September 14, 1998Web acquaint at: 3:20 PM EDT
by Neal Weinberg
(IDG) — Ed Curry has an agitative resume that includes delivery in seven computer languages, acquaintance with all the above operating systems, an im-pressive appointment history and able accomplishments galore. He wrote software that helped Microsoft win federal aegis acceptance for Windows NT, activated chips for Intel and Advanced Micro Devices, and helped advance IBM’s OS/400 and OS/2 operating systems.
Curry ran his own assay lab business from 1989 through 1996, aback he bankrupt up boutique and went job hunting. His accreditation gave him affluence of acumen to accept his buzz would be campanology off the hook. “I anticipation it was a slam-dunk,” he says.
But for the accomplished 20 months, Curry has been cutting annihilation but air balls. None of the 2,000 rsums he’s beatific to companies in chase of permanent, full-time application has resulted in a distinct interview, unless you calculation the time a hiring administrator alleged him aloof because he capital to accommodated addition with Curry’s acquaintance in person.
Today, Curry, who lives in Georgetown, Texas, is almost authoritative ends accommodated with a acting arrangement job that ends this month. “And afterwards that, God alone knows. I’ve never been abashed of not accepting a job in my life, but I am now,” he says.
Given the awful publicized curtailment of able IT workers, why aren’t companies scrambling to appoint him? Curry, who turns 40 aing month, chalks it up to age discrimination.
According to the industry accumulation Information Technology Association of America, an estimated 346,000 IT positions are bare these days, a bearings the ITAA calls “a civic activity curtailment of celebrated proportions.” But Curry and others in his age accumulation allegation that administration can acquisition affluence of bodies if they carelessness the biased perceptions that earlier workers are too expensive, abridgement the latest abilities and present a cultural conflict in the youth-oriented IT field.
Age does bulk aback it comes to IT hiring, according to a assay of 200 Arrangement Apple readers with some bulk of hiring responsibility. The assay acutely shows that adolescent arrangement managers tend not to appoint earlier workers.
Only 13% of the 30 assay respondents in the 20-30 age accumulation assassin anyone over 40 in the accomplished year, but that allotment added as the age of the hiring administrator increased. Of the 80 arrangement managers in the 31-40 age group, 24% had assassin an over-40 actuality in the accomplished year. The allotment rose to 39% for the 57 managers in the 41-50 age accumulation and up to 45% for the 31 respondents over 50. (Two respondents banned to accord their ages.)
When the arrangement managers were asked if they had never assassin addition over 40, the after-effects afresh followed archival lines. Amid the 20- to 30-year-old respondents, 47% said they had never assassin a actuality over 40. That bulk was 39% for managers 31-40; 23% for managers 41-50 and 16% for those over 50.
The assay after-effects don’t abruptness Kathy Nichol, who has 18 years’ acquaintance as a high-tech recruiter in the Dallas area. Nichol says she works with one thirtysomething hiring administrator who gravitates adjoin “young fast-track managers.” Aback Nichol has recommended earlier workers, her applicant alone them, adage the applicant lacked energy, couldn’t cut it in a fast-paced environment, or should accept been added forth careerwise. “He doesn’t alike admit what he’s doing,” Nichol says.
Going above the numbers, there’s affluence of anecdotal affirmation to abutment the affirmation that the ideal IT job applicant is a single, male, new academy alum who knows Java and is accommodating to appointment 80 hours per anniversary for entry-level pay. Curry credibility out that a 23-year-old who sat aing to him at his arrangement job afresh landed a full-time position, alike admitting that actuality had alone a atom of Curry’s know-how.
Jack Bobo, assay administrator for the Civic Software Alliance (NSA), a Washington, D.C.-based bunch of industry, government and bookish leaders anxious about the IT activity shortage, says companies are “trying badly to appoint entry-level people.” The reason: Adolescent workers are beheld as accommodating to put in best hours for beneath money and are perceived to accept the hot skills.
Conversely, earlier workers are apparent as dinosaurs. Michael Schriner, 50, of Vacaville, Calif., is certified on NetWare 3.1 and 4.1 and has been alive with a beta adaptation of 5.0, which is appointed for absolution this week. Schriner has seven years’ acquaintance advancement a NetWare LAN at a ample accumulated site, but he has been out of abiding appointment aback his aggregation bankrupt a year ago.
However, he hasn’t been afterwards interviews, best of which he describes as surreal nightmares. One time, he was larboard sitting in the antechamber while several advisers peeked into the antechamber and “gave me the eyeball.” Finally, addition came out and gave Schriner a quick bout of the building, again showed him the aperture afterwards anytime administering an interview. During the affair tour, Schriner was asked if he were accommodating to appointment 36 hours beeline to breach a problem, the association actuality that addition his age wouldn’t be.
“At some places it was accessible to me that they were attractive for somebody younger,” he says.
Schriner aloof landed a acting position for the aing few months, but aback that appointment ends, he’ll be aback on the job hunt.
In aerial tech, the analogue of an earlier artisan is far altered than that in best added able fields. “I’m audition from a lot of bodies in their backward 30s and aboriginal 40s who are activity the crunch,” says Paul Kostek, admiral of the U.S. affiliate of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE). “Many accept jobs, but if they’re aggravating to acquisition new positions, abounding are actuality arctic out. They’re not alike accepting an befalling to get an interview.”
“The high-tech business is advised a adolescent person’s game,” adds David Greenberg, a Beverly Hills advocate who specializes in age bigotry cases. A customer arcade for a surgeon would apparently feel added adequate with addition 45 years old than with a adolescent citizen beginning out of medical school, Greenberg says. “But in aerial tech there’s a about-face correlation; acquaintance bureau you’re not up to date.”
Kostek says a almighty mix of cultural and bread-and-er factors are alive adjoin earlier workers. Software companies and Internet start-ups, in particular, tend to be founded and run by adolescent bodies who are artlessly added adequate alive with their peers. On top of that, companies bulk addition with 20 years’ acquaintance will appeal top dollar, so they appoint the adolescent artisan afterwards anytime free the mid-career worker’s bacon requirements, Kostek says.
Job appellant Curry analyzes his bearings this way: “When companies see my rsum, they either don’t accept it and atom it or they accept it and automatically aish me as too expensive.”
Finding adamantine affirmation to abutment claims of age bigotry in the computer industry is difficult. For example, the Equal Application Befalling Commission (EEOC) accustomed 15,785 age bigotry complaints in 1997, almost the aforementioned bulk as in 1996. But the federal bureau doesn’t breach bottomward the numbers by industry or occupation, and it alone 61% of those complaints for abridgement of reasonable cause.
And the acknowledged analogue of age bigotry is a affective target. The California Court of Appeals afresh disqualified that a aggregation can blaze an older, higher-paid artisan and appoint a younger, less-expensive artisan as continued as the accommodation is based on cost-cutting and not on a accurate bent adjoin bodies over 40. Advocates for earlier workers say the cardinal makes it abundant added difficult for plaintiffs to win age-bias suits.
However, there are statistics that assume to announce age bias. A 1997 breakdown by age of academy graduates in the U.S. appointment force shows that 37% of these workers were 45 and older. But amid computer scientists and programmers, alone 23% were 45 and older. The numbers are alike added arresting in the over-55 age group, which constituted 12% of the absolute college-educated U.S. appointment force but alone 5% of the IT field, according to a address by the NSA.
Daniel Gerard has had the admirable bout of abundant Silicon Valley companies over the accomplished brace of years as allotment of his bootless accomplishment to acquisition a programming job. “No one has been earlier than me,” says the 40-year-old. “Where are the 50- and 60-year-old engineers? I’m not seeing them, and that’s scary.”
Bobo, who aggregate the appointment force numbers, says one account is that the computer industry is a adolescent acreage to activate with, so one wouldn’t apprehend to acquisition as abounding earlier workers. And by the time programmers hit mid-career, they about move into administration positions.
Another explanation, of course, is that earlier workers are actuality eased or pushed out the door.
Harris Miller, admiral of the ITAA, says the actuality that a scattering of articulate mid-career bodies say they can’t acquisition jobs doesn’t prove age discrimination. It may beggarly those accurate bodies abridgement a skills, accept adamant bacon demands, or aren’t accommodating to backpack to areas area the jobs are.
The basal line, Miller says, is that “companies are so atrocious for advisers that they’ll appoint anybody behindhand of age.”
Tracy Koon, administrator of accumulated communications at Intel, flatly denies that age bent plays any role at the fast-growing dent maker. She says it makes no faculty for the aggregation to try to affluence out earlier workers: “We advance huge amounts of money in training our employees; why would we appetite to lose them?”
And Kenneth Mockler, administrator of common staffing at EMC in Hopkinton, Mass., says the aggregation assassin 1,400 bodies aftermost year, including abounding mid-career workers from the adjacent Digital assay of Compaq. “It’s so adamantine to acquisition chief able talent,” he says.
Koon says the boilerplate age of the Intel agent has remained collapsed over the accomplished three years, affective from 36 in 1996 to 36.4 in 1997 to 36.3 in the aboriginal division of 1998. She argues that with all the hiring Intel has done, if it were systematically auctioning earlier workers and replacing them with 23-year-olds, the boilerplate age would be dropping.
“We’ve approved to attending at [age discrimination] actual seriously. We aloof accept not begin it,” Koon says.
A agnate assay of the boilerplate age of all computer professionals, conducted by the NSA, shows an access from 35.5 in 1989 to 37.8 in 1997. The NSA’s Bobo says the numbers prove companies are hiring earlier workers as able-bodied as adolescent workers.
Demographics and statistics are baby alleviation to Kathy Nolan, 50, of Riverdale, N.J., who has a bulk in business with a accessory in computer science and 25 years’ acquaintance as a software programmer. She has kept her abilities current, affective from the mainframe apple of COBOL and DB2 to the client/server amphitheatre with Power-Builder to Web technologies.
Her systems analyst position was alone one year ago, and she has been afterwards appointment since, except for a acting arrangement job that ends aback a woman who’s on maternology leave allotment to work. Nolan says the job chase is a arresting action in which age bent plays a above role. “Over the buzz they’re enthusiastic, but aback they see you and apprehend you’re older, they say, ‘Oh, boy.'”
But to Steve Patchell, chief adviser at the administration consulting close Watson Wyatt Worldwide, headquartered in Bethesda, Md., the affair is not age; it’s whether an agent has a abilities in an industry belled for the acceleration with which absolute accomplishment sets become obsolete.
Companies are atrocious to acquisition “plug-and-play” workers, and Patchell says companies don’t affliction whether abeyant advisers are 28 or 52, as continued as they can hit the arena running. On the added hand, “if you don’t get the skills, you’re about alley kill,” he says.
Job appellant Gerard went out and got the appropriate skills, and he’s still alley kill. A above musician, he becoming an associate’s bulk in computer science from De Anza Academy in Cupertino, Calif. While in school, he did an internship with NASA.
“I did the appropriate thing, I went aback to school, I followed through correctly, I formed for NASA, and again poof, it went decline from there. I had a brace of acting jobs that accumulated didn’t aftermost added than nine months in 1995 and 1996 and that was it. I haven’t formed aback the end of 1996.”
He has beatific out added than 300 rsums and continues the job hunt, but annoyance is ambience in. “It’s a tear-jerker. I’m earning zero. I’m an adult, accomplished person,” Gerard says. “It’s absurd to me that anyone could be in this situation.”
Gerard is assertive that his age is alive adjoin him. Although companies try to affectation it, sometimes the acknowledgment of a hiring administrator gives the d away. “When I airing in sometimes, I get a ashamed reaction,” he says.
He argues that administration shouldn’t be affected by his archival age. “I’m no best a 40-year-old; central I’m 25. I’ve absolutely afflicted as a actuality and re-educated myself.” However, he says administration accept anchored expectations and accept adolescent engineers are the best achievement for their companies.
Unfortunately, the allowance are ample adjoin Gerard, recruiter Nichol says. Companies don’t appetite to appoint earlier workers for entry-level jobs because they don’t appetite a 40-year-old advertisement to a 24-year-old. “It’s a cultural thing,” she says. Naturally, the aggregation won’t appear appropriate out and say age bent is advancing into play, but managers will appear up with some added acumen not to appoint that person, she says.
Companies are ambitious bodies who bout up altogether with the job description and accept absolute acquaintance in the accurate accomplishment required, Nichol adds.
But job-hunting mid-career professionals altercate that those requirements are sometimes absurd for anyone to meet. For example, this job description appears on the Web armpit of Advanced Computer Resources, a Florida-based application company:
Candidates charge accept a ample acknowledgment to a array of technologies and concepts in a client/server ambiance including: Enterprisewide solutions, Application Architectures and Software, Distributed Client/Server Architectures, Ample Systems Delivery, Internet/ Intranet Development, Electronic Commerce (Java, Hot Java), Windows NT, C, C , Unix, SQL, Oracle, Sybase, Informix, Visual Basic, PowerBuilder and arch projects application academic methodologies.
And the job requires biking amid 90% and 100% of the time.
“They’re attractive for somebody who shows up cutting blue, continued underwear and a red absolute angry about his close . . . Superman,” complains job appellant Schriner. But afterwards a year afterwards a job, his bearings is no bedlam matter. “If article doesn’t pop appealing quick, I’m activity to accept to acquisition addition way to pay the bills,” he says.
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