Is it Truly All about Age?
controversial article up about Age-ism in high-tech in the US. TechCrunch is no stranger to controversy, having also just caused a bit of a stir around systemic gender bias in the venture-funded tech startup business. Vivek makes a few key points. Paraphrasing, High Tech companies prefer younger workers because:TechCrunch and Vivek Wadhwa have a
- They are cheaper (salary, benefits, insurance, etc).
- They have fewer competing interests (lower percentage are married with kids)
- They are perceived to be easier to mold (into culture fit)
- They are perceived to be “more current” on whatever the latest technologies are
- They can be trained up on new tech more cost-effectively than older workers
- Usually (but not always) much shorter ramp-up time from day 0 to first fully independently productive day.
- The competing interests are also balancing interests – keeping more experienced team members balanced emotionally, more so than some less experienced hires. They have other positive things going on in their lives which allow them to pursue work with confidence, rather than fear of failure.
- Whether easier to mold or not, it is easier to judge what an experienced hire’s real work values are – and to find people who already align with your values, rather than trying to mold (some might say brainwash) less experienced hires.
- Often more experienced hires are actually more current on the new tech than students, because it takes quite some time for educational institutions to switch gears. I remember distinctly Stanford University rolling out its C++ computer science classes (intro classes), just as Java was about to hit the scene. It was several years before Stanford switched the curriculum to start with Java, though they did start offering a class in Java right away. It was many years before we could hire people with Java skills learned in college that were more than trivial.
- This last point is true, if you assume ramp-up time is equal, and that the less experienced worker is cheaper than the more experienced hire. However, as I pointed out in my comment on TechCrunch, I have come to believe that learning itself is a skill, which can be practiced and improved over time.