I started coding later in life, and I’m 2+ years into my coding career now. It’s been worth it for me, but I won’t sugar-coat things. There is some ageism out there. One employer, a start-up, was quite interested in me - I’m a LAMP stack applications developer - but my interviewer who was thinking aloud all throughout my interview, said that she was worried that I might not fit well working under the “CTO” who was a guy in his early 20s. A part of me understands how this dynamic could be difficult, but on the other hand, it was narrow-minded on their part.
Being older has also at times played in my favor. My current boss was like me, he started in IT later in life, and I know that probably played into why he wanted to hire me. Keep in mind, it’s not a picnic for young developers out there either; they are often perceived as inexperienced, immature, and lazy. These are unfair stereotypes, but this is a reality of IT employment and hiring that it’s important for junior developers of all ages to learn about.
For the most part, developers use a system of junior, mid, and senior designations. Junior developers are in the first few years of development; they are seen as having (and do) have a lot to learn, they are perceived as more mistake prone, they are seen perhaps as more flexible and pliable, and at the bottom of the pile. Mids are in between. I see mids as often having to work the hardest as they are climbing the ladder. Senior developers are seen as more experienced, more knowledgeable, maybe a little less flexible, possibly not as up-to-date with new trends. Senior developers often wield the real power in a development group; managers may really consult them about everything, and in some development settings, it’s all about keeping those senior folks happy. Unfortunately, this system can make it hard for older newcomers who are juniors to fit in a very hierarchical setting. It can be done, it can be navigated, but it’s hard.
I wish someone had shared this kind of information with me before I started in IT. Of course, this is only my experience and not to be over-generalized to every setting. The world of IT is huge and getting bigger all the time with things constantly changing. What are your experiences with age/ageism and junior/senior dynamics?
I think ageism is all around, not just in IT. Sure older workers will have younger people as their bosses, and some insecure bosses may find this threatening? or awkward. And rather than deal with it, these bosses will prefer someone else. Or maybe they’re the kind of boss that don’t want to hire people smarter than them. These kinds also exist.
So I’ve been working in IT for over a decade, as a sys admin for the past couple of years. I’ve started getting back into learning to code recently to broaden my knowledge, and, who knows what the future holds. I’m definitely not young. Not to get too personal or anything but, I’m curious, if you don’t mind sharing, what is your age?
I deal more with sexism in IT. From straight up being told “Women don’t do IT” to having a manager push me out of my chair so he could do it because I asked for help. I actually left IT for a couple of years because of it. But I’m not going to let it derail me this time. I LIKE coding. It’s fun. I know my perfect job is out there. I will find it. Don’t let them get you down.
Great discussion, just what I’ve been looking for actually on all fronts. I’m not only in my mid-50, but I’m also female and returning to the industry after being away for over 20 years! Sexism was “alive and well” back in the 80’s when I received my BS in CS. There are many articles on this very topic that show a huge drop in CS degree holding women back in the 80’s an 90’s due to this very fact.
I, like many others, left the industry before my career got very far off the ground. I’ve now found my way back and I’m trying to navigate through it all. So far so good, but I know I’m in for an uphill climb.
It’s awesome to hear you all talking about this, thanks @W8sconsin!
Any tips or motivation will be great for all of us to share, so hang in there everyone!
I actually work in HR at the moment and this sort of thing really drives me crazy, from a professional viewpoint as well as personal.
The one thing I always say about this though is that these people who limit their talent pool because of their narrow mindedness over age or sex or whatever other characteristic will come unstuck in the end. The great developers who they rejected will go to a competitor who doesn’t care about age or gender, just how good these people are at the job.
The narrow minded manager/founder/CTO will then face questions about why it’s all going wrong or maybe even see their company fail. I’ve seen it happen in other industries so I imagine the same applies in IT. In this day and age being prejudice like this will always catch up to you in the end.
Great Article! I am in my mid forties, never worked in IT but looking to transistion from public sector to web development. I do have slight concerns that my age may make it hard getting into web development. Reading your article I see that it really depends on which companies you apply to and whether they are open minded. Not everyone in IT is under 30.
Wow, kymburley and EvillePanda, you guys are scaring me. I’m a 50 yo female hoping to find a job in web development soon. I worked in IT for more than four years (in QA, not as a dev) and never experienced significant sexism or ageism; however, the COO of the company I worked for was a very progressive-minded 40-something female. Perhaps, because of her influence, that company culture was atypical. Could be I’m in for a shock.
It isn't just IT that has ageism / sexism. I recently got my Diploma in Materials Engineering Technology. I graduated with honors and was near the top of my class. I started in my early 40's because of a motor vehicle accident that made it impossible to continue with my previous career as a cabinet maker.
300+ resumes and only a handful of interviews. One major NDT company (non destructive testing) just came out and said that they don't usually interview anyone my age. Of course this is illegal where I live, but with multiple 'witnesses' in the interview room its my word vs theirs, and they have the numbers on their side. Even the worst student in the program, who didn't even graduate, was hired over me. I have had to take a job that is only slightly related to my field of study, just to pay the bills.
In the 90's I went to night school for Computer systems. Got my certificate of computer systems and couldn't get a bite. Age was the determining factor. I am now 'upgrading' my coding skills just so I can have an intelligent conversation with my daughter. I know that it would be impossible for me to get hired in the IT industry at my age.
This story is just awful!!!
How can a company’s HR let something like that go on? It seems that they were not true ‘HR’ people, but just idiots that were hired to just be there.
I have always lived and worked in Brooklyn NY for most of my life until I moved recently to Pennsylvania.
In Brooklyn, these things hardly happen because the women are tough as S**t. And if they had male relatives, things would have been taken care of in a very different way.
I an 53 yrs old, and I will tell you from experience; NEVER SHOW FEAR, and always show CONFIDENCE. Do not let ANYONE take away your dreams! If you must fight to achieve it, do it with enthusiasm.
On time a new boss tried to intimidate me. He was surprised because I was not intimidated and made it known to me that he could fire me anytime he wanted to because there were plenty of people who needed a job, and what I was going to do about it.
I let him know that my mortgage was paid off, I had a small side business and my wife had a good job.
Then I leaned slightly towards him and I said that there was nothing I could do about it, because I had these chains holding me back. But if these chains were to ever be released, I will be free to ravage anything around me like a rabid pit-bull. Then I told him to please release my chains.
Ever since then, he left me alone and we had a very respectable working relationship.
One thing I am surprised, didn’t any of the ladies here ever speak to a lawyer???