Ageism in the IT environment: is there a ceiling in the developer profession?

In IT, you can start earning your first money as a schoolboy, it is enough to be interested in technology and gain practical experience. Many students of technical universities already in their first years get an official job, start a professional career, and even receive invitations to work abroad. However, some companies consider specialists only with experience from 5-7 years old. According to research Statista, the average age of employees of the largest IT companies, such as Facebook, Google, Apple – 27–35 years old.

But can you write code all your life, or, like in football, are there age restrictions?

We talked with technical specialists from different companies aged 35+ and, based on their experience, we will try to find out how things really are with age specialists in IT.

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Does age affect career growth in an IT company?

The specialists with whom we managed to talk, agree: in the work of a developer, age is not the main thing, the desire to work and practical skills in solving applied problems are important. But they all single out two extremes – too young and ambitious specialists who do not yet possess either soft or hard skills, and age specialists who are not ready to change their established beliefs and skills for more advanced ones.

Although this is more related to a common human factor, the specialist is ready to develop, listen, change to achieve a result or not. It all depends on the level of thinking – if a person is interested in the development of technologies, constantly tests something, tries and applies in work and can convey his ideas to the team – age is not important, he can be productive and grow quickly in the company.

For example, Andrey, a development manager with 20 years of experience, formerly a developer himself, believes: “A good IT specialist cannot stay at the same level, technologies are developing so rapidly that what was relevant 2 years ago has long ago become obsolete and can even be considered a dead technology that no longer works. Therefore, horizontal growth, getting more and more hard skills in the profession is simply inevitable, otherwise stagnation and the risk of being “overboard” at one moment. One acquaintance, a once successful developer, got married and left the capital for the region, got a job there in a small IT company and is developing software for Apple TV in the already defunct Objective C language, although Apple has been working on the simpler Swift for several years. Imagine what will happen to him if the company suddenly closes, and he is 42, and his knowledge and skills are outdated? “

A survey of specialists showedthat the majority of literate and developing specialists grow vertically, and this is often a natural process of growth, in connection with the appearance of a new product in the company, with the expansion of the staff and with the turnover of the management team. Most developers over 35 are in leadership rather than line-up positions. Moreover, many of them never even planned to manage the development, they just did what they loved.


Pavel, 36, product development team leader

“When choosing specialists for a team – and with active growth they are needed all the time – I will give preference to more experienced developers, not too young. And it’s not even about experience as such, but about how the human brain works. Practical experience will often play a role. 4-5 years of work on a real project that a person can tell about in detail. There are, of course, cases when a specialist has worked in one place for 15 years, and in a conversation it turns out that he cannot even tell about the project. And it happens that after 5 minutes of communication, a person already has an offer in his pocket, although he has not yet reached the point of talking about technology. In short, I am always looking for a burning gaze and a quick mind.

I myself have not come across ageism, I am not confused by my age, sometimes I myself do not remember how old I am). I have always liked development, and I was lucky to get into a well-coordinated team, where everyone worked like a clock. Then, with the growth of the company, they were invited to develop another product, and after the leader left, I took his place and have been leading the development team for the second year. I must say that this is a completely different job with a different level of responsibility, and it is my task not only to form a team, but also to see the strengths of each employee and entrust those tasks that he will brilliantly cope with.

I believe that work experience is always an advantage, first of all, in the ability to formulate tasks and perform them. Young people can accomplish the task academically, while older specialists can do it constructively, based on the specifics of the project. “

Is there ageism in employment?

The main criterion for recruiting personnel is the ability to solve technical problems and adequate communication within the team, regardless of age. At this stage, the decision is made by the team lead.

And the primary selection is carried out by an HR specialist, whose task is to weed out irrelevant candidates who are not suitable for teamwork. And age can matter here – there are times when candidates under 25 and over 30 are not even considered. Have you encountered such a phenomenon in employment?


Dmitry, 45 years old, Back-end development team lead

“Working in IT is a constant development, the study of new approaches and solutions. About a year ago, I got the idea to gain new experience in a large IT company, try my hand at high-load projects and enter a new environment. I understood that there were other requirements and was ready to sacrifice a leadership position, a well-coordinated team and take the Junior position. He is very familiar with the design of a complex subject area. There was experience in the development of pet-projects using architectural solutions designed for loads. On github, I cleaned up my personal repositories. It seemed that I could well count on the junior or middle position. But what was my surprise when I did not receive an answer or an invitation for an interview to any response. From an acquaintance I learned insider information that the HR services of large IT companies have an “unspoken rule” not to consider the resume of specialists over 30 years old, only if, on the recommendation, the specialist looks younger than his age.

I believe that for a developer – a creative person who solves non-standard tasks, a lively mind and comfort in work are more important than appearance. Before this incident, I had not come across ageism in my work; age rather caused a pleasant surprise from my colleagues that I am older than many, and communication is on the same level.

A specialist aged 30+ in a team is valuable for his practical experience – the number of hours devoted to the development and study of technologies. It is easier for him to master new skills, where a beginner needs a month, an experienced developer 3-4 days, and 6 months before his professional growth, there are simply no boundaries.

Young people often lack the experience of writing and maintaining bad code. Maintaining a poorly written project is the best way to understand how not to do it. There are guys who write well right away, but this is rather an exception. But young people have more time to learn new technologies. So many things have appeared now. And this is their main advantage.

There is no ultimate goal in development – there is a path of constant development. The moment a developer tells himself that he has achieved everything, he stops being a developer. I think that at such a moment it is worth changing the profession. When you love your job, you are constantly studying and implementing something, improving, and it is impossible to stop it. “

What distinguishes an older specialist in a team

Andrey, 40 years old, development manager

“Most often in a team 25 year olds specialists 40 year old the encoder won’t get along. He can show his authority, use more familiar technologies instead of the accepted ones, sabotage the accepted rules. It may be difficult to communicate with him, since it will be more difficult for a younger team lead to explain if something needs to be redone.

But on the other hand, if a person is active and knows how to communicate without focusing on his authority and age, an experienced specialist can get and apply knowledge faster, he will not have fears and doubts about making tactical decisions.

My experience of hiring employees is very different. I often come across the fact that specialists of different ages in the same team perceive each other badly and cannot communicate. Specialists 45+ tend to impose their beliefs on younger ones, and they either accept their opinion out of respect for their elders, or begin to prove their case.

Still 40 year olds they often complain about their health, they may not go to the office, this generally does not bother, since the work is being done, but this is a rarity among young people.

As a rule, by the age of 30, programmers have families and new circumstances that affect the quality of their work. Many programmers, due to stress and chronic fatigue, leave the profession at the age of 45+. Among them, there is also a high mortality rate before the onset of retirement age due to heart disease, strokes and excessive alcohol consumption.

If we talk about young specialists, then there are extremes too – there are ambitious and stubborn employees who are difficult to deal with when hard skills are still not enough, and the ability to communicate constructively tends to zero.

But there are also young professionals who can offer completely new and non-standard solutions. For example, one young employee suggested to me to write a neural network for checking and sending letters instead of manual control – which I had never even thought about before. “

So what do you do?

For IT specialists (it seems, like for everyone), it is important to constantly develop and get pleasure and visible results from their work. Some can become mentors, others can lead teams or create their own startups, while others have been writing great code for many years and doing it great – everyone chooses their own path. The challenge is to understand and take career steps from your own vision. Fortunately, an IT candidate can find a company that is right for you.

Have you encountered ageism in your work? What is the optimal development path in IT for you? Let’s discuss? We are waiting for your stories and opinions in the comments.

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