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Silicon Valley's Dirty Little Secret: Age Bias 375

Posted by Soulskill
from the get-off-my-lawn dept.
MightyMait writes "With my 40th birthday coming up, seeing this article makes me happy I have a good job (and a little wary of having to find another). From the article: '[T]he start-up ethos extols fresh ideas and young programmers willing to toil through the night. Chief executives in their 20s, led by Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, are lionized, in part because of their youth. Many investors state bluntly that they prefer to see people under 40 in charge. Yet the youth worship undercuts another of Silicon Valley's cherished ideals: that anyone smart and driven can get ahead in what the industry likes to think of as an egalitarian culture. To many, it looks like simple age discrimination - and it's affecting people who wouldn't fit any normal definition of old. "I don't think in the outside world, outside tech, anyone in their 40s would think age discrimination was happening to them," says Cliff Palefsky, a San Francisco employment attorney who has fielded age-discrimination inquiries from people in their early 40s. But they feel it in the Bay Area, he said, and it's "100 percent due to the new, young, tech startup mindset."'"
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Silicon Valley's Dirty Little Secret: Age Bias

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  • Yeah, whatever. (Score:5, Informative)

    by Frosty Piss (770223) * on Tuesday November 27, 2012 @11:35PM (#42113091)

    15 years ago, I worked for a well known integrated chip manufacturer in Redmond Washington. They make very expensive power conditioning components for aerospace. It was my "dream job".

    I started work there as a Database Admin at a salary of well into the 80's with a teaser to move into the 90's, I thought that after years of grunt IT work, I'd hit it. I was 35 at the time.

    Well, of course there is a "and then it happened.." I got laid off.

    Long story short, at 35, and the "peak" of my "career", I found that employers wanted 20 to 25 year olds because they would do the same job, except at 60 hours a week, and for less money.

    So I went back to my military connections, and got a Civil Service job. I make less, but guess what? I have DECENT HEALTH CARE, and - here's the kicker - I GET 5 FUCKING WEEKS OF VACATION A YEAR.

    The biggest benefit is that some 20-something puke is not going to take my job.

  • by Assmasher (456699) on Tuesday November 27, 2012 @11:38PM (#42113109) Journal

    ...not give a rat's a** what your age is if you've got a good idea AND a good implementation (ideas are cheap - despite what you may think.)

    I perform technical due diligences for multiple investors and they do consider the makeup of teams but never has age been a factor in the decision making.

  • public vs. private (Score:5, Informative)

    by BenEnglishAtHome (449670) on Wednesday November 28, 2012 @12:57AM (#42113653)

    During the dotcom bubble, I was at the top end of the age range (35-ish) that was fashionable and working for a US TLA as a general-purpose sysadmin greybeard in an all-Unix shop. I networked more than most and corresponded with lots of folks both in govt and the private sector. I don't know why I did it because I loved my work and wasn't looking for anything new but I did like to keep up and keep in touch with lots of folks. Also, it didn't hurt and sometimes greatly amused me that the part of my email address just to the left of the ".gov" tended to get my emails read.

    During those years I turned down a number of job offers. I don't remember specifically; some were informal "let's talk" and others were "I'll pay you $X to come work for us". But I distinctly remember several offers that would have as much as quadrupled my pay (which would have put me at double the going rate since, as a fed, I was already being paid only about half what the average private sector employee in my position received.)

    I never bit. Of those companies, none survive today. All of them wanted me to trade my 40-hour work week with time-and-a-half for overtime for positions where I essentially worked 24 hours a day, perhaps 12 at the office and the rest of the time wearing a pager. None offered more than a couple of holidays. None offered sick or vacation time that was more than a farce. The pay, though, would have been great if I was willing to step into the hamster wheel and start running.

    So maybe I'm a doddering old fool. Maybe I was unambitious. All I know is that now I'm retired. My retirement check covers my expenses plus a little...and that's after deductions for all taxes, decent health insurance, very good life insurance, and fairly good long-term care insurance. It's not lounging on a yacht with supermodels but I'm not afraid of being three paychecks from living in my car, either.

    Folks who spit on public-sector employees simply don't understand. I often wonder if it's worth the (usually wasted) effort I sometime put towards trying to help them see things from a broader perspective.

  • Re:I call BS (Score:4, Informative)

    by afgam28 (48611) on Wednesday November 28, 2012 @03:11AM (#42114211)

    That may be true, but that's not what the article is talking about. The article is talking about investors not wanting to invest in older CEOs.

    This is interesting because although older software engineers are often the victims of age discrimination, it's usually the other way around for execs. The stereotype is that good software engineers are all young and good executives are all older (and therefore experienced). Rather than do away with this stereotype, the angel investors have simply reversed it - they seem to think that all good software executives must be younger (and therefore more dedicated and visionary).

  • Re:40 is the new 60 (Score:4, Informative)

    by flyneye (84093) on Wednesday November 28, 2012 @08:13AM (#42115543) Homepage

    Pardon me for injecting myself, but, I have a lamp with a new reality bulb in it.
    Anyone who's been on the job for more than a decade, actually in the middle of it, not just some office troll, knows better than the assertions placed in this topic. Just like sex, young guys are eager and fast and go all night. Problematically, they make huge mistakes, slack off on details, bother the "old" guys for help and generally haven't grown a full set of work ethics yet, leaving and unsatisfactory performance behind in the long run.
    Logically, you can pay a young man to work like a demon for a week or someone with experience for a few days to do the same job and no guarantee the young guys quality is up to snuff. Usually not, but it looks good to investors to see a fury of motion. No one notices quiet consideration, till the product is complete.
              As for investors who have listened to consultants, councillors and salesmen what can I say, consultants and their ilk are usually just grifters who will say anything that sounds "truthy" in exchange for far too much money. Having failed to make the MENSA roles and being relegated to merely the top 4%, sadly I still see MOST people as completely illogical morons, but it does explain the role of investors in this scenario perfectly. I suppose that's why investing is a gamble when you don't have the processing power to assess potential for yourself and rely on
    "carnies" to do your thinking for you.
            But then, I am far too clever to have gotten myself into an IT career to begin with....

  • Re:40 is the new 60 (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday November 28, 2012 @10:50AM (#42116865)

    uhm... no.
    programming through the night isn't healthy. I've headed up projects where I designed the hardware, firmware and software. BUT.. I always made time for my
    girlfriend.. who is my wife now.. and the mother of my three sons. My boys are older now.. my wife and I are still happily married and I never let work interfere with family life. NEVER. Sure I help out if there's an emergency, but you have to draw the line somewhere.

    If someone wants to work cheaply that's their decision. I'm going to work were I can earn what I think is a fair wage.
    If there comes a day I can't get $97k I will try consulting.

    BTW I always did well with performance reviews.
    If you find yourself getting an unfair review then move on and look for an opportunity elsewhere.

  • Re:40 is the new 60 (Score:4, Informative)

    by tverbeek (457094) on Wednesday November 28, 2012 @01:09PM (#42118729) Homepage

    In states with "at will" employment, you don't even need to go to that much trouble. The older a employee is, the more care needs to be taken to establish a paper trail justification (just in case), but for a non-contracted 39-year-old ("too young" to be a victim according to the Age Discrimination in Employment Act), an employer can just perp-walk them out of the building, with no reason given. (Guess how I know this.)

Parkinson's Law: Work expands to fill the time alloted it.

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