my husband (leonagano) had faced ageism in his job hunting journey, especially because the tech environment sometimes attracts young people and the more experienced professionals are being left behind. Wearing my journalist hat, I started looking for ways to help and fight ageism.
After further research, I realised this is actually a common problem among the IT industry as stated in some articles from the likes of The Guardian (https://www.theguardian.com/careers/2017/aug/14/women-ageism...), Wired (https://www.wired.com/story/surviving-as-an-old-in-the-tech-...), Forbes (https://www.forbes.com/sites/marenbannon/2019/04/10/the-bigg...), Bloomberg (https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2019-05-17/75-year-o...)
That's when I decided to start this job board and hopefully, try to reduce this problem to the minimum possible
Sometimes, the problem happens during the job description, where the "older" professionals feel excluded when words like tech-native, ninja, etc are used, according to Dice (https://insights.dice.com/2018/02/28/employers-welcome-tech-...)
> In other words, many older people would sooner thrash on the floor in distress than press a button — one that may summon assistance but whose real impact is to admit, I am old.
He's talking about products designed for baby boomers, but I suppose the same "eternal truth" as he puts it (i.e. "identity matters to us far more than utility") could factor in here.
He offers this observation in the article:
> The most effective way of comforting the aged, the researchers there find, is through a kind of comical convergence of products designed by and supposedly for impatient millennials, which secretly better suit the needs of irascible boomers. The best hearing aids look the most like earbuds. The most effective PERS device is an iPhone or an Apple Watch app.
Good luck and keep us posted on how things work out.
I'm the sort of guy who held off wearing glasses for about 2 years because I didn't want to seem "old", but I wholeheartedly embrace a community like this job board where I don't have to second guess whether I will make it past round one because my birth year predates man walking on the moon.
Programmers love short cuts. Older programmers are wise enough to see this as another way to bypass all those crappy hurdles that younger orientated startups will put in our way, IMO.
Rather than, "Here's a site for older programmers," it could be, "Here's a site that will help you bypass all those crappy hurdles that younger orientated startups will put in your way."
Of course, I wouldn't be surprised if a lot of younger programmers started flocking to that site as well. I know I would. But then I'm old enough to be protected by the ADEA myself.
Mind if I ask where you are? I'm almost 50 and haven't really seen any overt signs of ageism in my area. My pet theory is that it is much more regional than usually presented and am curious where which regions have it more than others. Thanks.
I have other colleagues similar age to me who cannot get bookings for speaking gigs any more despite decades of experience doing so. One, who was instrumental in getting Microsoft off the ground in Australia back in the day is constantly told she is "not a good fit" when applying for a Product Manager position at local startups.
As a 45 year old I solved it by starting my own company and using that to my strength.
However I would caution against using the mcKinsey report as any kind of evidence or guide for thinking about diversity.
It's the same claims we see when it comes to gender too.
The reality is that there are no studies showing that in general companies who were not diverse and then decided to be more diverse by some of those mentioned metrics were suddenly performing better.
A much more likely interpretation is that companies who are doing well financially tend to be able to care more about ex diversity.
You could literally have a team of 20 old female/male geezers be just as diverse as a team with the most mixed combination of ages, genders and ethnic groups you could find.
What matters in my experience is what kind of diversity we are talking about and how it's used, not just whether there is diversity.
What matters is the market and that it allows for diversity itself.
You could have a team of only 20 year olds and you can have a team of +45 year olds and they would both offer something different to the market.
I don't think you even need to worry about that part to be honest.
The benefits of age are enough:
More experience, better ability in general to prioritize, focused on their work, less likely to work themselves too hard, more stability, less likely to switch jobs for the next great opportunity etc.
I left SV tech scene due to ageism, and retarded business models and joined Cannabis Tech Industry.
I am building out some serious tech-stack for managing cannabis cultivation and manufacturing.... (doesnt matter that the product is cannabis) - but this is the industry vertical that can really benefit from deeply experienced techs from SV into this space.
Basically, it works as a multiplier; in this space, one vet tech is worth 5X people for their needs. They wont hire 5X 20-somethings that only know one small portion of the stack requirements for all aspects of running a successful cannabis business, and will value those who are capable across broad reach.
If age discrimination is actually happening in tech that means there is a large amount of people 40+ that are not being properly valued in the market.
It'd be cool to explicitly target these people by having jobs ads only for people 40+ (and it'd be neat to have mentorship of younger hires be a component of these jobs).
No idea how that would work out, but seemed interesting to target for recruiting.
Some countries age discrimination is not even considered a crime.
The problem detected is: in tech, the age discrimination starts earlier than 40, but at 36. What companies need to realise is a diversity staff can generate more money and produce more
It's not a crime in the US, either.
It is a statutory tort, though.
Also I don't like it as an internship program. Interns generally do useful work, their internship project is something that the hosting team needs. STEP interns generally don't, their project is educational (that is, won't be used), and the internship involves a lot more lectures (as in, sitting in a conference room and listening to somebody). It's good for some people I guess but if you wanted to "work at Google", STEP isn't it. It is a foot in the door towards getting in as a regular intern next year, though, so if you're OK with wasting a summer then it's a good option.
Oh, one more thing -- interns are currently enrolled in a university (which explains the ages).
I got that from this wonderful book, btw: https://www.amazon.com/Supermen-Seymour-Technical-Wizards-Su...
I mentioned 1951 because organizations were so much less flexible back then, making the example more compelling. I was going to say that, but then I remembered that in the book it talks about how the engineers at that company would bring their dogs to work, so it was obviously atypical.
This is just as silly as complaining that a moving company only hires people that are strong enough to lift a piano and women complain about sex discrimination because women tend to be much weaker.
It must be allowed to discriminate based on ability, even if a certain ability correlates trongly with age, sex or something else.
"[W]hatever that may mean," indeed. It doesn't mean anything, and that's the problem. "The right sort of people," is what it really says, and it's not the first time in history that it's been used. All stereotypes are ineffective and self-defeating. If in your own mind you've associated "good engineers == tech native == young" then you'll probably miss out interviewing a lot of good engineers. And from their perspective that definitely constitutes discrimination. They never have a chance to demonstrate what they can do.
I think this is fortunately pretty rare in actual practice. I'm 58 and speak from some experience.
I suppose it's because we were self selecting as being interested in tech and as the tech was more primitive had to know more about it to get it working.
Even so, if you want to employ somebody who knows how to make the technology sit up and dance, employ somebody over 40 who was using computers when they were 10. If you want to employ somebody who knows how to read twitter and facebook then just pick the next kid in the street with their head buried. Good luck in getting their attention long enough for them to do your work though.
If my first immersion in tech was BASIC on a PDP-8 in the 70's when I was 12, does that make me tech-native or not?
If you are looking for somebody to do your social media campaign, then go with the "tech native". If you are looking for somebody to develop the next blockbuster social media platform, maybe you will need somebody who has done time in the trenches learning how to develop robust software.
And if they don’t actually believe in the tech native concept, why would they use it? You think they dislike people over 40 out of principle and just come up with excuses to avoid them, even when they fit their profile?
Wow! I rarely openly disagree with strangers on the internet but wow! I am currently focused on improving diversity and inclusion within my teams and the diversity of thought, approaches and outcomes that are a direct result of this effort are a delight. Progress may not always be in the right direction or slower than one expects but zigging and zagging towards the right thing is a reward in its own.
In the moving company example, it would be a mistake to optimize exclusively for physical strength in the hiring process - you're going to want someone who can work out the dimensions of things in their head to tell whether that table is going to fit through that door frame, someone who can put the homeowner at ease while you put their priceless heirlooms on a truck, etc.
In knowledge work, which is the domain I daresay most of us around here will actually be applying this to, there are far more of these variables, many of which are invisible to us. They impact a team's ability to, for example, devise innovative and robust solutions to problems by drawing on a wide range of inspirations, or design products that appeal to target markets beyond what any one team member might be familiar with. Valuing a diverse staff makes a reasonable proxy for these hidden variables.
Your argument, as I understand it, is that a company has the right to choose some characteristic and require that characteristic to be present at or above some standard level in all of the employees it hires. Which is fine, so long as it isn't one of these  (in which age is included).
However, I would argue that a term like "tech-native" is not a characteristic - it's a label, and it's loaded from the start. Imagine the moving company puts out a job ad saying that they're looking for "powerlifters" or "muscleheads" or something. What they _mean_ by that (or what they think they mean) is that they want people who are physically strong, regardless of any other characteristic. What they're _saying_ is that they want men, and no woman is going to read that posting and think that the poster is expecting women to apply. And when the candidate gets to the interview, the interviewer is going to try out that label on that candidate, and the label will inevitably be overloaded with connotations far beyond "physical strength" - with the best will in the world, the interviewer will end up selecting men at even a higher rate than they apply, because "masculinity" is part of the implicit set of characteristics attached to that label. The use of language in the want ad, rightly or wrongly, appeals to a certain type of candidate, and not only indicates but reinforces a preference for that type of candidate.
What would have been wrong with just saying "Must be able to lift 100 lbs", or "Must be comfortable with social media"? The term "tech-native" is an opaque neologism that doesn't mean anything other than the big ball of mixed-up stereotypes the HR person had in their head when they typed it, and a company that asks for "tech-natives" either doesn't know what they really want, or isn't willing to tell us straight out. Either way, we should be celebrating companies who don't use bs terms like that, which is exactly what OP is doing.
It sounds like OP was arguing along those lines in her last paragraph.
There are plenty of female powerlifters...
Happy to share more details about your company?
I ask because we just finished a job round, and it was so annoying posting our job on all the specialist job boards that apply to us. Every single one had a different enough form that I had to spend time working out how it would be displayed, what went where, dealing with the various problems (eg, we offer full time and part time and the number of sites that make you choose one was frustrating.). I would love there to be a standard data file format where I could have written up our job once, then just uploaded the same file/URL to each job site.
That said, well done for starting this and I wish you luck in tackling this problem.
Agreed this is annoying for job posters and we can discuss more how we could help you on that as well
Wait, so the company might have more job positions than the few you list on the website? I didn't realise that when I browsed, that should definitely be made clear.
Actually, if I can just email you a link to our own job page on our website that sounds nice and easy ... For me :-)
But, if you want this project to survive long term, you really need to sort out systems so your not doing manual work like that by hand. I've seen several projects in other areas that relied on the founder doing that, and they usually stop after a year or two. Your time is more valuable and is better spent on other things, too.
At the momwnt we can do manually but yes, in the long run we need to automate those job posts
Why exclude the older and inexperienced?
One difficulty is that real productivity is difficult to measure quantitatively, especially without putting actual effort into the measurement. Metrics like loc or hours-in-office are fairly meaningless but very easy to measure. Having weak middle/group management (very common in tech, for various reasons) relying on poor metric like this can easily lead you to a negative feedback cycle where you believe you are "better off" hiring a slew of young people, and your metrics "prove" it.
Now if you asked me 20 years ago to do any of the above for a job that pays < $40k (about $65k today) I would have said yes in a heartbeat. Many late nights spent at work because they offered free pizza. Weekend work because without money what else can I do? I said yes to every project because of the fear of saying no and being replaced. And it wasn’t being replaced that bugged me out so much, it was having the find a new job.
Today I know my worth and I’ll leave a company in 30seconds if they treat me wrong. Amazing what 10+ years of experience (edit: and savings) does to your psyche. Still gotta play the game of dumb exploitable tech expert to get through interviews to negotiations, but once there get paid bruh
Sometimes the hiring calculus maximizes quantity over quality.
I asked a manager why they didn't apply this model to subsequent projects, and never got much of an answer.
The heavily youth-driven focus of tech hiring has always struck me as ultimately very dumb. And I think this is also reflected in the god-awful interviewing practices that everyone is familiar with. I don't see older engineers promoting those practices that are talked about so much in the industry as being borderline absurd.
I'm less convinced that age has anything to do with good outcomes these days as is the discipline to do the responsible things, regardless of how little we wish to do those things.
The age might also act as a filter, since the best developers are often promoted to the management roles in their 40s and 50s, and are no longer writing much code themselves.
A legion of inexperience developers that you can shit on to work day and night can be spun into your managment being the saviour. A drama free experience contractor that does 9-5 and just delivers can't.
It goes all the way to the top though, because business is driven by those who can't really question or see through the bullshit.
Plus most of the experience guys will walk in the face of all the uselessness.
Or (another one I've suffered) "I see you have a book on X (new technology) on your desk, so you must be an expert in it". I honestly have more than once quickly shuffled a book into a drawer when seeing a project manager approach, just to avoid being given responsibility over a project using some new tech I've only just started to investigate.
I was making in annual salary 6 times what a new, high end Camaro cost. My 2 BR apartment cost me 8.5% of my gross salary.
Then some suits saw the problem, had the NSF have a team of economists estimate computing labor supply and demand curves, and then have the NSF write into research grants that so many students had to be supported and, hint, hint, could get students from Taiwan, South Korea, India, Greece, etc.
So, net, the main reason for the nonsense in hiring in computing is that there's no real shortage. When there was a real shortage, organizations would hire based on indications of talent and expect the employees to learn on the job enough to do the job. Now it appears that the employers have a list of 10 of their most important software tools in their stack and what to hire people with that particular list of 10 tools, with that particular stack -- not promising for either the organization or the employee.
For another, managers want their subordinates to be no threat, just secondary, submissive, subordinate, heads down coding, no bright ideas, no risk of the suit being shown to lack technical competence, etc. And, the more people the manager hires, maybe the more the manager gets paid; so hire a lot of inexperienced people instead of a few deeply experienced people -- empire building, goal subordination.
The non-technical suits need to start to catch on and get the IT departments being more productive and per dollar.
Since I joined, I have said no to all but 2 candidates I phone screened, and one of those I rejected in the onsite. We didn’t even ask a difficult question for people to implement, but people demonstrated their lack of thoughtfulness in how they approached problems.
I don’t care how old people are - one of my teammates has been at my workplace for a little under 30 years and is valued for his well-honed perspective, tireless QAing, and reliable execution. Regardless of age, I expect people to intelligently talk about tradeoffs, and keep an eye on the problem that is being solved & its effects on the end user.
The interesting thing about bigger companies is compensation stops matching up with the value created. Jumping up $100k-150k in total compensation usually correlates with an exponential increase in productivity increase from the person’s presence, and usually that increase is not from code.
Likewise, most of the offers I get from recruiters are absolutely terrible. 50+% are not a geographic match (and these come from LinkedIn, which knows this preference!), and many fail to specify one or all of: a. what company? b. where, or remote? c. what does the job entail? d. what is the compensation? But plenty of ramblings about "hyper growth unicorn startups".
Like the guy you're responding to gets at, I get matched by recruiters based on tools in my stack, not based on what, perhaps, I might want to learn. And I spend 2x on CoL and get 1/2 as much.
There's a certain category of engineer that is still scarce and in-demand, it's just a matter of figuring out how to convince people you are in that category.
If the people who see a shortage will list what they want, then it will likely boil down to (i) narrow technical topics that, with good documentation, people should be able to pick up quickly, (ii) technical work beyond narrow topics, e.g., new, maybe original, and for patents, publications, intellectual property and trade secrets, etc. where need talent, (iii) good language skills, e.g., reading, writing, speaking English, especially to help others understand, on technical and business topics, not the same as belle lettre, poetry, Shakespeare, and (iv) various soft skills where some girls in high school are better than some senior technical people.
To evaluate: For (i), if they have already learned lots of skills, then they should be a good bet for learning more. (ii) If they have done original work, e.g., published, maybe STEM Ph.D., then that should be grade A. On (iii), look at some writing samples, e.g., publications, documentation. On (iv), in the house, have a coach good at teaching the soft skills.
Presto, bingo, "Look, Ma, no more shortages!"
E.g., for skills, lots of job ads want experience with the software package R, relatively good for much of traditional applied statistics. Okay, I've done a LOT in both mathematical and applied statistics, never had any trouble getting the computing for the data manipulations, but never had occasion to use R. So, last week I took two hours and looked at R. For the statistics packages that are standard, there was nothing new for me. Yes, they have a programming language with its own key words, syntax, and object model and what look like nice ideas for packages and name spaces. Okay. Semi-whoopie. For some of the advanced statistics I have done and published, I saw nothing in their standard packages or the many others I found via Google searching. Okay -- the current packages are not comprehensive, just what we would expect.
BUT the biggie point is, R is to do data manipulations, commonly for statistics, but R is not a good place to learn statistics. To learn statistics there are lots of books, university courses, and papers. E.g., at one time I needed to learn about estimating the power spectra of second order stationary stochastic processes. Sooo, I found Blackman and Tukey, The Measurement of Power Spectra, at dinners dug in, in a few days wrote some illustrative code, showed the code to our target customer, and, presto, bingo, won the competitive bid with "sole source". So, I know some statistics and did well with a need for things new to me, and later did well with some statistics new to everyone and published the results, but I did not learn statistics via R, and R does not appear on my resume.
It appears that for nearly all recruiters, the necessary and sufficient condition for knowledge of statistics is R on a resume. Gee, before R was ready, that leaves out K. Gauss, K. Fisher, J. Neyman, A. Kolmogorov, J. Tukey, L. Breiman, A. Wald, D. Brillinger, E. Dynkin, E. Cinlar, and more. It also leaves out people one step beyond in, say, stochastic optimal control, R. Bellman, R. Rockafellar, R. Wets, D. Bertsekas, and from my dissertation, me.
It looks like what is wanted is people who needed to draw some graphs and did that with R and then moved on to doing some curve fitting and drawing graphs. So, that is their knowledge of statistics, with no knowledge of minimum variance, the Gauss-Markov theorem, t-tests, F-ratios, etc.
Gee, once I did some statistics: The company wanted some revenue projections, really package projections since they were shipping packages overnight. Yes, I went to college in Memphis and met some people. Well, we knew the current packages per day shipped. And we knew our planned capacity. So, essentially we needed to interpolate between these two.
So, how might the growth go? People had hopes, wishes, and intentions, various ideas in marketing, etc., but nothing with credible numbers. So, target customer hear about the service from current customers, so the rate of growth should be proportional to the number of current customers talking and the number of target customers listening. So, with time t (days), packages at time t y(t), planned size of the business b, we should have the rate of growth the calculus derivative d/dt y(t) = y'(t) as in
y'(t) = k y(t) (b - y(t))
for some constant k. So, an SVP and I tried various values of k, picked something reasonable, and drew a graph. Didn't use SPSS, SAS, Mathematica, MatLab, Excel, or R. The graph kept a crucial BoD Member and crucial investor from walking out and saved the company. Later I discovered that my rationalization of the two cases of proportionality was an axiomatic derivation of the logistics curve that long has been known as a good, first cut for viral growth. So, that was some statistics, but without R. Besides, needed to solve the differential equation, and R would not be much good at that; there is a closed form solution, and I found that. Gee, guys, all without R!
But if a guy these days wants to use some statistical software, they can pick from SPSS, SAS, Excel, Matlab, Mathematical, R, and more. But somehow among too many people, R remains the necessary and sufficient indication of knowledge of statistics. So, then, some people conclude that there is a shortage of good people in statistics.
Uh, HR recruiters, for "good people" in statistics, look at education, e.g., relatively good university courses, e.g., from Mood, Graybill, and Boas, good experience and accomplishments, e.g., power spectral estimation, and publications, e.g., distribution-free, multi-dimensional hypothesis testing. For R, f'get about R. Anyone good at statistics will use R if that is the best tool under the circumstances. Statistics is serious and as challenging as we please. R is secondary and relatively trivial and NOT the only good way to get the arithmetic done.
And, really, Mood, et al., is not as good as desired. In particular, the book is short on use of the crucial Radon-Nikodym theorem. E.g., (i) the book makes a mess out of the super surprising topic of sufficient statistics. (ii) The book gives a sloppy proof of the crucial Neyman-Pearson result. For (ii) I got impatient and worked out a proof from non-linear duality theory and the Hahn decomposition from the Radon-Nikodym theorem (R-N). The R-N result is really important, e.g., has a nice proof from von Neumann, but too few people in statistics know that result.
Better: Multivariate statistics, e.g., regression, is a perpendicular projection. So, the Pythagorean theorem applies. So, we get
total sum of squares =
regression sum of squares + error sum of squared
Right HR people, that IS the Pythagorean theorem. All without R! How 'bout that! Knowing that result is MUCH more important than knowing R.
One more: What is the single, all powerful approach to estimating a number from several other numbers? Or suppose we want to estimate the value of real random variable X from several variables in a random vector Y, with just meager assumptions. So, we want a function f so that our estimate of X is f(Y). Well there is a function g so that g(Y) = E[X|Y], and that is the unbiased, minimum variance estimate of X. Only a short derivation is needed. Well, in practice, the discrete version of that is just old -- and may I have the envelope, please? Drum roll, please. "RIP". And the answer is, old cross tabulation. Yes, if the dimension of Y is large, in practice we encounter the curse of dimensionality, but in principle we want g(Y) = E[X|Y] or the discrete version of that cross tabulation and in practice likely want that when we do have enough data. "Big data" anyone? We use statistical models, say, when we don't have that much data. Knowing that is more important than having used R instead of SPSS, SAS, ..., for doing the arithmetic.
We need unions.
EDIT: also devastating of course to the tens of thousands of people who would have to abandon the lives they've built in America.
I'm 40+, and have to say the last few years (working for Fortune 100 companies) I am truly mortified at the lack of skill in many of the younger folks I've worked with.
Also, generally speaking when I've had a younger boss I would say it's NEVER because they're qualified for the position. Generally it seems they've been able to pull the wool over their managers' eyes. Don't get me wrong, they have no bad intentions. All I'm saying is confidence can only get you so far in technology.
I've gone from being the wunderkind to being the over the hill grey beard, and I've seen some shit.
What I think happens is that every 4 or 5 years, there's a cycle of devolution. The new kids in school want to be that wunderkind - they choose therefore to ignore the wisdom of their elders and forge ahead into the darkness of their own knowledge with the light of their own hubris to guide the way. Many times, this is more than enough to build something great - often though, it results in failure.
But, every year, a new round of developers hits the scene, fresh from boot camp. These bring new (old) ideas to the scene, rebranded perhaps, refactored perhaps. This somehow has a devolutionary effect on the industry as older developers get moved off the production seats into management, and there isn't an effective turnover to the new guys, who then spend a few years re-inventing things and re-gaining the experience of the previous guy.
Things get re-invented. Regurgitated. Recycled. Eventually, a kind of stability occurs - and the new programmer becomes the old guy. The seats get changed again, and we go through the cycle again.
Oddly enough, as someone who has gone from being the 13-year old wunderkind and is now the near-50 old guy, the only way I've found to survive this cyclic regurgitation is to stay focused on the user.
Nobody cares if the user is young or old - what matters is if they're using something you built.
Ageism is real. I started my career with a healthy dose of it - although in the 80's it was a lot more common to have respect for ones guru's than it is today, I nevertheless didn't want to know a lot of the 'obvious' wisdom of my elders - and now I'm 10 years away from retiring from the career, seeing it from the other side of the fence, there is a great deal of 'obvious wisdom' I see the youth of the technology world today clearly ignoring, and pretty certain they're going to re-invent in a few years time, subjectively and objectively.
In my opinion, ageism happens because its hard to train people who have just escaped the hell of modern education, and all they want is the freedom to apply their skills and develop themselves, and their identities as skilled workers. Its hard for an old person to care about the stupidity of youth, because after all - if you've got the experience - you probably had a healthy dose of it too, and well .. you came out okay right?
If we want to deal with age-related complications in this industry, we should address the source of the problem: educating people, and being educated by people, is hard.
Not something that is affecting me, but something suddenly I've become more cognisant about it.
Yes I have noticed it in a disturbing number of cases. The easiest way to slide past in tech interviews is to look young and answer “stupid.”
But even more than that, there’s this uncanny valley where you’re not young enough to be young, but not old enough that people realize you have had seen things go well, and seen things go sideways. It’s uncanny because I find that I have to fight to be recognized or respected in ways that people of European descent (who’ve made it over the hump) don’t have to.
All-in-all, there’s a weird denial of age-related things going on in tech.
('Better' meaning better from the point of view of an employer).
You can up-skill for sure. But whether you can be recognized for it, versus treated as the outsider, is another thing. You can have all that skill but it confers no leverage.
As Walter Bright pointed out, skill doesn’t mean anything if there’s an industry-wide groupthink biased against age/experience.
The first time I recall hearing it, a colleague (very plugged into the dotcom startup scene) was at a big event where one of the more reputable FAANGs happened to have employees doing recruiting. Colleague saw a group of the employees hanging out and chatting, and was appalled by how they were just ripping on one of the people who had talked with them, because he was "old". I got the impression like of a clique of popular high school kids, mocking another student who was "ugly" or "poor", for having the audacity to ask out one of them. I recall being surprised, and thinking badly of them for acting that way, and I don't think I'd heard of that kind of age discrimination in software before.
I was aware of a positive "whiz kid" boost people could get, by being skilled ahead of their years, but not a negative bias towards people in 30s and 40s. (The majority of my work at that point had been at a technical software engineering company, where the developers in their 40s tended to be well-regarded.)
There's a company local to me that's been failing to deliver on their digital transformation for years because they can't hire the skills they need, but they refuse to interview me based on price, despite the fact it's costing them more to not deliver.
I think the market in the UK is a bit different though.
On extreme examples, as a consultant, I've had people reach out indicating a project is 'mission critical' and they're looking to get started 'ASAP'. At the first mention of rate (which I don't always like to do up front) it's suddenly not 'mission critical' anymore, and this 'top priority' is suddenly something that ends up being delayed 4-6 months while they go on the hunt for "the best" talent that fits their budget.
As far as I can tell it is a misguided sense of greed that paying for skill of any sort except management is a mark of failure that leaves money on the table.
I'm a contractor myself and made up rates are still a thing. The high end isn't any better than jobs I can see advertising for perms, and many of the companies advertise for perms before they'll consider contracts.
There's actually 3 companies that have been looking for my skillset for around the last 3 months, and they all refuse to even have a call with me because I don't fit in the rate bracket, but they'll keep looking regardless.
Maybe earning double is an exaggeration on my part though. For myself I earn 50% more as a contractor than as permanent (this is the net amount after taxes, holidays, accountant fees etc.)
Contractor: (Devops, high day rate)
750 x 220 = £165,000.
800 x 220 = £176,000.
Employee: (Devops, high salary) + Employers NI.
150,000 + 19,508.78 = £169,508.78
Said contractor would need to bring his own equipment, pay insurance, and deal with the risk of being let go arbitrarily, and won't get a bonus or pension contribs.
Now where the contractor can make out is, he can pay reasonable expenses, and he can act more tax efficent, especially if he doesn't pay himself more than the higher threshold.
For the record, I'm not a big fan of the politics that comes with being an employee, I like to just come in, do the work, and leave, so quite happy as a contractor.
These usually don't reflect that skilled IT is vastly different from desktop jocky, and that it's a well paid field, thus they're forced to use contractors or outsource.
Skill wise, they're probably same same.
But I definitely don't speak for "the london tech scene", just for my limited perspective on it. (And I'm not a parent so maybe that's not even what a child friendly workplace makes! :) ).
If someone has got 30 years of experience, employers/recruiters think it requires at least senior or manager position, while entry/mid level position appears "unsuitable".
They don't understand that after 3-5 years the diminishing returns flatten the output almost completely and the only thing that years of experience can tell is the arithmetic difference between current year and the year of graduation.
The matters are surely made worse by the current FAANG tendency to ignore whether the experience is relevant. If someone has never wrote a line of Java before, a junior position with quick promotion is the most fair and logical choice. But if their resume shows 7+ years of any coding experience at all it wouldn't even pop up in recruiter's search because of how they set up their filters for junior positions.
I'm not saying the kind of ageism thats being discussed here doesn't exist - the "brogrammer", "culture fit" kind of discrimination. But I think its probably blown out of proportion. Especially for non-bay area companies, it seems like whenever somebody talks about "tech companies" they are referring to a very specific kind of tech company that is really only a relatively small portion of the industry.
They don't understand that after 3-5 years the diminishing returns flatten
Having multiple repeats of the same year's experience never helps anyone, whether it's 2 years or 20. But 10-15 years of good experience puts you far ahead of 5.
The old joke about this had to do with learning to differentiate between 10 years experience, and the same year of experience, 10 times.
I don’t think you really start becoming an engineer until you’ve already got coding down, and then you start having to go onto other things...
Rather for many employers what is sought is simply someone, smart, fast learning, motivated, compliant, enthusiastic, loyal, and a good team fit, with perhaps boot camp level knowledge of the latest in shiny framework(s).
Many inexpensive 18 year olds can fit that description well, particularly in regards to their being enthusiastic, compliant and motivated. It helps that these are values that inexperienced managers and interviewers can actually assess, along with (inapplicable to the position) canned answers to questions about data structures and algorithms.
We still do our work on 99% desktops at my org, yet the UI's are using frameworks optimized for tablets, which wastes a lot of screen real-estate, making the UI tedious. Fear of Being Left Behind (FBLB) gave everybody Tablet Fever. We hit the wrong target, and are doing it again with microservices. I warned the architect they are not a good fit for our org, but he has FBLB and dismisses me as an ol' fuddy-duddy.
If you make IT like the music and clothing business, then it's a fashion chase, and usually the fashion business doesn't want older people also.
If the industry randomly changes like a genetic algorithm of techniques, older people will on average not be able to keep up. Older brains are just not as good at that, on average. Instead, if tools and techniques are tuned and perfected based on incremental lessons of the past and present, then EVERYONE will be more productive. Repeated throwing-out-and-starting-over is expensive.
Exactly, which is often reflected in job specs. You rarely see a requirement to have 10, let alone 15 or 20 years of experience as a requirement. When the application is automated you can get a drop down menu that stops at 5+, for example. I once complained about this to Hired.com; they didn't react at the time but years later they added more options up to 15+.
This is a Dunning-Kruger effect of sorts. When those hiring have no more than 5 years of experience, they have no idea that the difference between 10 and 5 is as big as between 0 and 5, and so on. Unfortunately you have little chance of seeing the value of experience if you lack it yourself.
Because I can also tell you another anecdotal example of some developers who each had 20+ years experience each and we're quite high ranking they company they worked at:
- They would re-invent the wheel constantly: the framework provided lots of functionality which had been developed and battle tested by thousands of other developers but they couldn't be bothered to learn what was available to them so wrote a lot of functionality from scratch which was usually far more buggy than the open source code available.
- classes which had literally 10,000+ lines of code in them.
- of course the idea of following SOLID principles was never ever going to happen
- a general view that they were the experienced ones who "just made it work and got on with the job" while the younger programmers or those who followed more modern practices were seen by them as being "airy-fairy" and worried about things that didn't matter. that argument might have held weight if the application they built wasn't so awfully riddled with bugs and so poorly architected that mainting it and building new features took ages.
- They had all been working at the same company for at least 15 years, so they were able to ignore the advances made in software development in that time and carry on with their old ways. Of course they could still code new features and fix bugs but they didn't realise that what they were doing could be done in a much much better way.
I'm not saying all old developers are like this. But if somebody is able to tell me that older developers are better because X, then they should be able to accept somebody else disagreeing and saying that older developers are worse because Y. You can't have it both ways.
I’m not sure if it’s just a slew of interviews lately with older individuals or a trend but couple of things to avoid when interviewing that maybe are innocent comments but can def get you labeled as disrespectful.
Things I’ve been called or have had said by candidates in interviews the past three weeks:
- “You’re basically a child then”
- ”You’re too young to know this but there used to be...”
— Punch Cards
- Not taking my questions seriously compared to the older individual I’m interviewing with
- A comment about the fact I’m wearing a t-shirt
So, yes, I do think ageism is a problem in technology but also, there’s a growing issue it would appear with older candidates specifically not understanding how disrespectful it is the other way to assume lack of 15+ years experience somehow indicates I don’t know anything about the origins of computer science, that I’ve never touched low level code before and that it’s okay to use phrases like “you’re too young” and “youngin”.
Considering why ageism exists though, I think there are some assumptions that lead to it.
A common one that get trotted out whenever we discuss this subject is that older workers won't put up with as much as younger people do (long hours, pressure, low wages).
On the subject of low wages there are two things - younger inexperienced workers get less money because they are inexperienced, older more experienced workers get more money because they are experienced, that's clear.
Here is a guide on wages in Denmark (in Danish) https://www.prosa.dk/raad-og-svar/loenstatistik-2019/
In the region I am in programming wages for someone with 0-3 years experience is 37420 DKK per month (before high taxes of course) at 19 years experience which is what have it's 57277.
So an employer is paying for this experience, and they might think is it really worth it. I am working mainly with React now, and it is impossible to have 19 years experience in that. As it happens my experience with search solutions and international law garnered from my 4 years at Thomson Reuters is invaluable at my current job, but that's luck.
At some point a manager must think given the changeableness of the IT market, how much of that 19 years should be monetizable? I mean I did a lot of years building XML/XSLT based solutions for web and print - nobody wants that anymore, I remember when Netscape 4.something would crash because you had a nested p inside of a div that was inside of a p, an employer pays a couple thousand for those years, and the argument is that all experience translates to value but what if it doesn't?
Based on what I do on a day to day basis I would say the experience I have that I actually use is from 2009 on - based on the guide that should translate to 48045 of value. I'm not saying my experience before 2009 will never be used or do not inform who I am, but in day to day I have a hard time pointing to something I am doing that anything before that year is really relevant, if I know this I suppose a manager must sometimes suspect it.
on edit: grammar
There is also the whole thing about pattern recognition, you have seen similar things in other systems, but these benefits are conjecture - we can't say how much they apply, we only suspect that they apply at a significant enough level to matter.
Anyway my view is that you can’t beat experience if what you care about is a stable system. Good people get better over time.
Now can we get a "no leetcode" job board? My favorite companies give you a take home, of a real world problem, vertical slice of what you're expected to do day to day.
Where are all the older software developers? I've worked at a few FANG and similar-level finance companies, and the vast majority of developers are under 35. Are the older ones clustered in some other corner of the industry?
I've been out of work for 12 months now. Previously I passed every interview I went to (Google, Amazon, Microsoft, Facebook) and had the luxury of choosing between multiple offers. I haven't got through an onsite loop with any of these recently, nor with a bunch of other companies. The only thing I believe is different is my age.
BTW, the me/them thing is reflection after the fact, not how I felt at the time.
Anecdotal but I've seen >40 year old engineers thriving at non tech-hub software companies. There's plenty of interesting B2B companies that lurk in the suburbs or tier-2 or tier-3 cities.
If you couldn’t discriminate against someone younger, you couldn’t post that you wanted someone with a master degree and 10 years of experience.
> The New York State Human Rights Law covers employers with four or more
employees. It protects persons 18 and over from age discrimination in employment
> An employer may not refuse to hire or promote an employee, and may not terminate an individual because of age, and must provide the same terms and
conditions of employment irrespective of age, including salary.
This is exactly how it works for most other hiring discrimination too. If a court finds an email titled "how we can use a college degree requirement to decrease the number of Hispanics at our company" you have a problem, but requiring a degree isn't itself illegal even though different races currently graduate from college at different rates in this country.
A lot are managers.
Most never existed. It used to be a much smaller profession.
Some burned out and work in real estate.
One odd thing about this is that you'll rarely meet the rich & retired in your work life, by definition, so it's easy to underestimate how many they are. That said, I have no good way to count them either, and may well be overestimating.
You can usually find more in big corporations (cushy work life balance, healthcare and pension), in more traditional industries (defense, finance) and working as contractors or consultants (less corporate bullshit and HR barriers).
Last but not least. A non negligible amount of older workers are semi-retired. If you've worked 1980-2010 in NYC/LDN/SF you could have been doing quite well and acquired 2 homes at a fraction of what they are worth now.
Something I've heard discussed in CS education, and experienced myself to an extent (I'm a part-time adjunct faculty teaching Operating Systems), is how the more recent generations of students are, in-spite of the ubiquity of computing in their daily lives, purportedly entering programs "less computer literate" than previous generations. I don't believe "computer literacy" accurately captures the nature of the nascent deficiency - it's really about "_systems_ literacy".
I imagine what's happening to "systems" ownership is a lot like what happened to car ownership between the 1950s and the 1970s - people forgot how to fix them because they got more complex and needed less maintenance. I think for some of us older folks who experienced early home-computing, this isn't all that counter-intuitive of an analogy. In the old days, to play a computer game, it usually necessitated some amount of "tinkering around" under the hood of the "system" - possibly changing settings, maybe you needed to install more HW, maybe you had to manually fix some corner case overlooked by the errant programmer. I've heard that people who were young adults in the early-80s to late-90's were in a "sweet spot" for systems - people had easy access to them, but they also had to "repair" (modify, configure, augment, etc) them a lot.
Today, we're trying to fill-in the sweet spot with things like the RaspberryPi and the myriad of similar educationally-oriented embedded systems / home computers, but somehow I don't feel like most of those capture the "frustration" factor - they're well documented, and pretty regular.
So, while it may be hard to find people in their 50's who can create a multi-platform responsive app using whatever "cutting-edge stack" Medium is swooning over, it's been my experience that it's even harder to find someone in their 20's who can write a device driver, or even a halfway-decent C program.
I like the teams I work with, but if any systems company can match pay relative to CoL and is looking for experienced engineers who know how to understand systems from hardware to human, look me up.
You took your university education a bit too seriously, entering the workforce after completing a PhD at age, say, 25, immediately after the 2008-crash.
That means you're too young to have been around in the 80s, inventing the world's first online banking or whatever. You were never part of the dot-com bonanza of the 90s. Your parents are probably still alive and you never got any inheritance. You command a medium-level income with your mediocre career, but having had to move to a tech hub (or a major city at least) has meant that you never got much of a chance for your income to turn into savings, due to not having had a chance to get on the real estate ladder and your income going to the landlord and taxman.
You're now 36 and starting to get worried if you'll be able to find another job in this industry if you should lose the one you have now.
- most major cities not on the west coast you would be fine with a “medium level” by HN standards salary of low six figures.
- In most major cities not on the west coast or NYC, you can still buy a decent home making low six figures.
By the time I was 36, I had stayed at one job way too long, I was the stereotypical “expert beginner” and was just starting to job hop and my career trajectory from the time I was 35 until now 10 years later looks like that of someone just starting out and moving up for the last ten years.
No hint of age discrimination - only a couple of rejections in the course of five job changes - and since I always use recruiters, my resume has never gone down a black hole.
The last ten years I’ve been a regular old journeyman enterprise software/SAAS developer -> team lead -> architect/principal developer.
Many people still want PhDs for reasons having nothing to do with financial considerations.
Also: I'm writing from the POV of someone outside the United States, specifically from someone based in Europe.
The system in the U.S. is based on a squeezed/dying middle class. In large parts of Europe, middle class is all there is. With high taxes, wealth transfers from the rich to the poor, and many policies that have the effect of keeping people wealthy but cash-poor (mandatory social security of all kinds imaginable), and with super-high real estate prices in basically all areas that will make it possible to work in tech, the ability to get on the real estate ladder is now no longer a given, even for someone with a six-figure-usd-equivalent salary, which are actually much rarer in Europe, even in tech, than they are the U.S.
But, like you said, this is coming from my American perspective - the only one I know. Also, is the tech bro culture a thing in Europe?
But they were always peer groups of people situated below decision-making level. So there was never anyone who could actually decide things that might be bad for my career, leaving me to wonder whether me not being a bro was what it was about.
Anecdotally, the older folks who work a strict 9-5 are, unsurprisingly, often the most welcoming and "chill" people I've worked with. They also manage to get the same amount or more "real work" (i.e. fewer bugs, less drama) done in that same 9-5 block (again, this should be unsurprising when one considers the effect of experience). However, I also recognize these older folks have been almost overwhelmingly men. In my career thus far, I can recall working with 3 women over the age of 40 who were direct-contributors. Most corporate HR departments believe at least part of the solution to this problem is laying off "old guys" and replacing them with "young woke millennials," whilst totally ignoring that the "old" part of that is itself a bias and protected category. However, the protections are getting weaker (https://www.propublica.org/article/appeals-court-rules-key-a...).
Anyways, for folks looking for somewhat offbeat advice - as I get around to being an "old guy" myself, I've found that having dreads and a beard (and generally being of that "long haired freaky people" bent), while maintaining physical fitness, has helped a tremendously in masking my age. People are usually shocked to find I'm not "in my 20s or something." Of course this is sort of lifestyle-specific and not accessible to everyone, and I assume at some point I'll reach that "uncanny valley" with regards to my appearance and age, as mentioned by another poster.
There was a grey dread guy in the walking dead, Ezekiel?, is he cool with the young crowd?
When I got my first real software engineering internship, as a teen, shortly before dotcoms, about half the engineers in my group were women.
And, though they were doing difficult work on technical and systems software, there was none of the posturing, glamorizing, and self-congratulating that we often see in industry today.
(In hindsight, some of the work they did is still beyond what most developers do today, though I didn't appreciate that enough at the time.)
I'm sure there were industry problems such as sexism in the '90s and earlier, pre-dotcoms, and in some ways we have more awareness today, but I think we've become arrogant and cultish in other ways. Yet commoditized. And one-way leetcode-type hazing is part of that.
Nowadays every computer “hacker” on TV is a really hot chick; maybe the pendulum could come back to center.
Granted I'm not saying older folks are all better than their younger counterparts. But what I would say is that in corporate America it feels to me as though there is no differentiation made between 2 people (with same title) while one takes 10x as much time to accomplish the same amount of work.
Take for example my last project. I never stayed late and always made it known that I wasn't happy when asked to. Meanwhile my younger counterparts worked happily through the night very regularly. I was never late on a deadline. Almost 100% of the younger folks were almost always late. Yet instead of being happy, that I was accomplishing my work within my regular days, my "commitment" was questioned as I wasn't happy to work all hours of the day and night to help this company complete its project.
So my line in the sand is now drawn. It's a question I regularly ask when interviewing for new positions now. I'm not interested in working with people who have to work endlessly to try to meet deadlines. It's a clear "smell" that ultimately they don't really know what they're doing.
And yes, commitment can also be relevant in itself, especially in a startup.
I had a previous career as a management consultant and we worked 60-80 hours every week. You can’t really do that if you have a family, at least not without making significant sacrifices. Those crazy hours are not just about producing more, it’s also about showing your dedication, paying your dues and showing the client that our people are really working hard for out fees. It wasn’t for me, but it’s naive and insular to claim that age is irrelevant. Sometimes it is, but most of the time it isn’t.
I'm hearing from IT employees of local corporations that if their code base is twenty, ten, or even just five years old now, they can't find young folks who are willing to work on it. And even if they do find them, they don't necessarily have the skills to do that work, nor any particular inclination to really learn those skills, nor are they willing to stick around for very long even if they do start the process.
Also, a lot of the "new" stuff that they want to work on is really old stuff, just with a new name and a new coat of paint. Having been in the business for several decades now I see of lot of this, and I am by turns both amused and appalled by it.
A former employer of mine had switched from using custom code to packaged code, which introduced plenty of problems of its own but overall things were generally going about as well as could be expected. Then they decided that they just had to have the latest and greatest version of that code from the vendor, which promised all kinds of flashy bells and whistles. They unwisely jumped into this with both feet (they were an early adopter), only to find that when those bells and whistles were added a lot of the old code had been rewritten, too, which introduced (or maybe re-introduced) a large number of very serious bugs. By the time those bugs were corrected (if they ever really were), the company (which was by now my former employer) was in such bad shape that they were basically forced to close their doors. They had pretty much lost control over their inventory and financials, for example, and had committed themselves to fulfilling contracts which were based on cost figures that were woefully incorrect.
A typical project is done by a handful of contractors or fresh graduates, that are all gone after a year or so. The next team will attempt to throw it away and start over more often than not. Point being, there is plenty of work in churning out software.
Consider startups. Each successive group of new joiners will be adding a lot of new code and regularly throw anything that's already there. The churn is massive.
Have you worked with or for contracting company like Accenture? They assign developers to work on a project for a defined period of time, then disappear. It's not systematic that the software will reach a well working state, be handed over to the client and be actually used.
Another case. Things done with independent contractors. They are regularly hired to do nothing, well, maybe pretend to work and show a demo once in a while. If they produce something, it's not uncommon that the company didn't bother to hold the source code or build scripts.
Don't get me wrong. I fully agree with you. There is definitely more work available in maintenance than in new projects. However I also think there is enough work for a developer to make a career in either.
At my last gig as an independent contractor I did a lot of work on a project that mostly revolved around one of their largest customers. But then the employee who I was working with the most on this took early retirement due to medical reasons, which caused a change of direction somewhat because the employee who took over that job wanted to do things a bit differently. Then their big customer went out of business, which had a rather dramatic effect on the overall project. But as far as I know the code and such that I worked on is still in active use, it's just not nearly as critical to the business now as it used to be.
Before that I worked at a local mega-corporation, and there was one project there which I worked with on and off for ten years. But then one day, due to an act of legislative fiat, its reason for being just up and disappeared, so almost overnight all of the software and hardware that was used to make it work just went away.
But that same place suffered a bit from what you describe, in that it wasn't too unusual for them to spend money on software that didn't actually work, so it was ultimately abandoned. In fact, I had a running joke with them: "Gee folks, if I'd known that you were willing to settle for software that didn't actually work and that you were going to just throw out anyway, I would have only charged you half of what you paid those other folks to develop it!"
Also, can some one explain the "diversity link" on a bunch of these?
Of my similarly aged friends who were once in tech, most have now left it - some from getting bored or burnt of some aspect, others from ageism. It's an absurdly ageist sector and startups an order of magnitude worse. Worse still I have seen overt and blatant ageism on the hiring side multiple times.
Not everyone cares, and you can often work around it with even more applications, but it does get tedious hearing the euphemisms for "ew, you're old, we're all cool kids." that can translate as "You're perfect, but we think you'll get bored", "great interview, but you're a little overqualified". Hmm. My qualifications were on my CV when you invited me...
I've yet to fail to get work, but it's definitely becoming more effort.
I’m not enough of a dinosaur to need this yet, but this is the right approach. Advertise willingness to hire regardless of age, which works to ingrain acceptance in your own company, and shame those who don’t participate.
This is just what our industry needs.
Age-bias and Agism is real, especially on a job hunt. We have come so far as a society in chipping away at all the various types of discrimination - this one may be one of the last to (hopefully) fall.
I am just adding this for those who can relate.
Here's the kicker: In my early 60's I am better at my job (IT Program/Project Management) than ever. I want to retire at 90 (or never). I understand people better, know more than ever, embrace what's new, know and am certified on the newer ideas and methodologies, I am better at working with a wide variety of people and teams than my peers. Plus, I have far more stamina and energy than people 25 years younger (not a small thing in IT). I even have 2 teenagers (keeps you moving).
All I can do is do it better, possibly start my own company (but I'm actually a much better #2 than an owner.) And hope people get smarter about it. But building awareness (like this thread) can't hurt. Look at how the other discriminated groups have challenged everyone else to question their prejudice.
While it's a cliche to assume older (or younger) people are never going to work out in a team, it definitely happens a lot where outliers in the age range simply cannot do the work, whatever the reason. (and I'm not talking about not being qualified, that's usually not the problem)
On the other hand, with this anecdotal failure we have seen anecdotal successes as well; but knowing that older members can fail on a project due to what they self-describe as their age does actually happen in just the way people seem to fear; just not as often as they seem to think.
The way I see it is that we tend to hire minorities but when it’s about people with experience we rather pass... I have the luck to work with 50+ years old colleagues and it’s the best experience you can have, because you can learn a lot and share a lot.
The beginning is difficult and for that reason, we're trying to focus on companies with D&I department. Companies wanting to diversify their staff have many option when it comes to gender but not many job boards focused on ageism