Is age-ism rampant in Silicon Valley and beyond?

Is age-ism rampant in Silicon Valley and beyond?

Summary: I recently blogged about an article focused on Silicon Valley's workforce and how the author, Tamara Carleton, believes that Boomers, Gen Xers, and Millennials can form a potent team. In the innovation lifecycle, if Boomers serve as advisors and Gen Xers as the entrepreneurs, then the Millennials could provide potent networkers.

TOPICS: CXO, IT Employment

I recently blogged about an article focused on Silicon Valley's workforce and how the author, Tamara Carleton, believes that Boomers, Gen Xers, and Millennials can form a potent team.

In the innovation lifecycle, if Boomers serve as advisors and Gen Xers as the entrepreneurs, then the Millennials could provide potent networkers.

A reader writes:
As a member of the Boomer Generation and a longtime Silicon Valley worker, I can only hope that it happens that Boomers become trusted and knowledgeable advisers to Gen X'ers while Millennials do the work. My suspicion is that many, if not the majority, of those laid off in the last 2 years here in SV are actually Boomers who became "too expensive" for the tech companies here and thus were sacrificed.

I am one of them and I have been to many interviews but not offered jobs that I am very well-qualified to do. I guarantee you that age discrimination is running rampant in this so-called Valley of Heart's Delight.

Only when this ceases will companies be available to consider the vast storehouse of knowledge that Boomers could provide.

Is he right? I certainly know many people in that same situation, people with masses of experience and talent yet they are in their 40s and 50s and unable to find work.

Is there discrimination against older people? If Silicon Valley cannot tap into all of its resources it won't stand a chance in the global marketplace. But is this just a Silicon Valley phenomenon? I would guess that it's much wider than that.

Is it because of healthcare costs? Or is something else the problem?

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Please see: Can Silicon Valley Attract the Right Workforce for its Next Turnaround? |

Topics: CXO, IT Employment

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  • This is not new

    I knew guys that I worked with in the 90's that were well qualified engineers and could not get work.

    I think the question is "what is it about the older worker that the companies don't want?". I think for the most part the answer is clear. The younger worker will make the job his/her life. I did this when I was youngers and see it now with the younger people out there. It's all about the company maximizing it's return on the salary.
    • RE: This is not new

      I agree that the companies intention is to maximize return on salaries, but I don't think that is what they achieve. Companies too frequently fall into the rut of wanting seats in chairs that management can "lord" over, believing that more people, especially yes people, means more work. They fail to realize that good experienced people can not only accomplish more, they can make things that are more easily and economically modified and grown to meet future needs which in turn saves a lot of money in the long term.
    • This is not new

      I agree with what everyone is saying. This has been going on for sometime. Not just in engineering but all areas of a company. Sales, Marketing, Admin, HR... you name it. Younger maybe cheaper but experience equals knowledge and knowledge equals best practices which equal better ROI. Short sightedness will increase ROI but at what cost to long term growth of a company.
  • Yes.

  • RE: Is age-isn rampant in Silicon Valley and beyond?

    Age discrimination is rampant not only in Silicon Valley but everywhere. I worked at a company that offered a big package for me to leave. The company hired Challenger, Gray and Christmas to help with placement. They gave training which just happened to be given by their regional manager (absent regular trainer). He told me not to feel so bad since they were doing this to at least 350 other people he knew of and ALL of them were in their late 40s and early 50s.

    Those of us that feel discriminated against need to form an alliance to lobby congress to pass laws that have age discrimination teeth in them.

    Also, stupid companies get what they deserve, a poorly trained work force. School is NEVER a substitute for experience.
  • RE: Is age-isn rampant in Silicon Valley and beyond?

    When you think healthcare costs, think insurance premiums. Have you tried contracting a new life insurance policy recently?
  • Stop the H-1B Lottery While You Still Have a Job

    Companies and stockholders look to see young employees in the workforce as a measure of how cool their business is. You can't get US kids to do the heavy lifting that engineering requires, so they go overseas for the talent. I recently attended ArrowFest, a promotional exhibit for an electronics distributor here. What few Boomers were there, were behind the counters, not among the attendees.

    I had an interview last year at Apple. I made the mistake of wearing a tie. The "very senior engineer" had dyed his hair. The other EE was titled "Analog Guru".

    After many interviews and follow-ups, I'm told I'm overqualified. Months, later these firms are still advertising the same slots. Meanwhile, Silicon Valley has become a H-1B ghetto.
  • RE: Is age-isn rampant in Silicon Valley and beyond?

    I have 4 friends & relatives who all worked in Silicon Vally for 4 seperate companies. Each was terminated when they reached 50 years of age. I've been telling every next generation employee to gather what they can right now because their 50th Birthday will be here before they know it.
  • RE: Is age-isn rampant in Silicon Valley and beyond?

    In a capitalistic market, its about value and your ability to sell yourself. Being well qualified is rarely the sole criteria driving hiring decisions. Cant sell yourself -> cant sell your work.

    If they're a stupid company, why would you want to work for them? For the time being, its a free country. Dont like your employer, then go somewhere else.

    I've been working in high-tech since early 80's and never had a problem finding work. I've been one of the oldest employees at my last 3 jobs. Chronologically, I might be older, but mentally I consider myself to be just as fresh as a Millennial with the benefit of more experience.

    If you want the government to hold your hand, then move to a socialist country. Otherwise, stop being a victim, recognize that we're all flawed to varying degrees, and take SOLE responsibility for your life!

  • RE: Is age-isn rampant in Silicon Valley and beyond?

    I am interviewed at a well known Japanese consumer products company by a twenty something Asian, a Senior Product Manager / hiring manager. She starts, "oh, you are much older than me"? The interview goes nowhere, and she has no interest. Young lady is closing the interview with a rhetorical question, "why would you want to work for a much younger woman"? I really felt like to blurt out, "because I have 20 years of experience you don't have, and have to feed my family you moron". I didn't and I regret it, will have to do it next time.
  • RE: Is age-isn rampant in Silicon Valley and beyond?

    Well, yes, I think brutal honesty is the only way to go. At an interview just recently, I finally asked; what do you really want? And once they realized or accepted the fact they needed results, they had to give in. True, long faces and all, but they did. Now, after about 4 mos into this project, I am doing real well, and most colleagues are very happy and convincend they made the right choice. So, do you really know your stuff?? If you do, your age is not that big of a thing, and you do not have to sell yourself short. At the end of the day, -sooner or later- somebody is smart enough to want to save their company instead of just looking good.
  • Age Discrimination is Alive and Well all over

    Good luck at even getting an interview when your age is exposed in your
    job history . . .

    After 30 years in Silicon Valley, I am either over qualified or ignored . . .
  • RE: Is age-isn rampant in Silicon Valley and beyond?

    I'm 30 -- on the cusp between a "GenX-er" and a
    "Millennial". I'm not sure which generational
    band describes me. I'm a CPA who composes
    accounting software.

    Although I do not work in the trendy Silicon
    Valley (I'm in NYC), I have been out of work 10
    months and the outlook is bleak. I have been
    experiencing many of the same problems
    mentioned in this forum -- being overqualified,
    ignored, and having to deal with 20-somethings
    who do the interviewing. I find this hard to
    believe because I have only been in the
    workforce 10 years.

    I was very lucky to have had peers who were in
    their 50s show me how to be successful in
    multiple disciplines and really "leverage" my
    graduate education and work experience. But
    having been laid off three times in the last 10
    years involuntarily, I cannot say that ageism
    is the sole reason older workers cannot find
    and sustain work. Perhaps it is an
    unwillingness on the part of hiring manager to
    hire people with genuine experience and talent
    because these folks are perceived to "upset the
    applecart". I also think that the premise
    older workers are too expensive as a reason for
    not hiring them is faulty because what 20-
    something hiring manager gives a flip about the
    company's increased costs of healthcare,
    pensions, etc. for older workers. It's usually
    the expensive workers that get let go
    ("brightsizing"), not the ones that get denied

    I think our problem is based on two flawed
    attitudes. One, if you are out of work, then
    there must be "something wrong with you."
    Recruiters have been telling me for months that
    because I've been out of work now for 10 months
    that I am perceived to be a less desirable
    candidate and should consider "other options" -
    - they would rather poach someone from a
    different company than hire someone who might
    need the job. Two, if you are intelligent and
    highly experienced you are a liability because
    it won't be long before you realize that the
    company where you are applying to work is
    playing some sort of shell-game with its

    My favorite interviews are the ones where I get
    to interview with a "peer" or "prospective
    coworker." If these people are genuinely
    talented themselves,
    they love you because you are talented. But if
    these people are hacks, they will find every
    excuse to demean you and lie about why they
    think you are not a good fit -- they fear you.

    It is clear to me that companies in our beloved
    country cannot use their talent effectively. I
    fault HR for this -- they should be renamed
    "HP" for "Hiring