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Show HN: A job board for companies fighting ageism in tech (noageismintech.com)
523 points by leonagano 27 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 291 comments



Hi all Carmen here. A bit of my story below:

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-...)


How has uptake been thus far among developers looking for a job? You may want to experiment with the way you frame this. As Adam Gopnik suggests in a recent New Yorker article on aging, one bias that works against your site could come from an unexpected source: aging developers themselves.

> 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.

https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2019/05/20/can-we-live-lo...

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.


For what it's worth - I am a 52 year old programmer, and see ageism rampant in the industry where I am.

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.


That might be one way to reframe this to avoid the AgeLab paradox mentioned by Gopnik: "Old people will not buy anything that reminds them that they are old."

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.


> For what it's worth - I am a 52 year old programmer, and see ageism rampant in the industry where I am.

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 am in Australia. In a remote location, not in the major cities. I just cannot seem to get meetings with VC people or meetings with government bodies etc. to discuss funding these days, even though I have a product that is active in the market and making money. Many younger colleagues whom I mentor get meetings for basic concepts and non existent products as soon as they ask.

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.


I'd say we are having a pretty good response. The website itself will not sort the ageism out. Companies first need to realise how important is to have a diversity staff not only because they are being forced to diversify but, as McKinsey and other researchers found out, diversity makes organisations "more effective, more successful, more profitable."


I love what you are doing. As in love. I wrote a whole essay on the postive and negative side of age (both old and young) in context of finding problems to solve for 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.


When people talk about ageism in tech, they aren't talking about great old people getting passed over for mediocre young people. They are talking about mediocre old people getting passed over for unknown young people with "potential".


They are talking about a lot of things including whether someone is too old for the dynamics on the team or in the company.


What prevents an ageist company from joining your job board and still being ageist? Vanishingly few companies admit being ageist


We believe if any company is ageist and don't want the more experienced ones working with them, the would have no benefits joining our job board. We can be wrong though


You know who isnt going to be ageist:

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 they don't want older devs, why would they pay to join the board? PR?


Since age discrimination laws only protect discrimination against people over 40 (you can legally exclude people for being young), I've thought it may be interesting to use this explicitly.

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.


Yes, that's an idea the could be explored.

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


> Some countries age discrimination is not even considered a crime.

It's not a crime in the US, either.

It is a statutory tort, though.


Is that in the US? Discrimination laws don't have a minimum age in the UK.



The reverse needs to be true, you can't bar someone for being young using the usual excuse of inexperience. Want anti age discrimination policies to get popular support? Make sure it goes both ways.


There's a certain asymmetry here. If you're under 25, that'll eventually fix itself, but once you're over 40, you're going to be over 40 for the rest of your life. Given that, it doesn't really make sense to treat these two cases exactly the same.


Intern is another term often used to prevent older, experienced workers from applying.


At Google Zurich intern mostly means female engineer under 23. Step intern means female engineer under 20 who had been 1 year in university. I haven't seen any male step intern.


STEP intern does explicitly mean female engineer under 20 with ~1 year of university. STEP is a diversity program and Google is quite explicit about its goals.

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).


Well, that explains my rejection at least in part.


I swear, some companies go straight from intern to senior team lead.


That's not always as absurd as it sounds. Particularly talented people can do it. The case of Seymour Cray, admittedly an outlier on the talent side, comes to mind. He was basically a senior team lead from the moment he got his first job, and that was in 1951.

I got that from this wonderful book, btw: https://www.amazon.com/Supermen-Seymour-Technical-Wizards-Su...


You giving an example all the way back to 1951 makes it sound like it is indeed almost always as absurd as it sounds...


I didn't mention Cray because there aren't others! He's just endlessly fascinating.

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.


My first job I accepted was a help desk tech. In 8 weeks I was a sr engineer. Why? I was the only person who stood up and suggested a way to test and isolate a problem that was happening on a few Sun servers. Mind you I had zero exp with sun at this point, but I showed initiative. This was circa 2000


That last paragraph says a lot. If you have a company and you want employees that are “tech-natives”, whatever that may mean, that is not the same thing as discriminating based on age. No, not even if they are wrong, and don’t actually need a tech-native.

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.


> That last paragraph says a lot. If you have a company and you want employees that are “tech-natives”, whatever that may mean, that is not the same thing as discriminating based on age.

"[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 love to hate the terms "tech native" or "digital native". In my experience of my kids and their friends they have far less knowledge about the workings of the technology they spend their days using than technology users even 20 years ago.

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.


I think the main idea is that words like "tech-native" are really just weasel-words that can be used as a post-hoc justification for rejecting someone.

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?


Depends upon how you define it. I think most people who use the term tech native and digital native are referring to people who grew up with social media.

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.


Why wouldn’t it?

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?


How is growing up playing games on an iPad a better indicator of ability than decades of experience in the industry? You wave away the idea that these recruiters may be wrong in their criteria as if that's irrelevant, but that's the whole point of discrimination. If all black people were criminals then racists would be correct in their views. This dissonance is the core of the issue.


I’m not saying it is, just that they think it is. I think they are allowed to think that.


And for what it's worth, the moving company analogy is extremely flawed. Most people apply for jobs in good faith. Moving companies (one of which I used to drive and load for, years ago), don't look to hire males or females. They look to hire people physically strong enough to do the job and skilled enough to do it well. They don't screen applications to weed out females. If a female applies for a moving position I think the average employer is probably going to assume she either knows what she's about or misunderstood the position. If you were to assume the latter then you might miss out on a good employee. There are plenty of women strong enough to lift furniture.


Well this was my exact point.


> It must be allowed to discriminate based on ability, even if a certain ability correlates trongly with age, sex or something else.

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.


If there is an argument in your reply i must have missed it. My argument is that you must be allowed to hire only strong people if the job requires that, even if men in general wre much stronger. What would the alternative be?


I don't want to put words in GP's mouth, but they seem to be making the argument that "ability" comprises multiple considerations, one of which is the meta-consideration that employees should have a range of talents and experiences which are different from one another.

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 [0] (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.

[0] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Protected_group


My point, and I realise it wasn’t very explicit, was that even if you put up a very concrete requirement like being able to lift 200 lbs, a certain kind of person will still argue that this is discrimination because mostly men will be able to meet the requirement.

It sounds like OP was arguing along those lines in her last paragraph.

But that’s untenable, if we consider that discrimination then we can’t advertise for people with skills in anything related to IT since 9 out 10 people with the skill will be men, yet it’s quite reasonable to want your web developer to know Javascript.


>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.

There are plenty of female powerlifters...


Btw isn’t tech-native just shorthand for “good with social media”? Then why not use that term?


Some companies have a Head of D&I specifically to promote it within the company. Yes, you are in the right direction.

Happy to share more details about your company?


How are you handling the data? I see your just asking companies to email you, but then somehow you have positions - do you pull them automatically or do you process them by hand?

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.


At the moment, what we ask is just 4 things and then, we ask the company 4 or 5 different open opportunities to include on the website. We then include those by hand, linking to the original company's job post.

Agreed this is annoying for job posters and we can discuss more how we could help you on that as well


> then, we ask the company 4 or 5 different open opportunities to include on the website.

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.


Yes the idea is to make easy for those who want to post jobs. Just a link to your job page is enough, but bear in mind your jobs descriptions not use words like tech-native, ninja, etc

At the momwnt we can do manually but yes, in the long run we need to automate those job posts


Just had a quick Google - https://schema.org/JobPosting has a data format


How much of the problem is a genuine bias, and how much of it is companies wanting to save money in the short term? Older employees are less expensive (smaller salary, fewer health/family events) and are less willing to work in poor conditions or work long hours to get ahead.


> the tech environment sometimes attracts young people and the more experienced professionals are being left behind

Why exclude the older and inexperienced?


Various reasons. They have families and might thus not be willing to work crazy hours, are more confident and won't put up with all the bullshit, etc


Also in my experience often tend to be more actually productive, partially by having the experience to avoid more bad ideas/approaches and dead ends. And by on average being much better at the non-typing parts of the job, which are just as important.

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.


How is that not stereotyping? Not all older people are like that.


The correlation is very very strong though.


I end my day at 6pm, I don’t touch my laptop on most weekends, I say no to projects that I can easily solve but delays less user facing work, I get paid well into 6 figures.

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


Yes exactly. Clearly a lot of companies will prefer 20 year old you, if they don’t need, or think they need, your extra 20 years of experience they won’t want to pay for it.


Young, inexperienced people tend to not know their worth and are easily manipulated into working longer for less.

Sometimes the hiring calculus maximizes quantity over quality.


I think I know Leo. Small world...


How can people not blame the infanticised offices with food, toys and gym which signal latent expectation that you spend most of your time in the office and you've no family.

Lack of private cabins and too much noise in open offices and feeling that you are always being watched.

Coding interviews which make you feel as if you are applying for a competitive top tier university which often require days of prep. Then the interviewer who pulls out some weird special case and is shocked to see that you spent years in industry yet you don't know about this case.

And startups whoes purpose is market disruption by often undermining rules/regulations, how can anyone who is not naive will not be worried about that? Who wants to be part of a racket who deliberately breaks rules/regulation and it isn't 100% guaranteed how government is going to react to that and feel mostly like a gamble which experienced people won't like making. No wonder younger people commit more crimes.

With age comes experience and wisdom and desire to not be taken advantage of and to not be manipulated by any dark patterns.

Sorry but I think most tech companies are optimized for certain kind of people and will find it increasingly hard to attract, keep and get best work out of the aged ones.


I agree about noise and private work areas, but disagree about food toys and gym. In most populated areas, traffic is a big deal. An employer that gives me food now cuts out this potential headache for me, plus saves me money. An employer that has an on-site gym clears a huge burden for me which is the waste of time to drive to the gym and try to work out perhaps at 5:30 when everyone else is doing the same. Perhaps I have a higher social anxiety that normal, but circling crowded parking lots at lunch or after work, or bumping into people in a crowded locker room pisses me the hell off. If an employer eliminates this source of stress for me, that is superb. Double for exercise, because in this industry you will gain weight and lose circulation from being anchored to a computer 8 hrs/day. So working out can literally save/extend my life.

Now, if they try to imply that I need to regularly stay for 9,10 or more hours per day, that's when I will become assertive and simply refuse. I don't see the correlation between overworking and giving me great amenities.


>With age comes experience and wisdom and desire to not be taken advantage of and to not be manipulated by any dark patterns.

You hit the nail on the head, here, I think. I would reckon that the vast majority of age discrimination in tech is because companies understand very well that young, inexperienced workers will work longer hours for less money. Older workers have developed enough experience, wisdom, and confidence to know that working long hours rarely has any benefit to the worker.

Companies want tech-savvy employees, not employment-savvy employees. Of course, this is why we need stronger anti-discrimination policies. People should not be punished for not being naive.


A company I worked with once hired a team of old contractors to do a job. The job was done on time, on budget, no drama, no overtime, and the customer was happy. Each of the contractors received the contractually agreed upon bonus for meeting all the targets.

I asked a manager why they didn't apply this model to subsequent projects, and never got much of an answer.


This is my experience with older skilled programmers as well. For the most part, I notice when there are technical folks in their 40s and 50s on a project, the "gee whiz" is thankfully tempered by the benefit of experience, and the projects have a more concrete results-driven character. "There is nothing new under the sun", as they say. And when you've seen the signature of a pitfall before, you can spot its many variations. Less chasing after chimeras. More driving at the actual business goal.

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.


And as a counterpoint, I've worked with a number of Senior-level programmers more than old enough to be my parents and seen them behave in some of the most god-awful ways. Resume-Driven-Development, Not-Invented-Here syndrome, refusal to write new tests, refusal to maintain existing tests, breaking the build, deploying broken code. All because of the insidious little "because I (don't) want to."

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.


Yeah at any age you can have problematic developers, but in general the problem is just being prejudice towards an age segment. I think that if the person has proven to be competent they should be given the opportunity and at the same time treated accordingly if they behave like the example you gave.


With an older programmer you have "survivorship bias", meaning the incompetent and not useful have left the profession by then.


Yup, they've successfully transitioned into business roles and run the company.


> 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.


In my experience, people who got promoted to being managers were done so mostly because of their extraversion and people skills - and it makes sense, as these traits make managing easier for them. Unfortunately, not all of them were competent technically - in such cases, the smart ones try to heavily leverage the technical chops of their teams, and just focus on purely managerial duties, such as running interference with the rest of the company etc.


Interesting thought, but I know many programmers (ages ranging from 40 to 70) who refuse to go into anything managerial. I suppose love-of-the-game muddies the waters for that kind of filter.


So you’re saying if you see someone over fifty writing code, odds are they’re not very good at it? That’s a nasty prejudice.


I believe there are many great developers who refuse other positions and still code in their 50s, but an average developer in his 30s could be better than an average developer in his 50s, because many successful developers might transition into higher paid leadership roles or start their own companies when they hit 40s. For instance, Joel Spolsky was still writing software in his mid-30s.


Was Joel Spolsky a great programmer when he was coding?


I assume he was better than an average programmer, since he was responsible for designing Excel Basic at Microsoft. I think the very best programmers keep coding in their 40s and 50s, because there is simply nothing they could be better at. It's the "upper-middle class" of programmers, who often transition into new roles at around 40, because they no longer feel the progress in their careers. How many years can one spend being a Senior Engineer at Google?


I know of senior engineers at Google in their late sixties, and I’m sure there are folks in their seventies there. Some of them are top people in their fields. Donald Knuth is 81 (10000 in ternary) and he still codes for research all the time. My understanding is that Spolsky’s job at Microsoft, which was his first job, was to spec out the then nascent macro language for Excel, he wasn’t a programmer himself, perhaps ever professionally. He does have a lot of opinions on what a great programmer should look like, and isn’t too shy to share them.


Because the more experienced people are able to spot major flaws in architecture or even business plans. In a culture of hush-hush of middle managers trying to cover up their mistakes from higher ups, or founders from investors, this is not welcome. They prefer blind unexperienced workers who will take things as gospel.


It's not about age, but experience, if we have seen the situation before and the outcomes.


A lot of the business of middle managment is spin.

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.


The only form of ageism I've experienced was reverse. I entered dev professionally in my 40s, and it was frequently assumed because of my age that I knew more than I truly did. In consequence I was often given higher levels of responsibility than my experience merited (regardless of my protestations). This might have been good for someone more brilliant than I, but I found it a problem - it made it very hard for me to learn from other people, and although it's hard to accurately replay history I would say this slowed my skills development. It certainly made working in tech less pleasant for me than it might have been.


I could see this happening. I work at a major company and it seems like everyone over 40 is some sort of director or senior staff engineer, so they are taken pretty seriously.


Here in Aus a great deal of it is managerial complacency and in some cases laziness ('management' aspirations sometimes comprising mainly a desire to play golf & watch rugby). There's a strong tendency to clutch at pattern-matching shortcuts: "You're over 30 so you must be a senior developer".

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.


At the start of my career in computing, in one two week period I sent some resume copies, went on 7 interviews and got 5 offers. The reason was the high interest in computing around DC for US national security.

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.


There’s definitely a shortage of skilled professionals - we have a hard time hiring without lowering the bar as well, and I am at a FAANG. We don’t necessarily care if someone has experience in most of our stack - myself, I hardly had any experience in almost any of it when I joined, but I had the combination of soft & technical skills desired.

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.


We also struggle with hiring and not "lowering the bar", but I've come to exactly the opposite conclusion about their being a shortage. We're simply not offering enough. We've said yes to a few, and they've mostly responded with variations of "better offer elsewhere".

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.


Do you want my resume?


Watching the bidding war for a candidate who has offers from both Google and Facebook makes me think there's still a shortage of something. And those companies mostly don't hire for a particular stack.

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.


Sounds like Paris fashion -- "scarce and in demand" and wildly expensive. But, believe me, there is no shortage of dress designers or dress makers.

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.


There’s a shortage of engineers who will work for the incredibly low industry-standard wages.


Did you read the comment you were responding to? If they were looking to pay someone “incredibly low” wages they wouldn’t be getting into a bidding war. I don’t know what your definition of “low” is, but there are lots of people at FB and GOOG easily clearing 400k+.


400k is still a steal.

We need unions.


I think the bidding war is actually a sign of a pretty efficient market in that tier of jobs. The only thing that would really increase engineer pay significantly would be killing the H-1B program, but that would probably be devastating to the industry. Especially smaller companies.

EDIT: also devastating of course to the tens of thousands of people who would have to abandon the lives they've built in America.


Of lucky, leet-code crushing, or code with gun-to-head nerves of steel folks.


Figured I'd create a throwaway account to chime in here.

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 don’t find the comments complaining about older workers very helpful to be honest. Nor those complaining about younger ones either. Substitute white/black or rich/poor to highlight.


I've been a professional developer since I was 13, in the sense that was when I sold my first commercial product, some 36 years ago.

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.


Anyone else just hit their mid thirties and suddenly become aware of agism?

Not something that is affecting me, but something suddenly I've become more cognisant about it.


I’m ethnic East Asian so there’s this funny thing where I can look older or younger depending on how I do my hair and other things.

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.


There's a post right here in this thread that says (only barely paraphrased) "That’s not ageism, younger people really are better".


What post is that?


https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=20252697

('Better' meaning better from the point of view of an employer).


My guess is that you misread it. To my ear it sounds like an instance of the "young people are easier to exploit" genre, which is one of the most common responses people have on this topic, and definitely not a defense of ageism.


if you cant up-skill then tech isnt a good field for you regardless of age


I don’t know why this got downvoted. This is a legitimate concern.

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.


I’m 45 now, and have experienced two job changes in the past 10 years (one voluntary, one involuntary), and although I had some inexplicable rejections - including one where I truly had experience in every single technology in their very long laundry list - I never really thought there was any age discrimination going on. I worry about it, but the situation doesn’t seem to be as dire as I was afraid it could be.


I'd say, good for you for not blaming it on age discrimination. Hiring is complex enough (and broken enough) to sometimes not get hired, even if you think it was a perfect match. Sometimes it isn't a match, to no blame on either side. I'm not dismissing the serious problem of ageism, just saying there's still plenty other reasons for rejections too.


I started hearing about age discrimination from others, IIRC, when I was in my late 20s, and blissfully unaffected.

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.)


Not really agism, but I've noticed that companies are super relucant to pay extra for experience. They put their price tag on and think that's the end of it.

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.


I can say that happens here in the US too.

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.


It is a stereotypical "MBA" mentality of trying to cut costs with commoditized and cheap lower skilled workers even if two with an annual salary of $60k could do a far better job than outsourcing to a group which hires 50 for $20k each.

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.


This mentality is an issue across all age ranges in the UK. For some odd reason employers seem to have a fixed idea of how much an employee should earn for a certain job - and if they can't find any good people for it they usually end up paying more than double to hire contractors. Its quite baffling really. And its not just in IT, I've heard of this same thing happening in social work, medicine, recruitment etc.


Most contractors aren't getting paid twice what they can get as an employee, it often works out fairly close when you consider time off, the taxes paid, etc. Shit companies obviously do act that way, but you're better off heading elsewhere, because the same companies don't allow their employees to grow.

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.


Really? Thats not my experience at all that contracting earns roughly the same as permanent. Why would anybody do contracting if that was the case?

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.)


See, it depends. Realstically, as a contractor you'd be billing ~220 days a year.

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.


Hmmm, a £150k salary seems much harder thing to achieve than a £750 day rate, I can see quite a few DevOps contract jobs at £750 / day but no permanent ones at £150k! As you say though, it depends on how you look at it..


I think there's a reasonble amount of both but large bureaucracies like gov, banks or multinationals have finance departments that set salary bands.

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.


Yes. I’m also a parent and that was also eye-opening to tech jobs being geared to childless workers.


For what it's worth, my little knowledge of London based tech scene is that it's extremely child friendly. Many companies I've seen have no-questions-asked-work-from-home policies, which in the places I've actually worked at were extensively used for child care and ballet recitals.

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! :) ).


What I see, having children affects women the most. Men's salary remains the same, whereas, for women, that has a huge impact


London is mostly big bank and web companies, they have nice perks and work life balance. Startups are usually the opposite.


My experience (and network) in London is very start-up heavy, if anything. Maybe this is an instance of startup ≠ startup?


I am pretty sure "ageism" is just an inadvertent consequence of the wrong belief that years of experience must linearly translate to ability. Not because anyone dislikes older folk per se.

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 think this is a very good point and is definitely part of the reason why we have apparent ageism. This aspect is also compounded by the fact that technologies and paradigms are changing so fast - yes I know software re-invents the wheel a lot, but the fact that you were coding GUIs in the 90s, before some of today's 20-something developers were even born, really doesn't make you that much better of a React.js developer.

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
This sounds about correct for a single role. A good senior person will have at least a few different roles under their belt too, each one of those takes another 3-5 years to flatten out, and usually at least a couple tech stacks they've been deeply in.

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.


well you'd be surprised, I have seen younger people have much less tolerance for older folks because they're not in their cultural circle (in bigger companies). Basically they look for more excuses to get rid of them when in reality these same mistakes were being made by other younger people. In some cases yes it's straight up like that.


Experience in what? Programming ability? Then yes.

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...


My thoughts are that ageism in IT is a natural consequence of not valuing experience.

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.


I've seen CRUD reinvented about 20 different ways, and I'm sure more are still out there. The industry throws things out and starts over, often due to "fashion", NOT logic. It's more work to create the same CRUD app now than it was 20 years ago. We are devolving because the industry chases fads instead of productivity. (There are exceptions, but it requires more things to go right, including managers who know when to say "no".)

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.


> My thoughts are that ageism in IT is a natural consequence of not valuing experience.

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.


There's probably a lot of things where the extra years of experience over a certain number doesn't matter much anymore. I don't think you can learn as much about many things in the second five years as you did in the first. Other factors then play a much bigger role anyway, such as: did you use whatever you claim experience in once a week or all the time.


There are things where it's not about learning as much as about the quality of code you produce within the same timeframe. My personal record of rewriting a big product was reducing a 150k LOC project to 7k lines with the same functionality and then some more. Now compare the cost of maintenance of 150k lines of code vs 7k. That literally translates to a lot of (saved) money for the company. While that one was probably a bit extreme, even 3x or 4x reduction can be a big win. These things come with experience more than "learning" in the traditional sense.


Fair point but do we have any actual data around the correlation between years of experience and value to a company? Admittedly its probably a hard thing to measure..

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.


Are you saying only young people are "smart, fast learning, motivated, compliant, enthusiastic, loyal, and a good team fit"?


No.


Super interesting idea and hope it goes well.

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: - Kid - “You’re basically a child then” - Youngin - ”You’re too young to know this but there used to be...” — Punch Cards — Mainframes — COBOL - 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”.


What was the coolest thing you coded up for your operating systems class?


Bro do you even chromebook?


Well I am pretty sure I am facing ageism as well, although I am employed now.

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


Interesting, however I’d look at it this way. I don’t need obsolete tool knowledge anymore, true. But I waste a lot less time making stupid decisions, which I got out of my system using those tools. And many subjects, such as OS fundamentals, Unix tools and shells, and project management continue to pay dividends.


Sure, but it's hard to quantify, and ok when I think of it there is some linux knowledge from before 2009 I use but really it is spotty.

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.


This is great. I am 40 myself, and hired and lead a strong dev team where about half are older than me and about 30% over 50 years old. In fact we have a father and his son working on the same team :)

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.


This is awesome! What a diverse team. I wish it was a reality for everyone in this industry but unfortunately is far from.


Great idea! The best two engineers I've had the pleasure to work with were both 45+ years old. They had a cool head when shit hit the fan, and were generally unfazed about technical problems. "Been there done that, let's do this right." If your company is discriminating against older engineers you're making a big mistake!

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.


What is “leetcode”?


Leetcode.com is a website where you practice FAANG-style interview questions


They don't want to write code during the interview. Some complain about needing to practice, which I can't understand. Me, I'm pushing 50 and I'd be wary of joining a team who got hired without writing code.


I despise Leetcode style problems because I think being asked to give an impromptu CS lecture is not a great interview technique. I wrote code in the interview for my current job, but it wasn’t “find the longest palindromic substring of a given string in linear time.”


No, I don't want to solve leetcode style questions. Give me normal takehomes or at worst normal problems to solve on the computer.


So leetcode is code that is written by the interviewee during an interview? Sounds tough. I never had to do that. I would probably clam up and fail.


That is related, but leetcode is actually a website dedicated to these kinds of interview problems:

https://leetcode.com/


I think that as the years go by we’ll see ageism reverse. The early 80s is really the first time CS education really started taking off and it continues to be a very popular major. These people are now starting to get old and it’s the first time we’ve had this vast an older software developer workforce. I think it’ll have more effects than just anti-ageism but also the coming into our own in regards to engineering by way of having older mentors.


> These people are now starting to get old and it’s the first time we’ve had this vast an older software developer workforce.

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?


There are also many of us who are having trouble finding work. I'm 45, and have a ton of experience. I lost my last job after a few more younger people joined the team (all fresh out of college). They all lived together near the office, went out each night after work -- I'm a single dad with kids so can't do that these days. As much as I liked working with them, there was this growing feeling that they felt that I didn't belong (even though I had been on the team since they were in high school). Code reviews got tougher, I heard complaints from my manager that they thought I took too long on tasks. The final straw was an argument that erupted when I took a day extra than they thought it should take on a particular task. One of them had pulled in OpenSSL a little while back to do some crypto. I needed to make some changes to their code and noticed that the random number generator wasn't being seeded. I wrote some code that I've written before to gather a little entropy from the system and feed it into OpenSSL's PRNG. Even after showing them articles about weak entropy being the cause of security breaches, they collectively felt that I wasn't working in line with the team. At that point I was the only original team member, and I had six team members, all of whom were well below 30 years in age.

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.


As a mid 20s guy I have never received an offer from any of the big 4/FAANG companies, though I have from companies that prioritizes work-life balance, and I’m sure that’s come through in interviews. Suppose it’s helped that I was willing to move to major tech hubs but still, could just be a matter of finding the right fit. Everywhere I have worked has had people 40+ years old in technical roles making good money.


Sorry that you're having trouble finding work. It scares me that you went from having your choice of top gigs to unemployed. I guess the safest way to guard against that is to get promoted out of an IC role, not that it helps you now. There are guys your age at my company who work slower and more carefully, and fewer hours than the young folks, but they are directors so basically unimpeachable. They're not judged by volume or velocity but I guess on wisdom and political skill.


Where I work there's roughly one director per 100 ICs, so it's certainly not something that everybody can achieve. I'd also expect that it would be harder to switch companies as a director than an IC.


i'm just a little younger than you. i'm not sure if there's some way to avoid age-discrimination issues, but i've been dreaming of a remote consulting company that only staffs 40+ (or even 35+) year old consultants and markets itself as the ones to call when you just need something that works and is designed extremely well. not the latest trendy fad. i'm sure that a company like this could find lots of super-qualified individuals and put out some excellent work..


I'd start targeting the legacy industries (insurance, boating, auto). Plenty of large software development houses that would (off the record) hire older people who are more serious.


The problem with that work is that it’s “legacy.” Lower paying, less interesting technology, more subject to mass layoffs. It’s basically just like being “streamed” in school.


You can earn a living there, but most non-software industries are bad at software, so your skills will deteriorate and you will have a hard time finding another interesting job.


It seems this fixation on the shiny "interesting" jobs is another problem. I'm not getting any younger and I don't doubt there is some ageism in the industry but if we're biasing the search to only include FAANG and a handful of other darlin companies then that's not really a fair analysis of the situation.

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.


I did not say that it's either FAANG or not interesting. But the companies doing interesting software work tend to be software companies. There are many counterexamples both ways.


It only takes like a month or two to get your skills back.


What do you mean by off the record?


You can't explicitly base hiring policy on age. That's illegal.


No, it’s illegal to discriminate against someone over 40. You can blatantly put on your requirements that you are looking for someone over 40 and can’t be sued - not saying that’s a good idea.

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.


That's accurate for federal law, but I think a log of states are more strict. At least New York is:

> 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.

https://dhr.ny.gov/sites/default/files/pdf/age-discriminatio...


That goes back to my original example. If I can’t “discriminate” against an 18 year old, does that mean I can’t require someone to have a BS degree in Computer Science and 10+ years of experience?


No, I'm pretty sure the restriction here isn't based on a "disproportionate impact" judgement, but on intent. As long as you have a reason to claim you applied the college degree qualification, you're fine. The minute that a court subpoenas your emails and finds that you added the restriction with the explicit intent of preventing young people from getting the job, you are in for a world of legal hurt.

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 rich and retired.

A lot are managers.

Most never existed. It used to be a much smaller profession.

Some burned out and work in real estate.


I seriously doubt that the "rich and retired" category is quantitatively all that significant. I think they're in sales and middle management.


Depends on where you are, I guess. Here in Silicon Valley it's pretty significant. Though many of the people I know who could retire keep working. It's truly what they enjoy doing, apparently.

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.


First, there are few developers with multiple decades of experience (almost none outside of the tech hubs), while there is a bazillion people entering the market every year. Don't expect to find a lot because they are simply few and outnumbered.

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.


I’ve been in the robotics/embedded software industry for the last 15 years, and I have never experienced a vast majority of coworkers under 35. Either I’ve just been lucky, or this is one of the corners!


Ha, so I work in embedded too, and I was definitely one of the oddballs when I explicitly set-out to land a job in systems out of college. Now I'm a bit older, but I still remember my hiring manager's glum face light up when he asked me what I was "into" at a career fair and I replied with "C and Linux, FPGAs, etc." Now I go to career fairs, and I can certainly empathize - there really aren't a lot of new college grads who have any interest in systems work. In fact, 9 months ago we hired a new college grad and they left after about 6 months to go do some data science thing for an insurance company (sounds boring to me).

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 left that space (writing code to drive biotech instruments) because, frankly, engineers were viewed -- and treated -- as cost centers to be minimized. Software companies ime tend to view software engineers as sources of competitive advantage.


I work in the media industry, which is in full panic mode because of the competition from Facebook and Google. They have viewed software as an investment, we’re hiring more and more devs but we’re slashing the newsrooms and ad-sales departments every year.


I think young people don't go into systems/embedded largely because of the pay. The median pay in those fields is just lower than in web/distributed systems. I for one would love to hack on a compiler (for example), but not at a 50% paycut.


Same here. I focused on embedded systems in school and had a related internship before dropping out to start an embedded systems-related automation startup. When I later returned to the workforce, and every time I looked for jobs afterward, I tried finding any kind of embedded systems job but always end up in web development where the pay is better and the hiring easier.

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.


A lot of enterprise/“dark matter developers” who are happy going to work everyday doing our job and going home to our nice big houses in the burbs in lower cost cities.....


Big houses in the burbs is not what life is like for everyone getting worried about age discrimination now.

Imagine this:

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.

Lucky you.


What would have happened had they spent some time researching and knowing that from a financial standpoint that a PhD does not statistically give you a great ROI?

- 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.


Good for you, but the tone you're taking in your comment is not quite appropriate.

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.


There is nothing wrong with wanting a PhD for other than financial reasons, but they can’t complain about the well known consequences of their decision. That’s like someone getting a degree in Ancient Chinese Art History and wondering why they can’t find a job.

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?


Re tech bro: Personally, having worked for maybe half a dozen European-based tech companies, I've experienced two companies where I felt a bit out of the loop socially for not joining them when they played table football or went to the indoor climbing arena after work etc.

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.


Jesus do you know me? Everything is accurate except the PhD part.


The usual answer is consulting companies. There the apperance is the opposite - you won't get hired as a consultant unless you have at least a little gray or white hair.


Not in the bay area or other tech centers, I would guess.


As someone who's "getting up there in the years", I really want to believe such a shift will come to pass, but somehow doubt it will, at least for my generation. Partially because '80s - '00s generation CS students were by an overwhelming majority upper-middle class males, and it's hard to generate sympathy for what are now mostly high-earning older men. As pointed out by others, it's "the bias in tech nobody wants to talk about." There's almost this sort-of "serves you right for getting complacent" kinda attitude around all of it. In general, the most sympathetic coverage I see about ageism in tech is through investigative journalism contextualized with riches-to-rags stories of the loyal Company Man whose American Dreams are dashed at the behest of an uncaring Corporate Goliath: "He had a family, a stable 6-figure job, 30 years of experience, and multiple advanced degrees, but now he's in the breadline". The perfect example of this is ProPublica's coverage of IBM's layoffs. Meanwhile, there is little recognition of the parallels between the purported "millennial mindset", sought-after and lauded by corporate HR departments, which holds "my job is my purpose, my life's work" and the sort of toxic "leetcode-ism" / "brogrammer" culture that is harmful to diversity in tech.

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.


Thanks! Finally some actionable advice in all of this, regarding the dreads and beard. Growing a beard now, too. On the other hand, I feel like misrepresentation doesn't quite get to the core of the problem ;-)


“Won’t someone think of the old white guys?” This very sentence came to mind recently. Sucks because we developers were the nerds, not the ones stealing your savings, housing, education, and healthcare.

There was a grey dread guy in the walking dead, Ezekiel?, is he cool with the young crowd?


I see many people here calling engineers to people who are only coders. A software engineer is something else, and guess what? It is not only about coding, is designing a product from concept to delivery. ( and maintenance of course ). By the way, ageism ( at least in the Bay Area ) is real as hell. It’s happening to me right know, and I am ONLY 43 years old. This is the truth, if the interviewer is younger than you, it does not matter how good you are or what amazing skills you have, you won’t get the job. Sorry, but that’s the truth right now.


unfortunately is not a reality just in the Bay Area. We found it here in London as well, in huge companies and startups. That’s why we had the idea, to alert companies that this is actually happening everywhere and they should pay more attention to older professionals, not only gender and race. Diverse teams are proved to be more effective than others.


I wish there was a "no leetcode-ism in tech" job board


Maybe we'd have more women and other current underrepresented groups in "tech", did the whole post-graduation jobs thing not seem to be about fratbro hazing and "culture fit".

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.


The big push in the media to stereotype boys as computer nerds strengthened in the early 80s. Think War Games and Whiz Kids. I didn’t notice at the time because it was what I was.

Nowadays every computer “hacker” on TV is a really hot chick; maybe the pendulum could come back to center.



Don’t wish, do. Nothing stopping you from building it. I’d use it :D


Granted I’m only 42 but I’ve never experienced a hint of ageism here in Scandinavia. Maybe it’s an American thing? But to you who complain of ageism, would you be fine working for the same salary as a 22 year old that shares a cheap studio apartment with some mates? Or would you be willing to put in as many late nights as a childless youngster would? If not, I don’t think we are actually dealing with some kind of nefarious discrimination here, just a rational market.


If we were dealing with hard labor maybe your point would make sense to me. The very best laborer can only do X times as much work in same amount of time as the least skilled laborer. When dealing with skills of the mind one person could take an entire lifetime and never accomplish what a skilled academic can achieve in an afternoon.

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.


It’s not just in hard labor where employers may want people to work long hours. Regardless of what a lot of older people say, you can actually achieve more by working more hours, at least for short periods. And the younger you are the longer those periods can be.

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.


Personally I find it kind of disgusting you ever expect anyone to work those hours for anything. That is absurd.


As time goes by there is going to be more and more "old" code out there, and generally that will either have to be maintained in its current state or converted to something newer. And to do that you're going to have folks who are both familiar with it and are willing to work on it - except that the young bucks today just really don't want to do that.

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.


I think that a lot of engineers consider the opportunity to work on new technology and code to be part of their compensation. In that case, in order to attract them a company would either need to allow them to do that or increase other forms of compensation. However, it doesn't seem like many companies are willing to do that.


IIRC, something like 90% of a software engineer's career will be spent doing "maintenance" work - working on existing code bases, some of which may (eventually) be quite long in the tooth. So it's something that the young bucks are going to have to get used to pretty quickly.

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.


One caveat though. One way to avoid maintenance is to do full rewrites. This happens quite a lot in some domains and industries. As long as they can keep doing it and change company, they can avoid a lot of maintenance.


Doing a full rewrite is often asking for trouble, though. Somebody out there on the internet maintains a list of companies which have pretty much put themselves out of business by doing full rewrites. Why is this? Because it turns out that a lot of that "old, ugly code" is in fact various types of bug fixes and other operational accommodations. And when you do a full rewrite you tend to lose track of a lot of that stuff, meaning that you get to deal with it all over again, often in a quite painful manner.

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.


You're thinking of software that's been used and battle tested over many years. Most software will never reach that state.

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.


The "churn" thing may cut it the web world and such but not so much elsewhere. There's a local mega-corporation whose core code base is up to twenty years old now, and another whose is up to ten years old. Neither will probably be rewriting anything anytime soon because their current codes bases were the rewrites - expensive and time-consuming ones at that - so they're still adding new features and in some cases still trying to work out long-standing bugs. Neither is lately having much luck bringing in fresh graduates, either, because the young bucks don't want to work on that stuff - it's too old for them.


It's more common than you think. A lot of software don't last long. In fact a lot of software never actually get used.

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.


Yes, in the past I've been both a contractor myself and a contracting customer. And while I have seen newly built code bases thrown out for various reasons, from what I've seen that's not very common. AFAIK most of the code that I've ever written is still out there and working, unless maybe it died a natural death - company closed, got bought out, changed technologies, or what have you.

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!"


It may be risky but I've started putting "working with legacy code and obsolete languages" in my list of skills.


Site got slashdotted. Wayback machine copy: http://web.archive.org/web/20190622083122/https://noageismin...

Also, can some one explain the "diversity link" on a bunch of these?


Hi, I included "diversity link" where companies explicitly publish some articles about how D&I plays its part within the company


slashdotted??? Now you're truly showing your age ;)


Yikes. I'm not that old... right? Right?


As the tech industry ages, we will see more and more articles about how maybe old programmers aren't so bad after all. By the time Elon Musk, Mark Zuckerberg, the Google gents, et. al. all reach retirement age, there will no longer be such a focus on youth in the industry.


Wanted to post exactly this. Ageism is far less of an issue in other Engineering disciplines, and my hope is that as ours matures, it becomes less of an issue too. We’re already starting to see maturation in recent years with things like less language, framework and tooling churn, and consolidation around a few SDLC best practices


I hope you're right and most of the companies change their mind


Are there stats on the proportion of older engineers who can't find work? It would seem most of the "working engineers are young" observation could be explained by most people who have ever entered the field entering it recently.


Unlikely. Probably representative of not much even if there were. Most old types like me would not seek to be a visible statistic if they couldn't find work, but quietly go off and find something else to do.

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.


"Your really over qualified for the job..." I heard that for the first time my last job search. It's so tempting to say back: "So...What dpes that mean? I would do the job too well?"

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.


THANK YOU.

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.


Ageism definitely exists when company feels someone is too old to join them. There's obviously easy solution to this problem: join companies where people are similar age to yours or older. Because younger people are probably just not able to handle you or appreciate your life experience and are looking for people similar to them. What if you're extremely old and your equals are dead? You should've retired by that time or have alternative revenue streams than salary. If you've failed to have other income streams than salary that's your fault. You've limited your (professional) life to technical excellence which is obviously only one of the aspects of career and life general. I think people should at some point take wider responsibility of what they're doing and become not necessarily managers, but maybe tech leaders, authors, trainers etc. There is one more aspect to that: person may have a mental condition, like asperger's or something like that. Then he probably cannot build his career in a way described above and he needs to seek alternative ways of progression.


It would be more useful if the jobs were searchable or sortable. It's frustrating that I have to go to each company's page to see the jobs.


Yes agreed. Initial idea was to include all jobs on the homepage, but we'd like to build the website as simple as possible to validate the idea and see if it is really a problem in the industry. I'm sure the website will change over time


I sadly had an experience last year with older team members neither having the sage wisdom nor the flexibility to add value to a project, but they were kept on because of diversity reasons. The project was still delivered on time, on par with specs and within budget, but the older people were sent on paid leave after the first month of the project.

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.


Sorry to hear that but think that’s more a problem of commitment instead of age


How much is ageism, and how much is it employers feeling like a more senior person will have higher salary expectations?


Feeling a more senior person will have higher salary expectations IS ageism. Make the same offer to everyone qualified.


The point here is that the senior professionals don’t have the option to choose as employers are not recruiting more senior professionals, not just because of their salary expectations. They are not even attracting them to their open roles.


Feeling like <person of a certain demographic> will have <unwanted quality> is the exact definition of <demographic>-ism.


Thank you so much for this. A CS professor of mine who is currently struggling with her income and her future (even though she is tenured) could really use something like this (she doesn't mind doing boring programming work).


Many thanks for the support and hope we can help her to find a new position


I went through the site out of curiosity . First of all, kudos for taking the initiative. You will hopefully grow big because it seems like a big problem (or soon to be one). I have a suggestion regarding the UX: Can you have a couple of filters (location, skills etc) which will make it easier for job hunters? As of now, it seems ok without the filters but as soon as the job postings increase, you will face issues. Again, good luck with the project :-)


Great initiative. I hope it gets better and better from this point of view.

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.


I guess because most new cool companies are startups and who was the guy over 40 in the movie "The Social Network" other than probably the investor/lawyer.

Most companies homepage is filled with younger folks and also why would anyone 40+ is going to listen to a 20 something CEO?


Why would a 40+ year old person listen to a 20-something? Perhaps because that's what they're being paid to do?

CEOs do more than just issue edicts from on high, they take feedback from the people running the various operations, otherwise the company falls apart.


I don't know about you but a friend of mine told me he sometimes feel insulted to take orders from someone inexperienced who don't know what they are doing specially when there are female members on the team, the insult doubles.

Did you watch the movie dictator where the the great general Aladdin demands the rocket be made pointy?

At small companies CEOs act similar to a dictator, maybe not all? But they've the vision. It's mostly them who get it, other are called naive or stupid.

Stuff like this is what drives experienced people out of the door.

As you get older, it gets hard to keep up with that BS and some people prefer mental sanity over paychecks naturally the jobs gets filled by ones who are willing to do the crazy thing in order to keep the money coming in.


What does having women on the team have to do with it?


when faced with absurdity, he loses temper and signs of which start showing on him and women feel uncomfortable around him. Atleast he's aware of what people around him are feeling. He never said he wants no women on the team, it's just how he feels.


If your company is full of people who are only doing things because they're paid to do them it's going to struggle.


If you stopped paying them, nearly 100% of employees would stop coming to work. At some level, no matter how committed they are or love the work, everyone is doing work because they're being paid to be there.


Ye, but following orders by the letter as a engineer or programmer is a receipe for failure. When people stop caring and just do what they are told without a fight if it is stupid chaos ensues.


Disagree and commit. While the decision is open, make your best arguments. Once the decision is closed, execute that decision.


Ye, you can't be a rogue either. It's a very thin line to balance.

In general I am clear that I will follow consensus so the "other side" doesn't feel that they need to convince me for me to do it with my best effort.


But that's not the _ONLY_ reason they're their.


I'm in my 40s and I'd listen to a 20-something CEO no problem, _provided that she's not full of shit_. Trouble is, I've seen so much over the past 25 years that I can smell BS from five miles away, so if there's any pulling of wool going on, I'm gonna notice it, and I'm not going to like it. Be honest and genuine, be a leader, be good at what you do, and I don't care if you're 20-something or 90-something.


>why would anyone 40+ is going to listen to a 20 something CEO?

Because he signs the paychecks.


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