The other week I read this: Software Developers Are Terrified Of What Happens When They Hit 30. The latest breaking news from CNN? A supermarket tabloid alongside Shocking Proof that Obama is a Muslim!? No, this from the supposedly respectable Business Insider. Has the dystopian world of Logan’s Run finally arrived, or is serious journalism on a holiday?
The author mostly cites a thread on Hacker News, which to my reading did not contain hordes of frightened 20-somethings agonizing over their imminent departures from relevancy in the tech world. Instead, the thread contains many thoughtful comments from software engineers of varying ages and experience, mostly all saying they love what they do and the key to career longevity is to keep learning.
A more insightful article appeared in the New Republic a few weeks later, The Brutal Ageism of Tech. This too focused on a fetishism with youthfulness – in the Silicon Valley – to the point of visiting a plastic surgeon to appear young and therefore relevant.
Articles such as these aren’t new, but why the steady drumbeat to spread fear, uncertainty and doubt? Ageism certainly exists, but outside of the dorm room VR bubble of Silicon Valley it should not be sparking terror. Young adults can bring energy and enthusiasm to a team, but despite what Mark Zuckerberg thinks they aren’t by definition smarter, yet the media is all too happy to accept this arrogant naiveté as fact.
Certainly 30 is usually a watershed year in one’s life, as the realization finally comes that You Are No Longer a Kid, as Mr. Zuckerberg may learn when he turns 30 next month. Unless you’re a professional athlete, or a prodigy, most 30 year olds, regardless of profession, will just be hitting their stride both personally and professionally. Why would this be true for a doctor or lawyer, but not for a software engineer?
On a related note, I’ve been listening to some of Shawn Wildermuth’s Hello World podcasts with various tech professionals, all of whom do seem to be older than 30. They must not yet have encountered the terrifying and brutal truth.