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Facebook Tools Are Used to Screen Out Older Job Seekers, Lawsuit Claims (bloomberg.com)
362 points by uptown 6 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 348 comments



Age discrimination being rampant in our industry is a fantastic opportunity for an astute hiring manager.

I go out of my way to hire older devs that are eschewed by typical Bay Area startups. I can get a seasoned pro with a solid background in C - and other more trendy languages - for about the same price of a 3-years-working-experience "senior dev" who likely was battlefield commissioned into the role at their last startup.

The typical solid dev can only put in 4, maybe 5-6 hours of actual good coding a day. If you know how to run a tight org - and not a sweatshop of 20-year olds pulling 16 hour days where only maybe 2-3 hours are actual programming time - then older devs are a fantastic bargain. Plus, when it comes time to architect something complex, I have found older devs typically create more simple and elegant solutions just because they have been exposed to more.

Of course, I do run into the occasional stuck-in-the-mud older dev who is very slow to adapt to current trends and wants everyone else to get off their lawn. That has been a rare exception to my overall experience and I don't think it should be used to stereotype the older devs as a group.


> The typical solid dev can only put in 4, maybe 5-6 hours of actual good coding a day.

Outside of extremely rare triage situations, this limit is true for all developers, regardless of age or quality of output. Beyond about the 6 hour mark, people can force themselves to sit in a chair and hit keys on a keyboard like the Swedish chef from the muppets, but it's pure management denial to believe those hours count as "productivity" and in fact when the defect rates start to get high and fatigue compounds and morale drops, it's really anti-productive.

Really, younger age is just usually correlated with fewer extracurricular responsibilities, i.e. home repair, health maintenance, domestic responsibilities, marriage, children, etc. These things tend to increase with age, making it a scheduling impossibility for older workers to sit in the chair at 8 pm going "hur duh dur" while slapping keys.


I have recently started working remotely and dealing with my own productivity as opposed to have some expectations of work hours has been an interesting challenge.

Since I log my own hours I became full aware of this 6 hours "ceiling" in the long term, for a few days I could work for many more hours, but that would have a big price to pay in future productivity. In the beginning I felt bad, as if I was not able to produce as much as other people leading to a lot of anxiety. As I realized that my actual productivity was going up, compared to my older self and other peers, I embraced it.

Now I work 6 productive hours and to me that's 8 hours of work, my results are better month by month, my quality of life is better and my anxiety is more controlled. Everybody wins.


Please, please, please let everybody come to this conclusion. How much better would the world be as place. I’ve wasted many hours of my time at work, not working, which is so sad


I personally allocate the work day into one 4-hour block as my "big pipe", one 2-hour block as my "little pipe", and let the other 2 hours be "fluff". For limited intervals, I can combine the two pipes into one "mega pipe", to get a "big pipe" task done faster, but it takes a toll over time. The "big pipe" can also theoretically be split into two more temporary "little pipes", but in general, I usually want to have the "big pipe" around to get something important done, and multitasking on three things creates too much organizational overhead, so that also takes a toll.

"Fluff" time is for sitting in meetings or writing reports, as work functions, or for just looking busy. I intentionally avoid doing real work that requires any focus or creativity in the fluff slot. After six hours of real work, any more time spent doing the same thing starts to become counterproductive. So just leave it for tomorrow.

I have been more productive while explicitly dedicating 2 hours a day to getting nothing useful done, than when trying to stay focused on one thing for 8 hours, and ending up goofing off, getting sidetracked, or procrastinating for some amount of time anyway.

That's the theory, anyway. My current employer doesn't keep my pipelines reliably filled. During the dry spells, I have a hard time expanding the fluff slot to more than two hours, and end up doing stuff like coding stupid CLI games, or vectorizing the company logo, or setting up a new vanilla VM that I might not ever use.


That's exactly how I do with my work day. 2-hours / lunch / 4-hours / stop working or anything else less demanding


Don't ever yield to the temptation of working more remotely because you save on commuting time etc. and can be in the flow for longer. Once you do that 4-5 years, you are likely to be long-term burned out. Balance your brain by doing completely different things in your real life, don't work past 8 hours.


Yeah, I always try to keep that in mind.


Based on what I have seen, even 6 productive hours is a high bar even in people that stay in the office 10+ hours a day. Simple things like getting a drink of water or going to the bathroom often take far longer in a cubicle farm than at home. Add having nothing to do, random IT problems, chit chat, checking the phone or other web browsing etc, and the average IT worker might be doing 3-4.


Maybe you also accrue enough wisdom to know that after that 5-6 hours, however productive you might feel, what you write is going to be garbage so the smartest thing to do is stop, unless you want to waste even more time sorting out the mess later.

I can still code for longer than this, from time to time, but only if I already know exactly where I'm going. Even then it's playing with fire.


> this limit is true for all developers

Maybe sober, but that's not the limit once you factor in the rampant use of amphetamine.


True but generally not good information to propagate, not for selfish reasons, just because it sets an unreasonably high standard

It’s true you can knock out a 10-20hr session in essentially one sitting, but it’s not a good habit to set for yourself or the industry


This is probably a myth, but I've heard Kerouac wrote On the Road practically in a single sitting thanks to the peppy magic of Benzedrine, aka Bennies, a _widely_ available inhalant & pill form of amphetamine.


I think it was 3 weeks and a roll of teletype paper so that once he started he wouldn't have to stop to even change the paper.

edit: https://www.theguardian.com/books/2008/dec/02/jack-kerouac-r... the "scroll"


> I go out of my way to hire older devs that are eschewed by typical Bay Area startups

Going "out of [your] way" to hire older devs sounds like age discrimination. AFAIK, age discrimination in this direction isn't illegal in America, but it seems odd that you would respond to an article decrying age-discrimination by proudly declaring that you discriminate too, in the opposite direction. Maybe you just meant that you almost always find the qualities/compensation-demands you're looking for in older applicants rather than younger ones, but your phrasing doesn't seem to indicate that.


It's not age discrimination if you accept and do not otherwise discriminate against young/younger candidates. There's a lot that goes into recruiting. Optimizing your job descriptions, creating multiple job descriptions, and targeting your ad spend are all things that can affect the age, race, gender, education level, etc of the people you reach without being discriminatory.

In fact, you should do this to be inclusive. There are a lot of unconscious things hiring managers do that remove themselves from the running of highly qualified candidates.

Want to remove yourself from consideration from young talented female developers? Create a laundry list of "requirements" even though you consider them "nice to haves." Also add plenty of trigger words to make your business seem unattractive.

https://hbr.org/2014/08/why-women-dont-apply-for-jobs-unless... https://www.forbes.com/sites/hbsworkingknowledge/2016/12/14/...

Avoiding hurting yourself in the eyes of candidates you'd like to include is far from being discriminatory to other groups.


> There's a lot that goes into recruiting. Optimizing your job descriptions, creating multiple job descriptions, and targeting your ad spend are all things that can affect the age, race, gender, education level, etc of the people you reach without being discriminatory.

Wait...isn't this exactly what the article is talking about?


'Targeting your ad spend' is the thing under fire here, and under a very specific attack.

Before online advertising you kind of had an idea of what the target audience of TV channels, news, and radio was like, but it was very fuzzy and you certainly weren't excluding people not in your target demographic that happened to utilize those media platforms. Women reading male fitness magazines or men reading female lifestyle magazines weren't the primary target of ads in those platforms, but they could certainly utilize what was being advertised if they so desired. The same is not true of online advertising today.

Facebook is more in the position of a newsstand than anything else, and it would be blatant discrimination if a newsstand wasn't allowing older people to buy technology magazines, for example.


AFAIK in USA, age discrimination is forbidden only against people older than 40, it's legal to discriminate against any groups younger than that (including 35-39 year olds) as much as you want.


The GP said "older devs" but what they are talking about isn't age, they are talking about skills and experience level.

Everything is discrimination - if you're seeking to hire a software engineer you're probably going to discriminate against people who don't know how to code, people with low IQs, people who can't get along with the team, etc.

The question becomes, is the discrimination legal and/or ethical and based on actual business needs? If the GP noticed they can get a seasoned developer for only slightly above the price of a jr developer (who sees themselves as "senior") , that doesn't really seem like immoral discrimination to me, especially if they are more than willing to also hire jr engineers at jr engineer prices. Most places cant, for business reasons, survive alone solely on senior engineers.

(Interestingly enough, in the US, discrimination based on age because "old people are stupid" is illegal whereas discrimination on age based on "young people are stupid" is not.)


Once upon a time "discrimination" had positive connotations, e.g. "he has discriminating tastes".

Somehow the word has been twisted to be almost exclusively negative.

But show me an organization that doesn't discriminate, and I'll show you an organization of utter incompetence.


The "somehow" is no mystery; discriminatory practice was (and still is) used to stack the deck against people in the United States based on the color of their skin for hundreds of years.

"President" was chosen as the title of the head of the US Executive Branch because it was a title with nearly no prestige; it was the sort of name you'd give to the Robert's Rules enforcer for community meetings. Words take on a connotation history provides them.


Not a complete mystery, but also leaves English without a good substitute.

"Differentiation" is the word I have to use now.


The word "judge" has become like that, too. "How dare you judge people" is a common rage. But having good judgement is critical for your very existence, that is, you must judge everything you come into contact with. Making good judgements can literally mean the difference between life and death. And making judgements about the people you engage with, i.e. judging them, can mean the difference between happiness and misery.


> Somehow the word has been twisted to be almost exclusively negative.

Webster gives pride of place to both the transitive and intransitive definitions that could fit your "once upon a time" definition.[1]

Furthermore, of the six definitions given, five are what I'd consider a trait or ability that is wholly positive to possess. Only the 2nd definition for the intransitive form has a negative connotation.

> But show me an organization that doesn't discriminate, and I'll show you an organization of utter incompetence.

Any organization that isn't utterly incompetent would avoid using the ambiguous word "discriminate" in place of the unambiguous phrase "use good judgment."

Also, HR is just one tiny and narrow domain of human affairs. Music, writing, even dating see way more use of the positive definitions of "discriminate."

[1] https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/discriminate


> Webster gives pride of place

In practice, discrimination has largely negative connotations https://english.stackexchange.com/questions/183093/is-there-...

> "use good judgment."

"The screening exercise _____ aggressively."

* "The screening exercise uses good judgement aggressively." Awkward.

* "The screening exercise filters aggressively." No implication that choice is based on the candidate's characteristics instead of random chance.

* "The screening exercise distinguishes aggressively". Sounds odd, plus has positive rather than neutral connotations.

* "The screening exercise differentiates aggressively " Best one, though it doesn't hint at the pass/fail nature of the distinction.


You're right it's not illegal and all you have to do is say you want someone with at least 20 years of professional software development experience...


In this case, it sounds more like moneyball than age discrimination. By "moneyball", I mean that in very intense recruiting environments, you have to get strategic about ways to find talent that may have been overlooked.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moneyball


Age discrimination applies for workers/applicants >= 40.


Going out of your way to recruit and have older applicants apply is not discrimination as long as you treat all applicants equally once they apply.


Is there some kind of asymmetry that prevents this logic from being applied with "older" replaced by other inherent physical attributes like race, or do you think that wouldn't be discrimination either?


Maybe the fact that everyone becomes old, whereas with other protected classes, everyone does not eventually gain membership into that class. So society as a whole is more sympathetic to discrimination that favors the older maybe because we can see ourselves in their shoes.


I think you're confusing age with experience. The sad fact is that experience in important, and there's only way of getting it, letting time go by.


It sounds more like experience discrimination.


aka recruiting


I prefer hiring people in their 30ies. It’s the perfect mix of being old enough to be practical and patient and young enough to still be cheap. The cheap bit comes from being in the Danish public sector where seniority gives automatic pay increases that you can’t legally turn down, so there is that.

I do wonder why people wouldn’t hire older programmers or engineers though. A lot of them are still extremely nerdy about their hobby, they have profound amounts of experience and they’ll typically both be able to follow orders and voice their opinions. Often they’ll have a good grip on work life balancing as well, making them less prone to stress.

I’m not sure ageism is really a big problem though. I haven’t seen any unemployment numbers on old programmers being huge, though I will admit that fear of abuse was one of the reasons I went into management.

That being said, I do think people should plan their staff to be without huge age gaps. It’s one of the few things that has an empirical proven negative effect on teams. But that goes both ways.


>I prefer hiring people in their 30ies.

>I’m not sure ageism is really a big problem though.

I'm not sure you can put both those statements together without sounding uninformed.


Its only ageism when other people do it.


I do wonder why people wouldn’t hire older programmers or engineers though

The same reason the military prefers younger over older. Younger developers are easier to manipulate, overwork, and underpay. They are easier to mould and shape in conformance with corporate "culture fit", and they're less likely to question authority. They also don't have the wisdom yet to know when they are being asked to drink the startup Kool-Aid.


Which in a way kind of brings up a point - sometimes you need idealists to see things through, to have a chance. A crusty pessimistic person isn’t necessarily battle-hardened, they may be battle-broken.

Of course, that doesn’t have much to do with age - one can be closed to new ideas at any age.


Couple points I’ve seen that can knock older (and not wiser) devs -

* fixing the problems they had at their last company, inappropriately so to the point of over-engineering. Sometimes it’s not elegant, but hardened against the wrong things

* insistence on older technologies and patternss that they’re familiar with even if not concise


maybe you mean 'patterns'


My pphones autocorrect might not be working correctly ;)


I think in Scandinavia it is different because we actually have laws saying you cannot force people to work the extreme amounts of overtime that they do in USA or in China. So older devs could be using the time they have more efficiently. My experience is also that older devs are very sought after. It could also have something to do with the shortage of developers here though.


Five of the six people on my team, including me, are over 30; four of us are over 40. I must admit that although devs with that level of experience are "expensive", they start to look a lot cheaper when you realise the additional value they add due to experience. Software development, as with many things in life, often follows the adage that you get what you pay for. (It should go without saying, but it's a sad inevitability that there will be exceptions.)


But many startups are "ship first, debug later". When it's a pump-and-dump fashion contest, younger fingers are probably better: a fast BS-nozzle to get VC attention. If instead you want your infrastructure to last 5 or 10 years and not get hacked, then experience will pay off.


The over 40s I know are also able to produce working crap faster than the young-uns. If you call it a prototype (so the goal is showing functionality that works but later it will be tossed out and redone) then hiring me is probably going to produce a better one (less bugs and will probably last until the startup runs out of money) then it would with a ‘team of young ninjas’. As PR for VCs I can see a bunch of young people might look better (not to many VCs I talk to but I so not live in the US), but if you want ‘faster’, a 35+ who kept up is probably faster and cheaper. In my experience. When the company grows I definitely would not want a CTO under 35/40.


Re: The over 40s I know are also able to produce working [prototypes] faster...

Not necessarily if it has to be built in some stack or language flavor of the month (and VC's check). If you change entire tool-sets every 18 months, I bet the younger folks will be able to re-learn faster. I'm 40+ myself, and am saying this from experience. It's unfortunate our industry is so fad-driven, but I didn't create humans, I just work among them.

I recommend one focus on a domain (insurance IT, healthcare IT, etc.) when they get around 40. Your domain knowledge will have market value. Reformatting your head all the time is not a good career strategy for most. (There is some value to some new IT things, but a good portion is hype and gimmicks.)


It might be different in different regions and different markets. Here VCs definitely don't check (or care). I find that they are generally more interested in buzzword bingo on a more abstract level; AI, ML, Blockchain etc. That said, I'm not building a religion; if the latest tech is a business goal, then it will happen.

And i'm also not sure if it's true that 'we' would be slower to learn these things; I keep on top because, I feel, that as CTO, I need to understand what is out there and if there is something promising that can help us long term, I want to be early to find it. So I do learn every new fad, and, not to sound cocky because I believe it's just experience, there is not much to learn; they are all, in a lot of ways, rehashes. Sometimes you see something really innovative, but that's not the thing that ends up being a fad or even remotely popular. After 30+ years of programming in many different technologies/projects (especially the functional experience helps a lot these days) etc it is easy to recognize the patterns and the goals the programmer was going for when building that new tech. Not that I would want that job as a non-cto at a startup :)


I think this depends on the difference of perspective between startup->fledgling-and-profitable company CTO and Fortune 500 CTO.

I feel like in the case of the later, the priorities are much more in the order of 1) manage business risk wrt technology, and 2) manage organizational processes wrt technology.

Tech is only the thing that gets you to the thing and the usefulness of anything new is either a) readily apparent (like from orbit), or b) can only be brought in from outside talent (failure of priority #2) or learned from falling on your ass (failure of priority #1).

My point being, it is of little benefit in this scenario to spend any time actually learning the latest fad tech.


I agree with that; the bigger the company the more business like the CTO is. I consulted the CTO of a large insurance company: he showed me (and told me) I never really want to become that. I like getting people to make great things that benefit the business; I make myself know about the business, budgets etc. I believe some companies are underestimating tech and what it can do, at any scale; I believe I add value to the bottomline there. Learning new tech is not for the direct benefit of the company/business but it is indirect; I need to know how to talk to people in my teams. When they talk about something new and ask ‘why not this’, I am not the manager that said ‘stfu and work on what we pay you for’; I like to discuss it and I cannot do that if I did not try it. If someone convinces me it is a good idea, then we can do a PoC. I could just ask someone else to do that research and, as companies grow that is inevitable, at this moment however, I think I am doing a good thing.


Maybe you are CTO and I'm not because my brain is not fast enough to keep up. Yes, a lot of it is rehashes of old things, but I keep inter-confusing the old incarnations with the new ones when coding. You can't cross-confuse 2 things if you never met one of them. Plus, its hard to keep enthusiasm up for the 500th reinvention of the wheel. Maybe I'll reinvent stronger coffee; call it "Covfefe 2.0", or "Blockchain Covfefe"...


Yeah I see what you mean: I have something like that; I get enthusiastic because I see people apparently solving things that annoy me. So I go and try them and find they made things worse, usually. Sometimes, however, it is really great and then we start using it.


So can our org pay yours to be our guinea-pigs? :-)


> I bet the younger folks will be able to re-learn faster.

This is another place where experience helps. I can definitely learn a new framework faster now that I've had 10+ years experience than I could when I first started.

You might be able to find more younger people who already know the framework of the month.


> I recommend one focus on a domain (insurance IT, healthcare IT, etc.)

So that others benefit from my experience: the cheat code to this is to work in marketing tech. You will have domain experience in all of these in a relatively short time because you will have had to deal with partners & clients from these domains.

You also learn very quickly how any company makes its money, what they consider positive contributions to the bottom line and how you can be one of those.

Except for at the fringes of new tech, traditional business is far more personally rewarding than working in the seeking-funding startup snakepit.


A part of the higher pay grade is that the majority of the mistakes one must make to gain experience points have been paid for.

Also, maturity often comes with a reduction of the ego-driven drama friction which can make people so much more pleasant to work with.


It is really ironic that an industry focused on engineering can act in such an irrational manner. Long hours in the office chair is only a measurement of management’s failure to pay attention to the metrics that matter.

Strongly preferring less experienced devs because they can work longer (which they need to, partially to compensate for their lack of experience), is both tragic and comical. It’s likely the pay is lower for the younger devs but the very practice of working long hours has been proven as detrimental to quality.


> an industry focused on engineering

I'm not sure that's the whole story, though, especially considering how much of the "industry" is VC-driven and how few VCs are engineers.


You ever play the video game "World of Goo?" That's my image of what shortsighted engineering can get you.

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-A_JfkzPwww


I understand your intent and I'm not suggesting you oughta do anything differently, but I am not sure how net good it is that older devs' labor is being sold at a discount.

My understanding is that silicon valley hasn't cured aging yet, so until that happens, this seems like yet another market distortion that favors employers at the expense of labor (or 'YAMDTFEAEL' for short)


I like to think of it as hiring people with actual years of experience. I don't care what their age is or their title. Are they a senior developer only because they have 6 more months than the other guy at the startup or are they senior because they've had 6 jobs over twice as many years? Those years add add experience in doing things the wrong way and in ways that work.


Are you hiring?


Why would you go out of your way?


You could actually read the comment and have your confusion resolved.


Are you sure? I hired these seasoned pros you talk about. I have a team of 12 developers and 3 of these seasoned pros that are about 60+ yrs old. C/C++ devs. They are the worst performing on the team. The 22/23yrs old are running circles around them. They are slow, taking 2-5x times as long to finish their task. It's no better in quality. They are seriously struggling to pick up new technologies. I'm a minority so I'm pretty open minded and built a diverse team race, gender, age, sexuality, whatever. Oh yeah, they are also very well paid due to the past experience! Sometimes as much as twice as the new grads. The one quality that scares the crap out of me for the future is ... Please do note that I'm not talking about 10hr shifts, work on weekends kinda environment. Just the typical come in at 9ish leave at 6 environment. I'm getting older myself too so I understand.


What are your quality metrics and over what timescale are you measuring?

Are you treating everyone in your organization as equivalent resources or are you allocating people based on strengths/specialties?

Having a heterogeneous team with breadth of experience across the stack helps to isolate you from the real business risks of group-think and "not knowing what you don't know". It's a hedge and a pillar of a resilient, long-term-oriented organization.

If you just want to have a get-shit-done culture, move fast and pivot/abort when things get bad, you probably want all 20 year olds. However, if you look at the organizational structure of banks, who are literally in the business of managing business risk, you will see diversity and redundancy in hiring.

Side note: Every single time I've seen a complaint about X group doesn't work as effectively as Y group, it's almost always a management misallocation of (human) resource. Not calling you out specifically, just wondering how much thought was put into team/work structure.


I always wonder where the myth that older developers are "slower" comes from.

Dunno about you folks, but I get better and faster every year. And, for me, that productivity metric is probably approaching parabolic.

You learn enough languages, frameworks, tools - all the fundamentals start to merge together. You can pick the next one up faster than you did the one you just put down. You understand how to design software; how to organize code. Exactly when to reuse, refactor, or copy/paste.

You have a better understanding of how the market works and the competitive strategies around product development will manifest - not only within your own product and industry, but when analyzing and choosing vendors as well (you really want to leave it up to a 25 year-old to choose AWS vs GCP?).

Sure, I've got a ton of better things to spend my nights and weekends on than writing code for free. I can also spot a doomed project from a mile a way and have no qualms about delivering a very curt "yeah no thanks" to that project manager who waddles over with some deluded hero fantasy where they carry the flag on my back for something that's probably never going to see the light of day anyway.

Maybe that's it? That's probably it...


53-year-old coder here. (Although that's not my primary job) I still love programming. I love new frameworks and tools, I love solving problems for people. I love having fun with a good team.

I do reason a bit slower, but that's because -- I think -- I'm considering more options than I did when I was younger. I also have a tendency to like "grinding": you know, things like hooking up copy constructors for C++ classes in order to make a more complete type system. So I stay on the lookout for that.

If anything has changed, it's just I try to be much more careful about getting in a rut. And that's crazy, because that's the accusation people make about older coders. I always want to hold the problem in one hand and the tech in the other, looking to see what the minimum amount of work is required. When I was younger, people would describe the problem to me, then I would dive down and focus almost exclusively on whatever the tech was. It was like a big video game or mathematical puzzle that I enjoyed as much or more than making stuff people wanted.

I've seen a lot of people in the industry spend a lot of time, effort, and money doing that. I've seen good friends end up out of work because they fell in love with a certain tech that the rest of the industry decided wasn't cool any more. So now I try to look at solutions as much as tech -- more so, really. Ideally you wouldn't code anything, just make stuff people want without indulging your desire to work with detailed systems of symbols.


As your ending suggests, older developers tend to rock the boat more. As their bosses tell them to do something, the old timers see failures of history repeating themselves and try to steer the direction elsewhere. Younger devs fall in line much easier.

It can sometimes be a double-edged sword. Some older devs get hung up on bikeshedding and tunnel visioning about old specifics instead of just getting work done with whatever the new environment is. However, this problem is far more represented in the big slow-moving corporate world, and go-getter active old timers looking at startups wouldn't generally fit that stereotype.

But if 2 devs are agreeably working on a complex project, the old timer will probably be faster to finish than the younger one. For non-complex projects, it's a crap shoot.


> As your ending suggests, older developers tend to rock the boat more. As their bosses tell them to do something, the old timers see failures of history repeating themselves and try to steer the direction elsewhere. Younger devs fall in line much easier.

I've seen this in spades. One of my greatest frustrations as an older developer is seeing history about to repeat itself, yet being unable to convince management of that fact.

Because I need the paycheck I can't walk away from some work. But it makes me die a little every time I work on such projects.


Tasks assigned to older devs I've worked with generally sail through QA. So even if they're not as fast to put in a PR (though this has not been my personal experience either), they're a lot more efficient getting their code into production.


My thoughts: when there is a completely new industry being built (like transistors in the 60s or social networking in the 00's), no one has an advantage with respect to experience. Young brains seem to work better at adapting to new environments than old ones (e.g. learning foreign languages), and people like Bob Noyce and Mark Zuckerberg can use this to their advantage. But once industries establish, and actual knowledge is required to gain an edge, so experience is more valuable than adaptability. I don't think we have any industries at the moment where youth is better than knowledge, though. AI/ML is not an industry for kids, but rather the best brains having been trained for decades.

Unfortunately, I think the investing class, who tends to use crude proxies like founder age/college/gpa to evaluate business potential, is still calibrated to youth->success based on recent historical precedent of Facebook/Google. And this bleeds through to the job market, where young teams get funding easier than old ones.


The USA specializes in new industries for good or bad. Existing industries drift to low-wage countries with lighter labor & pollution regulations. Therefore, it may be harder to find industries that value experience in the USA. Perhaps it's time for a reverse H1B visa migration for older workers: "B1H".


The slow myth is at least partially from experienced developers putting more time into upfront planning. A novice may crank out a solution faster but it'll have far more bugs and result in technical debt.


I think the idea comes from earlier times where programming skills came in high demand but few actually knew how to code.

I resulted in high influx of older but inexperienced people, maybe with some background in a somewhat related field like electronics. And they were probably slower than young and equally inexperienced people. Experienced developers simply weren't available.

I understand why companies may prefer younger developers now. Cheaper, less constraints, more long term potential, ... but I think that the idea that older developers are "slower" is outdated.


I think the bias is against older people who are looking for jobs through the same channels as the younger people rather than having an established enough work history or a network that gives them an express lane.


As a 53-year-old Facebook employee, I find the part about Facebook doing this for their own hiring a bit odd. To the extent that anyone has ever reacted to my age with anything other than mild surprise, people generally seem quite glad to see something besides another fresh 20-something face and to hear the voice of long experience.

Then again, I didn't come in via a Facebook ad. Maybe companies use different methods to search for candidates of different ages or experience levels because our own job-seeking habits are different. I was already a principal before the web even existed, let alone Facebook or LinkedIn. Even then I didn't look at generic ads anywhere to find a new job. I used headhunters, and then purely personal contacts. I'm sure many of my contemporaries are the same. If such broadcast ads are basically a waste of money seeking that kind of employee, and other methods are being tried, is that really "disparate treatment" in any meaningful sense?


I don't know. I was recommended to a specific domain-specialized role in Facebook by someone with a long tenure inside the company, and after the recommendation, I was just auto-routed into the standard, crappy candidate pipeline like everyone else, told I'd have to do whatever 6-month rotation bootcamp, asked why I didn't have a bunch of Javascript experience.

It certainly felt like they make an effort to pedantically screen everyone through such a process exactly to enforce various uniformity and policy standards.

I am not claiming that I specifically experienced ageism, although it is possible. But I definitely experienced some type of "junior dev, infinitely flexible, doesn't know his own market compensation worth, etc." filters, which in many cases are going to systematically filter out experienced professionals.


So everyone in the same role goes through the same interview, and everyone in the same role goes through the same 6 week bootcamp. The aim, as I understand it, is to avoid talk like 'that person was hired into team X, they must suck at Y' or 'org X is easy to get in to, I wouldn't want to work with someone who was hired into it', and to allow more internal mobility without the need to reinterview. I can join any team for my role without needing to interview again, which reduces the friction a lot.

With that said, sorry you had a bad experience :/ The Javascript question does sound misplaced.


> ... to avoid talk like 'that person was hired into team X, they must suck at Y' or 'org X is easy to get in to, I wouldn't want to work with someone who was hired into it',

This is why you do your best to hire mature employees no matter their age and fire immature employees, no matter their age.


I assume you mean that employees who think their colleagues must suck at Y because they are on team X, or who worry themselves about whether some other team's chosen hiring standards are "too easy," are the immature ones?

(And presumably it's immature to even care about 'sucking at Y' at all, unless a specific task requires skill at Y and is not being solved, in which case it sounds like a problem of assigning it to the wrong person, not a problem of general hiring for Y in all cases.)


As a matter of great personal pride, I do suck at Javascript :)


> exactly to enforce various uniformity and policy standards.

Wouldn't that be the exact opposite of the "disparate treatment" the lawsuit alleges?


I believe the lawsuit is talking about someone using Facebook tools or other means to specifically target subgroups of the population to be able to see a job ad. As in, older candidates would not have even been allowed to know about the job in the first place, regardless of what pipeline a candidate is placed in.

So no, I don't think the properties of a pipeline after a candidate has applied would be related to the lawsuit in the OP, though in principle they could still be relevant for ageism issues.

I am interested in whether companies design candidate pipelines to be generically ageist or discriminatory in other ways, probably ways for which ageism laws are very hard to enforce.

For example, I sincerely view the overwhelming shift to open-plan offices as partly motivated by widespread ageism for the purpose of trying to replace costly older employees with cheaper, more pliable new grads.

I worked in a large education tech company some years ago, and they had a large office in Ohio where most of the HR staff for the whole nationwide HR operations was located. They also had limited IT staff, some regional sales staff, etc., but it was known primarily as "the HR office" because that is where those employees were co-located.

Everyone in the Ohio office had private offices, and many of the staff had been with the company for a long time.

Back in the late 00s, the company completely renovated the whole office building, knocking down walls and reorganizing it so that everyone had to use open-plan shared desk spaces. In one of the end of the year meetings, it was actually revealed that the company spent a ton of money to do this, upwards of $14MM if I remember correctly, and yet they did not have any plan to increase headcount there.

Most of the HR staff were outraged, especially because many aspects of their jobs required private phone calls about confidential HR topics, or calls with job applicants, etc. Even though they needed the ability to make private calls almost every day, the tool they used to do it (private offices) was taken away at expense to the company and replaced with a bank of tiny 1-person phone booth rooms, that you had to compete for every day to book time slots for private calls.

Someone even asked in the company's town hall Q&A why they would do this, and the CEO's response (most of us watched by web stream) was something like, "We are a technology company at heart, and every one of you is an innovator, and innovators love open spaces."

Sure enough, within about 4 years, there had been huge turnover in older HR staff in Ohio, with most positions being replaced by entry level workers, and huge grumblings around the rest of the company that we were not getting the level of support from HR that we needed or had been getting previously.

Really, it was just a restructuring ploy, with a slight bit of ageism (not sure if any part was illegal, but clearly in spirit it was the type of ageism we wish was illegal).

In my mind, a lot of HR processes that are supposed to be fair "because they apply to everyone" are actually just engineered to be processes that would surreptitiously hurt older employees or candidates, even if not outright illegal to do so.


"Someone even asked in the company's town hall Q&A why they would do this, and the CEO's response (most of us watched by web stream) was something like, "We are a technology company at heart, and every one of you is an innovator, and innovators love open spaces.""

Dammit, I absolutely hate when idiot executives spout platitudes like this without even asking the people they're talking about.


> older candidates would not have even been allowed to know about the job

To be more precise, they would not have seen the job on Facebook. That's not the same as not being allowed to know about the job, and the difference matters. The question is not whether they were included by a particular venue, medium, or method. If it were, every engagement with a headhunter would be discriminating against anyone not part of their clientele. The real question is whether equal efforts were being made to reach people of different age groups across all available means. Do we know whether that's the case?

> I sincerely view the overwhelming shift to open-plan offices as partly motivated by widespread ageism

I agree that there might be an element of ageism in that choice. Any physiologist can tell you that the kinds of distraction and discomfort inherent in such an environment will affect older people more than younger ones. For the same reason, I think certain interview techniques are inherently ageist, as is a more-than-usual antipathy toward letting people work from home. I'm fortunate that I've been able to overcome these obstacles, but the very fact that they are obstacles is problematic IMO.

> a lot of HR processes that are supposed to be fair "because they apply to everyone" are actually just engineered

That's true of a lot more than HR processes, though I would caution you not to assume malice where incompetence (ignorance, insufficient diligence) would be sufficient. That said, disparate impact and disparate treatment are two different standards. Perhaps the law should address disparate impact. Or perhaps that would create its own ills. In any case, it doesn't. Uniform application of a standard or process still seems like a strong defense against charges of disparate treatment, even if those standards or processes create disparate outcomes.


"That's not the same as not being allowed to know about the job, and the difference matters"

Unless they're also advertising in other places where those people might see the posting, no, the difference does not matter. Saying, "Well, you should have looked for it," when putting the posting in the cellar of the department with the lights gone and the stairs gone in the bottom of a locked file cabinet stuck in a disused lavatory with a sign on the door saying, 'Beware of the Leopard' is not really saying it's on display, now is it?


Did you post that before you read the "equal effort" part two sentences later? It sure looks like it, because your false analogy runs directly contrary to what I said.


To your first point -- I agree. I mean, obviously the reporting about this is going to have hype for the sake of blood-in-the-water Facebook bashing. The basic fact that Facebook tools allowed targeting ads by specific demographic exclusion seems really tricky, and it's not a slam dunk lawsuit, although probably many people believe such tools offer easy ways for ill-intentioned employers to get away with overt ageist tactics.

I'm not saying this to defend Facebook or anything, only that I agree the details of the OP lawsuit are complicated.

The thread seems like a good place to talk more generally about ageism in tech hiring too though, which is why I added my experience and follow-up impressions.


No, come on.

Because an age filter is applied uniformly doesn't mean it isn't disparate treatment for people of different ages.


"Come on" yourself. Neither I nor the GP was talking about uniform application of a filter. We were talking about uniform application of a post-hiring process. Even if one could argue that it results in disparate outcomes - which you have yet to do - that's not the same as disparate treatment.


Well, the very sentence you quoted characterizes the process as a screen, in the sense of a filter. Later the post uses the actual word filter a couple times, so I know that's what the post was talking about. And, of course, a post-hiring process can function as a filter.

Also, the term disparate treatment is yours -- a vague term which I merely used in the same sense you did. You used it to describe what the lawsuit alleges, which is directly about outcomes (whether or not a person is hired). If you're going to draw a semantic distinction between outcomes and treatment now, that's fine, but that just means your earlier terminology was imprecise and we were still discussing outcomes the whole time.


> the term disparate treatment is yours

Untrue. It's directly from the second paragraph of the news story you clearly didn't read. It's also not vague as you claim. It's a legal term with an established definition, and it's highly relevant.

As you so politely introduced yourself to this conversation, COME ON. Again. Read before you start launching arguments that others will find laughable.


>Untrue. It's directly from the second paragraph...

Fair enough, you're right and I withdraw that.

I realize now you were making irrelevant observation rather than a topical argument. (It doesn't matter to the point being made in the post you quoted or it's ancestor post or to the suit wether or not that poster's experience is the opposite of the disparate treatment alleged in the suit.)

> As you so politely introduced yourself to this conversation, COME ON. Again. Read before you start launching arguments that others will find laughable.

Oh, come on. My mistake was in construing your post as being more coherent than it actually was.


> My mistake was in construing your post as being more coherent than it actually was.

It was just as coherent and topical as your own. The only thing "bad" about it is that it was in opposition, and that I didn't back down in the face of your increasingly insulting responses. Next time, make your case instead of trying to obfuscate and intimidate.


To be disagreed with or challenged should not be taken as insulting or intimidating.


The facebook CEO is very famous for his quote by the way. https://www.cnet.com/news/say-what-young-people-are-just-sma...


Yeah, Zuck was a jerk in 2007. I suspect even he would admit that. To be fair, though, I was an even bigger jerk at that age and still am.


He was a jerk in 2007, he still is, but he was one then too. Heck, he was probably a jerk in 2003 too.


This reminds me of a Mitch Hedberg joke.


He'll get around. He's still young. Let's see what tune he sings when he's 45-50.


He might not change his tune too much. Unlike other people that turn 45-50, he'll be going into his mid 40s a billionaire and won't ever need to experience ageism against himself directly.


Can you speak to ageism at facebook? You must be quite rare there. Anecdotally speaking, whenever I visit the campus it definitely is a majority of 20-somethings walking around (or at least not many devs over the age of 40. I believe there are proportionally a lot more at Google).


> Can you speak to ageism at facebook?

I can share my own experiences, but I can't and probably shouldn't try to address it generally. I'm not just a sample of one, but I'm well aware that I'm an outlier in a couple of ways besides my age. So take all this with a grain of salt.

Yes, you're right, HQ totally feels like a college campus. Some of that's deliberate, from the architecture to the cafes and other amenities. I'm sure it feels comfortably familiar to the high percentage of people you see walking around for whom college is clearly a very fresh memory (or current "normal" during intern season). To me it feels a bit weird, but still quite pleasant.

I've honestly not seen any evidence of overt ageism since I've been here. There are other people my age, though even after a year I can probably still count the ones I've actually met on one hand. AFAICT nobody believes being older makes one less fit to be there or in a specific role. They sure don't believe it makes one more fit either, but that's OK because TBH that's something I'd become a bit too comfortable with and that's my own fault. If there's ageism, it's a very soft kind - more to do with comfort levels than "harder" boundaries or opposition. Some examples...

* Open-plan offices are objectively, provably even harder on older people than younger ones, because of hearing and focus/attention issues utterly unrelated to the actual work.

* Lots of people complain about the artificiality and induced stress of coding interviews. Well, it doesn't get better with age. As awkward as it might be to stumble on these when you're still young, imagine how it must feel when you're being tested on something you've been doing for 20+ years and the person judging you is half your age. The one truly negative age-related experience I've had (not in the interview) has been people who look down their noses at "old fashioned" code because they themselves have never known a world in which their favorite libraries either didn't exist or were buggy as hell.

* Being able to work from home is much more important for older people who are more likely to have families, minor medical issues (including other family members'), etc. Therefore a general antipathy toward letting people work from home is in effect discrimination against older workers.

So it's not like anyone has ever actively tried to stop or discourage me from working here, but there are ways in which we could be more welcoming nonetheless. Does that answer your question?


If you grow a lot with people moving across the country to work where you're at, you'll be disproportionately young as a result.


The joke is really on the employer using Facebook ads to target a younger candidate pool.

Youngsters don’t use Facebook. And if a young dev is using Facebook - they’re certainly using an ad-blocker. If they’re not using an ad blocker on Facebook, do you even want to hire them?

Seems like if you wanted to attract a pool of young candidates now days, you’d target the parents of the said youngsters. The ones with no applicable experience, and who are still living at home “looking for a job.”

The ad should be to the effect of “tired of your good for nothing millennial taking up your third bedroom? Want them to move out? We’re hiring good for nothing straight out of college devs so as to lock them into a low tier pay bracket.”


As someone who runs ads on Facebook and other platforms and has a lot of devs who respond, this isn’t true. Not only do devs not all block ads (and it’s kind of offensive to imply that only the good ones do), they even click on ads!


Yeah, just looked it up. There are over 50 million active users on Facebook between the ages of 25 and 34. In the US alone.


Data-driven algorithms are discriminating based upon undesirable/illegal vectors; they are utterly amoral in optimizing their solutions. Even if the algorithm does not have access to the "Age" field, then there are plenty of proxies, like what reunion tour you liked. And the same goes for race, gender, sexual identification, religion, etc.

To solve this we either need the training data to have no illegal/undesired discrimination, or we make the system moral. I think the first is impossible, and the second is what we will do sooner or later.


How would you make the system moral?

Let's say "moral" means "won't discriminate based on X" and the same "system" is used by everyone, which of course it wouldn't be.

So do you make up a bunch of fake "people" who are equal in everything except X, and test that it doesn't advantage/disadvantage the X's? Would that even be possible if the "system" is getting its inputs from social media?

Do you do mandate some kind of audit of the system's decisions, and require it to choose on average the same percentage of Xs as... what? As there are Xs in the general population? In the candidate pool?

I'd love for this kind of thing to work but even in an idealized hypothetical version it's hard to see how it could.

I think in tech we've already shown that shame is no barrier to hiring discrimination, and as HR+AI type filtering systems preselect candidates for you it'll be harder and harder for you or the government or the disadvantaged candidates to even know if you're discriminating.

You'll judge the "system" based solely on whether the set of candidates you got achieved the outcome you needed.


train it.

Give it examples that we consider moral and examples of what we consider immoral and have it figure it out. The solutions that the algorithms create are less complex than the data that they base the solutions on; so it should be relatively easy for it to model these solutions as data. We would have to train it on what we consider moral and immoral; that would require us to visualize the solutions in a way that a human can make the determination and provide the feedback.

As far as how we get to the solution, that will probably come when there is a liability for discrimination. So lawsuits like the one mentioned. I think that mandating does not work well, it would be more appropriate to make people liable for the decisions made by amoral systems. This liability would create a demand for moral systems.


"Give it examples that we consider moral"

That's a tall order, honestly. There's a lot of things in the current dominant SV philosophy that are fine and dandy and everybody thinks they agree with everybody else about them as long as everyone carefully agrees to not sit down and actually put numbers on the terms in question ("discrimination is bad!" "I agree!"), but when it comes time to write down concrete rules and provide concrete examples ("hiring a woman is 43.2% preferable to hiring a man; hiring an African American is 23.1% preferable to hiring a Chinese person") are going to make people squirm, and everyone involved in such a project is going to do everything in their power to avoid having to deal with the result.

I bet there's a number of people reading this post right now squirming and deeply, deeply tempted to hit that reply button and start haranguing me about those numbers and how dare I even think such things, as you've been trained to find someone to blame for any occurrence of such words and I'm the only apparent candidate. But I have no attachment to the numbers themselves and I pre-emptively acquiesce to any corrections you'd care to make to them, for the sake of argument. I expect a real model would use more complicated functions of more parameters, I just used simple percentages because they fit into text easily. But any algorithm must produce some sort of result that looks like that, and once you get ten people at a table looking at any given concrete instantiation of this "morality", 9.8 of them are not going to agree it's moral.

I cite the handful of articles we've even seen in peer-reviewed science journals, sometimes linked here on HN, which discuss the discriminatory aspects of this or that current ML system, while scrupulously avoiding answering the question of what exactly a "non-discriminatory" system actually is. It's one of those things that once you see it you can't unsee it. (And given that these papers are nominally mathematical papers by nominally "real scientists", if I were a reviewer I'd "no publish" these papers until they fix that oversight, because it isn't actually that useful to point out that an existing mathematical system fails to conform to a currently-not-existing mathematical standard.)


Yeah but -- assuming this could work in theory -- is it actually possible to give it examples if you don't know all its inputs?

For instance what if when scraping social media it discovers that a tendency to post memes with the color green together with frequent mention of cats correlates to better Python skills, but it happens that Elbonians are forbidden by law to mention cats? Would the system even know that's what it found? Would it even be knowable in the end? Would that be an immoral outcome even if the system didn't know about the Elbonian Anti-Cat Law? And wouldn't you have to know about the correlation already in order to give it "moral" and "immoral" examples?

I agree that litigation (the threat of litigation) is going to remain a factor for a long time, but I see this potentially turning into some kind of black-box system where there might be very serious discrimination but it would be impossible to prove.

[edit: corrected for spell-check, and apologies to any Albanians who like cats. :-)]


"How would you make the system moral?"

Don't use it.


Excellent news! Up until age 39, I was never not given an offer after interviewing. Now after 40, my offer rate has dropped to 1 in 14. So much for the claims that there is a shortage in tech. So crazy.


I'm a programmer in my late 50s. While age discrimination is real, and I certainly have my share of "not a culture fit" and "overqualified" rejections over the past 10 years, if you're getting rejected over 90% of the time then I strongly suspect the problem isn't age discrimination. It's much more likely that your skills are out of date or you've gained some bad interviewing habits that you should examine.

If people want to filter applicants based on age, it's pretty simple to do so before the interview stage.


"Overqualified" has got to be the softest insult you can throw at a job seeker. It ostensibly says "we aren't secure in ourselves as employers to challenge our workers to produce great work, nor do we value original thought, so we'd rather hire drones that don't rattle the cage".


It may also mean that the employer has reasons to believe that the candidate is well aware of his/her skill level and will treat this job as temporary while looking for a higher position in another company.


All jobs are temporary, some more so than others.


Yes, and no one jumps ship like a young tech worker at the base of their salary curve. The flip side of being able to code all day as a younger engineer is that nothing’s tying you to a job or location. One call from a recruiter in NYC, SF or Seattle and you’re gone.


If an employer fears this and truly feels this way that should be a signal to look at what's going on in their workforce, where gaps exist, and how someone with an "overqualified" work background can help the company close those gaps. You get to evaluate someone without feeling slimy for asking interviewees to work for free, the employee gets valuable experience and increases their worth to you as an organization and it makes it easier to promote them or give them commensurate pay (which: if this is what it took to pay someone overqualified what they're worth to begin with, then you probably deserve to have that person leave).

Sorry if it sounds abrasive-coming from a long history of being tired of the shallow excuses employers have for disqualifying great candidates while simultaneously bemoaning a "talent shortage".


As someone that's hired a lot of people being overqualified is an actual reason not to want to hire an applicant. The reason is because they are not likely to last in the position. Not every company is some high growth engineering phenomenon. Sometimes you need someone to fill a specific role and you'd like them to be stable in that role.


In which case the applicant's employment history would be a lot more relevant. As in, have they been job-hopping, historically "not-lasting" at a job? or do they commit to their work and see it through. If you're offering a decent job and pay fairly, there's no reason to assume an applicant will simply "not last" only because of them being "over-qualified", whatever that means.


I’ve personally applied for jobs I’ve been overqualified for with the intent of getting in the door and moving out of that position as fast as possible. That might be good for me, and good for the hiring organization, but I totally understand the hiring manager blowing me off, because I wouldn’t be filling his need, and in a couple months he’s back to sorting through resumes and doing interviews.


and in a couple months he’s back to sorting through resumes and doing interviews

So you're saying this person would...be doing their job like normal?


A candidate that lasts under 6 months is a very bad candidate that has cost the company money (for a technical position, that is).

It's in the interest of both the candidate and the company not to make such a match.

If it was only the resume-sorting part, it wouldn't be a problem, but it's also all the work spent training the candidate.


No, sorry. The issue is that a job that pays fairly for the position doesn’t feel fair to someone who is settling until they get the job they really want. That kind of person really is likely to leave quickly. Whether it’s worth hiring someone who wants to leave immediately depends on how quickly the company can get new hires up to speed and how much effort they put into interviewing.

Now, a company can define overqualified incorrectly. And they can misjudge the cost of a temporary hire. But people really do apply for jobs they think are beneath them until they get an offer.


I disagree, and feel as I mentioned that they candidate's history is more relevant than their age and a non-defined over-qualification. In any case, when that's a worry, bring it up as a concern during the hiring process, work it out with the candidate. Now I cannot deny it happens, as demonstrated by @WillPostForFood in this sub-thread, but that does not mean everybody, not even most candidates think along the same lines. A lot just want an honest job that pays fairly, and as I stated originally, their history would likely be more telling in that regard.


Overqualification is judged based on job history, though. Unfortunately, having a lot of experience is correlated with age.

I completely agree it should be discussed during the interview, but I don’t think that will always work out for the job candidate.


In some industries it means, "You've got a ton of experience, and know this stuff inside and out. But we don't want to pay for someone who knows what they're doing."

As you stated, they're looking for inexperienced drones.


Sometimes all you need are inexperienced drones. If you just need a developer to help write the next software as a service CRUD web app and you have experienced developers already, a drone with three years of experience may be good enough.


You must be new, three years is senior, practically architect-level!


When it reality what it actually means is "your experience suggests you are worth more than what we're paying, and we'd rather not spend the time onboarding you just to have you leave in 6 months when you a job more commensurate with your experience and skills."

I've been on the employer side of taking a chance on overqualified folks and it's a waste of a lot of time and a lot of money.


Obviously depends on location and stuff, but you can get overqualified people to stay due to life circumstances (for example due to their significant other doing a postgraduate degree which means they can't easily move cities or country).


Another variation is, "you are better than the person we selected to run this team, and they are too insecure to have you working for them."

I feel this is silly fear, but I have heard it.


I guess you could hire an overqualified employee as a favor, because he really seems to need the job. He will be happy for a few months until he finds something better. It's up to you.


Every employee will be happy until they find something better, no? I mean I guess sure one could make a valid rebuttal that "overqualified" people are probably working on less borrowed time, if we take the metaphor all the way to the end of the line, right?

But I guess where I'm finding myself endlessly perplexed is the default assumption you're describing (and I'll gladly offer a concession to), versus the alternative of overqualified employees being seen as potential force multipliers for increasing productivity by allowing them to use their additional qualifications via some kind of tract towards management or specialized role? Even if it's on a small team?

Bob is overqualified for X, yet exceptional at Y. X+Y just happens to be a thing the team could possibly benefit from, helping the company as a whole. Maybe we should think about hiring Bob and grooming him to take ownership of X+Y and stewarding the rest of the team, helping them learn and become masters of X+Y in due time.

Does that make sense?

Hopefully the phrasing isn't too god awful there, coffee hasn't hit the lower brain yet :P


I had the luck of being overqualified for my first job, straight out of college. I did X (CAD), but I chose my career because I wanted to be a developer. I did Y (sysadmin) because I showed my employer that I could do more. For half a year I did X+Y for the salary of X because I was young, optimistic and eager to please... until they hired a real sysadmin because surely he could do Y better than someone who does X and Y on the side.

From this I learned that being overqualified is a risky proposition. Even if your team appreciates the added value, your company might have other plans. I believe it's better to tighten your belt and wait for a more suitable opportunity than risk hurting your career growth.

BTW, your phrasing is perfectly fine. Try to read mine.


> It's much more likely that your skills are out of date or you've gained some bad interviewing habits that you should examine.

Do you have any suggestions on how one could find out if we have bad interviewing habits? I'm sure I have them, though I don't know what they are.


You are assuming that interviewers read CVs/resumes before the interview....

A colleague recently had an experience at a second interview where the hiring manager proudly proclaimed that they hadn't read her CV and the interviewer was the one who had done the first interview!


Good interviewers try not to read the CV before the interview to help reduce bias.


"Skills out of date" is suspect, at best. We have been putting all new languages and libraries on top of the same old computer science concepts for decades now. It wouldn't be that hard to age-discriminate by looking specifically for Clojure experience, while saying anyone trying to substitute ANSI Common Lisp experience has their "skills out of date".

To put this into analogy form, it would be as though mathematicians could be perceived as out of date because they still used "x + y" for addition, rather than "add( x, y )", or "push(x) push(y) add", or whatever the latest fad in mathematical notation happened to be at the time. The concept of addition (over real numbers) hasn't changed for centuries. Some skills just can't go out of date. And yet some people are viewing those skills through a lens that makes older candidates look worse on paper, and are blaming the skill set, rather than the lens.

There are some skills that make otherwise inexperienced people more productive when they all share those skills, but at some level it all comes back to screening based on experience rather than aptitude. I don't have time to learn every new skill that comes down the pipe, from mere speculation that a future job opportunity might require it. I'm more likely to pick up only those that would be useful in my current day job, or for my latest side-project. All some employer has to do is pick a lot of "new" skills, that aren't appreciably different from new names for old skills, and magically, my skills are no longer up to date.

I hypothesize that the age discrimination in the industry isn't based on age, directly, but rather on perceived costs of employment, which tend to rise as people progress through their careers. Old people are more expensive. They want higher salaries. A lot of them have families, and mortgages, and their health insurance costs are higher. They worry about their 401(k) accounts.

One would think that it's easy to screen by age, based on the length of the resume, and simple math on any of the dates on it, but the people screening the resumes, and the ones rejecting candidates post-interview are not necessarily the same people. The HR folks know that age-related discrimination is illegal, so may be structuring sham interviews so that audits after the fact don't leave the company liable for enforcement actions. I have been through a few interviews where it just seemed like everyone was going through the motions. Maybe they already picked someone and were using me to cover their ass? Maybe there was something about me in particular that prompted an immediate rejection? Maybe I didn't fulfill some secret requirement? Did my breath stink? Did I whiteboard that wrong? Nope--they found someone to do the job more cheaply, and they were shopping around to make sure they got the best price. It just so happens that youth correlates positively with cheap.

It's difficult to say, when no one ever gives any interview feedback whatsoever, positive or negative. When you're in it, you start to get paranoid.


No way. Sorry to be blunt. Sure, my speed has decreased a little. But, I make better decisions which saves orders more time. And, my skills are still solidly top 15-20%. I know most modern databases, Java, Scala, Python, JavaScript, Angular, React ... the list goes on. I only claim to be an expert in things I’m actually an expert in.

To be fair, I do try to interview at interesting companies. So, that could be the problem. Maybe, it’s easier in IT or government contractors. But, I’d be pretty depressed.


Honestly I wouldn't blame age or your skill set. It seems that the interview process for software engineers is broken and I'd be willing to bet that even then highest qualified young engineers are struggling to get offers.


I don't know how you're qualifying "even the highest qualified young engineers are struggling to get offers" but that doesn't jive with my experience these past couple of years. I'm not young any more but it still feels like a job seeker's market (spoken from the viewpoint of a fine but not outstanding engineer in his mid 30s, in a tech hub)


I said I'm willing to bet, meaning I have a hunch, not actual data. My hunch is based on personal experience, reading recent posts on HN about job searching, and seeing statistics on websites like LinkedIn and Glassdoor implying that many jobs openings have hundreds of qualified applicants. Granted, my hunch may be based on trying to get jobs at well known companies which is probably more competitive by nature, especially in a global market. Getting a job building marketing software at a mediocre agency for $45k/year is probably super easy. But most people don't want that.


Resistance to constructive criticism is a potential no-hire signal.


Blaming the victim just for the sake of being contrarian is an even stronger one.


Just because someone says, "I'm a victim!" it doesn't actually make them a victim.


No, but the burden of proof is on you to prove that they're not. And you don't have the evidence to back it up.


A great way to become a victim is to believe every person that tells you they are a victim.


A victim of being told to consider their weaknesses?


That's not at all what the post said.


Resistance to inaccurate feedback is essential to autonomous growth.

Institutional certainty in the accuracy of feedback is a red flag for cult behavior in organizations.


> resistance to constructive criticism

Very curious where you detect that in GP?


They completely discount the feedback without any concessions.


> speed has decreased a little

Sounds like a concession to me

The rest of the post is a rebuttal, not 'discounting'


You seem very focused on your skillset. Have you considered that it's your soft skills (equally important to technical skills) that may be the issue?


What exactly drives you to interesting companies? If you are a programmer, your job will be: read data from A, repackage it, send to B. How IT or government contract is different? And you can make a greater difference there IMO. (That's how I see it now, after many years of vain pursuits and disappointments )


Yeah, but how's your perl? :P


Maybe people are worried you'll rock the boat with all those technologies you list. If the group has settled on using React, the last thing they want is someone constantly trying to convert them to Angular.

Another possibility is you don't know those things as well as you think. When you say React do you mean React v.16? Does that include webpack, and if so, which version? If you're claiming to be an expert on all those things, it would make me skeptical. I bet you'd have better results if you focused on a few technologies you unambiguously ARE an expert at, and list the other things as footnotes.


> If the group has settled on using React, the last thing they want is someone constantly trying to convert them to Angular.

Older developers have seen enough technology fads come and go that they are much less likely to do this than a young, excitable one.


I'm not far from being an older dev, and I've been struggling more and more with cynicism in myself. Everything you said is 100% true, but I have to force myself to avoid phrases like "technology fad" or "young, excitable devs" when I'm mentoring younger devs. Because even though those things are true, verbalizing them would demoralize the team.


I don't argue against the latest fads. I hate the idea of Node/Electron/ various JS based cross platform mobile frameworks with a passion, but I do look to see what is paying the most and has the most openings. I'll jump on whatever fad that the market wants.


Older devs, after seeing enough technology fads, are much more sensitive to bullshit. Which makes them a bit sarcastic WRT any new fad. Not a desirable trait from the employer's perspective :)


Sarcasm in general is not a desirable trait. You can explain the pros and cons of different technology choices without being sarcastic.

A green developer who wants to rewrite everything is $LANGUAGE is just as bad as the self-important greybeard rolling his eyes and scoffing at anything that isn't $OTHER_LANGUAGE.


I've been an employer for a long time and would prefer a critical thinker over a fad-of-the-day lemming any day.


Readers: what's your exit strategy? You probably need one.


Age discrimination in tech is dumb. I've got a dev 30 years my senior sitting across from me and I guarantee he will code circles around 90% of the devs on HN, and 100% of the new grads getting jobs at big tech (and will until he dies). He's got a huge amount of knowledge in programming, our domain (NLP), he's fast, thorough, and thoughtful.

Honestly I don't get the obsession with recent grads. They are basically useless for years.


I think the real value in recent grads (from a startup perspective) is that they're young and naive enough to work long hours based on 'team spirit' and the dream of 'making an impact' rather than silly old ideas like earning a real salary or a getting a big enough amount of equity to matter. And they usually don't have families to keep them from working long hours either. They'll drink whatever kool-aid the startup is based on much more readily than some grumpy old-timer.


"Do you want to help disrupt <........> ? Want to work with < blockchain, microservices, ML/AI>, and want to work 16 hours a day without or with little ownership? Join us, we are a young dynamic international team, free organic lunches, free Macbook, we're all bros here. Take our whiteboard interview and see if you're a cultural fit!"


Don't forget about the week-long "coding challenge"


There's so much of this around. Can't stand it.


None of that actually provides real value though. There's zero point to overworking programmers - that's how you get crap.

I think it's probably just VC bias driven by the number of unicorns which had young founders (VCs aren't after 'moderately successful startups', where founders tend to be older, they're after wildly successful unicorns).

Those young founders hire "people like themselves" which naturally means people their age or younger.

There's a certain degree of implicit age discrimination baked into the default hiring process of most startups too - all of those questions about reversing binary trees or implementing quicksort biases hiring toward recent grads who have just learned it and away from the experienced devs (because 99% of devs simply never use this kind of theory).

tl;dr VCs cargo cult and end up investing in young founders, young founders cargo cult their interview process and hire people "like themselves".


VCs also want people who "disrupt" like Facebook has disrupted personal information and data, or Uber and driverless cars. Older people have to be evil (subject to opinion) to start a company to do that, but younger people see Zuck's $$ without knowing where it comes from and want the same thing. They can modify their ethics if necessary, and it only happens bit by bit, which makes it easier.


I've seen this in large corporations as well. ("They want to be 'more agile'")


A long time ago, back when I was a recent grad, I often worked long hours simply because coding is so damned fun. I remember thinking, "Damn, I can't believe that they pay me this much for something that I'd do for free anyway! What fools!!"

That hasn't completely escaped, but with a family and 25 years experience, I put that into a different perspective now.


Some of reasons I’ve seen for ageism in startups are cost and “not a culture fit”. Cost I understand, but I believe more experienced people end up being cheaper in the long run when you account for speed, correctness, and long term maintainability. The culture piece stems from the “would I get a beer with this person” and will he/she work as “hard” as a younger candidate with less responsibilities.

Startups need to start realizing that it’s okay to have diversity and different cultural groups. By putting yourself in the stereotypical startup culture box you greatly limit your ability to hire and create diversity. If everyone thinks and acts the same you miss out on valuable perspectives and ideas.


Startups aren’t going to change. The goal should be to marginalize their influence and effects on tech hiring. They are simply not important enough (by hiring volume) to carry the weight they currently do.


>They are simply not important enough (by hiring volume) to carry the weight they currently do.

Unforunately, they are. A large proportion of the tech industry is startups / small businesses. I'd be surprised if Google/Facebook/Amazon/Apple/Microsoft make up even 10% of tech workers.


Citation please. Startups are minuscule compared to total tech jobs.

My current employer employees more tech workers than all YC startups combined, for example.


Google - 85,050 employees (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Google)

Facebook - 25,105 employees (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Facebook)

Amazon has 566,000 employees (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amazon_(company)), but it's unclear how many of those are actually tech workers. Amazon has a lot of retail and warehouse workers, many of who with wages so low they qualify for food stamps.

Apple - 123,000 employees (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Apple_Inc.) Apple's 2014 SEC filing said that half of their employees are retail workers, so let's give Apple 62,000 tech workers.

Microsoft - 124,000 employees (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Microsoft)

There are around 7 million tech workers in the USA (https://www.comptia.org/about-us/newsroom/press-releases/201...)

Even if we pretended that all 566,000 Amazon employees were actually tech workers (they're not) and the above numbers were US-only employees (they're not), that would total to about 860,000 tech workers.

860,000 / 7 million = 12.3%

That means that at least 87.7% of American tech workers do not work at Google, Facebook, Amazon, Apple, or Microsoft, despite these companies being five of the richest tech companies in the world.


None of this validates your thesis that startups and small businesses are the majority tech employers. If anything, it reinforces mine.


On my phone on a train (so no numbers), but how about:

Oracle

Cisco

IBM

Dell

HP Enterprise

HP Inc.

Lockheed Martin

Northrop Grumman

Raytheon

General Dynamics

General Electric

Intel

AMD

Qualcomm

Texas Instruments

United Technologies

Analog Devices

Samsung

Phillips

Toshiba

... I'm gonna stop listing all the big tech companies I can think of. I madey point.


I agree. I'd like to see us quit romanticizing the SV Bro culture of 20-something startup hipsters. The goal of a startup is NOT TO BE a startup forever. Often, having a bit of 50-year-old wisdom is one of the best things one can do. Without that, we have 24 year olds "discovering" Lisp every couple of decades.


It is often very difficult to explain to non-developers how your first point could possibly be true. Even if you have regular discussions regarding the value of experience and the possible damage that could be done by a bad or inexperienced developer. I find that it is easy to agree at a surface level that those concepts make sense, but if someone has not actually had the experience of writing software, they have trouble really understanding this concept. Most people still see most jobs as doing x unit of work over y unit of time. So the more time that someone is willing to spend each day the better. We all know that a bad developer can actually produce negative gains for the team, but it is a hard concept to fully explain.


I wonder if comparing it to home improvement type work would be a good universal analogy for most people. Would you rather hire the inexperienced person to come do your plumbing or the 30 year professional. The former doesn't give you a proper estimate but will work endlessly at a lower rate on the problem. This person eventually completely messes up and a water pipe in your ceiling leaks for days. Or you could have hired the other person who would almost certainly have completed it within the estimated time frame with professional quality and never caused the pipe leak.


Some of reasons I’ve seen for ageism in startups are cost and “not a culture fit”. Cost I understand, but I believe more experienced people end up being cheaper in the long run when you account for speed, correctness, and long term maintainability. The culture piece stems from the “would I get a beer with this person” and will he/she work as “hard” as a younger candidate with less responsibilities.

Most SV companies talk a big game about "diversity," but that never extends to diversity of age.

It's funny how so many people in the valley don't understand that discrimination based on age is just as illegal as discrimination based on race or sex or any other protected class.


> discrimination based on age is just as illegal

Only if you discriminate against old people, it is legal to openly discriminate against the young.

I guess I'm biased because I'm young but it's a little non-sensical since young people are the ones with student debt and record-high housing costs to pay for while 50-year-olds have decades of savings and stock market and real-estate appreciation to fall back on if they find themselves unemployed.


>50-year-olds have decades of savings and stock market and real-estate appreciation to fall back on if they find themselves unemployed.

That's a lovely stereotype, but far from the truth; which is why so many people are working into their 70's these days and why reverse mortgages are on the rise.

There was an article in the newspaper (You can Google what that is) recently that noted that more than half of Americans have less than $5,000 in retirement savings. A similar number live in apartments.

The whole "decades of savings" thing is a cultural myth that Millennials use to make themselves feel like victims. Somehow they think they're the only generation that's ever been through hard times.


> Somehow they think they're the only generation that's ever been through hard times.

Not sure how you inferred this from my comment. My parents went through much harder times when they were my age.

However, unemployment would be a trivial inconvenience for them now at 50. They’d probably just retire and not bother looking for another full time gig. I don’t really know any 26-year-olds who could say the same.

Edit: I looked at the data and the median 55-59 year old in the US has US$150k in net worth vs. US$19k for the median 25-29 year old. Why would the former need extra legal protections against employment discrimination and the latter not?


Net worth and savings are not the same thing. But let’s pretend for a second it was and a 55 year old was to lose his/her job and never have another source of income. That means the $150k would have to last 20+ years on average, which is $7500 a year to live on. But now let’s stop pretending and realize that net worth includes the value of assets, like cars and houses. So the amount to live on is even less money unless they sell all their assets. We are also assuming the house, car, and credit cards are paid off and there aren’t monthly debt obligations.


> when you account for speed, correctness, and long term maintainability

And insight gained from a world of experience that a junior or intermediate devs doesn't have.


Startups are often run like cults, and diversity of thought is anathema to running a cult.


> Honestly I don't get the obsession with recent grads.

They will work more hours for less money. This is nothing new. My first job out of university in the early 1990s was for one of the "big" consulting firms. 50-60 hour work weeks were the norm. I made decent money (they paid overtime) especially for a first job, but I wouldn't do it at my age now with a family and kids.


Why is there a belief in this industry that working more hours == productivity? Arguably a more experienced developer could do the same work (if not better) in less hours. The right to not work 12 hours a Day shouldnt be something that is earned with age. If a team is consistently required to put in unreasonably long hours it’s either due to being understaffed or poor planning. Both are a recipe for disaster...


>Why is there a belief in this industry that working more hours == productivity?

Lack of manager ability to measure productivity based on anything else. Between POs, BAs, business representatives, and IT managers there are a lot of people who don't seem to be able to grasp why two relatively simple to describe tasks can require such vast differences in time. So it becomes hard for them to judge if their developer is wasting their time or not (and let's not even begin on overall lack of trust to begin with), so the only fall back measure is if they have their butt in the seat and appear to be working. And even if you are lucky enough that everyone you directly deal with either understands the basics on why sizing varies so greatly or able to accept it without question, you still have to deal with middle managers walking the floor who measure productivity the same as they would in a factory. And if you are lucky enough to not even have this problems, you still have to deal with cultural norms set in party by all the jobs which aren't as lucky.


Well in the case of consulting it's more billable hours, thus more profit. The clients should be the ones asking "why do you need 20 developers working 60 hours a week on this inventory system" but they seemed to accept it as normal.


My guess is that it's a myth that developed from the industrial era when more widgets could be produced in 12 hours than 8. The fact that developers don't do specialized line work doesn't seem to register.

As people are noting on this thread, startups are their own thing. During my startup days, we were always the next sale or funding round away from going belly up. We pulled late hours to get in the latest features for our president to "sell" to investors.


Because managers can measure hours, but they can't measure effectiveness.


Good managers can measure effectiveness. The problem is it's hard to quantify to higher ups, and even when you do quantify the data, it never beats the sales guy drinking with the boss and knowing the boss's taste in wo/men.


I think that measurement implies a quantity being measured, so it sounds like we agree on the main point. Managers can form opinions about who is effective, but the silly quantities they come up with don't end up being useful, because "mistakes avoided" isn't an observable[0]. You can't count events that didn't happen, yet such hypothetical suppositions are crucial to appreciating the benefits of experience.

0: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Observable


Thanks - I've had that notion for a long time, but could never put it as succinctly. "You can't count events that didn't happen."

Had a lowball offer from a company once - had some friends working there. I could see from some earlier code that some really basic web knowledge was being overlooked. I won't go in to details, but... this was something I'd pointed out to one of the managers there (met at a local meetup). Fixing it then would have taken about 2-3 hours, scanning all the code to ensure it was in sync. Instead, the problem spread as they grew, and it's harder to fix when there are dozens of staff and thousands of files in use vs 5 staff and a dozen files. It became a 'this has to be fixed in order to close mega-deal X integration with company Y', and it took multiple devs several weeks of full-on effort to rectify everything.

How do you quantify that? "Please, take my advice, doing this 4 hours of work now now will save you >$50k and weeks of opportunity cost in 4 years". Generally people don't seem to care.


One of the worst people I worked with was a guy who worked 12+ hours and his code was insanely complex for no good reason. He rewrote other people's code over night without any review. Because he was good friend with management he could get away with it. He created a 100.000 line ETL tool that I replaced with 1000 lines one, that also run 10-100 times faster. I did it while explained everything to all of the team members so everybody was onboard. I never work more than 8 hours and I am willing to be fired over this. I guess work more hours is not indication of any quality and people should not be judged based on this.


>He created a 100.000 line ETL tool that I replaced with 1000 lines one, that also run 10-100 times faster. I did it while explained everything to all of the team members so everybody was onboard.

Data import processes often seem to get shuffled to people usually least prepared to understand how to handle them.

2 anecdotes:

1. worked someplace years ago who would take in customer data, transform it in to our structure, then put in to mysql (2004 mysql). larger projects... this ended up taking 24 hours in some cases. I spent some time (a few hours), and had the whole thing working in under an hour. Working with a couple other folks there they got it down to around 20-25 minutes. The big secret was .... dropping indexes, importing chunks in to memory (vs disk), then copying the memory table to disk after a chunk. This was first met with "that can't work... we've already optimized everything... etc". Until it was demonstrated.

2. Colleague worked at a company which was primarily email marketing. They'd take in email lists, "import" them (which created some related metadata records, etc). The guy who wrote this importer had 'rewritten it to be faster' a year earlier, and larger imports (we're talking like... 10k emails) were taking days. Onboarding a client of 30k emails would take 2 weeks. It was literally insane code. My colleague rewrote the whole thing to work the 30k emails in under an hour, documented the code, had tests demonstrating weird edge cases... "Can't trust it - original dev needs to review it first". He (my colleague) was part of a group of people who was let go a couple months later (and was also approaching 40).

The phrase "big data" was also taking hold as a buzzword around the time of incident 2 (2 years ago maybe?). People think anything that can't fit in to excel is somehow 'big data'.


> People think anything that can't fit in to excel is somehow 'big data'.

To be fair, I'd say this is only true if "excel" is generalized to "the largest non-distributed-computing tool they're personally aware of".

Granted, that may usually be a spreadsheet, but at least in the tech industry, people do know of DBMSes. They just happen to think an affordable single server is an order of magnitude smaller than is actually achievable, even if it's an order of magnitude larger than a spreadsheet.


> Honestly I don't get the obsession with recent grads. They are basically useless for years.

But cheap and compliant.


> Honestly I don't get the obsession with recent grads. They are basically useless for years.

I generally agree with your post, but this statement is just wrong (possibly there are a few counter-example domains). If a company cannot get value from new grads within, say, 6 months, it is the problem of the tech lead they are working for.

We routinely get very useful work from summer interns, who are gone completely in 8-12 weeks. This does require organization and a little effort though: pose work they can complete in 1 month, calm them that they do not need to do it quickly, offer support if needed and check progress weekly; and pay attention -- if they sense the attitude that they are useless to the team they will often work that way, too.

TBH, this works maybe 50% of the time (we get useful results from half the interns and nothing from the other half), but I suspect full time employees are not 100% useful either. Just my 2c.


It’s cheaper to buy many lottery ticket new grads, a few who might turn out brilliant, and just burn out the others convincing them to work harder than people who know better will. Then, sometimes managers get burnt out experienced engineers who nevertheless stay, and maybe some managers form negative stereotypes about experienced engineers. This is what I have seen in practice at a former job and it seems to fit the data to me.


NLP is quite different from firms that want to throw up crud apps over databases


A lot of people are building CRUD apps and adtech, so real skills like NLP will be less valuable (for the bulk of their hires) than being cheap and willing to work long hours.

My company has found a competitive advantage by doing blind hiring and getting super talented people (sometimes older, sometimes female) that other companies have undervalued.


What are some common exit strategies in the industry? It seems like early startup options for employees are more of a lottery ticket than retirement plan.


You move one of the larger, more conservative companies that employ probably 90% of the world's tech workforce. You do the non-sexy ETL work, or line-of-business app development, that 90% of the world's developer workforce does.

Web forums are RIDICULOUSLY overweighted toward students and younger startup employees. Partially because older workers have jobs and families and better stuff to do than play online. Partially because the work they do isn't particularly worth writing about, and the latest fads aren't that relevant to their work.

But please don't have the misguided assumption that what you see on HN or Reddit is truly representative of the industry as a whole. It took me a long time, and a lot of unnecessary anxiety, to wake up and see the bigger picture.


Amen.


I guess it would the founder path, consultancy, moving to a bigger company, moving to a company where seniors are valued... and of course focus on maintenance for deep pockets.


I moved to a farm and education centre.


I don't need one.

Most people at my current company are >40 (and probably >50 - I don't know everyone's exact age but I can infer somewhat). ~90% are married.

I've worked a bunch of places and, quite frankly, none have had an overly young crowd. Experience has always been valued everywhere I've worked.

So in my experience its just not a problem for the companies I want to/do/have worked for. I live nowhere near San Francisco.


Consultancy, building up soft skills that you can't easily offshore, saving money and doing sensible investments instead of buying tech toys to throw away, be open minded that someday I might do a completely different kind of job.


Become an expert on the Cobol/PL1 of 2050, maybe?


> Cobol/PL1 of 2050

It's already here and it's called Java :)


In Austria, not even Javascript can beat Java (33% more job openings!). At least in Europe, Java will continue to rule supreme in the foreseeable future. I am currently part of a big project involving >300 people that will lead to 50 - 100 Spring Boot microservices that will run at least 10 years...



And probably als JavaScript.


I highly doubt that. Websites are much more throw-away than the average enterprise backend processing app, even for large apps like Gmail I suspect the churn is orders of magnitudes larger than in their backend systems started in 2004.

COBOL skills remain valuable because they're running hard-to-replace data processing systems at the core of large corporations. Java fills the same role.


Management


I just rejected a path to management a couple of months ago after trying a lead role for a few months and deciding it's not a good fit for what I want to do. I really hope I didn't screw myself over for the future, but on the other hand if the only way I'll have a future in this industry when I get older is in management roles I don't like I may as well move on to something else at that point.


No one will even talk to you about a management position, without already having been a manager, no matter how much experience you have as a developer. The only path to management is to acquire it from the inside.


This is the absolute truth. I've been a lead or performing the role of a lead for most of my career. Recently I started taking on management responsibilities, then I got a new VP who decided I needed a manager because I didn't have the experience. I've seen people who can't manage their way out of a paper bag, but seemingly despite the fact that I've been filling the role for the past year, I'm not qualified for it. It's very frustrating.


Your new manager is very likely to be a friend of the VP.


Make enough money to retire early to some low stress hobby job like pottery.


I plan to create value at a startup where they give me fair ownership of the project I'm working on, and once it's successful I'll live off royalties.

Wait what's that about developer royalties?


Are you in the Bay area? I think that in the bay area it is easier to find a tech job regardless of age. Startups are one place but there are a lot of smaller established tech companies. Try biomedical companies or pharma. At some point, basically every company is a tech company or use technology in some way which requires a few software engineers. Even so.. even the big "old" companies (aka IBM) routinely try to remove older workers from their payrolls: https://features.propublica.org/ibm/ibm-age-discrimination-a...


I'm not saying you're this person, but a lot of people making this claim are also the people that seem argue with literally everything. They always claim they know better. "Oh your team of 8 has spent the last 12 months building this complex webapp with React? Gosh darn millennial hipsters and their FRAMEWORKS. I could have built it with jQuery in a week, and still had a nickel leftover for the trolley!"

Yes I've exaggerated this scenario a bit, but the point stands and it's very real.


Wait what? What did you just do? Did you just claim that most people above 40 are argumentative anti progress coders? Or did you claim that most people who are claiming age based discrimination are such? Either way, how can you back these statements?


I read that as "a lot of people making that claim have or have developed these other, primary traits that are disqualifying them".


They’re claiming the latter. Whether or not it’s true I don’t know.

As an old myself I can say anecdotally that nearly all of the interviewees we bring in who exhibit this behavior are graybeards like myself, but even then they’re a minority


The gp poster only states their age and their interview success ratios, in a fairly neutral tone.

Jumping from this kind of information to conclusions about the gp's willingness to argue or anything else is exactly what this lawsuit is directed against, and I am looking forward to this practice being eradicated.


Sounds contentious. In my experience, if older co-workers have any common differences from younger ones, it’s the opposite of what you suggest. I find myself amazed by the humbleness and acceptance that so often comes with age. Also, my observations speak to older folks having great work ethics and organizational skills, even in absence of experience with the particular task at hand.


I don't think I get your point. Are you implying that trashtalking hip design trends is grounds for age discrimination? Or that older employees give an amount of pushback on design decisions that makes them literally unhirable?

I can trashtalk the design on everything I've directly worked on more accurately and damningly than things I read about online that seem like bad ideas. And I do.

Do you think because I find fun to rip on things in contexts where hyperbole and humor are permissible, that it negatively impacts my ability to exercise coolheaded evaluation in collaboration and decision making contexts?


The fact that everyone who's offended by the post is claiming that React is a "hip design trend" kind of reinforces the point, doesn't it?


By their very nature almost every single JS library is a hip design trend. The fact that there are so many JS libraries as to warrant a Wikipedia page should prove that point. Most libraries have a specific use case they excel at, but the hype surrounding them usually is more than the usefulness of the library. Claiming that React isn't trendy is kind of like claiming BTRFS isn't trendy. It's being developed and used by Facebook. ReactOS can use it. At the end of the day it will still be niche until it either becomes bloated to provide more usefulness a la JQuery or stops being trendy and just does what it does.


No, I'm under 30 and React is probably a hip design trend, just like Angular and Bootstrap were. Perspective is valuable.

People are offended because the post you're replying to literally only said, "I've gotten less job offers since I turned 40."

Your response was, "well, that's probably your fault."

To rephrase one of your earlier comments, "I'm really not saying you're ageist. I'm just saying I've experienced a non-trivial amount of victim blaming that looks like this, and it's a possibility worth considering if you want other people to take you seriously."


No. That's shoddy reasoning:

a) Getting pushback on your idea is not necessarily someone taking offense

b) Casting react as a "hip design trend" is not - in and of itself - a statement about it's fitness for a purpose. It's a statement about popularity, and highly visible things should expect criticism.

c) Even if trendy is meant to disparage the tool as nothing more than a flash in the pan, I think that gets to my (unaddressed) point about hyperbolic language in unimportant discussions.

e) "The reaction proves the point" can be applied to any disagreement, therefore it doesn't reinforce a point without more substance that they're meaningfully connected.

d) It's still unclear what your point was supposed to be. My ask for clarity was not facetious, so far I'm only responding to the point I can infer but find flimsy enough that I preemptively conceded you might be getting at something else.


Your point stands and is about as real as the idea of millenial hipsters saying "Oh, sure, we have a jQuery app that works right now, but that's so 2010, if you don't have an SPA everyone is laughing at you and if you think you're going to write an SPA with just jQuery do you even code bra, let's spend 6 months converting Angreactive, it's the modern-iest framework out there!"

Which is to say, sure, you can boil people down to caricatures, and there will even be people who match them. There are reflexively recalcitrant developers who don't want to adopt anything new, there are technological magpies whose decisions are driven by fashion and resume bullet points. The former probably do tend older, as they have a sense of less time in general and would prefer to reserve learning for new capabilities rather than different ways of doing the same thing, and perhaps even be judicious about time learning vs doing things they value. The latter probably do skew younger, as it's easier to feel you have years and energy to burn and less reference for how change works in the industry.

So what's very real are the incentives and tradeoffs underlying the decision making. The idea that what the past has provided is often adequate and investment in the new has costs is correct. The idea that there may be improvements in the new is also correct.

If you believe this, maybe having cranky 50 year olds who are going to make your organization justify its decisions is actually an asset along with people who are curious to invest in the new shiny...


You should really not be afraid to hire/work with people who know things you don't. And, you will do well to actively solicit and consider their advice, not fight and disparage it.

You put your scenario in disparaging terms, but consider another way to look at it:

- They may well actually know better. Listen, ask questions and learn. - You say arguing, but you most definitely want people who think critically about literally everything. (You also need people who will get on board with the plan even thought they don't necessarily agree with all the details.)


You _are_ saying they're that person

Yes older coders have weathered more fashions and succumbed to many themselves so in some respects they do know better


I'm really not. I'm just saying I've experienced a non-trivial amount of "that person", and it's a possibility worth considering if they want to remain hireable.


This is such a big hyperbole that I'm just gonna call bullshit on this.


No hyperbole. Seriously, I was as shocked as you are. It was a very humiliating experience.

A few interesting things that I’ve experienced:

- Companies tend to like me enough that they keep asking me back to “meet more people” - a very time-wasting process that often ends with silence (and no returned emails or calls)

- When rejected from a particularly interesting company, I will sometimes offer to work for free or a discounted rate initially, just so I can prove what I can do. No one has ever taken that offer.

- I have even offered to work at a very discounted salary, on par with a new grad salary. My rational is that I’ll still make more than I would at Whole Foods, and I’m confident that they’ll be impressed enough to bump me to my normal salary. No takers. Although one company did say that by hiring me, I would “cause more harm than good”. WTF?


Definitely never offer to work for free or a reduced rate. It just shows that you are desperate and don't value yourself. If you want to work for free, give speeches or contribute to open source or write a book. There activities will get you respected by other people. Working for cheap makes you lose people's respect.


True. But, I was desperate.


Never lower your rate. If you want to make yourself cheaper for the company, offer to work fewer hours, or on a fixed-term contract rather than permanent employment. For those options, you should also actually be raising your hourly rate, because you'll then have to cover more of your own costs, like taxes and insurance.

And don't let anyone squeeze you to make your actual rate lower. I once went to an interview where I was told that the expectation would be for 45 hours of billable work per week, and so I immediately told them that my salary expectation for that would be 20% higher than for a 40 hour work week. They could raise the salary, or lower the work hours, because on a per-hour basis, their pay range was suddenly no longer competitive.

They declined to negotiate that. So I eventually went to work for someone else more willing to pay me what I think I'm worth.

Don't work for free; it just encourages those who try to scam free work out of people. The only person for whom you should be doing unpaid work is yourself.


When I was a contractor the only customers who changed their mind when I put in a lowball offer were people who like to take advantage of other people, definitely not the ones you want to work with. Most other people will reject you not because of your price but because of other factors and price is just an excuse.


It is at times a good move, but make the offer before the rejection, possibly as being willing to work as a contractor and later go full time.


In case you hadn't noticed:

When you post firsthand testimony like this, the typical reaction is a pile on of unsolicited advice. When you don't grovel in gratitude and promptly turn your life around in response to the brilliant wisdom of a bunch of internet strangers who know an entire paragraph about your problem, you will be quickly labeled as clearly the cause of your problem, never mind the information in the very article currently under discussion that makes it clear there are large scale forces at work. No, you cannot possibly be a victim of circumstance. You just must not be trying hard enough and making lame excuses to cover that up, like playing the victim card because you obviously have a victim mentality. If you argue it, that will be further evidence of your personal defects.


>Up until age 39, I was never not given an offer after interviewing. Now after 40, my offer rate has dropped to 1 in 14.

Sorry to say this, but get used, as I have, to getting flooded with employment offers that might as well have a note on the bottom that says "all are welcome to apply-EXCEPT YOU." Why they bother to waste resources to send these out is beyond me, unless they are just sadistic.


Nobody can claim they are discriminating if they "offer jobs to "senior" devs as well. I have known people with disabilities that get similar treatment where it was very clear they wouldn't be hired but boxes had to be checked to - what appears - avoid liability.


Boggles my mind that companies do this. I'm just out of college and am amazed by the depth of knowledge older programmers have. A lot of them can find bugs on an almost instinctive level .

I think it might come down to founders being insecure around older engineers who probably won't be afraid to call them out on dumb decisions and won't be as likely to drink the hpye kool-aid because they've seen it all before.

Seems like an opportunity for startups to get great talent.


I once heard about a bug, diagnosed it, fixed it, and checked in the fix within a span of 15 minutes. The [younger] person who told me about it then looked at me like I was some kind of celestial being that inadvertently let their glamour slip for a moment--they were awestruck. Apparently, they had been struggling with it for a week. I didn't even realize it was a big deal.

That's what hiring older people gets you. But you also have to connect them with younger people.

And yeah, the corporate hype-ade gets dumped right into the potted plants now. But we don't exactly call people out on their dumb decisions, though, as much as factor them into future estimates. Telling truth to power gets you fired at most places, so you share your concerns only in private with your direct supervisor. Then you either polish up your resume again, or you work around all the dumb decisions that have already been made, plus the new one. If they didn't bother to consult with the expert before making that stupid plan, they're probably not going to listen to expert critiques after the fact. Always secure your own paycheck before helping out the company. They won't ever reward you for self-sacrifice.


There's a serious problem with the current economic cycle that basically makes technical expertise and efficiency irrelevant to the ways companies make money nowadays. It's a nasty thing to admit to yourself, but unless you do, you risk ending up exactly like that - no hire despite perfect technical skills due to unspoken reasons you didn't catch.


Why would a founder want to hire someone who doesn't believe in their business?


I think the attitude that calling someone out on their bullshit is, "not believing in their business," is a huge part of the problem.


Because the majority of startups are bullshit businesses that are destined to fail, and only those who can recognize the intrinsic problems with them could ever help the founders pivot to something sane and profitable before the runway is gone.


Just out of curiosity: what kind of roles are you applying for? Are those the entry-level positions, non-specialized "senior %LANGUAGENAME% developer", or something requiring solid domain-specific experience?


how would they know you’re 39 versus 40 in the interview process?


Everything about the facebook falls apart really.


I'm so glad they banned me.


Shouldn't you be in management by now?


Is that really the end game? Am I an outlier since I don't want to manage people, I just want to write code? I'm 50 and have been programming since age 13 and I've turned down offers to move into management, since my 1st love is actually building things. Is it really just expected that at some point we all give up what we love to do just to fit into some corporate culture?


Seems to be career suicide. You are turning down countless promotion opportunities and insane amounts of compensation. All so what, you can continue coding day to day? Seems absurd, code at home as your hobby if it means that much to you. As an individual contributor your value to any company is limited no matter your skill. At a certain point the company is going to ask, is your compensation worth the value you add? Its not a surprise that the answer to that question is often no.


That's a fine thesis, though I do think that software is one of those areas where a maker can under some circumstances, potentially have a vastly more powerful impact on an organization than a manager.

Opportunities are fewer and the competition level is high, though. To really harness this, you probably have to either become a founder who writes an early version of a product (very difficult), or alternatively advance along one of the technical track ladders that exist in some big tech companies (they exist, but far fewer opportunities and intense competition). There's a chance you could pitch a breakthrough product, but many (not all!) organizations seem strangely hostile to this.

So I do agree with you that going into management does offer greater opportunity for promotion and increased compensation. I disagree your value as an individual contributor is necessarily limited though, since a technically talented developer with a strong business sense can produce unreal value, sky is the limit on that combination.


Well naturally everyone on Hacker News assumes they are a 10x dev, are gods gift to programming and will be the next Jeff Dean but that's simply not reality.


It depends. At a lot of companies, manager and senior software engineer are roughly equivalent in compensation. To make "insane" amounts of compensation you've got to make director or better, and that's a completely different job/life than engineering. A lot of people went into engineering because they don't have that in 'em.


This is something different. The suit is not claiming that there's discrimination in the hiring processes, but in who sees the ads for the jobs in the first place.

Should it be illegal to advertise a job or housing in Black Enterprise magazine, because the readers are overwhelmingly African American? Or illegal to advertise in the Wall Street Journal because they're not?


The difference is WSJ doesn't have an option that says "only show this ad to white readers".


That is a difference, but in degree, not in kind.


You're declaring voluntary and involuntary segregation to be the same. I can read Black Enterprise or the WSJ. I can't read something deliberately hidden from me.


Facebook doesn't collect explicit race information, it's inferred from user behaviour. You can choose to do the sorts of things on Facebook that black people do, then advertisers will think you are black. Just like you can choose to read Black Enterprise, and advertisers will think you are black.


Exactly. You had better make sure that your Facebook account doesn't look "too black", "too old", "too jewish", "too democrat".


What possible relevance could there be between "doing the things black people do" and qualifications for any particular job?

TFA is about age discrimination though, and Facebook does explicitly collect age information.


Using dozens and possibly hundreds of pictures of the user is not inferred information in any meaningful since. They know your race, most likely with higher than 99% confidence on most people from the images alone. I'm sure it gets even more exact when they start doing text analysis, looking at your likes, and using the image data of your friends and family.


Facebook explicitly collects your birth date though, doesn't it? (Question is both rhetorical and actual.)


And gives you explicit warnings not to lie about it. And limits the total number of times you can change it (so you'd better hope you lied when you signed up 5 or 10 years ago).

Facebook is not real big on the 'ol anonymity.

In practice they can't really stop you from lying, but just telling people not to lie and making the question sound serious can often be enough to stop the average person. I suspect most people put in their correct age.

Odds are also pretty good your friends are going to mention your age at some point while wishing you Happy Birthday. If Facebook's data collection is smart enough it could decide to trust them over you. I kind of doubt that it is smart enough to do that right now, but it probably wouldn't be the hardest thing in the world to do if people started commonly lying.


Media has never been responsible of showing the user all the information, they have control over what and how they say it.

I also think that having such a hard-line reasoning doesnt accept the fact that criterias for discrimination are boundless, and that force will only be able to punish a very small subset.

Have to find an alternate way of dealing with changes of this sort than punishment and state threats.


Yes, there are boundless ways to discriminate. Legally, most of them are irrelevant. We've picked a few well-defined things like race, gender, age, religion, marital status, etc. and said "These things you can't discriminate on". If you want to not hire someone because they wore a blue shirt and you hate blue shirts, you can do that.

Further, these aren't punished by force. The remedy is a civil lawsuit, not a criminal complaint.


That's a good point.


In the same way the difference between a stabbing and a murder is one of degree, and 2 inches depth.


You've missed the boat. It'd be akin to White Enterprise magazine checking the race of buyers before a purchase can be made or the ad being seen. That's obviously unlawful.

The question is whether FB is immune from the CDA (depends


I don't know if the rules are different in employment, but yes, selective advertising in newspapers with different demographics is considered evidence of "steering"/discrimination in housing. (in California)


That's apples and oranges. This is a single platform, using a variety of techniques to "disappear" protected classes of people from employment -- it's akin to laundering discrimination. Including companies like Enterprise Rent-A-Car is telling, as their business model has always been built around targeting new college grads to be branch managers and retaining them for <5 years.

If you work in tech, you should be very much against this, as this is yet another example of bad behavior by Facebook that will hurt everyone. They are hiding behind the CDA to pretend that they are just passive conduits, and will ultimately push the government to tighten regulation and weaken non-Facebook sites that publish user generated content.


Do you think that's the same thing as is alleged in the submission?

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