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Age Bias In IT: the Reality Behind the Rumors 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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Age Bias In IT: the Reality Behind the Rumors

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  • Japanese company (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday September 02, 2011 @08:50AM (#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.

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

    • by TheGratefulNet ( 143330 ) on Friday September 02, 2011 @09:05AM (#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!

      • by Viol8 ( 599362 )

        "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.

        • by Asic Eng ( 193332 ) on Friday September 02, 2011 @09:29AM (#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.

          • Actually: anyone interested in a C/C++ embedded job in Munich, Germany? Contact me:
        • UK companies do the vast majority of their recruitment through employment agencies - usually specialist ones where at least one of the staff can at least spell 'C' (though none can spell 'Perl'), even though none of them actually know what it is.

          That allows the employers to keep their hands clean, disavowing an knowledge of the dirty practices that the agencies use every day: lying to candidates, fabricating vacancies (bait and switch), age/gender/race/disability discrimination and salary "negotiations" (s

          • by mcmonkey ( 96054 ) on Friday September 02, 2011 @11:21AM (#37286898) Homepage

            If you do leave your age off your CV, or "mistype" it down by 10 or 15 years, you'll get interviews but no offers on the basis that you lied on your application. If you put in a tru age of 40+ you won't even get an acknowledgement email - and if you phone up, you'll be fobbed off.

            It may different in the UK, but in the US you should absolutely not put your age in your CV (unless you are a baby auditioning for diaper commercials).

            Only list positions from the last 15 or so years, not every job you've ever held. If you did relevant work in those older positions, you can have a "skills" section that isn't tied to an employer or time period.

            For education, list school and concentration, but not graduating year.

            And don't lie. Especially about something like your age. The UK may be different, but in the US at some point you will have give your employer your date of birth, even if it's just on your ID establishing you can legally work in the US.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Joce640k ( 829181 )

        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.

        • by gatkinso ( 15975 ) on Friday September 02, 2011 @09:31AM (#37285374)


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

        • Humbug! I'm as good at COBOL as I ever was; it's racism and ageism and back in my day we didn't want no injeens in our jobs.

          Now I might not know about all the nooks and crannies of c++ with its objects and its inheritencies.. but thats all a bunch of indian positive discrimination designed to keep my useless talents at ridiculous prices out of the market.
        • by Xest ( 935314 )

          Agreed, I've also been looking for a job lately (although I already had employment, I was just after career advancement) and had no problem whatsoever finding one, and managing a not to be sniffed at ~37%, 5 figure increase in wage to boot.

          Although I've worked mainly with C# and Java in recent years I kind of felt like a C++ role because I hadn't worked with it in a while and thought it'd be nice to get back into it- that was far from my highest priority though, career progression was at the top of the list

      • 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 [], 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.

      • Replaced by cheaper foreigners. It's not like that's a new thing, look at bricklayers and plumbers.

        And before you ask, yes, that's pretty much what we are to a manager.

      • by zz5555 ( 998945 )

        Look outside of the bay area. I was in your exact position last year and couldn't find anything. I finally gave up and started looking outside of the bay area (and California). Suddenly, I was in high demand and within a month found a dream job that pays more than I was making in the bay area. It also didn't hurt that the real estate market in the bay area was still pretty strong and the one here was weak. The bay area is a great place to live, but it's not the only place to live.

      • by supton ( 90168 )

        Non-economic explanation of economic phenomena: this is called the "Commercial Use" trope. It is a rhetorical device that attempts to explain away something purely economic with some alternate cause or agent. It was first largely identified by Kenneth Burke, who identified risks of scapegoating ideologies in the U.S. after the rise of Hitler in a 1939 essay.

        The thing about C programming: high risk (harder to find jobs), hig

      • If the only thing you know is C, I wouldn't hire you either. I'm 51, and have written in just about every major language at some point in my career. If you haven't bothered to learn anything else, I don't want you.

        Because the truth is that things change, and folks unwilling or unable to change will be left behind. I started in assembler, dabbled in FORTRAN, wrote COBOL for 15 years, then migrated to C, C++, and now mostly Java. I can program in both the Oracle and Microsoft versions of SQL, do a little
      • by Quince alPillan ( 677281 ) on Friday September 02, 2011 @10:33AM (#37286284)

        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.

        Situations like these aren't always an issue of racism, but of culture and control.

        If you've got a situation where a group of Indian workers are dominating a portion of the company or only hiring other Indian workers, it could be a situation where the boss is able to control the employees through the fear of losing their visa or using the respect that their place in the caste system as an appeal to authority that they wouldn't otherwise have. In addition, bucking authority and trying to gain upward mobility is frowned upon [] in Indian culture, giving a controlling boss even more power over a team of Indian workers, whereas a Western worker is more likely to rebel against unjust authority and try to take the boss's job.

        They're more able to control other Indian workers and get the Indian workers to take more punishment than their Western compatriots because, a lot of times, their Western compatriots, especially older ones who have experience in the field and know what they're doing, won't put up with a lot of their crap.

        A power-hungry dictator that is using every method of control that he can will see a Western programmer as a wildcard to their empire and call a thumbs down. They've built their fiefdoms, and can legitimately tell HR that an older Western worker will cause strife among their team.

    • by john83 ( 923470 )
      C is not that uncommon, particularly among engineers.
    • by Viol8 ( 599362 )

      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.

      • 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++ thing

        • by Viol8 ( 599362 )

          "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 g

        • LOL! Pure comedy....

        • by gatkinso ( 15975 ) on Friday September 02, 2011 @09:32AM (#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: (Score:2, Funny)

          by Anonymous Coward

          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...

        • Yeah ! That's why no-one uses C++ and why OO languages in general are in massive decline.
        • Hey! If those 20something idiots could code worth jack, I wouldn't have a job!

          (IT security consultant, take a wild guess how many assignments I would have if it wasn't for code patched together by half-clued 20somethings that learned most of it in the copy/paste school of programming).

        • by Jamu ( 852752 )

          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 can't speak for C++ shops, but the reason I use C++ is because it has features that make OOP easier. Whereas I could use C to do the same things, it would be perverse to do so. C++ written using its C-subset, is bad C++ code. Resource management and exception handling would be one concern I'd have with code written with disregard to the C++ feature set. Personally I'd use C, to code C. Of course, these are technical points, I'm not disagreeing with your real-world experience.

    • 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.

  • by ciderbrew ( 1860166 ) on Friday September 02, 2011 @08:51AM (#37284918)
    Do you mean not willing to work 100hr weeks for 30 hrs pay?
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      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.

    • 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
    • They mean you pay an old guy more who does less than a young guy. You can console yourself that that's because they're working 100 hours for 30 hours for some stupid reason, but maybe it's because they have a better grasp of more productive development strategies and the industry moves fast?

      The fact so many people here are basing their argument and anecdotes around their experiences in C jobs doesn't really bode well..
    • by geekoid ( 135745 )


      I was at one shop about 8 eyars ago. On Day one they gave me a pile of bug fixes and new feature that the current 'hot shot 20 somethings' said would take a year to complete. Some of the bugs doxcumentation ahd 'IMpossible to fix' written on it.

      I worked 40 hours, and in a month had almost all the bugs fixed, including the impossible won, and designed the new features.

      Nothing really new for me. Than after 2 months I got called into the 20 something managers office and was asked why I was always 'leav

      • If your story were true, you could very easily sue for wrongful termination. Unless your employment contract had some clause that mandates overtime, that's not a valid reason to fire somebody under any legal system that I've ever heard of. In fact, requiring overtime is supposed to be illegal. You were meeting commitments and more.

        On the other hand, if you could actually do that quality of work, you're wasted in a company like that. Yes, I'm a 20-something, but hell, my dad still has a job in the industry a

  • Different World? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by lbmouse ( 473316 ) on Friday September 02, 2011 @08:57AM (#37284968) Homepage

    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.

    • by Geoffrey.landis ( 926948 ) on Friday September 02, 2011 @09:20AM (#37285232) Homepage

      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? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by ethanms ( 319039 ) on Friday September 02, 2011 @09:30AM (#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...

      • by geekoid ( 135745 )

        NO they aren't. This COBOL BS needs to stop. COBOL runs on modern machines,. Does wht it does better then anything else, and yes, you can build ne things with it.

        IS it for the person who wants to create the next how social media? no. Smart phone app.? No. Is it for they guy that likes doing programming 9-5 and then leave it at work? yes. And contrary to the /. BS, that does not mean that person won't be any good at programming.

        That insurance company was cheap, that does not speak to the industry.

        Even that,

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday September 02, 2011 @08:58AM (#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.

    • 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 ment

  • by Joe_Dragon ( 2206452 ) on Friday September 02, 2011 @08:58AM (#37284992)

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

  • 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.

    • 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

    • 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 (Score:3, Interesting)

    by kanwisch ( 202654 ) on Friday September 02, 2011 @09:01AM (#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.

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

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      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/l

    • Re:The bottom line (Score:4, Interesting)

      by dkleinsc ( 563838 ) on Friday September 02, 2011 @10:26AM (#37286150) Homepage

      People bitching about there being no jobs often haven't explored relocation and there are jobs, just not in your locale perhaps.

      Either that, or they're experiencing the current reality that for every open position there are 6 people currently not working. If you make the generous assumption that 3 of those 6 are horrible employees that nobody would want to hire, then out of the remaining 3 at least 2 are screwed. You'll run into situations where you have 3 roughly equally qualified applicants applying for the same job, and then hiring managers are making their call on variables other than qualifications and demonstrated capability. That means that things like race, age, gender, marital status, disabilities, perceived sexual orientation, and religion end up having noticeable effects (regardless of laws against these kinds of discrimination).

      The difficulty of relocation also depends a lot on your life situation. If you're a single guy renting an apartment in Chicago and there's a great job in Peoria, moving is a relatively cheap and easy thing to do. If you're married with children living in a house with 5 years left on your mortgage, it's much more expensive, difficult, and riskier.

    • Re:The bottom line (Score:4, Insightful)

      by PPH ( 736903 ) on Friday September 02, 2011 @11:07AM (#37286744)

      Like it or not, I can get those a dime a dozen overseas.

      And get them to do what, exactly?

      The overhead needed to maintain requirements documentation, change processes and all the contractual garbage that goes along with outsourcing is often higher than just writing the damned code yourself. Management loves to take a systems architecture/coding job that has a 50/50 resource split and tell the systems guy to drop the coding half. They figure it will save them 50%. Never mind that the poor bastard (which I've been on numerous occasions) that has to incur the additional tasks of contract management, dealing with corporate business and legal departments. Then there's implementing additional QA that will stand up to legal challenges when your contractor f*cks up. Because now its off to court or mediation to figure out who's fault it was and who pays. We never used to sue the people in the next cubicle when there was an error in the requirements or implementation. We just grabbed a conference room and fixed it.

  • by tgatliff ( 311583 ) on Friday September 02, 2011 @09:05AM (#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.

  • 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!

  • 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 kn
  • Depends (Score:5, Interesting)

    by emt377 ( 610337 ) on Friday September 02, 2011 @09:16AM (#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.

  • 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.
  • 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

  • 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 l
  • 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
  • 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."

  • by sco_robinso ( 749990 ) on Friday September 02, 2011 @09:48AM (#37285610)
    The discussions seem to be pretty biased towards coding. In the sysadmin side of things, I don't tend to see a ton of age bias. Where I do see it is where you get 50-somethings who are applying to be sysadmins, but because they moved career's 5 or 10 years ago from something completely different. But otherwise, a late-40's or 50's sysadmin is usually in a pretty senior position, because they usually have a lot of root experience. I see a TON of older people when I do various training courses. They're excellent teachers simply because they have so much experience and can bring so much depth to the course. But I'm not a coder, so I can't comment to the coding side of things.
  • 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.

    It is basic business, if you know C (or pick your language) and are just a programmer and well "experienced" making 150K, a company looks at your as an expensive asset. You may think you have 20 years of experience and add value, but chances are you really have 5 years of experience 4 times over. The company will just replace you with a 5 year experienced programmer or new-grad and pay them half your salary.

    You need to be more than just a good programmer these days to stay in the top-earning spots. Yo

  • I have seen several types of IT people in my experience.
    - At my first job the oldest guy was almost 50. But he hadn't learned anything new in the last 25 years, and was still operating like it was 1985. This guy would have a problem finding another job.
    - At my current job I have a colleague who's 68, near retirement, but just learned Python. He's an expert in certain fields, and keeps up-to-date on programming techniques. I highly respect him, and would rather work with him than the almost 50 year old from

  • Not just IT (Score:2, Interesting)

    by jbengt ( 874751 )

    Older workers have been hit harder by the recession.

    Except for those just starting out with no experience, this is true in all industries.
    If you're a company trying to tighten your belt in a recession, you are not going to lay off the people with enough experience to do the job, who are young enough to be ambitious and energetic, and who have relatively lower salaries. You are going to lay off those who are older and slower (let's face it, once you get into your 40's, and especially beyond them, you slow

  • by jaxent ( 966098 ) on Friday September 02, 2011 @09:55AM (#37285692)
    I'm turning 50 this year. Have a good full time job and more side work than I can do. But I have an advantage, I didn't go to college so I never got a piece of paper saying I am an engineer, I have to prove it everyday! I learned C from the K & R book, then C++ as it came along. I learned Java in 96 or 97. PHP around 2003. Learning Scala these days. I can administer networks databases, and, servers of most types (I know several dead operating systems and languages). Because I never stop learning and I never refuse to do something just because I don't know how. I just say up front, I don't know that API, it will take a little longer. I love to do the things I don't know. Plus I don't live in a world that has a cleanly defined line between management and contributor. I have moved back and forth many times. I currently have a VP title in a smaller company, but spend most of my time writing java code, and when something like a DNS record needs to be changed or a new router needs to be configured, I just do it. I used to have to find the manuals, now I can pull it up on my phone. No excuses. Flexibility is what it takes to keep your career going as you get older. I have worked for big industry players as both an engineer and as a manager. Those companies don't always last and neither does any single technology, the only constant is change. If you don't love change, get out of this business.
  • by GodfatherofSoul ( 174979 ) on Friday September 02, 2011 @10:17AM (#37286016)

    Put your hair in a pony tail and wear a tie-dye t-shirt to your next interview. If you can't beat 'em, join 'em!

  • Horse Hocky (Score:5, Insightful)

    by cfulton ( 543949 ) on Friday September 02, 2011 @10:45AM (#37286428)

    This is so much horse hockey. I’m a 44 year old software architect and have no trouble make a 6 figure salary. As a consultant I change the company I’m working for regularly and don’t see any age bias. What I do see is a work environment that many over 40 workers do not like.

    1) It is a learning business. The day you are not willing to learn the newest technology or language you are going to lose your job. Many over 40 workers get complacent and stop learning.
    2) You must earn your salary. You can’t work as a programmer and expect 10% raises every year if you are not adding value. If you have been promoted to senior developer because you’ve been there that long but, can’t really do the job you are likely to be laid off.
    3) Most new developers are crap. They might know the language but, they don’t have real world experience building applications that meet requirements, scale, are well documented and engineered for change. Older developers that have learned the hard lessons and can demonstrate that experience are well compensated.

    I’ve seen lots of people young and old fired from this business. Mostly because for some reason people believe that just anybody can pick up a book and be a developer in 21 days. If you aren’t adding value commiserate with your salary you should not be making your salary and that is true for the young and old in every job.

  • Stupid dipshit. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Alex Belits ( 437 ) * on Friday September 02, 2011 @11:00AM (#37286636) Homepage

    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.

    The fact that this dipshit [] conflates C and Cobol, pretty much invalidates everything he can say on the subject.

  • by FridayBob ( 619244 ) on Friday September 02, 2011 @11:28AM (#37286978) Homepage

    As a sysadmin, in most of the places I've worked, particularly in the larger organizations that have been around for a while, the ages of the employees have been about the same: there are some younger ones, some older ones and a bunch in between. The young ones get paid less, while the old ones tend to have a better idea of how the organization works overall. Therefore, management will try to get rid of, or avoid, the older ones when they can simply because they are more expensive, but not that much more valuable. That's one way to look at it.

    There's also another way to look at employees. On the one hand there are the dime-a-dozen types who are always needed for mundane tasks, but who are not good at working independently, solving difficult problems, recovering crashed systems, working in an organized fashion, writing coherent reports, etc. These people never constitute the brains of an organization's IT department. On the other hand there are the relatively rare people who actually do have good brains, are interested in the various technical challenges, solve difficult problems all the time, who write all the detailed reports and can be counted on when disaster strikes no matter when it does.

    IMO, older IT people of the first type are much more likely to suffer from age-related discrimination than older IT people of the second type. In my experience, upper management always finds out who the really important people are in the IT department -- the people they know can be counted on to get things running again following a major incident.

    The main problem for (prospective) employees of the second type is how to get recognized as such. Indeed, for an employer it's the much same: how to find these people and then how to retain their services.

  • by slashdotjunker ( 761391 ) on Friday September 02, 2011 @11:48AM (#37287252)
    Let's say that the average company employs 1 senior engineer for every 10 fresh outs. By the pigeonhole principle, there is going to be a lot of unemployed senior engineers.

    In my set of old college friends, only two of us are senior engineers. The rest, all of whom are great engineers, have found other positions. Some by encouragement, some by changing interests, some by following the path of least resistance and some by means that I am not aware of. It has to be that way.

The Macintosh is Xerox technology at its best.