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Age Discrimination In the Tech Industry 370

Posted by Soulskill
from the get-off-my-lawn dept.
Presto Vivace writes: Fortune has an article about increasingly overt age discrimination in the tech industry. Quoting: "It's a widely accepted reality within the technology industry that youth rules. But at least part of the extreme age imbalance can be traced back to advertisements for open positions that government regulators say may illegally discriminate against older applicants. Many tech companies post openings exclusively for new or recent college graduates, a pool of candidates that is overwhelmingly in its early twenties. ... 'In our view, it's illegal,' Raymond Peeler, senior attorney advisor at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the federal agency that enforces workplace discrimination laws said about the use of 'new grad' and 'recent grad' in job notices. 'We think it deters older applicants from applying.'" Am I the only one who thinks many of the quality control issues and failed projects in the tech industry can be attributed to age discrimination?
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Age Discrimination In the Tech Industry

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  • by aepervius (535155) on Sunday June 22, 2014 @05:39AM (#47292179)
    They go hiring for unexperimented people. I saw a lot of project sink and get stopped, or cost far more than they should have at compeltion, because the "young" devs have no experience, suffer the NIH syndrom, get enthiusiastic doing new stuff rather than limit themselves to what should be done, if you got for service layer concept screw it up, costing you time to refactor.

    So yeah. Go ahead. Hire only youth. And lose money.
  • by Runaway1956 (1322357) on Sunday June 22, 2014 @05:51AM (#47292201) Homepage Journal

    It really is best to have a mix of young and old. Youngsters come up with the new ideas, older people kick those ideas around, turn them upside down, examine them for flaws, toss them back to the kids. The kids then modify, improve, or even flush the idea down the toilet.

    I've never had a job in which youth and experience weren't both valuable.

    The manager who dismisses either youth, or experience, is setting himself up for failure.

  • Re:22 (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday June 22, 2014 @05:57AM (#47292209)

    If you're unwilling to relocate from Indiana to India to find work in the tech industry, you suck at your job.

  • I'm 63, I still work (Score:5, Interesting)

    by hughbar (579555) on Sunday June 22, 2014 @06:44AM (#47292315) Homepage
    This seems to come up a great deal here.

    I'm from the UK which is probably [slightly] less dog-eat-dog than the USA also, I mainly work in a niche, [Perl] and I do contract work rather than permanent.

    However I'm still working about as much as I want. I blew an interview recently, but I'm OK with that, since I performed pretty badly in it. I try and keep up and still enjoy computers and computing. So for my younger friends, and they are nearly all younger now:
    • - It helps to enjoy computing, not be in it 'just' for the [increasing illusory] big money
    • - Flexibility helps, the UK has a smaller square area than the US though
    • - Soft skills help, I'm a pretty medium programmer but an approachable person
    • - Niche skills often make a difference, everyone [except me] is an 'OK' Java person, for example
    • - It helps to look ahead to up-curve trends [as long as not hypeware], I learnt a lot of Javascript/Jquery quite 'early' for example
    • - The soft skills will help with the next job too, many of my 'new' contracts involve people I know somewhat, at least

    That's my 2c of a euro, the html is badly formatted, but hey it's almost time for Sunday lunch.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday June 22, 2014 @07:06AM (#47292355)

    And FWIW, I have learned multiple new programming languages and tools (PHP, Javascript, Hadoop, AWS, etc) over the past 3 years to where I was able to build a cell phone emulator in PHP, design and write code to capture and store 10 billion data points per day in a Hadoop HBase database in the Amazon cloud from 5000 servers world-wide, and reduce the time for QA to generate performance reports from days to hours. I was still fired for "performance issues"... And I was a 1-person band, with no backup or help. All the other developers in my group were in their 20's to 30's. Looks like a setup for failure to me!

  • by overshoot (39700) on Sunday June 22, 2014 @07:16AM (#47292367)

    Older people have families, they come first.

    Interesting definition of "older." Rather revealing, in fact, that your horizon only extends to those of us with kids at home.

    Leaving aside the fact that not all of us ever had kids, the most discriminated-against group are those whose children have moved out. Who, unlike 20-somethings, don't spend their off-duty time trying to get families. Oh, yeah -- that.

  • by gatkinso (15975) on Sunday June 22, 2014 @07:47AM (#47292425)

    What you say is true. I have left work either on time or sometimes early to take care of my kids.

    But my younger colleagues often times show up late (or not at all) with hangovers, my piss will test 100% clean and many of theirs will not, and I spend my time at wok actually working as opposed to a lot of socializing and what not.

    So choose your poison.

  • by penix1 (722987) on Sunday June 22, 2014 @07:53AM (#47292431) Homepage

    Wow... Where to begin... Well, let's start from the top...

    In reality, neither - older people or the best for the job - get the job. Because if it were the most capable for the job, then new college grads would never get hired, would they?

    You started off great but then made the assumption that all college grads would never get hired. It all depends on the college they graduated from. MIT, Stanford, Harvard and Yale graduates don't have nearly the difficulty getting employment as other grads. Now the question you need to ask is why? It boils down to colleges failing in their responsibility to the community they serve. Failing to teach the skills necessary for success.

    It takes a couple of years experience to become good and productive.

    Poppycock! It only takes years because the colleges are failing at producing the quality employee and the company ends up having to re-teach what the grad was supposed to learn in school. Worse, they now may have to unlearn bad habits that the student was taught in that rotten school.

    Some big currently successful corp starts basing its hiring on some metric someone pulls out of their ass, and then everyone does it in the hopes of aping the success of that firm.

    When you have 5,000 applicants for 5 positions you have to have some way of telling those that must lose why. Especially since you have agencies like the EEO looking over your shoulder.

    Google and Microsoft has fucked up hiring for everyone with their idiotic interview questions that they ended up getting rid of anyway.

    The bigger the employer, the more scrutiny they come under. Again, you need some metric to weed out the chaff in a way that won't get you sued in any of a thousand different ways. Some metrics work, some don't.

    See, the fact is companies have no clue how to get the best. They make metrics up, buy cute tests, hire consultants with their Ouija boards or whatever, and follow what currently successful companies are doing - who are also pulling shit out of their asses.

    Again, it is trying to work within the hiring laws that skew the tables with things like affirmative action How many times has /. had stories about the gender gap or other minority in tech? I see at least a story a week including this story. All these lead to a perception that those groups need to be given preference even over better qualified applicants solely to meet the numbers.

    The best way to hire? Get a development manager with a long contact list in his smart phone and have him start calling people he knows can deliver and throw money at them.

    Never fails.

    Yet when government does that you get upset??? Throwing money at a problem isn't only foolish it is a quick way to the poor house. What you are calling for is cronyism or nepotism where the only way to get a job is to be in that one person's contact list. That's no way to hire someone and you really don't know why that person may be in that contact list.

    If you or your company can't get "qualified people", it's because YOU suck - pay too low, having HR recruit or just being lemmings and following the herd on how to hire.

    Way to put your head in the sand and ignore the fact that the universities and colleges are failing in their task of producing qualified students. Or that the current hiring laws are skewed to favor less qualified people simply because they fit a diversity metric. Way to put the failure of the job seekers to manage their expectations on the employer with them wanting to be paid the same as the CEO on their first day.

    Until we fix our education system to produce students that can actually serve the communities they are in, stop pitting one group against another such as we have in this story, we will continue to see the types of stories on /. that we are seeing today with no real solution to the root of the problem in sight.

  • by mark_reh (2015546) on Sunday June 22, 2014 @08:09AM (#47292471) Journal

    HP, Fujitsu, and TI among others. When I turned 42 the pressure to move into marketing or management started. I was not interested in either, so I continued to do engineering. Then the layoffs started. With each layoff, the next job became harder to find and hold. After a couple years and three jobs/layoffs, I saw the writing on the wall and went back to school for 6 years.

    Now I am a dentist. My age and gray hair are appreciated as symbols of knowledge and experience by my patients (even though my experience doesn't match my appearance). Most of my patients thank me for the work I do, and I sleep well at night, secure in the knowledge that the work I did that day was valuable and helped someone to have a better life. This is the exact opposite of my engineering work- no thank yous, only the continual justifying of my job, fighting for vacation time, forget about the promised company-paid continuing education, and long hours of meaningless work on "important" projects that do things like let teen aged girls post selfies to Facebook.

    Now I work a 40 hour, 4 -day week, and never, ever take work home with me. I have two 3 day weekends per month and one 4 day weekend per month. That leaves me time to pursue my hobby- engineering, of course. Sure, there's some stress on the job, like when an extraction isn't going well, or when I have to work on little kids, but I am compensated for it and it is very short duration.

    Screw the high tech industry and the dopes who run it.

  • by overshoot (39700) on Sunday June 22, 2014 @08:11AM (#47292477)

    whatever it is that your developers are producing (other than warm chair seats) then you start talking like management: "Put X engineers on Project Y to get us to the Z man-months required within schedule."

    I'm retired now and have never worked for a middle or senior manager who has read Brooks. They live at the man-month metric, and base their hiring on the fact that you can get the man-months you need for less if you get them from fresh-out developers working from a remote site in Afghanistan.

    No joke. I've talked to the CEO of a $2B/year semiconductor company and that is precisely as deep as his plaanning goes.

  • by gatkinso (15975) on Sunday June 22, 2014 @08:12AM (#47292483)

    It depends. Having a security clearance helps insulate one from this. Having left such work for pure commercial work I definitely see it, whereas I never saw it in the government space.

  • by Qbertino (265505) on Sunday June 22, 2014 @09:51AM (#47292789)

    I've had this issue myself here on /. a few times in the last 2-3 years.

    Here's my current take on it:
    People discriminate based on age, in any field or situation. That's simple psychology. You can tip the reactions in your favor, based on how you behave. I'm skinny, move a lot and wear a relatively up-to-date hipster / better-dressed nerd mix of clothing and my basic temper is sanguine, so people usually judge me roughly 6-8 years younger than I actually am. That does help me when trying to get a quick hire in the webshop next door, although that is getting more difficult in certain ways.
    In the field you're easier in for a cheap quick hire if you appear young and nimble. Emphasis on cheap and quick. Easy in, easy out, no hurt feelings on either side. At a first glance, getting such a gig is definitely more difficult if you have a deer-gut, are approaching your 50ies and looking it too.

    Then again, take that same deer gut 50ies body, dress it in a good suit and a well chosen shirt and tie combo, adjust your behavior and your speaking a little, perhaps take some training or stage classes, print some neat business cards with "Consultant" written on them and your salary instantly rises by 15K per year easily. Try that as a mid-twenties guy - it's going to be very difficult.
    This only starts to work in your favor once you've got wrinkles and gray hair to show. I call it the 'gray-hair-bonus'. You need one guy from that camp for every contract worth 100k and up. They are indispensable, especially if they can talk and have the decades of experience to back it up. I'm turning into that sort of guy and helping the transition with some extra 'finally-grow-up' efforts. It does magic to my rates. And it's simply that I look the age that make 50% of all that possible. I just have to get used to letting that fat student kid do the setup of the next server, even if he makes tons of mistakes ... after all, I'm there to help him out if he's in a jam. But forcing yourself to keep your hands off is a bit of a challenge, I do admit. :-)

    My 2 cents.

  • Google Interview (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Tiger Smile (78220) <.james. .at. .dornan.com.> on Sunday June 22, 2014 @11:04AM (#47293105) Homepage

    I'm a normal looking guy, but older than most in the computer industry at ~46. I have some white hair, but otherwise look young for my age. During my Google interview it was clear that the people I was talking to were extremely surprised to meet me. I had to check to see if I had a potted plant on my head or a 3rd arm growing from my chest. I could tell it was the age that put them off. I did extremely well in the interview, but based on the reactions I got I did not expect to get the job, which I did not. No reason was given, but that is their normal policy.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday June 22, 2014 @11:19AM (#47293195)

    The state of the education system is a direct result of this hiring malpractice. It was businesses who made it a requirement to be a graduate from an academic/research institution in order to get a decent job, not the education system.

    As a result that education system has been scrambling to make a bizarre and counter-production hybrid undergraduate who can both pass Google's job interviews and perform the basic requirements for pumping out crappy research papers in record numbers.

    And the sad reality is that the bulk of these undergrads aren't very competent at EITHER. They require years of actual training once they hit grad school or the workplace, and big business doesn't seem to realize it's effectively all their fault, not the schools. It's easy to point fingers at someone else for a problem you caused, but business is the only place we seem to let people get away with it (especially tech business).

  • by roman_mir (125474) on Sunday June 22, 2014 @12:43PM (#47293553) Homepage Journal

    You are almost there, it's not about age, it is not even about salaries as many here suggest, it is about government's hands in the market - labour laws. There are entire industries based around suing employers, do you ever hear radio shows where some lawyers is giving advice on severance pay, suing the employer, etc.? That is what it is all about. It is about the fact that you cannot have a contract without government intervening into the business and forcing you with all its guns to attempt and avoid hiring people that can sue you because they are part of some protected class.

    Hiring young white males seems to be the most optimal solution obviously, since they are the least government protected class of all.

    As to myself, I hire plenty of students or new grads myself, not discriminating on age, but discriminating on their newness to the process and their desire to give it a try. I do not particularly care about your age, I do however pay lower wages than large companies and so I can only get people with very little (if any) experience. When a person comes in for the interview, I explain what we do, ask them what their goals are and then make a simple enough offer: here is the salary I can start you with (something similar to 13USD/hour), however if you cannot be productive right away, I am not paying you until I can put you on a project. I teach the new hires, it's about a 3 week crash course on the technologies we use, our frameworks, languages, db, our code generators, etc. They are given a task at a time, they go through the tasks and as they do, they are classified into different categories, this puts them on different projects.

    As they become productive (they are on projects) they start getting paid and if they are good they get an equivalent of $1/hour raise every few months (not a guarantee though, nothing is).

    So that's my approach to it and it is good for the beginners REGARDLESS of their age, but I WILL NOT hire somebody who is too close to the 'retirement', I do not need government regulations on my ass, any of this nonsense that says that the older the person the more difficult it is for them to find a new job and thus they must be given various entitlements by the employer are playing AGAINST the older people. You think government regulations prevent age (or any other) discrimination? They are the CAUSE of the discrimination.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday June 22, 2014 @05:01PM (#47294547)

    I'm posting anonymously on purpose. 4-digit slashdot ID. I've been around a while.

    I'm over 50. I recently interviewed with one of those Bay-Area companies from TFA that has a median age of 29. Median age. That means unless they are hiring people that are still in high school, a 50-something is shit out of luck. We know they are hiring fresh-outs, say 21 years of age, so if 29 is the median (TFA said median, not mean) that means that if you are over about 37, you are too old.

    I did not see a person on the campus over my age, or even near my age, in fact, some of the people that interviewed me were about the age of my offspring. I don't think the oldest person I met was 40. I think I did well in the interviews (which were grueling) but they were definitely set up for somebody right out of grad school. I did get a call from the recruiter and was told they were "not going to move forward with me".

    I'm not bitter, I'm not upset, I expected as much. In fact, I told my family before I went on this interview that I was too old for this company. I am disappointed, but that's because I am a human, and I feel. I'm sure that "culturally" I was not a good fit, as I don't have a lot in common with people half my age -- I live much differently then they do. But I don't think that is a good argument not to hire -- diversity is key; having a variety of ideas and viewpoints is useful.

    Recently, we saw that the employee population of a lot of these companies was majority white, majority male -- this survey did not show that the employee population is probably majority under 35. They are without any benefit that diversity could bring. (though it is also true that I am in two of those majority groups, hiring me would not help with their reported "problem"...)

    While I don't think that these companies practice overt, conscious age discrimination, I am completely certain that they practice unconscious age discrimination. I am also sure that I was not the only party injured by this, I am confident that the company that passed me over would have benefited from employing me.

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