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Age Bias In IT: the Reality Behind the Rumors

Soulskill posted more than 3 years ago | from the get-off-my-lawn dept.

Businesses 582

CWmike writes "Is high tech really that tough on older workers, or are they simply not pulling their weight in an industry that never stops innovating? Age bias: Some consider it IT's dirty little secret, or even IT's big open secret. Older workers have been hit harder by the recession. '[Age bias is] something that no [employer] talks about. But it's a reality in tech that if you're 45 years of age and still writing C code or Cobol code and making $150,000 a year, the likelihood is that you won't be employed very long,' says Vivek Wadhwa, who currently holds academic positions at several universities, including UC Berkeley, Duke and Harvard. Wadhwa's observation indicates that age bias is a simplistic label for a complicated set of factors that influence the job prospects for senior tech employees."

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Is Slashdot really that tough on older posts? (0)

ArsenneLupin (766289) | more than 3 years ago | (#37284878)

Or are they just not pulling their weight?

Re:Is Slashdot really that tough on older posts? (4, Interesting)

mollog (841386) | more than 3 years ago | (#37284900)

The truth is that many of the managers in IT are younger and are not comfortable managing older workers.

Yup, thats certainly true (4, Insightful)

Viol8 (599362) | more than 3 years ago | (#37284984)

Especially since a lot of IT managers in their 20s are usually the ones who arn't so great at producing actual software so are slowly moving sideways into project management before they get found out and don't like being picked up on stupid technical decisions by someone old enough to be their dad. I speak from personal experience.

Re:Yup, thats certainly true (1)

kestasjk (933987) | more than 3 years ago | (#37285564)

Replace 20s with 40s, and "old enough to be their dad" with "young enough to be their son" and you have my personal experience:

Especially since a lot of IT managers in their 40s are usually the ones who arn't so great at producing actual software so are slowly moving sideways into project management before they get found out and don't like being picked up on stupid technical decisions by someone young enough to be their son. I speak from personal experience.

Re:Is Slashdot really that tough on older posts? (1)

rednip (186217) | more than 3 years ago | (#37285042)

Perhaps that was true in some startups, but eventually every organization starts hiring based on 'have you done that job before'.

Re:Is Slashdot really that tough on older posts? (4, Insightful)

Opportunist (166417) | more than 3 years ago | (#37285390)

No, and how the heck do you expect me to if everyone keeps asking exactly that question.

Seriously. I've been sitting in too many job interviews (as the interviewer, or actually, as the guy who assesses the person being interviewed by HR because HR knows pretty much NOTHING what I can use, hence I demanded to sit in there for the interview. I got kinda tired of the "javascript experts" they sent me for work that requires intimate knowledge of x86 assembler). And whenever we're hiring for a "junior" something (i.e. entry level, assistant position) and I hear HR ask exactly this question I feel like jumping at her throat. NO, of course he did NOT do this job before. Why the hell would someone with previous experience apply for a junior/apprentice level position at all?

Re:Is Slashdot really that tough on older posts? (0)

Opportunist (166417) | more than 3 years ago | (#37285320)

Only those that know they don't know shit and are in management precisely because they don't know shit. Which is, like, 100% in management, else they'd do something productive.

Re:Is Slashdot really that tough on older posts? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37285512)

Only those that know they don't know shit and are in management precisely because they don't know shit. Which is, like, 100% in management, else they'd do something productive.

Mostly true, but in some cases it's people that _do_ know stuff, but simply have decided they stopped caring so much, started having a family and do not want to spend too much energy at the workplace anymore.

So they do management as a way to "retire" from actual productive work.
And that's the _good_ manager.

Re:Is Slashdot really that tough on older posts? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37285054)

Well the weight of some older IT workers is considerably more significant.

Re:Is Slashdot really that tough on older posts? (0)

Opportunist (166417) | more than 3 years ago | (#37285416)

It's a glandular problem, you insensitive clod!

How the heck do you expect me to lose weight if all you let me do all day is sit on my ass while pouring energy drinks into me to keep me awake for another 18 hour shift?

Japanese company (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37284902)

I am over 45 but I work for a company with a HQ in japan. The work environment is completely opposite when it comes to age. In our shop if a older guy speaks everyone just shuts the hell up and does what he says.

Re:Japanese company (4, Interesting)

Fackamato (913248) | more than 3 years ago | (#37284924)

Isn't that more of the Japanese culture showing through (extreme respectfor elders) rather than companies not hiring "old people"?

Re:Japanese company (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37284972)

I am over 45 but I work for a company with a HQ in japan. The work environment is completely opposite when it comes to age. In our shop if a older guy speaks everyone just shuts the hell up and does what he says.

And where I work, in Korea, everything is only for old people.

Re:Japanese company (1)

paedobear (808689) | more than 3 years ago | (#37285254)

That sounds totally unlike the Japanese software industry I worked in for 8 years - where if you're still writing code after you turn 30, you failed (The embedded software field is very different though - there if you're 30 and writing code you're pretty young)

Re:Japanese company (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37285478)

Do you notice any difference in their adoption of new ideas?

Re:Japanese company (0)

tgatliff (311583) | more than 3 years ago | (#37285554)

Look no further than the Fukushima "incident" to answer that question....

Keep in mind that Japan has a much large aging population than the US. Also, clearly this poster does not realize that age and wisdom do not always correspond.. Respect must be earned in my opinion...

C programmers? Wanted! (1)

mangu (126918) | more than 3 years ago | (#37284908)

Where I work we would gladly hire a C programmer, of any age, if we could find one.

Re:C programmers? Wanted! (1)

gabebear (251933) | more than 3 years ago | (#37284952)

Where are you located?

Re:C programmers? Wanted! (4, Insightful)

TheGratefulNet (143330) | more than 3 years ago | (#37285076)

I had an interview yesterday, in fact. first one in months (been out of work a while...)

they didn't even let me finish the interview.

I've been writing C since the mid 80's. and while I don't know every corner of C (and certainly not c++), I do get my job done and my code does tend to run and run well. many shipping networking boxes have my code inside them.

but I can't find a C programming job.

and I'm 50. in the bay area.

I also hate to say it, but there is racism, too. I look around and find the indian guys trying to thumbs-down the westerners. makes me sick to even say such things but I'm finding its true. I enjoy working with indian guys but I am very much turned off by the 'take-over' that I'm seeing right before my eyes. over the last 10 years, the tech industry is flushing out western guys and making it an 'import only' field.

its not just age. its 'reverse racism' too and I wish I was kidding!

Re:C programmers? Wanted! (1)

Viol8 (599362) | more than 3 years ago | (#37285144)

"but I can't find a C programming job."

I don't know about the USA but here in the UK there simply are no C coding jobs any more except in very limited areas such as you describe. Probably single figure vacancies for the entire country. You should really learn C++ , its not that hard to get up to speed if you're good at C. Starting with C++ and moving to C seems to be a lot harder for people.

Re:C programmers? Wanted! (3, Insightful)

Asic Eng (193332) | more than 3 years ago | (#37285340)

Actually for embedded work there is still a lot of C coding going on, and it's not all that easy to find qualified people in that area. Of course - if you do embedded work you also need to have decent understanding of hardware, just coding is not sufficient.

Re:C programmers? Wanted! (2)

Asic Eng (193332) | more than 3 years ago | (#37285474)

Actually: anyone interested in a C/C++ embedded job in Munich, Germany? Contact me: r8cye2f4g6@snkmail.com.

Re:C programmers? Wanted! (2, Insightful)

Joce640k (829181) | more than 3 years ago | (#37285248)

but I can't find a C programming job.

Then you're exactly the sort of person the article is talking about - a curmudgeon who wants to keep on doing exactly what he was doing in the 1980s.

A youngster would have a hard time finding a C programming job, too.

Re:C programmers? Wanted! (4, Insightful)

gatkinso (15975) | more than 3 years ago | (#37285374)

Disagree.

Writing a GUI in C, maybe. Writing an embedded controller, not a problem.

Re:C programmers? Wanted! (1)

Viol8 (599362) | more than 3 years ago | (#37285556)

"Writing a GUI in C, maybe"

You're not a fan of GTK+I take it? ;)

Re:C programmers? Wanted! (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37285268)

I've been writing C since the mid 80's. and while I don't know every corner of C

C is such a simple language, how is that not possible?

Re:C programmers? Wanted! (1)

TheSpoom (715771) | more than 3 years ago | (#37285322)

Try moving to web development. PHP is a very easy move from C (it's basically weakly-typed C without pointers), and if that turns you off, Python and Ruby shouldn't be that much more difficult to learn. You could also try contracting; there are many sites that probably still have quite a few gigs for C such as Guru [guru.com] , and you can sidestep the whole ageism thing since they usually won't even see your face. In any case, good luck with your job search.

Re:C programmers? Wanted! (1)

john83 (923470) | more than 3 years ago | (#37285084)

C is not that uncommon, particularly among engineers.

Re:C programmers? Wanted! (1)

mprinkey (1434) | more than 3 years ago | (#37285216)

FORTRAN is not that uncommon, particularly among engineers.

Re:C programmers? Wanted! (1)

jank1887 (815982) | more than 3 years ago | (#37285520)

Matlab is not that uncommon, particularly among engineers.

Re:C programmers? Wanted! (1)

Viol8 (599362) | more than 3 years ago | (#37285086)

Hey , there are still some of us around! :) I just have to put "++" on the end these days otherwise I'd never get hired! C++ might make writing programs easier but C is a damn sight easier to debug when things go wrong because everything is explicit.

Re:C programmers? Wanted! (1)

TheGratefulNet (143330) | more than 3 years ago | (#37285142)

I'm finding its NOT about writing fast and clean code.

its about showing off. c++ allows one to show off more.

it also means the code becomes more 'write only'. you can write it but I dare you to read it back and follow it 6mos later. a real write-only language when its abused. and its abused. oh, how c++ is abused.

I tend to write c++ in c and leave most of the c++ things behind. I find very little is NEEDED beyond regular c. regular real world problems simply don't need inheritance and other c++ things very often.

I use this as a clue about the company. if they are using c, chances are they are a well grounded company. if they use c++ they probably have a bunch of 20somethings wanting to show off this or that feature of the language. and lots of bugs and hard to read code, too, as a side effect.

are they using threading for things that aren't performance or bottleneck related? did they overly complicate their lives without good reason? yup. passes the smell test. c++ shops very often are the clueless ones. when they pick c++ for the wrong reasons, its pretty clear to me. sadly, its not clear to THEM.

Re:C programmers? Wanted! (2)

Viol8 (599362) | more than 3 years ago | (#37285204)

"and its abused. oh, how c++ is abused."

Thats true.

"I find very little is NEEDED beyond regular c."

I use code in classes because it saves having to write mystruct-> all the time which makes the code a bit neater, and the STL has its uses if you're in a hurry. But other than that...

"if they use c++ they probably have a bunch of 20somethings wanting to show off this or that feature of the language."

Maybe true 10 years ago, these days substitute C++ for Java where the coders have even less of a clue whats going on and just let the VM garbage collector sort out their mess for them.

Re:C programmers? Wanted! (1)

Joce640k (829181) | more than 3 years ago | (#37285278)

LOL! Pure comedy....

Re:C programmers? Wanted! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37285360)

No, of course nothing is _needed_ beyond C. You cannot accomplish more in C++, or in any language, than what you can accomplish in C, simply because in the end it boils down to the same thing.

The problem you describe is a problem of bad programmers, not anything intrinsic to C++ or object-oriented programming. If you really understood object-oriented and thought in that manner, it would make sense to you, you would realize it is more elegant, easier, and more easily maintained. It's only a big pile of junk when people that don't understand object-oriented show up and try to code in it, making classes that are full of utility static methods (procedural, anyone?), using design patterns wrongly and generally coding stuff that makes no sense. Blaming a programming language for the failings of people is kind of unfair.

Re:C programmers? Wanted! (3, Insightful)

gatkinso (15975) | more than 3 years ago | (#37285396)

Your post is absurd, and displays the narrow mindedness that is pointed out in the article as a weakness of older workers.

C++ is an extrememly powerful tool.

Powerful tools can cut off your fingers... but they can also allow a skilled work to create something incredible.

Re:C programmers? Wanted! (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37285424)

if they use c++ they probably have a bunch of 20somethings wanting to show off this or that feature of the language.

Yes, damn 20 year old kids and their trendy C++ language. Kids these days with their hula hoops and fax machines...

Re:C programmers? Wanted! (0)

Joce640k (829181) | more than 3 years ago | (#37285258)

Hey , there are still some of us around! :) I just have to put "++" on the end these days otherwise I'd never get hired! C++ might make writing programs easier but C is a damn sight easier to debug when things go wrong because everything is explicit.

If you're writing code which is easier to debug because it's explicit then your bugs are mostly buffer overflows and bad pointers. ...which C++ eliminated.

Re:C programmers? Wanted! (1)

tomhudson (43916) | more than 3 years ago | (#37285428)

If you're writing code which is easier to debug because it's explicit then your bugs are mostly buffer overflows and bad pointers. ...which C++ eliminated.

Really?

./me checks calendar

... psst .... it's not Troll Tuesday yet ...

Re:C programmers? Wanted! (1)

Viol8 (599362) | more than 3 years ago | (#37285462)

Logic is easier to follow in C just looking at the code because there is no overloading or hidden conversations going on behind the scenes.

"buffer overflows and bad pointers. ...which C++ eliminated."

Yeah , riiiight.... Keep drinking the Stroustrup Kool Aid.

Re:C programmers? Wanted! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37285566)

Huh?

In my C++, bad pointers and buffer overflows are usually the first layer of bugs to be removed, I try to be careful not to write those bugs, but it happens. C++ isn't a managed language like C# or Java. Only managed languages have eliminated those basic problems to my knowledge.

Re:C programmers? Wanted! (2)

royallthefourth (1564389) | more than 3 years ago | (#37285132)

I would gladly be a C programmer if I could've found a job willing to hire me to do it out of college. The only places that would hire anyone with a BS in CS were horrible PHP shops, so that's what I learned how to do. It's basically the same story for every I went to college with.
If industry can't find any experienced C programmers, it's their own fault because they don't take the steps necessary to create them.

Define "not pulling their weight" (4, Insightful)

ciderbrew (1860166) | more than 3 years ago | (#37284918)

Do you mean not willing to work 100hr weeks for 30 hrs pay?

Re:Define "not pulling their weight" (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37284936)

Spot on! Older skilled stuff have already outgrown the sucker freebie hours. Family comes first, the kids coming into IT will learn that as they mature, along with real IT skills that allow language jumping with ease.

Re:Define "not pulling their weight" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37284950)

don't also forgot, can i get this new guy to do a 'senior' tech role, for 'junior' tech wage.

Re:Define "not pulling their weight" (2)

Charliemopps (1157495) | more than 3 years ago | (#37285400)

What I see, where I work, is that we have some older employees that are incredibly good in the language they've been writing in for decades, but absolutely refuse to believe that there is any need for them to move on to something else. We still have systems that run Cobol... but we're not doing anything new with them, and if fact planning on replacing them in a few years. So what's going to happen to these people that are incredibly good at something we have no use for anymore?

I'm not saying it's fair, but if the thing you're good at is going away, learn a new thing.

Re:Define "not pulling their weight" (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37285430)

Yeah. Exactly that.

Being 30, and thus not yet in the "old" group, but no longer in the "fresh" group, I'm going to let some people in on a secret.
You spend your youth being able to do the job better than the people currently in place (I could code circles around the 30+ crowd when I was 15, and the 15 year olds I know now can outcode me on any language that came out after 2005).
You spend your growth getting the degrees and certs and other related papers and letters so that the money-men will believe your claims (I spent a solid 8 years on mine).

You think that you need to 'pay your dues' and then you'll be taken care of later.
But business isn't like it usedto be (it never WAS like that in my lifetime), and it isn't the mafia.
There is no respect, there is no loyalty.
You will be encouraged to spend your own life turning yourself into a more desirable asset.
But when you finally feel like you have paid enough and would like to start seeing returns on your investment... you'll be replaced with someone who is younger, faster, and doesn't know all the tricks yet... at half your salary (or less).

Because the truth is that you're either "underqualified" and thus expected to do more for less in order to prove yourself; or you're "overqualified" and you're worth more than anyone wants or needs.

$150k per year!? (0)

GameboyRMH (1153867) | more than 3 years ago | (#37284944)

If you're making that much, you can retire early, so it all works out!

Re:$150k per year!? (4, Insightful)

Seumas (6865) | more than 3 years ago | (#37284962)

$150k clearly goes a lot farther in your fantasy world than in reality.

Re:$150k per year!? (5, Insightful)

JeffSh (71237) | more than 3 years ago | (#37284998)

$150k a year goes very far where I live. Correspondingly, though, there are no jobs which pay $150k a year here so the point is moot.

Re:$150k per year!? (1)

GameboyRMH (1153867) | more than 3 years ago | (#37285082)

Haha same here.

I think the GP lives on one of the coasts where renting a shithole apartment costs as much as maintaining a small aircraft.

But if you don't live somewhere insanely expensive, $50k is a pretty damn good year's income, so $150k is pretty damn good for 3 years' income.

Stop doing blow. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37285200)

If I made $150k a year, I'd be on a boat, motherfucker.

Re:$150k per year!? (4, Informative)

Penguinisto (415985) | more than 3 years ago | (#37285262)

$150k clearly goes a lot farther in your fantasy world than in reality.

Depends on where you live:

In SanFran or NTC? $150k will get you by, but not by too much. You could rent a somewhat comfy apartment with it and not have to drive too far to work,

Up here in Portland (OR), $150k is very comfy... not quite a king's ransom, but enough to get a decent 3-bdrm house in the 'burbs. Here, you can do pretty well on $80k/year.

Back where I'm from (Northwest Arkansas/Ozarks), $150k/year can get you a nice big house with acreage, all paid off on a 5-year note. You could then retire in 10 years on that income. Out there, you can live rather cozy on $40k/year.

In some parts of Mississippi, West Virginia, and Alabama? $150k/yr income can let you live like a near-deity. Out there, folks get by rather cozily on $25-30k/yr.

Re:$150k per year!? (1)

m50d (797211) | more than 3 years ago | (#37285558)

Oh come off it. How many years would you have to work on $150k/year to match earning median income until typical retirement?

Re:$150k per year!? (1)

dotfile (536191) | more than 3 years ago | (#37285422)

Perhaps if you're 20 or 25, making $150K a year, and never plan to marry or have kids. As one of the old curmudgeons (not a coder, thank God) I can tell you that $150K, while comfortable (in many parts of the country) even with a sizable family, will NOT let you retire early. At least not if you worked your way to that pay level starting from typical 20-something slave wages.

Different World? (5, Insightful)

lbmouse (473316) | more than 3 years ago | (#37284968)

We would kill for more Cobol programmers. Many of our big iron people have retired and we need to replace them. None of the younger applicants have the experience that we need to maintain our mainframe systems... and they don't want to learn. These systems are not going away but the human resources are.

Re:Different World? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37285064)

We would kill for more Cobol programmers..

Are you a Muslim?

Re:Different World? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37285272)

No, he isn't. If he was, the "for more Cobol programmers" part wouldn't have been needed.

Re:Different World? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37285220)

And I would kill to get back into development... have learnt many languages, am pretty rusty but when I do do some tinkering in my own time, after a couple of weeks I am usually back to a fairly free flowing coding routine. I managed to slip into an all round management roll as the first developer in a start up I was asked to interview, hire and coach new devs. That soon morphed into also looking after the IT systems and pretty soon I found I wasn't keeping up with the other devs. Long story short company went tits up through mismanagement and I couldn't get work as I wasn't specialised enough in any one area.

So... rapidly approaching my 40s, I've never coded Cobol but it doesn't hold any fear and I would bite your arm off if you offered training and better conditions than an IT support role can offer (which wouldn't be hard).

Cobol, Snobol, and low-ball [Re:Different World?] (4, Insightful)

Geoffrey.landis (926948) | more than 3 years ago | (#37285232)

Yeah, I think that that statement if you're still writing Cobol code the likelihood is that you won't be employed very long was just a quip-- the author of the article was trying to be funny, and that was the oldest language he could think of. I expect that the workers who can maintain Cobol probably aren't likely to be laid off without warning, because they can't be replaced by twenty-one-year-old coders who are willing to work for ramen noodles and a vague promise of a stake in some future IPO.

Re:Different World? (4, Interesting)

ethanms (319039) | more than 3 years ago | (#37285364)

...spend years maintaining decades old code, never really getting to build anything yourself, gaining no new or relevant experience to so called cutting edge... probably working with derelict ancient hardware as well...

The trouble is that the companies that want to maintain Cobol systems are typically CHEAP companies... insurance companies, banks, etc... these people won't spend a dime on IT unless it returns a quarter or is absolutely necessary to operating the business.

I applied for a job like that 10 years ago at a life insurance company keeping their mainframe running and linked to newer processes... I was a relatively new college grad, 2 years out and working for a semi-conductor company... I remember thinking it would be great job security (because my industry tended to be steadily being outsourced to either India or China, and still is)... but then I heard their wage... it was $10K less than the lowest offer I had received anywhere else 2 years prior... I know a few people who work there, they were telling me about how great it was to work there because they receive a 3-4% raise every year... yeah that's wonderful, except that after 10 years you're earning what I was making my 2nd year out of school...

Age bias = loss of experience (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37284986)

There is an age bias in IT, always has been. It is my observation that this engenders a younger, and therefore, less experienced staff who have no access to older people who have a lot to offer in terms of their experience and developed skills. And so one sees these younger developers struggle with issues that an elder would have a ready solution to. In the development shop I work in it constantly amazes and frustrates me to see the inexperience manifest itself in the functional code delivered. FRs and NFRs that I take for granted are missed completely, requiring a return to the codebase to implement later, if at all.

It is not a matter of pulling weight. More, it is a different weight that the elder will pull, and that is not measured in sheer volume of code, but in quality and the reduction not only in gaps and defects, but also improved long-term productivity. Intangibles in a project-led culture that IT has become, where the load is transferred to in-production where disproportionate levels of human support are required to keep systems and services running.

Re:Age bias = loss of experience (2)

tgatliff (311583) | more than 3 years ago | (#37285214)

Older and Younger employees, in my opinion, are like apples and oranges.

Your internal talent which is what separates you from your competitors are what your older employees are for. The ones who naturally do not want to improve themselves over time are naturally weeded out. The ones I have found that are best generally (not always) are individuals who workout early in the morning, stay fit, and still maintain a professionalism in their 40's that a free out of school college student typically use a a mentor type.

Your young developers are cheaper, but require allot of training, mentoring, as well a allot of patience working with them. They are your future internal talent, however, so it is critical that you make sure you spend the time to help them grow their careers even if it is not eventually with my company.

soon they will want a post doc for help desk L1 (3, Insightful)

Joe_Dragon (2206452) | more than 3 years ago | (#37284992)

soon they will want a post doc for help desk Level 1 and then can you a few year later.

Add YEARS to AGE (1)

stx23 (14942) | more than 3 years ago | (#37285020)

I would have though that anyone that is 45, making 150k and writing COBOL probably already developed most of the system they're working with and is in a pretty safe place until someone decides to drop SAP on top of everything.

Re:Add YEARS to AGE (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37285058)

Hmmm yes that is the problem sooner or later a packaged solution will put them on the street, seen it happen more than once.

Re:Add YEARS to AGE (1)

Penguinisto (415985) | more than 3 years ago | (#37285388)

That depends a lot on the industry.

If you work for a large bank, FI, or any financial house, you pretty much have a job for life as a COBOL programmer on mainframes. Anywhere else gets less and less certain, almost on a gradient.

Funny thing is, it's entirely different on the Sysadmin side of IT. I'm 42, and get chased pretty often by headhunters. This year, I was able to job-shop, averaging two new contacts/interviews a week - in spite of only spending an couple hours on Monster initially (and nothing since). One reason is because I live in a good area for tech (PDX), and the other is that one thing the younger folk don't have: experience.

I still presented a lot of energy and enthusiasm (toward the technology) at interviews as well, which makes a huge difference, and tends to erase any thought of age as a factor.

Maybe it's that the older sysadmins are desired, while older programmers are not?

Re:Add YEARS to AGE (1)

tgatliff (311583) | more than 3 years ago | (#37285488)

Clearly you statement makes too much sense to be true... Also, clearly you have never been in the presence of your typically executive who thinks the answer to all of worlds problems is to outsource everything except his own job....

The bottom line (3, Interesting)

kanwisch (202654) | more than 3 years ago | (#37285026)

Business is driven almost entirely by profit. If you're a highly paid person who has skills that aren't in the critical areas I'm at a loss for why any company should feel compelled to keep you on, regardless of your age. Knowing one or two languages, IMHO, is a suicide move. Besides, as one who helps technical and business folks achieve their goals, I don't want single-skilled people like programmers. Like it or not, I can get those a dime a dozen overseas. The needs for the organizations I've been with have been a mix of business process, design, and technical knowledge. Evolve or be unemployed. Or relocate. People bitching about there being no jobs often haven't explored relocation and there are jobs, just not in your locale perhaps.

Re:The bottom line (1)

omnichad (1198475) | more than 3 years ago | (#37285176)

Moving is rather expensive for the unemployed - often even more expensive than staying for a long while.

Re:The bottom line (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37285346)

I wish I could be there when you reach retirement and realize that you bent most, if not all, of your life around staying employable. You are correct. For-profit corporations are chartered with the highest goal being making a profit. Which means they don't care about your family life, your health, or your particular aspirations beyond what is required by law. You might think those things are less important than being employed right now but I guarantee that you won't think that later on. Having a work/life balance isn't just bullshit that lazy people come up with. Keeping that balance is getting harder and harder but it's the difference between a fulfilled life and a life filled with regrets.

Re:The bottom line (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37285464)

You might want to revisit your ideology because your immediate benefit is outweighed by the situation that arises when that cheap and inefficient snowball software crashes into a wall... Sooner or later, the pions doing the outsourcing get made-out. Happens every time.

It's not age bias at $150,000 yr (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37285044)

In the midwest, a C code or Cobol code programmer makes about $80,000. The fact that you are making $150,000 a year could mean that your demographic is having trouble affording salaries which are nearly double to the adjacent timezone. When times are good then good talent is hard to find and when times are bad things get more competitive. I believe age bias does exist in some circumstances, but most of the time they are selecting the programmer with 20 years experience over the fresh graduate with no experience.

unrealistic expectations (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37285062)

This is pretty much the way the world works now. Younger people are just pretty much happy to have jobs and are willing to work for less money. Anyone who is older just needs to learn to adapt to the 70-80 hour work weeks getting paid for 40. The reason many older people seem to be unemployed or laid off is they just have unrealistic expectations about what their "skills" will get them these days. Most places I have worked the older guys we hired just could not keep up with the pace of their younger counterparts and don't last long.

Re:unrealistic expectations (5, Insightful)

TheGratefulNet (143330) | more than 3 years ago | (#37285182)

you're an idiot.

you cannot see that your company is burning YOU and others out.

but you can call it 'pace' all you want. but its the company LAUGHING at you. you will be disposed of soon enough. so save me a laugh at your expense when you get your pink slip.

Re:unrealistic expectations (1)

omnichad (1198475) | more than 3 years ago | (#37285206)

And if everyone could retire at 40, there wouldn't be as much to lose in running your body into the ground. Those people willing to work 70-80 hours a week aren't even willing to think about making it to middle age and still having a job.

Symptom of a bigger issue.. (4, Insightful)

tgatliff (311583) | more than 3 years ago | (#37285080)

Age is a minor issue if you ask me. A larger issue is that you tend to hit a wall on compensation around your early 30's. Meaning, my experience is that around $130K consistantly is about the best you can do working for someone. Once you reach that barrier, the logical next step is to start building/marketing your own products/services. Personally, I am not a big fan of services because you have to keep your work performance at such a rate that burnout because a big issue. Also, being an older developer, the advantage you have over younger developers is that hopefully you have saved a good part of that high salary rather than blowing it on fast cars and houses so that it opens up options for you...

In short... As a developer, you need to either grow or dwindle. Some do not have the skills/desire to move forward. For those, the decline in wages and stagnation of performance is clearly going to be a problem over the long haul.

Codgers these days (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37285100)

Older workers tend to have family responsibilities and are likely to spend more days working at home. They don't keep up with social networking, and are often (but not always) out of date with respect to gadgets.

OTOH they don't spend much time texting peers, updating their Facebook page and showing up haggard from painting the town. They don't waste time going down paths they learned long ago were unproductive, such as creating applications with a completely wrongheaded architecture.

From where I sit, the real problem is with tenured workers, those that have been with the firm for 10 years or more and (almost invariably falsely) think they created the place, and are entitled to special treatment. One of the advantages of youngsters is that they tend to move around a lot.

you are damned right ( F. Zappa ) (1)

kubitus (927806) | more than 3 years ago | (#37285118)

I quit sending job-applications after age 45!

!

know why?

- I even didnt get an answer any more when saying how old I am

When I faked my age to 35 and still sent my list of features, they eagerly invited me for interviews

to withdraw with an: sorry we already filled the job

not saying: with someone cheaper!

Migration (1)

bhcompy (1877290) | more than 3 years ago | (#37285146)

I work as an interface between public and private sector IT. All the young and lower middle age guys work in the private sector. They move around a lot, pay varies wildly, do completely different jobs one to the next that require completely new skills(granted you must learn new skills in IT to even keep a job long term in most cases). Once they are over the hill, I see most of them move towards public sector IT jobs. Stable work, much lower new skill development required, steady pay, good bennies(you know, cuz you're old), and a pension plan so you can say you'll retire with 20 years in that pension at 70. Is it age bias as much as the natural progression of things when you see that kind of migration day in and day out? I don't think so. At some age you just get tired of all the learning, you get bad at remembering all those new things, or you just want to cruise out your final years. Employers like to make that decision for you before you do it to them, is all.

Problem (1)

Mensa Babe (675349) | more than 3 years ago | (#37285148)

The problem with this industry (and not just this one in fact) is that while the industry never stops innovating, the individuals on the other hand hate innovation like nothing else. All of them? Of course not! Otherwise we wouldn't have any innovation. But most of ordinary workers do. And why do they hate it? Because it ultimately means they have to learn something new just when they finally got used to the old way of doing things. Do you find it surprising that most of the big things in computer science that we today take for granted, like the OOP, lambda calculus, or even high level languages needed about 20 years to get mainstream acceptance? It is roughly equivalent to a generation of programmers. If people refuse to constantly learn better ways of doing their job then the only real way to "learn" those things as a company is to hire new programmers for whom those new ways are just as natural as the relational model for you and me. It is not at all surprising that you won't find a lot of old and experienced programmers who can write high performance servers based on event loops, because not so long time ago we all thought that the only way to write servers was to use threads. Most of the people never change their opinions so if you want a programmer who understands how to write high performance servers then you will find it very difficult to hire someone below 40. The loom industry in the 1700s were also "age-biased" because the old people refused to learn how to use power looms. The history keeps repeating.

My experience with older workers... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37285164)

My experience with older workers is that they are slower in general when it comes to software. Slower to pick up newer technologies, slower to develop existing tech etc. HOWEVER... they are usually far more knowledgeable with technologies they are invested in. That's the tradeoff. If you are using a language that's been in place for years then the older coders are generally better a providing better quality with less revisions.

This changes with Hardware. The older worker tends to be much MUCH more valuable. The difference being that software developers get comfortable, where hardware changes so frequently they are forced to keep up with it, or lose their job. They are so well versed in the typical issues that hardware has, even down to the make of the hardware (Cisco switches have X problems typically... just do Y to fix it). It's a huge shift.

That's why older developers shift to project management, which doesn't change much over the years.

Depends (4, Interesting)

emt377 (610337) | more than 3 years ago | (#37285186)

I think it greatly depends on your domain. If you're a C programmer with 20-25 or more years experience with operating systems you're eminently employable. Extremely so, in fact. If your experience is application software on the other hand, then you're almost certainly in trouble. However, since this is about IT and not technology companies I think the finger is squarely on the second group. C is probably on its way out of IT - as a systems programmer I think that makes a ton of sense, myself. It may never be out of the systems space though.

As for COBOL, I think he's flat out wrong. If you can program COBOL you'll have a job - programmers are retiring faster than the systems they maintain. And, no, it wouldn't make any sense for someone new in the field either, because chances are good they'd outlive the systems. I bet just about every COBOL shop is hiring.

Abe Simpson (1)

retroworks (652802) | more than 3 years ago | (#37285194)

This is all Matt Groening's fault. Before the "Abe Simpson" character debuted, older Americans were treated with respect in every industry, from modelling to aeronautics, as they are in every other nation in the world.

Moving Fast to Oblivion (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37285226)

"Is high tech really that tough on older workers, or are they simply not pulling their weight in an industry that never stops innovating?"

Problem often is that innovating and progress are different things. Yes, young inexperienced recent graduates will innovate and work hard on creating new concepts. Usually the new concept is an old concept the young techie is not familiar with and "re-invents the wheel". Usually the young techies are indeed hard working and push through what they made up. This may seem like being "innovative" and "productive" but the end result is that with young inexperienced gurus you get a lot of more unmaintainable mess. The statement "never stops innovating" is often unfortunately true but not a good thing.

it's not age, it's salary... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37285236)

Although I've been working for the same Co for 8 years that doesn't mean I don't shop around. In my case coding would be a relatively new thing for me--I have no practical job experience. The places I have applied (for coding jobs) are all looking for experience, it's a big impediment to not have 3-5 years of "this or that" under your belt. If you want to start in the field, you have to be prepared to earn college grad wage, which in my area is about $40K if you're lucky.

A few months ago I applied for what would essentially be my current job, but at a different company. I have several colleagues working there, so I had the inside scoop and knew exactly what the job was and what a candidate needed ... The interview process was extensive, multiple people over multiple days... they were critical of skills I didn't have, despite them not being listed as requirements on the job posting or even things that I would have to deal with as part of the job--since I knew exactly what the job entailed... and in the end they claimed that their top earners in these posts were making the same as my current salary (about $80K), so it was likely that if offered the job I would by lucky to get 75% of my current wage. It had nothing to do with age and everything to do with them wanting a bargain worker, someone with more skills than they need and willing to work for less then they ought to be paid. I have a feeling whether I was 30 or 60 wouldn't matter to them at all...

jobs (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37285240)

I see a ton of you wanting C jobs here in the US, and a place hiring said coders. Look no further than Wal-mart. They are basically begging for programmers with C knowledge for their Store Systems. Plenty of spots open there if you want to do C.

Embedded development (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37285298)

From my point of view, there are lots of embedded positions available.... most of them require C.

That said, even though the example in the article was a bit suspect, the point was valid. It is obvious, two people with the same skills, one making less, of course the lower paid person gets the job.

How much is cultural? (1)

swb (14022) | more than 3 years ago | (#37285300)

I work for a small IT consulting company. One of the owners is my age or a year older (I'm 44) and one is ten years younger.

One or two are 5 years younger but with similar life situations (married, working wife, young children) but most of them are late 20s, single and unmarried.

When you talk to these guys its almost like you have nothing in common outside of technology; several work events seemed really tailored towards this age group (ie, Christmas party held at Dave & Busters). I chose just not to go -- either I went without my wife, or we spent $50 on a babysitter to drive to a video game place I would probably amuse myself in but wouldn't seek out and where my wife would flat-out refuse to go.

I sometimes wonder if this kind of "age gap" isn't part of the problem -- younger tech managers want a "company spirit" and somehow find older workers uninterested in the video games, nerf guns and all the other frankly immature bullshit that passes for "employee engagement".

Re:How much is cultural? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37285344)

You sir are what we in Human Resources call fired.
Fuddy Duddy Fuddy Duddy, you are a fuddy duddy.
A - Z
BOOM

Old Timers -- Head to DoD Contracting (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37285342)

Hey old timers, if you're a US citizen and clearable, there's plenty of "work" for you in DoD contracting.

Want to be on the cutting edge of 1990s technology? Want to legitimately justify never doing anything? Afraid of new technology? Does the prospect of building a web app got you running scared? Enjoy being bogged down in process? Do you like the Kafka-eske labyrinth of OPSEC? Like being stuck on ancient platforms because of the specter (and paperwork) of "configuration management"? Do you enjoy doing activities like filling out justification forms more than you like design and programming? Do you look forward to having all of your ideas stymied? Is professional sclerosis appealing to you?

Then look no further! You can have all this and more by going to work for a big DoD contractor on a big multi-year contract.

You too can enjoy working in an environment where there are very few technical people under 30 years of age, and where everybody else is pretty much a loser.

I can't wait to get out of this f.cking job. I'd rather be broke and working for a startup. At least I'd be doing something constructive.

Is it age or skill? (1)

jimwelch (309748) | more than 3 years ago | (#37285348)

I've re-educated myself every few years, as needed from punched cards all the way to tablets. From Fortran all the way to C++, JS, CSS, etc. I've worked for the same company for 35 years, made it through over 20 layoffs. I think it is skill, training, work ethic, and yes, personality. I've moved to the tech ladder. I volunteer in the community and have a happy, close family life. Maybe, some of you should consider coming to the Hidden Silicon Vally, Oklahoma. Where the houses are reasonable, the taxes are lower, the recreation is abundant, the air clean. Our rush hour is from 5:00 to 5:05.

Those who cannot (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37285356)

Teach.

Maybe Vivek Wadhwa needs to get out of the class room and actually get a real job.

Your skills are not current....... (1)

who_stole_my_kidneys (1956012) | more than 3 years ago | (#37285372)

It has nothing to do with your age. If you have been working on a Domino Mail server for the last 10 years, Im sure as shit not going to hire you to manage my 2010 Exchange cluster. If you have been writing C or COBAL for the last 10 years , why would i hire you to do my .NET programming? it all boils down to "Do you have experience in ____________" if you reply NO, then your skills are not needed. and BTW, just hired a 50+ year old DBA, who has all the UPDATED skills we are looking for. Didn't think twice about age.

happened to me (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37285394)

I'm over 45, and lost a 6 figure job in 2008 along with many others when our company folded. I've held two jobs since then, and still get rave performance reviews, but only make 50% of my former salary (much less if you consider bonuses. While I have a few hundred K in retirement plans, I am unable to contribute more (unless I sell my house at a loss and maybe lose a few kids) and may never be able to. I expect to be working until I die and I wonder at what point will I not be able to get another IT job.

Can't say that I didn't see this coming though.... Hard times ahead for all of us I think.

Re:happened to me (1)

54t4n (257535) | more than 3 years ago | (#37285584)

That's the question. Who's willing to cut your salary, work more hours, expend more money training, live lower status level, expend more money with the kids education, pay pension, do a lot of trashing-code-like-hell-low-quality-web job?
This profession had better days.

Is this really age discrimination? (1)

Riceballsan (816702) | more than 3 years ago | (#37285448)

I'm trying to see where the age discrimination plays a part here. They are saying "If you are over 45 and still writing in C or Cobol" your job is at risk? What does age have to do with this at all? Is the over 45 even worth mentioning besides for shock value? Let me rephrase it, "If you haven't kept up with modern technology and aren't willing to adapt to the companies new needs, but still want to be paid the same 145K salary you started with, your job might be at risk". I know every story sells more when they call it discrimination, but this dosn't sound like it. Discrimination is 2 candidates apply for the same job, and the company hires the one that has less of the needed skills, based on a different factor (age/gender/race). At least from what I am gathering, they are saying "a company would like to hire someone for 60k that will know the latest technology over someone who wants 140k and does not know what he needs for the job. How is this discrimination? That is like calling it sexism when a company will hire a man who has 5 years experience in C++, Java and SQL will likely be chosen over a woman who knows Microsoft Excel for a senior programing position. You aren't doomed if you are older, you have to study and keep up with modern languages. News at 11, technology moves fast, to work in technology you have to keep up with it or be replaced.

This bears repeating (1)

smcdow (114828) | more than 3 years ago | (#37285468)

FTA:

Step 1 is recognizing that your skills have a certain shelf life. Rather than fight it, IT professionals should consider that when planning their careers.

In fact, Vivek Wadhwa believes that colleges should tell computer science and engineering students that "between age 40 and 45 you'll hit your peak, so plan for it."

When I was your age... (1)

infodragon (38608) | more than 3 years ago | (#37285528)

When I got my first "real" development position the age of death was about 40. That was late 90s. Now it's 50-55? Seems there is an improvement.

The first thing in a technical interview is the evaluation of whether you know your stuff...
I now have 18 years of professional experience strictly in C++. I know it inside and out. I can't tell you how many interviews I've been on which I was asked why you wouldn't want any virtual functions in a class. Most answer, "because you don't need any." The real answer is in the event you are concerned for space you don't want the overhead of the vptr. Now what's the diff of a vptr and vtable? I've been told over and over again by the interviewers nobody gets either of those right.

Why exceptions? if you cannot give more than 5 good reasons then you're not going to make it.

Why not exceptions? If you cannot answer it then you're not going to make it!

Why is inline good? Why is it bad? explain both!

What's the difference between a stl list and an intrusive list implemented by Boost?

C++0x now C++11... What's an rvalue reference and how can it help with the dynamic resizing of a vector?

When should you use a map vs a hash map... Ahhh... now it's science not the language. Can't answer that when you are getting up there in age... they are not interested.

Multi-threading... What are the different types of locking? Explain them! What's an atomic operation? Lockless sync?

The second thing is how flexible you are. Your age is going to make them sensitive towards that. They will find things you don't know and judge your response. I've found "I don't know but this is my guess and this is how I would discover the real answer." The guess tells them how well you can extrapolate which is incredibly important in software development (i.e. gleaning relevant information from poorly written docs, which NEVER happens!) The second tells them that you are used to finding new things and utilizing them.

The third thing is your energy level and excitement. If you're an old goat you're going to cause problems. If they see the sparkle in your eye as you solve the problems they put before you then they won't see your age.

It all comes down to perception of reality. If in reality you are "old" then it is up to you to make them see young. If you are young then you are lucky, they are going to see young.

Question: Math vs CS Degree (1)

bucknuggets (749594) | more than 3 years ago | (#37285602)

So, a number of salary surveys have shown that engineers hit their peak salary around the age of 45-55, but it then declines. This is quite the opposite of very many fields - lawyers, doctors, etc can work until they are 70.

My son is planning to major in math and just take a minor in computer science, then work as a data analyst. What do you think?

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