Over 35? You might be too old to work in tech

The tech industry has plenty of problems. We already know it’s hard to progress if you just so happen to be a woman instead of a man and this problem compounds itself if you also happen to have a darker shade of skin than white. But, even once you work your way through the minefield and learn to stomach idiots calling for your removal, there could be yet another problem to handle – ageism.

Over 35? You might be too old to work in tech

The A-word problem is an emerging one, but for older members of the tech community, early retirement could be on the cards unless they want to feel ostracised in their jobs. One user on Quora, a popular Q&A forum, posed the question “I’m 35 years old. Am I too old to join Google, Facebook, Microsoft or Apple as a software engineer?”

The general responses to the question are all words of encouragement, explaining that many of them obtained their software engineer jobs close to, or over, the age of 35. One user, who works at Google, noted that “although ageism is rare, you may feel out of place at times since most of your coworkers will be much younger than you are.” Although, this was mostly in social situations rather than technical ones.

Despite these positive words it looks like, for some, being over a certain age is somewhat debilitating for career progression. A USA Today article highlights that many over 40’s are left struggling to find tech jobs as younger employees snap up these roles.

Startups are based on young people taking risks and paying entry-level wages

This problem is compounded in the startup sector as Brooks Holtom, a management professor at McDonough School of Business, explains, startups are “based on young people taking risks, paying entry-level wages, to start companies.”

USA Today explains that the median age of the American worker is 42 but at Facebook, it’s 29. Google sits at 30, Apple 31, Amazon 30 and Microsoft at 33. According to data collected by Glassdoor, most job candidates at those companies are between 25 to 34 years old.

A Financial Times piece investigates the ageism that 62-year-old Bob Crum experienced when looking for a new job. Despite having a history of employment at Hewlett-Packard (now HP), Sun Microsystems and Cisco, Crum found that his wealth of experience was actually a hindrance instead of a help.

“I was told ‘we decided to give this job to someone earlier in their career, your experience was a long time ago’,” he explains to the FT. “Those were hurtful things to say to someone who was eminently qualified.”

This sentiment is echoed in Hired’s “State of Global Tech Salaries” research. The paper notes that after the age of 45 the number of tech jobs being offered to them – along with their average salary – begins to decrease. Salaries begin to peak around 45-50, but after 50 they decrease significantly – offering the same amount of money to candidates who are ten years younger. We dug deeper into Hired’s analysis of ageism in tech here.

Clearly, if you’ve been in the game for too long, that experience is no longer valued – it’s seen as being outdated.

Echoing the Googler’s Quora question response, Wired published a piece from an ex-Googler who joined the company at the age of 52 and saw ageism primarily at social events. While her experience wasn’t ageist in the truly debilitating sense, she noted that her age was clearly noted by other employees who saw her as senior despite being on the same employment level. She also explains that her career progression opportunities and skills training opportunities were limited – presumably being viewed as a poor investment decision.

One Quora user who joined Amazon at 42 sums the situation up rather nicely. “There is a lot of ageism in this industry. There are a lot of bad – isms in this industry. But there are many companies of all sizes that recognise how potent the combination of talent and experience can be.

“The good news is that companies that recognise it are also companies where grown-ups tend to come to, which is a good thing.”

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