Over on Medium, columnist Steven Levy brings up an interesting point about Silicon Valley: Despite tech companies’ recent focus on diversity, there’s been precious little focus on whether older workers are underrepresented.
“Let’s take those diversity reports,” Levy wrote. “As far as I can tell not a single one of them reports age distribution.” He then cited a three-year-old study by Palescale that listed the average age of workers at some of the biggest tech companies; while the median age at Oracle, Hewlett-Packard, and IBM—three longtime Silicon Valley stalwarts—coasted somewhere between 37 and 39, it skewed much younger at firms such as Amazon (31), Facebook (26), Google (29), and Apple (31).
“In my view, age information should be included in those diversity reports, to underline the need for change,” Levy added, “and, even more important, those in charge of company cultures should view age diversity as a plus.”
It’s no secret that fears of appearing ancient have driven workers in Silicon Valley and other tech hubs to take drastic steps, such as plastic surgery. “In talking to dozens of people around Silicon Valley over the past eight months,” Noam Scheiber wrote in a much-circulated piece in The New Republic, “I got the distinct sense that it’s better to be perceived as naïve and immature than to have voted in the 1980s.”
As Yael Grauer discussed in a recent Dice article, older tech pros have also taken steps to eliminate as many digital signs of age as possible. Concerns about being seen as “too old” has led many professionals to edit out their year of college graduation from their online profiles and résumés, for example.
But there are also ways to leverage decades of industry experience in one’s favor; for example, older workers tend to have professional networks that put those of their younger colleagues to shame. While tech pros just out of school often know the latest programming languages and methodologies, there’s something to be said for experience, which has led some firms (mostly in the financial sector) to hire back older workers.
Underrepresented or no, perhaps the best way for older tech pros to remain relevant (and employed) is to keep their skills up-to-date. That means investing in classes and technical conferences, and making sure all certifications are current. If you’re on the cutting edge, it’s harder for anyone to argue that you don’t have the necessary strengths to do the job.