Ageism in Tech: Is Your Developer Career Over after you Turn 40?

When you begin your professional working life, you fear not being taken seriously due to a lack of experience and youth. But what happens as you get older? Unsuccessful job interviews are attributed to cultural fit. You realise you’re the only person who doesn’t use Tik Tok at work. Your CEO was on the list of Forbes under 30. How do you stay relevant? Is there a way forward against ageism in tech if you don’t want to become CTO or Department Manager?
[SIZE=6]Tech has a history of ageism[/SIZE]
Mark Zuckerberg infamously told an audience at Stanford, “I want to stress the importance of being young and technical. Young people are just smarter.”
According to 2018 Dice Diversity and Inclusion Survey, Baby Boomers and Generation X-ers are the most at-risk groups for age discrimination. The survey of 4000 people found that 68% of Baby Boomers say they’re discouraged from applying for jobs due to age. Around 40% of Gen X respondents feel ageism is affecting their ability to earn a living. 29% of all respondents say they’ve “experienced or witnessed” ageism in their current workplace or most recent employer.
Research by CWJobs in the UK surveying 2000 workers reveals that tech employees begin experiencing old age discrimination at the age of 29 with workers considered by colleagues to be ‘over the hill’ by the time they reach thirty-eight. Over a third (35%) of tech workers say they are considered ‘too old’ for their job, with (32%) in fear of losing their role due to age.
So how do you ensure you remain relevant at work? I spoke to a number of developers to find out. They shared a number of critical insights:
[SIZE=6]Age and Experience are Not the Same[/SIZE]
Carsten Schaefer also went the work for yourself route as founder and CEO of He shared:
” As long as you know how to do a job, you can get the job. I’ve had a few situations when my boss was younger, but I didn’t mind it, and neither did the boss. If you don’t want to be a manager, you can continue doing the job you do and getting better at it. If you want to stay relevant, stay up to date with the latest advancement in tech and languages so that you don’t get replaced by someone more experienced – not someone younger. “
[SIZE=6]Skills can fight ageism[/SIZE]
Consultant Andrea Raimondi agrees that staying relevant is paramount and that ” Cross-training is common among companies and experience doesn’t go away just because it’s a new language. That is not to say that ageism isn’t an issue: it is. But it’s mostly down to bad company policies. The other big thing is that some people just like to hunt down bugs. We’re developers, fixing what’s broken is in our nature.”
He notes that the problem is not younger bosses but their skillset that is more important: “. It is not uncommon to have a Head of Development who won’t understand why it’s bad when the SVN version numbers don’t match. That’s not even the 101 of development management, that’s like 0001. You simply can’t manage any developers if you don’t understand this kind of thing. Knowing certain things such as the above or what the build is broken means are essentials without which you can’t do anything.”
He also shared:
[INDENT]“I have had bosses around my age and younger and frankly I have had far more problems with the ones around my age. One of my former bosses isn’t just younger, but a ‘she’ as well. And we all know what it is like for women in IT. But she understands the development side of things… She understands broken builds. And she knows her industry like the back of her hand because she’s been in it for nearly 20 years.”[/INDENT]
According to Gary Stevens, front-end developer and Founder of Hosting Canada, gaining deep domain knowledge in a critical language can be of greater benefit than trying to learn everything and struggling to keep up:
“There comes a point in every developer’s life where they seem to start to struggle with the constant changing languages and new languages which have been brought into the tech industry. New developers come into the industry, fresh with knowledge on the latest technology and how to write in the most popular languages being used. This makes it difficult for older developers to keep up.
In my experience, as fun as learning new coding languages can be for a while, there comes a point where a developer needs to pick a few and get as good as they can with those languages. Just because newer code is coming out, doesn’t mean that the demand for different types of developers is completely lost.”
He notes that gaining a reputation as a specialist in a particular area can lead to great career opportunities and counteract the risk of ageism:
Getting good at what you can and sticking to those specifically can actually provide you with the advantage of experience. You can use this to gain clients who will trust you and provide you with work for as long as you aim to work for. This is how the gap between new developers and experienced, older developers is created, and it creates an environment which can accommodate both.”
[SIZE=6]Become your own boss[/SIZE]
If you’re feeling pushed around or pushed out, the best option might be to create your own opportunities. William David Volk shared:
[INDENT]“I have been in the video game industry as a developer, designed, producer and management for most of the last 40 years. And yes, I have experienced age discrimination. Which is why I had to go the entrepreneurial route in the 2000 decade.”[/INDENT]

[SIZE=7]How computer programming became the worst choice of career[/SIZE]

I work as a computer programmer and I am beginning to curse my bad luck and stupidity for having chosen this particular career.
Programming is badly paid, in decline, and takes up all your free time just to stay ahead of the game - let alone to also find a new job.

I’ve spent six years as a coder. My salary is £55k ($72k). In two years’ time I might be on £70k ($92k). I look at how much people in front office banking jobs are earning and it’s hard not to feel that I’ve made a serious mistake.
The problem is that programming is still a cost centre. And as such, we are being continuously squeezed. It’s harder and harder to get a pay rise and more of our work is being centralized and automated, so that at some point soon I suspect that pay may even start to fall.
The real issue with programming jobs, though, is the working hours. It’s not just the hours in the job - although these can be long - it’s the hours that need to be spent programming outside of your working day.
If you want to stay employable as a programmer, you need to keep up to speed with new techniques and new languages. And if you want a new job, you need to be highly practicsed at what can be fiendishly difficult tests run by sites like Hackerrank, which you have to pass even to get an interview. There are more and more of these sites, and keeping up to date with all of them is a full time job in itself.
For this reason, it’s very easy to plateau in a programming career. - You get one job and simply don’t have the time outside of work to practice all the tests you need to pass in order to get a new one. Personally, I’ve already spent months doing unpaid work on testing sites, and yet I’m still stuck in the same place.
This is why I’m fed up. I’ve spent years of my life investing time in this career, which I fear will come to nothing in the next decade. I like coding, but I don’t have all day and all night to devote to this profession. There must be better options than this. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.
Jordan James is a pseudonym
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You should program in your early years and then go to management at the age of 40+. By then you should have gain a lot of experience and you should be working in a similar position to a CTO.

I used to do programming many years ago… I have been studying the whole experience of those guys after 40 years and are into coding… I am just shocked at how short a career in coding is… so if you will not have made enough cash before 40, you are destined to sudden retirement in hell… it is not a very good career to consider in the long term…

kuna wale super programmers kama akina late denis ritchie na donald knuth na jon skeet ambao age haijalishi kwao

lakini kama wewe ni msee wa kuandika 100 line na 45 ni import statements, hapo uko kwa shida

True… But those are few and far between…

Age doesn’t mean anything. I will be hacking nikiwa chwani.

The last time I wrote code was when I was 29… Now I am over 40… If I was to go back to coding, I would have to refresh myself for at least 6 months and then be ready to keep myself updated daily because of the changing development environment

My Prof ako 76 but ameiva ile mbaya. Ako very active pia. He has two PhD also in CS

At that age you need to be in managerial position in every field, you ought to be surrounded by guys who will do the secretarial jobs as you give direction. That way you will stay updated and even ahead of the game, manual work and thinking never go hand in hand, choose one lane. You should not focus on ‘self centered’ career development but rather sharpen managerial skills by increasing productivity of those around you. But this requires you to think outside the box, value your time more than quick cash, throw everything you got to a task at hand not just you time. Some people are too short sighted, they are always after quick cash here and there.

BS…maybe entry level. Some of the best dev guys I have run into wamekula chumvi. As long as u keep ur skills up to date. That being said…move into consulting the older u get coz employers prefer younger guys coz they don’t pay them as much.

Ongeza Guido Rossum, Kevin Mitnik na Taylor Otwell

Liar,we are eyeing 40 and in coding,those ahead of us are doing just fine…in this age of technology tranformation mtu akikosa job they have themselves to blame.
Looks like you are those delphi,perl coders who were forced out by circumstance

How many CTO positions are out there?

Kama mimi kabisa though 4 years short of 40.
Last time I configured a router or a network was 6 years ago nikiwa 30.

Network Engineering is very unforgiving to anyone over 35. The solution is to get into planning or management but the positions are very few. Glad I left

I last did coding when I was 29 and went to head the department in a company… Then decided to go into private practice in many things at 35 years… In my management period, I never used to code… So, trust me, I am completely rusty…

That doesn’t mean the other coder in your age bracket are rusty.People choose different path in their career.
My HOD is in his 50s and code pretty well and using most recent IDEs

I have just quoted a discussion from a different group… Go read the comments and stop making assumptions… And do not assume that one person who codes into his 60s represents the whole lot of programmers out there… I also chose a different path and have been successful at it… All I am saying is that ageism is real in the hands on tech field… For your information I am I the generation that used to code in Visual Basic, C++, Visual C++, Delphi was not the popular option in Kenya and dealt with a few guys chose it… I do not wish to say more in this anonymous forum… All I want you to know is that I was well trained then… I am not in the current Generation of coders… Are you based in Kenya as I am? How much do you think coders are earning in comparison to their colleagues who are in different career lines in their 40s?

Yours is all assumption,we are in the field and still hiring those in their 40s as well as younger chaps.
Just because it happened to you doesn’t mean it affected everyone else.
I am very much in Kenya and coding is real wacha ku discourage upcoming coders

I have shared articles on that issue and the issue of ageism in coding is real from the article and not the exception. What is the exception is the alternative. Do not lie to people that it will be otherwise.