Then HR comes in to do the mass headcount cut, look at performance reviews and just cut all the people with low performance reviews. Because it's done on a mass scale of 1,000s of people they really can't do it on a case by case basis. The problem is that to safely fire staff you need to have treated them fairly and that's where it all comes out of the woodwork. You put all the data together and it turns out you've fired way more people over 50 because the organisation is a pyramid and older workers aren't value for money at the bottom of the pyramid and there's not many places at the top.
Obviously it's also true that if you can fire 10 older engineers on high salaries lots of managers will choose to do that simply because it means they don't need to fire 20 younger engineers. It's the easy option.
Not to mention the fact that if you've been at a company a long time you've most likely had your salary rise during the good years and stay flat in the bad years, either way when you get to a bad cycle again suddenly you look very expensive to the organisation.
Any sufficiently common bias has the same effect as a conspiracy. While it's very unlikely that IBM had an actual plan to eliminate older workers, because that would be illegal and stupid, there could well have been enough culture and cues leading to myriad "independent" actions with the same effect. Bias is something that must be actively countered.
> as a 57 year-old working engineer it is somewhat against my nature to delegate responsibility for my being able to make a living to any company
That's a very reasonable attitude, but irrelevant. Whether people have other options or not does not change the fact that discrimination is wrong.
It's worth noting that for at least some firms, there was traditionally age discrimination that favored high-seniority workers. We used to call it "loyalty". But there was also the reality that they knew important stuff, and played a role in training new workers. But with technology changing so fast, that's arguably less relevant.
But the problem may be that HR just processes nominal data, without considering nuances like that. So they end up firing experienced engineers, based on superficial (and perhaps outdated) data.
I'm not a software engineer, or familiar with relevant business practices. I get that physicians, for example, are certified for various specialties. But is there a formalized system like that for software engineers?
For some stuff, I know there is, based on ads I've seen. But what about particular programming languages, toolkits, etc?
(IMO the same is true for mass surveillance vs targeted surveillance.)
This implies you have some reliable and realistic metrics for code quality, and/or that all workers in a team are functionally identical.
Neither are likely to be true in practice. This doesn't mean older = better, or older = worse, or older = identical. It means you need to assess the value of individuals in a team individually.
Otherwise you're just doing scorched earth HR, with predictable consequences.
Which isn't to say that HR doesn't realize that their approach targets older workers. Just that they can say that it wasn't intentional.
Then you were kind enough to just echo the initial part and call his/her attitude irrelevant. Please read more carefully and don't be so hostile to people offering their perspectives, particularly when they are in the very class of victims under discussion.
Incorrect. OP had set up an excluded middle between a conspiracy and an emergent behavior unrelated to bias. I pointed out that it could still be bias even if it's not coordinated.
> Then you were kind enough to just echo the initial part and call his/her attitude irrelevant.
I was calling only that part irrelevant.
> they are in the very class of victims under discussion.
So am I, and that is also irrelevant. It simply doesn't matter whether you, I, or s/he are in that group. It doesn't matter whether any of us, or the IBM employees have alternative strategies. It only matters whether IBM discriminated against them.
> Please read more carefully and don't be so hostile
Advice best taken yourself. I wasn't hostile to anyone, only to an argument that had no place in this discussion. Please don't be so quick to take sides and attribute ill intent to anyone who presents facts that don't support your "perspective" on an objective question.
Nobody said it was unrelated to biases except for you. What was being suggested is that it's not a conspiracy (a.k.a an explicit agreement) against older employees. Nobody is suggesting systematic biases don't exist, which is the strawman you are attacking.
>So am I, and that is also irrelevant. It simply doesn't matter whether you, I, or s/he are in that group.
It's relevant (to me at least) in discussions where you have opportunities to hear anecdotes from the victims. We aren't lawyers deliberating a case.
> I wasn't hostile to anyone, only to an argument that had no place in this discussion.
FFS, it's not an argument anyone was making. I don't know why you're being defensive because OP was not defending ageism or claiming that an age bias didn't exist. It was just a suggestion that it was a product of the complex layoff strategies rather than some backroom hand shake of "let's get rid of the olds".
>who presents facts that don't support your "perspective" on an objective question.
You didn't present any facts and I don't have a perspective to support on this matter. I just pointed out that you're attacking people you appear to largely agree with because you're not understanding what they are saying.
The language you're using is pretty abrasive and it can come off as quite hostile even if you don't intend it. You also get defensive when someone interacts with your easy-to-misinterpret comments and you gaslight them by saying they shouldn't be quick to "take sides" about your ripe-for-polarization statement.
Maybe you could take a queue from Linus. As you said in your own comment in reference to Linus admitting he had an attitude: "Good for him. These are hard things to admit, and he's setting a great example."
If I'm so lucky, I look forward to a quippy response about how that situation is totally different.
If anything, it's a great example of direct-without-abusive, something I wish folk like Linus would adopt.
Very general, very untrue, and very off-topic. Please re-read the comment guidelines.
> Maybe you could take a queue from Linus.
[IANAL] "Emergent behavior" is a pretty weak defense, because now you have to prove that you had no idea that the bad thing would happen. Getting into a trap of "You're either evil or incompetent, and we're just deciding which." is a bad place to be.
For the individual being affected, whether it’s “right” or “wrong” is an academic argument. Anyone in tech who got lazy and didn’t keep there skills current, hoping to retire and get a gold watch have themselves to blame.
I’m in my mid 40s and I’m a developer/consultant/architect depending on the month and I’m
way to paranoid to let my skills become outdated to the point where I can’t keep a job.
One of my former managers is 60 and “self demoted” to a developer after his kids left home and can keep up with anyone when it comes to knowing the latest technology.
Perhaps, but from a policy perspective that is far from the case. Wrongs needs to be addressed even if the victims recover.
> I’m in my mid 40s and I’m a developer/consultant/architect
Congratulations. I'm in my 50s and still going strong. But neither your age nor mine really has any bearing on this.
Why do you assume that 100% of the people affected by this action couldn't find other jobs? That's insane, but without that assumption your response is a total non sequitur. If you discriminate against me, even if I have no trouble finding yet another job making twice what you ever could, that's still discrimination. It's still forcing me into an involuntary action, disrupting my income stream (especially if options or RSUs are involved), abrogating agreements between us, and - most relevantly - breaking the law. I'd still have standing to sue, and I'd still win, for the same reasons that a thwarted robbery or assault is still a crime.
That being said, I am probably younger than all y'all and I've been trained to remain in constant motion on the skills treadmill. I don't know if that's a good thing for either employers or employees. (I certainly feel under-utilized.)
(I am on the treadmill, so clearly I believe they are.)
You're also not giving me much to go on here. I've had to infer 90% of what I think you meant. I think there's a solid argument that older skills are battle-hardened and therefore better for productivity and maintainability. I'm not going to try to make it though, because I'm on the treadmill focused on acquiring newer skills, and therefore would be arguing against my own self-interest. (Eg. why do we need to know capistrano if we have kubernetes?)
But maybe those older skills are not so much maintainable, if all the newer employees on the block are discouraged from acquiring those skills based on the treadmill. You see why I'm not so sure about this treadmill business? I already learned a bunch of skills that I'm afraid we won't use, because they are already asking for newer ones (serverless!) Maybe my employer would be better served by asking me to spend some time to learn Capistrano, if they're not going to let me use Kubernetes skills I went off and acquired on my own. (Let's make this real, I'm using a real example from my own life. I don't have to be convinced that Kubernetes is more valuable, but I do have yet to prove it in the context of my real job, where our deployments all still run on Capistrano not K8s.)
My situation is likely a bit unique and I don't think my employer engages in age discrimination in any way but we have to capitalize on these newer skills to give them value. An abstract sense of "having skills with high marketability" does not deliver any value to the employer (or employee) unless they are capitalized somehow.
In any case, we're arguing about nothing, because
> get a $35/month PluralSight subscription and watch the job boards to see what you need to be studying?
we don't have any numbers on how many of these canned IBM employees actually did this and got canned anyway. Its relevance as a factor is questionable, if the employees with advanced age are simply more well compensated like you said that has also made them a bigger target. They may have kept their skills current and been terminated anyway. This is a 100% speculative argument.
I spent 9 years at a company in the 200x’s that stayed stuck in 2002 - C++, VB6, Perl hosted on IIS, classic ASP, etc. I didn’t know anything about modern development practices. Can you imagine what would have happened if I stayed another 10 years like another developer did? Last I heard they were transitioning to VB.Net and were still using Perl. So yeah, I know first hand what it looks like to let your skills stagnate and find yourself barely marketable.
When I finally left, I took a job as what for all intents and purposes was a junior .Net developer instead of a higher paying position as a C++ developer because I knew the market was moving away from C++ (at least the local market).
I spent the next decade watching the job boards, talking to recruiters and making sure my resume was matching the skills in demands and changing jobs about every two years as I learned all I could from one company and always for nice bump in salary.
I didn’t mean to jump on the “newest” technology just to keep up with industry trends. As much as I love Hashicorp’s Nomad and so used it since it worked with more than just Docker, I would never suggest anyone learn it if they already know kubernetes. That’s where the market is.
So yeah, it is about being able to find a job quickly and being more marketable to employers.
My own m.o. is to be a true “full stack developer/architect”. By full stack knowing a marketable technology on each layer -
- database (RDMS/NoSQL)
- cloud hosting and knowing netops/devops/ and development using their cloud native features.
- continuous integration/deployment best practices.
- and just general best practices.
You don’t have to jump on the new and shiny, the further you go down the stack, the more stable it. Sure things are always being added at each level but you don’t see the rapid changes like you do in JS land.
As far as learning things that pay less, I’m not a strong front end developer. Companies pay me because I can go very deep in the stack and can guide development and architecture from the back end. Web developers are a dime a dozen and pay seems to be stagnating for them. But I still want to learn the latest web frameworks to be more marketable in a pinch even though they are getting paid less than what I make now.
we don't have any numbers on how many of these canned IBM employees actually did this and got canned anyway. Its relevance as a factor is questionable
I wasn’t thinking about keeping thier skills up so they could keep their job at IBM, jobs are disposable and interchangeable if you stay marketable. Someone in technology with marketable skills can have a job before thier next mortgage payment is due if they are either in the right part of the country or are willing to move.
Sounds like you are stereotyping them based on knowing nothing apart from their age.
But that assumes bias actually exists in the first place. This argument is eerily similar to the religious argument of "just believe [that god is real]". No, prove it first, then I'll believe. And inb4 "they fired more old old people so that's bias". Correlation does not equal causation. Show me the causation.
> does not change the fact that discrimination is wrong
Moral platitudes are irrelevant to this discussion.
Not really. It only assumes the possibility of bias. At the very least, one must look for it. There's a lot of subjectivity involved in deciding who to hire or fire, and unfortunately a lot of people in tech seem to think they're perfect rational machines immune to bias, so they never even look. Don't have to look far for examples.
In any case, causation can look an awful lot like correlation when you've got many layers of indirection and noise to account for. So for practical purposes, they very well could be the same thing. You can shout "correlation is not causation" as loud as you like, but reality doesn't work on the basis of popular slogans.
And causation is pretty much completely irrelevant to law.
You lost me there.
Exactly. Which is why I call out unsubstantiated claims (or "slogans", as you put it)
whenever and wherever I see them. The most common places I've observed them happen to be with blanket leftist allegations of sexism/racism/ageism in the tech industry.
Typically once I make a contribution to the framework or the language alarm bells go off in my head and I learn the new shiny. It's the only way to survive.
It's also complete lunacy. Doctors, scientists, lawyers and engineers in other fields are life long learners, still going to conferences and publishing papers in their 70s. Software however prides itself on the young eating the old. They learn new languages and then holy war everyone else that theirs is the one truth.
And that's fine, but I know plenty of older developers who are astoundingly good and many who are garbage and the general difference is whether their company valued learning or whether it aimed to burn out their developers and replace them with younger developers. Supporting the second type of company is a strange masochism that is widely prevalent in the industry with the "Adapt or Die" mantra.
> Doctors, scientists, lawyers and engineers in other fields
Careful there - Doctors notoriously fail to adopt (as a group) newer lessons until they are replaced, and lawyers have a similar problems when new areas of law open up (often in tech) - those areas are just fewer because law tries to define everything in terms of existing procedures. And I'm sure science has plenty of ageism problems that are similar enough. Note that the continuing ed classes for doctors and lawyers do not prevent this.
> Software however prides itself on the young eating the old
Software has a cycle we've not learned to defeat, and I think that's the root cause. Specifically (ish): To solve a tech problem in a clear context is easy and quick, so you adopt that system. Adoption means more reliance, dependencies, complexities. Soon, a problem arrives that is not easy to solve with all the baggage you've collected...but solving it OUTSIDE of that baggage is easy. Cycle repeats.
At a large scale: Software is a bit unique in that we get to code our own tools. What I can do in an hour after 5 years on a problem is far more than I can do in an hour with nothing - that learning and those tools get encoded into a library/framework/language, which becomes the hot thing. But now it can't itself change without violating assumptions relied on by everything using it, which means the rate of adding learned knowledge to it slows, while the rate of adding to "competing" systems does not. Eventually they are just plain faster/easier/better, and they become the hot thing.
The reason this is significant is that we're still learning how to program. We're actually REALLY BAD AT IT - programs are to translate between humans and computers, and those two do not think alike. We're embedding complexity and then suffering because there is complexity.
We're learning, but that is an iterative process- eating itself, as you say. Once the field approaches the age of medicine or law, we'll be as good (or as bad) at managing change as they are, but until then we're can't really compare directly.
[Edit: their/there mixup]
Even as individuals they need to adopt to newer lessons. If anything its harder in their case. Gaining a new skill or learning something new is way easier for an old programmer than for an old doctor to learn something new in their practice.
If you have chosen a knowledge based profession, you have to learn all life. Or its over.
These are like the fundamental rules of this game.
IBM's lawyers are surely aware of this. This is likely going to be painful for them and they did it anyway knowing the liability.
No matter how skilled and engaged you are, there are plenty of places that will do their best to eliminate you from any hiring process before you even get to the onsite, and they will make absolutely sure you will not pass the onsite if you somehow get there despite their best efforts.
I'm thankfully not at that stage in my career yet, but I've seen hiring managers casually tossing excellent resumes just because the bachelor's graduation year implied the candidate was "too old".
But that’s not a layoff. A layoff is when the job doesn’t need to be done anymore. It’s completely orthogonal to the performance of the person doing that job. And as you say, performance review based shafting is a very easy thing for a company to do, and many do do it under the guise of “stack rankings”
I mean, presumably they were cheaper in the past.
But firing the 10 older engineers, you may be killing the present. Even with no bias, it's not easy to know what the right answer is.
Most likely he'll stay until he gets a better offer (if he's a good performer) or gets laid off in a couple of years (if he's a poor performer).
They need to do the same sort of analysis to include age and make sure there isn't a bias towards older workers.
By that logic, men should also be disproportionately represented in the group that got fired.
I’d be curious to know.
And does that count as sex discrimination?
In a practical legal sense, generally no. Discrimination against a class that many believe is already over-represented is almost never prosecuted. It can happen, in fields (e.g. nursing) or workplaces where men are the minority, but it's rare. Otherwise, the attitude is that no social good comes from prosecuting such cases. Not saying it's right or wrong, and undoubtedly such discrimination can create real victims, but that seems to be the prevailing view.
That's how 22-35 year old you sounds.
It's annoying and shouldn't be necessary - but it's also fairly low effort (lower effort than concocting fake annual "goals" to be striving towards when our work changes more rapidly than that) and has given me comfort in more than one "tight budget" situation at various companies. Anything low-effort that keeps anxiety in check is worth it, and if it actually proves useful, then bonus. Also, my managers tend to LIKE getting this written feedback from others, because they can cut-and-paste it or refer to it in their evaluations, which makes THEIR lives easier (no one likes evaluations).
It's one of the few clickbait-ey headlines that actually delivered, and I recommend the same advice to anyone else.
The way I built security for myself was to maintain a network of people who know me and my work, and make sure that network is distributed across many companies. When I am in need of work, I reach out to them.
Anything you do to increase your survival odds at the company you are in is still putting all your eggs in one basket.
There's no way to attach dollar values to good feedback. There's no good way to quantify technical leadership or experience. They'll fire a senior over a junior simply because they're cheaper. They'll make some vague promises about grooming the junior or providing "growth opportunities". But really, it's about the $$$.
>>When someone thanks me for some extra effort I can say "Happy to help, feel free to sing my praises to email@example.com :) ".
Many times people making lay off decisions have no idea who you are, or what you have been doing. This is true in the case of mass lay offs. And they don't exactly run a search on the company's email database to see who received the accolades.
Its mostly political equations that come to play in these situations, not merit.
But safety is only part of the concept, it's more like "accuracy". More than once I've been "the only one that knows XXX system" (and yes, that's bad, but there are very few companies where that doesn't happen) - but that's a statement that people on the ground know and people above don't. This sort of approach reduces that disconnect.
Still though, nothing is 100%, this was just a low-effort option. If one wishes to assume that nothing matters except the schmooze, go for it - I prefer this option.
It's also astonished me how at least some of the people trying to find the young devs who will work long hours are going to be in the discriminated group in a few years time! They don't seem to realise that by perpetuating the discrimination they're making themselves the future victims. It's a bizarre kind of cognitive dissonance.
He has some pretty good insight and stories about this.
0 - https://twitter.com/jachee/status/867209621093703680
It's no surprise so many people deny the less overt racism and sexism!
Nobody seems to care about the 18 year who can produce a lot of good work, but isn't likely to be paid even a third of what an equally capable 40 year old makes. How is that fair?
I never made decent money programming until I became an independent contractor. (For reference, I probably have been a developer longer than you’ve been alive.)
Would you say the same thing if someone used similar dog whistles to talk about old people?
IE, "oh, being able to move quickly and think on your fit is important, and sometimes this can only be gained by being in good physical shape, and having good health, like a young person would have".
Either discrimination is OK or it isn't. One person's justifications aren't any different than another person's.
So yes, you are allowed to discriminate on those sorts of things. If the attribute you are discriminating for is relevant to the job, it is ok to discriminate.
Take, for example, discrimination against the physically disabled - if a construction company requires that you are able to lift 50 pound bags of concrete, it wouldn't be guilt of unlawful discrimination because that is required for the job.
On the other hand, if you require someone be able to lift a 50 pound bag, but their job is to sit at a desk and program a computer... then you would be found guilty of unfair discrimination against the disabled.
IE age discrimination.
Either age discrimination is morally OK or it isn't.
I'd be fine with either the situation of age discrimination being disallowed or allowed, across the board, regardless of whether the discrimination is against young or old people.
Either way. I just want age discrimination against young and old people to be treated exactly the same.
If you don't want to be banned, you're welcome to email firstname.lastname@example.org and give us reason to believe that you'll follow the rules in the future.
I don't care whether it is legal or not. If you are engaging in this discrimination you are exactly morally the same as any other person engaging in discrimination, whether that be based on age, sex or race.
There are lots of places in the world where discrimination on race, gender, and sexual orientation is legal.
And people who engage in this kind of behavior, even when it is legal, are still horrible people, and should be treated as such, by society.
It is fully within my rights to judge horrible people, and to also treat horrible people as they deserve to be treated (ie, I will treat them poorly, as they deserve).
People are often under the mistaken impression that the only way to punish someone is through the law.
That's incorrect. There are many many perfectly legal ways to punish horrible people, and there are even methods of punishing horrible people that are illegal but you are unlikely to get caught for.
Wut? This number seems wildly off to me.
I would guess young people are more eager to change/try new things whereas older people are more reluctant to change or stray from their "tried and true" methods.
The same cannot be said of a white person vs. a black person.
As I mentioned elsewhere, as I got older I am more skeptical/cynical of many fads/trends, and this "attitude" is often not valued by management. The thing is, I'm right more often than wrong and would bet my own money on such if I could. The fear of keeping up with the e-joneses has made our industry stupid. Fads/trends are poorly vetted for fit.
Warren Buffett has made similar observations about faddism in the financial industry, and he has the fat bucks to prove he's right.
So, you're not hired on how to solve a problem now, you're hired on how much you know their desired solution. This isn't engineering, you're not helping desig action, you're implementing it.
One of the huge failures in this sense is that tech has assumed priority over user value. Like your users give a shit about microservices, React, Vue, etc. etc. when you're using more of your runway on the infrastructure and not on the solution they want.
Most of this stuff has little value to most businesses. So if you push back you don't get hired; you have to find the places mature enough to understand why you would push back at all.
Lots of people can be trained to be implementers and do valuable work. But we also don’t have stable best practices so that makes it harder. The line between engineer and implementer is blurred because an implementer constantly has to evaluate which new things should really be best practices.
Further, if people don't see the "latest" UI on their screen, they become afraid that the underlying technology is "behind" even if it technically satisfies a business goal. Books are judged by covers.
Young vs. old is different. A young person with 5 years of Java << an old person with 5 years of Java. Hence you must pay the old person 3x more because of all of their non-Java experience.
Not necessarily. I suspect what happened is IBM used to pay that way, but the industry practice has changed (for good or bad), but they fired based on current industry practice instead of their original practice, making it come out lopsided by age.
Anecdotally, my company is an ANSI C + ClearCase shop. Anytime discussion comes up about transitioning to safer languages like C++ or about using different VCS like Git or Mercurial it is shot down immediately by the senior developers who feel that those things are faddish.
Anecdotally, my parents always hated Windows and Microsoft Office upgrades because they would no longer be able to navigate the UIs. They became extremely resistant to upgrading anything that required them to relearn anything.
Heck, there's ancient adage "you can't teach an old dog new tricks" - why does that saying exist if it doesn't contain a kernel of truth??
There may be some older developers who are the exception to this, but my argument is that generally the older you get, the more entrenched your opinions and patterns become.
That's not necessarily a bad thing since those opinions and patterns were forged through decades of experience and hence contain much wisdom, but at a certain point when you are still using ANSI C and ClearCase in 2018 because there's "no need to switch to faddish version control like Git when ClearCase works perfectly fine" you are no longer fairly evaluating the technologies available on the market.
In addition, switching the VCS your company uses is possibly not what your engineering organization should focus on. I don't know enough about your company to say if switching away from ANSI C is worthwhile.
Books on coding technique won't help much, because one needs experience to understand the point those books try to make.
Did you seriously just use a stereotype as evidence.
A lot of people will also cry "oh god!" or something similar when they find themselves in a difficult situation, but that doesn't mean they believe in god; some do, many don't and still use the phrase. What's more, it doesn't mean there is a god. It's just something that people say.
Please keep the discussion civil.
Im not a young dev anymore, but I can see why the older crowd has the rap they do. It doesn't make ageism right, at all.. but I can understand how it has happened.
An entire generation of people like me who have heard our older loved ones say they need their "foxfire" fixed or whatever.
10 years ago this was more palatable. Now a days it is dissolving as more older people learn the technology and more older people want to learn the technology. I personally never want to stop learning. My colleague is well into his 50's and still takes college course in math and CS. It has challenged my own personal prejudices and pushes me to be better as well.
If you mean the average, then you're saying something no different from any other prejudice. You can't judge an individual by the statistics of some group s/he belongs to.
If you mean all young/older people, you've been really lucky with the young people you know and really unlucky with the older ones.
But beyond that, we as a society have decided that in many cases the benefits of using group based heuristics aren't worth the damage done to individuals within groups who are judged negatively.
Imagine you toss out all resumes with non-white sounding names because white people are statistically more likely to have x, y, or z characteristic. Even if there is a correlation to some characteristic that you are looking for (more likely to have a college degree, statistically higher income etc...), the damage you do to the individuals in the groups you are tossing out far outweighs any benefit you receive.
Management is so insulated from whats actually happening by all these layers nobody can effectively steer the organization, there are so many divisions and people that nobody can really track what is happening. The only thing that zIBM is actually really good at is managing its share price, and crafting it's artisinal financial statements so that nobody actually has any idea how bad it's doing. But we all know that zIBM revenue is declining for almost 10 years, so it's going to be a long slow crawl to zIBMs true final fiscal death.
This comment is overall correct, though there were some isolated pockets of truly amazing/wonderful (some classified) things to enjoy working on since the mid-2010s.
That's the problem with playing the stock market: you've not only got to be right, you've got to be right at the exact right time or you'll get slaughtered.
That would be true for any company once their core set of products go out of trend without replacements.
Lets say tomorrow Google/Alphabet loses its search engine business, there is nothing much they can do but financially engineer the company in a way that is useful to share holders, which might include going into businesses many Google people now consider beneath their station.
IBM that way is an incredibly well run company.
Why would any company allow it's products and services to age out of the market? How would any other company survive such a thing?
If Google "loses" in the search engine space, it loses everything. Everything Google is and does, is financed by ad revenue from search. Without search, Google becomes a pauper.
To take this in the IBM direction: Assume they (GOOG) lose at search, all the devs abandon ship or are layed off, Google could still get business because it could coast on the street-cred it built back when it was successful. So as long as it has mind-share and the google brand does not get destroyed it could still persist on well after death, draining down it's resources and selling off subdivisions (essentially cannibalizing itself, much as IBM has done). Google could aggressively manage it's stock price to hide it's status from the plebs and milk government contracts (that other organizations can't even bid on) and cannibalizing itself and drawing down it's savings for many years. This is the story of IBM. Once the boomer generation is no longer in charge of anything then IBM will fully die, because they don't make anything or do anything that the average person cares about, so they're mindshare dies with the boomer generation.
The main difference is that as a startup, you the CEO know everybody in your startup, you know your sole customers, you know the product intimately. This allows you to focus on the product and "secret sauce" that differentiates your company as an investment from the rest of the market. But when you're a CEO of a large public company, you have too many employees to count, too many products to count, and too many customers to count. Financial instruments become a necessary abstraction to help deal with all that complexity.
I think I found myself in this dynamic a couple of times. Though I should point out that senior engineers have the same self-service bias of course, so you can't just take their word for it that a bad manager is to blame. I don't think it really helps to get consensus from the team either. Since once the manager has targeted a scapegoat, everyone knows it's risky for them to criticize their manager, and also one less senior guy on the team is good for their chances of promotion.
The asymmetry of relational power between employer and employee/job-seeker and job-creator has gotten so bad in the American work force it should probably be studied as a real economic indicator.
Yep, Ive heard that. I only wish it were sarcasm. Questioning anything about capitalism and how it fails people is the ultimate taboo. Sure, you are allowed to grouse about it as lower class, but 'that was brought upon yourself'... It always is, in a system like ours.
I've heard it too. My response is usually equally quippy:
So, you hate money or having more negotiating power? Which is it?
Sometimes the people I've deployed that at are smart enough to get the point quickly and a much more enjoyable debate can spring forth. But then there are the real wackos. The true believers who if you asked them today, would probably look you square in the eye and ask you if you were joking after you told them Joe McCarthy was dead.
I hear so many stories from the 90's and early 00's about how wonderful the corporate environments I now work in were great places to work with great benefits, happy workers, constant raises and opportunities for bonuses, some people even got a guaranteed $1 yearly raise. Now some grandfathered people that have been here that long are making $50-60/hr for a job they now pay $25/hr for. That environment is long gone and it seems things are only getting worse on a daily basis unless you're a Software Engineer and I don't doubt the hammer will come down on them soon as well.
Why would you joke about something like that? (https://giphy.com/gifs/YVBC4HdSpB7z2)
I've actually been working towards making an exit from tech-actually part of that preparation is lowering my living expenses because it's going to come with a substantial drop in annual income to pursue the goals I'm pivoting towards.
Which, I'm actually fine with because I'm envisioning and plotting for a substantial QOL upgrade, or at least an upgrade to the mental stress doing what I've wanted to since the start.
Indeed. Companies don’t hire just for fun, but because they have a plan and they need Workers to execute that plan. When layoffs happen it is always the fault of the planners but always the Workers who take the fall.
It should be automatic, every layoff requires the C-suite to go too.
I've never seen management axed ever. I dream of it though.
Is it a case of corporate douchebaggery, hiring recent grads at half the salary of the veterans and then laying off the veterans? Or is it 'lay off the fogeys that can't let go of Fortran 77 long enough to learn Java or JS or C#' I've seen both circumstances in my career. Given that it's IBM, I am inclined towards the former.
That is a really good question. The short answer is that it's generally legal to consider salary demands in a hiring situation, but not in the context of firing or laying people off. On the other hand, it's super easy to muddy those waters. Change the performance requirements for the level that's full of older workers, and put them on improvement plans when they're found wanting. Phase out their current role, and oh look, there are no new roles requiring their skills so they'll have to take a demotion or quit. And many other tricks. Ultimately it all comes down to intent and effect, not the pretext the company uses.
This is just plainly untrue. See Hazen Paper Co. v. Biggins.
ADEA (Age Discrimination in Employment Act) is the law that relates to age discrimination. The Supreme Court ruled that it is not de facto illegal to consider pensions, or other things that are correlated with age (such as salary), as long as the intent was not to discriminate based upon age.
ERISA (Employee Retirement Income Security Act) is a law that narrowly deals with pensions. It does not address age discrimination more generally.
Your statement that "[it's generally not legal] to consider salary demands ... in the context of firing or laying people off" is factually inaccurate.
You, meanwhile, have cited nothing.
If you're going to play a lawyer online, learn the law. Using phrases like "plainly untrue" for areas of the law that are complex and still rapidly evolving isn't very constructive. As I said earlier, it's possible to use salary etc. in good faith, but it's risky and anyone who does it had better be extra-prepared to document their processes in case of a challenge.
No you didn't, you said "The short answer is that it's generally [not] legal to consider salary demands [...] in the context of firing or laying people off."
> disparate impact alone carried the day in Smith v. City of Jackson.
Disparate impact absolutely did not "carry the day" in Smith v. Jackson, SCOTUS ruled against the plaintiffs. It ruled that disparate impact can be applied to ADEA, but with a much narrower interpretation than with Title VII. Specifically, they carved out very broad exemptions for "reasonable factors", which would in most cases include salary.
In fact, even in that very case "reasonable factors" included salary! SCOTUS ruled unanimously in favor of the employer--specifically ruling that seniority/pay grade IS a reasonable factor.
Try reading the analysis of the case (or even the actual opinion, or maybe even just learning to read) before being so patronizing.
> maybe even just learning to read) before being so patronizing
That's very hypocritical of you. I've given you multiple chances to engage in an honest way. You've declined every time. Past experience tells me that it's not worth my time to keep trying. Go peddle your pro-age-discrimination views elsewhere.
No, they didn't. The majority opinion did conclude that disparate impact is cognizable under ADEA, but it specifically addressed whether it would apply to the claim in that case and found that it wouldn't. There was a technicality (no relevant practice identified) but the court went further than that.
> Turning to the case before us, we initially note that petitioners have done little more than point out that the pay plan at issue is relatively less generous to older workers than to younger workers. They have not identified any specific test, requirement, or practice within the pay plan that has an adverse impact on older workers. As we held in Wards Cove, it is not enough to simply allege that there is a disparate impact on workers, or point to a generalized policy that leads to such an impact. Rather, the employee is “ ‘responsible for isolating and identifying the specific employment practices that are allegedly responsible for any observed statistical disparities.’ ” 490 U.S., at 656 (emphasis added) (quoting Watson, 487 U.S., at 994). Petitioners have failed to do so. Their failure to identify the specific practice being challenged is the sort of omission that could “result in employers being potentially liable for ‘the myriad of innocent causes that may lead to statistical imbalances … .’ ” 490 U.S., at 657. In this case not only did petitioners thus err by failing to identify the relevant practice, but it is also clear from the record that the City’s plan was based on reasonable factors other than age.
> Thus, the disparate impact is attributable to the City’s decision to give raises based on seniority and position. Reliance on seniority and rank is unquestionably reasonable given the City’s goal of raising employees’ salaries to match those in surrounding communities. In sum, we hold that the City’s decision to grant a larger raise to lower echelon employees for the purpose of bringing salaries in line with that of surrounding police forces was a decision based on a “reasonable factor other than age” that responded to the City’s legitimate goal of retaining police officers. Cf. MacPherson v. University of Montevallo, 922 F.2d 766, 772 (CA11 1991).
> While there may have been other reasonable ways for the City to achieve its goals, the one selected was not unreasonable. Unlike the business necessity test, which asks whether there are other ways for the employer to achieve its goals that do not result in a disparate impact on a protected class, the reasonableness inquiry includes no such requirement.
> Accordingly, while we do not agree with the Court of Appeals’ holding that that the disparate-impact theory of recovery is never available under the ADEA, we affirm its judgment.
The opinion is very approachable, I genuinely encourage you to try reading it. I don't know where you're getting your facts from but they're objectively inaccurate.
> That's very hypocritical of you.
You're right, I'm sorry for that.
To me, a layoff is about trimming expenses and retaining the maximum value/output per dollar of future total salary.
If that means that person A is (perceived to be) more valuable per dollar spent on salary than person B, person A should be more likely to be retained. Why should that be illegal (or even judged to be DB behavior)?
In theory, a company is paying a person to deliver value, not simply to have been stably at the company (or in their career or "be old"), right? (If context matters, I'm 47 and so "old" by some measures...)
Think of it this way, the output of an exec (like all managers) is an organization that functions well. If a well functioning group gives an average 10% improvement in productivity to everyone (which, if you think about the delta between the best and worst teams/groups you've been a part of is on the low side) that's 1000x the contribution of an IC for a company of 10,000 people.
Is Elon Musk worth 1000x the value of a randomly selected Tesla employee to Tesla? I think probably so. (Compare the market cap impact of Elon's sudden departure or incapacitation to that of another randomly chosen employee as just one proxy.)
I'm assuming this is just an excuse and it has more to do with the fact that their older workers have higher salaries. But would the defense "we fired older workers because they were paid more" hold up in court?
edit: I'll answer my own question. According to an article I found :
> The United States Supreme Court has held that an employer does not violate the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, 29 U.S.C. §§ 621-634, by acting on the basis of a factor, such as an employees’ pension status, seniority or salary, that is empirically correlated with age.
"Age discrimination may exist, however, where an employer terminates an employee based on a factor such as experience or salary where the employer presupposes a correlation with age and uses that factor as a proxy for age."
That is in fact what ultimately happened with Hazen, by the way. The use of proxy criteria as a facade for discrimination has been addressed in many other discrimination/quota cases, and courts routinely see right through it. So the answer to your question is basically no, unless the employer can prove that they were more than normally oblivious to the disparate effect their choices would have. I don't think any of IBM's lawyers are likely to suggest such a defense.
Unlike professionals like doctors, lawyers, and many accredited within their professions, we don't need degrees. I certainly don't have a stem degree, and many of my friends, some of whom make a third to half a million dollars in the Northeast of the US (not SV), don't have any college degrees at all.
We're able to learn and shift, going from developer to sysadmin, architect, manager or security professional and back again. Pre-sales anyone?
We can choose relaxed, helpful-to-society non-profit companies, mean, 24/7 work ethic startups with monthly death marches, low-salary beer keg outfits with bright colored furniture, boring investment banks or many other.
We have a sort of highly competitive meritocracy where I can go home and learn something I happen to know is hot in the market, and maybe climb the hierarchy (maybe).
On the other hand, I'm pushing 40.
That means events beyond my control are pushing me down the hierarchy, or at the very least making the ladder rungs more slippery.
Would you take it all back and pick a different profession, if my assessment is balanced?
Would that have been illegal?
I _do_ wish there was some way to eliminate "dummy" interviews--interviewing older people but with no intention to hire, just to make the numbers look good. In my recent experience, this seems to be fairly common.
What if that same sentence weren't about age, but were about gender or race or sexual orientation? Genuinely curious... seems like it would be the same argument, but then some people feel age shouldn't be a protected class like the other ones are.
(If this seems paranoid, take a look at the detailed stats Google released about their workforce and observe what's been happening to their tech white male category.)
EDIT: Somehow, the parent comment this was made as a reply to (notacoward's above-thread) has moved, and this comment has become top-level (and a non-sequitur). Is this a bug?
The reality is that years of experience in the general area include a lot of transferable skills to actually deliver in a landscape of new versions and languages. That landscape won't suddenly stop changing to make whoever learned only what was hot in the last 3 years a stable senior engineer, but pretending it will is a great way to cut out any older engineers.
Domain knowledge and experience is criminally underrated nowadays. A company I've worked for is currently going through one fire after another constantly because the executives haven't valued domain knowledge and has forced or outsourced just about everyone who knows anything about the projects that they still have paying clients for and need to support to keep making revenue, and things are just barely not falling completely apart (looks like things are going to get worse here pretty soon though).
And this isn't even ageism, really, even the young devs that have only been there a couple of years are being forced out.
Yes they could but seeing that most companies don’t, why not just accept reality for what it is and study and keep yourself marketable? I’m in my mid 40s and I make it a point to stay qualified for the well paying developer/architect jobs that come in my email. When I see that the company I am working for isn’t going to keep me marketable, it’s time to leave.
Hiring people based on skills is perfectly fine. Hiring people (or firing them, which is what this is about) and just saying it's about skills often is not. That's why I put "skills" in scare quotes. It's like when companies use "culture fit" to mean whichever races, genders, and fads the founders feel comfortable with. It's not that culture fit isn't a real thing, but much more often it's a shibboleth (or "dogwhistle" in current parlance). Similarly, "skills" is clearly the messaging IBM has chosen. Now it's up to them to prove that they were truly making efforts to optimize skills and not something else.
Disparate impact analysis will require them to prove something closer to that they actually we're optimizing skills, not just making efforts to, at least presuming that the unequal impact prong is proven.
> Calling out unsubstantiated claims
Are you seriously not aware of how "culture fit" is used in the real world? Citations are generally not needed for common knowledge. Water is wet. 2+2=4. Asking for citations in such cases is just a harassing tactic. There's even a cartoon about it.
You still have yet to address the actual topic. Stop stalking; start contributing.
There is also an element of cargo-culting in government procurement, where they think that if all the proper rituals are being observed they must lead to the right result.
It probably works well when procuring janitorial services, but with IT it just helps cement lock-in.
I know the refrain, they need to switch to X, Y, or Z. Well the issue always comes down to, they don't know everything their current A, B, and C, platforms do. Then you look at all the touch points and realize that to swap X for A you suddenly need to get D through G to re engineer their solution too
Whether consulting will be the thing that gets them through the next few decades is the real question.
There's a really good business profit-oriented reason to discriminate: older workers ask for more money, defend their interests better, and generally are less open to things like death marches, on-call and such.
I don't know what the solution is. I'm pumping my money into income-producing real estate assets as a hedge, while I sell myself as a consultant. But I can already smell the difficulties that lie ahead.
Some friends climbed the corporate ladder into senior management. That works, too, but it's a slog and you better enjoy it.
A civil engineer who has built 10 bridges or a doctor with hundreds of operations behind them is much more valued than those entering the field.
Why would this not apply in software, surely someone who has built tons of products has valuable experience or is there some other factor at work that is devaluing experience?
This will also impact decisions to study more as that shortens potential career time, if this is the case then for those choosing streams in engineering maybe choosing another is a more rational decision.
Yes it is. Look out there now at the huge "shortage" of software developers. Meanwhile the 50+ yo IBM guys laid off here will struggle to ever find computer work again.
Most software engineers work on proprietary code that no one is allowed to examine. So you have no idea if the principal engineer you are about to hire is really good at his craft or not because you cannot examine his prior art, it being proprietary to his previous company.
Bridges are built largely the same way as they were 100 years ago. Software built today looks different from software built 10 years ago. So when a hiring manager sees a software engineer with 25 years of experience, they can basically ignore the first 10-15 years as irrelevant.
Imagine someone who has spent the last 25 years learning everything there is to know about SQL Databases. They aren't going to do very well in a lot of environments today with NoSQL all over that have only been around en masse for ~10 years.
Maybe that hiring manager is wrong. Maybe he's not. The engineers with 5 years experience have the same keywords the hiring manager is looking for on their resume as the engineer with 25 years experience. Maybe they aren't really as adept, but since we seem to be unable to really get a good reliable measure on skill, the difference between those engineers looks very small on paper. The project is likely to turn out the same at the end of the day anyway.
So when you do the math at the end of the day, the more junior engineers look like a better deal (and they really might be).
Companies like young workers because not only is their real value substantially lower than experienced employees, but because they also tend to have a poor understanding of themselves even being worth that value. They also tend to have few obligations outside of work and may be more anxious to try to 'prove' themselves. Older workers tend to not only demand more money but also have a much better understanding of their worth, and their role. They're not going to be trying to prove anything to anybody, and they are also going to generally have obligations outside of work, such as family.
You can see this view and its effect play out very visible in other areas of IBM. For instance as of last year IBM became primarily an Indian company, in at least as much as they have more Indian engineers than American engineers. And given they not that long ago had practically 0 Indian engineers and nearing 100% American engineers, that means they were actively firing Americans to hire Indians. Racism? Obviously not. It's the exact same thing in play. This doesn't mean I in any way support what they're doing. But at the same time I also don't support using emotionally charged buzzwords to try to rally against it.
It's good reading.
I don’t know how they’re determining people to fire. My opinion is that they’re pruning the moochers
It will be disabled, BAME etc that will get targeted / put on pip's etc.
That being said, my dad was hired by IBM Canada at age ~55, as a developer, and he retired of his own free will at 70 3-4 years back. The clients respected his knowledge, experience, approach and output tremendously; and in turn IBM management recognized his value. His local management begged him to stay in any capacity - part time, consultant, anything - but he felt he could not easily keep up with daily demands anymore, and that time has come for him to hang the keyboard & mouse.
During his tenure he received a promotion/band increase, and was frequently encouraged to go for a second promotion/band increase, but did not want to go to management track.
Note that he was in consulting services, which may have completely different culture than in-house development, with which I have limited exposure.
I myself am a current IBM employee; for my first decade, I was constantly the junior member of the team - if anything, we had a reverse issue where we weren't hiring new grads but instead prized experience and leadership skills. Eventually recognizing this gap, last few years we had a flurry of programs to bring in fresh blood. At 40, I'm still probably near the median and average age on many projects I've been part of. Occasionally I get a bit jealous at rapid career progress of some of the brighter new hires, who are taking advantage of paths, programs, and culture of promotion we didn't have when I was in their spot, but I recognize that if things are getting better, that is an overall good thing and just because I missed out / didn't have that opportunity, doesn't mean nobody else should - quite the opposite :).
I've been called an IBM lifer before, and the nickname is somewhat likely to stick. I'm not particularly worried about age, I see it as up to me to demonstrate my value, and have a lot of good role models and examples in technical and technical leadership roles around me who are senior in age to me to gain some confidence I'm not deluded.
That being said, this is a personal anecdote and not anecdata; milleage will differ in different parts and situation of IBM. It's a publicly traded technical company that's survived for a century, and it (we? they? whatever the appropriate pronoun is:) did not do so by being overly emotional. I've seen IBM cut commodity hardware (HDD, Thinkpads, then x-series), and I've seen IBM cut commodity business units and teams; so I'm actively trying not to be a commodity person that's in the crosshairs, I suppose - would be true in any company as I'm actively aware nobody has guarantees of job for life anymore. I've trained youngsters and off-shore replacement several times to take over my roles, and just had to keep swimming up to keep my head above the water :-)
- My 100 Turkish Lirae :->
This should be an undervalued labor pool given how discriminatory things sound. It would seem like a business opportunity?
If you've got folks willing to work equal or longer hours more efficiently with more experience and more current knowledge for equal pay as the 20 year old out of college - that seems like a no brainer?
Besides, you have no way of knowing how long people will work for you and younger employees are more mobile.
very very very much doubt this is going anywhere. my money is that this is a publicity stunt for the lawyer, who’s done other similar high profile cases.