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How older workers can thrive in IT

Sharon Florentine | Oct. 12, 2016
Are technology jobs too often wasted on the young? As Silicon Valley strives for diversity, age is becoming a critical focus.

"Certification gives everyone a lingua franca through which to talk about skills and your experience. It's a shared language that everyone understands. That benchmark means that these hiring decisions can be skills-based and it can level the field so that anyone can participate," he says.

Network, network, network

Networking and professional organizations can also help; meeting with like-minded colleagues and friends can not only offer moral support and guidance, but can tap workers into professional opportunities, says McCormick.

"Volunteering is a great way to keep skills up-to-date and to find out what other roles are available for your skills. If you can, volunteer with organizations that let you work with colleagues, friends, acquaintances who have a different background, are of a different ethnicity, age, sex or gender, because it can really open your worldview as well as provide professional opportunities," she says.

Culture check

ThoughtWorks actively searches for talent outside the standard Ivy League, white male, under 30 demographic, but also has a number of internal programs to help foster diversity, McCormick says, including two centered around age and work experience.

The first is aimed at professionals with less than two years on-the-job experience who begin as associate consultants. These employees are paired with a coach who works with them to develop their skills over a six-month period, and has been incredibly successful at increasing hires of women, Black and Latino/a talent, McCormick says.

The second is for more seasoned hires, who are paired with an onboarding buddy to show them the ropes and better gauge where their experience can be applied through the organization, she says.

"We also leverage a number of employee resource groups driven by our employees. We have a women's networking group, an African-American networking group; these can provide great outlets and support structures for our employees at all ages, and helps to create safe spaces where concerns can be shared and issues brought up and addressed," McCormick says.

As a job-seeker, looking carefully at an organization's culture and its position on diversity can help make sure you're increasing your chances of landing a role; whether or not programs like these exist can be very telling, says McCormick.

Be a thought leader

Freelancing, blogging, speaking and consulting also are options for IT professionals who don't feel they fit into the youth-centric IT landscape, says Stanger.

"It's really about connecting to the community of others. Almost anyone, at any age, in IT can have the facts, but the benefits of age and experience are all about your perspective on the facts and being able to assert your opinion and your wisdom because you've been there, done that," he says.


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