The Importance of Tapping Into IT’s Most Underutilized Group: The Aging Technical Professional

By Chelsea Babin

As of May 2018, the national unemployment rate fell to a new low of just 3.8%. And the unemployment rate for technical professionals continues to sink to staggering new lows that leave many companies with open technical positions in the lurch. With a seemingly ever-shrinking talent pool, it’s time for companies to make sure they’re tapping into IT’s most underutilized group: the aging technical professional.

According to the Dice Diversity and Inclusion Survey, Baby Boomers and Generation X-ers are the most at-risk groups for age discrimination in technical positions. Why do so many technical professionals feel they’re being discriminated against in the hiring process? It starts with large companies like Facebook which, according to a recent lawsuit filed by the Communications Workers of America, is filtering their job ads to a younger crowd, violating fair employment laws in the process.

Beyond these discriminatory practices, part of the phenomenon of companies not tapping into the underutilized group of aging technical professionals lies with older tech pros who feel like time has passed them by. According to Dan Lyons, a former journalist and writer for HBO’s “Silicon Valley”, technical professionals may relate to his experience which he says, “On the one hand, I kind of feel like I’m better at what I do now than when I was 35, but I also get that I’m probably not as opted in. However, I think it starts with those guys—the investors, what they want and what they push for. I think they’ve all decided that the optimal return is young kids: burn them out, get rid of them, replace them.”

It’s also important to note that older tech pros often pursue different jobs than their younger colleagues, according to a new data analysis by Indeed. While younger technical professionals on average tend to pursue jobs that require heavy-duty coding, technical professionals over the age of 40 tend to pursue jobs that require management experience. These jobs include Vice President of Information Technology, Director of Information Technology, Chief Engineer, Director of Security, and Director of Product Management. Indeed also saw data that suggested these older workers gravitate toward IT Manager and IT Project Manager roles. So, while the crowd of aging technical professionals will not all pursue the same path, on average they’re more interested in positions that require management or budgeting skills in addition to hard technical skills.

Companies who are actively discriminating against older technical professionals will not succeed, and companies who ignore this talent pool entirely are wasting one of IT’s most underutilized groups in a time when the unemployment rate is too low to not consider these talented technical professionals. However, because older tech pros generally look at jobs that require a blend of management and heavy technical skills, they may not be the best fit for a purely code-focused position. And finding ways to make sure they feel more opted in to cutting-edge technology will help this underutilized group of technical professionals flourish at your organization.