Special Report: Silicon Valley's dirty secret - age bias

Comments (30)
bluepanther wrote:

This is “very old” news for anyone in the Bay Area…
Interesting quotes nonetheless, especially from the long-in-the-tooth investors who push agism in their agenda but claim to remain “young at mind.” What a joke…

Nov 27, 2012 7:44am EST  --  Report as abuse
scythe wrote:

anglo-saxon death culture,

wedded to juvenility, tasteless celebrity crushes and baby-shaved males

Nov 27, 2012 9:07am EST  --  Report as abuse
stambo2001 wrote:

@scythe you hit the nail right on the head. America is run by degenerate children today and will suffer horribly down the road.

Nov 27, 2012 9:41am EST  --  Report as abuse
GoCardinal wrote:

There is a flipside that isn’t covered in this story, though. Sometimes a successful company loaded with 20-somethings makes missteps that call for seasoned leaders. I work for a late-stage startup, and I’m 49. When I was interviewing, the CEO acknowledged that the company needed experience execs to get to the next level. “We need adult supervision around here,” was his phrase.

This was the case at Google, where Eric Schmidt was brought in to teach Page and Brin how to run a real corporation. I wouldn’t be surprised to see the same thing happen at Facebook and Groupon in the next year if they continue to disappoint.

Nov 27, 2012 10:23am EST  --  Report as abuse
RenegadePeso wrote:

I ran into this very thing in my early 30s. Many employers wanted people in their 20s. This is not surprising, or new really.

Funny thing is now, I am in my mid 40s, work with people mostly in their 20s, but I fit in just fine, and love my job. Maybe it is because I don’t wear a watch….

The problem for people looking for a job is getting past the absolutely worthless people in the HR department.

Nov 27, 2012 10:51am EST  --  Report as abuse
tmc wrote:

Technology is similar to Nursing in some regards. There are Nurses in schools, large businesses, small doctors offices, cruse ships, military, local and state government, operating rooms and retirement homes. Is there age discrimination? Probably. Just like in Nursing.

Nov 27, 2012 11:30am EST  --  Report as abuse
mb56 wrote:

IMHO, there is no doubt about it – in the I/T field age discrimination is a MAJOR problem. If you’re unemployed in this field and over 45 you’re odds of landing a job are severely diminished, no matter how good your skills are. The young hiring managers in this industry seem to be extremely age biased and quite frankly clueless (or unconcerned) with their legal obligations requiring age considerations. The DOJ needs to dummy up a bunch of resumes and build statistical cases against companies in the I/T area.

Nov 27, 2012 11:38am EST  --  Report as abuse
patric627 wrote:

@RenegadePeso…you make a great point, in your case being in your 40s AND fitting in. it’s because you’re who you are, whether because of personality, lifestyle, approach to things, etc. you fit with that youth culture because it’s your way. as it is mine (also in my 40s), and i haven’t fundamentally changed since my 20s, so therein lies the fit.
it appears neither you or i need this kind of ‘guide’ to how to fit in with such things as ‘wear a backback’, etc. if i use it (or a messenger bag) it’s because that’s me. that should be the general takeaway for anyone reading the article. if you don’t fit in, and it’s because of age, then that’s the way it is for that particular person in that context. one can then try to change, but if it’s not legit, then it won’t work.

Nov 27, 2012 11:50am EST  --  Report as abuse
patric627 wrote:

the one thing that drives me crazy about this topic is when the idea of ‘over 40′ is lumped in with people in their 60s or who generally should be retired anyway, or close to it.
the simple fact is this: it’s simply a matter of linear timeline of history… for gen x, we were young (the same age that those in the valley are idolizing) and post-college when the internet emerged and became fully articulated. so our youth, and growth directly paralleled the development of the internet, tech in general, to where we are today. same can’t be said for boomers.
really wish people dealing with this issue would grasp that so they would think, appropriately, of people in their 40′s as having much, if not most, in common with the 20-soomethings rather than with legitimately older people who had to actually acclimate to tech, the web, etc. when they already were fully into a career. big difference.

Nov 27, 2012 11:52am EST  --  Report as abuse

Nothing new about any of this. 20 years ago every corporate executive in the US was reading the Gospel According to Tom Peters–and many who heeded his “advice” ended up running their companies into the ground. The most absurd of Peters’ nonsense was the chapter of his book “Thriving On Chaos” entitled “Start A Youth Movememt” in which he pretty blatantly advocated getting rid of anyone over 40 (by whatever means, so long as you got away with it). I believe Mr. Peters was 52 at the time of publication.

Nov 27, 2012 12:53pm EST  --  Report as abuse

It counts a lot
Especially if the age isn’t just right

Nov 27, 2012 1:01pm EST  --  Report as abuse
Ananke wrote:

I live in the Bay Area. When I see a company, populated predominantly with young, hipster dressed and Apple-armed employees, I know there are maximum of 6 months before that company goes to ground…Of course this kind of companies are favorite among the angel investors, since the goal is to maximize at the IPO, and such stereotype sells better at the capital markets. However, AFTER the IPO it comes the fall into abyss. It applies to the grossly overpriced Facebook too…

Nov 27, 2012 1:23pm EST  --  Report as abuse
bixbysbigsur wrote:

The reason so many ‘young, hip’ companies go belly up so often is because there are no seniors around to tell them why their fresh new idea is 20 years old and why it didn’t work back then either. After forty years in the business it breaks the heart of the youngsters to see their ideas were kicked around the field and abandoned sometimes before they were even born.

Nov 27, 2012 1:49pm EST  --  Report as abuse
DougFir wrote:

Interviews always work two ways: for the would-be employer, and for the prospective employee. As a 54 year-old with many years experience in small, high-techs and academia–predominantly populated with much younger people–I can attest to the fact that unqualified youth guarantees only the right to invoke ignorance as an excuse for failure. It is every bit as foolish to assume that “youth = innovation” as it is to assume that “age = wisdom.” What nonsense! People must be sized up on their own merits, regardless of age; all else is vanity and ego. Middle-aged applicants would do well to steer clear of any company naive enough to assume that youth guarantees anything. Such companies deserve what they get–and what they DON’T get–as a result of their age biases. Who needs them? My advice: stop apologizing for your gray hair and look for companies that stay focused on the product/service instead of what you’re wearing to work; the latter-types won’t survive for long and you’ll only upset the children who work there.

Nov 27, 2012 1:55pm EST  --  Report as abuse
doren wrote:

Has been this way for decades. I lost a job to someone I went to school with, way younger and far less qualified. My portfolio was way superior. If it were black people they fed would have cracked down long ago, and they should crack down. The best person should get the job, judging by age is a shortcut to thinking. I’d love to see some lawsuits.

Nov 27, 2012 2:13pm EST  --  Report as abuse
Pontifikat3e wrote:

This is not news and it’s prevalent in many other fields like advertising, media, etc. I laugh when companies say they seek “diversity” because they never mean diversity in age. Is it any wonder that many companies, tech and otherwise, fail badly when they lack the perspective and judgement that older workers bring to the mix. What a shame. In earlier times, government would actively go after companies that discriminated. It’s very hard to prove age discrimination and most older people find it “unseemly” to make a fuss. Too bad.

Nov 27, 2012 2:36pm EST  --  Report as abuse
genxxx wrote:

Nothing new, yes, but I remember coming out of college during the dot-com boom in the ’90s and working in startups where all of the executives were in their 30s and above and most were in their 40s with decades of experience. Of course there were plenty of startups with very young executive staff members but it was not unusual to have seasoned execs in startups where they weren’t “founders.” I’ll cast a wide net and say that my generation (yes, same as that of the Page & Brin) had a greater respect for experience than this younger generation. I currently work at a startup where most of the folks are either in their early 30s or act like they are in their early 30s – it is difficult to tell! Almost everyone has an Apple iphone, iPad, no wristwatches (I am the only one but use it mostly for running), they are, by choice, less hip than others around their age…but one thing they all have in common is that they know that they are brilliant, that their ideas are incapable of failing, that everyone else who disagrees with them are wrong or just don’t have the capacity to get it. I think they don’t know don’t know enough to know that they don’t know that much. It’s too bad that the opinions quoted in this article has created and furthers this arrogance. Though just a few years older than my co-workers (and not the oldest!), I wonder what they’ll be like when they become members of the “washed-out” club. Perhaps they’ll get their eyes lifted and other parts nipped and tucked and read articles like this and lament how they are discriminated against.

Nov 27, 2012 3:34pm EST  --  Report as abuse

It really just depends on the company. You only see this in younger software or website startup and in more mature, technical dependent company you still see middle aged and older people working at critical positions. Yes, even Apple need some older people to work on the engineering side of things rather than the cool fresh user interface. I don’t think 20 something year old geek with only programming knowledge can do signal processing correctly, let alone RF and other more hardware oriented stuff unless they’ve spent 5+ years in grad school or work.

Nov 27, 2012 4:21pm EST  --  Report as abuse
Onvento wrote:

I think medical & legal fields are more age-friendly. Customers in these fields value and trust more ,if doctors/lawyers are older.

Nov 27, 2012 4:37pm EST  --  Report as abuse
JayJay1855 wrote:

I work for a financial software company where the majority of the people are in their forties and fifties. It really is not about age, it is about the ability to re-invent yourself year after year. As long as you can deal with change and enjoy learning new processes, you can survive. Many people thrive in this kind of environment..others do not. I have seen many people in their twenties unable to cope with the demands of an established company. Age really is not a factor.

Nov 27, 2012 5:03pm EST  --  Report as abuse
pkalina wrote:

There is definitely bias against older workers in technology. It isn’t new and it isn’t limited to Silicon Valley. I do more consulting in statistics than in software development now–mostly there isn’t the same expectation that a statistician has to be under forty.

Nov 27, 2012 10:34pm EST  --  Report as abuse
Talleyrand02 wrote:

CEOs take note: If your HR department is looking at the clothes applicants wear, at the phone brands they are using, at the satchel or backpack, fire the HR person. They are looking at th wrong thing.

As for Zuckerberg: Let me ask you, what have you done for the world except create a stupid, standarduzed platform for broadcasting advertising? The fact that so many people are attached to it is irrelevant except in the mind of glorified accountants. Young people nowadays are lacking one BIG thing: A critical mind that allows them to solve problems creatively. But that is not required from them, they are supposed to be uncritical, obedient and hard workers so that the likes of Zuckerberg can live in luxury.

You guys make me want to puke.

PS: I am 55 with a CV that glitters with hard work, creative work. I have fallen on my feet 10 times in life. The only problem I encounter is envy from twits 30 years younger, whose energy level is at freezing point by comparison.

Nov 28, 2012 1:26am EST  --  Report as abuse
Nullcorp wrote:

I terminated a contract with a Bay Area startup recently because the middle-manager guy (himself over 40) kept treating me like I had two years of experience, instead of ten. Their new job posting said they wanted to find someone “hungry.” Job-seekers of any age should beware this term. It means they expect you work unreasonable hours, to implement irrational ideas despite your better judgment, and to basically exploit your youth and naivete while paying you less than you deserve.

Nov 28, 2012 10:02am EST  --  Report as abuse
PeterInTo wrote:


“the one thing that drives me crazy about this topic is when the idea of ‘over 40′ is lumped in with people in their 60s or who generally should be retired anyway, or close to it.”

You are right we shouldn’t be lumped together.

The middle aged story that the boomers know nothing about the internet and have to learn what is second nature to the 40 somethings is pure nonsense.

The boomers built all the infrastructure that you and your cohort pride themselves in knowing so much about. I sent my first email in 1974, when you were probably just learning to spell and installed the one of early commercial TCP/IP nodes in 1990, five years before the World Wide Web.

The boomers actually have more in common with the twenty somethings than you have. It’s always the case that the children think more like their grandparents than like their parents, both have the same common enemy, the middle aged. We both fought the system that you and our parents, the Bob Hope generation, propped up. Occupy and the Arab Spring look more like the ’60s than the ’80s with their “greed is good” attitude.

When we said “don’t trust anyone over 30″, it wasn’t our grandparents we were talking about, it was our parents generation, the middle aged. Those who were lost in the money, career, children, mortgage and station wagon (now SUV) world.

Like the youth, seniors don’t have those child rearing responsibilities, we don’t have to run home to pick the kids up from day care, we don’t have to chauffeur them to soccer practice, we don’t have to coordinate our vacations with the kids school schedule.

Boomers who are still in tech are those who helped build it. The ones that never understood it went into stock trading, or real-estate. Steve Jobs was a boomer and still a kid at heart.

Hiring a senior gets you all the benefits of experience with none of the baggage of middle age.

Nov 28, 2012 11:02am EST  --  Report as abuse
RealityMan wrote:

Come to Houston and work in the oil industry. The average age is older and we make money consistently, all without having to kowtow to 20-something fools.

Nov 28, 2012 11:17am EST  --  Report as abuse
doozey wrote:

This is news? There is much ageism going on is many industries, not just tech firms. Try to get a job at Best Buy or Target in admin if you’re over 45. They are notorious. Most cases aren’t reported because, as stated in article, it’s next to impossible to find evidence.

Nov 28, 2012 11:49am EST  --  Report as abuse
hoapres wrote:

Compounding problems for those over 40 is the use of mostly Indian H1Bs. One of the major reasons I discourage young Americans from pursuing a software engineering career is that it is likely to be over by 40. If you are a young American software engineer then accumulate as much assets as possible so you can retire at 40 along with having an exit plan out of software engineering.

Nov 28, 2012 1:09pm EST  --  Report as abuse
denidenise wrote:

I have worked in tech for many years and as I approach my “golden years” I know my youthful appearance has gotten me in the door many times over. I totally agree with DougFir, as I have been in start ups run by young people who think all they need to do is show up, act hip, do a little work, and you will make bank. With no experience and a slack work ethic it is not a surprise that they can’t bring home the IPO> Anyone who can really add value should be welcome in a company that wants to move to the next level.

Nov 28, 2012 2:50pm EST  --  Report as abuse
IonOtter wrote:

I’m seeing a lot of people complaining that they’re not being given opportunities because they’re “too old”.

That’s very large pool of calm, collected, experienced professionals who’ve been through the trenches, and already know all the products, systems and software that currently run the world, and will probably *continue* running the world for at least a decade.

So why not literally pool together and form a company?

“At Silver & Steel, we specialize in hiring experienced industry professionals that don’t make youthful mistakes that can cost you millions in lost profits or corrupted databases. Our team of proven operators can walk into your legacy environment and take full command of any situation without breaking a sweat and bring your systems back up to full operational capacity in short order. When you can afford to waste time and money on chasing your dreams, go for youth and enthusiasm. But when your nightmares become reality, come to us.”

Nov 28, 2012 6:32pm EST  --  Report as abuse

This article is spot on – even the advice about ditching the Rolex for an Apple product. You are not very fundable after 45 and everyone remembers how “seasoned execs” killed Friendster. But instead of complaining they should get active. Organize. Sure, most big ideas are formed before age 27 but are often only realizable in your 40′s (see Freud). Wars exist because 20 year olds are willing to be fearless but it still takes a seasoned general to run one (see Google). So, older older folks needs to take stock of their powers and build their base. They have money and they have fantastic Rolodexes (the one anachronism worth keeping). Most of all, they have their own Boomer marketplace. They should build their own products and raise their own funds. They should make their own alliances with the young and forget how to say “when I was…..” Most of all, they need to convince the young that its not age but state of mind that matters.

Nov 29, 2012 9:03am EST  --  Report as abuse
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