to have younger workers as well, but that's the basic story.

        It has nothing to do with whether older workers are productive, "get" newer technology, or fit into the company culture. From the point of view of your employer, you are an expense, and their goal is to minimize expenses by hiring the cheapest workers they can capable of doing the job (or at least not failing too badly).

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Ogive17 ( 691899 )
          And companies that earn that sort of reputation end up getting lower quality candidates applying for positions.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by mapkinase ( 958129 )

        My masjid is full of programmers over 50. For example, one of them just start working at NIST, another worked for ages supporting Cobol code, third one works for private government contructor. Since I do not see apparent correlation between religiosity and coding till your beard is gray, I assume that there are plenty of them outside the masjid as well. (The only bias I could see is that it's DC area and a lot of government related jobs which is less agist than a private sector - I do not know though if it

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Wavicle ( 181176 )

        Our universities are pumping out plenty of CS and MIS grads as well as math and engineering graduates to keep up with demand.

        As someone who works for a large employer that recruits actively among recent college graduates... NO. This opinion is ubiquitous and ignores one important fact: most recent graduates are woefully less qualified than their college education would seem to indicate. There are kids coming out of college who are bright and can do the work, but they represent maybe the upper quartile of all bachelor degree grads.

        I don't hire RG's without two letters of recommendation from professors or one letter from either the

    • by zepo1a ( 958353 ) on Tuesday June 22, 2010 @08:25AM (#32651634)
      I applied to Origin Systems in the late 80's after I got my CS Degree, I was 28. Had a phone interview, at one point the guy (kid?) interviewing me told said "You're kind of old, we don't think you could handle the pressure." Seriously..28...kind of "old"? Lulz.
  • by Rogerborg ( 306625 ) on Tuesday June 22, 2010 @08:18AM (#32651588) Homepage

    I'm rapidly approaching 40, and I'm becoming more risk averse by the day.

    Here's why: I know that when companies over-reach, then it'll be me who's pulling the late nights and weekends to deliver, not the guy that over-sold the product.

    Younger guys either haven't learned that yet, or don't care as much, because they think that Arbeit Macht Frie. Well, I put in the Arbeit years ago, and I want my Frei now - just as today's young turks will want theirs tomorrow when they have families to take care of.

    But they don't want it today, and that's why they make better employees, plain and simple.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by dingen ( 958134 )

      I'm rapidly approaching 40

      Not more rapidly than others.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by mcgrew ( 92797 ) *

        Actually he is approaching it more rapidly than a 20 year old. See, the older you get, the faster time passes. When you're five, it's forever for Christmas to come. It's a full 1/5 of a lifetime, while for a 20 year old it's only 1/20th. A year goes by twice as fast for me as it does someone half my age, so the closer you get to 40, the more rapid the approach becomes.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      Here's why: I know that when companies over-reach, then it'll be me who's pulling the late nights and weekends to deliver, not the guy that over-sold the product.

      I'm 26 and already experiencing this joy.

  • by kria ( 126207 ) <roleplayer DOT carrie AT gmail DOT com> on Tuesday June 22, 2010 @08:19AM (#32651598) Journal

    It's amazing the differences, working on a long term project. How long term? Our first released version was in the mid-nineties - and yes, we're doing more than just maintenance, even now. It's a defense project.

    I'm on a team (within the larger project, which is 70-100 people) of seven people. Four are over forty, in some cases by a lot, one is about to turn forty, I'm thirty-three, and then we have our one, shiny just out of college person. We're pretty representative of the project as a whole, with the UI team trending younger than the others. The idea that older people don't know what they're doing, even on new languages, is pretty silly to me.

  • young company (Score:5, Insightful)

    by spidr_mnky ( 1236668 ) on Tuesday June 22, 2010 @08:22AM (#32651610)
    Is it possible that this statistic is just due to the fact that Google is a young company? My hypothesis here is that they've just done the most hiring where there are the most candidates, straight out of school. I don't know whether this is sufficient to explain the numbers, but it's not like they can focus on retaining employees that have been with the company for twenty years. Anyone old at Google was hired old.
    • Re:young company (Score:5, Insightful)

      by careysub ( 976506 ) on Tuesday June 22, 2010 @09:34AM (#32652280)

      A company staffed by newly graduated graduate students explains a lot about their interview practices. A Google interview session is typically an oral exam - solve hard problems on your feet as if you had recently taken a course in the material - because it is the only form of evaluation they know.

      They can use any style of interview they want (interviewing is sadly a very flawed evaluation process anyway), but only recent graduates, or people who specially refresh their oral exam skills in advance, will do well in these types of interviews. And often the expectation of the interviewer is pretty unreasonable: if he is a fresh expert in X, then you should be a fresh expert in X, otherwise you get the fatal interview veto and become a no-hire; given that there are are an awful lot of X's in the computer world, this is going to eliminate a lot of excellent engineers. This stuff has little to do with on-the-job problem solving and programming skills.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        Right on the money. That was my experience. I'm 49 and I was invited to an interview with Google (Approached). This was
        initially flattering. However, when I got there the only person I saw all day that seemed anywhere near my age was the security guard at the front. not that this bothered me at all. During the interview they asked me to write a binary search algorithm on the whiteboard in whatever language I liked. Now all this some it was feeling somewhat insulted as these things are elementary, I also fel

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by jdgeorge ( 18767 )

      Somebody, please Read The Fine Article! The person filing suit was a professor at Stanford before being hired by Google. He lasted less than two years at the company. There is no statistical evidence that this is a pattern at Google.

      My wild speculation is that the guy just didn't like corporate culture; he was accustomed to the academic environment, which was possibly a better fit for this guy. (Also consider, he may not have really "fit in" at Stanford either, which may be part of what led to his departure

  • by NoZart ( 961808 ) on Tuesday June 22, 2010 @08:25AM (#32651628)

    There is always the talk of how older people don't get new technology, but i think this only described the people who grew up without IT and were confronted with it at a late age for the first time.

    This might be naive, but i think now is the time where people grew up in this high tech scenario and for the first time actually grew old with it, too. Society needs to understand that the "new old guys" are just as proficient in adapting new technology as the young ones because adapting is what they did their whole life.

  • by ThoughtMonster ( 1602047 ) on Tuesday June 22, 2010 @08:26AM (#32651640) Homepage

    Clean Room Technician: You know what they do with engineers when they turn forty?
    [to Aaron, who shakes his head]
    Clean Room Technician: They take them out and shoot them.

  • by teneighty ( 671401 ) on Tuesday June 22, 2010 @08:34AM (#32651702)

    This case is not cut and dried (the guy was already over 50 when he was hired), which is unfortunate because age discrimination is very, very real in IT and especially in the software industry.

    If you in IT, and are at age 40, and have not been promoted to management, become an independent contractor, started your own business, taken a government job, or switched careers... well, you better look good in blue, because you are one pay check away from having no other choice but to become a Wal*Mart greeter.

    • by mario_grgic ( 515333 ) on Tuesday June 22, 2010 @09:28AM (#32652218)
      Not if you are James Gosling, Guy Steele, Peter Norvig, Ken Tompson, Bjarne Stoustroup, Joshua Block, Donald Knuth etc.

      If you get too comfortable in your position and stagnate, fail to thrive and achieve and make a name for yourself in the industry, then yes, you will be pushed out by cheaper labor that will eat your lunch. I doubt any of the above guys tremble in front of 20 year old kids that come to work with them. It's most definitely the other way around.
  • I'm 54 and not grey (Score:5, Interesting)

    by petes_PoV ( 912422 ) on Tuesday June 22, 2010 @08:45AM (#32651802)
    I'm bald. But the good news is I never get called away from work because of an emergency with the children, they left home long ago. I don't have to take time off for pre or post natal activities. Or to watch some 6 year-old in a school activity. I don't break a leg on "adventure" holidays and require all my co-workers to subsidise my recklessness. I don't get drunk every weekend and have "off" days every Monday. I don't spend half my working day trying to chat up my co-workers (for which they're very grateful) and I don't feel so insecure that I need to challenge every decision, or jostle for promotions - no matter how meaningless.
  • by CohibaVancouver ( 864662 ) on Tuesday June 22, 2010 @08:47AM (#32651816)
    I'm 43 and work in IT in Vancouver, Canada. Vancouver's version of Google is Electronic Arts (EA). EA has many employees in Vancouver, a 'cool' office and lots of perks, like Google. It also has a very young workforce with people like me generally not interested in working there. Why? Because there's very little life/work balance at EA. I'm married, I have a kid and another one on the way - I'm not interested in working 80 hour weeks in exchange for free breakfast and a basketball court. I'd rather go home on a summer evening and play frisbee with my kid - Not play ultimate with my co-workers, then go back to work for another 3 hours. Google builds cool stuff, but I suspect their culture just isn't skewed to provide those things that someone like me would want, i.e. a good life outside of the office. Doesn't mean they're a bad company, they're just not a good fit for people like me.
  • by Cro Magnon ( 467622 ) on Tuesday June 22, 2010 @09:07AM (#32651992) Homepage Journal

    The bad news is, I probably don't pick up new crap as quickly as I used to. The good news is, I don't need to because most of it is like the old crap I've already learned.

  • by tekrat ( 242117 ) on Tuesday June 22, 2010 @09:25AM (#32652182) Homepage Journal

    Real geeks are constantly excited by new tech. Real geeks are too busy to have families, so they have no problem with 80-hr weeks. Hell, real geeks can put in an 80-hr week from home. Google doesn't know what they're missing.

    If anything it's the kids that are a problem. Most of the 20-somethings I've worked with are irresponsible, couldn't show up on time if you held a gun to their heads, don't understand the word deadline, and tend to overestimate their abilities big-time. Sure, a few of them turn out to be better than expected, but that's the minority.

    I'm 45 and I'm still willing to kill myself for the job. I feel like I'm making a difference every day. I know people are depending upon on me. Sure, I've never been married, but I never wanted to be married. Why anybody would want that is beyond me. All that does is take away from time that could be spent being productive.

  • by bsDaemon ( 87307 ) on Tuesday June 22, 2010 @09:25AM (#32652186)

    A few months ago I left a job at a web hosting company, where at 24-25 years old, I was an "old man" by comparison. I was the only non-manager on the tech side of the company to have a degree, and had been programming C when most of the kids I worked with were in elementary school. Yet, they looked at me like I was some sort of "n00b" for not knowing PHP. Partly, I didn't have any desire to know PHP. My co-workers looked at "add more memory" as the solution to all their performance problems. Not one of them had ever programmed in a compiled language, never had to tweak out more memory, or anything like that. It was incredibly frustration when we were doing maintenance reboots against the memmap 0 bug that was out at the time and the senior admin and myself were the only two people in the department that knew why the bug was an actual problem, the difference between kernel space and userspace in memory, etc.

    Anyway, I eventually left for a company that does its own hardware design, writes everything in C and Perl, runs FreeBSD instead of CentOS and has actual engineers. I'm the youngest, greenest person on the block again, and so I actually have to start learning again. Luckily, I'm learning in my own comfort level. They could have doubled my pay at the hosting company and I'd never have been happy there. Maybe I'm stodgy; maybe I'm a curmudgeon; maybe kids today really aren't as smart as they used to be. Frankly, though, I think that when you reach a certain point in your life, free pizza and the ability to keep a nerf gun next to your desk don't compensate for low pay, long hours and having to put up with idiots who are fat, white and loud yet somehow think they're ninjas. It's the difference between the kid running Ubuntu at home and a professional AIX admin. As you get older, your professional goals change, your life goals change, and you take a different direction. Most of the "cool" companies are started by kids who are still in their nerf war stage. A company like IBM or Juniper is probably a lot less "ageist" than one that uses terms like "agile" as if the term is domain-specific with no other meaning.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by russotto ( 537200 )

      Yet, they looked at me like I was some sort of "n00b" for not knowing PHP. Partly, I didn't have any desire to know PHP.

      "Oh, PHP. It's like PERL, only without the powerful regular expression syntax." Then when they don't get the joke (and the real joke is it's true), mutter about getting off your lawn.

  • Try to replace 'em (Score:5, Interesting)

    by boristdog ( 133725 ) on Tuesday June 22, 2010 @09:56AM (#32652494)

    My department wanted to hire me (46 y.o.) a younger "assistant" to help with all my duties. Mostly they're nervous that I'll leave and be hard to replace.
    So HR asked for the skills and qualifications I have that are needed for the jobs and projects that I do.

    After getting the list and doing some research, HR told them they would need to hire 3 or 4 younger people to meet those qualifications, at a cost of at least 2 to 3 times my salary.

    So yeah, experience beats youthful enthusiasm every damn day. Get yourself some experience, kids.

    Oh, I got a raise out of the deal.

  • has a built in karma

    if you are white, you'll never be black. if you're a man, you'll never be a woman

    but if you are 20, some day you WILL be 50. therefore, all of the hatred you dish out will be visited back on you... by your own self. karma still applies to sexism and racism, but it comes back in the form of other people's views of you. not the special hell of a self-created low self-opinion

    if you are 20, and have a bad attitude towards the aged, someday, you will have a bad attitude towards yourself. self-hatred is something all of us carry around to some extent, but to have self-hatred gradually grow as you get older must be a terrible weight to bear, and it keeps growing

    you can see it on the street: the guys with the ridiculous fake hair and the women with the ridiculous facial plastic surgery: this is self-hatred. who wants to walk around broadcasting their lack of confidence and stinking of desperation, to telegraph that you want to be something you can never be again? to worship youth, but then turn into someone old, must be a terrible experience to go through. to simply look at yourself in the mirror and be filled with anguish: built in karma for being an ageist. this also might explain some suicides by people in their 40s and 50s

    meanwhile, if you always treated the elderly fairly and gracefully, then when you yourself are older you will still be confident, and still like yourself, because you will treat your older self the way you treat older others today. built in karma still applies, but in the positive: you age gracefully, and have a full happy life

    so the cost of being an ageist is to have an unhappy older life

    don't be an ageist. look at the elderly and see yourself as you will be someday, and smile, for the sake of your own future happiness. you want to age gracefully, you really do. so prepare yourself psychologically now for aging gracefully, by treating the aged you encounter today with the same grace you want to treat yourself with later

  • misleading? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by quadelirus ( 694946 ) on Tuesday June 22, 2010 @10:08AM (#32652660)
    The article seems misleading. It says that Google has 20,000 employees and fewer than 200 of them over the age of 40 are working to "make Google culture... welcome to people of all ages."

    It makes it sound as if they are saying Google is a company of 20,000 with fewer than 200 employees of age 40 or over, but that isn't true. It's just that fewer than 200 of them have joined this specific group to make Google culture welcome to people of all ages. Seems like we've made a "news story" out of thin air. Slow news day?
  • Experience Matters (Score:4, Insightful)

    by SQL Error ( 16383 ) on Tuesday June 22, 2010 @10:13AM (#32652726)

    If they're over 40 and good at what they do, senior technical people are a huge asset. They can spot the disaster before it happens, or cut through the complex requirements and identify what it is the customer really needs before you waste six months of development time. Because they've seen it before.

    They also tend to be tired and kind of grumpy, because they've seen it before, but a savvy manager will cling to these folk for dear life.

  • Mistake (Score:4, Insightful)

    by DaMattster ( 977781 ) on Tuesday June 22, 2010 @10:55AM (#32653308)
    The law aside, Google is making a mistake by not attempting to mix generations. A retired federal law enforcement officer who is like an uncle to me has a saying, "You can learn something from anyone and everyone." The older worker is often more disciplined with a better work ethic than someone fresh out of school. The older software engineer is more experienced and can thus produce better quality code. Why not foster an environment that mixes the youthful ideas and enthusiasm with the experience and wisdom of the older worker? Why not use the older worker as a mentor and guide? By automatically discounting someone based on age, you blind yourself to any good that said person has to offer. And before anyone says I am an OG (Old Guy,) I am 33 and have been able to learn a lot about best practices and network engineering from a 60 year old grandpa!! Because I gave him the time of day, I learned some techniques that could potentially avoid pitfalls and served me very well.
  • by rocker_wannabe ( 673157 ) on Tuesday June 22, 2010 @10:57AM (#32653344)

    I'm surprised that no one has mentioned the biggest reason that there aren't more people over 40 working in IT and software development. For me anyway, it was the realization that technology keeps changing but it doesn't really improve. Sure, there is more "eye candy" and "cool" interfaces but how is it really improving our lives? The challenge to get some technology to work when your young can very appealing but after a while you get tired of fixing the same problems over and over. Especially when the benefits of the new product is marginally better, or maybe even worse, than the previous product.

    The problem seems to be phrased most of the time as "older people can't keep up with the technology" when the real issue is "people with experience realize the futility and silliness of most of the new technology". Technology like social web sites and mobile phones have become almost pure entertainment pretending to be a useful tool. The CEOs of these high-tech companies don't want people around that keep bringing up the fact that "the Emperor has no clothes". Young people can be easily entranced with shiny objects and not realize that there are wasting enormous amounts of their lives. Especially when they're getting paid to waste their time.

    I'm sure cognitive dissonance will keep most Slashdotters from accepting any of this but if I can help free one mind then it will have been worth it.

  • by xmousex ( 661995 ) on Tuesday June 22, 2010 @11:00AM (#32653390) Journal

    I blame it on the current talent pool in the midwest. Most of the people we bring in now all have this "video game" degree from the nearby university. Not one of them understands the concept of designing practical solutions. They also do not understand testing. They seem to fall into the duct tape programmer category. Simple obvious decisions about user interface, input formatting, smart security decisions, anticipating user mistakes, these things just dont come with that degree they arrive with. The seasoned programmers here watch the same stupid mistakes getting made over and over again. On the one hand, we desperately need the help, there is so much work to get done and tons of money to be made, on the other hand, these kids that come in just make more work for us in the long run as we keep recoding and recoding the stupid shit that they do. In a few instances, these kids get a degree and find out its not really what they wanted to do with their life. They just got the degree because they liked playing with their wii and their parents were excited to have something their kids would actually pay attention through in school.

    I would much rather bring in the mature, more experienced programmer that has been through it all and builds in ways that eliminates all the obvious problems, so we can stay focused on the bigger issues of a project.

  • by dave562 ( 969951 ) on Tuesday June 22, 2010 @11:14AM (#32653626) Journal

    For a while I thought that Google's short comings were the by-product of uber nerd hubris and the belief that they simply know the best way to do everything. Their lack of maturity shines through most visibly when it comes to support, documentation and long term planning. Their pre-sales processes are about the worst I have dealt with.

    Wisdom comes from age. As people grow and mature, they tap into different sensibilities during different phases of their lives.
    An older person might not have the grasp of complex search algorithms, or the glue that ties Wave together that a 30 year old engineer in their prime might have. On the other hand, that 30 year old super engineer probably knows fuck all about actually running a company, or balancing a departmental budget, or dozens of other things that have to be in place if a company will have long term success.

    I use my dad as an example. He's a 65 year old retired Harvard MBA. He could be taking it easy but he enjoys what he does. He consults with startups and small businesses. He helps them establish the fundamental financial foundations that they need to be successful. There are plenty of people out there who are good enough at something to start a business doing it. However those businesses often falter and teeter on the bring of failure because the owner's brilliance in providing a service or inventing a widget doesn't translate into running a company. In his case, one of his assests is his age. He has been exposed to decades worth of macro economic trends and worked across different industries.

    I'm not saying that Google should be snatching up 65+ year old retired folks simply because they have a lot of wisdom and experience. On the other hand, they could use some maturity. Take a look at the wifi debacle they're in. That is a great example of what happens when people lack maturity. They simply don't care about the consiquences of their actions, or if they do they minimize them. Personally I tend to agree with the prevailing thought process that if a person is broadcasting an unencrypted signal they shouldn't expect privacy. On the other hand, I have enough maturity to realize that the law is vague in those areas. I wonder if Google even bothered to have any competent lawyers review their plans, or if their conversation went something along the lines of,

    "Hey, wouldn't it be cool if we just snarfed wifi traffic as we drove along?"

    "Yeah! It would be like war driving on a massive scale!"

    "Why not? We're already taking pictures of every square foot of property along side every paved surface in the developed world, we might as well map every wireless AP out there too."

    The Chinese have a saying to the effect of, "At the times when things are going very well, that is when you have to be the most concerned about danger."

    Google is entering that phase in their life. Their IPO is behind them. They are sitting on billions of dollars. They are introducing new products that are having some success. But now everyone wants a piece of them.

  • by lopgok ( 871111 ) on Tuesday June 22, 2010 @11:17AM (#32653664)
    He got a PHD from CMU in CS, which is likely the best college for CS.

    He invented the scribe text formatting language.

    He invented the router, which became the first cisco router.

    He co-founded what eventually became Adobe.

    While at DEC, he and his group invented the altavista search engine.

    There is more, but he clearly has serious computer science talents and vision.
  • by kindbud ( 90044 ) on Tuesday June 22, 2010 @01:20PM (#32655268) Homepage

    Google Inc.'s explanation for firing a 54-year-old manager - that he was a poor "cultural fit" - was a code phrase for age discrimination, his lawyer told the state Supreme Court on Wednesday.

    Worker in their 40's and up are rather disinclined to work 120 hours/week and basically live on the Google campus, away from their spouse and teenage children. Free cokes and junk food only goes so far - about 26. So yes, there's a cultural mismatch: older workers have a life outside Google.

  • Tom DeMarco: Slack (Score:4, Insightful)

    by John Whitley ( 6067 ) on Tuesday June 22, 2010 @02:52PM (#32656612) Homepage

    Fine, I'm forgoing the mod points I've already spent in this thread, since there's so much damn cluelessness about the "value" of overwork.

    For everyone who thinks habitual working hours over a sustainable 35-45 hour pace (which varies by individual) is a good thing, go read Tom DeMarco's book Slack []. He neatly debunks the pointy-haired boss myths (and gullible, guiltable workaholic engineer myths) regarding overwork. Some examples: very quickly after working at maximum sustainable pace, your work output per hour starts to drop. Eventually, you've been pulling 60 hours or more for just a few weeks and you're not really getting any more done than you would have at your sustainable pace. For severe overwork, you're getting a LOT less done. Also, "undertime" becomes endemic at high workloads -- that need to "just pop out for a few hours" during working hours to deal with all of that life-stuff that's being neglected.

    The larger points of the book surround how a concept of "slack" is vital to the success of any individual, team, and/or company that depends on knowledge work. This "slack" is an ingredient which supplies the ability to quickly respond to changing requirements, to seize opportunities, and to handle market shifts. One of my favorite distinctions that DeMarco draws in the book is between an organization's efficiency and effectiveness. In this context, efficiency is roughly defined as "how fast are we moving towards some goal?" while effectiveness is defined as "are we moving towards the right goal?" Many organizations optimize solely for efficiency -- moving forward at a breakneck pace -- and sacrifice effectiveness in so doing. The organizational ship becomes hard to steer, and often times ends up at the wrong goal.

    Heck, Barbara Liskov (2008 ACM Turing Award winner) has a great quote on this topic... IIRC, to the effect of how she felt guilty for times when she worked less, until she realized that she was always more productive and energized during those times.

When you are working hard, get up and retch every so often.