I'm 38. And I feel enormous pressure to be smarter than everyone around me to be relevant. People expect you to be incredible both at management and engineering as you get older. I'm very lucky my career path has given me opportunity here, because but for a few chance encounters I'd be much, much worse at both and that'd be awful. I'm quite worried about what people will expect of me when I'm 45. I'm working hard to add data science to my resume because I think that "mathy" roles have less discrimination against them than pure engineering roles, and I want to stay ahead of it.
I do a lot of stuff that is tactical as well. For example, today I'm wearing a uniqlo-nintendo collaboration t-shirt with Pikachu on it. I'm doing so on the day I'm giving an interview. Because I know, tactically, this shirt is silly and irreverent and paints a picture of someone younger at heart.
And maybe that is naturally me (pika pika, ban lylat!) but I'd be lying if I didn't continue to do it tactically to appear more relevant and "with it".
What's interesting to me is that outside of the SV startup world, every computer scientist and great engineer I respect is a person over 40. Especially in academia, where women and men of astounding intelligence are doing work that in 10 years will probably reshape the industry (put forth, naturally, by breathlessly enthusiastic 21 year old "devrel" folks mis-attributing the work of 2 generations of academia to the brilliance of the senior technical staff at that company).
So yeah, it sucks. It's real. And there is a reason in the older white male-ish segment you find more awareness of other types (gender, racial) discrimination in the industry: people over 40 directly experience age discrimination and it's not at all theoretical even to white men in that cohort. If it can happen to older white dudes, it surely can happen to anyone else.
I still (just verified :) ace my interviews. I'm well respected at my job. I've got a decent income and a decent set of responsibilities.
Maybe I'm an exception. But, alternative thought, maybe the "youth obsession" is also partially created because everybody thinks it exists.
Yes, I'm wondering what happens when I get post 50 as well. But mostly I'm thinking that because everybody tells me it will be bad, not because I've seen actual evidence. I've got wonderful colleagues who are 50+, and nobody would dream of firing them. I've got industry contacts who are 50+. So, I guess I'll find out in about two years.
I sure do wish I could convince people of this, but getting "they" from folks has been impossible.
> But, alternative thought, maybe the "youth obsession" is also partially created because everybody thinks it exists.
If that's the case than it's much worse than simple bias.
> I sure do wish I could convince people of this, but getting "they" from folks has been impossible.
It could be that pronouns have no bearing on one's sex class.
No, it's precisely because it has bearing that people oppose it.
If you don't care how I feel, I'm willing to extend symmetrical courtesy. However, basic affordances accepting other people's differences seem like an excellent comprimise, and has worked quite well historically.
But here you are, acting like it's an undue burden and I should be ashamed. Why is that?
Convincing people to use gender-neutral pronouns for you and convincing them that you are not male are two entirely different things. That is all.
I would venture to guess that you have convinced zero people that you are not male, but I made no statement about how pronoun preferences are an undue burden or how you should be ashamed; you made that up yourself.
And I'm telling you that it definitely does.
> I would venture to guess that you have convinced zero people that you are not male
This is untrue. But it depends on the venue. And in many cases succeeding at this changes how people treat me.
> but I made no statement about how pronoun preferences are an undue burden or how you should be ashamed; you made that up yourself.
No. You're just here to represent the "I will never accept what you're saying" squad.
The question of whether you are a male or not is not dependent on whether I or anyone else accepts what you are saying. It is a material condition.
If we want to change words so that "male" is what you are talking about and e.g. "AMAB" is what I am talking about, so be it. The second is not dependent on what anyone believes or "assigns."
Ever produced small motile gametes? Then you're a male! Congrats!
That's almost certainly not what you meant, which is: "My worldview is that no one is allowed to opt out of my gender foreverwar because of how much I benefit from the status quo."
Fertility and reproduction have very little to do with 'gender' except where people attempting societal manipulation try and force it to. From a scientific perspective the correlations are minimal and difficult to measure.
For a computer person, your logic sure is weak.
"If you've ever produced small, motile gametes, then you're male."
"If you've never produced small, motile gametes, then you're not male."
P → Q does not entail ¬P → ¬Q. Literally 100-level propositional logic, here.
> Fertility and reproduction have very little to do with 'gender' except where people attempting societal manipulation try and force it to. From a scientific perspective the correlations are minimal and difficult to measure.
Who's talking about gender, here? I'm not.
I'm talking about sex; specifically, the material basis for reproductive roles and the exploitation of female (sorry, AFAB) reproductive function for the advantage of male (sorry, AMAB) people.
But nice try.
In any case, if you're talking about this ill-defined and frequently unverified concept of "sex" then I'm uninterested in talking with you further. You're don't have any interesting insight into the subject. You can barely keep it together explaining logical implication.
Please find someone more interested in this level of discourse. I'm bored with it.
People get the wrong impression that it's a SV thing.
It's not just SV. Lots of employers (who are themselves age 40+) like to hire 20-somethings.
As one example, there was a reddit thread with a woman in Tennessee trying to start a hot sauce business. In one of her replies, she wrote: "I wanted my company to be young and hip, so I hired young and hip -- okay, ‘hip’ might be subjective, but we’re definitely young."
It was fascinating to watch an honest moment of communication because she later deleted that reply. However, others had already quickly replied to it which left her original comment for prosperity.
In another example, the aides that sit directly adjacent to the President's oval office are traditionally staffed by 20-somethings. There's nothing in the job description that says the gatekeeping work can't be done by senior-citizens but every WH Chief of Staff always wants the high energy of a recent college grad stationed there.
It's not just programming. Whether it's packaging up food sauce in Tennessee or filtering visitors into the President's office in Washington DC, employers want the vibe of a young crew.
 original text still in a reply:
 Bush aides: https://youtu.be/lNhpsPvMYAE?t=5m37s
Obama aides: https://youtu.be/p-U0-0anzV0?t=28s
Clinton aides: https://youtu.be/uzZ-gfvXN-c?t=25m17s
Young, recent grads are great for that I guess because of how unencumbered most are but, when you look at the debate on diversity in Hollywood, it's not about what's in front of the camera but about the opportunities behind the scenes, which your background might limit when you're starting out.
I hope that when I age, I do become somewhat of a similar person. But I know that there is a ton I have to learn.
On the other hand, I've also seen older people who seem worse than the dumbest college graduates. These are the uncurious people, who never delved deeper, never tried doing more than required, to learn more than necessary, and went from satisfying requirements of one role from the next without developing the wisdom that comes from having made a ton of mistakes, the knowledge that comes from asking curious questions. These people are safe only because of their seniority, and are among the first to be laid off during harsher times.
These two phrases don't agree. ;-)
So in other words, some old people are good, some are bad. Just like young people. This is not known?
The boundless optimism I had about there 'always being work' is not there anymore. Now I'm probably too cautious of a person, in general, and perhaps this is more just me getting older rather than anything real. Still.
I've created the products for a number of startups all by myself and I'm hoping that with the tight market there's enough room for me.
If that doesn't work out, I've run my own company for a number of years and that's another option.
If you keep grinding, when you get 45+ you'll have deep knowledge. I've know a LOT of fakers over the years, they don't last. Know your stuff.
I can and have created the product from idea to merger, you've got to learn everything you can, everything.
It's not fun, but it'll make sure that you have value.
There's something that transcends discrimination, and that's valuable skills.
I may be misunderstanding your sentence structure, so please forgive me, however, the vast majority of research in nearly every corner of science/academia is no longer done by anyone over 35. The large majority of professors have transitioned to grant writing and nearly none of them 'touch the bench' anymore. As such, the near entirety of science today is done by 20-somethings, from experimental set-up through completion, validation, writing and publishing. Professors provide guidance (stress) and funding, not really anything more.
What employment contract?
But for example you almost certainly have a moonlighting clause with specific rules. You have invention disclosure and ownership with rules. These represent binding contracts between you and your employer, often with rules around conflict resolution that are also legally binding.
I guess the best advice for staying relevant is to find a niche that still has some future where you're an expert in your field. And get lucky, very lucky. There are a bunch of us in our late 40s / early 50s that were heavy BSD/Linux kernel contributors who are still relevant, even though we code in C like its 1995. I think this is similar to some folks from an older generation who wrote the COBOL that a lot of enterprises still run on.
BTW: Isn't the cutoff for greygler was 50? I seem to remember being too young to join when I was in my mid 40s.
Maybe working on web stuff is still too culture dependent or even just young space to have enough of old people as changing industries is always hard when you are well in your career.
Skill set is key. What you don't want to be is the old guy with the same skill set as people who are expecting to make half what you expect to make.
My age, coupled with with the fact that I prefer machines over people doesn't endear me to this newer generation of techs. I have been asked at my last several jobs why I don't use Facebook, LinkedIn, or any other social media.
I'm a greybeard and I like it that way. I'll gladly ride out the terminal windows job and light programming until they show me the door. Meetings and budgets are for others...
You are isolating yourself as well though. One study I read is that biases appear in full force after two stereotypes are validated.
Maybe make a linkedin, since that has nothing to do with your age, just so you have an answer that doesn't alienate you, and people might ignore your age for longer.
Then I tell people that I did use them years ago, until I learned about the problem where I was the product being sold, and that anyone who still uses those services is just voluntarily making themselves one of the herd of cattle to be bought, sold, culled, or whatever.
That usually shuts them up.
Angular 1 and 2?
If you're going for the unsackable by dint of arcane knowledge in the long lost technology from another age you want to be right in the guts of things. Something close to the core where everyone is worried that one mistake will cause problems that'll ripple out in all directions.
Just like those kernel hackers mentioned above, or the people writing business operation code in Cobol on a main-frame.
With stock grants? Maybe that's taxable. But uh, wow. It's not "well beyond 6 figures."
As an aside, my optometrist told me that the company with the best vision coverage that she was aware of was not any of the big four, but Oracle.
I'm 52, and I work at Facebook. According to the chart in the OP, that's the youngest of the big companies, with a median age of only 28, and that's totally consistent with what I see when I'm at the main Facebook campus. "Campus" indeed. I feel like a parent, visiting my kids' school. Good preparation for when that actually happens, I guess.
Is my situation stressful? Well, sure, but not because of my age. It's stressful because there's a lot to do, and I'm trying to do it while there's all sorts of weirdness coming at me from all directions all the time. It's stressful because I get to be on call every fourth week, and sometimes that can be intense. That kind of thing sucked in my twenties, too. It's a little worse now that I have a family, but on the other hand I've had a lot of time to develop an arsenal of coping strategies.
Just because I don't see any additional stress doesn't mean others don't. In particular, I can see how older women face obstacles I don't. Nonetheless, I think a lot of the angst is because of unrealistic expectations. Salary growth is exponential. For you to be worth that salary, your impact has to be exponential too. If you're my age and still a pure individual contributor, you're going to have a hard time justifying that salary unless you're the very best of the best in the whole world at something pretty specialized and valuable. It's not at all unreasonable for employers to expect that people at this level will be multiplying their personal impact by advancing the state of the art, creating powerful new tools, teaching others, etc. If you got this far without learning how to do those things, you really missed your best opportunity. The people "behind" you are still on an upward curve, so you'd better be on one too. I think a lot of stress comes from people realizing deep down that they're not, and - even worse - that they have nobody to blame but themselves.
I'm sure a lot of hiring managers who have been burned that way a couple of times get pretty wary of taking people at their word about willingness to take a pay cut. I'm sure many overcompensate and lose out on some great hires, but I'm not sure I can really blame them. "Once bitten twice shy" is a pretty natural human kind of thing.
I also know that most of us never even get the interview, because the assumption on the other side of the table is that we wouldn’t be happy, or any of various other problems.
That said, here's my one SUPER IMPORTANT piece of advice: trust your team. Trust the people on other teams when you're working on a problem. They all know the pain just like you do. They're all trying to get through it just like you are. Ask for help early and often. Even if you are imposing on someone else, trust that they won't hate you forever and you'll get a chance to pay it back.
Even for an introvert like me, those are calming thoughts. Even if some it's not really true, believing it while you're in the moment will help remove one huge source of stress and let you focus on the problem at hand. You can always come back later and evaluate whether the teamwork was as good as it should be. Usually it does turn out to be.
P.S. Also, a little humor goes a long way.
Working out regularly, and changing your hormonal profile overtime it really helps the body withstand stressful situations much better.
Source: I used to be stressed out about things like this as well, and it completely disappeared after a year of serious weight lifting.
- Eat more fruits and vegetables and less candy.
- Eat more beans and less red meat.
- Drink more water and less soda or so-called sports drinks.
- Snack on more nuts and popcorn and less chips.
It has been my experience that healthy eating habits + exercise can have a positive impact on the way a person feels and how they react to stress.
The fact that you're saying this may be a sign that you're too old for this shit. Kids love weirdness coming at them from all directions, because it's new and cool and they don't know any better.
Having given up just... well about half a million working at a big tech company, but they got to change the world or something.
I daresay even the majority. But this is not the narrative anyone wants to paint, because it implies "laziness" or "luck" and those are counter-cultural concepts.
But in the mid-90s, I worked at AOL, and I was there during a period of very high growth. I did my 72-hour workdays where I spent two nights in a row working straight through in the office. I did the on-call schedule. I did the 100+ hour workweeks.
I did the calculations once, and with all the stock options I started with, plus the additional ones I got later, after all the splits, I could have gotten as much as 16 million bucks, if I had sold them all at peak.
At the time AOL, was a pretty damn big employer. And it had become a toxic enough environment that I could no longer continue to stay there. So, I ended up leaving almost all of that money on the table when I left.
I’ve worked long hard hours in various employers since, but never again quite the levels we saw at AOL. And I’ve never gotten anywhere remotely close to those kinds of options/money again. But I’m okay with that, because I’ve had some amazing experiences in my life, worked with some fantastic people, and gone to some wonderful places.
But it is possible to work at a place that is both monstrously big and also at high compensation levels, even down in the trenches. Sure, you won’t make billions that way, but you could actually make millions.
> ...the first filter...
Like the article says, older folks fare better if they exercise their professional networks. Actually, that works good for young people too.
OK, maybe that last claim is a little exaggerated, but it seems like that's not how the hiring pipeline is supposed to work, and as a consequence, the process doesn't run as smoothly.
As a dev in his 50s, I have mixed feelings about this. On the one hand, age discrimination is real and I've definitely seen and experienced it. On the other hand, virtually everybody has some kind of trait that is going to be discriminated against by somebody, and the software development market right now is so overwhelmingly friendly to good programmers that the few spots of discrimination are really just minor irritations.
But if you aren't constantly upgrading your skills, I'm sure the landscape is bleak. And that's not nearly as true of
PS. The above is about programmers. Managers probably get much more direct age discrimination, and they can't fall back on a well-defined skill set to contest it.
The perception is that if you haven't made millions by the time you reach what would in any other industry be considered mid-career then you just can't be very good. Startups and VC-funded crapshoots don't want reminders of their imminent mortality hanging around. They want to show off and be surrounded by freshers in order to further the belief that we are all special, we are changing the world, and we will all get rich before our braces come off.
Very insightful. That mythos is absolutely fundamental to how Silicon Valley works, and how the few make millions from the efforts of many. Anything that threatens it is worth a few missed opportunities, and maybe even a bit of legal risk, so long as the spice continues to flow.
You have to approach an IT career like an athlete: save up while you are young because your days are likely numbered. You can still make a fairly decent living by consulting for co's with older platforms that still need supporting, but you have to travel or move often: an IT gypsy.
While I have increasingly important-sounding titles, I still occupy close to a 100% developer role.
I'm pretty much instinctively drawn to the "new hotness" -- although it's tempered by having spent 25 years in the valley. When I learn a technology, I focus on learning something deeply.
I haven't had a problem finding suitable jobs, although interviews are two-way streets. I put out that I've got responsibilities to my children, and that putting in consistent 60-hour weeks isn't something I'm up for. If it's an issue, I'll go talk to the next company.
Gen X is in a worse position - placed between baby boomers and millennials. The Baby Boomers usurped the culture of the Greatest Generation, not the Silent Generarion. Likewise, GenX culture has been passed over by Millennials. In this way, business skills that I focused on developing for 20 years have suddenly become unimportant and often considered old and archaic.
Kidding, of course. I wasn't panicked about my age until I read this thing...
Younger people really are faster and have more "energy". On a certain level this is just basic biophysics.
Particularly the kind of "energy" most immediately associated with the modern dev grind (i.e. to work long hours, and pick up toolkit X at the drop of a hat, etc). And you know, to just "believe" (in your company's mission; in whatever your stack is made out of this particular microsecond; in "Agile", or whatever).
None of which I'm knocking. A lot of times I feel I could still use that kind of energy.
But there are other kind of "energy" - e.g. the energy to resist learning too much about toolkit X (very likely to be obsoleted within 3 years). Or to get to wrapped up the latest architecture "debate". Or for that matter, in your company's "mission" (before it's at least halfway baked). Or, when people in your company start bragging about how many hours they "work", how no one really takes vacations and all... the energy to speak the intuitive and well-documented truth about where that strategy inevitably leads.
Both kinds of energy are needed. They aren't opposites; they're parts of a larger (necessary) whole.
The mistake lies in thinking that only one kind of energy is valid and sufficient to get your "mission" off the ground.
I'm continuously fascinated by this sentiment (though I have lived it in a startup before). Aren't we as software engineers _supposed_ to make our jobs easier? Successively automate more and more? What makes "modern dev" more labor intensive than not "modern dev"?
What makes "modern dev" more labor intensive than not "modern dev"?
Well it is, objectively, way broader and deeper than before the web explosion. Even aside from the web aspects - barely anyone did heavy database work back then. And if you had a reasonably firm grasp of one OO language - guess what, you were practically a "rock star" (well before the current usage of the term). You knew something about the differences between the Unix shells, and maybe something about inodes and fsck? Great, here's a "devops" (er, sysadmin) job for you.
Nowadays there's just (conservatively stated) at least an order of magnitude of basic "stuff", much of it conceptually independent from the rest, and a lot of it quickly obsolescing (almost as soon as it "matures") - that one has to have a reasonably firm grasp of, just to move the needle from A to B. Or at least not come off as "fossilized or "enterprisey", when talking to "hot" companies, these days (I've actually had the latter said to me, as a description of me, over the phone - after an interview).
So yes, objectively speaking - it's way more intense.
Yes pretty much, but with a more positive spin - i.e. what one really needs is a healthy mix of jadedness and "believing".
I feel lucky that the stuff I pursued independently in my 20s (but wasn't paid to work on) has started to become more professionally relevant in my 30s.
My natural inclination is to double down on those things (e.g. ML, Actor Systems, FPGAs) and allow myself to be excited about finally working on what I find interesting, but I worry that I might be missing out on up and coming ideas while even those skills gradually become commoditized or outdated.
For now I think it's enough to keep an eye on Arxiv and look for challenging problems think about...
What I'd be more interested in, is percentage of people at each age still employed in the industry, that haven't left.
So, for example, if there were 1 million developers in software in the USA in 2000. What percentage of those developers were still developers in 2010? 2017?
What percentage left the industry?
CS degrees are virtually worthless by the time you graduate... experience matters, but less and less with each passing technological rotation. Experience matters more so in management or general leadership. Maybe look to start moving in that direction?
I worked in Telecom in SF during the .com and it was like being in Texas vs. my friends in .com startups.
I didn't like it then, but I appreciate many more aspects of it now. Deliberate planning. Longer term sales cycles and business planning etc..
Ha, that's Peter Norvig in the picture. Not your "average" Googler.
As soon as my job becomes routine to me or something you can buy from a 3rd party I know it's time to do something else.
So far I've gone 23 years and never had a hard time finding a job. I have worked in some environments with lots of young people and my age was an issue but I quickly moved on.
I work with a guy ten years my senior who is the same as me, constantly updating his skills, and has no problem finding work.
That fact simply does not enter their consciousness at that time.
It only hits them when they’re on the other side of the table, and then it’s too late.
At least, that’s been my experience.
I bet Zuckerberg wishes that quote would die. It was one moment of his life in which he gave that quote and now he's anchored to it for eternity.
Yesterday I was listening to an old interview of Musk in which he was talking about the demographic bomb which much of the world faces. Does the Japan workforce also suffer from ageism?
Tech is a big field. I can't see programmers widely falling behind in skills and looking for employers to get them caught up. It seems the responsibility for this is on the worker.
Eventually, he did find another job and moved on, and I got a steady stream of recruiters who saw Altiris on my resume because it had been a big part of my duties at that and my previous employer. Nope, I already know where that trapdoor goes, thanks but no thanks.
Now if your employer does offer continuing-ed/tech-training and you don't take full advantage of it, that's on you, although even that can be hard since some employers offer it only if it's job-relevant -- e.g. only the Windows tech staff can take Microsoft training, only the Linux staff can take Red Hat courses, only the networking staff can take Cisco courses, etc.
Is this really the case?
Having a deep background in something can help, but that takes time, which carries an inherent risk: if you spend N years specializing in X, you're in extreme danger of being the person who gets laid off because X isn't in demand anymore.
I count at least two other dude's with gray hair, and way more receding hair lines.
Doubly so since they actually are correct on who has really gray hair (Norvig) as opposed to the graying/gray-ish hair the other person has.
Programming is going the same way. Today, most of it is just manual labor.
The changing profile of the work force reflects that.
Creativity and experience will still be needed, but the workforce providing
them will be a minority. (Just like fashion designers are a minority in the
textile industry today.)
Salaries seem to be at an all time high. Lots of jobs and not enough good engineers.
Nothing to be terrified about.
Do you really need a team full of 40-50 year old people making big money, or is a couple of them plus a bunch of junior people good enough? It saves you money, the expensive people train the young ones to do the job well and make sure nothing gets screwed up badly.
Seems like the nature of the job somewhat dictates that competition will increase drastically as you move up in experience.