Development has traditionally been a young person’s game. Most development studios look for the freshest blood they can find: fresh-out-of-college programmers who can devote endless amounts of hours on their new career. But older programmers may not be as obsolete as once was thought. In fact, many of the issues plaguing the modern software industry may be directly related to the “newer is better” ethos.
Age Discrimination in the Development Market
The IT industry moves extraordinarily quickly. Graduates today are not learning about the same technologies as graduates five years ago or even a single year ago. Consequently, there is the belief among many employers that those who have graduated more recently will have a firmer grasp on new technology. It’s often believed that older developers will be using outdated techniques or will be woefully behind existing standards. Older developers are also commonly discriminated against due to the fact that they may have families at their age or other pursuits; they will, in other words, not be able to give their entire life over to the job. Younger developers are seen as having more energy and thus the ability to work more productively for longer hours.
All of this has combined to create a significant amount of age discrimination amongst employers in the IT field. Employers often look for those who have just graduated or are otherwise in their early twenties, rather than simply looking at an established skill set. And though employers are not supposed to be discriminate based on age, they often find it quite easy to do so. Something as simple as an older graduation date can be enough to dissuade them.
The Advantages of an Older Developer
A study by Stack Overflow showed that older developers were generally more likely to be knowledgeable and skilled about programming. Not only did they understand their skills on a deeper level, but they also had a wider variety of skills. And, contrary to popular believe, older developers suffered from no knowledge gap regarding new technologies. In fact, the opposite was true; the older developers were actually more likely to understand newer platforms such as mobile devices. It is possible that this was either because they were more driven to learn or because they had a larger spectrum of computing history to compare new developments to.
Over the 1.6 million developers studied by Stack Overflow, the average age was 29. Programmers in their 50s and 60s were found to do just as well as programmers in their 20s and 30s, which is a significant age gap. And this ultimately made sense: with technology changing from year to year, programmers in their 50s and over were not at a significant disadvantage to any programmer that had been out of college for more than a year. The technology has changed so radically and significantly that all programmers are essentially on equal footing.
That isn’t to say that older is always better. There are, naturally, some advantages to hiring younger employees too. Younger employees are more influenced by company culture and may not have developed bad habits; further, they usually haven’t started a family yet and can thus work longer (though not necessarily more productive) hours. The art of talent acquisition is a complicated one, and has to be explored delicately. To learn more about IT staffing, contact the experts at Software Specialists today.