Aging in Technology

  • Steve Jones - SSC Editor

    SSC Guru

    Points: 716331

    Comments posted to this topic are about the item Aging in Technology

  • David.Poole

    SSC Guru

    Points: 75197

    I went on a course recently and discovered that

    • The skills I learned 15 years ago in a company specialising in accessible websites using content management systems are still ahead of the marketplace
    • The stuff I learned 20 years ago in what was the worlds largest advertising agency are even more relevant
    • The analysis skills I picked up 25 years ago still produce good results
    • The programming skills I picked up 30 years ago set me up for life.

    I think the past 15 years have taught me more about people and process, the tech is the easy part.

    We've just had a presentation about web accessibility and our developers have had a bit of a rude awakening.  They've been surprised by the capabilities of retirees, that is people in their 70s are a damn sight more capable than they assumed.  Listening to them opine on the older generation reveals precisely why office juniors were sent on impossible errands

    • Striped paint brushes
    • Tartan paint
    • Long weights
    • Square bubbles for spirit levels
    • 3 foot of fallopian tubing
    • ...etc
  • call.copse

    SSCoach

    Points: 16897

    Well that cheered me up Steve!

    -An old git

  • BrainDonor

    SSCoach

    Points: 19206

    I've found that as I get older I worry less about future employment opportunities, as my experience and confidence increases.  Because, I still find the role of a DBA interesting enough to take every opportunity that I sensibly can to learn more - and spread that knowledge.

    I find that those that approach me regarding potential new roles already have an idea of my age from my LinkedIn profile but also see an active blog site, which shows them that I'm not 'winding down' as the years try to grind me down. My role involves being cautious and informed, which some people associate with the older employees (rightly or wrongly) and want somebody with the depth of experience. Of course I just tell the younger IT staff that my experience has come from more years of being able to make more mistakes.

    Ageism certainly can be an issue but I rarely see it in my sphere of IT, where experience and a 'level head' can be worth a great deal. And of course there's the old adage that "Age and treachery will always overcome youth and vigour".

    We old people know a thing or two.

    Steve Hall
    Linkedin
    Blog Site

  • r24getit

    Newbie

    Points: 2

    I find the questions asked during interviewing to be rather empty...almost as if their scripted...  If your looking for a mechanic to work on your car you'd be justified in declining candidates because they don't have experience on the car your looking to fix...I get that.  But IT work isn't all about 'fixing'. Sure at first, when I was beginning, it got a lot of 'fix' work.  Now thou, I'm looking to do 'design' work...an entirely different space where experience is required.

    The difficulty is that this type of position is likely filled internally. The down side for the org is that it is filled internally, limiting their exposure to new/outside ideas...and regrettably, maintaining the bureaucracy and politics.

    My career has been people seek me out. Now thou, having been working on my own business for 15(+) yrs now, I'm out looking, and it is interesting to me the interview process and the people brought to the table (or on the phone).  It has been nothing but check boxing...the question has a 'yes'/'no' answer.

    I don't associate my failures to ageism!!! My failures, to this point, have been because I don't want to lie about having knowledge about some particular language/product.

    To the point of the article...its about your ability to learn.  This is never what the interviewer asks...'tell me Mr./Ms. - X...how did you learn technology-Y!?'.  Now that's a question. They're actually probing you to get an understanding about you.  Hell, I've forgotten more than I can remember anymore.

    Don't be afraid...move on. You've earned the insight...use it to guide you to a job you will enjoy working at.  Because we know (I hope), that it's not about the technology only...its about the task and the people involved...those make the job easy to get for in the morning.

    Ageism exists...

    Imaging if we started a consulting firm that specialized in using 'old' people to work on 'old' technology. You couldn't be hired in unless you had 30(+) yrs experience.  Would we staff it with young people? no...but we'd want some.

    Perhaps that's the answer...we unionize the 'old' IT peeps and let organizations starve until they come around and discover how much they really need us...not that's a thread!? Unionizing IT...

    cheers my old IT brethren.

    -mt

    mike t.

  • Doctor Who 2

    SSCertifiable

    Points: 7747

    I'm one of those who is older and this is a concern of mine. I've witnessed this close hand. My father was also in IT. His last position, in the corporate world, was one where they blatantly discriminated against older workers. At the plant where he worked they laid him off and all other workers off, who were over 40. There was only 1 person they didn't lay off; a guy who was under 40. My dad and the rest of them took the company to court, suing over age discrimination. It was quite clear so it was an easy victory.

    In 2014 I was laid off, but not due to ageism. The place I was working at was being poorly managed. They were laying people off every year, starting in 2008. Then the whole place shut down in 2015, laying off all that were left. It took me months before I got my current job. I thought it was due in large part to my age, but then 2 years ago I learned at my local .NET user group that in my state there are very few .NET related jobs. This was demonstrated at one of our meetings by the recruiting firm which sponsors our meetings. It was a shocking revelation to me - during the greatest job opportunities I've witnessed for employment across the US, to learn there were so few jobs in my area. Counter intuitive. One lesson learned - as far as it is possible, if you're unemployed do what you can to determine the job market in your area for your skillset. I grant you, that isn't easy. I would try reaching out to recruiting agencies in your area to get a feel for that.

    I agree with you, Steve, that in today's job market, having up to date technical skills is essential, plus having soft skills. In my current position and the agency I work for, both are very hard to come by. The technology here is often very old, with no incentive to improve it. Well, maybe one. As time goes by Microsoft drops support for various old technologies. For example, extended support for SQL Server 2008 & 2008 R2 has past. With bitter resentment, we're upgrading our SQL Server instances. But it never would have happened, if they hadn't had a kick in the pants.

    Soft skills are even harder to come by. Where I work they have an attitude that is decades old - everyone must only work within the strict confines of their job title. I'm a software developer, so the only thing I'm allowed to do is write code. Under no circumstances at all am I allowed to talk to our customers. This is very strongly enforced. The only way I can use soft skills, with this employer, is if I change careers. I must either become a manager or a business analyst. Then once you've jumped to one of those two, you are never allowed to write another line of code OR ELSE!! Consequently, all employees, from upper management to the newest person hired will stay in whatever position they're in, pigeonholed there, doing only whatever that job title defines them to do. Obviously, I resent this. In my old job I was able to meet with customers on a regular basis, determine their needs, design solutions, present them with various options drawn on paper, to get their approval, etc. Then once that's done begin the process of developing the database (if needed, or adding new tables, stored procs, etc.), developing the agreed upon application, etc. I look back at that time, as a truly wonderful time. At least in my current employer environment, it isn't going to happen. I don't see any way of changing their mindset, as it's been going on for generations of management and individual contributors.

    Rod

  • philippe.cand

    Grasshopper

    Points: 13

    I was interviewing for a job and I have received this comment.

    The team members have raised the concern of your age, they may feel uncomfortable working with someone who could be their father.

    I said well; Let me arrange for a happy hour next Friday and their concerns will go away.

    I got the job!

    Philippe

  • Steve Jones - SSC Editor

    SSC Guru

    Points: 716331

    Good comments, and interesting discussion. I'll give me thoughts on a couple things below in separate posts. I love that you embraced the chance to change minds, Philippe, that's great.

  • markedconn

    SSC Enthusiast

    Points: 106

    I think a lot of the problems in IT were caused by IT, either directly or indirectly.  I started in IT indirectly designing databases in Microsoft Access, and then later SQL Server.  IT shops usually don't touch Access, but designing in Access forces you to learn front-end design and relational design.  If one is just doing DBA work in SQL Server, an employer may think its cheaper to hire younger people to do that as long as they have the training.

    Another problem is constantly changing technology trends. Even in .Net look how Microsoft makes updates.  It seems like every job description just focuses on the latest technology version like a check list and ignorea not on critical thinking and problem solving.  In interviews I rarely get questions about solving problems.

    Also, agile is used by many companies, and that methodology puts people into job tasks that are one dimensional.

  • Steve Jones - SSC Editor

    SSC Guru

    Points: 716331

    r24getit wrote:

    I find the questions asked during interviewing to be rather empty...almost as if their scripted...  If your looking for a mechanic to work on your car...

    I think interviewing is hard, and few people do it well. Some just checkbox a few questions, often a script given to them. Some spend time and really work hard on small technical things that confuse candidates and undercover depths of knowledge, but don't necessarily predict good hires.

    I prefer having a set of questions for everyone, mainly because I need to compare them, but I like to see how they respond and think, and make notes about how they get along with me and others. That's still a coin flip, but it's mine.

    r24getit wrote:

    The difficulty is that this type of position is likely filled internally.

    -mt

    I think there are good reasons to advertise internally. I like loyalty (both ways)  and internal people are known quantities. I see this both ways, where internal jobs need to be advertised externally and vice versa. I think it's fine to lean one way or the other, which just sets a higher bar for the other group (internal or external) of candidates.

  • Steve Jones - SSC Editor

    SSC Guru

    Points: 716331

    Doctor Who 2 wrote:

    I'm one of those who is older and this is a concern of mine. I've witnessed this close hand. My father was also in IT. His last position, in the corporate world, was one where they blatantly discriminated against older workers.

    ...

    I agree with you, Steve, that in today's job market, having up to date technical skills is essential, plus having soft skills. In my current position and the agency I work for, both are very hard to come by.

    You can practice soft skills anywhere, and I'd say they are especially crucial relating to your management and co-workers. Those are the ones that need to work well in interviews.

    They can be hard to find at work, but learn to interact with those you don't work with much, or those you don't like. That exercise will really help polish skills.

    Some people discriminate. Nothing you can do there, but control what you can and put yourself in as many good positions as you can.

  • Eric M Russell

    SSC Guru

    Points: 125028

    "..I wonder how many of you worry about employment as you get older.."

    I have a handful of observations and opinions about this.

    1. The average lifespan of an IT employee today is (4) years, and the younger the employee, the more likely they are to leave even sooner. Their primary motive for moving - more money.
    2. The demand for older more experienced IT staff depends a lot on the local market. In a small town where the local technical college cranks out a steady supply of fresh recruits, an older IT professional will have trouble finding an open position. However, in a hot market like Atlanta or Seattle, employers with complex enterprise projects will roll out the red carpet for anyone who can walk in the door and start contributing solutions and fixing problems on on day 1. That's where more experienced employees shine.
    3. Job searching is a lot like dating - you can't allow yourself to over generalize by thinking that employers don't want older IT staff. The reality is that Retail IT, Banking IT, Healthcare IT, StartUp IT, and government IT all have different needs and hiring philosophies. Even within the same industry, different organizations will have vastly different approaches to culture, expectations, and compensation, so it's just plain wrong and self defeating to think no one out there would be interested in you personally. If you believe in opportunity, then you'll start seeing it.

    "Do not seek to follow in the footsteps of the wise. Instead, seek what they sought." - Matsuo Basho

  • Glen Cooper

    SSCommitted

    Points: 1625

    “What counts is not necessarily the size of the dog in the fight- it's the size of the fight in the dog.”

    Dwight D. Eisenhower

    He didn't say anything about the dog's age.

    R Glen Cooper

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