Silicon Valley's ageism problem

September looms. This autumn will be my autumn.


Strongly agree that the tech industry’s focus on the young is very often equivalent to a focus on the easily-exploitable … frantic under-30’s sweating out 80 hour weeks

Ageism cuts both ways. 80 hour weeks is also a good way to end up with severe health issues and burnout at a relatively young age. Then as time goes on, they’ll either die early or have too many dead brain cells to compete when they’re older.

But, that’s rock and roll, I suppose. But, there’s also working smarter, stealthier and faster like a calculating cougar seeking its next meal.

Burns: How much for your entire collection?
Comic Book Guy: Um, the speed of light expressed in dollars.
Burns (to Smithers): Just give him Faraday’s constant.


One escape from the old-age ghetto is, indeed, to make a transition to ‘businessman’ or ‘executive’, and there’s just nothing as businessmanly as setting up your own business. However, not everyone has the necessary charisma, morale, funds, connections, aggressiveness, manner, good suits (or jeans) and so forth to do this, and it has little to do with any ability to produce actual goods and services. Usually, the smart businessman hires a few of those young suckers for that sort of thing.


Amen! Did that with EDS back in the '80’s. NEVER going there again.

Yeah, and it’s not like the typical employment washing machine preps the average person for any of that.

But with a little nouse, you can learn charisma, learn how to bolster your morale, act aggressive (‘assertive’!), develop a good business manner. The big lie is that the average person can’t do this stuff - sure they can, they’ve had 40 years to learn it, and probably 18-20 years in the work place seeing it happen.

Money and connections - that’s different. But the other stuff lead to it. Charisma? Connections. Money might come if it all fits together. Of course, by the time you’re 40, you may well have kids and a mortgage - but getting an hour in per day in the early morning (early to bed etc - still applies, till tech beats us down) is a longer haul on the calendar, but you do progress.

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I’m over 40 and in the tech sector. This isn’t about people entering the tech sector. I’ve been in tech since I was 23. This is about us being able to continue to work in the tech sector because the industry effectively hates anybody visibly not in their 20s.

BTW, I’m Gen X, not a boomer. My mom is a boomer and she’s over 60.


Until you leave your current job and need to find another and no one wants to hire you, not because of your resume but because you have gray hair and are “out of touch.”

Anybody devoted to learning and improvement should be able to say their best work is ahead of them no matter their age. Your level of quality over the decades is a function of your personality, not your age.

But it is a hallmark of youth (and managers who know nothing about software) to be naive enough to think that the guy working 80 hours a week must obviously be twice as “productive” as the guy working a 40 hour week. I can sit back and laugh though, those guys will get what they deserve when their projects sink into maintenance hell.


If someone tells me that they used to work these extreme hours, I ask them if they were then laid off, and the answer is usually yes. When someone tells me they are doing the work of two people, I tell them “You are doing the work of two people the company cares nothing about. If they cared, they would hire more people. The finish line of this marathon is far more likely to be a lay-off than a promotion.”


And he’s probably working more hours than ever before, but he’s OK with it now because he no longer has to listen to unstable managers attacking his self-esteem.


That’s the long and the short of it! Unstable managers attacking his self-esteem - it’s a virulent scourge across the business world - the moment when people are told, or figure out in their most destructive mood, that it’s easier to tarnish the competition than work together to improve the firm.

He’s working hard, but not dying early from it. He loves it.


If they have any sense at all they’ll be long gone by then, or they’ll be hired back as highly paid consultants to build version 2.0.

Man, that hits close to home, and I’m nowhere close to SV, or even in tech. I was in, of all things, the newspaper business.

Kids: if you think print journalism sounds like fun, run away now. I didn’t work the news side, but production. You’ll have the long hours without the awesome pay. You’ll still have the crappy health and crappy home life, as well as working with people with substance abuse and other problems, but you won’t have the option of socking it all away. Try to get factory work if you see print media as an option.

Anyway, for that business, I’m in a weird middle zone. I’m a little bit younger than you, but: for the papers that are still hiring people, they’re looking for a.) fresh young faces to change things up, people about 11 years younger than me or younger, and b.) people with loads of experience, people at least 11 years older than me. And man, the Boomers I worked with were tight-lipped about how things were done. If they discriminate based on experience, I don’t blame 'em. And I’m overweight, prediabetic, hypertension, with some white hair coming in. I’m a real catch, honest.

I’m still waiting for that next tech bust. It reminds me too much of when I was in college, when I switched majors because I was too stupid for CS, yet was watching people who weren’t even as smart as me bombing out and going to the tech sector anyway because playing ping-pong at work was fun.

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Exactly… I’ve been on both sides of “ageism” and it’s nothing more than a cheap scheme to exploit the naive youth while shutting up the savvy. It’s a horrible vicious circle where bitter former young guns who squandered their energy slaving for some old fart now use their dark knowledge to get back at the next generation. Atm when looking for a new gig (I’m in TV production n stuff) there are two phrases on their LFG page which instantly disqualifies them: “We’re a young team…” and "There is no I in “team.” Basically those two translate into “hey kids, wanna get exploited, abused and finally discarded?”

That’s just a story. No one wants to hire you because you a) want a decent pay rather than promises of a bright future and b) would rather spend your free time with your family actually re-creating yourself rather than sleeping on the floor under your PC. No one cares that you can’t work effectively more than 6 hrs a day (actually no one can, which is why the french, for example are so productive despite low work hours). Those extra 6 hours are there to suck your will dry so you won’t have the strength to complain about pay, working conditions or that scumbag boss creature. That’s the real reason for those long hours, been there done that.
As I say to all 35+ folks, stop complaining about being unable to find someone willing to exploit you. Start an exploiting scheme yourself, you’ve had enough experience to know how it’s done.


No, but there is an m and an e.
There’s also an m, e, a, and t which they can go beat.
As well as an m, a, t, e… which they can also go do.

(Some helpful tips from a greying team player)

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But I have no interest in starting a tech business. Sorry.

This phenomenon is not limited to tech industry, tho it might be most prominent/visible there. I work in media production and I see exactly the same thing. It’s the age old “work from the bottom of the ladder” principle which may have made sense back when jobs were basically for life but now, in the age of “temps” and such it’s become nothing but a big lie - and you can see it pretty much everywhere from hi-tech and IT to consumer retail. It’s extreme capitalist exploitation with all holds removed in an increasingly transparent shiny plastic wrapper.

"Tech luminaries who otherwise pride themselves on their dedication to
meritocracy don’t think twice about deriding the not-actually-old. "

Meritocracy? I think that they really meant mediocrity. I am not impressed if this is what the youngest, best and brightest are doing…

Facebook? Twitter? Really? They’re just like passing notes during study hall in junior high school…and you hope that the teacher doesn’t grab it and read it aloud!

Man, I wish I could like this post twice!