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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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  • Secret? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Frosty Piss (770223) * on Tuesday November 27, 2012 @10:27PM (#42113033)

    Seriously, people, this hasn't been a "secret" in at least 10 years.

  • Totally True (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 27, 2012 @10:30PM (#42113055)

    Olds like Steve Jobs and Jony Ive have no hope of creating products that young, hip consumers want. Only some grandpa with a calcified brain would have put money in their shit. That's why Apple has a sprightly young turk heading up their marketing.

  • young versus old (Score:5, Insightful)

    by girlintraining (1395911) on Tuesday November 27, 2012 @10:31PM (#42113067)

    The age bias is because kids are young and stupid and will happily waste 40, 60, even 80 hours a week slaving away for peanuts on the Next Big Thing in computers. There's something to be said though for people with a few years under their belt. For one, they know what failure looks like. For two, they don't go with the shiny things because they're shiny -- they understand business needs and can design things that'll last and can be scaled up. The dot com bubble happened precisely because everybody thought the dumb fresh-out-of-college kids had all the answers and we threw money at them like girls throw wet panties at singers on stage.

    And we paid for it. Apparently though, we didn't learn anything from the experience. Like say, a modicum of business sense.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 27, 2012 @10:38PM (#42113121)

    Well aren't you smug.

  • by GoodNewsJimDotCom (2244874) on Tuesday November 27, 2012 @10:39PM (#42113137)
    Whoa now, some of those 40 year old techies actually have enough qualifications to fit the impossible requests on job requirements. If we hire them, we can't get more H1Bs and complain to congress there aren't enough skilled workers in the US despite a depressed economy where jobs are hard to come by.
  • I call BS (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 27, 2012 @10:41PM (#42113151)

    No good software engineer need be unemployed. There is just too much work.

    I started coding professionally in 1970 and I'm still coding. Not a single day of unemployment so far, and I don't expect one anytime soon. Just keep up your skills and maintain a network of current and former coworkers, just in case. And do good work so people want to keep you around.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 27, 2012 @10:41PM (#42113161)

    You don't need experience or accomplishments to win a nobel prize.
    This study brought to you by the people that voted for obama.
    Ewe dew teh math.

  • by Nyder (754090) on Tuesday November 27, 2012 @10:48PM (#42113223) Journal

    I was fired from my job because I'm 50+ and failed several performance reviews. Would they have fired somebody younger in my position? Or made him on management track? Rhetorical.

    You were fired because you failed at doing your job, hence failing serveral performance reviews. You were NOT doing you job decent enough. Age has nothing to do with it, so quit making excuses because you were lazy at work.

  • by Daniel Dvorkin (106857) on Tuesday November 27, 2012 @10:56PM (#42113283) Homepage Journal

    If you ask me the biggest problem with the economy and business isn't republicans or democrats, it's that people whose best years and best ideas are behind them, but they want to squeeze the last drop of blood out and make sure every last cent is off the table (even at the expense of greater profit in 2-5 years with investment).

    Close, but not quite. It's people who never had any "best years and best ideas" to begin with, but who do know one thing: how to "squeeze the last drop of blood out and make sure every last cent is off the table" by preying on the people who do have the good years and good ideas. And neither group is defined by age; if there are more older people in the former group, it's only because they've had longer to learn the tricks of effective parasitism.

  • by Unnngh! (731758) on Tuesday November 27, 2012 @10:57PM (#42113291)
    Whenever I hear these types of arguments I always think there must be some psychological term for this. That is, whenever someone has been deprived of some benefit, it is all too easy to get him to rally behind depriving others of the same.

    Why should every business endeavor be a race to the bottom for everyone but the shareholders?

    And good god do you really want the people who will do the job just because it's a job? Desperation breeds loyalty by necessity but it is not a very healthy state of mind. I guarantee the civil service job is anything but sexy and probably pays nothing more than a reasonable wage. These are the tradeoffs that, generally speaking, have emerged from the free market system.
  • by dubbayu_d_40 (622643) on Tuesday November 27, 2012 @10:58PM (#42113295)

    Most of the successful people I know got that way to because they took a risk they were largely unaware of. These people were either psychopathic or young, both stupid. For every one of them, I'm sure there are thousands who suffered the consequences.

    But as an investor, who would you go with? The crazy ones of course.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 27, 2012 @11:02PM (#42113337)

    >You were fired because you failed at doing your job, hence failing serveral performance reviews
    Ah, to be young and innocent again.

    The funny thing about performance reviews, my dear boy, is they are written entirely by your manager(s). If your management chain gets it into their heads that they're tired of your face, well...

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 27, 2012 @11:03PM (#42113349)

    In Silicon valley, when you reached the age of 40 you supposed to have at least 50 millions dollars under you name...

    Right.

    Just a small piece of information that might prove relevant to your argument here.

    The year is 2012, not 1999.

    If you are 40 and still looking for opportunities in the Valley, it isn't because you're trying to figure out if the $80,000 signing bonus is worth more than the beach condo in the summer they're offering. It's probably because you're broke and have been unemployed for 6 months, and are willing to take any job just to stay in the tech field..

    Like I said, it's not 1999 anymore. Wake up.

  • by pwizard2 (920421) on Tuesday November 27, 2012 @11:06PM (#42113361)
    I hope your post is satire. If not, then fuck you.

    You know what's really wrong with this country? It's the people at the top fucking over what's left of the middle class. Money doesn't trickle down, it rises upward if regular people have money to spend. People are working longer, harder, and for less while their jobs are being outsourced and benefits are being slashed. The 1% is making money hand over fist and even though they're richer than they've been in the last 50+ years they still bitch and moan when it comes time to pay their fair share of taxes. If they don't like Clinton rates then we could always go back to Eisenhower rates.
  • by Daniel Dvorkin (106857) on Tuesday November 27, 2012 @11:07PM (#42113367) Homepage Journal

    I am sorry to say but it's folks like you that are responsible for the USA's [finacial] woes it finds itself in at this time.

    People who say things like this, and actually believe them, aren't entirely responsible for our economic problems, but they're probably the worst offenders.

    To make matters worse, your statements do not reflect an iota of sorrow for the tax paying ordinary American!

    (a) Federal employees pay taxes like everyone else. Yes, their jobs are ultimately paid for by everyone's tax dollars (including their own) but it makes no difference to the person getting the paycheck.

    (b) I'm sure he feels a great deal of sorrow for the people caught up in the rat race of private-sector employment, which is why he's taken the step of not being one of them any more. Your statement makes as much sense as saying to someone who's happy to have survived cancer, "Your statements do not reflect an iota of sorrow for the people whose tumors don't respond to chemotherapy!"

    Those five weeks should be cut down to say two, and your salary shuld be reduced by at least 20%.

    (a) Right. God forbid someone should have a reasonable vacation and benefits package instead of being expected to work himself half to death. Clearly the solution is to drag everyone down to the same miserable level.

    (a) You have no idea what his salary is. Most likely, it's less than his private-sector counterparts make. That's one of the tradeoffs you make when you take a government job. Sorry if that doesn't jibe with your ideology.

    I can still find folks willing to do your job under such conditions.

    Ah, got it. You're one of the parasites [slashdot.org], then. See my first line, above.

  • by lucm (889690) on Tuesday November 27, 2012 @11:12PM (#42113407)

    I think that's as much horseshit as thinking 40 and under make an ideal company. If you ask me the biggest problem with the economy and business isn't republicans or democrats, it's that people whose best years and best ideas are behind them, but they want to squeeze the last drop of blood out and make sure every last cent is off the table (even at the expense of greater profit in 2-5 years with investment). If they can do so with 6 month initiatives and lots of processes and Jack Welchian business practices, they will (and believe me, they do). Investors are no doubt leery of older people who are too experienced.

    In its last quarter, Apple made about 50 billions and achieved an increase of around 25% of its earnings. Yet the value of its stock dropped because analysts expected more. What kind of message do you think this situation sends to executive? Focus on long-term growth?

    Everybody cries about programmed obsolescence and incompatible adapters and software assurance and all other quick-money-making schemes, yet they sell their f*cking stock when one of the most profitable companies in the world does not meet analysts predictions on the last quarter. It's easy to blame those evil executive or those crooked bankers but the truth is that their own job is on the line if they don't make the silly numbers a bunch of charlatans are pulling out of thin air. And just about anyone with a trading account or a 401(k) is complicit to this madness.

  • Old versus young. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by MaWeiTao (908546) on Tuesday November 27, 2012 @11:13PM (#42113411)

    The funny thing I've found throughout my is that companies run and inevitably staffed by younger people tend to be a mess. Everything is done inefficiently, emotions affect decisions and everyone is far too comfortable working excessively long hours. They're definitely a lot more in tune with the latest trends, but they're also a lot more likely to waste their time on unproductive nonsense.

    Companies run by an older group tend to be far more stable and productive. Ironically, you're also a lot more likely to be appreciated. The challenge, however, is not getting stuck somewhere that's stagnated.

    On the employee side, however, if you want job security in the long term you'd better be considering management or a very special niche for yourself.

  • by guises (2423402) on Tuesday November 27, 2012 @11:14PM (#42113419)

    "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

    I love this, only a person who can't remember their youth would make such a ridiculous statement. Age discrimination is ever-present, but tech is one of the few areas where it works in reverse. Remember not being able to vote or drink or smoke or drive or choose where you wanted to live or go to school? Yeah... no age discrimination.

  • by Dan667 (564390) on Tuesday November 27, 2012 @11:28PM (#42113495)
    lets just cut to the chase and call it what it is. The inexperienced getting taken advantage of. For every facebook there are hundreds of failures and I doubt that a venture capital firm would be so eager to invest in these if they had no way to extract a profit from them. Older also means more savy.
  • Overstated (Score:5, Insightful)

    by samantha (68231) * on Tuesday November 27, 2012 @11:52PM (#42113629) Homepage

    I have been in software for 32 years professionally. Whether there is age discrimination or not it is certainly not evenly distributed across all employers. It is not easy to find employees and co-workers who are adept at software. Even merely adequate software engineers can be elusive to find. So many companies realize that discrimination on any basis is not something they can afford. I am 58 now and still going strong. There is no way I experienced any age discrimination in my 40s. And there are several people at my current small company (80 people or so) who are older than I.

  • by multicoregeneral (2618207) on Wednesday November 28, 2012 @12:25AM (#42113813) Homepage

    The role that people 40 and above play in Silicon Valley is that of the Angel Investor.

    Nonsense.

    They post one of these every month or so. Maybe my perspective is off because I've worked more with Fortune 50 companies there, but I've never seen a real life age bias out there. Intel, for example, when I was there, hired a few really talented people in their 40's as contractors. So did HP, when I was there. In fact, most everywhere I went, there were at least a few 40ish or over 40 people working hard on project work. Same with the Microsoft related entities. Getting an orange badge is easy if you're smart enough to get through the interview. I haven't worked for Facebook, but I would assume, based on what I've seen that it's the same there, too.

    Then again, I do my best never to work for startups. My wife doesn't like the horrible instability it brings.

    I think, as a general rule, there are more kids that are scared of one day becoming totally obsolete on Slashdot, than there are working professionally in the Valley. When age is an issue, it's usually mainly their issue. Not really anyone else's. Experience in production counts. Anyone who tells you otherwise is full of shit.

  • by pspahn (1175617) on Wednesday November 28, 2012 @01:10AM (#42114007)
    I look towards 40 as an age where I hope to just be getting started. The jobs that exist for the young all-nighter guy amount to being someone's bitch. Personally, I don't like to be anyone's bitch. I prefer to produce work that I am proud of. Alas, that's not always the case, since there are plenty of "I'm smart and I have a bunch of someone else's money and I need to be a part of everything because I'm the badass" type folks out there. Fortunately for me, this creates a nice niche where I get to clean up where others generally fail due to this approach.
  • by Maxo-Texas (864189) on Wednesday November 28, 2012 @01:40AM (#42114103)

    Used to be, you worked 50 hours a week and the company paid that off with security.

    Today, you are expected to work 60+ hours a week, get divorced, have health issues, even die on the job (had multiple deaths in the current project so far : cancer, heart attacks, some among young people who shouldn't be having these problems) - as bad as building a big steel bridge or skyscraper).

    Then at the end they lay you off and put infosys on support for the project.

    There is no "paying your dues" any more.

    ---

    Bonus points: If the replacements suck - the executive gets "fired" and gets 2 years severance- effectively 3 years pay for the last year's work.

    ---

    I made it to the "finish" line- I never have to work again. Now, I'll only develop things that I want to develop (like I started because I loved programming). I'll never work on a holiday, or over night, or unpaid overtime again. I compiled and installed my first android program this week.

    ---

    Main point, you young pups just need to be aware there is no loyalty, there is no payback. You'll be used like batteries and it's up to you to use the company right back. To leave in the middle of a project if they put you on a dead technology. Give them the loyalty they give you. If it makes financial sense do it. Otherwise walk away.

    Got a fabulous company/manager? That could change tomorrow. I've seen it three times in my short career. New management can destroy the pleasure in a company within 60 days and then finish off the company in under 6 months and walk away rich while leaving nothing behind for the employees.

    And when you find yourself working over 60 hours a week- that's WHEN you need to be looking most. It's always time to be looking unless there is a huge completion bonus (and just be aware the company will probably screw you out of 50-75% of the bonus).

    ---
    And for the record- they put a bunch of young hotshots on the last project I was involved with. It was (is) horrible. They missed requirements, they turned in specs which didn't meet the requirements, they wrote horribly inefficient code, they managed projects terribly. Some of them were walking around with black eyes from lack of sleep. And that exhaustion showed in everything they did and the enormously inexperienced snap decisions they made.

    Kids are great for new technology-- and for small things. Enterprise level stuff and good project management requires experience. Oh the greatest thing was their decision to use only "happy path" testing. No negative testing. Ah the rewards of that decision just keep paying dividends.

    Why don't executives like experienced hands? Because they say "no, it's not possible" instead of "yes, I'll kill myself to make it possible" even when it's clearly impossible.

    But 40 is something new. It used to be 45. What's next... 35?

  • by Dahamma (304068) on Wednesday November 28, 2012 @02:04AM (#42114185)

    Not sure if you are implying that people "looking for opportunities" are unemployed in a desperate market, or that 40 year olds can't get a job in SV, but either way it's complete bullshit. The demand so far outstrips the supply right now in the Valley it's painful.

    Painful because of how many interviews it takes to find anyone decent - but if you are a good engineer who works well with others many companies do not in fact give a shit about your age. Facebook and the other social media companies/startups are still a small fraction of the Bay Area employers.

  • by rmstar (114746) on Wednesday November 28, 2012 @03:23AM (#42114553)

    No. When you work for the government, you work against the people; you are a parasite upon the people.

    Very rarely it is so. Very often, the gov provides services much cheaper than industry, in a more timely and efficient manner, and with higher quality. Health care is an example (not in the US, but just look over the pond).

    You are so full of shit.

  • Re:Totally True (Score:5, Insightful)

    by gsslay (807818) on Wednesday November 28, 2012 @07:52AM (#42115807)

    What, so only young, hip, consumers spend money? All production should focus on the desires of 20 year olds?

    Seems like marketing is limiting the market for their products for no good reason.

  • by thoth (7907) on Wednesday November 28, 2012 @08:27AM (#42116037) Journal

    You were fired because you failed at doing your job, hence failing serveral performance reviews. You were NOT doing you job decent enough. Age has nothing to do with it, so quit making excuses because you were lazy at work.

    LOL. I've seen all sides of this situation, and let me tell you, there is always a way to get rid of people. It's called "managing them out". Read Corporate Confidential for a primer if you are really this clueless.

    I don't know about the specifics of the GP, but consider this: if senior management wanted to get rid of him for being 50+ and "expensive" compared to cheaper younger employees (and not get sued for obvious age bias) all they have to do is come up with a crap or impossible project he cannot succeed in. Or give him something they actually need, but starve it of resources - a team of 10 is needed but he gets 2, including himself. Then put in enough of a paper trail to cover their ass (establish a lengthy history of "failed" performance reviews) to ward off legal action, and poof, he's gone.

    Again, if you are so naive as to think everyone let go is 100% responsible for it, well let's just say you must be quite young and stupid yourself.

In seeking the unattainable, simplicity only gets in the way. -- Epigrams in Programming, ACM SIGPLAN Sept. 1982

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