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Too Old to Rock And Roll

Too Young to Die

I had a conversation with an older associate recently -- I'll call him Sr.Geek -- in which he related that he had gone in for an angioplasty and stent-placement. He's well past 40; IT is a second career, and one he's doing well in. Sr.Geek told me that he concealed his condition from his coworkers and his employer -- despite suffering from angina during even minor exertion. He took a personal day to go for his stress test, and used vacation time to cover his hospital stay and recovery from the angioplasty. Why? He didn't want people to think that he couldn't do the job any more. All of a sudden the ugly spectre of IT age discrimination raised its head.

Age discrimination in Information Technology jobs: it's one of those unprovables about our industry. Lots of people say that there is a strong age bias, but of course no hiring manager is ever going to admit chucking a resume because he did the math on an applicant's high school graduation date and came up with too big a number. But, the IEEE does have a section on age discrimination in IT.

Think of this: employment ads for one of Hartford's major insurance companies defined "Mid-career IT professional" as having 3-5 years of experience. Let's see, college grad at twenty one ... add five years ... gets you to twenty six. If 3-5 is mid-career that would make 5-10 a "senior IT professional" and 15 years time for the gold iPod and retirement dinner. Twenty one plus fifteen equals thirty six. Which is about right, given the consensus that being forty and over in IT is practically the kiss of death.

...Which I have a hard time complaining about when I have my management hat on, given the number of 40-somethings I've me who have just ossified. At least half of the over-forty folks I've met in IT have hit some point in their technological learning and just stopped. But still, it chills me to think that Sr.Geek -- who is a good worker, an active learner, and works for a good company, thought that having health problems while being close to qualifying for an AARP card might be a career limiting thing if his employer were to find out.

No solution to offer: I'm just shaking my fist at the sky.

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