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Ageism in IT?

Cliff posted more than 11 years ago | from the revisiting-an-old-topic dept.

The Almighty Buck 861

Embedded Geek writes "It's hardly a new topic, but BBC is running a story about ageism hitting Gen-X, especially in IT. As a 34 year old coder, I was horrified to hear a quote from a *hiring manager*: 'In the IT sector (and coding in particular) younger minds generally work faster -- I would rather employ a keen teenager who code programs computers quickly than an older person.' It didn't help that the person is 32 years old. My kneejerk reaction, the same one anyone else over 30 would have, is that the guy is a buffoon (I'll withhold my preferred, spectacularly vulgar, term). The problem is that I do not believe his idiocy is unique - I have definitely felt the vibe when interviewing. It's frustrating, since Gen-X is finally shedding the media hyped 'slacker' stereotype only to run headlong into this garbage. Have any other Slashdot readers seen this? What is the youngest you can be before some PHB declares you fit for the scrap-heap? Other than stocking up on hair dye and botox, what steps can I take to prepare for the future? Share your war stories here." Ask Slashdot handled this topic over two years ago. Of course, this behavior could be explained away as economic concerns, as the decision to hire younger (and typically cheaper) employees can directly affect the bottom line. However, one has to wonder if the decision to go with less experienced programmers also affects software quality, in the long run. What are your thoughts on this subject?

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Do younger minds absorb quicker? (5, Interesting)

bluethundr (562578) | more than 11 years ago | (#6192985)

I don't think that the ability to learn is determined at all by age. I believe that nearly anyone can learn how to code at nearly any age. But I would liken this ability to that of playing a piano.

Sure, an older person can pick up the ability and wield a certain prowess and even artistry. But no one, to my knowledge, would argue the fact that a person who learns to play the piano in childhood has a certain "feel" for it that people who pick up this ability later in life can never attain. It's not that the older person can't play sonoriously with rhythm and emotion. But the younger player has a certain reach that will never be known to the older guy.

Andy Hertzfeld (of the original Macintosh development team) claimed that he used to be able to track and house far more complex contructs of thought, and more of them, in his mind when he was in his early 20's than he ever could at the time he was giving the interview (I would guess he was somewhere in his mid forties at that time). He called this ability "the gift of the young".

But in the book Hackers: Heroes of the Computer Revolution [barnesandnoble.com] Steven Levy described how Ken Williams, the founder of Sierra Online [sierra.com] felt a missionary zeal in converting people to the belief that learning how to program a computer could change your life. Ken met Bob and Carolyn Box, who were an older married couple in their fifties. Bob was "...a former New Yorker, a former engineer, a former race car driver, a former jockey, and a former Guinness Book of WOrld Records champion in gold panning." When they both tried to get a job working for Sierra, Ken told them to "put up something on the screen using assembly language in thirty days". According to how the story is told, they both became very able assembly language programmers. Roberta Williams (Ken's wife) considered the Boxes "inspiring" and felt that learning how to program "rehabilitated their lives".

Of course that was a long time ago, and thus far I have spoken only of the abiltity to learn and to become an able programmer. To get slightly more "on topic"; as to whether there is job market opportunities for older folk, there is no reason an employer should discriminate on the basis of age, though I'm sure that many do. But as for the pure concept of programming I myself only picked up some ability in C++ (on my own, not through any school) when I turned 30 as I realized I was getting older and it was basically "now or never". I still enjoy learning as much as I can about it, and consider it a wonderful intellectual exercise, though I have no concrete plans of doing it for a living. I've already got a stable professional life and see it as a very enjoyable and rewarding hobby.

Re:Do younger minds absorb quicker? (1)

palutke (58340) | more than 11 years ago | (#6193047)

When they both tried to get a job working for Sierra, Ken told them to "put up something on the screen using assembly language in thirty days". According to how the story is told, they both became very able assembly language programmers.

I think the problem is that's about twenty-nine days more than most employers are waiting to wait for productivity nowadays.

Re:Do younger minds absorb quicker? (5, Insightful)

mdrplg (680070) | more than 11 years ago | (#6193098)

While it may be true that people that learn the piano at a younger age are better that one who picks it up later in life, it is also true that a person who has been playing the piano all their life is better that a young person just starting out. I think the same holds true of software. In all the jobs I've worked at recently, the younger programmers are quick to take advantage of my experience, even if they are quite good themselves. I've been programming for 30 years and I've learned a thing or two in that period. Of course, old age and cunning will overcome youth and skill.

Re:Do younger minds absorb quicker? (5, Insightful)

macdaddy357 (582412) | more than 11 years ago | (#6193101)

Other than are you at least 18, employers shouldn't be allowed to ask my age. They can't ask about my sex, race, religion or ancestry except on an anonymous affirmitive action survey. Age should be no different.

Re:Do younger minds absorb quicker? (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6193195)

Well maybe they can't ask, but when they meet you they can probably tell what sex you are, perhaps your race by your name or any distinguishing pigmentation features you may have, and quite possibly a ballpark figure for your age.

Re:Do younger minds absorb quicker? (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6193213)

Um, they can't.

Re:Do younger minds absorb quicker? (5, Insightful)

RobPiano (471698) | more than 11 years ago | (#6193134)

I'm a piano teacher, and a computer scientist.

For the most part younger kids learn piano better simply because they put in the time and are willing try new things. My adult students often progress much faster than my younger students. Its only that most adults also have complex lifes already and can't put in the time a little kid can. My adult students that have trouble tend to do so because they are afraid of the piano. I must admit, however, that some young minds can simply make unbelivable progress for no single reason other than natural talent.

I think the same thing transfers to Computer Science. For the most part if you have used computers for years you are not afraid to try things. Many adults are very afraid of computers. Kids simply explore and enjoy them.

I think Gen X'ers get the rotten deal in all of this. The generation before them WAS worse at computers at an old age. This is no longer true since many Gen X'ers have had computers since Commodore 64 or earlier. It will take another generation before this is ammended.

And for all of you programming divas just realize that programming isn't a "god given talent" and neither is piano. You simply put in the work, do what you love, and good things come from it. Don't think you are special for it, because no matter how good you are there will always be an 11 year old asian girl who is better than you'll ever be.

-Rob

Re:Do younger minds absorb quicker? (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6193214)

I am a pianist. I would say that the only advantage that a younger person (read: child) has on an older person as far as pianism goes is that they have a head start.

I personally find the young people (especially the child prodigies who play) to be technically astonishing but dead in terms of the more esoteric parts of a performance. It takes a certain amount of life experience to know how to play with real feeling and maturity.

Being a programmer as well, I can state with absolute certainty that the same thing is true with programming. There is an artistry to programming that beginners lack. Heck, it took me 8 years to find it. And that artistry can allow you to write stabler, more efficient code.

Trying to explain... When one starts out on the piano, one sees individual black blobs on the page. Those blobs eventually start to form notes, and you learn the notes. Just as when you program, you learn the syntax of the language. And with a little trial and error, you can write a program that barely works, just as you can play music that sounds halfways decent.

But then the notes become chords - the chords become phrases, and the phrases become sections. And once you start to see the music in terms of phrases and sections, you need not worry about implementation details (what is this chord, how do I articulate that) and you are free to focus on the higher artistry of the music - what is this trying to get across, what do I want to invoke on the listener...

And once that happens, you have a self-consistent piece of art. Every piece relates to the other, in an unbroken fashion, throughout the piece - from the first note to the final chord. I don't care if it's 20 minutes long - you can still make that happen.

In terms of programming, this means that every module interacts well with all of the other modules, the code is clean and well-written, there are very few to no cases where errors are unhandled or a module will get unvalidated or unexpected input. The code is stable, and provably so.

Finding a pianist who can play the notes is cheap. Just as finding a programmer who can write code is cheap. They are a dime a dozen, and frankly, I'm not sure I would hire one. Finding a pianist who is a musician, or finding a coder who is an artist - that is a rare and precious find indeed.

Oh, and just so you know, I started playing when I was 16. By the time I was 17 I was a piano major in college and surpassing easily people who had been playing since early childhood.

--Russell

parent post plagiarized? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6193230)

Is it me, or was this posting directly taken from another story? Not like recycling good posts has never been done before, but this is fairly blatant.

Is this new? (5, Insightful)

palutke (58340) | more than 11 years ago | (#6193000)

Or a new bunch of people becoming old enough to experience it. I'd feel worse about it if the people who are starting to experience age-based discrimination weren't the ones benefitting from it a few years ago.

probably (1)

ed.han (444783) | more than 11 years ago | (#6193106)

i think it's likely new. i have 2 real thoughts on the topic (yep, that's it, just 2: i'm pretty darned old at 32, ya durned whippersnapper...):

1. of course younger employees can be paid less: they generally have less experience. but as the article notes, this is true of practically any field. it is, however, perhaps missing an important key step: at some point, don't programmer analysts get promoted to some level of management?

2. what about more experienced developers who are on h1-b visas vs. US citizens? there's a significant cost advantage in hiring employees who require h1-b sponsorship. sure, they'll keep your HR crew busy when the government announces the year's new cap but the direct costs in terms of salary are lower. does anyone know where to find figures contrasting "TCO" of h1-b visa employees vs. citizens?

ed

TCO of H1-B's (1)

rblancarte (213492) | more than 11 years ago | (#6193204)

Well after the lawsuits from those you layoff...

But seriously, that is a whole new can of worms. But you do raise a big issue - is the real issue with ageism just a way to have cheaper labor. Then again, we are still just talking what I mentioned in my other message - if you are willing to sacrifice quality workers for things like lower wage staff, hiring your friends and having a staff that is more in your age bracket, ultimately you are just hurting your own business.

RonB

Re:Is this new? (1)

rblancarte (213492) | more than 11 years ago | (#6193132)

Yea, I agree - this has been covered a number of years. While there may be a new article on it, this is old news.

Fact is, ageism exists, but I don't think it is nearly as big of a deal as it was before. During the dot.com era, companies were formed by cliques, and having similarly aged people was very common. I think now, many companies have come to their senses and are fielding the best people they can find, regardless of age. Those that aren't, are just looking at another dot.com like belly up. Of course that is just my opinion.

RonB

Re:Is this new? (1)

realdpk (116490) | more than 11 years ago | (#6193153)

Indeed. It's been the other way around for me. I mean, it's not like I haven't been employed, but there has definitely been a theme of "You're too young to be of use to us" throughout my life, not only in IT.

Hard to feel sorry for older folks who are getting the same treatment... but it is wrong, either way.

'course, ageism exists all over the place, and is very well established, and probably won't go away. Just look at car insurance.

Re:Is this new? (2, Insightful)

micromoog (206608) | more than 11 years ago | (#6193243)

'course, ageism exists all over the place, and is very well established, and probably won't go away. Just look at car insurance.

The difference being that that's based on hard actuarial statistics.

Hogwash (5, Insightful)

winkydink (650484) | more than 11 years ago | (#6193012)

Give me a seasoned vet who has the depth and breadth of experience to have learned all of those "only happens once every x years" type of lessons over some young, fast coder who has yet to learn these lessons.

Re:Hogwash (1)

Zwack (27039) | more than 11 years ago | (#6193079)

Give me a seasoned vet who has the depth and breadth of experience to have learned all of those "only happens once every x years" type of lessons over some young, fast coder who has yet to learn these lessons.

Where X=1,000? 1,000,000? What arbitrary limit are you going to impose?

Z. Who thinks the best candidate for the job should be chosen...

If this isn't the first non-subscriber post... (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6193014)

...I will whack off into a blender and make a man-cheese shake with it.

As always, links to pictures will be posted.

TP (-1)

crow_t_robot (528562) | more than 11 years ago | (#6193015)

maybe?

Young coders have no life (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6193016)

Its easier to sqeeze 80+ hrs out of someone with out kids, house and a wife.

Re:Young coders have no life (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6193071)

Its easier to sqeeze 80+ hrs out of someone with out kids, house and a wife.

This is very true. Albeit you put it rather bluntly. Don't think that this very thought doesn't cross the mind of managers. Its much easier to get the kid with no life and family to pull the OT and the weekend shift than it is to get the older person who sometimes just wants to go home after work and have a cold one.

Re:Young coders have no life (2, Insightful)

pecosdave (536896) | more than 11 years ago | (#6193091)

Tell me about it, I put in 70+ hours a week at a company I helped to start. Since all I had to take care of was a small dog they let me take him to work, and they paid "Chinese overtime". Talk about getting screwed.

BTW, Nazi mod to the above post, I find it very relevant and on topic. There are more than one "unofficial" things to look for when hiring.

What's the deal... (5, Funny)

Rorschach1 (174480) | more than 11 years ago | (#6193020)

With all these old folks posting on Slashdot? Don't they know it's a site for young people? Sheesh, go hang out on cnn.com, grandpa.

Re:What's the deal... (3, Funny)

Cpt_Kirks (37296) | more than 11 years ago | (#6193249)

News For Nerds, not zygotes.

huh? (-1, Troll)

indros (211103) | more than 11 years ago | (#6193021)

I have definitely felt the vibe when interviewing

That's sexual harassment, and you don't have to take it. Unless you want the job, of course.

Ah, the power of choice... (2, Insightful)

Loopy (41728) | more than 11 years ago | (#6193027)

Ya know, you don't actually have to work for people of such obvious short-sightedness. In fact, I would think that hiring practices such as this would tell you the average chances for success the company would have.

Burn out. (4, Insightful)

BrynM (217883) | more than 11 years ago | (#6193028)

younger minds generally work faster
And at that rate they burn out faster too. Just what we need. More middle aged, unhappy and depressed company in 10 years. What does the manager care? He'll just do the same thing when the kid's production level drops.

Let 'em hire the young minds (4, Insightful)

aborchers (471342) | more than 11 years ago | (#6193144)

When those young, fast and inexperienced coders give them brittle, unmaintainable code that soon collapses under it's own weight, they will call in us old seasoned consultants to fix the problems at a premium price.

A manager that can't distinguish quality of work from quantity has no business making hiring decisions in this industry.

Disclaimer:

What precedes is not meant to reflect generally on young programmers. There are both brilliant and useless coders at all ages.

Re:Burn out. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6193222)

Thats the beauty of reproduction; there's never a shortage of young people to burn out ;)

Well about... (2, Funny)

TheDredd (529506) | more than 11 years ago | (#6193031)

15 years old of course, before they get interested in sex, and start developing a mind of there own

Huh? (1)

H0NGK0NGPH00EY (210370) | more than 11 years ago | (#6193038)

What, so like Older Segways are getting less jobs than newer ones?

Oh, wait. Maybe I should read more than just the headline next time.

Ageism is definitely there (5, Funny)

wondafucka (621502) | more than 11 years ago | (#6193039)

As a respectable web pornographer I would have to say that when we consider subjects for our titalating erotic material, or as the 31337 call it, pr0n, we do choose to go with the younger crowds. Anyone over the age of 30 is typically considered outdated and useless. Unless of course you are visiting one of our spectacular granny sites.

Re:Ageism is definitely there (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6193185)

I remember looking for granny content. Man, I've never seen so many young grandmas in my life. They couldn't have been over 35 or so. Not what I wanted my viewers to get! I ended up scrapping the project... 'cause I don't want to take the pictures myself. :)

It's been 3 seconds since you hit 'reply'! - wtf? I don't type that fast.

young vs old (3, Insightful)

frieked (187664) | more than 11 years ago | (#6193042)

I think basically what it comes down to is quality. With the recent declines in the dot com sector, employers have chosen to sacrifice quality programmers for cheaper/faster ones.
Attaching age to that is an unfortunate sterotype that comes along with being in IT or almost any other profession for that matter.

It's the way of business.
Perhaps your luck will change when/if the economy bounces and employers have more to spend.

Who's got the time? (4, Insightful)

Fished (574624) | more than 11 years ago | (#6193044)

I think what may really be happening is that younger people can devote themselves to a subject with an intensity that older people simply don't have to spare. I know I have often wished, in my studies, that I could be eighteen again and essentially have two-thirds of my time to waste totally, instead of squeezing dribbles of time out here and there for my own projects. I certainly know I spent a lot more time studying new technology back then.

In other news (3, Funny)

stud9920 (236753) | more than 11 years ago | (#6193046)

Cliff, himself probably around 30, cannot spell the word "hire" correctly, while most teenagers probably can.

Re:In other news (2, Funny)

Hell O'World (88678) | more than 11 years ago | (#6193088)

the decision to higher younger (and typically cheaper) employees

That is so unfair! Younger employees are not always "higher"!

Re:In other news (1)

fasteddie203 (459046) | more than 11 years ago | (#6193141)

Back in the old days "hire" was spelled "higher" - a kid like you wouldn't know that. No respect for your elders...

training up.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6193049)

everyone knows younger minds are more likely to be familiar with such products as an xbox and therefore are more likely to stay brand loyal and be good windows users. as opposed to the old folk who go "xbox what?"

How to stay employed (4, Insightful)

micromoog (206608) | more than 11 years ago | (#6193054)

When the job can be done by someone younger (read: cheaper), the hiring manager's decision is clearly to hire younger.

As you get older, you need to make sure to hone your skillset so that younger, less experienced workers cannot do what you do; whether it's significant project management experience, teambuilding, extreme expertise in an area, or something else, you need to make sure you are uniquely valuable, and that your years of experience add to your value-for-the-money, not dilute it.

Re:How to stay employed (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6193177)

Perhaps this is simply a tactic to rationalize the hiring of co-op students. I know quite a few CS/Math graduates who are competing, more often than not, with the University co-op program in the job market. The subsidies provided by the school, to the employer, might outweigh the quality-gamble.

Other advantages to hiring young (1)

Skyshadow (508) | more than 11 years ago | (#6193192)

Besides being cheap and generally hip to the newest tech, young people are perhaps most importantly relatively unencumbered by family.

Most 35 year-olds have a spouse and kids. Most 25 year olds do not. Which is going to be able to work 70 hour weeks and focus?

Not saying it's right, however.

The real deal with ageism (5, Insightful)

Monkelectric (546685) | more than 11 years ago | (#6193060)

Managers look at ages 18 - 25 as people they can abuse. They are inexperienced so they won't stand up for themselves, and usually aren't married so they can work them 60 hours a week for low pay.

Re:The real deal with ageism (2, Insightful)

Monkelectric (546685) | more than 11 years ago | (#6193136)

Oh and I forgot to add, that, theres an endless supply of 18 - 25 year olds. So when your current crop gets fed up with your abuse, leaves, quits or gets married, you hire new ones.

My knock against younger coders... (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6193061)

My knock against younger coders is that they spend all day jerking off to slashdot it you don't put a boot up their ass every hour, on the hour.

Does It Matter? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6193062)

With all of the coding jobs going to India I would suggest giving it up.

I don't think it's because of young people having more agile minds but because like the folks from India, they'll work for less.

You didn't get hired because (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6193063)

you can't spell.

Defintely something to think about! (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6193065)

Personally after seeing my dad get layed off from Martin Marietta in the early 90's because he was too old, I have no trust in any companies williginess to keep older employees. So with that said, even though I'm a better then average IT person, not a GOD but good, I'm on a path to management. My goal is to have a good technical background, but to have a better management one so I can have a job even when someone wants to hire a 20 something person because young people think faster, work cheaper or something.

hey (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6193068)

Get with the times, gramps.

Sorta, but not quite right. (4, Interesting)

nadadogg (652178) | more than 11 years ago | (#6193069)

Programming is a skill that depends on both quick thinking, and a base to stand on.
Younger people tend to pick up new skills quicker, and improvise without much effort, whereas older programmers may not learn new things very quickly, but will have more of a mastery of their respective language.
If I were a hiring manager, I would probably stick with experienced programmers if it were a mission-critical app, but someone younger if I were, say, trying to create a new game engine.

Re:Sorta, but not quite right. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6193236)

Bull!

Your stereotypes about the way that people of different ages think is exactly the definition of ageism.

People should be defined as individuals, not as an age, sex, race, or religion. All those things put together only gives you the most superficial idea of where a person comes from, and no idea at all who they actually are.

Age is a number (5, Interesting)

wb8wsf (106309) | more than 11 years ago | (#6193078)

I seriously doubt that people can't learn just as fast at an older age. I'm 46, and think I'm smarter now than when I first starting programming computers in '75. Age also tends to give one experience from which to draw on. The accumulation of previous experience comes in handy at the oddest times, I've observed.

I have no doubt that there are mentally vacuuous hiring individuals who think that younger is better however, and that is a problem. If I encountered that, I think I might send the CEO of the company a paper letter explaining what I heard at my interview, and why I wasn't going to work there.

Yuck (4, Insightful)

DreadSpoon (653424) | more than 11 years ago | (#6193081)

This is totally insane. I'd much rather have an older, _more experienced_ coder, who may be slower (tho I don't believe that to be true) than some fresh out of college coder.

As someone _in_ college, looking at the vast majority of my classmates (actually, as vain as it sounds, _all_ my classmates) people coming out of college don't have any business going anywhere near critical code. You don't become a good coder by going to school, after all, you become a good coder by writing a metric shitload of code and thus getting real-world experience.

I believe I'm so much better than my classmates because I've been doing this since I was 9, and have 11 years experience writing code. And no, I _don't_ spit out as much code as I did back when I was 10 or 11, and poured out code all day long to do whatever dumb little project I worked on then.

But you know what? I code less now, because I use my experience to sit back and think about what I'm going to code, and end up not only writing higher quality code, but less code to get the same job done, as I did back when I was a dumb little kid!

Bah, I'm just ranting now. Think I've made my point at least 3 times by now. ~,^

Re:Yuck (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6193212)

Just creating lots of code does not make you a better programmer. You create better code by working with people who write better code - and have those people review your code.

Re:Yuck (1)

TerryAtWork (598364) | more than 11 years ago | (#6193242)

It's also important to be exposed to superior code, lest you spend 11 years repeating your bad habits.

I've looked at other code many a time and winced when I thought about how I USED to handle that very situation just a minute ago, but not any more...

Look at the Upside (1)

carrier lost (222597) | more than 11 years ago | (#6193083)


All of us older coders who are suddenly useless can all sign SCO's NDA because we know we'll never work in IT again anyway.

MjM I only mod up...

What is wrong with browsing back stories? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6193085)

I try to view the sun story at -1 and it stays at 5. Happens on a few other stories on the front page. Whats up Taco? I want my trolls

I'm 21 and am pretty lazy (2, Funny)

Agent Deepshit (677490) | more than 11 years ago | (#6193087)

I'm 21 and am lazy as fuck. I write a Perl script every six months. Don't hire me. I hope by the time that I'm 30 I'll be writing code much more frequently. But for now stay away and let me mature.

Re:I'm 21 and am pretty lazy (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6193131)

So, you work for slashdot I presume.

Money (4, Insightful)

FortKnox (169099) | more than 11 years ago | (#6193090)

It all comes down to moola. You can have a well experienced older coder, and one a young kid that can code well....

First of all, the kid is probably half (or less) the cost of the older guy.

Second, you can try to lure the kid into staying in the project for a long time, thereby helping maintainability.

But on the other side of the fence, older coders don't want to be in management, so they'll always be your gruntwork force. If they wanted to be in management, they woulda tried a long time ago.

Surprisingly, though, most techies have no interest in going into management...

Well... (5, Insightful)

case_igl (103589) | more than 11 years ago | (#6193093)

There are two sides to every coin. I'm a manager of five developers and six support staff.

In my experience, younger people tend to work like dogs until it stops being fun for them. They will pull all nighters all week when you're trying to launch a product, won't need to leave early for soccer and little league games, and won't get in trouble from their non-existant wife for leaving a few minutes late.

On the other hand, older coders tend to work at a more steady pace, have fewer errors, and spend their time thinking about something before they start jamming out code. They also are more reliable at showing up on time, not burning through vacation and sick time the second it becomes available, and following through with their committments.

It isn't really fair what that manager said, but I think they might have experienced some of what I just mentioned above. Although things like that generally aren't to be said "out loud" behind closed doors you'll hear many people talking about things they have observed managing people.

What's the best solution? A balance of both, in my experience. You need an effective mix, an although young people can be great coders and older people can be off sick, those are the general trends I've seen in seven years being a manager.

You have to remember that you are there to solve your employer's problems. If he's looking at someone to produce 1,000 lines of code per hour then you wouldn't be interested in the job anyway. You want to work somewhere focused on quality over quantity, and that is probably more biased to older more experienced developers in many cases than younger folks.

Case

Ah, Good Times (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6193094)

This reminds me of the one time my boss fired the token Jewish guy and told him he would make soap out of him and his accursed people if he didn't get the fuck out of there. We got a black guy instead. He's pretty stupid (of course, being black) and he's tried to steal our cars a few times, but he works for fried chicken, so that makes up for him.

Time will tell (1)

bigjnsa500 (575392) | more than 11 years ago | (#6193099)

Only time will tell before this becomes the norm. I find it interesting that we GenX-ers are experiencing the same things that our parents did in their 40s and 50s when the economic boom of the Reagan years was in full swing. The norm then was to get rid of older employees and hire the youngest people, regardless if they were smarter.

You can't expect experience from a younger person when the older person has been around the block a few times. I'll hire the older people more often.

But face it, its cheaper to hire somebody than to give out pention checks every month!

Not sure about other places (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6193103)

but where I work, the HR manager is not the hiring authority. I am, I'm 50 and I value the ability to think (which comes from experience) more than the ability to hash code quickly.

I think what you are seeing/hearing is not an industry practice.

Actually... (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6193104)

I remember reading at one point that the average male brain reaches it's peak for absorbing and being able to use new information around the age of 34. I'm only 21 myself, but I've definitely noticed my ability to learn has improved. Of course, that may be due to the fact that I've been forcefed through university, but who's to say for sure ;)

Experience has its place (1)

szquirrel (140575) | more than 11 years ago | (#6193109)

I would rather employ a keen teenager who code programs computers quickly than an older person.

I wrote code really fast when I was younger, that doesn't mean it was any good. The code I write today takes longer but that's because I take more time to ensure my code is solid, readable, and maintainable.

How great is your IT department if it's full of teenagers who slap their code together quickly without knowing how to do it right?

Nonsense (1)

YrWrstNtmr (564987) | more than 11 years ago | (#6193114)

What are your thoughts on this subject?

To put it mildly, that guy is an a$$clown.

"younger minds generally work faster", blah de blah.

I would rather work with and employ a person with experience, who can grasp the big picture and howit affects the company, who can interface well with users, who only has to do it once, rather than a teenager who has to do it 4 times, but does it 'quickly'.

Our 12 person IT dept has a 33 year old as the youngest. Ave age prob 42.

Odd, I see the exact opposite. (3, Insightful)

Telastyn (206146) | more than 11 years ago | (#6193115)

Being a fairly young IT worker, I see alot of the opposite. Older IT workers are given preference despite their experience and knowledge being similar or worse. *Especially* for any position that involves ANY sort of supervision or departmental representation.

well i agree kinda (1)

ghinckley68 (590599) | more than 11 years ago | (#6193119)

As both a manager and a coder i agree. I am 35 when i was younger i could code for hours on end with out a break do it faster and better than i can now. I have found this to be true with most people. However this dose not mean I cant get more done in a day now than i could 15 years ago. 15 year ago i did not have a code libary or exp to draw on every thing i did i had to write then and there. Now i have 15 years of exp and code to go back to so when i need a rutine to do something odds are have already done it once before or i have some peice of code that i can modify to do what i need. Bottom line the brain does work better when younger. I had a fortran pro. in collage tell me the this ther are to kinds of programes. Coders and programers. Coders are just that they can right code but could not figure out how to get out of a box with 3 sides missing. Programmers are the ones you give the problem to sole to.

at least... (1, Interesting)

deadsaijinx* (637410) | more than 11 years ago | (#6193120)

all the jobs aren't going to india

What people keep telling me (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6193125)

Is that coder age groups seem to work such that younger coders are faster, but older coders make fewer mistakes, and the code by the younger coders is rarely better.

That is to say, since the older coders have more experience to consider, it takes them longer to just bang stuff out, but since it is colored by experience they know not to make mistakes that the younger coders will not see coming.

So if you slap a younger coder on something that's just pure code-monkey work, they'll be able to get the code out faster, but if you put them on anything that actually requires any degree of consideration you'll be far, far more likely to just wind up with a situation where you get the code really really quickly but then spend so long in debugging you wind up in the end spending more time than you would have had you just gone with the older, "tortoise" programmer. It seems to me it would make sense to try to hire both types of programmers, and assign them tasks appropriate to their speed/thoughtfulness level..

I have no idea what happens if you tailor the process to ensure that the impact of the mistakes done by the younger coder is minimized (like require exhaustive compile-time unit tests so that where the error occurs is known immediately, or something).

Now, of course, when people say "old coders" vs "young coders" they seem to mostly be talking about, like, *real* age differences. The idea there could be a noticeable speed difference between a 32 year old and a 25 year old, it seems to me, is just kind of silly.

- super ugly ultraman

The solution! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6193126)

Ageism is present in every "trendy" job.
The only way to fight this is by quitting and writing (anonymously) a similar open source project like that what you'd write in the firm. Then watch it goin' down... ;-)

Ask anyone in HR . . . . (2, Informative)

LazloToth (623604) | more than 11 years ago | (#6193128)



When available at a price within budget, a qualified person with maturity will get the job at a company worth working for. Why? Because every survey shows older workers are more loyal, more stable, and more willing to commit. I was at the hiring end for 10 years, and I endorse this point of view. When youthful energy is needed, hire on a contract basis, then get them out the door. Between the ages of 20 and 30, most intelligent people are looking for the very best gig they can find, which means they'll dump you in a second if need be. The older worker typically is not quite so quick to move, and gives you all the other premium character traits one associates with maturity to boot.

Fear not.

Related discrimination (5, Insightful)

truthsearch (249536) | more than 11 years ago | (#6193130)

When I was fresh out of college (a little while back) I ran into something related. My boss definitely preferred me for the fact I was youngest and he probably perceived my general energy as also being faster at programming. But I also ran into another problem. Here's an example:

It's a late Friday afternoon and we've got plenty to do, but with plenty of time. The boss tells me he wants the work done for Monday morning instead of the extra week we were originally told we had. The older developers with families told him they weren't staying late Friday, they were going home. I told him the same, but he replies, "Why? You don't have anything better to do." Apparently since I was young and didn't have any family I had no reason not to work more. I was fuming and I didn't work late. He tried to pull that crap a few more times after that.

So not only are younger minds quicker, but apparently they're also easier to manipulate and take advantage of.

Another Reason (1)

jetkust (596906) | more than 11 years ago | (#6193133)

I think another reason younger programmers are sometimes desirable is that they are seen to be more enthusiastic with what they are doing than older programmers. Someone really enjoying what they are doing can possibly be more likely to innovate. At least theoretically.

No substitute for experience (2, Informative)

earthforce_1 (454968) | more than 11 years ago | (#6193139)


Somebody who is young and inexperienced but dedicated may be able to crank out a lot of code quickly, but at least in my field, (embedded systems) there is no substitute for having seen and solved a wide variety of problems. You gain a much better feel for what is the best approach to solving a problem, and how long it will take.

Would you really trust a 16 year old to code and deliver a critical app?

Out to pasture at 25? (1, Insightful)

confused philosopher (666299) | more than 11 years ago | (#6193145)

This is another indicator that Generation X and the Baby Boomers are spineless for the most part. Why let a bunch of 20 year olds walk all over you? Back in the good 'ol days, 20 year olds were sent off to fight wars and die by the 35 and 50 year olds. Now the 20 year olds are calling the shots.

Good for my generation, bad for humanity.

Please IT grandpas, get a spine!

The problem (1, Insightful)

dubbayu_d_40 (622643) | more than 11 years ago | (#6193147)

is that most programmers are fucking retards, all idealistic and want to change the world and shit. Then they grow old and dissallusioned and suck even more.

The best programmers are the older ones who actually matured.

Well, (1)

frodo from middle ea (602941) | more than 11 years ago | (#6193157)

First of all, a younger programmer works for a lot less than an older experienced one. He may not put out the best code, but does it really matter to an IT manager ?
These days the buzz word is "COST CUTTING", so if you have a decent enough Sales and marketing dept. which can BS their way to customers and be successful in selling semi functional, bloatware then "WHY BOTHER with experienced programmers ?"
Get some fresh out of college newbie to work for you at a very cheap cost and PROFIT!!!
We olderprogrammers ( I myself am only 27 but i guess that's old in computing age), have to realise that IT products like any other products are not about quality or experience, rather its about sales and marketing BS.
Haven't you learnt anything from terms like "Enterprize", "fault-tolerent","B2B", "Scalability". These are the terms that sell an IT product not the well engeniered code.

Younger minds are better (0, Interesting)

seldolivaw (179178) | more than 11 years ago | (#6193161)

There is no disputing the fact that maths is a young man's game (although that age appears to be rising, as recent discussions [slashdot.org] have revealed), and programming is just easy math. In addition, younger people are cheaper to hire -- bonus! Younger people are also stronger for physical work, fitter for athletics, and the same goes in many many professions. This is not a new problem. When you get older, you have to start doing things that your experience allow you to do better than those younger than you -- like management, consultancy, and project management (as opposed to the administrative kind).

Programmers are just pissed off by this because programming is a fairly new profession -- until recently, there haven't been very large numbers of older programmers around. In short: deal with it, people.

You're applying for the wrong jobs. (1)

eadz (412417) | more than 11 years ago | (#6193162)

Sure some kids may beat you our of a coding job, but thats why you should apply for jobs "higher up the ladder" so to speak.

It may not be as fun as coding, but I'm talking about the project manager type jobs, where experience _is_ more imporntant than anything else, and it's one job that someone straight out of college couldn't do as well as someone who has been around for a while.

Lawyers have figured it out. (5, Insightful)

Hiro Antagonist (310179) | more than 11 years ago | (#6193164)

Senior members are far more respected in the field of law, because it is understood that the older a lawyer gets, the more experience they have; concordantly, the more experience they have, the better a lawyer they are.

What does a lawyer do? Pretty much the same thing as a programmer. A good, experienced lawyer will have a specialty area of law, but be able to learn about new legal arenas as the need arises; likewise, an experienced lawyer will know the ins-and-outs of a specific arena in the legal system, including exceptions and loopholes a younger, less experienced lawyer might miss.

Same goes for programmers. An older programmer, generally speaking, will be more sensitive to over-using resources, will have a better grasp of programming methodologies, and will know about many more former bugs and programming mishaps than a fresh-out-of-college CS grad.

Age and Quality. (4, Interesting)

jellomizer (103300) | more than 11 years ago | (#6193167)

As I get older I find that I am less able to code at the same pase that I did 5 years ago. But the quality of my coding has improved and I am able to produce out far more optimised and stable code then I did when I was younger. Experience has its advantages. Comparing the real time of coding is more important. Before I would spend 40 hours coding and 80 hours debugging. Now I do 65 hours coding and 8 hours debugging. As my experience increases I learned to take the speed down while coding and carefully work out the problem and make sure it workes well. While I was younger I would Code to get it working then try to put in patches to fix any bugs (which sometimes required a rewrite). Depending on the job and its needs I would use different languages to get the job done. Usually when time to code is an issue I normally write Python. While speed of the appication is the issue I would go to C or C++. If you are ranking your programming skills on Lines per Day then go ahead and higher a young whipper snapper. But if you want a good solid application hire the skilled and matured programmer.

From what I've seen... (0, Flamebait)

Artemis P. Fonswick (680020) | more than 11 years ago | (#6193172)

A lot of employers understand the benefits of hiring a both young-ens and middle-aged coding vets. While you get experience and quality from the older crowd, they often fall into their own narrow-minded framework. The benefits to hiring fresh-outs is the great wealth of enthusiasm and open-mindedness they offer. The two age groups can work together to produce some very impressive results.

inverse can also be true (1)

wwest4 (183559) | more than 11 years ago | (#6193174)

As an admin, I've experienced prejudice against the younger.

Upon seeing my age (early twenties at the time), some of my new co-workers demanded another copy of my resume (presumably, to actually read it the second time around).

I've gone through many, um, exercises where my ideas were ferverently doubted and/or ignored because of my age, and I've had to put in extra time to provide proof-of-concept where it normally shouldn't have been necessary to demonstrate. In general, I've had to be very persistent in proving my ideas and backing my claims to a much greater degree than my older colleagues, even if it's clear that I have seniority in the position.

So it goes both ways :)

consulting (4, Insightful)

ih8apple (607271) | more than 11 years ago | (#6193175)

I've been in the consulting world since I was 22 (started working in IT when I turned 20). I'm now 27 and I find that age-ism is the worst form of discrimination, especially among consulting clients. Since I have a well-established beard, I usually pass for 35 and that seems to give my clients the impression that I'm better qualified than one of my peers, who is exactly at the same point in his career. All of my bosses during my consulting career have always told me never to tell my true age to the clients for fear of losing business. This is especially true since the dot-com bust when all of the "young dot-commers were shown to be the frauds they are." This deception sickens me, but I have truly seen a huge difference in terms of instant credibility and career progression when people think that I'm significantly older than I actually am. (I'm starting to get a few gray hairs, so most people now think I'm in my late 30's-early 40's. Also, I got married young and have 2 kids and this reinforces their beliefs.)

I guess the whole point of my commentary on my situation is that people do discriminate based on age and you can either play along and help yourself out (and sell out in the process) or show your true self to the detriment of your career (and possibly of your consulting company's, if you're in my shoes.) That may not be politically correct, but it's the way of the world. Also, I think that it's not as bad to play along with the game to your benefit, as long as you yourself don't start judging people based on age, picking up the habits of those around you.

Of course, it all depends... (2, Interesting)

gosand (234100) | more than 11 years ago | (#6193178)

Younger programmers may be a better fit for certain jobs, older for others. Younger guys probably don't have a lot of baggage from "previous jobs", like a lot of older people do. (I am one of them). But on the other hand, they may not have any experience to draw from either. It all depends what kind of place you are working for. Got a wife and kids? You probably don't want to work the extra hours. Do you have a set idea about how things should work, what processes should be followed, etc? That could work for you or against you.

I think it is all relative, and in these times it could come down to the bottom line. Someone with 10 years experience is going to cost more than someone with 3. The risk may be worth it. We are just experiencing this now because over the last 10 years, there weren't too many "old" programmers out there, we were all relatively the same age. Now there is definitely an age gap.

Wisdom wins out almost every time. (1)

ScottGant (642590) | more than 11 years ago | (#6193181)

At least, in the long run.

Wisdom is something you can't learn in a book, can't pick up in a classroom. Both things ADD to wisdom, but they don't ad up to the sum of the whole.

Time and experience and wisdom beat out shear knowledge

At least this is what I keep telling myself as I grow older and older.

Managers? What do they know? (1)

Realistic_Dragon (655151) | more than 11 years ago | (#6193182)

My managers in the past have prefered young programmers because, almost without exception, they want stuff written in pretend languages like VB not a _real_ language like C or Cobol that a more experienced programmer may choose for any given job. (I once saw one specifiy VB on Windows for a computational algorythm that would take about a week to run with their set of data.)

There seems to be a lot less tolerance of genuine hackers who can write clean optimised code at the cost of non-understanding by a few suits (who as a rule seem to be older, but the young ones get hit by this crap too) than there used to be.

Ah well, what they don't know won't hurt them, and you can call C from Labview...

"Hey boss! I found a new COTS tool that is easy to understand and will save us money..."

Discrimination against short people! (5, Funny)

haggar (72771) | more than 11 years ago | (#6193186)

Of course, this behavior could be explained away as economic concerns, as the decision to higher younger (and typically cheaper) employees can directly affect the bottom line.

I am outraged that the widespread discrimination against short folks has taken another, worrying, twist: even in evaluating programming skills!

Oh I dunno... (1)

dafoomie (521507) | more than 11 years ago | (#6193190)

I dunno, I'm a young IT guy (early 20s) with no real experience, and I couldn't get a job if I worked for free. It's been my experience that the older, more experienced workers are having trouble finding work, and are taking the entry level jobs that I would go for, because they need to feed the family. I think they do value youth but they value experience a lot more, and probably go for a balance of both.

Then again, it could just be that I'm a horrible interview. McDonalds, here I come.

Form a team (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6193207)

Form a team of experienced guys (the A Team) and consult out to all the companies that hire kids to code. Charge top rates, work less, be happy setting out what has to be done and letting the kids do the typing.

look out old fogies... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6193219)

I'm 19 with 3 years of corporate IT experience. Soon, your job will be mine.

PHB? (1)

BFCx (602701) | more than 11 years ago | (#6193224)

What is the youngest you can be before some PHB declares you fit for the scrap-heap? Players hand book? o, too much D&D :)

botox (1)

DarkHelmet (120004) | more than 11 years ago | (#6193234)

Other than stocking up on hair dye and botox

Yeah, imagine THAT as a slashdot topic of conversation in 5 years... What's next? Slashdot talk of sex and porn?

Whatever (1)

transient (232842) | more than 11 years ago | (#6193235)

My best employees are over fifty. My worst are in their twenties. 'Nuff said.

Familiarity (2, Insightful)

ShawnMcCool42 (557138) | more than 11 years ago | (#6193244)

The older you get the more you are likely to favor things which you've already experienced. Familiar things, while familiar, tend to not allow you to expand your mind in new ways. Yes, neurons grow faster in younger people, however scholarly old men can tell you that a mindset appropriate to intellectual growth can sustain a lifestyle of constant improvement.

Many make the choice to simply not improve in any dramatic way due to the belief that trying many different things is a childish trait of chasing fads. Whereas constantly new stimulus is very important for keeping the mind sharp.

The mind is a tool, use it as you will. And if you don't, don't be suprised that it doesn't seem to be working like it use to.

Ageism (1)

twelvestring (669257) | more than 11 years ago | (#6193245)

An IT director/manager or HR manager should be concerned with hiring the best person for the job, period. If that person happens to be 14, 24, or 64, so be it.

That being said, the comment that this guy wants to hire younger coders, admins, whatever, shouldn't necessarily be dismissed as ageism. Younger people are certainly less experienced, but they may bring fresh ideas with them when they are hired, which can only help to promote creativity and innovation among everyone, including the more senior members of the IT team.

If, as an IT director, you feel that your department is suffering from the same kinds of solutions from the same types of people, than perhaps biasing your searches to younger candidates isn't necessarily a bad idea. Same idea applies if you have a primarily YOUNG workforce - it may be time to get an experienced member on the team.

Professionalism, always. (1)

swordgeek (112599) | more than 11 years ago | (#6193246)

In the discussion of a mass-resignation last week, one /. poster made the critical comment, "Be professional, always. Carry your reputation like the valuable asset it is."

This can be extended. Always work for and with professionals. Hiring young as a policy is unprofessional, and not someone you want to work for at any age. (Imagine if you get hired at 30, and work for this guy for four years. Do you get fired for being too old?)

The best part of all of this professionalism is thus: If you are highly skilled at your job, polished, and professional, then you may lose out on jobs to less experienced (but cheaper) people, but you will be at the very top of the list for skilled jobs overseen by intelligent managers who recognise that programming speed ain't everything. In other words, you will be first in line for the jobs you actually want.

Ageism? Yeah, it exists but only as a symptom of idiots you don't want to work for.

Kinda depends on your field... (4, Insightful)

Quixadhal (45024) | more than 11 years ago | (#6193247)

My intuition tells me that people looking to hire programmers for mission-critical applications (database, infrastructure, medical, etc.) are going to be far more interested in older, more experienced programmers than game companies or in-house applications.

A young programmer might be cheaper, might have more energy and drive, and might in fact produce more code -- but they may not produce the right code for the task. If your requirements are to bang out a rendering engine so you can get your game to market before BubbaSoft, then you want cheap programmers who are desperate/naieve enough to work 90 hours a week, and if they make a few mistakes so you can see through the corners, or your weapon can be slighly embedded in a wall texture... it can be fixed in a patch, noone will care.

OTOH, if you're looking to upgrade the medical database that's been running on a VAX for 30 years, and you really need to move it to a linux/oracle system before your VMS tape gets eaten by mice... you might want someone who's been doing this for a while so the mistakes they make are less likely to cost you 5 years of records.

I'm 34 myself, and I remember the stuff I wrote when I was 24. Yes, I churned out a bit more code, but boy was it ugly by comparison. What managers should remember is that programming is like writing, or composing... the more experience you have, the more elegant solutions you can find, and the more naturally you can express them. Young people don't worry about things like maintainability, or how some other fellow is going to figure out what they did. Some do, but most don't.

Of course, that's my opinion, and being an Old Fart (TM), I might just be biased.... or maybe I just can't remember it right... :)
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