Is technology aging or less aging? The answer is complicated

As technology becomes essential for every industry, companies may come to value older workers more.

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I once worked at a fledgling startup, where a member of the small team (we employed less than 10 people) regularly liked to pillory me for being a “grandpa”, asking me if I wanted him to buy me a wheelchair. I was 37 years old.

It’s no wonder, then, that I regularly worry that I need to get incredibly rich by the age of 40 to be able to make money from tech before then. cashed me for the sin of growing old. Now, years later, I’m still here, still loving technology, and have yet to receive my gold bifocals to see my age. Technology has long been a world of young people, or so it seemed. Has the technology aged?

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I asked this question on Twitterand the responses suggest a range of reasons why, while technology isn’t aging, it isn’t excluding older people either.

But first, some data

According to US Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average age of an internet professional (admittedly imprecise) is 34.6 years. Although the data is a bit dated, in 2013 Revised salary scale median age across 32 tech companies and found only six had a median age over 35. the average age is considerably higher than in technology. Indeed, the median age in the United States for non-tech jobs is 42.3. in technology the average age of a developer is 29.

And yet… that does not say it all.

For example, while we celebrate the idea of ​​young startup founders dropping out of college to pursue their dream of delivering tacos using drones, the most successful startup founders are reaching their 40s. In 2018, according to Statista data, the the average age of the top 0.1% of startups in terms of growth was 45 years old.

In other words, the myth of young entrepreneurs at the head of Silicon Valley is belied by the reality of technological success.

And then there’s the reality that as the technology has grown in importance, it has bled beyond Silicon Valley. Detroit isn’t the first place one might look for tech workers, but the auto industry is increasingly all about software, not rivets. Ditto retail, financial services and more. We may already be at the point where it makes little sense to talk about “tech industry” or even “tech workers” when every industry is highly dependent on technology and requires its employees to be tech savvy.

And now some people

“I think the people who were chasing old people got old,” joked developer Rick Houlihan. While he meant it was a joke, there is a serious undertone, as he continued: “Twenty years ago, a worker over 50 struggled with email and had to print hard copies of everything. Today, we old people can adapt a little better to new technologies because we always had to. This ties in with my comment above about all industries becoming tech industries: technology has become so entrenched in the way we operate that people tend, on the whole, to be much more proficient with technology. As Christina Warren from GitHub described it, as technology “has become more entrenched, the very idea that technology is only for young people no longer makes sense.”

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And then there’s the reality that some things get easier with age. As one commenter noted, “As a senior in technology, I have to admit that I’m not aware of the latest frameworks or syntax sugar coating but I feel that translating business or customer requirements into a product design becomes easier with experience. This is certainly true for an industry analyst as Scott Raynovich (“The best [analysts] are over 50 and when you look at other analysts in infrastructure segments who are under 40, there are…none”), where perspective matters a lot, and perspective doesn’t come to the 20 years old.

But it can also be true for some critical technology areas that are hot right now. As Mike Maney, Akamai Public Relations Strategist suggested, “I wonder if what we’re seeing is a return to the historically less sexy fundamentals of technology – infrastructure, networking, databases, etc. An inflection point where the experience of doing the things that make all other things possible is what propels the next set of innovations. You’re probably not going to build the next big operating system unless you have some experience working with one. (Unless you’re Linus Torvalds.)

This experience, in turn, leads to more thoughtful solutions to complex problems, such as Rust Developer Clint Byrnum postulated, “I don’t think technology kicks people out at 40. We’re just beginning to realize the futility of solving every ill-defined problem with an editor and a red bull case.” This leads some, like Michael Kay, founder of Saxonicato declare that there has never been a better time to be old in technology: “[I’m s]until coding happily at 70, why not? If musicians and politicians can still be at the top of their game at this age, why can’t we? »

So is the notorious ageism of technology a thing of the past? May be. Maybe not. As ZDNet’s Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols pointed out, yes, “Ageism is a problem.” That’s the bad news. The good news, however, is that “for those with a flexible mind [who refuse to get stuck on old ways of doing things]there is no age limit.

Disclosure: I’ve worked for MongoDB twice: the first time I was 7 years younger, but now I’m 7 years smarter.

About Marion Alexander

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