Age discrimination in the techie world


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<p>i work in our IT department and many of my coworkers have been there 25+ years. There haven't been too many recent hires from out side of the company in my dept.</p>

<p>I work in software engineering and my manager is very close to retiring. His manager, I believe is in his 60s too. Most of our managers are in their 50s and 60s. We have a few employees way past retirement age and we hire older workers along with new grads. A few years ago, we hired a bunch of people from another tech company that was closing down a division. My guess on the the average age is around mid-forties.</p>

<p>There are companies out there that value experience.</p>

<p>My office calls me the baby because I'm the youngest in the IT dept - at age 29. The only ones younger that I've seen are the occasional intern during college. For the most part we promote from within - even our CIO has been there with the company for 25 years or so. I did just get an e-mail that we just recently hired someone whom has a lot of experience at another company, so I'm assuming he's an 'older' guy.</p>

<p>The availability heuristic seems to be wielding its pretty head in this thread I'm afraid. I have 27 years with the same company - 14 with the same manager - and those who think it is something that happens in articles only better wake up and smell the roses.</p>

<p>The issue is two-fold: avoid being laid off and getting hired. </p>

<p>The first case is easy, because during serious layoffs, the chaff gets cut early, then there's a round or two of 'targeted' layoffs, then it's open season. We went thru a lot of that cutting around 40%. No discrimination there, more or less. No pension fund to worry about, plus lots of old employees. In more casual layoffs, or what I would call 'tech standard operating procedure layoffs' (i.e. 'workforce renewal' :-)) where the bottom 10% are cut annually, it's easier to find ageism. Ultimately it comes down to skills, and unfortunately, employer paid training has gone the way of pensions, i.e. rare. If an employer has a pension program, things change quite a bit...</p>

<p>In hiring it's another story. Mrs. Turbo changed jobs last year and while she landed an awesome job, her experience suggests to me that 'older' employees even with the super specialized skills (purple squirrels) are being passed on - even when they have the skills - simply as a by-product of the odds. When you have hundreds of people applying for one job, and you don't even get a response, let alone a phone interview, it's not age discrimination, right?</p>

<p>Besides, as we all know, it's not age discrimination if we ask for 1 year of Oracle 11g experience and the poor hapless candidate only has 10 years with (the horrors) 10g...</p>



<p>I don't really see a lot of job postings for 1 year of anything. It's usually 2-3 years for entry-level positions and 5-10 for senior positions. 11g was released in 2008 so it's not unreasonable to be looking for a year of experience in the release. Anyone can download 11g to their personal computer, install it and play around with it and go through the new features relative to 10g.</p>

<p>It's an example, BCEagle.... I fondly remember companies requiring 2-3 years experience on .NET when it first came out and nobody outside Redmond (or Bangalore) had .NET experience... See if you can get Sharepoint 2010 jobs if all you have is Sharepoint 2007 experience...</p>

<p>5-10 years experience on anything (say, Informatica) means just that, that the person has very narrow experience with Informatica only and could not program his way out of a C++ paper bag to save his life. And herein lies the most fundamental problem... In '85 when I hit the job market employers wanted was 'database and C programming on unix'. By 2005, 20 years later, industry was so he11 bent in its quest for purple squirrels that nothing but a full version match would do.</p>

<p>Look up 'purple squirrel' one of these days :-) especially if you've been at the same job for a while and have not had to look for a job recently.</p>

<p>Companies basically want consultants as employees today. Back then, the folks that worked relatively short stints as consultants and contractors could get the exact version numbers and skillsets to work on something immediately.</p>

<p>In the past, companies planned the training and ramp-up to produce their product or application. There are still a lot of big companies that do planning and training but my son is teaching about the modern, agile approach which seems to eschew process for speed and I have some strong opinions on that but I'll hold off on them until reading some papers on the new ways vs the old ways.</p>

<p>We've been following the agile process for a couple years now. You can game it like any other process. We basically hit the targets with our stuff standalone, then when you integrate everyone's (100 people) work together, good luck with that. </p>

<p>The old process was not much better, incidentally. Basically, people (management) refuse to understand that software will be done when it is done :-). There is a lot more accountability in agile processes, granted, but the old one had it as well. </p>

<p>I would say agile/extreme works pretty well only if there's good leadership and good architecture. My team leader is half my age :-) (but a lot more mature :-)). Our architecture is cast in stone by some pretty smart people, so we feel we're better off than with the older ways... But we got serious training (several weeks of Linux, device driver, app development, HMI development, and so on...) </p>

<p>We hired a few people for this project, new college grads (a couple of cute female ones too :-)), experienced hires, some internal transfer geezers, and hired gun contractors. The hardest problem to overcome is the constant "ah, at my previous company we hated X and loved Y"... specific skills, people pick up very quickly.</p>

<p>This is rather interesting. I guess that many assume that engineers have offers waiting for them when the economy has affected engineers too. And the age thing. Perhaps these issues will get more attention now. But I doubt it.</p>

<p>Obama</a> to help find job for unemployed engineer - MarketWatch</p>

<p>True story: I was contacted by an executive recruiter for a job at Google. During my phone screen, the recruiter asked me what year I graduated college. Foolishly, I told him.</p>

<p>The phone screen ended shortly after that.</p>

<p>The funny part - age is irrelevant. I'm 52, my boss of 14 years is 53, and we're the most immature people I can think of. It is the rare group meeting that does not include a healthy dose of puns... Technically, we're both at the top of our game, and have people half our age that are far more mature than we are... Needless to say the guy has a cult following...</p>

<p>So, just so I can help my younger friends find jobs, you are saying that being immature is good.? So beyond that, what are you looking for (assuming awesome programming or whatever basic skills)</p>

<p>At the risk of being a bore ....</p>

<p>It really depends on what the question is. If I need one guy (or gal) to support my small business, do I really care what age they are? If I'm outsourcing to a 3rd party IT group would a 25-year-old be my choice a the Project Manager? If I'm hiring 2000 coders for a 9-month job can I afford to have a mix of ages and experiences? When Steve Jobs was developing the MacIntosh he kept the group small, and the talent level high. Will that approach work for all organizations?</p>

<p>I've known older techies who were fabulous ... and older techies who were counterproductive. I've had both types in younger workers too. I think what gripes experienced techies is that some employers can't tell a competent worker from an incompetent one. JMHO of course.</p>

<p>Such displays of immaturity are good because they help focus on the important stuff (get the work done despite hopeless deadlines, understaffing, resources) and also show the rest of the team that we still keep our sense of what is important in life... The only catch - you have to have the talent for it. </p>

<p>I do. Always did, back in the old country and here. My boss... Not. 14 years ago he was famous for having a rather dry personality, then he made the mistake of hiring four people like me. He (and many of the rest of the team) have passed on promotions, transfers, and external opportunities to do what we do. We trained him well....</p>

<p>Assuming good skills, one needs to quickly assess what the prevailing culture is and act accordingly. My wife changes jobs on a regular basis and I never cease to be amazed as to the types she works with. Duuuuude, we're talking stuffed suit'n'BlackBerry central here... Much as I'd love to work at her current employer, I play a couple rounds of Angry Birds at work until the urge subsides.</p>

<p>So, determine quickly if you're in type A or type B land and act accordingly during the interview... Immaturity never comes up as a question (and say, I'm 52 and took my college kid and his buddies for a beer and hookah binge last night) but you can selectively leak glimpses of your real personality (Gen X games, video games, and so on)</p>

<p>Interviews these days are as much about fitting in a team as they are about technical skills. I mean, you have the skills otherwise you would not be there...</p>

<p>"i work in our IT department and many of my coworkers have been there 25+ years. There haven't been too many recent hires from out side of the company in my dept. "</p>

<p>-Exactly the same experience. Who is going to be maintaining all system when all of us retire? Very very few younger people. I took one CS class while working, prof said that kids that are coming to his classes do not have any background to be successful any more. AT the end, class had 3 people, I was asked to help with one and prof was helping with another to bring them up to passing grade. Poor guy had no clue. It did not help that they knew PC much better than I did. They had no ability to write simplest computer program, their brains were nowhere near what was required....sorry for this anecdotal evidence, I am sure, there are opposite experiences. But the fact is most in my IT department are approching retirement age...</p>

<p>Sounds like their prereqs are too low.</p>

<p>"I mean, you have the skills otherwise you would not be there (interviewing) ..."</p>

<p>This has not been my experience. Appearance of having skills? Sure. Actually being able to contribute more than cost of salary? Well that depends on a lot more than what's on the Resume.</p>

<p>NewHope33, I assume a reasonably competent HR department does a reasonably competent job of screening candidates, who then have to survive a half hour phone screen with the hiring manager, and if they get thru that, then a half day or so on site. Meaning, that at least where I work, and assuming the candidate has not lied on their resume (like the guy who claimed he wrote the Linux Kernel) then they have the 'basic' skills we're looking for...</p>

<p>We're not looking for purple squirrels, mind you, but the pressure of delivering high profile, high volume, make-or-break-the-company consumer electronics is not for everyone. They treat us nicely, and the pay is not bad for fly-over-country, but spend 60-70 hours a week with anyone and it's more an issue of fit than anything else. </p>

<p>Our typical skill set is minimum of MSCS or MSEE or MSCSE, fresh off college, US degree a must, some experience or co-op, and usually a Big 10 (or other Big anything) engineering degree... Specific skills in Embedded Linux, board support packages, C++, and (seriously) teamwork skills. If anyone's looking, drop me a line :-)</p>

<p>I think there are plenty of younger workers out there who do a great job - I have quite a few programmer friends from college.. and that seems to be what a lot of people are into.. That being said, it's just such a 'small' part of IT. We have the developers, the DBA's, the network team, the desktop team, applications support team, IT quality/testing team, the trouble shooting team, etc. I have coworkers who couldn't program to save their lives... but you want them to set up system access, rights and responsibilities to all of our programs for 15 new employees? it'll be done in no time.</p>

<p>I agree with team work. When I interviewed for my current position there were quite a few questions pertaining to team work. I was an internal applicant but the process was as follows: I created a resume for the job and submitted it. HR reviewed it as well as the various questions they ask you when submitting a posting and forwarded it on to the hiring manager. They set up a series of three interviews - two in person and one via phone. My now boss said my resume was the most impressive of them all when we first met. I knew that was a good sign. </p>

<p>We have a small team, two in my office, one in our other office plus my boss is there as well (about an hour away) (out of well over 100 IT people total). We're trying to work on building team work and getting to know each other better. We've been doing some interoffice travel to work on projects together the past few weeks and I think it's definitely helped. Plus, it's always nice to see everyone from the other office in person. My role is a mix of a lot of different things - I love love love that I get to do something different each day... i could be creating javascript, working with databases, system admin stuff, troubleshooting issues, analysis, creating reports, etc. I am assuming we will get younger over the years as people retire. I've only been in this dept since September and we've had 5 or 6 25 year anniversaries already in that time.</p>