Are You Too Old For IT? - InformationWeek

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Are You Too Old For IT?
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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.) 
Alison Diana
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.
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.
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.

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. 



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.
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.


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.
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!

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.

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.
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