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Are You Too Old For IT?

Ageism might be a taboo topic among employers, but veteran IT pros say it's very much an industry reality.

Other IT pros in their 50s and 60s agree that age is an evident -- if unspoken -- factor, especially when on the job market.

Michael Meyers-Jouan, 65, was laid off four times in the past 10 years. "I found it harder and harder to get a job after each layoff," he said via email. "In general, whenever I got an explanation of my rejection after an interview, I was told I 'didn't have enough energy.' "

Meyers-Jouan acknowledged that compensation was sometimes an issue -- he sought a salary commensurate with his four decades of IT experience. He also acknowledged that his current skill set, which includes the likes of .NET, Visual Basic, C#, and SQL Server, had a visible blind spot: web development. "I wasn't able to offer one of the areas that many -- most -- employers want," Meyers-Jouan said. "Occasionally I found employers who said they were willing to give me the opportunity to learn about that area on the job, but even those employers ultimately rejected me."

The MIT graduate eventually opted to retire, but that wasn't his first choice. "I would have continued working for at least another five years if it weren't for the constant rejection, which was as much about my age as it was about my skill set," Meyers-Jouan said.

Retirement wasn't an option for Ken Bodnar, 57, who lost his job as chief technology officer of a money transfer and pre-paid debit card firm during the recent recession. His age, coupled with the shoddy post-financial crisis economy, became an instant issue.

"I had neckties that were older than the people interviewing me," Bodnar said in an email. "I was in technology, and technology is a young person's game."

Even after downsizing his expectations -- Bodnar said he was willing to take on lower-level positions to get back on someone's payroll -- interviews went nowhere.

"There was very, very subtle age discrimination. After an initial interview, I was told by the interviewer that they had a particular culture and they were looking for a specific fit," Bodnar said. "This culture consisted of Nerf gun wars and a beer cooler in the lunchroom."

One weeding tactic, Bodnar said, was for employers to ask about experience with newer technologies such as Ruby on Rails or MongoDB -- even though those skills weren't part of the job requirements. Bodnar eventually wrote and self-published a book about the experience, 55 And Scared Sh*tless. It's as much a cautionary personal finance tale as IT career manual; Bodnar freely shares that he'd lived beyond his means and saved almost nothing, which compounded his problems after he lost his job. It details his self-described reinvention, which involved abandoning his search for a full-time job in favor of "micro-jobbing" or "job-chunking" -- akin to short-term freelance or consulting gigs -- as well as seeking passive income opportunities.

"Oftentimes these were the drudge jobs in projects, but they paid well because they required my knowledge base. In other instances, my superior experience prevailed over the abilities of the acne crowd," Bodnar said, adding that the need for such work is more common among smaller companies with fewer in-house resources. "The benefits to the people hiring me [were] that they didn't have to keep me around at a high salary after the need was gone. I wouldn't be a burden on their employee benefits program, and they didn't have to worry about team dynamics and age diversity."

In Bodnar's view, the "micro-jobbing" or consulting path is the future of work for many people, in particular, older IT pros struggling on the job market. In his case, the shift was a success. Once his income stabilized, Bodnar began taking on equity in lieu of cash for some projects. As a result, he's now CTO of and a stakeholder in a data privacy and cloud storage company in the Bahamas, where Bodnar now lives. "This whole very negative experience has a positive side," he said. "I have my mojo back."

Hard data on age-related discrimination in IT are elusive; employers aren't exactly keen to publicize the practice. Anecdotal evidence, on the other hand, is not so hard to come by. Huckabone, the Detroit programmer, said it's a topic of conversation among fellow IT veterans. "It definitely comes up in shop talk, and I believe it's very real from what I hear," he said. "People have stories."

Industry association CompTIA doesn't track IT employment data based on age. But information compiled by its research team, based on Bureau of Labor statistics, offers an age-based breakdown of roughly 4.6 million IT positions in the U.S. The 25 to 34 age group accounts for 26.4 percent of those jobs; the 35 to 44 age group accounts for 29.7 percent; the 45 to 54 age group accounts for 23.7 percent; and the 55 to 64 age group accounts for 12.4 percent.

Ageism may be more prevalent in IT than in other fields, too. "The overall consensus from the legal community is that the IT industry does seem to have an overall higher incidence of claims of age discrimination," said Monrae L. English, an attorney with the firm Wild, Carter & Tipton.

English said the issue typically stems from problems of perception. For example, the common notion that older IT pros are more likely to have outdated skills is often wrong. "In fact, most of my cases have clearly shown that an older employee may actually have more depth and understanding of the IT world," English said. "One of my clients was actually a former hacker from the 70s, and while some of the kids who were coming in understood the latest fad software, my older employee had the ability to grasp any kind of software out there and run circles around the younger employees."

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User Rank: Apprentice
6/8/2017 | 8:28:36 PM
Re: I've thrown in the towel for my career
i am with you. I have been working in the field since 1999 - mostly all contracting - and turned 50 this year. I have light years more experience and resources to draw on then the 20-30 somethings but I can not get a job. Everybody that I speak with are young. Young people just don't want older people around. I am finished too.
User Rank: Apprentice
10/15/2015 | 5:24:16 PM
Re: Ageism?


Is something this field suffers so dearly from. A friend of mine was denied a postion with Facebook because he wasn't of their age bracket. It's amazing how that worthless Idiot Mark creator of Facebook said younger people are smarter, but they tend to mess code up a lot easier then older stable employees.


I personally only hire people who have skills, age doesn't mean anything to me... To many I.T companies rely on young dumb programmers to fill up their seats, not saying all young programmers are dumb, but I mean many don't have a clue how to write stable code at all. And some just don't adapt to anything.... Skills should be the only factor in regards to who gets hired and who doesn't.
User Rank: Apprentice
12/10/2013 | 6:18:17 PM
This is also why we have attack vectors
There have been 0, none, nit, swabo, bukes malware attacks on mainframe computers in 40 years. None, because code does not run with privileges and there are no pre-built scripts for script kiddies to use. Write a piece of code that does a buffer overflow on a zSystem running on VM and guess what happens? The process SOC1s and dies, never having gotten a chance to do anything. Put this up on some Windows machine and the attacker 0wns your boxes and can do just about anything they want. Or put up a mainframe, a $70,000 entry-level zSystem will do the equivalent work of about 1,000 blade servers. That mainframe will cost about $90 a month in electricity based on a machine eating about 1KW of electricity, whereas the 1,000 blade servers will probably cost $300,000 and eat $6,000 a month in electricity based on 100W each.

But you'll hardly ever see some kid out of school or young guy even consider a mainframe solution for running a high-volume, high-reliability computing solution because most of them have never even had exposure to a mainframe. And you can't recommend what you've never even heard of.

I can't even run 16-bit MS DOS or Windows applications on a 64-bit machine and running 32-bit ones requires an emulation layer; I've had a quad-core 64-bit Windows 7 machine for two years and only discovered this gem about 3 months ago. Yet you can run 40-year-old MVS binaries on a zSystem on zOS now, without any problems. Well, the PCs of today are fast enough you can run old MS DOS applications under the DOS Box emulator; it felt wierd running an old MSDOS PC game at full speed on a Power PC Macintosh which isn't even an 80x86 processor.

User Rank: Apprentice
12/8/2013 | 9:49:59 AM
employers/potential employers are attempting to use gender and age to discriminate. even at the gov level they're discriminating against mature, experienced people. the gov adopted 'Sustainability' as a policy. this is rooted in the Club of Rome's Agenda 21 and Global 2000 initiatives. the ageism and gender discrimination also has been  happening as a commercial and cultural war tactic to attempt to make people feel worthless. this is really something that if people either dont persevere through this and/or rely on the Lord Jeshua, they will be or may be cannon fodder in this sick new lurch that has been happening to the US because the US is signatory to the G20 Agreements, which are roll ups or roll up to what gov leaders like bush (Skull/Bones ->Thule (Jesuit established or influenced occultic/mystic bavarian catholic organ from which SB came and thus still influences) and kohl (vatican influenced) agreed while it was only G7/G8. US signatory status according to what the germans asked to which bush agreed to give kohl or that was offered to kohl to incentivize germany's reunification, was US to constrain its economy to that of the 'managed' competition of the EU, which the Germans dominate and are using scorched earth to take over/control what joined the Germans' EU.

this is difficult material to find and confirm because it's hidden in their political double speak.


find Maurice Strong of the Club of Rome (which is influenced by the SJ, which have attempted to destroy the US for the Holy See). parce him and their contempt for the US. it will give you a better idea of what's inculcated into the 1% here and what then they'll have our policy makers put into law and/or regulation and have the NSA by way of PsiOPs attempt to control over society.

Kristin Burnham
Kristin Burnham,
User Rank: Author
12/6/2013 | 9:31:10 PM
Re: Re. Comments on Too Old For IT
@turquhart201 -- you nailed it. Young employees can groan about how older ones just "don't get it" and older ones can groan on about how young ones have no respect. The  more important realization is that both bring important qualities to the table, and both should be respected for such.
User Rank: Apprentice
12/6/2013 | 8:09:48 PM
The biggest problem is that managers hate when I ground them lying.
User Rank: Apprentice
12/6/2013 | 3:58:58 PM
A couple of years ago, I interviewed (in person) at Google, and had two interviews. A week or so later I heard from HR, who told me that they weren't going to hire me, but she couldn't tell me why, because that would be illegal!
User Rank: Apprentice
12/3/2013 | 10:03:29 PM
I've thrown in the towel for my career
I am an early middle-aged, "obsolete", "unemployable" American programmer, and have thrown in the towel for my career.  I have tried to keep up with Microsoft's constant pace of change, but it didn't matter as I could not get work in any case.
User Rank: Strategist
11/27/2013 | 7:54:23 PM
Wisdom.. what a concept.
My history has it's foundation in the lost art of electronics. Hardware tech training applied to large system design as a core understanding of data flowing through the actual circuits. The depth is just not on the curriculum of mainstream IT degrees today. This cult of the new programmer gods truly saddens me, because I am not the only techie out here with a combination of deep knowledge and years of experience. While I agree the new tools and techniques are valuable, dismissing the real-world implementation wisdom, gained during trial-by-fire crisis events of the dot com era, is a major disservice to the industry as a whole.

The age & experience issue was different in the 90's; companies made cut-throat backroom deals to get someone with 10 years or more experience. Efficient code and heavily tuned servers were critical, since even enterprise-grade webservers were laughable by current standards. The rule of today is sloppiness, the gross memory leaks and bandwidth hogs reveal an epidemic lack of tuning and non-attention to detail. Ugly code is in production that would have been show stoppers just 15 years ago.

But I believe this too shall pass; when even the biggest virtual cloud leasing junkie admits throwing more hardware at a problem is not nearly a cost effective scenario as starting with a clean design. Money talks, wisdom can be patient knowing our consulting rates only go higher the deeper the hole they dig. All we have to do is stay current, the younger breed has the impossible task of trying to aquire our wisdom and experience in the increasingly smaller relative window of college. Maybe, using us as well compensated consulting sages on a project basis is the true solution. Who knows? Time will tell.
Susan Fourtané
Susan Fourtané,
User Rank: Author
11/25/2013 | 9:23:27 AM
Re: Ageism and Sexism

Maybe people, and the media are giving too much importance to what Mark Z. says? Let's not forget that FB satrted as a school project, he was not even working on a startup. He was just lucky. 

Also, maybe it's a good idea to remember that Mark Z. is not the sole representative of his generation. There are many others, founders and CEOs of their startups, who are smarter, and think differently. 

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