Strategic CIO // Team Building & Staffing
News
11/20/2013
09:06 AM
100%
0%

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.

It is illegal for employers to base hiring and firing decisions on a person's age. Explicit discrimination can be tricky to prove, however, and age can have subtler effects on someone's career -- perhaps even more so if they work in IT.

Ageism in IT isn't a new story, but it typically doesn't travel beyond the confines of Silicon Valley and its youthful startup culture. Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg, for instance, told the audience at a 2007 Y Combinator Startup School event: "I want to stress the importance of being young and technical. Young people are just smarter." Zuckerberg's now a wizened 28-year-old, which also happens to be the average age of Facebook employees, according to a recent study. The average age of Google's workforce is 29.

The IT profession, though, extends well beyond the Silicon Valley and the technology industry at large. So does ageism.

Gary Huckabone, who lives in the Detroit area, has been programming since the 80s, when he toiled with the likes of Digital Equipment Corp's VAX/VMS. Later, he moved into UNIX and Oracle database work. Today, Huckabone's focused on .NET desktop applications and ASP.NET Web apps. He currently works for an agency that contracts with one of the Big Three automakers.

[The cybersecurity industry is growing fast. Here's how to land a job, even if you don't have direct experience: Looking For A Security Job? You Don't Need To Be Bo Derek.]

"I am an old guy," Huckabone, 56, said in an interview. The IT veteran isn't a complainer, nor has he ever been part of any actual age discrimination claims. He doesn't lack confidence, either -- "I'm good at what I do," Huckabone said -- but he has become increasingly aware of how employers may perceive his age.

Prior to his current gig, Huckabone worked for a Detroit firm that had hired him because of his experience, not in spite of it. "The other six developers were basically fresh out of college," Huckabone said. "They hired me as someone who had some gray hair and had been around the block a few times."

Huckabone discovered, though, that the firm expected 60-hour workweeks to be business as usual for the development team. Unlike startups offering equity stakes or established companies with attractive incentive plans, there was no upside to the long hours. "I've worked plenty of 50- and 60-hour weeks, but there's got to be some kind of reward," Huckabone said. "You can't just keep doing that and get nothing in return." Unlike his younger coworkers, Huckabone voiced his concerns; according to him, things came to a head when he asked for an afternoon off and was told no. He was later fired from the position.

Back on the job market, Huckabone was upbeat -- he saw a thriving software sector and plenty of opportunities. But he found it took longer than expected to land his next gig. "I probably did twice as many interviews -- this is a guess, of course -- than I would have done if I was 32 instead of 56, " Huckabone said. "You never know [if age is a factor], because obviously no one's going to tell you and a lot of it is probably subconscious. I think a lot of people are just uncomfortable talking to a guy who has confidence. I'm not out there all nervous and begging for job. It's a 'this is what I do, I'm good at it, take it or leave it' kind of attitude."

It wasn't the first time Huckabone wondered whether his age was an employment factor. In 2010, he'd been contacted about a potential position with Google. At the time, Huckabone trimmed his resume for brevity. "I had lopped off probably my first 10 years, just to keep the resume a little quicker read. I wasn't trying to hide my age. [I was] just trying to keep it to more recent experience. Nobody really cares about my VAX VMS stuff back in 1988, quite frankly," he said.

After a phone interview and two subsequent online meetings with Google that included coding tests, Huckabone was flown to Mountain View for a full day of in-person interviews. It didn't lead to a job offer. There could be any number of reasons why, but Huckabone noted it was the first time anyone at Google had been able to see him in the flesh. "I don't know if you've ever been to their campus, but it's basically a sea of 30-year-olds," Huckabone said.

"I don't think they did anything conscious. I just think it was a subconscious 'we don't like older people, we want to be surrounded by younger people' [mindset]," Huckabone said. "I do believe it's just a subconscious thing that pervades their culture."

Previous
1 of 3
Next
Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Comments
Threaded  |  Newest First  |  Oldest First
RobPreston
100%
0%
RobPreston,
User Rank: Author
11/20/2013 | 10:11:19 AM
Similar Dynamic
There's a similar (though not the same) dynamic in the legal industry, where big firms hire lots of young people fresh out of law school and expect them to work 70-hour weeks, all while the leathery partners punch the standard clock. The big difference is that the lawfirm employers aren't suggesting that the young lawyers have the fresher skills. (Meantime, the Zuckerberg comment is just nauseating.) 
BillS20101
100%
0%
BillS20101,
User Rank: Apprentice
11/20/2013 | 12:04:45 PM
Re: Similar Dynamic
Ageism exists where hiring managers focus on skills rather than values, abilities, and skills.  Plenty of older technologists value learning and advancing their careers and have the abilities to do so.  Focusing on a particular skill, e.g. Ruby on Rails, eliminates some of the best, most consistently creative people out there.  Here's a specific example of where "experience" trumped the willingness to work 80 hour weeks. 

A particular company had a system that required constant, I mean 7x24, babysitting.  They had run this system the same way for many years and considered production support the "trial by fire" for their developers.   One "experienced" hire, worked on the system for 6-8 weeks and reduced the 52 hour weekend batch to 6 hours and the overnight 12 hour process to 90 minutes.   His values, doing things effectively and efficiently, resulted in far greater benefit than 5-6 years of people who valued "working long hours". Sure this "could" have been done by a younger person if they had the same value system - but I contend those values are developed through experience.  It's experience that results in true appreciation that 80% of a system life cycle is maintenance; that you need to manage productivity which drops with extended hours; and that a great technology department is a reusable resource to be nurtured rather than burned through.  

http://www-cs-faculty.stanford.edu/~eroberts/cs181/projects/2004-05/crunchmode/econ-crunch-mode.html

TBC - I love the enthusiasm, the new knowledge, the desire that new blood brings to a department. Without new ideas the tech department will wither.  Not all "experienced" people have the right value set - continuous learning, doing things better, adapting to paradigm shifts - but those that do make an invaluable resource. 

 

 

 
Tom Murphy
100%
0%
Tom Murphy,
User Rank: Author
11/20/2013 | 3:18:52 PM
Re: Similar Dynamic
I can't think of a profession where there aren't more young people than old people -- even the geriatric care industry is dominated by the young.  In the fast-changing technology field, "new" is very often associated with "young." Most of the reasons are cited in the article, and certainly ageism is one of them -- perceived higher energy levels, willingness to work for less, willingness to work long hours without rewards.  I think younger people also may be more optimistic that by working hard they'll get ahead while older workers may feel they've plateaued or are now "downwardly mobile." Enthusiasm counts for a LOT in job interviews.

What to do?  Many older workers turn into entrepreneurs, so they can work for a boss they respect. Others pursue lifelong interests outside of their main career, effectively becoming a "younger worker" who is willing to work hard for less in exchange for learning the ropes. And there are many, many tech consultants and analyts in their 50s or 60s.

But the ugly reality is that unemployment is highest among young Gen Yers and older Boomers -- those who are perceived to be outside their "best years," even though they may be perfect for the job at hand.
Thomas Claburn
100%
0%
Thomas Claburn,
User Rank: Author
11/20/2013 | 3:42:53 PM
Re: Similar Dynamic
The talented 40ish programmers I know all seem to get promoted to positions where they're managing other engineers. Software engineering as a discipline seems to be set up to move talent programmers past a certain age away from writing actual code.
Jschmidt27
100%
0%
Jschmidt27,
User Rank: Apprentice
11/20/2013 | 3:50:40 PM
Re: Similar Dynamic
a good programmer doesn't necessarily make a good manager. In fact the current young people obsession with email, texting may make then less than optimal communicator which is required to be  good manager.
Michael Endler
50%
50%
Michael Endler,
User Rank: Author
11/20/2013 | 6:55:22 PM
Re: Similar Dynamic
@Thomas-- A friend of mine has had a similar experience. He's about ten years into his career as a software engineer, and every interview he's been to lately, all for senior engineer positions, he's been asked why he isn't applying for management roles.
TerryB
50%
50%
TerryB,
User Rank: Ninja
11/21/2013 | 12:49:24 PM
Re: Similar Dynamic
Not all talented programmers work at companies big enough to have anyone to manage. When you work on midrange computers, you work for mid-size companies (100-200 employees, counting shop floor). I've spent 13 years at one company like that and am now up to year 11 at another. I spent a few years in between those jobs consulting and hated it. You feel no ownership, no sense of belonging to something.

At these two companies I've spent my time at, doing ERP support and custom coding, I was/am the only one doing it. On the IBM i5, the environment is so productive you do not need a team that needs managing. Especially if you know what you are doing.

My current biz unit I support is part of a global corporation with 30+ other units, 4 divisions. Do I want to trade doing creative work like writing systems to take an Area Manager job where all you do is manage people and do budgets? I'd rather be a bartender in Key Largo. How is that a job upgrade, unless all you care about is money?
GGCAN
100%
0%
GGCAN,
User Rank: Apprentice
11/20/2013 | 1:58:24 PM
Re: Similar Dynamic
I agree to a certain extent.


I'm 59 currently and working with many that are in their mid 30s.

However, many of these 30 ish people, want very high starting salaries and don't want to start at lower positions, even without experience.

At times, I've done twice as much work in the time some of these people take to do the task and I do work the extended or overtime or weekend hours, while many younger workers say they want a life and they have children.

I think there is a value of the older experienced worker as well and don't want to place all younger workers into the category I've stated above, as I've met some really dedicated young people that will do whatever it takes to get the job done.

I've nearly got 40 years of service on the mainframe and midrange platforms.

So many of the young workers don't want to have anything to do with the mainframe, as well as want much of their work automated.

I agree about automation, but I also remember the good old days, when everything was manual.

Sure it was a lot of work and we automated processes for the future.

But I see that a lot of that automation that had previously been done is causing problems currently, as if it breaks, no one know how to do it the 'old way' any longer.

Good and bad with both I guess.

 
efeatherston
100%
0%
efeatherston,
User Rank: Author
11/20/2013 | 2:53:39 PM
Re: Similar Dynamic
In a similar boat. I'm 58, been in the industry longer than some of the folks I work with. I have found that in the consulting field I run into it less (it isn't non-existent, but it does seem less than in-house). I remember similar attitudes as Zuckerberg's during the internet boom in the 90's, then a large percentage of internet startup sites collapsed on themselve because they couldn't perform or scale.
KevinRCasey
50%
50%
KevinRCasey,
User Rank: Moderator
11/20/2013 | 7:18:58 PM
Re: Similar Dynamic
Huckabone mentioned something in a follow-up that didn't make the story but speaks to your point on efficiency. His previous employer "was using a set of tools that was very, very inefficient. So, the young guys don't see that because they don't have the experience; this old guy saw it because I've used lots of different tools and methods."

His point was simply that his younger coworkers were diligent and hard-working, but logging far more hours than necessary to accomplish tasks that could be done faster.
wht
100%
0%
wht,
User Rank: Strategist
11/20/2013 | 4:21:12 PM
Re: Similar Dynamic
Zuckerberg needs some counseling re employment laws, especially since he is in California, where he could be easily sued making comments about younger people being smarter.  The Detroit guy that was fired for not working 60 hours a week and complaining about it when the new hires just did it w/o complaining would also put that employer in deep hot water violating California and Federal laws, not mentioning age discrimination.  Instead of unions I prefer IT staff use the legal system instead. I would not work for someone like Zuckerberg or a union shop...I am well over 55 and still working into my 70's before I "retire".  Fortunately I have a great employer.
Alison Diana
100%
0%
Alison Diana,
User Rank: Moderator
11/20/2013 | 11:03:50 AM
Can't Wait
I believe there is a lot of ageism in tech -- and tech firms are depriving themselves of a lot of wisdom, savvy employees, and running into problems these workers could have helped them avoid. Some of these young-oriented companies will make missteps in their efforts to focus on "culture," and I hope these more seasoned applicants catch them in the act, take them to court for discrimination, and win. Heartbreaking to see so many potentially strong employees put out to pasture.
BenCronin04
100%
0%
BenCronin04,
User Rank: Apprentice
11/20/2013 | 11:20:59 AM
Re: Can't Wait
I see both sides. As a "younger" individual in IT, I have been passed up for positions strictly based on my lower age. "We think you'd do a great job in this position, unfortunately we are not sure if our clients would feel comfortable with having someone of you age in this high of a position."  Once I have enough equity to branch out and start my own business, that will be one factor I WILL NOT allow to influence my decisions.
hobbie1
100%
0%
hobbie1,
User Rank: Apprentice
11/20/2013 | 12:20:56 PM
Old Dog
Adaptability: Maybe you can't teach the old dog a new trick because the old dog recognizes that the trick is neither new nor worth doing....

Bet there were not many "old dogs" working on the gov health site. The old old dog knows better - under promise and over deliver. Test, test - pilot - and then test some more.

And the Zuker comment is self serving - then again his legions will be "old" someday. All the money in the world will not stop that from happening.
AdamBlackie
100%
0%
AdamBlackie,
User Rank: Apprentice
11/20/2013 | 12:59:00 PM
Re: Old Dog
IT departments are often the drivers for organisational change because technology is usually at the root of it.

Whilst it is possibly true that older employees (I am one) are less change oriented, more settled etc, this is not, in my experience an attitude defined purely by age.

Some on the most change resistant staff I have encountered were in their early to mid 30's, having worked hard to achieve the mid career status and job grade, they generally are very fearful that change will undermine their achievements

Conversely, older employees, may have already been through several change cycles and are therefore more sanguine about change; or may actually welcome change to reignite their career.

At the end of the day it is a case of "horses for courses". Any organisation that overtly ignores any section of the workforce, either because of gender, age, religion, disability etc, will be a much weaker competitor in the long run. So, as someone has already noted in this thread, if the process is discriminatory maybe potential employees need to turn this on it's head and reject the organisation instead.

Have a great week.

Adam

 
TerryB
100%
0%
TerryB,
User Rank: Ninja
11/20/2013 | 1:31:13 PM
Another kind of old
I certainly hope I never find out first hand what some of the guys you interviewed have gone thru. Now 55, my entire development career has been on IBM servers. First few years (1985) it was on mainframe with CICS and COBOL. 

I now spend most of time writing browser based applications using IBM midrange server, the i5 (formally AS400, formally iSeries). Even though it's native interface is green screen 5250 emulation, which leads it to get labeled as legacy and obsolete by some misinformed people, my new applications are written using Sencha's Ext JS framework at the browser front end and good old RPG and SQL on the i5 doing the backend, interfacing thru the native Apache HTTP server. Produces awesome Web 2.0 applications, including Touch device support.

But do I have any delusions I could easily find another place to do this? Heck no. i5 shops are either still writing green screen code in RPG or just running packages that vendors maintain, no custom coding is done. And at my age, I really don't want to do anything else. Regardless of Zuckenburg's ego, coding Facebook looks boring compared to supporting a challenging Mfg environment. A child could do Facebook, which is why they do it. But they can't do what I, and many like me, have been doing all our working lives.
KevinCBrown
100%
0%
KevinCBrown,
User Rank: Apprentice
11/20/2013 | 1:35:12 PM
Much Sage Wisdom Here
I agree with all of the posts here, as you clearly have experienced views.

Which leads me to my comment - for all of the chattering from IT "Leadership" about aligning IT with business, the clear ageism that exists tells me that these leaders are full of it.  The more experienced a candidate is, the more likely they have deep relevent business experience that would be valuable in aligning IT with business.

I've led efforts in sales, operations and later technology with a strong track record.  When I was cut in the HP mess last year, I found that there were few leadership roles open,  However, I was willing to work my way back up, yet even before salary was discussed, recruiters looked past anyone around my age. Hence my comment.

So I decided to start my own consulting business and with the exception of my son, only brought on people with twenty years or more of experience. And I named my firm with that perspective.  We are VoxPeritus- the Voice of Experience in voice consulting.

I do have to send kudos to General Motors who are opening four IT centers of excellent, and are recruiting experienced people.  So there is a bit of a light in the darkness!

 
Jschmidt27
100%
0%
Jschmidt27,
User Rank: Apprentice
11/20/2013 | 3:47:39 PM
age
Zuckerberg would be mindful to acknowledge the accomplishments of the older worker instead of denigrating it. I would put up the intelligence of those who created the space program, developed the internet, created huge compuer companies, and created some of the most advanced weapons, to any of his employees and himself. He knows 1 thing, websites.

And he is one of the reasons I'd never invest in his company.

For the older techies I offer testing as a career path.The discipline is across technical lines, and is readily doable without writing code.

I'm 63. Worked for a high tech company for 27 years and now I am consulting.
tcritchley07
100%
0%
tcritchley07,
User Rank: Strategist
11/20/2013 | 3:52:20 PM
Ageism in IT Recruitment
I left Sun Microsystems some years ago aged a smidge short of 60 years old. I decided to try for another job, having got into IBM, Oracle and then Sun without a hitch. The problems then started. I was being interviewed for jobs by youngish people, the sort I used to have for my mid-morning snack with coffee and certainly wouldn't have had them on my 'team'. After a while, I decided to give up and write, using my 35 years experience in IT and a mass of useful material I had developed over the years. This is ongoing. The fact that some CIOs used to regularly ask my advice and opinion (because of my grey hair and gravitas) suggests I had something to offer. I had even more to offer after my years in IBM, Oracle and Sun but that didn't seem to count.

My summary: There is definitely ageism in IT recruitment, at least in the UK, flavoured with interviewers who couldn't tell an experienced and useful candidate from a grand piano - even if he/she was employed for a couple of years to help create a better IT shop. I suspect that the age of hari kiri in IT is 50.

 
cjohanssonv6t
100%
0%
cjohanssonv6t,
User Rank: Apprentice
11/20/2013 | 4:02:44 PM
Probably a simple reason
I have seen this with my college buddies who are in various of industries. It is not restricted to just IT. Newly minted professionals are cheaper, period. This is what I gather from my friends who are in the HR side of the business. However, many of these "old timers" come back as consultants because the freshly minted do not have the broad range of knowledge they need to get the job done. Overall, the company is actually spending more money. Engineers are a good example.

In my case, I'm mid-50's and I have a few newly minted IT staff and hired one old timer (~50). The young fellows have computing skills are great and current but they need me (as their director) to guide them through the various landmines of Federal etc. regs and policies, strategic planning and just basic soft skills. The old timer, understood the landscape and rarely needed me to point out a potential issue. He also picked up the skills he needed, just a quick as the younger fellows. The old fellow is less work to manage and more costly to the unit (salary, benefits etc.) but this is made up with insights he brought in from previous experience from his other places he worked at.

The question I usually mention for those that promote younger over that of older employees, if you were having surgery and had a choice of the new minted or older and experienced surgeon, who would you pick? Always the older and more expereince surgeon is picked. Experience goes a long way when a life is involved.
Tom Murphy
50%
50%
Tom Murphy,
User Rank: Author
11/20/2013 | 4:16:41 PM
Re: Probably a simple reason
cjohansson: I've actually heard that if you are having important surgery, it's wiser to pick a top younger surgeon with steadier hands and sharper eyes.  As I know all too well, it is a rare human who gets past their 40s without reading glasses. And now my eye doc is telling me that we all get cataracts eventually.  More to look forward to!

BTW, you've hired one guy who's a little younger than you and some younger folks. But have you ever hired a significantly older IT pro?  Would you?

 

 
cjohanssonv6t
50%
50%
cjohanssonv6t,
User Rank: Apprentice
11/20/2013 | 4:44:08 PM
Re: Probably a simple reason
Surgeons that don't have steady hands cannot practice, they mentor the younger ones, atleast in Canada (not sure in the US). The surgeon that handled the c-section of my eldest boy was 68, had glasses and a steady pair of hands. As he was showing the procedure, there was two others in training (all in their late 30's) and helping out. As I held my wife's hand, the elder surgeon was asking questions and pointing out mistakes of the trainees. Later I asked about the process, apparently they had to be mentored under an experinced surgeon for 5 years before they could go solo just for the c-section.

This raises another thought, if you're specializing in Medicine: 4 yrs in college, 2-4 years in med school + 7 years specialization + 5 years being mentored ~ 20 years. No wonder most of the doctors with specialization are typically in their 40's.

To answer your question, would I hire someone older than me. Definitely. Are you applying? I see little IT pros out there much older than me so the likeihood would be rare. The older IT fellow that we did hire, it was my staff that suggest we keep his resume in the pool for I tossed it out (it read like he was going for my position hence over quialfied and he didn't address the resume to the position). At the interview, I then spotted how he would be useful in many other areas other than the position applied for.

To be fair, if I was interviewing someone for a position and they said they wish to retire in 1-2 years out, I would probably not. The ave staff rotation at the Univ I work at is 5 yrs hence I use the 5 year rule, I need to have the person in for about 5 years. Getting a new person up to speed takes time and energy.
Tom Murphy
50%
50%
Tom Murphy,
User Rank: Author
11/20/2013 | 5:13:02 PM
Re: Probably a simple reason
Actually, it was my doctor (a fellow in his late 50s) who gave me that advice about heart surgeons. He also told me that if anyone ever tells you that you need a stent, make sure you go to a big-city hospital instead of your local general hospital. "All the good doctors work in the city," he said.  He lived in the burbs near me.
cjohanssonv6t
50%
50%
cjohanssonv6t,
User Rank: Apprentice
11/20/2013 | 5:17:49 PM
Re: Probably a simple reason
Ha! Yep, same advice, big city services are better than rural. The best doctors always want to be in the big city. Regarding your doctor firend's advice, relative to IT, by the time they get their ticket to practise they are of an age that would be considered old in other fields. That's my observation.
shamika
50%
50%
shamika,
User Rank: Ninja
11/21/2013 | 9:07:25 AM
Re: Probably a simple reason
In my opinion age should not be a barrier for any profession as long as they have required qualification and skills set along with the correct attitude.
shamika
50%
50%
shamika,
User Rank: Ninja
11/21/2013 | 9:07:53 AM
Re: Probably a simple reason
IT is a profession where people think twice before they select it. Some feel it is a tiring job compared to others. However it's all about person's perception.
cjohanssonv6t
50%
50%
cjohanssonv6t,
User Rank: Apprentice
11/21/2013 | 11:51:08 AM
Re: Probably a simple reason
Shamika

Age shouldn't matter but it does. The HR friends of mine opened up the rationale why it matters to them. Employee that has been at the company for a long time is costly. New employees that are middle age are viewed as difficult to work with. If you have a friend in the HR role, have a beer with them after work. They will tell you a lot.
 
HowardL126
100%
0%
HowardL126,
User Rank: Apprentice
11/20/2013 | 4:14:29 PM
RE: Keepin up with Tech
I totallly agree with ageism in technology. I am 58 years old and for the last 8 years getting and keep  job in IT has been a struggle. Not because I did not keep up with technology. I did I was part of the mobile tech boom  working with companies like Palm, Windows, blackberry and others. Then when social media came out I was one of the first on Linkedin, Facebook, and others. I even wrote white papers and spoke a Tech expos on the subject. But the more I kept up with technology the less I found work in the field. In one case I when for a job interview and the interviewer said that they are not sure I could keep up because they used social media to contact their clients. When I told them that I was not only on social media but wrotw a blog that was pick up by IBM Social Media Boot Camp and I was on a social media panel with Luke Shepard of Facebook and that was on my resume. I told the interviewer "you didn't look at my resume  because you would not have ask me that question" All of the sudden my interview was over.

This keeps happening I have had companies read my blog or white papers. Call me up for an interview only to get there to hear you are not what we are looking for when they see me in person.


Now I am working as  a mobile consultant only because I can't get a job. I now kind of wonder what is was the point of getting my degree and having the experience if it's not valued.
Tom Murphy
100%
0%
Tom Murphy,
User Rank: Author
11/20/2013 | 4:35:28 PM
RE: Keepin up with Tech
Howard:  First, thanks for being so frank -- I'm sure there are a lot of us gray beards out here who can relate to your plight.  Personally, I found that happening, so I put myself through the exercise of figuring out why people would want to hire me.  I literally made four lists:

1. Things I do well and in which I have extensive experience. (social media? finance? tech? Writing?)

2. Things I need from a job to make me really happy.  (money? location? flex hours?)

3. Jobs that require expertise in the first list and offer most of the second. 

4. Companies that offer those jobs. Then I approach those companies and tell them affirmatively that I can help them with that job -- whether they are advertising for it or not.

That may sound simplistic, but it has led me to a series of fascinating jobs over the past 20 years. I have even convinced at least three employers to create a job for me.  I'm 60 now, and have no intention of quitting anytime soon, but when I do, I already know what I'm doing next. In fact, I have a few things in the No. 3 group (I keep the list current, just in case.)
keitha0000
100%
0%
keitha0000,
User Rank: Strategist
11/20/2013 | 5:57:12 PM
RE: Keepin up with Tech
This is not confined to Silicon Valley-- it is an epidemic through the IT / tech sector all thoughout North America. (I can't speak for Eorope, Asia or South America.) For a 50-plus-year old, I have been able to keep working nicely, but I can't say the same when I survey what is happening around me. If you're a grey beard and aren't protected by a union (very reare in tech), you're at risk of being dumped. Further, prospective employers aren't interested in you. In my opinion, they may be interested in your experience, but not in your age demographic, and possibly not in your salary expectations.
Case in point, I see tech firms crying for people with mainframe experience, while the LinkedIn groups are full of older people with mainframe experience crying for work. It's not a fluke...
Tom Murphy
100%
0%
Tom Murphy,
User Rank: Author
11/20/2013 | 4:19:11 PM
Women -- of any age.
Ageism is one thing. But even more frightening is the absence of women from the ranks. It's rare to see an IT department where women comprise even 10%.  That ain't right.
LogicalThinker
100%
0%
LogicalThinker,
User Rank: Apprentice
11/20/2013 | 4:34:16 PM
Forced Retirement
Its a fact, the older you are when you get laid off, the longer it takes to find a new position.  If the length of time to find a new position extends past their Social Security qualification age, many older workers will choose to take Social Security early (ya gotta pay the bills!).  By forcing older workers to retire early, those young bosses are also hastening the depletion of their own retirement funds.

They may not have the retire early option when they get laid off because they are too old in the future.

So, they may eventually suffer for their age discrimination acts - maybe not by the courts, but in the pocket.

It is poetic justice in a way.

 
anon7127394659
50%
50%
anon7127394659,
User Rank: Apprentice
11/20/2013 | 5:02:01 PM
Let's keep it real
Not to cast any stones or accusations, but we need to keep a couple of things in perspective here.


First off, everyone needs to bring their A-game when interviewing. Or, in regards to the current subject, no one wants to hire a curmudgeon - regardless of the age.

Second, you have to be actively engaged and invested in your skillset. No one has the luxury of a career in IT with a single technology any longer. That's been gone for at least twenty years now. If the skills on your resume are fifteen years out of step with the market, you have no one to blame but yourself.
Gary_EL
50%
50%
Gary_EL,
User Rank: Ninja
11/20/2013 | 10:51:40 PM
A Corollary to Ageism
A year or two ago, when the recession was still raging, the then-new grads in IT, along with everybody else, couldn't get jobs. Now that the economy is a bit recovered, 2013 IT grads are doing OK. But those poor souls from two years ago are tainted meat in the eyes of the personnel departments that control hiring.

So, I ask, should the grads sue their universities for taking away four years and $200,000 for a degree that expires in two years, or should they sue the corporations that empower these personnel folk for age discrimination?
tcritchley07
50%
50%
tcritchley07,
User Rank: Strategist
11/21/2013 | 3:34:48 AM
Ageism in IT
I think 'anon21....' has a point in currency of skills but what he is missing is the management and mentoring of those skills in others - a 'grey beard role'. Not a pay and rations management role, but a Colour Sergeant Bourne role at Rorkes Drift (film Zulu). For example, nearly every UK public sector IT initiative goes down the pan and has done for at least 12 years, culminating in the cancellation of the NHS project costing £12.5 billion + .

I am 100% convinced this is not a technical skills issue but a 'management' issue. There are skills and methodologies which defy time (Project definitions, Delphi technique, SWOTs, FMEA, Fracas etc.)(*) and these are gradually being lost in the mad dash for high tech skills and implementing everything with the latest fad - flash memory, clouds. I've seen it happen - The ATTAM project (All Things To All Men), a recipe for catastrophic failure.

(*) If you've never heard of these, you are not a 'grey beard' or 'IT Heavyweight'.
DiscustedONE
50%
50%
DiscustedONE,
User Rank: Apprentice
11/21/2013 | 8:43:03 AM
Too old and too hard to prove discrimination
I am 56 years old, and been it I.T. about 25 years.    It is very true about what I have read in other statements regarding this article.

  I do not have much gray hair, look about 8-10 years younger, but that does not help when the I.T. management, and staff is in the 23-29 year old range.   Management wants their team around the same age for company culture reasons in many cases, and your days are numbered in that environment.  This happened to me.  Management will concentrate on you so your pay does not get too high, and you will be recycled.  Rather than pay out for experienced workers, business has resorted to hiring contactors to cut head count, costs, and do not have to deal with benefits.

The sad thing is that benefits through contract are non-existent, or too expensive in most cases.  You are hourly paid, and that is all.  The pay is good, about industry standard,  until I pay for Health insurance and try to bank for sick leave and vacation time.

There is no doubt that there is job discrimination in the work place.  Doing my job was not good enough; going beyond what was required was not good enough.  Being contagious with enthusiasm is not good enough once they get on the culture train.  You will be on the documentation microscope and railroaded out when it is time.  I currently am 4 yrs on contract at a great job, no benefits, and with the economy, things are not looking good.  Being to take a day off now and then would be great, holiday pay would be great.

 
Shepy
50%
50%
Shepy,
User Rank: Apprentice
11/21/2013 | 8:59:32 AM
Re: Too old and too hard to prove discrimination
"  I do not have much gray hair, look about 8-10 years younger, but that does not help when the I.T. management, and staff is in the 23-29 year old range.   Management wants their team around the same age for company culture reasons in many cases, and your days are numbered in that environment.  "

I suspect at least some of it will be that older people can be seen to be set in their ways as it were, often not keeping up as much with new tech as the younger people. I'm not saying this is always the case or even correct, just what the tought process may be
Ariella
50%
50%
Ariella,
User Rank: Ninja
11/21/2013 | 10:37:26 AM
Re: Too old and too hard to prove discrimination
@DiscustedOne what you say fits well with the investigations of hiring bias discussed in http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2013/12/theyre-watching-you-at-work/354681/ Aside from stereotyping older workers as set in their ways or not up to date, in general people who do hiring look for those like them.  They make judgements based on their gut reaction, and they are very often wrong. That's why some places are now using analytics for more objective and more accurate assessment of employee suitability for positions. 
Joe Stanganelli
100%
0%
Joe Stanganelli,
User Rank: Ninja
11/21/2013 | 9:51:10 AM
Outdating of skills
I remember reading somewhere that the skills someone learns while pursuing a technical degree become obsolete in three years.  Ultimately, it's about the fundamental understanding.  Experience is a big factor of that.  It's a shame that companies have resorted to this age discrimination while shooting themselves in the foot in the process.
mak63
100%
0%
mak63,
User Rank: Ninja
11/21/2013 | 5:16:35 PM
Re: Outdating of skills
@Joe Stanganelli

Ultimately, it's about the fundamental understanding.

How true. I believe, with that fundamental understanding and the will to learn, there's no limit how far an IT person can go, irrelevant of age.

 
turquhart201
50%
50%
turquhart201,
User Rank: Apprentice
11/21/2013 | 10:10:31 AM
TOO OLD??? ARE YOU KIDDING????
TOO OLD FOR IT???????????????????????

I have only one word for my response.... BALONEY!!!!!

 

I am 58 and I am in my 15th year of IT and I am in the best years of my life! I am learning new things constantly and I also teach the new concepts as well. It is only when people think and believe that they are too old is when the boat is sinking. I enjoy and LOVE what I do and I do not plan to retire anytime soon. Most likely, I will be carried out of the building in a server-shaped casket <grin>.

DON'T believe the LIE!!!

NO ONE is tool old. Youth is worshipped too much in my humble and professional opinion.

 
Joe Stanganelli
50%
50%
Joe Stanganelli,
User Rank: Ninja
11/22/2013 | 10:32:42 PM
Re: TOO OLD??? ARE YOU KIDDING????
I'm with you, turquhart.  While I've found that young people are frequently more open to innovation, Those 45+ generally know their stuff more -- and are more passionate about what they do.
Whoopty
50%
50%
Whoopty,
User Rank: Ninja
11/21/2013 | 10:24:30 AM
Reading/Writing
I've felt somewhat too old for what I'm doing since I started. As soon as you begin doing something for your job - especially with something like tech where you can often go from a hobby to employment - you're not spending as much time reading about it and for me that meant I fell behind a little. It's about balancing your competence with what's currently available whilst also looking forward. 
BobAH
50%
50%
BobAH,
User Rank: Apprentice
11/21/2013 | 12:55:19 PM
Are You Too Old For IT?
I find the thought that I am too old for IT as amusing and very sad.  I have been in IT since the mid 80's and I have a degree in IT.  I went back to school while working full time to get my degree and graduated with honors and was inducted in a Scholastic Honorary Society.  So I can learn which I find very amusing and very sad to be told that I cannot learn.  As a consultant now, that has to go in and pick up the pieces that far too many of the younger people in IT have made a mess of, that is one the issues that I have.  "Mark Z's" comment is one the main issues in IT that have caused American IT to lose it's edge in IT. They are driving the experienced, qualifed people out of IT.  As one of the people that has been burned by Age Descrimination in the IT World, it is very prevalant and very real.  I have far too many horror stories to relate on that level, so I won't.  I lost my last full time position during a hostile take over as did the majority of the IT Staff.  Taken aside, I was told that I earned to much, and yet I was the Go To Person that handled most of the IT issues that came up at 2 AM.  I was not allowed to work Holiday's.  I was constantly learning new skills and keeping my old ones current because I had to.  For the most part I see this as an issue with "Corporate Greed".  They don't want to pay people for what they are worth and so they will lie to you about jobs.  I see that all the time.  One thing that I have noticed about some of the big name Software Companies are having issues with their software that would have been nocticed by the older experienced developers and would not have done. Nor will they accpet any advice on that level that they should.
Ariella
100%
0%
Ariella,
User Rank: Ninja
11/21/2013 | 12:58:21 PM
Re: Are You Too Old For IT?


Those of you who feel the pain of age bias may get a kick out of the video that looks at the flip side: what people think of millenials in the work place with some tongue-in-cheek advice about how to treat them.

 

 
mak63
50%
50%
mak63,
User Rank: Ninja
11/21/2013 | 5:02:35 PM
Re: Are You Too Old For IT?
The video below made my day. Thank you for posting.

Anyhow, this article feels close to home. I'm a 50 years old IT guy. Now a days, my new home page is Craigslist/Computer_Gigs.

I guess you can count me in doing "micro-jobbing" or "job-chunking"
ajar string
100%
0%
ajar string,
User Rank: Apprentice
11/21/2013 | 1:29:17 PM
poor Mark
Maybe Zuckerberg's half my age, but could he have half my IQ?  He would be very lucky, indeed, to be half as smart.  Daring, cunning, possessed by entrepreneurial spirit - but to make a faux pas that may become as infamous as Gates' 640k is enough...  Mark must be insecure about his place in history.

Sure, I had the highest IQ of any valedictorian from my high school's 100+ year history, but I contend that many more are smarter than he.  I'm still expanding my horizons physically and mentally;  how soon will Mark burn out?  His heels feel the nipping...
builder7
50%
50%
builder7,
User Rank: Apprentice
11/22/2013 | 1:48:20 AM
Re: poor Mark
He is almost over the hill, so he is over compensating.  What he thinks of as smart is actually the way that they act so much like little kids that he thinks they are smart.  That and that they take him serious!
sfreeves
50%
50%
sfreeves,
User Rank: Apprentice
11/21/2013 | 2:08:19 PM
Age is Only A Number
If age is holding companies back from excelling at what they do best because of a learning curve, why are majority of companies ran by older people?  I've always been taught that 'everyone brings their own worth to the table, but not one person brings all the worth'.  I value the 'experienced' people in the IT field, that's who I look to for guidance and let's just say none of them are in there 20s or even there 30s. 
anon2394440233
50%
50%
anon2394440233,
User Rank: Apprentice
11/21/2013 | 4:31:18 PM
read this meetup jobpost thread
which will tell you everything you need to know about 'culture' and ageism in IT. This was Denver

http://www.meetup.com/DenverIPhone/messages/boards/thread/25461812
anon2394440233
50%
50%
anon2394440233,
User Rank: Apprentice
11/21/2013 | 4:33:22 PM
Re: read this meetup jobpost thread
from the meetup post:

Thank you for your reply - I apologized for the way I phrased the posting but it's the truth. This company wants a young, passionate team to grow with the company. If I present anyone more than 6-7 years out of college, they will not schedule an interview. 


There are tons of federal acts trying to make everyone equal but at the end of the day companies know exactly what they want and will say "their personality doesn't fit the culture" or "their experience isn't a match" when in reality the individual is too old. 
twins.fan
100%
0%
twins.fan,
User Rank: Apprentice
11/21/2013 | 5:48:19 PM
Older US workers are perfectly qualified to be STEM workers.
Look at the other technology professions.  How many Nobel prizes have been granted to young workers in the technology Noble prizes, like chemistry, physics and medicine where older workers are not routinely forced out of their jobs?
ThomasL787
50%
50%
ThomasL787,
User Rank: Apprentice
11/22/2013 | 2:41:23 PM
Ageism in IT
"Younger people are smarter"  Really?  You wouldn't be able to prove that statement by the quality of students I see entering our University.  They think they are smart, but when you really begin to drill down through the layers of their knowledge, it's just a shell.  There are no fundamentals, no in-depth background and definitely no breadth to their knowledge base.  For instance, they can play their cell phone like a piano, but they have no idea of how it actually works.  I wouldn't hire about 90% of them because it would take years before they had accumulated enough knowledge and wisdom to be useful in any sort of challenging technical environment.
MariposaW534
100%
0%
MariposaW534,
User Rank: Apprentice
11/24/2013 | 7:35:40 AM
Ageism and Sexism
Ageism AND sexism are prevalent in IT. I recently experienced both and as a result changed careers. Lower salaries coupled with longer hours just wasn't for me...and I had to return to school just to catch up. But Zuckerburg is SO wrong..maturity trumps youth every time. They'll learn their lesson and burnout at 35. I'm the happiest I've ever been in a long time...less stress and more control of my time. Glad to know it's finally being acknowledged!!!
Susan Fourtané
100%
0%
Susan Fourtané,
User Rank: Ninja
11/25/2013 | 9:23:27 AM
Re: Ageism and Sexism
Mariposa, 

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. 

-Susan
turquhart201
50%
50%
turquhart201,
User Rank: Apprentice
11/24/2013 | 4:02:17 PM
Re. Comments on Too Old For IT
It is a sorry shame that youth is so worshiped in this Western culture. Whether people know it or not, it is creating an adverse, abrasive situation between the younger workers and the older workers. It should NEVER be the case! We should be working together! The younger ones with the drive and ambition to learn, and the older ones who have the experience and knowledge. Together, we can be strong! Separation, discrimination, and division will be our ultimate undoing. Don't treat the young workers like they belong in a crib, and don't treat the older workers like they belong in a wheelchair.
Kristin Burnham
50%
50%
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.
Midnight
50%
50%
Midnight,
User Rank: Guru
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.
swampwiz
50%
50%
swampwiz,
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.
mspeciner017
50%
50%
mspeciner017,
User Rank: Apprentice
12/6/2013 | 3:58:58 PM
Ageism?
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!
Smedley
50%
50%
Smedley,
User Rank: Apprentice
12/6/2013 | 8:09:48 PM
Ageism?
The biggest problem is that managers hate when I ground them lying.
apsoras10001
50%
50%
apsoras10001,
User Rank: Apprentice
12/8/2013 | 9:49:59 AM
aegism
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.

 
probinson207
100%
0%
probinson207,
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.

 
2014 US Salary Survey: 10 Stats
2014 US Salary Survey: 10 Stats
InformationWeek surveyed 11,662 IT pros across 30 industries about their pay, benefits, job satisfaction, outsourcing, and more. Some of the results will surprise you.
Register for InformationWeek Newsletters
White Papers
Current Issue
InformationWeek Tech Digest, Dec. 9, 2014
Apps will make or break the tablet as a work device, but don't shortchange critical factors related to hardware, security, peripherals, and integration.
Video
Slideshows
Twitter Feed
InformationWeek Radio
Archived InformationWeek Radio
Join us for a roundup of the top stories on InformationWeek.com for the week of December 7, 2014. Be here for the show and for the incredible Friday Afternoon Conversation that runs beside the program!
Sponsored Live Streaming Video
Everything You've Been Told About Mobility Is Wrong
Attend this video symposium with Sean Wisdom, Global Director of Mobility Solutions, and learn about how you can harness powerful new products to mobilize your business potential.