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.
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.
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.
"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.
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.
Maybe sober, but that's not the limit once you factor in the rampant use of amphetamine.
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
edit: https://www.theguardian.com/books/2008/dec/02/jack-kerouac-r... the "scroll"
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.
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.
Avoiding hurting yourself in the eyes of candidates you'd like to include is far from being discriminatory to other groups.
Wait...isn't this exactly what the article is talking about?
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.
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.)
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.
"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.
"Differentiation" is the word I have to use now.
Webster gives pride of place to both the transitive and intransitive definitions that could fit your "once upon a time" definition.
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."
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.
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’m not sure ageism is really a big problem though.
I'm not sure you can put both those statements together without sounding uninformed.
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.
Of course, that doesn’t have much to do with age - one can be closed to new ideas at any age.
* 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
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.)
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 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.
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.
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.
Also, maturity often comes with a reduction of the ego-driven drama friction which can make people so much more pleasant to work with.
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.
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.
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)
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.
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...
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
This is why you do your best to hire mature employees no matter their age and fire immature employees, no matter their age.
(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.)
Wouldn't that be the exact opposite of the "disparate treatment" the lawsuit alleges?
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.
Dammit, I absolutely hate when idiot executives spout platitudes like this without even asking the people they're talking about.
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.
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?
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.
Because an age filter is applied uniformly doesn't mean it isn't disparate treatment for people of different ages.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.)
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. :-)]
Don't use it.
If people want to filter applicants based on age, it's pretty simple to do so before the interview stage.
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".
So you're saying this person would...be doing their job like normal?
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.
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 completely agree it should be discussed during the interview, but I don’t think that will always work out for the job candidate.
As you stated, they're looking for inexperienced drones.
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.
I feel this is silly fear, but I have heard it.
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
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
Institutional certainty in the accuracy of feedback is a red flag for cult behavior in organizations.
Very curious where you detect that in GP?
Sounds like a concession to me
The rest of the post is a rebuttal, not 'discounting'
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.
Older developers have seen enough technology fads come and go that they are much less likely to do this than a young, excitable one.
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.
Honestly I don't get the obsession with recent grads. They are basically useless for years.
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".
That hasn't completely escaped, but with a family and 25 years experience, I put that into a different perspective now.
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.
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.
My current employer employees more tech workers than all YC startups combined, for example.
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.
... I'm gonna stop listing all the big tech companies I can think of. I madey point.
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.
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.
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.
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?
And insight gained from a world of experience that a junior or intermediate devs doesn't have.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Data import processes often seem to get shuffled to people usually least prepared to understand how to handle them.
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'.
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.
But cheap and compliant.
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.
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.
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.
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.
It's already here and it's called Java :)
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.
Wait what's that about developer royalties?
Yes I've exaggerated this scenario a bit, but the point stands and it's very real.
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
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.
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?
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."
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.
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 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.)
Yes older coders have weathered more fashions and succumbed to many themselves so in some respects they do know better
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?
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
TFA is about age discrimination though, and Facebook does explicitly collect age information.
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.
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.
Further, these aren't punished by force. The remedy is a civil lawsuit, not a criminal complaint.
The question is whether FB is immune from the CDA (depends
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.