Story: Avoiding Oblivion in Your Tech CareerTotal Replies: 9
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Nov 06, 2005
11:59 AM EDT
I haven't had all that much experience working in the corporate world, so I've often wondered what happens to older workers? I've heard all kinds of tales of good people getting forced out because they can be replaced with a couple of college kids for the same cost. Or employers get worries about health care costs, or young inexperienced workers are easier to abuse.

I suspect it's merely a bean-counter issue, like outsourcing and H1-B jobs. It's cheaper labor, and to the PHB all labor is equal. They don't evaluate merit, ability, or productivity..

Or is it one of those urban myths?


Nov 06, 2005
12:39 PM EDT
tuxchick -

I think there is an element of ageism, a notion that old folks are hide-bound, unwilling or unable to learn new things, etc.

There's also that pesky experience and ability. It's not uncommon for an older worker to know more and/or better than the young manager who resents any "negative" voice.

And, of course, corporations are big on trying to commoditize jobs in the effort to make people as interchangeable as staplers. It's idiotic, of course, because people aren't staplers, but that mindset makes it difficult to pay for experience.

Nov 06, 2005
1:52 PM EDT
"Or is it one of those urban myths?"

I only wish it was an urban myth :(

Nov 07, 2005
6:14 AM EDT
I watched my Dad do through age discrimination. He couldn't believe it and I couldn't believe it.

When the SSC lost its funding, my manager went to Mexico and paid for "what he called a re-engineering job". He came back completely plastic surgeoned and asked me to meet him at a popular club we frequented.

I didn't recognize him. He went from mid-fifties looking to mid-30's looking. Where he couldn't get an interview, he got a bunch of offers. He looked like his son, who I also knew.

If looks can be deceiving, then he proved it.

It doesn't seem important until someone is faced with the prospects of being destitute or becoming homeless. Of course, it's the older person's fault for whatever reason - right? No, this time it's defintely society and Bill Gates.


Nov 07, 2005
6:47 AM EDT
tuxchick: it's alive and well.

I can recount a half-dozen or so experiences, if you want.

The issue is rather complex, but from what I see, as you get further and further into the complex realm of technologically focused work, it becomes harder and harder for people to understand not just what you do, but the value of your expertise.

It's easy, for example, for someone to build a Linux box. It's not so easy for someone to manage, say, 1000 Linux boxes from an engineering perspective. This first concept is where most middle-management (depending on the corporate culture of promotion and so on) leave off. I've simply seen to many people who don't understand enterprise scale, let alone some of the things that make one person more valuable than another.

The difference can be stark. One guy might be able to log in and fix a problem (He's my hero) -- another guy might be the type that prevented this problem from ever rearing its ugly head in the first place -- how do you, as a middle manager, even see the latter value if it doesn't happen? Complicating matters is the fact that given extreme complexity, it's easy to walk in as a junior admin with a specialty and simply not understand the enourmous value some of the old mainframe guys (how boring!) bring to the table, for example.

I've thought long and hard about this. As a senior guy that has survived a lot of things, one of my strenghts has been my ability to communicate through multiple mediums -- written and oral communications. This along with the ability to clearly explain my value have kept me in the game far later, sadly, than a lot of my peers.

I have more of this droll experience if you want to hear it. ;) --FeriCyde

Nov 07, 2005
8:17 AM EDT
As a (former) Controls Engineer for custom machinery, I can tell you the the computer related jobs are only a subset of the problem. Virtually all of business and industry has adopted this model. Between the closures and outsourcing, few of the companies i worked for exist anymore. Corporate stockholders, who have no understanding of the process are the people who drive this whole thing. Most of these smaller manufacturers have gone under because of this. It's always for the bottom line. Even though the company may be a cash cow for the year, it is always a case of the stockholders wanting their monthly dividends. If the monthlies aren't met then the company is either sold or closed and written of as a tax loss. Those companies that do still exist are so insanity cost driven that they will hire two inexperienced Engineers rather than one seasoned one or even get rid of the more experienced just to save the $. Experienced (read older) engineers are always the first to go and the last to be hired. as a result of the loss of experienced personnel and their expertise these companies continue to decline. I suppose that my experience with IT manager in every engineering department i've ever worked in qualifies me to work in it but the Age factor seems to be in effect there too.

The outright discrimination of older people because of age is entirely reprehensible, but if you want the real evil empire, it is the whole stock driven corporate economy. It is the most inhumane and warped construct than man has devised to date. The advantages in being able to do larger projects is most times entirely offset by the total disregard to all that makes life worthwhile. MS is only the smallest part of that juggernaut. Cheap thrill$ in exchange for any kind of real value. Remember that when you make your next stock purchase, or when Your job goes to Korea

But that's just my take :) [end rant]

Nov 07, 2005
9:18 AM EDT
Jim: that's right.

Nov 07, 2005
11:33 AM EDT
dino, I agree that there is the perception that older folks are set in their ways and don't keep up with the times. I'm sure you've seen that some folks are that way from birth, it's not a feature of age. Some of those knowitall younguns, for example.

OK, you have all reassured me that working at home in my jammies, with my music and food and animals and stuff, is better than having a job with benefits and a real live cubicle and a commute. I was starting to think I was shortchanging myself.

Nov 07, 2005
11:46 AM EDT
LOL, If you can make money doing that Tuxchick, it is absolutely the best of all worlds :)

Nov 07, 2005
12:20 PM EDT
Tuxxy: I loved working from home in my, well, I don't wear jammies. Anyway, I wrote quite a bit of PHP from the comfort of my couch -- they were the most productive years so far. Most of my writing is still done this way, since it's off-hours. The whole telecommute thing is a subject for another discussion...

Didn't we have that one already? --FeriCyde

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