Op-Ed: Age, schmage- Silicon Valley gets the firing bug for the over 35s

Posted Jan 29, 2012 by Paul Wallis
If you’ve been finding the tech pages full of kidsy entrepreneurial manure and cutesy nursery rhyme garbage recently, no, you’re not getting senile. Apparently America’s corporate Disneyland has penetrated Silicon Valley.
San Jose  California  USA  proclaimed  capital  of the Silicon Valley
San Jose, California, USA, proclaimed "capital" of the Silicon Valley
XAtsukex (CC BY 3.0)
They’re firing/not hiring anyone who’s over 40.
The New York Times reports:
Hiring managers at the Bay Area’s fastest-growing technology companies were blunt. Seth Williams, a director of staffing at Google, said his firm was looking for candidates who are “passionate” and “truly have a desire to change the world.”
Brendan Browne, who heads hiring at the professional networking site LinkedIn, said his firm wanted every new hire to be entrepreneurial. Mr. Browne said that approximately 25 percent of LinkedIn’s new hires came from the company’s recruitment efforts at colleges and universities.
Load of garbage? Companies want people who want to change the world? Of course it’s crap. The effect has been to basically and obviously intentionally shut out older people.
The New York Times also reports an experience of a Google employee who was fired, miraculously just before Do No Evil went public.
A Mr. Reid, who was tactless enough to be 52 in 2004, discovered:
…after his supervisors, including the company’s vice president for engineering operations, allegedly called him a poor “cultural fit,” an “old guy” and a “fuddy-duddy” with ideas “too old to matter.”
Yes, Brats R Us is now alive and well in the major league tech sector, and it’s as adorable as it sounds. Mr. Reid sued for $45 million and eventually reached an undisclosed settlement.
Clueless hiring 101
There is a funny side. This is the definition of “creativity” according to the Uber Office Boys and Girls in the NYT article:
Lori Goler, the head of human resources and recruiting efforts at Facebook, said her company was looking for the “college student who built a company on the side, or an iPhone app over the weekend.”
Well, gesundheit, bunnykins. Have you seen some of those apps? They don’t run, are basically organizers circa 1990, and/or get trashed in reviews on Apple apps store. There’s more junk in the app stores than anything else. It doesn’t sell, makes no waves, gets no attention and that’s creative? You can incorporate a company with a phone call and claim to be running a business on that basis, regardless of actual market traction or lack of it. That's entrepreneurial?
Apparently in social media if you’re over 40, you’re “perceived” to be over the hill. This is in fact a rerun of an old situation in the advertising industry in which people over 40 were running around dyeing their hair to “look young”. That situation happened in the 1960s. As you can see, even the thinking about hiring older people is itself very old.
As a matter of fact, there’s a lot of excellent reasons for hiring inexperienced people in corporations, and it has nothing to do with creativity, passion, or even the ability to breathe- They don’t know a damn thing about how to run corporations or best practice corporate governance. They can’t argue with policies. They don’t understand the corporate corruption and politics. They’re in no position to negotiate salary packages, and may not even understand their entitlements. They’re harmless. Older people are a threat to the cosy collegiate gatherings around the Fountain of Eternal Dollars, because they might actually know what’s going on.
Age and the law
Age discrimination is illegal, as well as being the approved insane method of not hiring talent. The law, of course, is easy to get around when you can produce babble about the fantastic achievements of some 20 year old who single-handedly invented the wheel in your hiring recommendation. This is management science at its most destructive- Verbose denial followed by equally verbose nepotism.
The calendar, which is of course an expert on skills, creativity and intelligence, has more authority than the law. If you don’t hire someone on the basis of age, there’s a working chance you might get away with it, unless the decrepit old 36 year old sues you for your bone marrow.
Corporate karma
There’s a huge irony in the current illegality of those over 35. The people not hiring them are generally in or near that same age. Eventually they get shafted on much the same basis, as the inevitable corporate musical chairs games try to centralize power. This is how, in fact it’s the only way, that these suits become “somebodies”, despite obvious evolutionary disadvantages.
The suits are remoras. They’re not entrepreneurs themselves. They’re gravy train riders, swiping credits and as usual with the middlemen of the world, not actually contributing anything of value. Why corporations tolerate so many executive hangers-on is debatable, but it’s invariably an own goal.
The other irony is that talent and skills have assets which Tinker Toy Land can’t access because of its own selective myopia. Offended ancients in their early 40s soon learn to manage their own businesses, create new products and become competition. The inventors of most of the technology and platforms now being used to develop “new” technology (the cloud itself is just a mass of servers, and according to Apple’s engineers, the iPad and iPod were mainly cases of fitting in existing technologies) are now in their 50s and 60s. Bill Gates, apparently, wouldn’t get a job at Facebook or Google, based on age.
Da Vinci Self Portrait in Red Chalk
Da Vinci Self Portrait in Red Chalk
Great call, suits, do tell when you discover “whiter” rhymes with “brighter” and how “new improved Facebook/Google/Twitter removes more stains".
Age, schmage
Being older or younger doesn’t make you any more intelligent. It certainly doesn’t make you any more mentally active. People can be effectively brain dead at 17 or 70. Not one single thought passes between the ears for these people. They don’t know how to think, have no extended logic and fewer ideas. They usually become managers for that reason.
Talent is not a prerogative of any particular age group. Anyone can be a pedantic idiot at 20 or 60. I’ve met a lot of highly talented younger people whose talent is largely unappreciated/feared by older people. I’ve also met and worked with younger people who are literally so much “just out of the egg” that they’re basically grade schoolers, doing any mindless bureaucratic thing and taking it seriously.
I’ve also spent years writing about employment. I’ve heard endless tales of age discrimination, bullying, and the frat-brat little cliques who exclude talented people deliberately because they fear those people will get recognition. This is the pattern which has decimated American talent and innovation.
So here’s a thought- If Silicon Valley wants to play the age card, expect the reinvented Silly Con Valley (even the idea of Silicon Valley itself is now 30 years old) to be the new white bread, followed by a Retard Renaissance, followed by an implosion caused by lack of skills in multiple areas which leads to lack of competitive products.
What’s wrong with this pre-natal hiring regime is that the supply isn’t guaranteed, particularly in the US. The US is mainly producing business degrees and lawyers, not the tech skills it needs. The answer? Outsourcing, of course.
The joke is that China and India are mass producing the skills required for Silicon Valley, at the same time Silicon Valley is cutting its own throat. China and India don’t even try to lose their skill base, and keep things at home. Silicon Valley is turning itself into Commuter Land, and if it’s telecommuting instead of driving, it’s the same thing. No ideas, no depth, no perspective, and apparently no foresight.
So a few kids are found who can deliver. Ask Dominos what happens next. Those kids don’t stick around. Why would they? They deliver a few pizzas and then get serious doing business on their own, and their prices go up accordingly, often because some idiot’s given them a CV that looks like God’s.
Disney didn’t retire Mickey Mouse on the basis of age. That Mouse and his colleagues still out-merchandise most other products in their demographic. Mattel didn’t retire Barbie, also 50+. Most of Hollywood’s top leads are over 35. The S&P 500 isn’t run by 20 year olds. Da Vinci was doing his best work in his later years.
The Geese that laid the Golden Eggs for Silicon Valley are still around. They’re not getting a word in. Maybe if you guys started listening before you hit the big 40 and get put on the scrap heap yourselves, you’d learn something.