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Ask HN: Why are we accepting ageism in tech as something immutable?
115 points by Arisaka1 5 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 120 comments
This week alone I had 2 interviews with 2 different companies where in the first one of the interviewers asked me my age, directly followed by "why hire you over a younger graduate?" (which isn't the same as "why hire you over someone smarter than you?" because why even ask this). In the second one I was also asked for my age, followed by whether I plan to get married anytime soon.

I'm under the impression that the industry needs to learn to treat amateurs as amateurs regardless of their age. It feels like I'm not allowed to be an amateur professional simply because I'm over 30 years old. Instead of seeing people as "a guy with 2 years of experience" or "a woman with 4 years of experience" we see "a 40 year old guy with 2 years of experience" or "a 34 year old woman with 4 years of experience".

It feels like there's an implicit expectation of expertise in doing something that comes with my age. It's almost as if I'm not allowed to learn and get good in something that I want, simply because I was late into "the party", where party can be whatever but since I'm a web developer that's what "the party" is.

I've had multiple people telling me that "we saw people with fewer and less polished projects get jobs". I've been seeking for 8 months, I'm almost at the point where I might as well freelance to bypass the discrimination. I get barely any calls back, and the one interview that felt somewhat fair was because I had my former manager from a completely unrelated field introduce me to someone looking for web developers, and that didn't worked out because they wanted me to learn their stack and build an assignment within a week, which failed gloriously.

Is there something that we can do so that people can just be amateurs regardless of age? I'm sure since we're making SOME progress against sexism and racism we could somehow do something for ageism too, because I can't blame Zuckerberg's opinion anymore.

Limited input data, but my sense is that this could have nothing much to do with age. You've been talking to people who say plain out illegal things in interviews (at least in the USA), and it sounds like you've been looking for jobs through "commodity" channels -- asking for "interview projects" to be done in two weeks, hiring for experience with very specific tech, and so on.

Recommendation: don't do that. Instead aim to get a job with people who value inherent capabilities and flexibility, and who aren't abusers. To do that you may need to do some work first. For example, develop a web application of your own, open source, using some modern tech stack (doesn't matter which specific one). Then, when you interview you can talk about your experiences, thoughts, etc with that tech. This shows the interviewer that you have the capability to pick up new tech, to understand its strengths and weaknesses, to produce output. A good interviewer will see that and know that you will therefore be able to pick up whatever tech they want you to use. It's not about specific knowledge and buzzwords : it's about the ability to learn and apply. You can now go into interviews with the approach : I don't know anything about some of the tech you're using, but that's ok because I have proven I can learn, and I know a huge amount about _something_, and perhaps the interviewer will be interested to learn from me about that.

One of the advantages of age is that you have had more time to meet more people, with with more people, build a network. Use those contacts to look for jobs rather than recruiters.

When you reach a certain age you have to play to your strengths and focus on the things you're good at doing. Sometimes when people hit their midlife crisis, they realize, I want to make hundreds of thousands of dollars for typing code too. https://news.ycombinator.com/submitted?id=Arisaka1 Some people are "Ask HNers" and some people are "Show HNers".

l might be wrong,but it almost sounds like you're saying there's no room for middle aged people to switch to coding later in life. There can be many reasons people switch, not necessarily related to a crisis or monetary incentives. We need more coders, so why not let people learn.

> We need more coders

Who is "we" here?

How do you mean?

I'm wondering who is the "we" in the "we need more coders" part of your comment referring to. I can think of a few examples where some people might want more coders, but other might not:

1) Right now coders are in high demand. This means that they cost a lot. Recruiters might want more coders to be able to recruit people easier, companies might want more coders to reduce their price, and have more people working. On the other hand, coders themselves might not want more coders because it may reduce their earnings, and make it harder for them to get jobs.

2) Some people think that more software is good, and therefore we need more people producing it. On the other hand, some people think that "we should be more like engineers" and should gatekeep more, to increase the quality of the software. I'm not supporting either of those idea, just citing examples that I've seen, especially here on HN

3) A country might want more coders in general to increase its economy, especially if it's one where other countries can outsource work to. But on the other hand, it might also not want other countries that have a lower cost of living/salaries to have more coders, so they can keep work for themselves.

All of that to say that I'm not sure the sentiment of "we need more coders" is agreed upon by everyone, which is why I'm asking who you were referring to.

I agree 'we' is relative, on reflection. I meant in general terms only i.e., the need for more developers will increase as employers start to build more software, which is where I posit things are heading. I could be wrong of course.

I slightly regret adding that to my post now, as my main concern was with the over generalisation of the reasons why older people might switch to coding/development. Ironically, I managed to do that myself by assuming the 'we' was agreed as was the need for more developers!

Eventually there will be so much software that writing code will need to be automated by machines. GPT-2 is open source and it's able to write computer programs, although not very well. GPT-3 does it better and they give it away for free. So imagine how much more advanced the stuff you have to pay money for is, or the trade secret models. You'd think programmers would move on to a higher-level of abstraction where programmers program the computer programs that do programming. That's probably not going to be the case. For example, take a look at the GPT-2 source code https://github.com/openai/gpt-2/blob/master/src/model.py It's only a few hundred lines of code.

> Eventually there will be so much software that writing code will need to be automated by machines.

It's already here, and has been for a long time. We call these machines "compilers".

Women and men used to do computing and mathematics together until man created things like compilers that automated a lot of the tasks women were doing. The man in tech then woke up one day and wondered where all the women went. Now man has done the same thing to himself.

There's always a conflict between leveraging your background and optimizing for what is highest pay currently (unless you're really lucky). Neither direction is a guarantee. Certainly we would like a society where a person who follows the latter policy is always able to succeed at it. It's an important signal for where the need is the highest. At some point (hopefully soon..) society will have way too many real estate agents again, and it's better if they go where they are needed rather than toughing it out because they think there are no alternatives at their age.

> When you reach a certain age you have to play to your strengths and focus on the things you're good at doing.

source please

This is a dead end conversation that I've been involved in many times as an older developer:

a) Young people don't care because it doesn't affect them and the industry is mostly young

b) Companies don't care because no one can stop them if they discriminate surreptitiously

c) Older people have no recourse unless they can prove discrimination in court which is difficult. See b)

d) No one wants to think about getting old and what will happen to them, so it's not given any consideration or taken seriously because it makes people feel uncomfortable

e) young people are judgemental because they all think they're going to get rich in tech, so an older person needing a job must be a loser

One bit of justice or karma in this situation is that the young will become old and experience the system they helped perpetuate.

e) young people are judgemental because they all think they're going to get rich in tech, so an older person needing a job must be a loser

This one is prevalent. If you're old, why aren't you either rich, or a senior manager, since you had the benefit of living through the tech revolution.

Young people are mostly blissfully unaware of the reefs ahead that can ship wreck them. I could rattle a list of them off the top of my head, but they won't listen or care. It's funny in a way, because someone who has suffered a severe hardship midlife and managed to battle their way back has qualities that are exactly what some of these companies need.

Correct me if I'm wrong, I feel like at least the good part of software development industry is taking advantage over young engineers, letting them hope for the better future, but making work long hours with less than averge compensation.

I really can't answer this because it depends on what area of software development and where you work

What are the reefs ahead that can shipwreck us?

No spoiler alerts from me and besides, I wouldn't want to deprive you of valuable life lessons. Just remember that you'll make it through as long as you don't give up.


You might not be rich, or a senior manager.

But you probably won't really care.

> I've had multiple people telling me that "we saw people with fewer and less polished projects get jobs".

I have a few projects on github. NO... ONE... EVER... LOOKS. Maybe they will do a cursory glance, but I've never had anyone actually look through them in any detail.

Sure, if you created a library with some decent traction and have a good amount of stars, it might help. But for your average developer with personal projects, no one has the time to look at your code. Even for someone with a hit project, they are still probably just looking at your stars as a proxy for your ability to write production code and not your actual code. There is so much HN advice focusing on having projects to show people and I think it's mostly bad advice.

Here's my two cents:

1) Pay someone professional to look over your resume. If you aren't getting interviews this might be a factor. It'll cost you a few hundred dollars and may potentially earn back many many times that amount. Bonus: Have them look over your linkedin profile as well.

2) Find companies on linkedin that you'd potentially want to interview with. Send messages to developers there. This might required a paid linkedin account for a few months, but again, think of it as an investment. Have your resume on dropbox or similar and then include a URL with a link to your resume in there, since I don't think linkedin allows attachments.

3) Interview, interview, interview. The interview process is very imperfect and it sucks. But every time you fail, go back and see where you went wrong. Eventually you will see that a lot of companies ask the same questions with small twists, so practice makes perfect here.

4) Don't sweat it when you get rejected. Remember it's a numbers game. More interviews == more chances to get an offer. You only need one job at a time.

I’ve straight up brought up my projects in an interview, only to be rid “we don’t care, we want to hear about your professional experience” (though not in those words)

It’s sucks because my professional experience is a bunch of droll bullshit. My projects tend to at least be interesting bullshit.

Note that the last time I heard this was in the context of a “tell me about a time” context regarding technical challenges. This wasn’t a case where they wanted to hear about my professional work because of non technical ability (think ability to ship under ever changing requirements, etc.) because they were equally unimpressed with that.

Just as a bit of small opposing anacdata - I always look at applicants GitHub/etc projects and skim through the code to get an idea of their skill/style/interests etc, and then always have them discuss those projects in the interview itself.

I've only worked at a few places, but one of the coolest interview things that happened to me was when I applied for an internship at Mozilla, and one of my interviewers ended up contributing some tests to a project I had on GitHub after we discussed that project in the interview.

It's unfortunate about people not looking at Github more. Personally, I look in depth, but i'm not responsible for hiring. If I were, I most definitely would not have hired many of the people that we have hired where I work. There IS a flipside to this however: many of the best devs I've worked with have very little on Github, so its imperative to find a way to judge technical merit some other way.

Disagree; I've had people bring up projects from my Github in interviews, and I didn't even have anything impressive up there. Even when they don't it gives you something to talk about yourself. I implemented a horribly basic version of chess and one interviewer had played it and found a bug, which was kind of embarrassing.

* qualification: only a small companies; at big tech shops this never happens.

I look at the GitHub profile of anyone who puts it on their resume before I talk to them. (I might eliminate someone before looking at their GitHub, but I don’t think I’ve ever talked to someone with a profile on their resume without looking first.)

Not having one isn’t a negative (too many devs have none or almost none to use it as a signal), but having a good one can be a positive.

Yea and many of us also keep the majority of our projects private. Either because they are work for another company or because we don’t as a rule give away everything for free.

It would be a red flag for a company to punish you for not producing a bunch of open source code. Unless of course they are an open source company and that matters for your job.

It would be bizarre if when hiring a plumber you ask for a history of free plumbing they’ve provided for people.

Print out your projects. On paper. I did this - it has always worked and routinely impressed the interviews with the (printed!) appearance of it. Then discuss it in the interview.

Small counterpoint but I've definitely interviewed at companies where they asked me for my github and then we even walked over some of the code and talked about design patterns, implementation details, etc.

I tended to think that ageism in the tech industry wasnt so bad or at least was "offset" enough by companies that exhibited a preference for older workers.

For every node.js driven pet social network with a 26 year old CEO that discriminates against you there will be an insurance company who will view your graying hair as reassuring evidence of your deep experience.

But jesus, the ageism against older "juniors" is just brutal. Their CVs are always the first in the trash can.

Perversely, a lot of men in tech have hopped on the tech "diversity" bandwagon by demonstrating a somewhat creepy overt preference for younger women when hiring junior developers, ironically making things harder for other minorities. Yay diversity :/

And it's an oversaturated market, which is where quietly stated prejudices really come out to play.

The hiring market is a real shitshow. I'm relieved not to be a grad anymore.

this probably sounds more like a joke, but we could say the whole tech industry only exist because of the ageism in almost all other industries.

> I'm under the impression that the industry needs to learn to treat amateurs as amateurs regardless of their age. It feels like I'm not allowed to be an amateur professional simply because I'm over 30 years old.

To be clear: Someone using only your age to discriminate is not okay and I’m not suggesting it is.

However, reading the hints in your post (“amateur professional” and referring to a manager from another field) suggests that this is more of a recent career change for you.

When changing careers, it’s important to be able to demonstrate that you’ve accomplished things and gained experience in your prior field. If it looks like a complete career reset and you can’t really explain what you’ve learned in your career to date that makes you a better hire than a fresh graduate with similar experience, why would the hiring manager assume you’ll thrive in your new career path any better than your old one?

> "why hire you over a younger graduate?"

Not very tactful, but this should be a softball question for you: They’re asking you to explain how your prior career experience, even if not in programming, makes you a good choice. Think of what you’ve learned and accomplished and explain how it makes you the more mature employee and team member. If you can’t think of anything, that makes you more of a liability for them because even average new grads can accumulate some degree of accomplishment and achievement.

> I had my former manager from a completely unrelated field introduce me to someone looking for web developers, and that didn't worked out because they wanted me to learn their stack and build an assignment within a week, which failed gloriously.

Being able to do a basic assignment is table stakes when it comes to getting jobs with a non-traditional background, like it or not. You can’t win them all, but I’d suggest working on getting to a point where you can demonstrate your skills quickly to new employers.

> why would the hiring manager assume you’ll thrive in your new career path any better than your old one?

Tech is such a lucrative field, why would your default assumption be about whether they thrived or not before, instead of just that they recognized the good deal that tech is?

"This is a career reset, and the fact that you weren't happy topping out at $60k in your previous field is a red flag that must be explained away" is how I read that part of your comment.

Topping out compensation wise in your previous field did mean you thrived.

I meant that as "unhappy with the potential topping out at" rather than "unhappy having topped out at." But that isn't the central point anyways.

Recruiting firms have effectively isolated large companies from whatever discrimination they feel like doing. If you're Joe CEO and you hate black people, you just overpay a small recruiting firm and wink at them not to forward any black people your way. Later, if the recruiting firm gets caught (and that's a big "if" considering how small the firm is), they just fold and re-open somewhere else with the big paycheck you've already given them. The company catches no bad PR because it was the recruiting firm's fault, not theirs.

There's this weird fiction that recruiting companies are only discriminating based on age but they have the ability to discriminate on anything they want.

> This week alone I had 2 interviews with 2 different companies where in the first one of the interviewers asked me my age, directly followed by "why hire you over a younger graduate?" (which isn't the same as "why hire you over someone smarter than you?" because why even ask this). In the second one I was also asked for my age, followed by whether I plan to get married anytime soon.

Okay, if this interview was in the United States, interviewers can't actually ask these questions.

About 'amateurs': developing software for sale is a professional endeavor, so by signaling that you are an amateur, you are telegraphing that you are less suited for the job than someone who doesn't. This is a function of maturity, and maturity is expected from someone who is older.

Most valley companies simply do not care if you are a 34-year old with 4 years of experience, provided your education and training were not in computer science. If your resume clearly shows your educational and work background, absolutely no sane mainstream company will care. There are larger companies that do insist on hiring people with degrees in Computer Science or Electrical Engineering to do software, but that doesn't seem to be the case here.

My advice: - Polish your speaking and presentation style. Convey maturity that is commensurate with your age. Maintain a positive attitude and a professional demeanor in your interviews no matter what. Take some time to familiarise yourself with the terms of art, and speak the lingo.

- Do not deal with very small shops. They generally do not have processes and management structures that are suitable to integrating people such as you (or reigning in wackos who ask illegal questions during interviews, thus showing their total lack of interview training and common sense). You will have better luck with companies that have explicit programs to bring in people from nontraditional backgrounds into software dev.

- Freelancing is a good idea if you want to make some money and connections, but getting into an established company such as the one I have described is a much better bet to get into the industry.

You will notice that the first question when you apply to Y Combinator is your age. The second is your sex.

I assume that you are basically a junior developer from the "amateur" comment and that you couldn't get somewhat going on a new stack in a week (no judgement as you probably cannot with your level of experience, but a lot of somewhat more experienced people can)?

A lot of companies view juniors as expendable coding drones to handle the crappy tasks or something you take as you cannot afford anything else. Both of those correlate with long hours and those are easier to get from unattached younger people. So it isn't always about age, but what age generally means.

That aside, what's your stack? Post a bit of info and maybe some of us can lend you a hand.Plenty of companies pay for referrals, so even asking around on LinkedIn will net you plenty as it costs me nothing to toss your resume into the box and is essentially a lottery ticket for a couple grand.

To answer your title question, it just doesn't impact people enough. Refactoring a large culture is a massive undertaking, especially when the people impacted are not part of it yet/are at the bottom rung.

To be honest, I don't even see myself as a junior but more of an entry level, because there are junior openings that assume some experience. My only experience comes from personal projects and github contributions.

Ageismm is illegal. Leaving that aside, I think you are selling yourself short here about entry level / junior positions. If you tell the recruiter you are entry level that is what they are going to do. Instead of just focussing on the tech, think about a framework for the transferable skills you bring to the table.

To clarify transferrable skills there are two aspects: I am assuming you have prior experience in an unrelated field here. - I would recommend you learn about the software development life cycle (SDLC) and reflect on work you have done in a prior role which can be contextualized into planning, analysis, design, execution, maintenance phases. Write down that story and practice it till you can narrate it in a believable manner - Behavioural interviews: This is where companies try to probe your prior experience to see if you would be a good fit. Learn about the STAR method and see what experience / stories you can have in your aresnal that you can commmunicate effectively. You need to communicate that you are a good team player, collaborate well, are adaptable and a quick learner.

If you can do these well, you are far ahead of most other candidates.

Regarding the ageism question: I suggest reflecting on what is the question behind the question. Many engineers change jobs often and hence many companies have even given up on investing on recruiting entry level / junior folks. So if a company is willing to recruit junior engineers, then they might be wondering why should I invest in this person who might be in a different stage in their life / career?

It is understood in most companies that entry level / junior positions require a lot of hand holding. Not just in the tech but in how to work in the SDLC and collaborate well, reach for help when they are stuck etc.

No one should be asking your age. No one. It's as offensive as someone asking your sexual orientation. You look at the CV, and you ask the same set of questions as someone else. If you feel you were rejected because of age, you should find a good lawyer and consult with them.

> It's as offensive as someone asking your sexual orientation.

Which is basically on every employment form I have filled out.

Wait? What?! I’ve filled many a form that asked for my gender but I’ve never seen one that asked for my sexual orientation in an employment context. (I have gotten a closely related sexual experiences question in an STD screening context and an orientation question for dating apps, which are the only situations where it seems relevant, but never for employment).

They probably mean the voluntary survey that most quick online applications have nowadays.

Yes, it's a voluntary survey. Employers with 100 or more employers are required to include it in the job application.

Where TF are you applying??

Every "equal opportunity employer" in the states has a part of the application that's a dryer form of, "we're working towards equal opportunity, so please tell us what you consider to be your race as well as which gender you identify with and which you prefer to have sex with, which we promise are completely work-relevant questions because we care so much about representation and pinky promise this information won't be used in any other way".

Seems completely backwards to me, but I've seen it on quite a few job application forms.

That's a voluntary survey that gets sent to the government. You're in no way required to answer those questions.


Except you can't move on to the next phase of the form unless that box gets checked. At least that has been my experience applying in a few places.

There is a "I refuse to identity myself" option for most if not all the questions on the form(s). (this also includes the veteran status ones)

In which part of the world do you live ?

I don’t think anything will change unless you name and shame the companies. Why protect them?

Until companies hear “I passed because of the ageism I saw when I googled your company,” there isn’t any reason not to behave this way.

People who name and shame tend to want to hurt their target. That motivation tends to also lead to spinning the story, even a tiny bit, to sound worse and therefore hurt them worse.

It could be the interviewer was trying to ask something beneficial like "explain to us why your additional years of experience make you more valuable than someone who lacks that additional experience?", but wasn't worded well, and with a little spin or removal of context, gets turned into the opposite of what they meant.

Similarly the marriage one comes up a lot. People instantly assume that the implication is they might quit and become a housewife. But in context it could also be the interviewer trying to sell their company's and city's benefits for their specific lifestyle (whatever it is), to try and further attract the candidate.

In the U.S. it's illegal to ask an applicant's age, so you've got potential legal recourse against both of the companies in your examples.

Only in a small handful of states (CA, MN, PA, WI, CT):


For the rest of the US, age is only a protected status if you are >40.

:not sure if face:

> In order to protect against ageism, we created a law with an age restriction

Question is how do you prove it? And what can you do about it? A few years back a recruiter was gushing at my resume and said the hiring manager wants to talk to you but wants to know a particular gap in my resume when I left prior employer X. I told the recruiter that I was not happy that X made it very hard for me to take my FMLA leave when my kid was born.

The recruiter hung up shortly and a couple of days later I got the generic rejection letter. I responded by stating that this was discrimination & illegal but I don't have any material evidence and the recruiter simply rejected my claim. So I thought I would post my experience on glassdoor. Couple of days later, I see that my review about the company had been removed from Glassdoor. Glassdoor definitely know which side of one's bread is buttered.

> In the U.S. it's illegal to ask an applicant's age,

Common misconception, but it’s not true except in a few states.

Age discrimination has a very specific legal meaning, and it doesn’t apply at all below a certain age threshold.

Even when age discrimination is in play, simple asking about age (except in those few states) doesn't constitute discrimination. You have to prove that age was a deciding factor in choosing against the hire, which is actually much more difficult than even just proving the question was asked.

In practice, without a ton of leg work to find patterns, how would you prove it?

You report it so that the state is aware of it. Let the state find the pattern. Companies get away with this crap because we let them.

Pattern doesn’t matter. You document it.

You're being silly.

Its not like a job at mcdonalds, We are talking about complex creative jobs where you need to invest a lot of time and resources to integrate new hires.

The last thing companies want is to waste all that resources into a bad hire and spend even more money getting another guy for the job.

You bet they are gonna look at all the signals and trust me a 40 year old amateur is gonna ring a lot of alarm bells!

Like literally what did you expect.. for them to completely overlook the fact that either you've done fuck all for 20 years or just jumped ship mid life.

Good lord, I hope you don’t manage people.

I wish people would hire you based on your skill level, and not strictly match your skill level with years of experience. Maybe someone with 10+ years of experience wants to get hired as a SWE, not a Senior or Staff SWE.

I have 10+ years of experience working at non-tech companies. Nominally I was a Senior SWE. However I am certain I am not at the same caliber as a Senior SWE who has spent his/her career working in Silicon Valley tech companies. I'd love to join a tech company as a midlevel engineer and work my way up again despite both my age (30s) and years of experience (10+). I've noticed there are some companies that outright disallow this. It can go like:

"You have 10+ yoe, you either interview and qualify as a senior/staff SWE, or we don't want you at all regardless of whether you'd make a great midlevel SWE"

That said, my suggestion is the current best way around this is to probably become a Leetcode Master. Not all companies make or break you over leetcode, but I'd say the majority still do, so you will have breadth of scope covered. Utterly wow them with your leetcode skills (which admittedly can be a completely different skillset from your day to day SWE work), and that seems like it can overcome many other perceived cons.

It's sad that this industry doesn't value older techies unless they go into management. The gatekeepers for tech are clueless agents and recruiters that want to make quick cash and they bet on younger graduates to pass LC questions and get the job so they get commission.

Young people think that just because they got into a FAANG they are safe when they get older. You are never safe if you depend on an employer. And trust me you won't be responsible with your money while young anyway.

Can't find ref for the article now but someone recently posted stats of how CS has the worst longterm years of experience to remuneration compared to other degrees/industries. While the rate of learning never slows down as you get more experience. Meaning that your years of experience matters little and your pay won't increase much as you age.

Point being adapt to other pathways as you get older.

Age discrimination exists but to be fair, people with low experience find it difficult to get callbacks regardless of age.

I worked for Best Buy and we have a hiring group that is focused on hiring people that have made career transitions, and give them opportunities in entry level roles. We actually take it a step further, we have a program that will pay someone as a contractor, while they go through a 6 month bootcamp, with the goal of hiring them after. This program reserves sports for people that are looking to transition into engineering.

> one of the interviewers asked me my age, directly followed by "why hire you over a younger graduate?"

I hope you told them it's because you have enough experience to know what they said is illegal.

The entire tech interview landscape is littered with landmines. Inept middle managers often throw individuals with no HR training and blatant personal bias at recruits with disastrous results. It's been that way for years now with no end in sight. Interviewing is essentially about how comfortable someone feels around you and a sizable portion of the current generation in tech don't feel comfortable around anyone. We have to accept the fact that it will not change. It just takes time and patience to find the right fit.

Unpopular advice: work with good recruiters. Find headhunters that have been contracted to fulfil roles like those you are looking for. Get them to advocate for you and give you feedback.

First off the questions with age implicit implications are 100% illegal in the US full stop. Second it sounds like the companies you applying for are sh*tshows (based on those interview questions) and you may have dodged a bullet there. The funny thing about ageism is its the one form of discrimination that affects every single person and yet its the one that I have not seen a single tech company take a stand against.

I truly really hope I will be done with tech by my early 40s (made enough to do something else less lucrative maybe). I don't think management will ever become so enlightened as to see humans fir their real capabilities. So, HN, please advise what else can I pivot to, that treats older people as increasingly expert instead of irrelevant.

Pivot and do tech for companies that have no idea about tech.

There are companies spending thousands of dollars on contractors who deliver suboptimal work. Hiring someone who can code/vet/manage contractors can save money. You could also do some work for city govts, my local village is paying $90k for a dev role, it isn't great but I have feeling it is a very cushy job. A friend of mine works for a major city as a project manager and his salary is $110k. He can go to the office and nap. Things move EXTREMELY slow. This would be great for me once I get older.

I work for non-tech manufacturing company and have freedom to use whatever stack I want. I work whenever I want. My boss tells me "no rush" all the time. They are used to contractors missing deadlines by YEARS. I can have a productive week and a crappy week, nobody cares.

You could also try to build some software for small to mid companies. They are a small fish for major software shops but for a solo dev can produce a nice income, even if you just maintain their stuff on a contract basis.

Follow Cal Newport's advice. Be so good they can't ignore you. I'm 54, coding since I was 12. In all these years, I had only one discussion about a potential hire, not so many years ago, where I just walked out, precisly because age came into conversation. Company formely known as Facebook :))

Remote Work. That's the answer. I wear wig and place the camera and lighting in such an angle that my wrinkles don't show up much. This covid situation has forced to conduct interviews online and its been amazing. I have never been asked my age in online interviews for some reason.

Older people command higher wages. If you have the age, but not the experience it creates a disconnect that is a bit awkward. That is probably why you had the unfortunate "why not hire a younger junior" question.

I tend to think this is a lot of what people consider 'ageism' - more like 'wageism'..

I've gotten multiple offers/jobs after turning 50, and still continue to get them. No one ever seems to bat an eye about my age. But if you're doing something someone less experienced can do, they're not gonna want to pay a premium..

At all the startups I’ve worked at over 10 years, this just hasn’t been the case. I’m in the minority apparently. We’ve explicitly looked for a mix of experience to fill missing roles on the team. Frequently the newer devs have direct experience with a hot new framework and are clearly very hungry. This is great for hiring. However any company of marginal success will find itself at a strong disadvantage scaling the systems or team size without experienced engineers. You can only punt on this so long before the weight of bad architecture, testing and code quality from inexperienced devs results in stagnation and liability.

> the industry needs to learn to treat amateurs as amateurs regardless of their age

Out of interest what do you mean by "amateurs" here, I'm not sure it's the right word for what you're expressing?

Pretty sure OP just means the version synonymous with novice -- someone with little experience.

OP Maybe unaware of this Americanism : https://imgur.com/gallery/GUcVw

In the the US (elsewhere too?) "Amateur" can have the connotation of someone who is unacceptably not good at what they do and often with an apathy towards getting better.

They seem to be talking about fresh inexperienced junior devs applying to their first job or two.

Strange, I am closer to 50 than I am from 40, and despite all the fear I had in the past I never find myself discriminated because of age. Also, I am not managerial material, So, after a small stint on management a few years ago I decided it was not what I wanted and so I am still basically a developer. Maybe there's some invisible prejudice around that I haven't noticed, maybe I am lucky, but compared to other professions, I think that software development has been very fair for older guys like me.

I really don't think this is the kind of ageism we are suppose to fight. You need to convince people with your past projects, sadly that's a thing for an experienced hire. Fresh graduates from not so fancy engineering school are not exactly immune to this kind of problems. It's easier to do you old job in a tech company and maybe transition to become a developer there then to look for a career change out in the wild, at least, people would already know you.

I don't think people < 60 have significantly more problems to adjust than younger peers, but one simple fact is that younger people usually demand less benefits.

Sometimes people want to test how you react to offensive questions, although these seems to be borderline illegal depending on your country. Maybe they want to know if you take the opportunity to advertise maturity or something or get defensive about it.

2 years experience @ 30 years old? That's a joke. There are people 10 years younger than you with that amount of experience who are happy to work 16 hour days for a mediocre wage. Sure they will mess up a lot, but so will you.

Old people do not have the time, energy or naivety that young people do. This is fact. The only thing going for them is experience, if you can't bring that, then you've got nothing.

This is bs, sorry. This isn't pro basketball. Your eyes degrade slowly and your memory does too eventually. But unless you're talking about 60+ when such issues really start to catch up with you (still to variable degree depending on the person), you can't possibly make such a generalization.

The average age people do Nobel prize winning work is 44, with a standard deviation of ten years. EDIT: for physics it's actually 42. The 35 is from a prior publication for 1901-1950 (if I'm skimming that right).


As for niavette, age isn't a guarantee of wisdom by any stretch.

Most software engineering work is far from Nobel prizes work, or even research. In an organization, more than 50% of the workers are basically intellectual assembly line workers. In the remaining people, a few will specialize on each technology, a few will specialize on company-specific stuff, a few on the build system, a few on talking with marketing/business. But the majority of people are doing a medium-intensity job that doesn't require much creativity or genuis.

There's absolutely nothing wrong with that or those people. But this means that your output will be a function of your experience and energy. When you're older and inexperienced, you're compared against people that have the same experience but (statistically) more energy. Thus it is the logical choice to prioritize the younger people.

If you're older, you either have to have something new grads don't, or the supply has to be so limited that they're ready to take you too. If you don't have an answer to "why should we hire you over a young graduate?", this means that you don't understand the basis of the business, which is a heavy red flag for an employer.

It's not so different in the ways that matter here. The point is that hard mental work isn't a "young man's game". It's about time and energy still. You need to work very very hard for years to win a nobel prize. In another universe (different only in choice of career path) that nobel prize winner would be an entrepreneur doing 80 hours a week, or a star employee somewhere. You'd be lucky to hire them.

If the nobel prize winner went into basketball, however, there's no way they'll be a top athelete when they're 44. Unless they happen to also be seven feet tall, and even then they have biology heavily stacked against their performance.

Statistics aren't what I'm talking about. Statistically, some perentage of young women will get pregnant. If the stat is not a guarantee which applies to everyone in the group, it's wrong to use it to stereotype people.

> In another universe (different only in choice of career path) that nobel prize winner would be an entrepreneur doing 80 hours a week, or a star employee somewhere. You'd be lucky to hire them.

But most of the people you recruit aren't nobel prizes or entrepreneurs or star employees. They're not doing hard mental work. Regular development is closer to working in a factory or at McDonald's than to research. "Factory" type code is at least 80%-90% of the work being done in that field. And for that, younger employees are just better. They ask for less, can usually work more, put in more energy, don't have familles to go back to.

> Statistics aren't what I'm talking about. Statistically, some perentage of young women will get pregnant. If the stat is not a guarantee which applies to everyone in the group, it's wrong to use it to stereotype people.

No, it's not. At some point you have to make a choice, as a recruiter. If I have a 25 years old and a 35 years old, both with 2 years in tech, equal on the rest, why should I take the 35 years old? This choice won't work 100% of the time. But it will work more than 50% of the time. Companies are about risk management and making a profit.

It's not wrong to discriminate against women? where?

And where are you getting these statistics you refer to?

I think I disagree with pretty much every point you made here. Tech jobs more like fast food than research?

If you're not even trying to make the argument about raw mental abilities (which at least has some kind of support, in narrow situations like chess) then I'd bet the stats regarding work ethic support older workers too.

That "all things being equal" trick you keep pulling is the problem. Yeah they're so equal except you're presumimg one is a hard worker and the other one is a slacker and you can't tell from the resume or interview for some reason. Does the older applicant come in with amnesia?

> It's not wrong to discriminate against women? where?

I don't think I said that in my message? I interpreted your "wrong" as "not reflecting reality" rather than "morally wrong". Also, plenty (most?) countries don't have laws against discrimination. For example, here's the list of countries that have some on Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_anti-discrimination_ac.... That's 20 countries, so a bit more than 10.25%.

> That "all things being equal" trick you keep pulling is the problem. Yeah they're so equal except you're presumimg one is a hard worker and the other one is a slacker and you can't tell from the resume or interview for some reason.

I don't think saying that younger people have more energy than older people is a "trick". This isn't about being a hard worker or not. I'm trying to explain why employers would prefer younger people. Something that get thrown around a lot here on HN is that younger people have more energy. You may disagree, but most people (and thus employers/recruiters) seems to think this way. Thus someone older switching careers has to prove themselves more than a new graduate. You can make the argument that all these people are wrong, but you're going to have to defend your position with things stronger than baseball , raw mental abilities and work ethic. If young people have no issues with doing unpaid overtime and older people do, an employer will prefer them for example.

Er you think I was saying that women getting pregnant more often than men was not a reflection of reality?

I did make the argument with more. I gave you actual stats. Where's yours again? (other than a thorough analysis of undesirable countries). You continue to make unsupported anecdotal arguments countered by my stats. At the most elite levels of accomplishments requiring "more energy", your little biological advantage isn't there. I have more actual stats for you: older students get higher grades and graduate at higher rates than younger students.


No point discussing in someone that calls 90% of the world "undesirable countries".

Hey I have anecdotal evidence proving it. It's all about risk management. At some point you have to make a choice.

If you're old enough to fit the protected category (45+?) Then those questions are straight up illegal. Same with the marital status question.

I don't think "straight up illegal" is quite right. More like discrimination is illegal and if they ask then don't hire you, then they're practically asking you to sue them. They might deny it of course.


Considered evidence of intent to discriminate. Defacto illegal.

"de facto " is better, but still, it's "may be" considered evidence.

Maybe I've just been screwed by the system enough to know that it actually means will be.

Personally I've never felt any ageism throughout my career. I'm 53. My CV has my date of birth on it so my age is obvious at any point in the hiring process. I'm still a developer because I have no desire to move into management. I recently moved into a new tech stack where I don't have years of experience and had no problem being hired.

I think the issue is that OP is old person but a new programmer.

So the companies ask why not, out of people with little expeirience choose younger person.

It's even reasonable for them because they may influence younger person easier and have a better chance of hitting a hidden gem.

I'm not trying to say you are wrong, but I've just turned 40, at my current job 2 years. I've never had a problem with age. It's a financial place, UK, lots of people 30s, 40s 50s.

Maybe finance is different?

We just hired a career change guy in his 30s straight out of code boot camp. In fact we have hired a few of them.

How much experience do you have? Is this an American thing?

> amateur professional

What exactly do you mean by that?

Yeah this is unclear to me as well but if I were to hazard a guess it would be passing off student project / bootcamp experience as work experience. This may be more prevalent when starting out.

Sounds like a NCAA football player.

why hire you over a younger graduate?

Instead of bristling, start by coming up with a good answer for this.

We ask because younger people don't go off about ageism the way you do. They raise other problems however, chiefly inexperience and wokeism.

> We ask because younger people don't go off about ageism.

Really? That's like saying "Well white people don't go off about racism the way you do." Good lord we have some incompetent people making hiring decisions.

in the US at least, it is very dangerous territory if you are asked your age in an interview and you tell them. that gives the interviewer the ammunition to deny you employment based on age, which is illegal, and puts the interviewer(s) in immediate hot water if the interviewee chooses to make a stink about it.

Perhaps also worth reflecting on the age discrimination against the young in many, many other industries

If you’re in the US, that first interview question is illegal and you should talk to a lawyer.

FWIW, I went into many interviews over the past two years and no one asked me about my age.

Your age is on average on your face. It's not hard to realize if someone is older than 23.

Wait, what is an "amateur professional"? Isn't that an oxymoron

Are you in the US. I thought it was illegal to ask about ones age.

Because paying older people what they are worth is not financially sustainable for most companies, unless youre a big tech company, etc. It’s not really ageism, it’s just about money, like everything is.

I think it's more that younger people can accept less money. Life was way cheaper in my twenties, I'm now 40 with a family.

This is pretty much what I said... Not sure where the disagreement is exactly.

So which third world culture was interviewing you?

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