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Too Old To Be In Tech?

jrohatiner profile image Judith ・2 min read

I’m in my 50’s and have been working as a software engineer for 11+ years now. I believe you can do anything if you have a passion for it.

Let's talk about ageism in tech ; it’s rampant among hiring managers, recruiters and team leaders. That being said, I know many people in tech who focus on getting the job done - not how old their teammates are.

I’ve been out of work since this pandemic started and interviewing has been a nightmare.
Here are some of the red flags of ageism I've seen in the interview process:

First interview is a video interview
The focus is on regurgitating algorithmic computations - not on the technologies you will work with
They request a photo
The job description asks for “recent graduates”
Requesting graduation dates in the education section of the application
Its a start-up and they ask you if late night office parties will be a problem
They ask you how old your children are
The video interview includes the entire team and one person who is your age & gender

Here are a few that are out and out illegal:
Are you married?
How old are you?
Are you healthy?
When did you graduate?
When do you expect to retire?

If this sounds like I know a bit about this, its because I’ve been looking for a job for 8 months now and I’ve experienced all of it.

I have thought about consulting and freelancing as an alternative and that may be the direction I have to go in now. I’ve been successfully contributing to software development for more than a decade with some great work especially in online education and accessibility platforms.

It seems like no one values my experience. The attitude is what work did you do today? Which is fine, if you ask me to make an app; but if you want me to whiteboard some nebulous code to show you I understand a binary search - its not going to be a barometer to show what I can do as an employee.

Okay, rant over.

I love my work and as messed up as this issue is for people in my age group, I don’t let anyone tell me what I can do with my life. If I want to stick with it I will because it’s my life. No one tells me when it's time for me to quit except me. Opportunities are out there and I will find the right ones for me.

Discussion

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caweltjr profile image
John Cawelti

I'm 69 - I started with punch-cards iin 1979. Coding ever since, try to get interesting jobs, don't care if I don't. Trying to come up with my own idea - it'll come. I know my video interviews end with 'how old do u think he is? That's life, coding still goes on!

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k2t0f12d profile image
Bryan Baldwin

Cheers, to you!

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jmau111 profile image
Julien Maury

I've seen so many counterexamples for those clichés in this IT business. Some senior techs are very young, and some aren't. Some people learn pretty fast, and some don't. There's no direct correlation with their age.

Recruitment is not that easy.

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redrogue12 profile image
Edgar X. González Cortés

I sympathize with the article but I have to agree as well with you. While yes, people do judge because of age in some places, ironically a lot of them are the same people that will preach tolerance.

The article did open my eyes a little bit. It reminded me of last year when I was looking to hire a junior developer. In the job post I wrote I was looking for a recent graduate or going through school. In my mind, yes, I was looking for a younger person. Would I have considered an older person? Of course, I would expect the same, a decent portfolio, humbleness and a willingness to grow with a small company.

It was hard to get someone because when you post a tech job, anybody and everybody will apply blindly. I had people with doctorates applying. I'll assume they were looking for a freelance-kind of relationship.

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tacomanick profile image
Nick Shattuck

I thought it was illegal for employers to ask you questions based on your marital status, children, etc, unless you yourself mention it during an interview. I could be wrong. Anyways, I think there's plenty of room for older developers in the community. I am 32, and while I haven't experienced ageism personally, I appreciate older developers offering me help in software related questions, or just life advice :). Power to you!

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metalmikester profile image
Michel Renaud

" I am 32"

Yikes. I've been working in IT (mostly in software development) for just over 32 years. Feeling old all of a sudden. :)

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recursivefaults profile image
Ryan Latta

Most people who interview you don't know whats legal or not and were never trained on anything.

The stuff that happens in interviews can be pretty horrible.

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_garybell profile image
Gary Bell

As someone who hires for a team, I don't care if the person is 22 or 62. If they are willing and able to do the job, then I still have years of work I can get from them before they move on.

Doesn't matter if it's career progression, a new challenge, or retirement. I assume people will leave regardless at some point in the future.

If you have been discriminated against, think of it as you dodging a bullet. If somewhere is bad during interviews it's probably worse when you get there.

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michaelphipps profile image
Phippsy

Suggestion: Entrepreneurs have some crazy ideas they want built. They don't care who you are or where (or even if) you went to school. They just want to know you can get the job done. Go find them! Hire the skills you don't have.

P.S. Make sure you get things signed in writing before you start coding and stay on top of scope creep.

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zoedreams profile image
☮️✝️☪️🕉☸️✡️☯️

agism is alive an well in the tech industry. sad.

honestly i prefer to work with people older then myself. i am in my late 30s and fine the wisedom your generation brings to a team is beyond value. Most often i have found that troubleshooting is about how well we work together as a team to figure out what is the correct and right solution.

Personally I have tried to take the route of being an independent contractor, and working with many irons in many fires as you could say. However that has its downside as the money isn't usually as good unless you get a break here and there. However i find it much more rewarding to not have to deal with the politics that plague cool people trying to make cool things together.

Anyways good luck. im rooting for ya.

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contactestablished profile image
Matthew Wilson

I'm glad you shared this because I'm just a few years behind you (age wise). I've been in technology for over 20 years and I wonder when "the looks" will start and how it will affect my career.

I have a couple "rays of light" to share that should help reassure you that some of your experiences are the exception and not the rule.

The first one is pretty straightforward, due to the pandemic - remote work is going to become a lot more common (and I do mean A LOT more common - as in, it will soon be the norm). So that should help, because requesting a picture or a video interview upfront is really tacky. A second interview, or a third interview....sure. But not right off the bat. Something tells me you wouldn't want to work at a place like that anyways.

Second observation: great work speaks for itself. If you have a good portfolio then you have a good portfolio...I don't care who you are, where you're from, or how old you may be. One way to maintain a good portfolio is to continue gig projects or freelance work. The beauty is you can work as much or as little as you want, but it helps round out your resume and makes for a compelling statement that "I do good work...and I do a lot of it."

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kmanninen profile image
Kurt Manninen

Thank you for this post.

I hadn't thought about the concern regarding a requesting a video interview for the first interview. Our team recently needed to hire a developer - something we haven't had to do since before the pandemic. Considering the shift to work from home and video conferencing, I just immediately scheduled a video call with the interviewee. I didn't even think about the ramifications of this; how it could be stressful for the person, and I especially didn't think about ageism.

Thank you for shining a light on this topic.

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peledzohar profile image
Zohar Peled

Slightly younger than you here, still considered "old" in this business. Even blogged about it here:


My conclusion is: You're not too old, you're just talking to the wrong people.
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moopet profile image
Ben Sinclair

They request a photo

Wat.

I'd send them a photo of my cat.

Oh, also, I waffled on about this subject a while ago

I think ageism exists in our sector and it sucks, and I hope you have great success.

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evieskinner18 profile image
Evie

Hang in there Judith hope you're ok! The ageist interviewers don't deserve you 😎

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christine927t profile image
Christine Treacy

I'm really sorry to hear this is what you've gone through the past 8 months. I can imagine it must be very discouraging. I'm so glad you aren't letting it derail you though; that's the best thing you can do! Just take it for what it is and keep pushing forward.

I'm glad you took on this conversation though because it's something you don't hear about enough even though we all know it goes on. Just a few years ago, my boss was interviewing for a data position and after talking with an older candidate he commented to me on his age in a negative way. However, he did end up hiring him and he still works here. I was just shocked that he brought it up to me in the first place.

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jluse profile image
Jordan Luse

How do you guys feel about going back to school at 30 to major in CS?

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brandelune profile image
Jean-Christophe Helary

I'm going back at 50.

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mccurcio profile image
Matt Curcio

YES, I went back at 50 also. I was older than many of my profs. I don't think my profs cared but it hit me at times.
What about you?

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brandelune profile image
Jean-Christophe Helary

It's an online course so I can't tell. :) My background is social sciences (I'm also finishing an MA in japonology that I started 25 years ago).

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recursivefaults profile image
Ryan Latta

Thank you for putting this article out there.

I've seen all of this too and its pretty gross and often illegal as you've said.

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k2t0f12d profile image
Bryan Baldwin

Sounds like there is a lot of Veteran talent. Network, make connections, and make your own business, and ensure there is a channel to pass on your wisdom.

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andrewbaisden profile image
Andrew Baisden

I don't think it's just the industry it's also the year unfortunately. With all of these political news stories going on people have started to become quite judgemental of other people.