40 more years

Can we grow old in this industry?

Digital product design is not an old profession by most standards. I'm lately finding myself going back to this thought with mixed feelings. If you become a doctor, you can depend on a stable career trajectory, you know what you'll be roughly doing and what you'll be compensated for. If you become a captain on a ship, you join a long lineage of seafarers dating back millennia. Become an architect, and you can build on top of all the standards by those that came before.

Shipping on the Maas near Rotterdam, by Ludolf Bakhiuzen (1701). You could argue this is a modern depiction of seafaring, that's how rich the history of this profession is.

These professions draw on their rich histories, (in)famous individuals, different schools of thought. They have built institutions to certify those who'd like to participate and adopted global standards.

The tech industry seems to be on the other end of the spectrum. It's like we're still in the settlers age. Yes, there have been many important developments since the invention of the computer, but it's just a tiny speck when you compare it to the history of eg. architecture.

The job market in tech is structured like the gig economy and relies on personal connections over pre-defined job trajectories. It's volatile, well paid and great for those looking for flexibility. Though it worries me a bit that I've met only a handful of 'senior-senior' designers in the last 5 years. Where do they go?

For now, I know that I love doing what I do, but I realise there's still 40 years of work ahead of me before I reach retirement age. I wonder what a digital product design career can offer in the long term. Will we grow old while honing our design skills and become badass craftsmen? Do we transition into mentoring/management roles to pass our learnings on to future generations? Or do we collectively take a step back and open bakery shops?

Published on 09-11-2021