Why older IT workers can’t get jobs

As I approach my fifth decade of life (that’s 50 for you kids under 20) have I become less and less marketable as a IT worker? Let’s see. First the evidence and than my own personal experience.

Evidence

There have been many many, let’s say countless statements by older IT workers that once they reached a certain age, job opportunities and the opportunities to progress dried up.

Just take a read of these articles:

SAP News – Ageism in the Tech Industries

Channel 4 – Is the IT industry guilty of ageism?

IT industry paying high price of ageism

Some workers have even gone so far as to have plastic surgery and lie on the CVs about their experience. They may take 15 years off their CV with false dates.

There is some pretty strong evidence that the IT sector discriminates strongly on age. So why is that the case and why is it allowed. Do the law-makers look the other way or is it the fault of us older guys that we have ended up where we are? Let see.

My Experience

I started working in 1993 for a medium-sized software company in Ottawa Canada. I was bright-eyed and bushy tailed and I loved UNIX and hated Windows. But I loved programming and turned out I was good at it. I became interested in computers and programming when I saw the VIC20 with tape drive and 3.5k of RAM.

During my career I worked for a few companies and moved up the experience ranks. I always had a passion for technology and thought to myself that remaining a programmer would be a good move. But when I looked at the company structures and the people who made it to the top, not one was a programmer who then jumped to senior management. All had, at some point, moved to the management side. It was at that point that I knew that at some point within the next five years I would have to get away from programming.

Unfortunately for me at about the moment that I should have become a manager or a team-leader, I was a contractor making good money and I had just moved to the UK. I kept up the work as a contractor and gave little thought to finding a management position or a permanent position for the next 10 years.

And that is where I made my mistake. Although I had kept my skills up to date (I program in .Net, jQuery, JSON, SQL Server) I was just a programmer with little difference than hiring a guy with 5 years experience all in .Net. So recruiters would look at my last three years and then see years of Access, than some C++, but no Agile, SCRUM – or whatever the latest fad is – and chuck my CV in the bin.

Presently I do some freelance work which involves cleaning up and improving software which was written and developed by a completely unskilled “programmer”. Interestingly this person has a Arts Degree. As well I work for another company doing the same. And this is pretty common occurrence, young company hires young programmers, they have no idea what the word “Architecture” means and just hack it together. When problems occur, seek experienced bloke to fix it. Well, that’s me.

Conclusions

Its far cheaper for companies to hire new talent and train them up. But this is where the UK industry falls over, because UK companies simply don’t train people. So the UK recruiters have to find the people who already have the skillset matching identically. So a guy like me who is asking for top dollar simply can’t get a foot in. Sure if I took £25k instead of £50k I’d have a chance.

This is the sentence the older IT workers end up with, your experience actually going against you. This is why it is important that you do no stress that you are experienced beyond a certain amount of years. Only put on your CV the experience pertaining to the advertised job, leave everything else off. And ask for a reasonable salary that matches that job.

There are number of tips on how to present yourself here.

Dunno whether any of those will work. But at present I have become a trouble shooter and that’s probably where I’ll end up.

My advice

My advice to the older workers is to lower your expectations if you are wanting to work as a programmer. The other option is be a freelancer or a contractor, but either way your salary expectations will need to be a lot less than your true worth.

To those approaching their 40th birthday, I’d argue that if your company offers training to move to a project management or management position, I would take it. Experience in management will get you a job anywhere at the salary that you are worth. If no, than do not even think about leaving your present job no matter how crap it gets. It’s a lot better than long-term unemployment.

To those starting out. Be aware that your programming career may only last 15 years. Then you MUST think about progressing away from programming as I have mentioned above. Don’t ever think that you will be a life-long programmer. My experience and those of many others have shown otherwise.

Happy programming!

John Kambanis November 21, 1946 – December 28, 2014

It is with great sadness that my mentor and very close friend John Kambanis passed away.

John was a kind an generous man. We had many lovely and fun days together. I will always treasure the times we had. Weather it was at our favourite restaurant the Meekong in Ottawa’s china town, or chowing down on a greek takeway from Greek on Wheels. It was totally a great experience to be his friend and to work with him. He was with me when I was going through the process of getting married and made the extra effort to come my reception in Toronto.

John was born in Greece but spent much of his youth in Ethiopia where his father ran a barber shop. John was there when the king was deposed. Later the family returned to Greece and John moved to South Africa to attend and later teach at a university there.

Though he studied Physics, John became very interested in the micro computers in the early days when they were becoming popular. He learned how to program and started his own company selling a small database system.

John was offered a sabbatical in Toronto and quickly took it up. He loved Canada so much that he began to look for work and found a job at Cognos in Ottawa. I met John there on my first day on 1 Feb 1993. We didn’t hit it off immediately, arguing about how evil Microsoft was and such! But John was so kind and gentle that his gentleness rubbed off on me. He saw in me the talent that I had.

I later worked for John in our lovely office on Metcalfe street in the heart of Ottawa city centre. It was a single room but we made it like a second home. It even had a couch and a coffee table. Even after I had got laid off I still went down there to visit and chat. We even managed a trip to San Francisco for one week, driving around in a convertible. He was lovely.

In 2003 I got married and moved to the UK. John visited me twice in the UK and on both occasions we had a lovely time. I think John did enjoy things very much.

John suffered a mild heart attack in 2008 and he required a heart bypass. Afterwards he was on blood thinners which he complained often gave him dizzy spells. It was in 2009 that he had a particularily bad fall and suffered a subdural hematoma.  I was still able to speak to John on a regular basis – but in 2010 he lost his ability to communicate and I began to worry very much about him. I was still hopeful that with physiotherapy he would recover. Sadly his condition got worse and on December 28 2014 my good friend passed away. I never did visit him whilst he was ill and for that I am very regretful.

I will truely miss him.

Space for hire

Space for hire

I have a commercial building. Presently I only need two rooms and I have three for rent as offices/shops.

Owning a commercial building has turned out to be a massive error. So I am desperate to get these rooms hired out to pay the bills.

I have two offices which can be had for £40/week until August 2015.

There is a shop front also available for £50/week. Would go great as a Christmas popup shop. I happy to rent this space out for six weeks. Though I do hope you would hang around longer.

Both have access to common toilets and kitchen. There is also a little storage available.

Rent includes business rates at present. Share of Utilities & Internet is extra.

Have a look at my gumtree ad

To customise or to start from scratch

I sometimes come upon customers that have specific requirements but which has elements which closely match that of something else.

I do often think well why start from scratch. Why not start from a base, like using a CRM, and then customise, or add on modules to support all the new functionality.

Its like building a new car by taking apart a current car and welding on a new one on top. Nobody wants to weld together a new frame with all the issues that go along with that. Nobody wants to build a complete new wiring loop.

Some software is the same, start with a basic building block and take out what you don’t need, change what base parts you do (aka modify the frame) and then add on what you do (weld on new body panels).

This does sound simple enough in the software and open-source business.

Until you look at the licencing!

Angular JS – what the hell

I just got landed a project. A really interesting project. So interesting is this project that there is no money to fund it. Typical eh?

So the story on the this project is that it is a data visualisation project, currently being built at the University of Manitoba. A great institution and my Alma Mater BTW.

Anyway. it seems that this project made a lot of headway with the original author.  But then it was handed to another student and that student made it to a point, and then rewrote it – well attempted to – in Ruby on Rails.

When I read the “Ruby on Rails” bit I was expecting a large application, RR is a MVC framework designed to make large application a breeze to build. Turns out the application is a single page application. Mainly written in AngularJS with D3 charts. AngularJS fetched its data from the RR back end. sigh.

And to make matters even worse..the application is barely functional as compared to the earlier version. This is a typical case that switching platforms to one that allegedly makes things “easier” often doesn’t. You may look at one aspect and think “you know using a framework with a nice database ORM would help here”. And forgetting all the plumbing it takes to achieve a replication of the original.

This should be interesting as we’ve decided to bin the Ruby on Rails version and “go back to the future” and start with the more functional version. I will than use some separate components (like Doctrine) to help and perhaps some of my own classes to bespoke this app, rather than squeeze it into a MVC framework.