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Ask HN: Laid-off readers over 50, have you left the tech workforce?
231 points by mud_dauber 10 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 187 comments



Ha, ha, ha, I just got laid off Monday along with most of the rest of the team with no notice. The market seems to be fairly hot here in Fairfield county CT so I'm jumping right back in and expect to pick up another job/contract in the next month. It's just a matter of rate and commute...

It is tempting to just do my writing or something else but I love the work, it pays well and it's fairly expensive to live here.

Speaking of writing, I wrote this the day after the layoffs and it pretty much sums up my feelings...

A tree fallen; the turn of a leaf

Why is the HR team here with crisp manilla folders? "There's an announcement at 10," please assemble the soldiers.

Somber words were spoken and no questions were asked. Then with cleaning out our desks most of us were tasked.

The screen turns red, system down in sector 4! I tense for a moment and then gleefully ignore.

We pack the last picture and hold back a tear, And say "it's still early, but let's all get a beer."

We relive the drag-out meetings where we battled for the truth, And the late afternoon YouTubes bordering on the uncouth.

For some it's a blow; for others relief. It's a tree fallen; the turn of a leaf.

So I'll join another startup, yes that will be fun. Or even a bank, if they really want to get shit done.

The joy of building and creating with keyboard or pen, Is what I live for over and over again.

If you're team's on a mission with problems quite hard, Tell me about it. Please call me. The number's on the card.


Expected the top post to be filled with words like ageism, 3rd world, quality of software, cheap labor and rage but all i saw is Optimism, Reality and Stoicism expressed very poetically.


I like your writing! A job in a bank can wait, write some more! :)


"crisp manilla folders" <-- gave me chills


This is great, it’s rare to hear poetry I can identify with. Thank you


What would you say are the most in-demand skills in CT?


This is fantastic! Love the poetry and optimism.


Thank you for sharing @zenpaul


I lost my last permanent job in London at the end of 2008, at the beginning of the financial crisis in the UK.

I applied for about two thousand roles in 2009 alone, and from 2008-2013, about 3,500 roles in total... In about 6-8 countries in multiple disciplines.

I averaged 30+ applications _per day_ at first... and 1 interview per year.

From 2009 to 2013 I got 2 months of paying work in total.

Reason? I think it's because I was 41 when I started.

I used to mainly work in support, from 1st/2nd/3rd line to sysadmin, systems design and spec, network architect, everything. I do Windows, Linux, Mac OS, networking, comms, some programming knowledge, training, all sorts. But I'm too old to get work as a techie.

I eventually moved to the Czech Republic. I'm in my 3rd position in 4 years, having nearly doubled my salary from its lowest point since I moved here. Mainly because I'm a native English speaker and we're in big demand here.

I can _turn down_ work I don't want over here. But I did have to move to a new country, where I don't speak the language, and accept an initial pay cut to about one quarter of what I hoped for in London.


Sorry, those 3500 recipients could not have known that you're 41 and tossed the application on that basis. There is just some problem other than the one you imagine.

> I used to mainly work in support, from 1st/2nd/3rd line to sysadmin, systems design and spec, network architect, everything. I do Windows, Linux, Mac OS, networking, comms, some programming knowledge, training, all sorts. But I'm too old to get work as a techie.

Across all the organizations where I have ever worked, I remember plenty of "old" guys doing this kind of IT stuff.

With that background, it's probably going to be hard to apply for anything different. Hundreds of applications but very low interview rate sounds like some sort of insurmountable mismatch between background and job. Or something silly in your application that is raising some sort of "red flag" for no good reason. If your age or date of birth aren't in the application, then that can't be it.


> those 3500 recipients could not have known that you're 41

A likely-accurate age estimate is easily discernible for applicants who follow the common practice of putting their education history with graduation dates. A much rougher estimate is also possible with nothing more than specific technologies. You can do pretty well with employment history as well -- and I'd suspect that many among hiring managers or HR staff quickly develop a profile (consciously or not) that rules out both inadequate experience AND experience that feels too scattered or too long.

There could also be other factors, of course. Timing can be an issue. I've heard stories of people applying for hundreds of jobs (who were getting hundreds of applicants per open position) during the 2001-2003 bust. I wouldn't be surprised if it were the same thing in 2009 (though I found 2009 was a great time to be contracting -- businesses still wanted stuff done, they just didn't want the liability of an FTE on the books).

And there's always the possibility that the GP was simply not matched to the job, but it's not the foregone conclusion you seem to be assuming.

> I remember plenty of "old" guys doing this kind of IT stuff.

Most of the people I remember working with have health insurance, too, so naturally not having health insurance has rarely been a problem for working people.

(Which is an indirect way of saying: survivorship bias! The existence of companies that employ workers over 30/40/50 is positive to observe for anyone who'd like to make software/IT their career as long as possible, but the figure that'd probably matter most would be the relative hire rates among different age groups.)


Exactly so.

I have tried most things.

I removed all the dates from my CV. No difference; a minimally intelligent pimp can add up. Degree, that's 3y; 3y in this role, 2y in that role, 2 years there, 16y freelancing... This dude is old.

So I removed the early junior jobs from my career history. Result, I got quizzed on how I walked straight into senior roles straight out of university.

So I left out some gaps in the timeline (I've freelanced quite a lot) -- and got curious about the specific tech I'd worked with in particular roles. Deploying Windows NT Server 3.1, or managing a migration from DECnet to TCP/IP, dates you.

You can fool the idiots, sure. But then your CV gets passed to non-idiots.

I don't advertise a DoB any more, nor dates of education, but I do give the years of my various permie jobs. It's easier to just be honest.

If they're ageist, as many are, then you can't lie or BS your way past that.


It's terrible that you haven't gotten a job or any attention. I still think there's something on your resume that might be affecting this. I am in my early 50s and I had no problem getting my last job. But it might be because I have several degrees in CS and experience at leading companies. My resume does list the year I graduated from college and the time at the company's but I had thought of retracting that for my resume in case there was ageism but I didn't see that. I'm an engineer and not in it / support staff so maybe that's part of my advantage. I wish I could see your resume and then I could maybe offer some advice.


If your 25 years of experience are on the application, it doesn't take a math major to spot that you're not 23.


Yeah, all hiring managers know roughly how old you are by the time they've scanned your resume.


Besides the other examples which have been given here there are some subtle flags, too, which apparently are often used as indicators of age on a resume. I saw a whole list of these things somewhere once but I only remember a couple of them right off the top of my head.

For example, I took a typing class back in the day and I was taught to always put two spaces after the end of a sentence. But today this flags you as "old".

Also, for me a properly formatted phone number looks something like this, per convention back in the day: 800-123-4567. But today you'd better write it like the following, else you're "old": 800.123.4567.

And so on.

Of course, one of the benefits of being "old" and still working in the tech field is the ability to toss out little gems like the following, which can be remarkably effective at putting some youngster in their place, when necessary: "Jesus, what a freaking noob thing to say/do!"

Another benefit is being able to walk into a situation where the local kids are maybe in a bit over their heads, whipping out what is to them some old and mysterious IT magic, and then start solving their problems in short order. One of the last times I did this I heard "Wow, we've been trying to figure out how to do that for years now!"


I haven't noticed any particular habits of numerical formatting or anything, but this might be US-specific.

But I have done the pulling-magic-fixes-out-of-a-hat thing. It's fun. :-)


Yes, it was amazing (to those kids) the number of things that I could do for them just using basic commands like DIR and FIND and such under Windows. And when I started using Powershell for the more complex stuff, I got "Powershell? I think I'd heard of that." These were folks in their 20s and 30s, so you'd have thought maybe they would have been a little more on top of such things. But in reality if it wasn't "click, click, drag, drop" then it was generally quite alien to them.

BTW, I think I remember a couple more of those resume flags. Back in the day I was taught to list things out like this, this, and this - that last comma being known variously as the Oxford, Harvard, serial, or series comma. (See what I did there?) But the "modern" way of doing it is this, this and this - with no Oxford comma.

Another had to do with email addresses. Dare you ever list something like an aol.com email address (which my wife still has, for example) lest it flag you as "old school"?

Interesting aside here as to things like Facebook: a few years back there was a notion being promoted among hiring folks (no doubt being pushed by Zuck himself) that if you weren't on Facebook then there must be something seriously wrong with you - that you were probably socially or technologically inept, and you were likely then not a good fit for hiring purposes. Today, of course, "Delete Facebook!" is all the rage.


— EDUCATION

1994-1998 Univerisity of Whatever

BS CS

Let’s guess the likely minimum age?


I'm very sorry to hear about your experience. But when I hear that you think 41 is old I have to stifle a slight cough. I'm 58 and started my most recent job 2 months ago. Before that, I worked for FICO in the UK for 1 year and 9 months. I've had 5 or 6 jobs since I was 41, but I've always put the (enjoyable) time in at home to learn new stuff. It keeps you young.


Also 58 and working as an SRE at a company I love. Greybeards unite!


I have a tiny handful of friends in IT older than I whose careers are still thriving in the UK. Most are specialists of some kind. I wish them well.

For the first >50% of my career, my speciality was that I wasn't a specialist. I can work anything with a keyboard and a display, fix it, tune it, make it talk to anything else, or at a push virtualise it.

But that's an obsolete skill in the near-monoculture of today, when IT means Unix, Windows and nothing else, talking Internet protocols. It's all boring now.

Usefully, though, I also write, so I changed course and became a tech writer. That's working out OK so far.


Well I think it is far from boring. The growth of cloud platforms, containerization, orchestration, there's a lot going on.


Good for you! Sincerely!

I am very happy about the move. I'm glad to have left the UK and my quality of life now is far better than it was. I wasn't forced into it. I had a fallback plan: I wrote and sold a book, and used the proceeds to pay for a TEFL course. My plan was to go travelling as a TEFL teacher.

As it happens, I didn't need to do it. Just as I was planning on it, a role abroad came up, and once I adjusted to the idea of a 75% pay cut from what I was expecting, it was a very good move.

I wouldn't particularly wish the fate of being _forced_ to change countries on anyone, but it's not a bad thing. Mind you, I had no family, no dependents, nothing. And I now have the disposable income to visit ageing parent more often than I did from London.


In retrospect, do you think if instead of the 2000 applications you did in 2009, you had highly targeted maybe 1 position a week, with personalized letters, tweaked resume, and friendly follow up, you might have had success? 2009 was the worst year for employment I’ve ever seen, so maybe there truly were no options for you.


No, not really.

For 2 reasons.

[1] I only did broadcast/scattershot approach for the first year. After I got kicked off benefits the 2nd time (for attending a meeting of my startup -- an unpaid position -- in another part of the country) I stopped trying for anything I could do at all, anywhere, and started targeting my applications far more specifically, at things I was a really good fit for, with customised CVs etc.

No difference. Maybe a slightly higher rate of rejection letters.

[2] As others have said, timing.

I was freelance for most of the period 1996-2001 and 2003-2007. I decided to return to F/T work in '07 and applied for about 500 positions in 4 months before I got my first interview. I was hired over the phone, first interview.

It's getting to the interview that's hard. I interview well. I'm smart, lucid, eloquent, approachable.

These days, that means keyword matching, to get past 1st and maybe 2nd level selection.

2009/2010 were very bad. 2011, I got a role, but only very very briefly. 2012, I was even flown to Scotland for a 2nd interview, then got a second, non-IT role. 2013, I retrained in TEFL and went looking for teaching roles. End 2013, I applied for, and in early 2014, I got, a role in Brno, Czechia.


Another idea: I don't see you talking about using your network of friends or LinkedIn. I get a lot of things from recruiters trying to get me to interview with them just based on my resume. And then I ask friends about working at the company they are in.


OP here - and I agree. 2009 was a worst-case scenario.


this. I had substantially the same experience in 2009 except I was 27 at the time. I could't get a job writing C++ with a degree and 4 years experience. I couldn't get a job flipping burgers. I later learned that the reason I could't get a cashier job at home depot was because they had already fired half the floor staff and made the office staff work two jobs. A friend of mine worked at a bank, and the accountant at that home depot was complaining to him that they were training her to cut lumber. It was work lumber + accounting or get fired. Of course they were still accepting applications :/


"I think it's because I was 41 when I started."

Doubftul. I was 40 when I was looking a couple years back and had a better conversion rate of application -> interview than I've had in my entire life. This is for Rails/React work. I had 15 interviews out of maybe 25 or so applications, had a few opportunities I turned down and landed perhaps the best job I ever had.

I'm beginning to look again at 42 and got 5 interviews in the first week and turned down at least at least 3x as many ops that I didn't like because I'm rather picky.

Are there companies that are pushing my resume to the side because they can glean my age by work history and graduation year? Perhaps.

What I will say though is your experience matches much of what I saw circa 2001 during the .com upheaval. I applied to 50 companies in the first month after the startup I was at blew up at, not a single interview. I was 25 at the time though. I knew many people in their 20s who gave up trying to get work.

I imagine looking for work in 2009 was a whole heckuva lot like 2001 depending on what field you were in.


Good for you. Seriously.

It does seem to be better for programmers.

I was primarily a support guy, but also systems admin, network architect/rollouts/installation, training, even project management and security consultancy at a push.

We're regarded as far more fungible than coders. Coders make more money and if you are good in a niche, something popular, or something wildly obscure where it's hard to find people, then it's easier to find work.

2 of my former partners are programmers. One a general database programmer; she found it hard to retrain into suitably trendy databases, but once she did, she was off and running. Another in a very obscure language, but once she found a role, after a few years, she was making 50% more than my best-ever pay in London.

Either you write in something desirable (even if niche), or you're good enough to switch languages easily and readily (and regularly) retrain in something desirable. If you do that and are good, there's work out there.

If you're a humble grunt who fixes stuff, it's much much harder.


This is basically it. If you're in tech it's huge having some sense of career progression - either vertically, up the management chain, or laterally moving into more current/progressive/desirable areas.

This is really where the notion of age discrimination would come into play, just this concern someone has been doing the same thing for X years and stopped growing - passion and curiosity is ageless.

That said, regardless of this timing is a big concern. I am bracing myself for a difficult market if the tech bubble deflates, and to that extent the next position I get is one I plan to be at at least 3-4 years.


I think you've got it. There is more demand for programmers and you're right that companies don't find it is hard to hire people for it support jobs. That's a shame. If I was in your position I would consider trying to train as a programmer. But reading your other comments it seems like you've got it worked out and have transitioned into something new so good for you.


Maybe you're the outlier; maybe the other person is the outlier. Maybe 2009 is the outlier. Based on anecdotes, I feel like it's hard to say one way or the other.


Is there a collection of data that outlines the average time spent looking for work amongst programmers, and other different tech fields? And how it has changed over the years?


Wow thousands of jobs! Could you explain:

* How do you even send that many applications? Is there some site where you can click thousands of checkboxes and apply? Do you send individual emails?

* What modifications do you make when applying from job-to-job?

* What adjustments did you make along the way? Did you change your resume or make any other major changes to how you were presented?

* For how many of those jobs did you proceed to an interview?


> 2008-2013, about 3,500 roles

> * How do you even send that many applications? Is there some site where you can click thousands of checkboxes and apply? Do you send individual emails?

(3500/2) = 1750 hours, or just shy of one work year with holidays/vacation/etc.

If he is applying to multiple countries, of the course of 5 years, I wouldn't be surprised if 3500 jobs were posted for him to apply to that his qualifications were relevant for.

To be honest, I've applied to a non-negligible number of jobs every year just to keep interviewing and looking for better options. At 30min per application, the limitation was my time rather than the # of positions that were open given how flexible I am about location.

The only difference is I've been continuously employed and the applications are as much about maintaining my ability to interview effectively as it is firing bosses I don't care for.


Just so. Aggressive job-hunting is a nearly full-time job in itself.

As I said, though, from 2010-2013 I became a lot more selective, meaning it was only an hour or 2 a day.


I’ve seen this happen to people. You get depressed and focus on sites like Monster/etc that are mostly bullshit generic posts and agencies trolling for resumes. No interviews because there are no jobs.


Up to a point, yes.

I tried to use as broad a range of places as I could find. I bought the Guardian every Thursday for the ads in the Tech pull-out, until they cancelled that. I subscribed to Computing and Computer Weekly and went for any print ads in there, too. I applied to a few from New Scientist as well, borrowing friends' copies or going to the local libraries.

There are indubitably many ads for each role, and also fake ads for agencies wanting lots of people on their books, but you can't really tell real from spam, so I just applied for them all.


I'm stuck in this rut. What can I do to break out of it?


Dabockster- I did a stint as a tech recruiter a while back (not doing that anymore), so I can offer some perspective from the other side of the table - although limited.

A few questions:

1. How many events do you attend per week? (could be related to any industry at all - could be a tradeshow, a panel of speakers, tech meetups - anything really)?

2. How many hands do you shake at each event?

3. How many people from these events do you follow up with?

If your score is "0" for all of the above then you are doing it all wrong.

You need to meet people in person, each week. The only way to do that short of showing up at the front desk, resume in hand, is to go to events.

You need to set a goal of attending 1-2 events per week (minimum), and figuring out how to get in front of hiring managers from companies you admire.

Figure out what events those people might attend socially or professionally. Get up to speed with events in various industries in your city.

Get comfortable with being uncomfortable at events, and find a way to make them enjoyable.

People who log facetime at events do immediately jump to the top of the pile compared to people like you who are #200-300 at the bottom of the stack in the applicant tracking system for some BS job posting on Monster (many of which are for non-existent jobs).

Don't be #300.

Start attending events!

There's no reason you should have to apply for 3,000 jobs, that is a waste of time.

Start working smarter - even if you are introverted and awkward in person.

Now pick your head, up, get out there and get started!

You can do this!

D.


When I was in college in the mid-80s, my mom already had many years of experience as an HR professional. I never forgot the rules-of-thumb that she taught me:

90% of all successful placements come from people who have personal contacts with the hiring manager or somewhere else at the place doing the hiring.

90% of the remainder (9% of the total) come from headhunting firms that are actively looking for candidates to fill a particular special position.

The final 1% comes from placement advertisements and job search facilities.

And this from the lady who ran the job search facility for the University of Oklahoma (at Norman), called the “Job Location Program”. It covered every single staff and faculty position that was being hired for across the entire University.

So far as I can tell, the job placement situation hasn’t really changed much in the 30 or so years since.

So, you have to ask yourself, where do you want to spend your time and money? Do you want to spend it all in the area with only 1% placement success, or do you want to spend it somewhere else that might have a higher probability of getting you something?


Thanks for posting what seemed to me to be a kind, positive and constructive response.


I signed up with every agency in sight -- Monster, Reed, Manpower, whatever. I had saved keyword queries on all the major agencies and sites. I joined mailing lists with job ads -- I recall https://www.environmentjob.co.uk/ had some interesting ones, but many, you have to pay your own way, and I was broke. I went looking for as many ads as possible.

I had a file of application letters, needing minimal customisation to fit. Copy, paste, add salutation/role/location, attach CV, send.

My CV is longish -- 3 pages -- but then, so's my career. I've done what I can to optimise it for keywords that will get hits when pimps do searches.

The CV didn't get customised for specific applications unless I really wanted that role and thought I'd be perfect for it. It didn't help. I don't bother doing it any more. I maintain a "writer" and a "techie" CV, just in case.

Every morning, I would make a cuppa and breakfast, sit at the PC, read a few comics and the news, then start applying. I'd keep going until there were no vaguely relevant positions left. It took from 2 to 5 hours most days.

I logged every application in an OpenOffice/LibreOffice spreadsheet: date, title, reference number, agency. Every fortnight, I signed on at the Jobcentre, and took the printout of the last 2 weeks' applications to get it initialled as evidence. I needed that in August; by then, the printout was about 2cm thick.

I probably still have it somewhere. Perhaps I should put it on Dropbox for people to see the evidence. :-)


You should have stopped at the 50th application without response, and asked for professional help. As the saying goes, "The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result." A career coach could have helped you figure out what was wrong.

Without knowing the details, I'd guess that the age prejudice is in your head, and instead your resume just raised a bunch flags. One common mistake is listing several disparate skills, with no coherence; recruiters need to be able to categorize you in one of their "boxes" - SRE, engineer, Unix sysadmin, Windows sysadmin, security analyst, leader CTO-type, etc. Jack-of-all-trades are usually the first ones to be dismissed.

Other common flag is lack of consistency in your trajectory. Candidates jumping between jobs too quickly may be a problem, unless you're looking for a short-term contractor.

Also, after you've been out of the market for a couple of years, it gets harder to get back in. So it's natural that now you're having to turn down offers. Again, another proof that age had nothing to do with your low success rate.


When applying to those roles how did they discover you were 41?


Former recruiter and current professional resume writer. As the other respondent said, the quick formula a recruiter might use to guess your birth year is "college graduation date - 22" or "date of first job - 22".

You should keep this fact in mind as you write a resume and decide which jobs to include, which jobs to perhaps delete, and whether you want to include your graduation date. It isn't necessary to include a graduation year or all of your jobs, so you can usually shave some years off your age "on paper" without being considered as deceptive.

Sometimes I'll add a line "Previous experience included..." to indicate that there is prior work experience, but I don't list the years.


Just to add to that, these are the rules I follow. Needless to say, I am 50+

1. Don't include graduation dates in your resume, just the University/School name and Major(s) 2. Truncate your resume to just slightly over the required years of experience. e.g., include past 12 years experience for a job which requires 10+ years 3. Keep your resume to under 3 pages (max). Nobody has the time to wade through an 8 page resume, even if you have worked on the most awesome projects at the start of your career

Seemed to work for me


I am curious. If what you described is a standard technique people can use, what prevents the recruiters/talent acquisition to, by default, discard resumes/CVs without exact dates?


I assure you it is a standard practice, but why would recruiters discard resumes without exact dates 'by default'? Because the assumption is that those people are 'old'?

That may answer the question for you, but ageism is a legal concern and disqualifying candidates because they didn't tell you when they graduated isn't dissimilar to asking someone how old they are in a job interview and refusing to hire them if they don't.


Thanks for replying fecak. Your answer addressed what I wanted to know. :)


You should target 10-15 years of relevant job experience on your resume and keep it to 1-2 pages.

The goal is to appear no older than a 30-39 year old professional on the job application as much as possible.

22+15 = 37 (24+15 = 39, if a masters)


As someone who hires, I like to see dates because I want someone that has a track history of sticking around for a while. I don’t want to waste effort on someone that has a history of changing jobs every year or two. Dates help show that.


When I started my career as a programmer it was a bad sign if people didn't stay 5 years at least at a company. But these days hardly anybody stays longer than 2 years unless they're being paid exceptionally well. So it's no longer a terrible sign if someone doesn't last more than 2 years. It can actually be a bad sign if you work at a big company for 10 years because you're probably out of date because you focused only on their tech stack .


It’s common and appropriate to exclude irrelevant experience.

Do you as a potential employer care that I was an Informix DBA in 2000?

HR wants experience who isn’t at peak earnings. If you tried to recruit me from a Jon I liked at 30, a 40% raise would be affordable. Now, no mas.


It could be as simple as having over 15 years of professional experience on the resume.


I never thought about this one.


Yet another reason for trimming off old jobs after some point; the primary one being nobody cares going through 3+ page long resumes.


I think resumes should be treated less as a report card and more of a brochure. Hiring managers have little time, so keeping it focused on relevant highlights and selling the candidate for that job are the entire point.

A 15 page menu isn't better than a 1 page menu... A spa advertising every stone in its parking lot doesn't make you think nice things about their mud baths...


If your resume says you graduated from college 18 years ago, and worked at <some corp> for 17 of them, they can make a pretty good guess.


Reason? I think it's because I was 41 when I started.

The implication of your post is that the hiring managers responsible for 3500 jobs are *all" discriminating on age. That seems unlikely, if only because there are people in the UK tech sector older than that who can still find roles, so evidently not all managers discriminate.


Not all, but most.

It is endemic in the Anglophone world. I also speak a little German, French, Norwegian and at a push Spanish and Swedish, and I applied to anywhere that was hiring English speakers there, too... with cover letter in the local language, naturally.

Zero interest.

So I think it's a Western problem.

Q.v.

https://techcrunch.com/2010/08/28/silicon-valley%E2%80%99s-d...

https://newrepublic.com/article/117088/silicons-valleys-brut...

I encounter virtually none here in the former Communist Bloc, where people are more interested in me because of my experience.


I think it's just an oversupply of people in it support and it really contrast with the shortage of software engineers. Now that you're teaching English as a foreign language you're in a skillset area with a shortage and that's why you're more in demand. Age might matter a little bit but I think you've just got the right skill set now in the area that's short of experts.


Laid off at 56. When I got home from being notified, there was an email from the HR person at a competitor in my inbox. I started work there within two weeks.

Plus, my prior company had a rather spectacular special severance package for those of a certain age who would sign an agreement not to sue for age discrimination. (This was accompanied by a thick stack of statistics of who had been laid off, showing that they were well prepared to defend themselves from any such lawsuit, but I'd rather take the money than spend the next umpteen years in court, and have the lawyers take any hypothetical judgment in the end anyway.)


Bay Area or elsewhere?


It's almost impossible to sue for age discrimination and win. All they have to do is lay off 1 person in their 20s at the time they laid off their older workers and they claim innocence and it works.


Even if you sue and win you'll likely never work again due to it.


Serious question: If this is the expectation, is it not possible to sue for the actual damages, which is a lifetime of income?


no because the actual damage is just your lost income at that job. The reason you will never work again is no one wants to hire someone who sues their employer which is not caused by them firing you. It is the same with renting, if you sue your landlord no other landlord will touch you, many places maintain blacklists of tenants who have sued their landlords


Sue after you start working in your new job and are established.


Who would know unless you had a unique name and it hit the newspapers?


It's not unheard of for groups of employers to share (often times illegal) blacklists of known "troublesome" workers. Recruiters supposedly sometimes maintain similar blacklists as well.

> https://www.wsj.com/articles/SB10001424052748703389004575033...


It isn't even that, they just need to eliminate the position and not rehire anyone for it (or a similar one) for 18 months.


Another trick to get rid of union/tenured/troublesome employees is to create a new department, transfer desired staff and close the old one.


I'd hate to think that readers over 50 feel the need to consider leaving the tech workforce, and I know perhaps hundreds of successful engineers over 50.

Those that have a hard time getting back in are often a victim of discrimination not truly based on age, but on stagnation. A 50 year old who has worked on five interesting diverse projects in the last 10 years will find work. A 50 year old who spent the last 20 years working for the same company using old tech may struggle, and by the time you realize you need to retool it can be too late.


I believe the "old == stagnant" meme is largely a myth. It sounds right somehow, so it sticks with us. Over the course of a long career, though, I've seen this kind of stagnation distributed pretty evenly across people of different ages. The difference is that when we someone who's young and stagnant, we just chalk them up as green, or a business type, etc. But not "stagnant". We can't see their future, so we can't see that they're always going to be like that.

If you weren't stagnant when you were young, you're not going to be stagnant when you're old.


It’s a fallacy of younger, inexperienced, consumption-brainwashed people that “new == better.” Also, it could be that certain groups want more people like them for mating, dating, etc.


I'm another 50-plus programmer. It's not that new is better it's that you just need to know about new things. You need to know about C++ 11 and C++ 14 if you're a C++ programmer. You should learn before you interview. Right or wrong companies are looking for people that have a grasp of current Technologies. It's not about being better it's about knowing what's happening in today's world.


But an older stagnant person's skills tend to be much more out of date.

Younger ones have the benefit that their skills are still likely to be relevant at a larger subset of the employer pool.


That's an interesting point, and may very well be true. It doesn't imply that there's a correlation between age and stagnation, though.

Also, in my experience, stagnation can run in the other direction, temporally. I encounter many young people who won't even learn about, much less consider, using a tool like 'make', simply based on the assumption that newer seemingly similar tools must be better. Sometimes the old ways really are superior for the task at hand.


That's just it. It's really rare to find a 25 year old with a stagnant set of skills. I don't know if stagnation is the best word, but I also think there are other elements. Complacency in some cases, or getting too comfortable.

Most of the successful tech people I know that are 50+ never overstayed their welcome at companies where they stopped learning, or they were always being recruited by other firms and moved around. Recruiters generally aren't knocking on doors of someone who has been at the same company for 20 years, and that's for a variety of reasons.


We must move in different circles. I've tried to sell whole teams of 20-somethings to give git a try, and they're just not having it. They know what they know, and that's it.


I must move in different circles too. Every programmer today uses git, only maybe people stuck at a big company like Microsoft for their whole career don't use git and even Microsoft uses them now. And make: it's what everyone uses. Sometimes cross operating system projects use cmake instead of make but it's not that different. All the new programmers I meet coming out of college use these tools.


> It doesn't imply that there's a correlation between age and stagnation, though.

Not the way you're describing it. However, there's a pretty common correlation between age and relevance of skillset, which is a direct consequence of stagnation over many years.

The point is that someone saying "old == stagnant" may actually be thinking of it the way I'm describing, which has more validity.


Your first sentence is a loaded, presumptive opinion that assumes age equals out-of-date without evidence.

Younger ones can have all the latest Javascript library experience they want but they still don’t have enough obvious experience for engineering mastery that’s vital to being a highly-productive independent contributor or tech lead.


> Your first sentence is a loaded, presumptive opinion that assumes age equals out-of-date without evidence.

Read it again. It's referring to older stagnant people, not all older people. The longer someone has been stagnant, the more out of date their skills become.


We know that, but employers are looking for React.js developers, not Software Engineer Architect. Whatever you like it or not you need to have a relevant tech on your CV.


> It sounds right somehow, so it sticks with us.

Because that is the case generally speaking. People become more resistant to change as they get older. They become more conservative, their openness trait decreases.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16435954

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2562318/


That might be true but it's pretty easy to stay "open" in tech as opposed to being open in general. The longer you do it the more you realise it's all the same and that a good portion of it is actually a regression.

That last sentence sounded a bit cynical - So anyway, the main trick with being older in tech is not being open but remaining enthusiastic (most days)


Yep, for sure. And it's easy to be too open in tech - constantly chasing the new shiny framework or language or library (which I'm frequently guilty of). But a lot of times the right answer is to stick with what has been battle tested and what you're productive in.


Indeed. There's an inevitable trade-off between looking for a better approach and simply executing with what you have. (cf machine learning)

Suppose my boss asks me to find a good Thai restaurant for lunch. If I'm new to the area, I'll be very "open" and spend a lot of time looking into the possibilities, etc. If I have a lot of experience eating at Thai places in town, I'll be less open. I already know the best one out of a substantial set, and it's less likely that I'll find a better one without a lot of work. Call it stagnation, or call it being careful with the company's money.


>A 50 year old who spent the last 20 years working for the same company using old tech may struggle, and by the time you realize you need to retool it can be too late.

Basically, stay up-to-speed with Javascript if you do web development. It's the only landscape that changes significantly enough to warrant the effort, mainly because it's a huge melting pot of coding styles and frameworks and managers of these projects seem to have less commitment to their technical decisions long-term.

If you do C#/Java/Go/Rust/C++/C, you're probably not going to be left behind.


This should really be the top (perhaps only?) response in any of these threads.

I have no fears of being completely unemployable in my 50's or 60's. But in my mid-40's now, I'm already losing interest in web development as a particular niche. A lot of students and junior developers might not be completely aware that there's even a difference, a subset/superset thing there.

Web development is so accessible, anyone can self-teach. It's not so common to learn EAI, ETL, large-scale batch processing or data streaming, etc by way of personal GitHub side projects. It's basically a long, slow process of getting hired for roles that you're not 100% ready for, at companies with those sorts of needs, and growing into it over time.


I would be very curious to see how many 50 year old engineers are doing web development. I'm only 34 and my experience the past 5 years is that experience is not respected and being out of your 20s makes you a poor culture fit for most web companies.

> If you do C#/Java/Go/Rust/C++/C, you're probably not going to be left behind.

I wouldn't be so sure. The landscapes don't change as quickly as web dev does, but they do change. I did a bit of Java/Hibernate work 8+ years ago. I look at modern Java code bases now and it's so annotation heavy I couldn't make heads or tails of it.


I'm mid-thirties and was recently asked to teach a 50 yo best practices for development in Node. And not like Node specific patterns, but more like how to handle http requests. I'm pretty sure that guy is way above my skill set - he's smart and he has 15 years of work experience on me. I turned the offer down since I would have looked like a fool, like a kid teaching an adult how to drive.

The age bias is real.


It sounds like you missed an opportunity there. Just because someone has XX years of work experience doesn't mean that they know a particular technology stack. Perhaps this could have been a great opportunity for you to teach that person your skillset, while learning things from them in return. The best mentorships are bidirectional.

While humans are growing up, we're accustomed to view our "elders" as our superiors in all respects. Childhood teachers encourage this view. However, at the point when you enter the workforce, in my opinion you should set these ideas aside and treat everyone as a peer; and keep your mind open to the idea that both people may have something to learn from the other.


No, I think I was a bit unclear. The guy obviously knew what he was doing, and had setup projects in Node. For me to come in and tell him how require() works would be insulting.

No missed opportunity, I pivoted the deal after turning down the first.


I don't think you were unclear, I think maybe GP only read the first two sentences.


If you become comfortable with annotation heavy code bases, what is the likelihood it will change in the future and you have to start over with a new style of codebases?

If there's a major shift in those languages (vs. JavaScript) it seems more worth it to retrain once it's solidified and you see companies actually looking for those skills.

Fast moving ecosystems means more things become deprecated more quickly and you also risk more "train thing that will be useless next year".


but not everything is moving into the could/servers, who does development for desktop nowdays? phoneapps also have same structure as webapps, what other type of dev you mean, industrial?


I tell people, look around. Think of every single electricity powered device you interact with or pass by in a day. Someone is doing development work on a lot of those. It's not always flashy work, but it's darn interesting work.


I've done development in two industries; Healthcare and Transportation. Most of the developers I've worked with in those industries have been older. So, my anecdotal experience is that it really depends on the industry. The awesome thing is, both of those industries are keeping up with the latest in tech, so it's not like devs are sitting back working on the same old code base for a decade.


I will add Finance and Insurance as two more industries where older developers (who keep their skills up to date!) are welcome.

Yes, COBOL is still being used at many of these companies, but other departments are using up-to-date .NET or Java and don't ever look at COBOL.


An acquaintance, a decade ago, took about 5y off to go on a world tour. When he returned to London, his skills were so stale, he couldn't find anything.

After 6mth of hunting in vain, he wrote a CV focussed on his oldest skill -- Fortran -- and found a role in weeks. When he told me this, he'd been renewed 5 times and had been in a 6mth role for nearly 3 years. He suspected he'd be doing it for the rest of his working life.

I got a bunch of interviews around 2010-2011 for DEC OpenVMS sysadmin work. I do have VMS skills, but not high-level ones -- but companies were having real problems finding people to maintain their Alpha and Itanium servers. The demand was there.


It really depends on the place and the type of position. If you have a solid track of web development experience, people looking for a well-rounded engineer will not care if you know the latest JS framework. People just looking for someone to quickly stand up a site using that framework, however, may care more about it than your general skill set. I've looked for both and hired both at various times and places in my career.

I think the hole that older developers fall into is that their particular skills are out of date, and they have not expanded their skill set. I've talked to C++ developers who can't speak to anything beyond writing C++03 code for the last decade. You're basically looking for a niche position with that resume.


Java, C#, and C++ have changed a lot over the past decade -- the languages themselves have changed, and the way they are used has also changed a lot with the rise of microservices and stuff like that.


This is written in defiance of quite a few reports of the opposite. Employers want many things from employees, including a low wage, an ability to work 60 hours a week, and an absence of health problems. Also skills, but a company that only needs someone who is highly skilled can hire a high priced consultant. Of those, there is no need for loyalty whereas for salary jobs, loyalty seems to be very important.

Among older tech workers I know, I see a growing divide in their career tracks. A few become high priced consultants and charge between $200 to $300 an hour. The rest are in jobs where they are just hoping they don’t get fired. See recent stories about IBM.


> discrimination not truly based on age, but on stagnation

I can't speak in general, but I have observed in my circles that this is at least somewhat true, and for altogether natural reasons.

Most people, once they hit their late 30s or 40s, family (if they have one) takes priority and they don't have as much time to dedicate to going to Meetup groups, conferences or late nights spent gaining proficiency in new technologies. In general having kids vastly reduces one's free time.

Knowing a technology deeply requires many hours of intentional practice, commitment and energy, which many if not most people in that age range with families don't have a lot of at their disposal. Their "tech growth rate" slows down considerably relative to when they were in their 20s.

For example, I've noticed many SQL DBAs of a certain age have a hard time learning distributed databases because they often expect something familiar (databases are databases, right?) yet find themselves having to bone up on so many new concepts (that CS degree was so long ago) that many give up. Only the truly dedicated, truly passionate and truly nerdy persist, but they are in the minority. A common refrain heard is that "there's just too much new stuff coming out all the time, you can't learn everything", which is true, but it's often also an oft-employed excuse for not dedicating oneself to being current.

So when most average tech folks hit 50, they have pretty much lost about 1-1.5 decades of high-rate tech learning.


In my current job I see a LOT of what I call cookie-cutter J2EE developers apply for our open positions from big Wall Street banks.

I try to keep an open mind when interviewing these folks, and we even have some great employees with that background, but so very few of them surprise me positively.

I sincerely hope they get rescued from their dead end jobs some how. It's such a shame. So much talent just getting wasted (IMHO).


Good points, but also keep in mind that if your employer is giving you a steady diet of interesting projects using technologies that are highly relevant, you don't have any need to go home and do personal projects at night.

When I advise clients on career topics like this, I usually weigh whether the day job provides the client with a marketable skill set. If not, that person needs to consider doing things outside of work to maintain marketability. If the day job provides challenges and the proper set of tech, no real need to invest much additional time to learning.


> if your employer is giving you a steady diet of interesting projects using technologies that are highly relevant

Absolutely, and if they are not, one can either ask for them or switch jobs. The latter unfortunately is less of an option in smaller metro areas where the job market is limited. I've friends in smaller cities are who are stuck because there are only a few games in town.

That said, remote work is an option these days.

But there is still the inertia and difficult of switching jobs (an HN post a couple of days ago speaks to the difficulty in moving to a new tech job).


I have always wondered this. Tech and probably other fields do want you to be promoted. From what I have heard, if you are not able to get promoted in certain number of years, you are put on a PIP and possibly laid off. But there are lesser number of Senior Engineers than Engineers, and lesser number of Principal Engineers than Senior Engineers. What exactly happens? Just the fact that the numbers in the pipeline is always reducing suggests to me that some people get laid off and never find a job? Is that true? If not, what exactly is happening?

I am still at the one of the lowest levels on the totem pole, so maybe I am missing something obvious here.


This is a real issue.

In journalism, the career path is jr writer, writer, sr writer, jr editor, sr editor -- and then you go do management.

I was the IT Manager of a London stockbroker in the City by 26 years old. I didn't like it and ultimately quit.

But the expected career path for many companies is to go from being a "mere" techie to being a manager. If you don't want to do that, then age becomes a big problem.

I changed track to journalism, not knowing that the Web was going to kill the computer magazine industry within a decade. But short term, it was a good move, and I loved it.


I work with senior engineers who are in their late 20s, and mid level devs in their 40s - I feel like the idea that a career path always has to have an upward trajectory is a bit of a farce - there are a lot of companies full of people who have kids, are competent, but don’t really want to take on the extra responsibility and time.


At some point, you realize your family is more important than a few extra dollars and an org chart.


Senior is considered a terminal role in most companies in terms of required promotions, so you don’t have to get promoted again. Staff and principal is a different job kinda like management is, so at/after the senior level it’s splitting into 3 - managers, staff, and senior ICs, hence numbers go down.


> But there are lesser number of Senior Engineers than Engineers, and lesser number of Principal Engineers than Senior Engineers. What exactly happens?

More and more people going into software engineering than in previous generations.


A friend of mine is content maintaining a legacy VB app and has been at it since college -- about 20 years now. I hope he never gets laid off.


They will probably easily find another legacy VB app to maintain, it's like COBOL that never dies.


It's weird at 30 I can't see myself making it another 20 years. I find programming draining and exhausting, but I still enjoy doing it :? I just don't think I'll just feel like I will have lost a lot of the fire when I'm that age.


good instinct. certainly the personal reward of getting something interesting running dims. and I find myself working considerably slower, and its quite a bit easier to get distracted.

most importantly the kind of work that was available for me 20 years ago was just inherently more interesting than the kind of work I can find today.

if you don't get 'retirement money' early on, I would highly recommend spinning up another vocation to spend your later years with. at the very least you're in a privileged position where, ageism and market conditions aside, you can always backfill with a little drudge work.


edit: I feel like I will have lost a lot of the fire when I'm that age.


Have to find new things to do and learn about to keep interest in your life and in your job. Eventually if you never been a manager then that might be an interesting job change. And then working on a different technology and then taking a different role yet again. All these things can keep your interest level up. Imagine if you just sat in a job and a desk and a giant cubicle farm and Shuffle papers and never did anything interesting but prepared TPS reports. We are a lot more fortunate as programmers in that we have a lot of different career opportunities.


I was let go at age 53 about 9 months ago as a software engineer in the Boston area. I enjoy my job and had not thought of changing fields. I'm not in a position to retire either. I got 3 months severance and had a new job at comparable pay by the end of that time period.


After many rejections during my job hunt last year, I did seriously consider it, yes. Despite having a pretty solid skill set and experience, no bites, which is rather demoralizing.

You can argue whether candidates in their 50s are less viable, but it was clear that age was a factor. Not just being typecast as stodgy, but also that many people simply don't want to work with, or compete against, someone who's older.

I see comments about people getting old and not wanting to learn new things, but for me it's almost the opposite. One of the things I like most about tech is learning new things, and once you've been in for several decades, there are fewer and fewer truly new things left to learn, and positions where you'd get to learn them are fewer and fewer.

It was almost a fluke, but I did finally find a job (still in tech) that works for me. But if you knew the details, it wouldn't cheer you.

I may yet leave soon, and just live out my days as a churchmouse working on Open Source projects. We'll see.


I'm only 47 but it was the same experience for me. Ended up taking a data engineer job at a local government agency - depite the lovely site (inside University of São Paulo campus) it pays 1/3 the market average.


Pretty similar to my situation. Esp the "1/3" part. :-)


I'm the same way; I found that the creative work that I always envisioned was not happening on the job. Now I'm at home, but I've got emacs open in another window banging out some SIMD code. Maybe I'm ahead of the curve -- everybody says vectorization is the next thing, but hardly anyone knows how to do it or how a computer works.


Check out OpenACC. Kind of an interesting middle option. https://www.openacc.org/


To any older guys out there who think they might be looking in the near future -- my advice is to learn the "current stack", or really, just to keep up to date and messing with the new technologies that come out.

My story: A couple years ago I started job searching, at 38. I had been at my current job for 5 years. I had a hell of a time getting anyone to bite. I had a dozen phone interviews that I felt went well, but no callbacks. This stroke me as odd, as when I had been searching last time, I had to fight off people and had multiple offers.

I noticed a trend in the jobs I was applying for. Kubernetes, Node, C#, etc. Things I didn't have on my resume, although I knew I could learn with ease. But your prospective hirer doesn't want to hear how good you are at learning their stack. There are enough candidates to choose from that already know what they need, and I was told that more than once.

The jobs I was applying for were the same description, same mechanics and job duties I had been doing for 15 years already, but since I didn't work with the latest stack -- too bad.

I eventually got lucky and found a job that was transitioning from what I already knew to one of these newer stacks.


Python is hot, right? I'm doing Python for the last 10 years and even landed one patch in smtplib. Data science is booming and I have 25 years into ETL.

I'm active in the local Python meetups - my last talk was about the new data classes in Python 3.7 (currently beta so I can't possibly be more up to date). Some white hair over my face would hint at my real age if I let them grow for a few days but otherwise I don't look 47. I commute by bicycle (13 milles every day). I spend weekends on hackathons just for the fun. I'm lean and fast both physically and mentally.

But when you are near 50, good luck finding a good position. Age prejudice is a real problem in our industry.


Yep - biggest key is stay current. Change to new langs / systems if needed so you can stay in the "the most desirable" camp. Don't marry yourself to a technology. This is especially critical IME as you get over 40. I learned the hard way :(


Recently laid off at age 48. Less than a month later, had multiple offers with better compensation. Still in tech sector. Two years ago we switched from PHP to Go, which definitely helped.


Is your new job writing Go, or do you just think learning it just make you a more attractive candidate?


New role is almost entirely Go. Some legacy Python.


If you can, what type of code are you writing in Go commercially? Don't worry, you don't have to be specific, I'm just curious =) The libraries have really started to take off for it, and I'm curious if companies are catching up to that, yet.


There are several projects, but the largest is basically a very large specialized content platform. Many sites that have to be fast with no downtime - so Go, K8s, CockroachDB. We also have some machine learning (that's why we kept the Python). Also a few fun, small Raspberry Pi / GoBot things around the office.


Fellow 40-something software dev here. I'd love to ask you some questions about your background & experience. If you'd be inclined, can we chat? My email is in my profile.


I think the problem is the older generation of tech workers are not mercenaries.

I know a lot of older tech workers supporting important business systems while their skills slowly become out of date.

They are frequently adding $1 million+/year in value while being paid ~$100-$120k/year.

The businesses would pay $250-$350k/year if they had to.

If the older workers were demanding the premium and saving the $100-$150k/year extra after taxes then being out of the job market for a year or two to reskill wouldn't be a problem.

Luckily most of the younger generation are very mercenary and are in tech for the money. So it's a problem that hopefully will fix itself.


> The businesses would pay $250-$350k/year if they had to.

Extraordinary claim


What makes you think so?

Do you think they would sooner cut off their nose to spite their face?


I've worked in tech for 30 years and never experienced a single company that does math the way you describe: "I.T. generates or saves us $X million per year therefore we'll share that with frontline developers." Ha, puhleez.

In my experience, you'd consider yourself lucky to work for a company that sees I.T. as a strategic/operational advantage (and not merely a "cost center") and therefore pays its staff 10% better than market average plus bonuses.

Unfortunately, I've worked for truly "I.T. forward" companies like that and still seen a merger or buyout completely flip the culture. Overnight I.T. salaries and budgets were seen as indulgences and people were laid off or quit in droves.

The one thing I've learned about this industry is that no matter how innovative or adept an engineering department is, an exuberantly stupid executive team can completely squander and destroy that asset surprisingly quickly.


> therefore we'll share that with frontline developers." Ha, puhleez.

Like I said "if they had to".

You still have to make a compelling case.

Surely you have seen teams with 3 solution architects when they don't even really require 1?

Or teams with contractors who have been in the same team on contract 5+ years?

The problem is most senior devs don't even collect the information they need to make a compelling case.

Like if I asked you how much more productive are you than a new (3-6months) senior dev on your project? Would you be able to show me?

I'm ~14x more productive on my current project than a newly hired senior dev and can give you the jira queries to prove it.


Not quiet 50 - age 49 - 28 years at same organization

That was in 2011 - I retired and started doing in-home tech support for little old (rich) ladies and gentlemen. I haven't looked back :-)


Oh man, I am curious how that is. I used to do in-home tech work when I was much much younger like 20ish. I didn't realize it then, but thinking back on those experiences I often had housewives that were creating their own websites, um... flirting with me... I'm kinda glad I didn't notice... then.. So now I'm curious, do you see that?


Residential break/fix is always a hot topic for small computer business owners - some people make it work, others get stuck with "residential break/fix is dying." There's also the question of having a storefront and employees.

I think any on-site is going to vary widely by where you are, the demographics of your area, and the size of your service area. It's too easy to get into traveling half an hour or more to get to a customer, and if you're doing that without trip charges then suddenly a 1-hour visit turns into 2 hours of your time and halves your rate.


Interesting. If I may ask how much do you charge per hour?


Brilliant idea! How did you get started?


We just interviewed a series of laid off 50+ principle software engineers (all from the same company). After the interview, all reported back they had multiple offers and chose to work elsewhere. Keep in mind these were engineers with very specific domain knowledge (which we were after).


It seems like specific domain knowledge is pretty key at a certain age unless you're really good at selling yourself as a consultant. With 30+ years of of experience I think you almost get to accumulate that automatically, but the worry is that the domain vanishes.


Which domain?


I'm not over 50 yet (47) but I'm done applying for programming jobs and I don't want to get back into management unless it is my own company.

Currently I'm working full time as a data engineer for a local government agency waiting for some side business to take off.

Just started a productized service business offering "an elite squad delivering a complete web application over a single one-week sprint" (the idea is to take some business process currently managed through spreadsheets+email and turn it into a web application - complete with reports, filters, search, permission control and etc in one week).


I left the tech "workforce" (although I use a lot of technology on my own in my own business) a couple of downturns ago, after I got fed up with having several positions in a row offshored and eliminated.

I started my own unrelated business (sort of fell into it, applying my observations about certain marketplaces) with the immediate goal of having more hands-on control of my fate -- I could live with the impacts of my own stupid mistakes, but I wanted to insulate myself from others' stupid mistakes.

So, I stayed above water even through the 2008+ downturn, even while a lot of my colleagues who had stayed in the industry were out of the conventional full-time workforce as well.

But now, my industry segment is going away (ironically, due to the stupid mistakes of the industry superpower), so I've folded up the worst-performing 60% of my business. Now, I have to decide whether to just sell my SV house and "retire" or somehow find an appropriate role for my "out of date" (in terms of modern stacks) technical skillset.

I think at this point, my most marketable skill is writing and breaking stuff, and writing about breaking stuff, but the trick is finding the right company with those needs.


I am over 55, software engineer from SF Bay Area. I was laid off in March and just accepted one of the offers. So, no, not leaving the tech at all.


One theory I have is that the tech community was a lot more nerdy in the past, and we've gradually been diluted out as the tech population has grown. The whole "culture fit" thing just seems creepy to me; I used to work with all kinds of crazy people.


I am 50 and living in Silicon Valley.

I have been laid-off 3 times (most recently in January, 2017). Each time, I have had little troubling finding a job.

I should mention that I am active on Kaggle and that I code during my day job (C#) and code in my free time (mostly Python).

I have not yet found any problem in finding new roles.


I'm 47 and might have to. No one seems interested in hiring me.


It might be useful for those reading this thread to include location perhaps? In as so much you might be comfortable.

Might also be useful to give some idea of skill set previous job too so people can average themselves appropriately as I think that’s the intent here is to gauge where it hurts the most for this to happen and perhaps what skill sets might be seeing it more?

Maybe I’m wrong so I’m open to suggestions on improving this discourse


Would you mind sharing what tech you've been working with?


Are you on engineering or sales/manegement?


I am concerned that this may happen to me in a couple of decades. Can you elaborate more?


I wouldn't make any assumptions on the state of the workforce a few decades out. Things may change dramatically.


One thing that will definitely change is the demographics of the developer community, people who are 50 today who worked their career as programmers would have started in 1986 - 1990, There wasn't anywhere like as many programmers then as now.

So the number of older programmers moving down the pipe will grow hugely with the explosion in the number of programmers in the 90's.

That and to an extent the field is continuing to mature, We've only had the internet in most peoples homes for what, 18 years (not sure what the 50% line date was).

For me I find it's not hard to stay current since I devote my 'TV time' to programming and I like learning, I've also been careful not to find myself stuck in a niche by moving from one part of industry to another. My plan is to just stay current with the technology, I was raised on basic, pascal in the 80's, moved to C in the 90's, then Delphi, C# and the web.

It helps that the only constants in my life since I was a kid have been that I love reading and I love programming.

I leave work, go home, have a shower, something to eat and then program (or play chess) as a hobby.


I took a voluntary layoff in December and yes I have left the tech workforce. I was in product infosec and the stress was taking a toll on my health even though I didn't realize it at the time. I'm thinking about moving into academia. It's something I've always wanted to do but would never have done while I was still working. I'm set financially so the lower pay isn't a drawback.


I run engineering at a medium size startup. I don't like hiring C++ programmers with less than 20 years experience. Ironically the Ukrainian outsource team I once used to find talent quickly now supplies me with "senior devs" that are 5 years out of school. I'm in my mid-thirties myself.


Warning: this kind of poll is prone to selection bias.


Agreed. I imagine many people who left tech (regardless of age) are not frequenting HN


Sorry to hear. While I'm not over 50, I went through something similar at one point and took the opportunity to spend some time on a passion project before going back into the workforce.

Despite the frustrating situation, you'll end up better off. And if you're looking to get back to the tech workforce, here are some tips that I hope might help: https://medium.com/layoff-aid-blog/how-to-hack-the-tech-job-...


Great topic for discussion.

I have seen this happen during and after both the dot com bust and the great recession. Timing of the layoff will certainly impact things, as does the perception of skill stagnation, but there is a component that is related to age as well. I personally know a seasoned VP who only started getting callbacks after they dropped 10+ years of (relevant) experience from their resume. I also know someone who was told by a recruiter to dye their hair. Most of these stories are from 2001/2002 and 2009-2012 but unfortunately I doubt that it's limited to recessionary environments.


Honest question here, why is there ageism in hiring in IT? What does it buy any employer to shoot for younger, less experienced workers?

I'm probably naive but I don't get the logic.


My thoughts:

You are there to burn brain cycles for a fixed pay, a high pay at that. Experienced older crowd demands higher pay. Most gigs could care less about their experience; 95% of the gigs consists of mundane task completion and pump out code demanded by often micromanagement processes.

Older crowd is more likely to question, call out bs, and demand work life balance.

Young are more impressionable, willing to burn the candle night after night. 24-hour long hackathons on soda and pizza anyone? This is unhealthy in so many ways lol. This says more about the profession rather than ageism. Name another profession where people willingly accept working under such unhealthy circumstances, especially off the clock. Lunch at your desk is the norm.

Fuck it! Frankly, the profession is ideal for a (wo)man-child, crippling any mature, healthy social development. End of the day, it's you and the computer 1v1. No one outside IT/tech gives two fucks about your abstraction flame wars, coding practices yadi yada unless bottom line is suffering. They'll throw bodies at the problem. Meanwhile Stfu and code.


There is this notion that only 'younger' people can be innovative and the more experience you have the more your 'neural network' is solid and using 'proven' solutions, which limits outside of box thinking. - this is what I have read some time ago in a piece about 'Ageism'


If I do, I'll be waiting to be recalled when the dreaded "Year 2038 Problem" happens. ;)


oblig: "It says here you know COBOL..."


not yet (laid off at 55, new gig after ~2.5 mos.; now 56)


They really should pass legislation is protect older workers. If they protect transgender people from discrimination, they can protect their older workers who have done everything they were told to do and are being punished.



I dont think he is trolling, age discrimination is just something that is hard to prove.

Case in point - as soon as I removed my graduation dates from my resume I started getting more initial calls. Previously I would hear nothing - i assume it was b/c I was filtered out by the HR app parsing bots.

Ageism is real in this field..its youth culture. You just gotta know this and work around it.


I'm not laid off, but expect to find another job when I retire from my current one (probably in another year)... Am I naive?


Don't let age define you!


This needs an "Ask HN:"


We've updated the headline. Thanks!


I'm not sure what "reader" means here.


Laid-off readers (of Hacker News) ...

I assume.


Are there any plausible moves to earn mid 100s in some non-tech industry without going through re-schooling?


Everyone would be doing it if it was easy. Sales is probably the best option but you have to be able to do sales.




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