Being over 40 in tech brings mixed bag of challenges

Fair or unfair, be prepared to adapt


A recent article in Bloomberg highlighted some of the obstacles facing Silicon Valley tech workers of a certain age.  I won’t go into all of it, but there are some things that really caught my attention:

  1. Age is a very valid concern.  In fact, the number age-related discrimination claims since 2008 outpace racial discrimination claims by nearly 10-to-1.
  2. To fit in with a younger crowd, some are going beyond wardrobe changes and hair-dye, all the way to plastic surgery.

However, it’s not just appearance that is creating challenges.  This passage brings me to what I would like to address:

“If you’ve worked at a large company for 10 years and get laid off, chances are your skills are six generations behind,” says Jonathan Nelson, chief executive officer of the Valley social network Hackers/Founders, which organizes meetups for startup developers. “I know downsized engineers in their 40s and 50s who’ve retrained themselves to build mobile apps or do big data—and others who are Uber drivers.”

This puts in stark relief two things that I have discussed here before.  The first is about keeping your skills current. It is very easy, when you do the same thing day-to-day, to lose sight of what’s new in your field. If you haven’t been keeping up, you should take the time to do so right away.  The second is about having a Plan B (and maybe even a C & D). You could find your tenure with a company coming to an abrupt end for any number of reasons.  Rather that being caught flat-footed, you might want to have an idea of what your other options are, lest you find yourself needing to react quickly to an unexpected setback.

Fair or not, for some of us, staying in the workforce is going to present challenges.  Being prepared might prove to be your salvation.

Written by JP Smith

A self-proclaimed "technologist...with attitude", I'm a forty-something husband, father and IT professional/enthusiast. I believe that learning and growth are lifelong endeavors.