career, job search

How big of an issue is ageism in the tech community?

My awesome sourcer/senior recruiter, Kristen Fife, sent me an interesting blog post about Morgan Missen’s recent tweet. For those who are unaware, Morgan Missen is considered one of the most influential recruiters in Silicon Valley. She has worked in recruiting at Google and built the teams at Twitter and foursquare. Expert guest on Bloomberg TV, CrunchBase, TechCrunch, and others.

On Wednesday, she posted this to Twitter:

Saying you have twenty years of experience on your résumé only means you’re forty; and, much like being forty, it’s nothing to brag about.

— Morgan Missen (@mm) January 23, 2013

Silicon Valley has been the subject of recent stories about ageism, where one worker stated:

“I don’t think I would have been able to get this CEO job if I hadn’t shaved my head,” says Adams, who has founded eight venture-backed companies. . .Adams has supplemented his makeover by trading in his button-down shirts for T-shirts, making sure he owns the latest gadgets, and getting an eyelid lift.

In 2010, TechCrunch reported that UC Berkeley professors analyzed BLS data for the semiconductor industry and found that after 50, the mean salary of engineers was lower—by 17% for those with bachelors degrees, and by 14% for those with masters degrees and PhDs—than the salary of those younger than 50. Ouch.

I’ve never recruited in Silicon Valley. I have been exposed to multiple startups in Seattle,  and the dev culture is often very young. It makes sense in certain practical ways:  In a market where the average tech salary is now $92,290 a startup may not have the dollars to hire a lot of experienced mid-career devs.  You want people who are hungry to learn, are excited to build something new (and hopefully profit from its success down the road), and who will trade personal life for a job that requires working 12+ hours a day 6-7 days a week to build, test, and launch that groundbreaking new mobile app. (Speaking as someone who lives with a dev, I know those kind of hours aren’t uncommon. It’s likely a lot harder to juggle that schedule with parent-teacher conferences, neighborhood watch meetings, house remodels and the like.) But it’s a problem if a mid-20’s CEO only wants to hire people who look like they do and they don’t  have anyone counseling them as to why that’s not only a bad idea from a business perspective, but it’s also illegal.

As a recruiter who hires for software dev/test/PM positions, age isn’t a factor for me. As long as they have the right skills/experience, there aren’t any red flags in the interview process, and their comp expectations are in alignment with what we can pay it matters not if they are 25 or 55. I’ve not run into overt ageism while working with any of my tech hiring teams. If anything they often start out wanting someone more senior/specialized than, after I qualify them, we agree they likely need.

I’m curious to know whether people reading this have experienced overt ageism in the tech community–either inside Silicon Valley or in places like Seattle.

  • What have your experiences been either as a hiring manager or candidate?
  • Have you encountered it yourself?
  • If yes, where were you (geographically–obviously I’m not asking anyone to give up company names)? What did you do about it?


3 thoughts on “How big of an issue is ageism in the tech community?

  1. I’m in my mid 30’s and would not want to work for some kid in their 20’s. is that like reverse ageism?

    Posted by Jer | January 25, 2013, 8:33 am

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