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It’s Tough Being Over 40 in Silicon Valley (bloomberg.com)
256 points by mudil on Sept 8, 2016 | hide | past | web | favorite | 329 comments



I find it fascinating that when there is a discussion about age discrimination, most commenters have "advice" for the old farts how to stay current, learn current hip tech, be willing to work longer hours etc. However, we we talk about women in computing, it is always sexism and the discussion is about how the corporations need to change to attract more women. Pretty asymmetrical, don't you think?


Bang on. Discrimination by sex is not socially acceptable. Discrimination by other protected factors is sometimes socially ok. (not that it should be).

Edit to add: At a former company i became a bit of an outsider when I noted at a diversity meeting that diversity meant more than the big 3 that tend to get pushed around Gender, Orientation, Race. I noted that our office was young, had no parents, no ex convicts, no disabled people, few people who had not attended a top university (or no university for that matter) and few or no religious people... people basically said "Why you against <women, colored...>?" as though it was some kind of zero sum fight.


From what you described, to an observer it would have sounded like you were arguing with them against the whole concept of protected classes, rather than pointing out that they should add ageism (etc.) to the list of things to be wary of.

Usually when people point out hypocrisy, people assume that they're making an indirect argument against the thing they're being accused of being hypocrites about. If you say something like "you seem to really worry about discrimination based on gender, but are ignoring ageism", that doesn't sound like you're trying to enlighten them about ageism. Rather, that sounds like you're trying to illustrate that the whole concept of protected classes is BS.

Accusations of hypocrisy are easily misinterpreted because so many people use them as a terrible form of argumentation. For example, consider all the people who get mad about other people complaining about intolerance, and the best they can come up with is "but you're just intolerant against intolerance!". As if pointing out hypocrisy invalidates whatever else someone is saying. It's the dumbest possible approach to debating an issue, but 99.9% of the time when I hear someone accuse someone else of hypocrisy, that's what they're doing. That may not have been what you were doing in that situation, but I could totally see how everyone might have misinterpreted you.


Usually when people point out hypocrisy

What about sophistry?


I don't really care much about women or race, but ex-convicts and the disabled have it really hard. The disabled at least have legislation like tax benefits and federal priority helping them, but ex-convicts are just demonized and blamed.

Veterans are another good one: Even though the books say they get all sorts of benefits, the government is so poorly run that they often have trouble actually collecting them. Half the homeless in Portland claim to be veterans, and so do some people working at low-paying retail jobs in their 40s. I don't know how much of that is true, but I have a lot of weak evidence that veterans are often in a hard spot as they get older, despite all the benefits they should be getting.

Or even just the homeless directly. It wasn't exactly legal, but I used to know someone who'd pick up homeless, and offer them food, a place to stay, and some money to do roofing on his under-construction houses. It's rare to see jobs directly targeted to them.


So true. Something diversity advocates conveniently forget and omit.


Some diversity advocates forget, so other diversity advocates point it out to them. Don't paint this as diversity advocates being the bad guys somehow.


I was actually thinking of the press coverage. Advocates can advocate all they want but if they are not covered by the press, no one knows about it.


My company is undergoing a big diversity initiative. Although the company is 75% female, the first task to is increase the number of women in tech. Race is also a factor. When asked about what is being done about age discrimination, there was a roundabout answer that did not address anything. Age diversity is not trendy.

EDIT: I should clarify that I have nothing against the diversity initiative in general, just pointing how despite all the work that is/was done, age discrimination was not even considered.


Most diversity initiatives are discriminatory by nature. Assuming your company hires people exclusively based on skill.... In order to artificially balance certain ratios your company must discriminate on who they hire.

In the educational world this is called affirmative action.


I disagree. Diversity is about hiring people based purely on merit, rather than letting prejudices about gender/age/race taint the hiring process.

Nobody's suggesting that we hire under-qualified women/elders/blacks, but they are saying the merely being such is not an indication of inferior ability or lack of "culture fit."


> I disagree. Diversity is about hiring people based purely on merit, rather than letting prejudices about gender/age/race taint the hiring process.

What if that means you end up mostly with white males due to women and minorities being drastically underrepresented in the total tech employee pool?

Diversity is great until you hit the statistics wall.


Well statistics tells us two things: 1. Yes, minorities and women are underrepresented in the body of students pursuing tech careers.

2. That discrepancy does not explain the wider discrepancy found in tech employment.

Everyone can take and pick bits of statistics to make up faux points (specially when they do not like the actual picture that comes when we use statistical data as objectively as possible.)


I don't agree with point 2, but we're just arguing opinions currently without data.

As soon as you start actively seeking candidates based on underrepresented classes, you're practicing reverse discrimination in the name of "diversity".


> Nobody's suggesting that we hire under-qualified women/elders/blacks

How else are you supposed to meet arbitrary diversity quotas, when the pool of applicants is overwhelmingly white and male ?


But it isn't - unless you are counting Asians and Jews as "white".


They aren't arbitrary quotas, they are based on demographics, such that, randomly hiring qualified applicants should produce the desired results.


I think this is the first time I've ever seen someone argue that diversity is enabled through the meritocracy.

The big flaw in that argument is that "merit" is not an objective measure, which then leads to a very narrow and slanted version of "merit".


Hence the Github rug scenario.


> Assuming your company hires people exclusively based on skill

i would wager the number of individual hiring events that (at least ballpark) quantify "skill" is negligible.


I do think. Probably the same unconscious ageism in action: if you are having trouble getting hired and you're over 40, it's obviously because your skills are out of date.

Hiring involves a lot of "People Like Us" evaluation, consciously in many cases. And if you're over 40, you're probably not like "Us" in SV.


I don't see it a lot different than sexism. "If you having trouble getting hired, act more like men. Dress a certain way. Talk a certain way. This will reduce your chance of being rejected".

> "People Like Us".

Usually called "culture fit". I've seen candidates rejected because of "culture fit". So I dug a bit deeper, inquiring what they meant. And it was just plain old racism and ugly stereotypes. I guess one is not supposed to question "culture fit" rejections, it might be very unpleasant what lies there.


The only way I'm not like the "Us" in silicon valley (if we're talking about 20-30 year olds as represented on HN) is that I have more current skills (takes time to learn languages, knowing 5 currently popular languages takes more time than the person just out of college has invested.) I also have experience building things at scale. Projects that take 5 years to do you can't have done too many by the time you're 23. But I've done several.

My code is being used by probably a billion people right now (how many people are using windows?) How many people play on the playstation network? I'm currently working in a blockchain startup. Is that an out of date skill?

I don't mean for this to sound arrogant- as I said elsewhere wisdom and enthusiasm are very useful.

I think the correct mix for any engineering team I build is a range from junior, or even interns, to senior people.


Well put. Especially on 5 yr project thing. I'll add that even nature balances what types of us there are for innovation and resilience. The idea that one, narrow type will be ideal for all startup or tech work is absurd in comparison.


Yap. There are already implicit assumptions made before the question is even discussed.

It is a bit like say telling women: "Don't dress as sexy, don't wear too much makeup, it will help you slip under the radar. Maybe you won't be propositioned as much, etc."


SiVa is deeply zero-sum. Its ... mental heritage is that of the old New England style of progressivism, which had its agenda carved from ... (presumably New Hampshire) granite 200+ years ago.

I think the elephant in the room is that a lot of "current hip tech" is bloated[1], overwrought and doesn't work very well. HTTP is a terrible protocol. Heck, TCP itself has some real problems. I'm perpetually having to explain to people what "reliable" means. It's akin to "no, having life insurance doesn't mean you can't die."

[1] this is rapidly getting better, though. Too bad you'll be too old to participate in it :)

The rhino in the room is that it'll take almost everyone at least 20 years to be any good at this. And no amount of social engineering will overcome this.

Work longer hours? Please. It's only harder if you don't know what you're doing. And that's a thing; I respect that but let's not kid ourselves. That's not what this is usually. I've drawn to a few inside straights in my time.

This is lazy management because absolutely nobody has time to learn both technology and management before they're sent to Carousel ( from "Logan's Run" ) to be "renewed".

The way I work is: I very carefully describe the problem. I solve the problem ( or determine that it can't be solved given present constraints ), usually in about 40% of the alloted time. If you don't like the representation of the solution, I have plenty of time to make it look any way you want after the fact. Once I get a prototype working, it's pretty easy to morph it into another shape, on another platform, in a different language, whatever you want.

Nobody even understands this approach. Frequently, they're offended by it. It's like doctors dependent on Aristotlean medicine. Well, I've been through the French Revolution and I know what works.


Well, I can't speak for everyone, but in both cases I think the commenters blaming workers are off-base.


And of course the funny thing is, I'm an "old fart", I have been levelling up for the past 20 years. I put the first Elixir app into production before Elixir hit 1.0- I'm staying current. I work long hours, for startups, I can handle that intensity.

The assumption that we're slower, out dated and unwilling to put the hours in is kinda prejudicial. Some of us may be, but TBH I see a lot of foolishness, wasted time and nonsense from some younger people too. Enthusiasm and Wisdom are BOTH valuable. A trait that might be more common in one age group is not justification for rejecting the entire age group.

But the hiring processes are totally discriminatory. I've been on the other side of it too often, seen bosses reject people younger than me as "too old" without even realizing it (or that they are creating cause for a discrimination lawsuit.)

Last time I interviewed with bay area startups I had a %100 correllation-- visual interviews (eg: skype video etc) would not progress, even past the HR initial contact (eg: no technical interview at all) while ones done via audio (no visual) would progress. (I guess I don't look as young as I think I do!) We're talking well known companies like Digital Ocean and Stripe engaged in straight up age discrimination.

After being discriminated against by Pebble a few years ago, I figured they were the exception (The guy who interviewed me was so young and so incompetent the he had the wrong answers for his trick questions and couldn't grasp my explanations, which the HR lady reported to me as "you need to get stronger on these things")... but the most recent round convinced me that it really is discrimination.

I've got a lot of really valuable talents and relevant as I've stayed current. I interview very well- typically I can get a better job than I deserve by interviewing. I've been rejected lots over my career, sometimes just arbitrarily. I never would have thought that I was being discriminated against except that I noticed the correlation between visual interviews (and I'm certain that 5 years ago when I was rejected I was not being discriminated against.)

Further, as a sexual minority, I had to deal with the possibility years ago that I would be fired if people found out. I decided that this was fine-- I don't want to work for a place that discriminates against me. I can make money on my own if I need to, I don't need a job.

So it's no big deal. I'm just surprised at how poorly so many companies do it. And of course, I do tend to stop being a customer of companies that engage in discrimination. (That's me discriminating against them. :-)


It's not just software companies practicing age discrimination. I heard from a friend of a friend who worked at a very well known, trendy space rocket company. He recounted youngish engineers in a meeting would comment how they don't want to see too many with gray beard in the company...


The funny thing is, when I was 20, and working for startups, I saw so many startups shoot themselves in the foot with the idea that "we need to hire a grey hair, or the investors won't take us seriously". And then they would hire a non-technical CEO.


From what I understood, the comment was directed at hiring more engineers. Not HR, finance, ceo or cxx. The youngish engineers were commenting (maybe joking ?) that they didn't want to see engineers with gray beard...


So how do you find work then? Are you a consultant?


I come from a family with a few generations of engineers of all types.

Mechanical/chemical/electrical engineers have a similar problem that 30 years experience isn't much more useful than 10, wages tend to top out early and you're vulnerable to being laid off and never hired again in your 40s/50s. One advantage over software is that the skills change perhaps less frequently but that is offset by lower overall demand.

While you're in your 20's think about what you're going to do at the end of your 20 year window. Are you moving up to management? Have extensive business knowledge to add to tech skills? Have a second career planned? Or saved enough money to retire or semi-retire? Of course you can actively stay up to date with latest technology but that is much tougher than it sounds. You need to have thought a lot about this before you hit 40.

For all the young guys out there. Don't think it wont happen to you. If you just follow day by day one day you'll wake up with a big mortgage, a couple of expensive kids, maybe a divorce and a bunch of recruiters that never return your phone calls. You need to avoid that place.


> Or saved enough money to retire or semi-retire?

This. Do this and one of the other strategies. Just save some freaking money. I know far to many people who are up-to-their-eyes in debt and have almost no savings.


You're young and single I'm guessing. What you say seems logical. However, saving enough money for yourself to retire (I have) is one thing, but then when the kids come and need braces, school stuff, extracurriculars, college, health insurance, etc., they're pretty well screwed if their parents can't find a job.

Especially these days with people waiting longer to have kids, the 40-year-old employability cutoff is a problem.


If you don't mind me asking, how have you saved enough to retire? Worth asking also might be, how many years have you been saving for?

Bay area housing costs seem to make saving very difficult. I'm not sure I'll be able to retire before 40


Not sure if you were asking me or daxfohl, but I've always been a saver. I got serious about it maybe 8-10 years ago. My savings rate has been trending upwards during that time, it's around 40-45% of my take-home pay now.

I spent a year in the Bay area, but moved back to Ohio for family reasons. That helped, because things are so much less expensive out here. (Bear in mind, though, you can work in the Bay Area and then retire somewhere cheaper ;)

http://www.mrmoneymustache.com/ has some great articles on how to save money while still enjoying life.

My top piece of advice is: do not buy a brand new car. Don't buy any car if you can manage it, but if you must own one, get something that's a few years old and half as expensive. And even then, try to ride a bicycle when possible.


"... you can work in the Bay Area and then retire somewhere cheaper"

Yes but, while working in the Bay Area you have to live in the Bay Area (assuming you aren't remote). I'm just super curious how we're supposed to save enough to be safe by 40.


* Forego apartments and scour craigslist for cheap rooms in shared housing. This will cut rent by 2/3. Look in less desirable (not dangerous, just not primo) neighborhoods, though sometimes deals can be found in primo locales too. Don't buy a house until you need one; some claim it's an investment, but really they're just money pits.

* Don't spend more than about 8K on a car. Drive it till it dies. (I drove a $2140 15 year old Saturn without AC or working windows for 7 years).

* Learn how to save money while still in college.

* Read "The Idiot's Guide to Getting Rich". Ridiculous title, but plenty of sound advice throughout the book.

* Use Excel or C to figure out what your savings will be by age N if you save X/mo with whatever inflation/investment rate. You're a programmer so this should be straightforward.

* Take those results and save X/mo. Stick it into an index fund with automatic reinvestment. Set it up to withdraw X/mo from your bank account every month. This last part is probably the most important part! It forces you to live like your salary is $Salary-X, and eventually you just come to accept that.

* Monitor those numbers and watch it go up. Discover you prefer doing that to buying things. Increase X.

* Travel! Okay this is odd advice. But when you take time off work to travel a bit you really learn how to stretch every penny. I spent three years overseas sometimes working odd jobs and it was worth every second.

* Don't incur "bad" debt (duh), and pay high interest rates off ASAP. Low interest rates 3% or so you don't have to worry about so much.

* Don't play the lottery. Don't expect that there's a "trick" to building wealth. It's just a long arduous boring process of living below your means.

* Read "The Idiot's Guide to Getting Rich". Ridiculous title, but plenty of sound advice throughout the book. Yes I said it twice.


Also note that "save enough to retire" doesn't mean "retire in Hawaii". It means "have enough savings to maintain my current lifestyle if I lose my job". So it's more about lifestyle than savings. If your lifestyle is lavish then retiring, ever, will be difficult. If you're accustomed to being frugal, then retiring by mid-30's is entirely possible, especially with no kids.


Housing overshadows pretty much all other expenses in the Bay Area. So the key is simple: if renting, spend as little as you can. Then try to buy, so that you can be on the receiving end of the increasing housing costs.


I'm in my 30's, married, have a son, and a mortgage. But I also have enough savings to pay off my mortgage in full today if it was an urgent need.


... how? Either your mortgage is very small, or you have somehow managed to save an incredible amount of money. It's really the latter that I'd like to know more about.


It's a relatively small mortgage, I bought it for $138k. (This was near the bottom of the mortgage crisis, but also the house is ~50 years old and outside of a small town in Ohio).

As I mentioned in the other comment, my savings rate has been trending upward for a while, and I now save about ~40-45% of my take-home pay.

But, even when I lived in the bay area, earned less money, and paid twice my current mortgage in rent, I was still saving ~15% of my income.

I don't consider myself deprived: we eat out, buy fancy phones, etc. We have a separate bank account just for giving that gets some money automatically transferred in each month. Our car is a 15-year-old civic that looks terible, but we don't drive that much and it still runs great. We'll probably replace it soon, but I kind of want to see how long it will go at this point ;)

Like I mentioned in my other comment, http://www.mrmoneymustache.com/ has a lot of great advice. There's a few sites like that one, but MMM is my favorite.


Thanks for the response.

What you're doing sounds like what I want to shoot for. I'm almost 30 now, and for the last 2 years I've REALLY ramped up my savings. My goal, is to retire sometime in my mid 40s, so that I can work full time on my own projects. Lofty goal to say the least. I also realize that to do that, I'll need to find a cheap home.

Been reading up on mrmoneymustache, some great tips there. Thanks for the link!


> It's really the latter that I'd like to know more about.

Whatever nfriedly's situation may be ... you won't get to the latter until you understand the former. In other words: You can't "save an incredible amount of money", without first "saving some money".


Okay sorry I rushed to judgement. We're in the same boat then. Except I just lost a job and am on the verge of having to dip into savings for the first time ever. Very disturbing feeling. Immediately changes a lot of opinions.


I'm a Materials Engineer in my 30's I work with a lot of Mech/Chem engineers. The engineering world is a bit different to software world. I'd say the main reason for this is there is a much lower applicant pool (Fewer graduates entering workforce). From what I have experienced engineers change companies much less frequently and engineering companies tend to be more stable than software companies (Most of the engineers I know either work for consultancies or large mining/industrial companies).

Professional reputation is a big deal. If you have a good enough reputation you can basically negotiate for your own salary.

Younger Engineers (i.e fresh from university) do not get to work on the large projects and especially not in any kind of lead role. Mostly they work under other more senior engineers. Typically you'll work your way up until you get given lead on a small project. Eventually you will move onto managing medium to large projects.

Senior engineers (i.e 40's and 50's) are hugely valued. These are the people with professional reputations, contacts etc. Clients will know these Engineers by name and will often request them specifically.

What I've seen typically happen is for engineers in the 50-60 age range to semi-retire and move into consulting or Academia. Many Engineering lecturers at universities are retired former practicing engineers.

Several senior engineers I used to work with have moved into consulting and they get paid an obscene amount of money- more than I make in a years for a 3 month consulting gig in a country like Brazil, India, China etc.

We have a diversity problems for sure but it is gender not age.


So true. The question is, how do you avoid that place. Only so many can become managers. Only so many can start own business and keep it running.


So much of it is contacts. I'm in that place now.

In my 20's and early 30's every job I got was through contacts.

Since then I've been working solo projects at small companies for a number of years. Fun work, but suddenly it's dried up. I don't have any good recent contacts in the tech sector. So I'm competing with 22 year olds, with little to back me up.

So don't do that. Try to keep in touch with former colleagues, and try to be widely-known in your company for doing good work and being easy to work with.


The line that stood out most in that article was the woman saying "Every job I've had I got through my contacts, but they're all gone now". It had never occurred to me, but it's obviously a huge problem for older job seekers.

If you're 33, you might get a job using a recommendation from someone who managed you a decade ago. If you're 53, that same person retired years ago and doesn't have any pull to offer. And someone who worked for you 10 years ago can't recommend you easily, because it's hard to "recommend up" to a position above your own.

It's a subtle sort of thing, it's not direct ageism but it's obviously a big hurdle for an older worker.


I think a few corollaries to that are:

Stick with big companies. Yes by working at a small co you gain experience picking tech stacks, working on all areas of software, etc. But the ceiling is lower at small companies (only the very hottest couple startups each year notwithstanding). And the experience you gain there (mostly writing simple CRUD apps in various languages) isn't so applicable to larger companies where performance and scalability are the main things they want. So when you hit the glass ceiling of the "small co" sector, you're essentially starting all over when you move to the "big co" sector. That's where I am and it's almost like a career change.

Compare this to a career path at a large co, where you move into senior engineering and the skills you gain are immediately useful when you apply to other large companies. You get free networking and visibility at big companies too, an underestimated fringe benefit.

Also, pick your battles wisely when doing the "keep current on technology" thing. Avoid cute stuff that doesn't have a ton of use outside a very narrow segment (e.g. Haskell, logic programming, blockchain, marginally CUDA), unless you really want to devote your career to it. Also avoid overly-trendy stuff that will be obsolete in five years (JS frameworks, MongoDB). Stick with things that solve real problems that real companies have. To that end, search job boards and see what other large companies are hiring for.


This all looks like really good advice.

I'm doing the small(er) company thing, and I don't regret it, but I've slowly shifted to larger groups and I definitely feel the difference. Getting exposure to lots of different things is good, but at a certain point being in charge of maintaining the website while you're also building an actual product is just a distraction.

The "current tech" thing is obviously a constant battle for everyone, and it's an important one. Narrow tools can be trouble, flash-in-the-pan frameworks are ugly, and even things like Go can be chancy if you master something valuable but scarcely employed. At the very least, it's obvious to me even early in my career that I need to maintain a couple of mainstream, in-demand skills no matter what I specialize in.


Specializing, I think, is a good thing. I'd long been beholden to the belief that "broken comb" (https://spin.atomicobject.com/2013/06/27/broken-comb-people/) could lead to a fulfilling career path, but I no longer believe this is the case. If you're middling at a bunch of things then you'll never be hired to greater than a middling position.

The only advantage of broken comb is that you potentially have lots of middling positions you can apply to. But even for those, you may be rejected as "overqualified" because you know so much other stuff. Besides, who wants to send lots of resumes and do lots of interviews in the pursuit of a middling job? Especially when you know you're way better than the people that you're competing against and losing to.

So, don't fan too far out. Find a concentration that's reasonably mainstream for the foreseeable future and expand your skillset to supplement that. Maybe not as renaissance-man as the typical above-average programmer would hope for, but likely the best career path.


Exactly! I would be a terrible manager and I have no entrepreneurial instincts at all. I'm way over 40 and I'm one layoff away from involuntary retirement. I suppose I could hook up with someone who was an entrepreneur, but there's no certainty of that happening.


Put your energy into ending the discrimination now before you too are affected by it.


I'm an excellent manager[1]. Alas, what I see is that startups start out with a CTO (the guy who actually built the thing) and there aren't a lot of manager jobs advertised.

The few that were, I got discriminated against because of my age.

Doh!

[1] They tell me. I can't get too far from the code or its no fun, but I prefer to build teams and work at a high level than to be constantly coding all the time.


I don't know about the Silicon Valley, but I'm in the Silicon Forest (Hillsboro/Portland Oregon) and this market seems to be very merit driven. You can be 80 years old and get a job if you can do work. Maybe you can't get a job at fart.IO building an API for some craft beer BS but at many mid to large companies 40 is still an average.

The last 4-5 companies I've been at value bullet points over anything else (for what that's worth). If you're 40+ and coming in showing off your PHP skills, JQuery or WinForms experience you'll get dumped, but the same goes for the 23 year old with that skill set.

My advice is always the same for developers my age: Keep with the times! If you aren't passionate enough about this work to continue learning and advancing on your own time get out. Go do something slower paced. Don't expect the industry to change.


>If you aren't passionate enough about this work to continue learning and advancing on your own time get out. Go do something slower paced. Don't expect the industry to change.

Spending time learning something that dies a few months later is boring and annoying. Give me practical and tested toys, damn it, not some new language every month.

There's a comfortable wave to ride between "plenty established" and "highly experimental joyride that's really meant for someone's resume". Things on that wave have a high chance of becoming a decent slice of the job market but they haven't yet. That's the category I like to learn from but it takes time for things to get to that position.

You also have to pick what you put on your resume carefully, because some employers will see you as being all over the place. But if you don't put new things, you're seen as old and behind-the-times.


Is the potshot on jQuery and PHP really necessary? I know enough people where I live making six figures (low COL city) with PHP, SQL and jQuery that I don't think they're ready to sunset.


This unfortunate obsession with new and shiny in the Valley is why we have to learn lessons like the benefits of relational databases over and over. Most of the new stuff isn't improved, it is simply different.


I've now used several relational databases, Cassandra, couchbase, and dynamoDB and here's what I've learned: They all suck. Every one of them in their own special snowflake ways, but they all suck.


That's what differentiates good engineers from great engineers: they know what to avoid and when to avoid it.


few days ago had a guy tell me that "relational dbs are dying because google only uses non-relational dbs"


Relational dbs sure, but there are legitimate scale reasons to use a distributed key value store (for instance). There is no reason to be stuck with PHP today though. It's a very backward language when you compare to something with a modern type system/features (e.g. Go, Rust, Clojure, Java 8+, Scala...). Devs need to have a passion for learning technology. Not because it's the shiny new thing but because the new tech often _does_ offer benefit.


Often times you have no control over the technology stack you use because other factors drive your choices. I'm stuck developing in PHP because the tool we are using is written in PHP.


You often have to learn this stuff outside of your regular job. Once you know another stack then you can find another job using it. That's how you exert control over your career. Tying yourself to one company (or stack) is a slow death sentence.

EDIT: to those downvoting this... Do you disagree with me (i.e. you think it's a good career decision to stick with a single tech stack) or do you agree but dislike that it has to be this way? Genuinely curious because I didn't think what I said was controversial at all, just industry observation/common sense.


I live and work outside the valley, and I know python and Java, dabbled in scala, rust and lately C# -- no one out here will give me a job on any of those languages because I have no professional experience with them, and some of them no one here is using yet


You're being downvoted because you are arguing the details and have missed the wider point being made.


Have you looked at modern PHP though? I haven't looked extensively, and I'm not very familiar with type systems in general, but PHP 7 just might qualify as a modern type system (albeit optional) and since about 5.5 it's had pretty modern features like closures and traits. There's also hack-lang (Facebook's extended PHP.)


I have not and you're probably correct that it's not as bad as it used to be. That being said, this looks like a great case for learning new technologies/languages since the language you do know may change out from under you eventually anyway. For instance if a real type system shows up in PHP, prior experience with Haskell or Rust would allow a PHP developer to take advantage of it.

tl;dr: always be learning.


Here here, that's me. Not going away any time soon. It's not exactly sexy but it pays the bills and there's plenty of demand.

I didn't even know PHP before I started on this journey at the beginning of the year. I was trying to peddle my (admittedly meager) Python skills but everyone who had money to pay wanted boring PHP devs to maintain and build on 7-10 year old systems, so I brushed up and landed a few nice stable gigs. Will easily clear 6 figures within the next month or so for the year.


I've been thinking of specializing in maintenance of super boring old systems. I was wondering Is there much of a higher end market for it(100-200/hr)? And did you find one client for full time or a bunch of smaller gigs at 5-10 hours a week?


I have one main client that will basically pay me hourly as much as I'm willing to work for them, but then I also try to take at least 2-3 other clients on each month just for diversity. The smaller clients I typically charge by project rather than by hour, and so far I've been able to get my rate on those after the project is done in the lows 100s/hour range. For me personally I don't know that I could get my schedule completely full of work like that, but it might be possible I suppose.


It's not a potshot at the technology, but the market itself.

I'm glad you're making that, but in Portland they are paying $15 an hour for PHP/MySQL/Jquery developers all day long. It's an over saturated market that peaked 10 years ago. Sure there are a few edge cases here and there but the majority of it is a swampy wordpress ghetto.

Folks who started on that stack in the 2000s (like me) and refuse to move forward aren't making 6 figures around here.


I think you're missing the point when you say that people working in the PHP dev space "refuse to move foreward." Other people above have made the point that there is PHP 7. PHP is now a modern language with namespaces. It's strange to me when I hear people commenting about PHP as if it's 1998 (or even 2008) or something.

Some people enjoy developing in PHP now. And there's plenty of work there, let me tell you. And all of it that I've seen pays a lot more than chump change.


It is relevant to the discussion because that's not a fresh skill set. Anyone not moving on from those technologies at this point should be concerned about their future in the industry. Maybe they can find jobs now, but without learning something new they won't in the future.


Tell that to all the COBOL programmers making serious money.


COBOL is tied to specialized hardware that's hard to move away from due to massive capital investment. PHP will run anywhere better languages run. And really, COBOL will be gone someday. If your career is on the line, it pays to stay current.


COBOL itself isn't tied to any specialized hardware, and you can get COBOL compilers (whether proprietary or open source) for all major platforms. If it runs PHP, it probably can run COBOL too.

The real problem with porting most COBOL code is that few COBOL applications are actually pure COBOL, they are full of calls to proprietary middleware, databases and operating systems. For example, a lot of COBOL code runs on IBM mainframes and calls mainframe packages like CICS and IMS and the underlying mainframe OS (z/OS aka MVS). While there are replatforming solutions which emulate some of these mainframe software packages on other platforms, the emulation is generally imperfect hence there is still effort and risk in migrating.

I think the biggest problem with mainframe COBOL software is not the hardware but finding people with the right skills to maintain it. Even if you use some replatforming solution to port it to a more mainstream platform (Linux/Unix/Windows), you will still need COBOL programmers familiar with the relevant mainframe technologies, plus they'll need to understand the limitations of the replatforming solution you chose.


The issue is not the capital investment on hardware. You can get an equally powerful modern server to replace your old AS/400 machine for a few thousand dollars. The issue is the risk to move away from that is not worth it.


The potshot was aimed at Winforms, actually, not SQL.


The sentiment often echoed on HN usually includes relational DBs that aren't postgres, but you are right, he didn't explicitly call out SQL, I included it because that's the usual skillset the devs I was talking about have


Oh, the geek pecking order is fractal and recursive on every scale, to be sure.


Craft beer in portland just means "more hops." I call it crap beer.

Fully agree with your post, just felt like griping about "craft" beer here.


Not just Portland, the entire American craft beer scene is infected with shitty, indistinguishable IPA's that all taste like a mountain of hops.


I keep on thinking that surely this hops fad will die out soon, but it keeps on increasing. The West coast is especially big on hops. Even lagers from breweries like Lagunitas are extremely hoppy. No thank you. Hops are a cheap and easy way to disguise the taste of bad beer.


It's insane. I'd honestly rather have a Miller or something than Yet Another IPA.


I'll drink a miller just to troll the insufferable yuppie dbags that hate that shit


Hey, it's the champagne of beers.


Sierra Nevada (which makes some decent beers!) deserves a lot of blame for this nonsense.

They've been chasing the dragon more than anyone else, putting out stuff like Hop Hunter which is defined exclusively by how strong they can make it. "Beer with added hop oil"? Really? If brewing with more hops isn't enough, it's probably time to stop adding hops and improve the beer some other way!

Cascade hops are a great flavor, I love them, but they need to go together with the other tastes.


There are definitely a lot of bad IPA's, but that's hardly even a significant part of the American Craft Beer scene these days.


Googling "west coast beer style" has this[0] as the first result. You could argue that this isn't a canonical source or that things have changed since the thread in 2011--but the stigma is still around.

[0] https://www.homebrewersassociation.org/forum/index.php?topic...


I would argue that the IPA fandom hasn't diminished (especially out west), but other things have arisen alongside it.

On the east coast, I see an impressive number of sours and dubbels coming out of craft shops, and the midwest is big on bold, malty offerings like ambers and oatmeal stouts.


I haven't seen IPAs drop in popularity (I much prefer darker, maltier beers), but I do feel like more recently IPAs have tried to use hops in more interesting ways instead of just going for XIPA/DIPA. I hope if hops stay around this trend continues.

I would have thought the hops shortage of 2008 would have forced breweries to try something else, so by now it's probably demand driven. I hear there's a new hops shortage coming up.


Yeah, I don't know that I've seen an actual drop, but there definitely seems to be more development in other areas. Craft beer aisles keep growing, and a good chunk of what gets added isn't IPAs. Still not enough porters and dark ales for my taste, but I'll take what I can get.

I'm definitely glad to see the push into more interesting IPAs. I'm seeing more whites, doubles, and other exotic stuff. Plus people finally seem to be learning that 80 IBUs demands some malt and complexity to make something drinkable.

(For some reason, the Wyoming/Idaho region is awesome for dark beers. Something practical, or just a regional fascination? Try some Wake Up Call or 3 Picket Porter if you can find 'em.)


I think people are on a quest to make the perfect IPA.. And make money in the process. For me it's IPA or nothing.


I think its mostly a west coast thing - here in the midwest we get plenty of malty beers!


I feel like American beer is bizarrely segmented. The West Coast (from Colorado on, roughly) is still fixated on IPAs and hoppiness. The midwest is full of great ambers and other malty things, and the east has taken to both sours and darker ales like dubbels.

The non-coastal west I struggle to characterize, but it's putting out a lot of truly awesome beer, including really dark stuff like porters and imperials that I love.


I stopped drinking IPA's for that reason. I wont try one unless it's recommended by somebody I know has taste. Too much wasted cash...


The reason IPA is so popular is because for so long the american beer landscape was dominated by brews like Budwiser that are quite weakly flavored. This was an artifact of prohibition destroying most of the competitive landscape with the survivors dominating the market for decades and in turn using anticompetitive laws to their advantage.

IPA is a reaction against that flavor profile. You'll be starting to see new flavors come about as people (like yourself) become tired of IPAs.


Why not flavor with malts? I haven't looked into the history of American beer, but many styles seem to come from the price of local ingredients and qualities of local water. That makes me things hops were cheap and plentiful and caused the IPA trend.


I'm not a super expert, this is just what my friends in the biz have told me. I wouldn't be surprised if several factors conspired to create the IPA trend. Yes, there are many ways to infuse flavor into beer, some of which you mentioned above. My friends make IPA styles, but also many others using all kinds of tricks like malts, waters with different minerals, pHs, different base ingredients, brewing wheat in different ways. My buddy even domesticated a new strain of yeast.

If you're in Boston, give Aeronaut Brewery in Somerville a try (https://goo.gl/maps/bm22XaBvFPQ2). I have something of an interest of it, but I (unsurprisingly) recommend them.


Aeronaut is a great option for some new flavors. They do all-out hoppy IPAs, but if that's not your thing the other options are distinctive and tasty.


Hoppiness is partly a reaction to the variance in hops and a pride in "American beer". Cascade hops in particular are cheap, available, and have a strong and distinctive flavor; hence the popularity of IPAs on the west coast, and the presence of companies like Sierra Nevada in the hoppy vanguard.

Even as the Cascade trend has diminished, lots of people have 'reacted' by rediscovering other hop flavors and advertising things like Nobel hopped beers.

Having said that, it's all getting a bit played out (except on the west coast, perhaps) and I'm starting to see more experimentation with other stylings like wheat, fruit tones, and dark ales.


I have wondered about the same thing--both hoppiness and maltiness are good reactions against bland mass market beers, but somehow big malts never took off the way hoppy IPAs did. Is it difficult/expensive to make malty beers?


On that note, why are there so many new IPAs in PNW? I like IPAs, but I doubt most people want them.


My theory: they taste like pine trees, and we've got a lot of pine trees, so it just feels right. Try drinking an IPA in Mexico sometimes. Super inappropes. But in PNW it makes sense. For awhile, til you get sick of it.


Here's an idea for a craft brew. Replace the hops with actual white pine needles.

And Googling for "beer with pine needles"...

...dammit. "Spruce beer". That idea is literally centuries old. At least five breweries currently use evergreen bits as flavoring agents, and at least 16 have tried reviving gruit recipes in some form or another. Apparently, Sitka spruce tips are popular in Alaska, being far more available than hops.


Yeah, the Alaskan Winter ale with spruce tips is good. Not as good as their Alaskan Amber alt beer. (Though, it's a bit variable, sometimes it's good, and sometimes it's the nectar of the gods.)

(Personally, I wasn't a fan of IPAs before they got big, but preferred the amber -> porter/stout range)


We've got a lot of pinetrees in michigan as well, but we generally dont have these super hoppy styles.

I think theres also regional hop variations, so maybe theyre just less piney here.


Cascade hops are super strong, and are grown out in the PNW/Colorado area, so that's a big chunk of the problem. Other hop varieties lend themselves much better to malty beers, or to darker options where the bitterness is more subtle.


Pine trees are even on the flag for New England.


Pine trees smell good. They do not taste good.


80% of hops in America come from the Yakima Valley, which is in Eastern Washington. They even have a large hop festival every year. I think this presence influences the beer scene dramatically.


The same reason there are so many JS frameworks.


Don't know about PNW (Pacific Northwest??), but at least over here (northern Europe) IPAs are terribly trendy, you can find them in every grocery store. I suppose it's some worldwide trend..


On the contrary, that's why so many are made.


I worked at a company in the suburbs of Portland for about a year and was really impressed when they hired a guy in his 60s to do a job currently being done by 4-5 people in their late 20s (a mix of males and females). I wouldn't necessarily say he was slow in picking up stuff, but his style of learning is was definitely a lot different. He was a great asset and it alleviated some of the subconscious biases I had myself.


Ouch man.... not all craft beer software is BS CRUD apps overbuilt on react.js by 22 year old hipsters deploying single function "micro-services" each in their own docker container...

Brewing beer is a form of manufacturing, and most manufacturing can be made better or more efficient though targeted software.

[0] commenting because I don't want "craft beer software" to become a joke. Some of us actually work in that industry.


How about we qualify that instead as "craft-beer-advertising software"?

Monitoring the temperature and pressure of your fermentation vessels securely from any commodity mobile device would be productive and useful.

Figuring out how to re-skin the collect-and-compete RPG game genre onto all the different flavors of HoppyHipsterBeard-brand beers seems to be the sort of thing grandparent post was referring to.


>[0] commenting because I don't want "craft beer software" to become a joke. Some of us actually work in that industry.

So make good craft beer, and it won't last as a joke. Trying to police people's words doesn't. I'm not trying to be a dick, either. It didn't work for SJWs, it won't work for craft beers. Ten million people nagging for 8 hours a day doesn't accomplish as much as one person doing.


Isn't manufacturing also dominated by PLCs and ladder logic? Not sure that's much better for my sanity!


That's a shame, I like WinForms, JQuery and PHP.


If you aren't passionate enough about this work to continue learning and advancing on your own time get out.

I understand that many other domains value this sort of thing, but perhaps not to the same degree as the software industry. The issue could be that employers are afraid to invest in their current employees (that is, given them opportunities to advance their skills on company time) because there is such a high rate of turnover in many tech companies. It makes more financial sense to put the burden on the employee (or potential employee) because it likely only benefits them in the long run.

I do, however, see that in more established companies (particularly those that don't still operate in "start-up mode"), there is more willingness to invest in the employees and build their skill sets. I've been with my current employer for over eight years, and they have always been willing to give me time to learn new tech and stay on top of trends that affect our business. Of course, on my current team of 10 people, only one person has been with the company for less than three years.


If PHP and Jquery are fine to get the job done, whats the point?

I have learned a few languages now - Java, Perl and now Python. Python has pretty much everything I need. I have looked at NoSQl databases, but haven't found a use case where they would be better than relational databases. I prefer to write good quality Django code than to write my first app in yet another language / stack.


Dammit.... fart.IO is unavailable.


It's just parked too :( What a waste.

Could have make some nice parody material.


coming in showing off your PHP skills, JQuery or WinForms experience you'll get dumped

This sounds odd to me. I don't doubt it happens, but why? PHP roles are still going strong, and there's a ton of PHP work that is not legacy code.


Is jQuery too low level for people now?


It's too primitive an abstraction.

It was great when you were just fiddling a few little ajax widgets on a static page, but it doesn't scale.


That's what I meant by low level. Frankly, I disagree about scalability - that's up to the program's architect.


So, how would you go about altering all large numbers of page sections in realtime, without suffering the performance hit of serial page repaints, using jquery?


Haven't run into that need, I doubt most sites have, so I don't have a ready answer for you. We typically only change the parts of the page that have data that has actually changed, so DOM rendering performance hasn't been a difficult problem for us.

I thought you meant scalability in terms of code size, or number of people working on it, or number of users.


It's too reliant on state changes all over the place, making even medium-complexity web apps really hard to maintain. I find with Mithril (similar to React but smaller) it's a lot easier to understand how my app gets into a particular state.


Only if you keep too much of the complexity in the front end.


Well.. as a client interface HTML/CSS/Javascript have all been fairly anaemic compared to what is possible with native interfaces.

Once you've worked with a native interface, you're loathe to give up the potential for creation that comes with it, just to keep complexity out of the front-end.

Arguably, one could say people need to be retrained, and need to stop trying to make the web into something its not.... but considering the trends, I think that ship has sailed.


It’s Tough Being Over 40 in tech, anywhere.

I understand only some of why ageism is more rife in tech than other fields. But even in young app companies, with young founders, some experience of software engineering or complementary fields gained through experience can be useful.

Personally I prefer a relatively young environment - I don't like large company formality and I enjoy the atmosphere of startups and app companies. But I have increasingly few contacts in the right places for an in...

It's not like we're all "old" like our parents, grandparents were from 45 onwards, or that we're all increasingly irrelevant mainframe COBOL programmers. We aren't all set in our ways like was more common in previous generations - but we're not in a job for life so that's expected, surely. We're not expecting to be dead at 70 either. I hope I haven't "grown up" even then!


> It’s Tough Being Over 40 in tech, anywhere.

I think it was more tech in 70s when they wore lab coats and did new things. Now it's more of a popularity thing or a way to extract gold.


Is this perhaps because older workers gravitate towards sane hours? Maybe because they develop interests, lives, families, etc outside of work that they commit to (moreso than most 20-somethings)?

As a side note: I'm over 40 now, but I do recall being 27 and interviewing someone in their early 40s who was qualified and enthusiastic. I passed on them in part because I felt guilty hiring them; to work on my team the person would have to move their family to a new city, and I didn't want the karma of bringing that many people into a world where the team/project I was on was staffed and led by 20-somethings -- and therefore chaotic and unlikely to survive long in any particular form.


I've actually found the opposite. The guys in 30's and early 40's have young children which makes it hard to stay away from home. I've worked with people in their 50's who are now empty nesters and happy to work late and/or be on call overnight.


Exactly. Older folks whose kids are self-sufficient are able to focus their time and energy into their work - even more so than twenty-somethings who are still wrapped-up in life's dramas associated with being young. And they have a lot of experience to boot.


and, let's face it, many of them like having the excuse of long hours to stay away from a family they have grown tired of. My brother told me once he had kids he finally understood the joy of mowing the lawn; you get time away from the kids and wife and its so loud they never think to come bother you and it's work so they don't have the excuse that you are just goofing off


That reminds me of a joke:

Three men are talking: A programmer, a doctor, and a lawyer. The lawyer says, "Man, the only way is to have a mistress. With all these divorce suits, it's terrible. The only way is to have a mistress." The doctor says, "Are you kidding? With all the STDs out there, you want a wife and that's it." The programmer says, "You need both a wife and a mistress. Because when you're not with the mistress, she'll assume you're with your wife, and when you're not with your wife, she'll assume you're with your mistress, and THAT leaves you more time to be in the lab programming!"

(Found on http://stackoverflow.com/questions/234075)


What you did was definitely illegal and immoral. It is not your decision to make on how someone should live their life.


Probably, but I was in over my head and the team evaporated within months. With hindsight I would have done many things differently, and my approach to interviewing that person is just one of many.


I think it was brave to say, and a valuable addition to the discussion.


What was illegal about it?

It was possibly immoral, if you think there's a moral requirement to hire the first person that fits the role. Though, employment is a relationship, and like any relationship there can be a host of reasons why they don't start or work out. It can simply be a matter of preference, on both sides.

It's not illegal to discriminate, it's illegal to discriminate for particular classes.


Not at all. He was being considerate.


Older workers are also more savvy. They understand things like the fact that if you're working 80 hours a week for $120k you are actually making $60k.


You're actually making 180k equivalent because you don't have time to spend the money.


Ha! Workers over 35 tend to have dependents who spend the money regardless and in fact may spend more the less time you spend with them.


Delete this before Bezos sees it.


That is perhaps the hourly wage if you do the math, but it isn't that black and white.

The higher pay let's you save more for retirement, let's you afford a better school for your kids, a home in a nicer neighborhood, etc. There are trade offs.


I get your point but that's not the best way to make it.


Really? I think it is a perfect way to tell anyone with 80hr week to rethink the situation.


Different strokes I suppose. I don't usually react well to presumptive nonsense but I'm not always representative.


Understandable, but this is the bias does end up causing unintended age discrimination.


Yup. That's why I tell the story. Now when I seek a job I face myself discriminating against me. It sucks, but at least I understand a little of why it happens, I guess.


I think most younger crowd associates wanting to spend time with family == not motivated to work. See this comment[1] for example( I've been guilty of this myself ).

https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=12418289


"Michael Peredo, a 55-year-old auto engineer dismissed from Mercedes-Benz in February 2015, says he had trouble giving up his bow ties for T-shirts, as some he met at ProMatch suggested. ‘I feel like myself wearing them,’ he says."

Yeah, you're going to have a really hard time getting a programming job in Silicon Valley if you show up in looking like a security guard in a tie, let alone looking like a waiter in a bowtie. It's the same story as showing up for an interview for an enterprise sales job in ripped jeans and a T-shirt — it undermines your credibility. It shouldn't — our meritocratic hacker values place no value on surface appearances, and we fail them when we are influenced by what people are wearing or their gender or skin color or age — but it absolutely does. Raymond Chen can get away with wearing a suit and tie all the time, but you probably can't.

The good news is that Peredo got a job immediately when he stopped wearing the bowtie to interviews. It's not gonna be as easy if you're black.


The number of bowties I've seen recently has increased dramatically...among younger workers. This is in a research focused environment, so there's a little more fashion leeway.

Things are cyclical. For better or worse, I think we're on the rising edge of a rebellion against the nerd-frump affect.

Thank you Matt Smith!


I hope the ruff comes back!


Powdered wigs and codpieces.


Is there a suggested outfit that over-40's should be wearing to interviews? Is a hoodie a must-have? Is it better to wear an Apple watch, or say a Nixon watch?


I like the advice in the article, actually:

> hang out in the parking lots of places where they’ll be interviewing to see what the people there wear


our meritocratic hacker values place no value on surface appearances

Geeks care FAR more that you conform to their "hoodie and jeans" dresscode than managers care that you wear a tie.


Depends on the geeks and the managers. (A hoodie is it, now?)

But what I was saying there is not about what values we practice but about what values we aspire to practice. We aspire to understand things as they are, seeing past mere appearances. Whenever we assume that someone is nontechnical because they're wearing a tie, are female, or are black, we're failing at that.


Try being over 60 & gettind cred. "How could you possibly understand bleeding edge tech and emerging trends?" Well...I've lived there for four decades, you?


Someone here recently pointed out the irony of the term "digital native", which you illustrate nicely. The people who aren't "digital natives" built everything the "digital natives" purport to understand so deeply.

Which knowledge is deeper? That of the user, or that of the builder?


Speaking for myself, there are two trends with aging. One positive, one negative.

1. (positive) Big picture wisdom increases. You learn when to call in help, when to use a library instead of rolling it yourself, when to stop hacking, retreat, document, how long to architect, etc. I get a little frustrated with younger people who e.g. over-optimize some aspect of a system before making the whole thing work adequately. I am waaaaaaay more organized and consistent than the young person who hasn't inherited enough code or faced the spectre of their own code when they forgot how it works.

2. (negative) I often forget how easy some formerly difficult tasks have become. Just take a library like three.js.... or building a compiler from source or using a library instead of writing an XML parser or SDL and so on. To stay on top, I often have to check in with others to see what surprising tools "young people" :) have made. This is critical because it affects estimates of time and resources needed to meet a goal.

So it's excellent to be around for a long time, IMO, as long as you are good at forgetting/unlearning some obsolete ways of doing things.


Yeah, I was occasionally told I was outdated, out of touch with technology, and other such qualifiers because I did not own a smartphone.

I've designed some of the bloody devices, for God's sake! I just don't want any because I have no use for them (either because I get the same function another way I do prefer or because I consider the function pointless or harmful). It doesn't mean I don't understand them better than the average candy crusher.


Yes, this. And even worse, "I recognize that 'bleeding edge tech' as yet another rehash of something innovated in the 60s or 70s and therefore I'm not nearly as impressed as you by it."


This sort of remark reminds me of https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XFWeoxrhbE8 (or perhaps https://youtu.be/ZjibEkDoXQc?t=19)

It doesn't add much value to the conversation and whether some tech is really a rehash or not rarely matters. It also makes you sound cynical.


It does matter if you're aware of the cost:benefit ratio involved in adopting it relative to the existing tech, or even more commonly, the cost:benefit ratio involved in adopting it relative to adapting or modifying existing tech. Maybe as an employee, it might not be the right thing to be pushing with an employer enamored of the new tech, but as an objective onlooker, it very well may be.

There's plenty of amazing innovation happening all the time, so I don't want to come across as a luddite or whatever, but hype does happen, and as you get older, you witness more of it and become more skeptical of it. You see the fads come and go--the faster they come, the faster they go--and the survivor bias. The problem is that it's there, and it feels sometimes like you face the choice of correctly pointing that out, or being labeled a cynic.


Sure, experience matters and some technologies get over-hyped. I was referring to the more specific case of dismissing a technology solely because it is a rehash or has failed in the past. For example, dismissing Docker because of LXC or FreeBSD jails. Or dismissing Node.js because it uses cooperative multitasking. Or dismissing SaaS because the "thin client model was tried and failed" (yes, just a decade ago, SaaS was considered over-hyped).


That's because people that say that usually are cynical. And usually right too.

"I've seen people try that 5, 10, 15, 20, and 25 years ago. Nobody made it work." Is rarely something that does not matter, and people that can't answer the implicit "why would you succeed?" question usually doesn't.


It also makes you sound cynical.

Good, because my cynicism was hard-won, pity should it go to waste.

Whether or not a piece of tech is a rehash does matter, because last time we decided RDBMSs are old, in with the new open schema whatever, I learned where the sharp edges were at. There has been no magic tech in the mean time that makes MongoDB less likely to cut you up in horrible ways. As just one example.


If you're over 60 and still writing code, then you've seen pretty much every new flavor of the month twice already. You were around the first and second times everybody thought promises were the future, functional programming already had a resurgence or two, and so on.

It's not that you don't understand the bleeding edge tech, it's that you've seen this pattern play out so many times it's hard to look at it as more than just another programming tool.


That's a great response. Right next to some I know saying "I helped design and implement the protocols all your stuff runs on. Yeah, maybe I learned some network programming on the way."


:)


The best explanation I've seen for this is when you're a young engineer with little experience showing knowledge of a framework or technique is a huge plus. For someone with a ton of experience not knowing something is shown as a minus.

For interview processes trying to avoid false positives a negative mark will hurt you much more in the final sum.

So the bar is set differently for two candidates applying to the same position. I'm sure it doesn't account for every aspect but certainly seemed to explain some of it.


Ignoring the latest fad is a plus in my books. Of course this only works if you know the fundamentals.


Gee, you don't think rewriting everything every couple of months is a wise use of money?


> So the bar is set differently for two candidates applying to the same position.

Because employers expect and accept that hiring people straight out of college is a lemon market. But by the time people reach fifty, the expectation is that you can identify the lemons.


It might be like that in SV. It doesn't feel that way where I live. I'm 44 and do Front end dev, which I taught myself after being a project manager / Business analyst for a good 10 years. I do live in what might be considered a backwater in England, but I get enquirers almost daily about my availability.

Also - I read about Shel Kaphan the other day - employee #1 at Amazon - he must have been in his 40s when he started there if he was studying in 1975. Obviously his age didn't deter Jeff Bezos.

I've worked in places where older employees become irrelevant to the business because they get stuck in their ways and don't want to / can't change. If you're not prepared to re-skill, or you think your job is safe - you're in for a rough time if someone else controls your destiny. That's not to say people don't get badly treated by organisations - they do, and that's wrong. But still, working life is a struggle and a balancing act.


One thing that I'm really surprised about is the lack of empathy that companies and teams feel with this.

I've been hiring engineers for a few years now and from _my_ perspective, age has never been a consideration. That does not mean other interviewers did not include age bias which influenced the overall decision.

I'm around 30 currently, and I'm terrified as I get older that this will happen to me and my friends. Saving for retirement is, intentionally, a very long process -- and very arduous if you're trying to save to retire in the Bay area.

What are people that push such discrimination thinking about their own futures?


They're probably not being intentionally ageist. My guess is that the differences in sense of humor, lack of desire to hang out with coworkers, and other social differences just make them seem like unappealing "culture" fits.

And it's true, if you're just hiring for people you can also hang out with and you're in your 20's, of course you won't like them.

At some point you get the revelation that people have their own lives and there is a social relationship along the lines of "we work together but I'm otherwise not interested in you," and that this is actually a very common and viable type of social relationship.


Add the salary on top of that.

Higher experience commands higher salary and no company has an unlimited cash flow, even among the ones who are truly interested in the rare experiences and skills.

On the other hand, the world is full of companies and industries who are basing their business on cheap employees and lowballing.


Don't believe the lies a single second.

The truth is, it is NOT tough being 3X-4X in silicon valley.

What is tough is accepting to put up with startups about to fail, long hours, mediocre pay, little benefits and immature coworkers. That does limit the size of the job market.

That issue is faced by everyone, independently of their age. The youngers selves just happen to have lower standards in average.


Here is the thing though. A person who is 40 knows and understands a lot of the problems of their industry and they are often much more experienced at making sure they don't waste their time.

This is why I would propose that the strongest cocktail is pairing young people with older people.

https://medium.com/black-n-white/the-problem-with-problems-4...


My observation (as someone over 40) is that some of us who started early on in the trade decided to throw in the towel and declared themselves "management", and (most importantly) stopped being hands-on. And it's these people who are most at risk of ending up behind. Those of us who kept on programming, networking, never quit learning and stayed current with all the latest stuff are actually extremely sought after and valuable - experience is hugely important, critical, even, especially where scale and reliability matter.


I think it may be tough if you have not continued to improve yourself. There are some maxims to always follow to prevent yourself from "expiring": Keep learning. 1. Always learn some new hard thing; a language, more math, or go deeper into your subject (programming languages, etc.) 2. Stay in top physical shape and learn some new physical skill.

Learning should be multifaceted and a lifestyle; intellectual and physical. If you think you can just coast after college then you will be passed up.


Take the cash and run. Do you really want to be herding man-children when you are 40?


I think it's extremely important for folks over 40 to track their accomplishments.

Their resumes are longer, their skills can be older, some of the companies they've worked for might not even exist anymore. It's even more important to be able to search/narrow down/focus your decades of experience/accomplishments to those that matter in this new ageist landscape.

And the truth is, you've probably done whatever SV recruiters/managers say you require. You've been the self-starting, chaos riding, new tech stack conquering machine. You've lived at the cutting edge. It's just not on your resume, and you don't bring it up in interviews because you haven't been that person in a while and all your (maybe) recent job search experience is in displaying the breadth and length of your career.

It's tough.


I feel like a lot of discrimination in tech comes from a dislike of experience.

Many project teams and companies instantly dislike the person who says, "This can't be done," or, "We need more information before we can give an estimate."

If you're 40, there's a good chance you know more than most people in the room about what's going to work and what isn't.

But what you have to remember is that the only reason you have this knowledge is from fucking up and working all-nighters and missing deadlines in the past.

So, even if it means more work for you, you have to be willing to let the people who are driving the ship make mistakes. Nobody wants their parent around, or to feel second guessed.

Tech is always about finding new ways to do things, trying new ideas. Don't turn into the nay-sayer.


This is exactly it. It's a lesson I learned recently. Just chill out. Don't try to "save" people from making mistakes.


I think the most unconscious or perhaps completely conscious bias that I'm not sure I'm seeing mentioned with age is salary requirements and other various forms of compensation.

Older people are thought to have mortgages, families, etc. They often cost more money, and work less hours.

That's simply never thought as attractive to employers who want more work hours for less money.

Disclaimer: Not saying this is right - but I think that's a big part of it.


This is true of all industries, however. Having a family and owning a home are not attributes found exclusively amongst tech workers.


Some 'Official' Stats

Source: http://www.bls.gov/cps/demographics.htm

I would put some relevant comment on the meaning of these figures but I have to put my kids to bed, sort out their school packed lunch, get scolded by my wife - all before I work on my side projects.

I'll leave it to the youngsters.


Median Age / Profession

42.1 Computer systems analysts

44.7 Information security analysts

43.1 Computer programmers

39.7 Software developers, applications and systems software

35.9 Web developers

40.5 Computer support specialists

47.0 Database administrators

41.2 Network and computer systems administrators

41.6 Computer network architects

41.2 Computer occupations, all other


Hint: look at the outliers


Older people, please: Never "play young" for a paycheck. It's sad as shit. If you're not a professional clown and don't want to be seen as a figurative clown, why would you ever act like someone who is less than yourself? (Along the same line men, don't take Viagra, it's pathetic. Just enjoy and cherish the fact that for once you're not obsessed with mating, and can finally get some damn work done instead of chasing every nice ass. Another perspective young dudes won't understand.)

Turn to crime before you get a FACELIFT (are you shitting me) for any job. Heck, older people make great criminals - they've accumulated cunning and horse-sense which are great for gulling young people out of their money. And young people have many things that can be used against them: enthusiasm, idealism, energy and a tendency to waste it (also see Aikido), insecurities, inexperience, a preoccupation with mating (see above). Best of all, young people's tendency to think they're smarter than they really are, means that you can be the superior adversary while your adversary thinks the opposite (see Aikido again, and Sun Tzu).

Young people if this kind of talk scares you, think about hiring some of these people! ;)


That was a really funny way to tell older people to go into management, marketing, politics, or VC firms. They can use all the advantages you describe for large sums of money without their actions being crimes.


I think age bias is a thing, but the best software engineers (and the most productive) I've worked with are over 40. They're sharp, kept up with current technology, and they actually can build things in a way that's adaptable.


We should all be embarrassed by the working conditions and biases in our industry. It doesn't have to be this way, but we all keep playing along.


The rampant ageism in the industry is a real problem but everyone is focused on gender equality in tech right now. I really think both issues need serious attention.


The chief problem with ageism is that it cuts across both genders - young people, looking for that first job post-graduation, are willing to take less money.


Interestingly, the next-order analysis of the problem you're discussing is called "intersectionality"; i.e. what are the systemic implications of being >40 and female? Given the relative demographic sizes, one can argue for or against attacking one or another problem (ageism or sexism) first, given the expected improvement to the population at large (essentially, the utilitarian argument).

As much as techie types like to deride and dismiss sociological analytical techniques as being pseudoscience, there is a lot to be learned from them when attempting to intelligently discuss the (our) job market.


ageism is going to be an obvious cost cutting measure soon.


The seemingly high salaries in SV don't seem quite so excessive once paired with the long hours and exorbitant rents.


Isn't reinventing old tech poorly a worse problem?


No


Come to the Midwest ... I really enjoy the perspective of the older developers.

Perspective is what the Valley needs if ageism is an issue, because we aren't getting younger.


So here I am, at a place willing to hire these people, but actually getting them hired isn't so easy.

First of all, yes, you do need to leave Silicon Valley. People seem strangely afraid to leave. There is a world out here! Getting houses for 10% of what they cost is Silicon Valley has got to be worth something, no?

Second of all, finding them is tough. We can show up at a large college and meet lots of people, nearly all young. There is no similar place where we can show up to recruit older people.

Older people have the skills we need, particularly assembly language. We have to sort through lots and lots of young people to find a few with potential, but at least "lots and lots" is available at many colleges.


"Young people are just smarter."

Ha! I love it! What ZUCKERGUY means is that young people are smart in a way that he, another young person, can recognize and understand.

Whereas older people are smart in ways that young people don't yet recognize or understand. It's just one great big Dunning-Krueger Effect. Young people don't know how much they don't know.

Fortunately for them, old people are a totally different species from young people. It's not like young people turn into old people or anything. Can you imagine the horrors? Like what if life were one big continuum where you start out young and slowly turn old? Scary stuff!


Well it might change a lot as suddenly number of coders in their 40s goes up.


Indeed! The primary reason for the median age in Google and Facebook being so low is that the median age for programmers is low [1]. The reason for this low median age? There are more young programmers than old because it's an expanding field!

Though I must admit that the evidence points to current significant age biases in the hiring of these companies. The most successful older software developers I've come across have established themselves as experts in their field. They have successfully predicted their given technology would be successful or pioneered it themselves. I guess the frontend developer practice of changing stacks every six months has some merit.

1. http://stackoverflow.com/research/developer-survey-2016#deve...


The primary reason for the median age in Google and Facebook being so low is that the median age for programmers is low

Are you sure you have the cause and effect going in the right direction? It could be that the median age for programmers is low precisely because of ageism.


So I'm staring down the bore of my 40th birthday.

That means that I graduated college in 1999. When I was looking at colleges (in 1995), many of the colleges that I looked at didn't have a computer science department. Many of the ones that did, had had that CS department for less than five years.

My class ('99, again) had twice as many CS majors as did '98. '00 had twice as many CS majors as '99 -- because this was the first dot-com boom, of course.

At my college, my freshman year was the first year that every dorm room was wired for ethernet (obviously, wifi was not a thing).

I suspect that the arrow of causality goes two ways, and that part of the reason for the low median age of programmers is indeed age discrimination. But it also true that 40 is an age which means that you were college-age during the first dot-com boom, and the occupation "programmer" suddenly was looking a lot more attractive and absolutely no doubt was pulling in a bunch of young people who ten years earlier would not have been interested in being programmers.


The other thing that I think is a factor is that there was a huge shift in tech in that timeframe. I was a young web hotshot in 1997 and it got me a very good student job as a freshman in university. (My web page had animation. And MIDI music. And backgrounds. And frames. Holy shit.)

The world was shifting away from mainframes to the web, and from C++ to more dynamic languages like Perl or Javascript.

And today, while it may not be the only center of the tech world, you can still make a good living writing websites in dynamic languages. There's been a lot of incremental change over the last 20 years in that space, but it was incremental, and while all my experience of Visual Basic script in a multi-<frame> website may not technically be directly impacting me to, the fundamental loop of development hasn't changed all that much. It's still "make change, reload page, see if it's fixed now". If you really know your stuff and you've got the right framework set up properly, now the page reloads automatically. Viva la progress. (OK, yes, that's sarcasm, but still.)

I mean, I wrote my first XSS vulnerability 20 years ago, and developers still churn them out by the dozens today. There's been less change than you'd like. (Yes, there are technologies that make them much harder to write... now, please use them! Please!)

A lot of mobile development looks to me to be awfully similar to 1990s-style Windows development, too. New language, new frameworks, a lot more JSON, sure, but there are 1990s developers whom you could teleport to the present and have them start mobile development and they wouldn't be very lost. (Once they got over how many times more powerful the phone is than the platform they just left, anyhow.)

The "young tech hotshot" stuff is really just a senescent meme rapidly approaching its expiration date. This last year I met someone who is as close to being a young tech hotshot as I've seen in the last five years, really great guy... and I was giving him Haskell tips.

I'm still cautiously optimistic that the ageism in tech will just naturally dissipate. As evidence I would point out that once upon a time, 40 would not have been approaching the hill, but over it. If the deadline moves forward by about a year per year, it'll just go away.


It could be, sure. But Google and Facebook aren't the primary employers of programmers in the United States. Other "uncool" firms such as banks, manufacturers, retailers, and small businesses employ the majority of software developers. Unless you insist that age discrimination is rampant across those industries too, I disagree the evidence supports your claim.

I admit that it's suboptimal to only have one source, but the Stack Overflow survey appears to be representative.


> The primary reason for the median age in Google and Facebook being so low is that the median age for programmers is low [1].

Er... you're quoting Stack Overflow study which only tells about the median age of people who voluntarily went to Stack Overflow website to answer Stack Overflow study, after seeing the link on Stack Overflow / HN / Reddit.

That is hardly representative of anything. One hint: 30% people who responded are under 24 years old, i.e. most of them have not yet completed their studies and started working.


This is something I wonder about. There has always been a bias in tech against people who don't do continuous learning, and often that is associated with being older, so the question is biased against age? or non-learning?

But the cohort of people who were influenced in college in the dot com days to go into tech and started graduating from college in the early 2000's is large. And so the cohort of people above a certain age is growing large, and if you actually discriminate against all that talent you will end up giving an advantage to the people who do not discriminate as they will have a better pool of people to choose from to hire.

Going to be an interesting decade.


That should have happened long ago. I did CS and programming as high school subjects and am past 50. The tens of thousands of extra people trained up to solve the millenium bug crisis (that mostly didn't happen) are probably around 40 now.

Of my tech friends around my age a lot have drifted into other things - often dramatically different.

Some because they were sick of IT (often for similar reasons), and some because it was time for a change. Quite a few ran into ageism (agencies and HR rather than the actual techie people as a rule) and staying programming past 40 is somehow seen as failing your career rather than going into management.


For us younger, but not quite so young folks... what sorts of things have they gone into? Would you say that there is a general trend, or are they all over the map?


Much less time in an office or behind a keyboard and clear emphasis on tangible things and skills. Two became tree surgeons (opposite ends of the country and they don't know each other). Those two probably wreck statistical validity. :)

Of the rest two are in environmental sector that fitted their views well, one in light engineering. So it goes on. Most haven't moved to other intellectual pursuits.

If I paraphrase Feynman, only a little, I think it might nail the underlying:

"It gives somebody, individually, pleasure. You can make something that somebody likes so much that they’re depressed, or they’re happy, on account of that damn thing you made! In IT, it’s sort of general and large" and ephemeral.

He was talking about his art, but it seems to fit.


In my experience:

* there were quite many who understood that engineering jobs would not be for them and who became teachers as their first job.

* another lot were those who had no interest in engineering, they only happened to end up in engineering schools because that was the place to be. Since their only goal was money, they moved to business/management before starting an engineering job. Some others started with engineering but noticed that they sucked at it or that it did not pay enough, so they moved to Technical Sales (which is a glorified name for just Sales, since they've always shown little interest and aptitude for technique beyond the buzzwords).

* then you have those who gave up after 10/15 years, fed up with the tech environment, the futility of the job, the insane hours, etc. 2 are bartenders, 1 shopkeeper, 1 sailing instructor, 1 gardener, 1 goat herder (caricatured but true), 1 musician, 1 'traveller', 2 unemployed.


Do you have any data demonstrating this will happen?


See http://www.bls.gov/opub/btn/volume-2/images/2-9-chart2.png

A large number of the people that made up the 3x growth in IT between 1990 and 2000 are just about to hit 40 now. That's a very rough measure, just looking at overall industry size over time (and granted, it's IT rather than startups), but it at least mildly suggests that the demographics are going to start flattening a bit as we hit more of a steady state rather than a period of extreme growth.


Is the software development industry not bigger than it was twenty years ago? Developers still age. Ergo, as development as an industry grows, at a delayed rate, the number of aging developers will also grow.


That assumes they remain being developers as they age.


I suppose, but the cost of a career switch to a job that is similar or greater in pay is quite high. What do you think is the likely place a developer who is 25 today will be in 20 years?


I guess they assume, like I do, that the current set of coders will continue to age. Will the current 20 year old coders shun 40 year old candidates in 20 years?


Current set of coders will continue to age, but they may also stop identifying as coders. Maybe because of ageism.


What is tenure/turnover like in the big SV companies? I see salaries rise pretty quickly and the ceiling is fairly high, but does this simply mean you're likely to rise to a certain level and then get replaced?

For 40-year-old techies looking for a company to round out their career, are the SV biggies the wrong place to look?


"Peredo spent 18 months looking for work before he took off his bow tie and landed a job."

It's hard to identify causality here. You could say that there's a correlation with casual attire and job offers in the valley. Alternatively, he got better in those 18 months...


IMO it's because the majority of the companies getting funding in SV don't need DEEP expertise in a specific technical area. All of the companies mentioned in the article are mainly doing fairly "easy" tech around either well understood or new frameworks with low barriers to entry.

If you look at the age composition of companies that are working in Deep Learning, Computer Vision, Hardware they are significantly older than others - it's because you typically need a PhD or equivalent time working on the problems to actually build new stuff.

Until SV starts funding - enmasse - hard tech, which needs more experienced workers, I don't think you'll see much change there.


Being a young software developer it feel a bit out of place to be getting a salary less than someone who has been in the field for say 15 years. My only reason for this is that technology does change really fast, and things should be looked at if the job can be complete. Yes there are a bunch of 'Younglings' that just use the newest freshest flavor framework or scripting language (that can be a nightmare to work with) but if a programmer can make something extensible and maintainable does the experience really need to offset salaries by a large margin... (in my area it jumps from 30-90/hour)


> if a programmer can make something extensible and maintainable

How do you know it's extensible and maintainable without having seen it last? How quickly do you recognize pitfalls of decision-making? How many applications have you built that you've seen fail? People vastly underestimate the importance of burning your hand on the stove.


Engineering is a dead end job, especially outside of silicon valley. There is 0 respect for experience in the industry, we have more respect for someone who has coded for 2 weeks than someone who continually improves over 25 years. Unless you become a celebrity coder you find that your best choice going forward is suicide. The industry won't let you have a social life or a family once you hit 45 no one cares about you and suicide becomes your most positive life option, or you can keep working 18-20 hours a day 7 days a week until you get sick and die if you're lucky.


Oh man, that's rough, and reading this makes me worry about you. I know it's not much, but if you feel like sharing your experiences or want someone to talk to, let me know at hn@ycombinator.com and I'll send you my personal email address.


Seek help.


I know it took a lot of energy to write this.

What helps me is knowing that there is purpose in reaching out and connecting with the creator of life itself. Jesus loves you. Find him at a UPCI church.


I'm over 40 and haven't experienced any problems. I don't know if I'm lucky, good, both, or just average and only the outliers are the ones having difficulty.


This is idiotic. People over 40 trade one set of skills for another (source: I'm over 40). You lose short-term memory, can't juggle too many things simultaneously, and aren't always up to date on every latest fad. But what you gain is fantastically valuable: intuition, abstract thinking, systems thinking, ability to detect patterns in large systems, ability to notice that certain problems have been solved in a different field, and lots more.

As I grow older, I notice these changes, and while I do regret not being able to remember IP addresses after switching to a different window (get a larger monitor, or just copy&paste), I am very happy with the overall shift.


intuition, abstract thinking, systems thinking, ability to detect patterns in large systems, ability to notice that certain problems have been solved in a different field, and lots more.

Basically, you become a pattern matching database of non-obvious cost/benefit trade-offs.


> Basically, you become a pattern matching database of non-obvious cost/benefit trade-offs.

What some might call "experience." What makes problem solving skills valuable is the ability for the wielder to pattern match effectively. The more problem patterns you can positively match to solution patterns, the more valuable your experience. To a lesser extent, simply being able to identify problem patterns is also very valuable, as if you can avoid the creation of a problem it doesn't matter if you know a solution to it (I don't know how to escape a black hole, so I generally avoid them when traveling in space).


Did you read the article? One of the points was employers don't value those skills and traits. They value youth and naivete.


Avoid such an employer in any case. With an attitude like that, they are not likely to build a great product, or win users' trust.

Additionally, if you're young and naive, you'll be likely taken advantage of. Why else naivete might be desirable in a business setting?


All of those things are great, but you're assuming your manager and peers will value them like you do.

I see this type of thinking applied to an issue in a way that results in people becoming increasingly irritated. Silicon Valley wants to hear "yes yes yes", not reason why you think XYZ solution won't work.


> All of those things are great, but you're assuming your manager and peers will value you them.

The crucial transition is turning yourself into a senior engineer - someone who acts as a force multiplier in your organization (a possibly big organization).

The valley problem with that transition is that a lot of value is left to the junior developer due to the startup ecosystem - the engineer who writes the first prototype, shoddily for a demo without worrying about possible future problems.

The senior developer is left out in a plateau, if they can't switch back to core developer mode (build demo, get funding, hustle) and back, which is a not a skill issue, but more economical.

There's the risk that the switch to a lower pay (for equity, hopefully) affects your next job offer in a BigCo if the idea does not pan out (& most of them don't).

The reality of being hired in a Startup is that founders don't like people who aren't "all in".

Once you take out "being employee #5" at the startup from the equation, the best part of Bay Area is gone.

There lies only one path back in and that's building your own, except there the VCs get to actually pick on your health as a possible risk factor before handing you some $$$.


Exactly: the ability to detect bullshit more quickly is unfortunately an ability not appreciated by many companies. It isn't just SV that has this problem. Those that tend to thrive in these environments past 40 are those who have instead learned play the imperfect system aggressively for their own benefit.


Along with that, I think an important value is just not taking wrong ideas personally. So some junior engineer wants to run off and do something that might cause you a head ache. Let them do it and learn from it. Your goal in life can't be to minimize everything that causes pain.


Oh, sure, but I'm not referring to that. It is more likely bullshit from upper management, from even older people...who lost touch with reality long ago.


im sure its all about 40 year olds not wanting to work 70+ hour weeks all the time.


Don't forget that they will probably command a higher wage too. And they will probably take time off for family since they have one.


>intuition, abstract thinking, systems thinking, ability to detect patterns in large systems, ability to notice that certain problems have been solved in a different field, and lots more.

Software tech is the only area that I know of that doesn't care what you've done in the past or have experienced. All that matters is what stupid algorithm you can figure out on a white board in the language they use.


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