Too Young or Too Old?

Company Culture, Hiring

Is there such a thing as the right age to start working in a tech company? We examined our own company and came up with interesting conclusions.

First, let’s get one thing out of the way: our team at Devana Technologies is really young, with a median age of 25. This is not surprising for a company that exists for just five years and whose main product reached product/market fit less than four years ago.

We did not do this on purpose, by setting an age cap. Despite the obvious benefits of having seasoned workers, technology is dominantly a young man’s game. Companies growing or innovating in new areas tend to have younger workers, while older companies that do not change much over time tend to have older workers.

This is mostly a function of skill, as younger engineers tend to have more hands on experience with newer technologies, and master them faster than their more experienced colleagues that are comfortable doing things the old way.

Experience is very important but it is hard to find people that are both experienced and highly motivated. They do not tend to aim for the same positions at the company. This is especially true for a country which has many outsourcing businesses but not many companies that develop their own products.

Most of our hiring came from our close cooperation with student organizations, colleges and our local tech startup communities, so it is not surprising that we hired young. This is not an exception in the industry, considering that many companies do their scouting on college or even high-school level.

This is why younger companies tend to have workers with less time at the firm, which is partly an effect of being new and hiring intensively in recent years.

Our “older” employees (which would include anyone over the age of 30) tend to be the ones that joined the company in the early days, or were hired to start new departments and be team leaders. They usually occupy our senior level positions, with the objective to guide and direct our new hires.

So the process of getting new hires up to speed is of course done by our current employees. Although we have a strict hiring process in place in Devana, we do not expect these people to look after themselves when they start their trial here. Though many of them are young and lack experience, they usually pick up the pace fairly quickly because they are supported and actively mentored by their colleagues.

For those that are not quite ready to start working full time – we have an internship and mentorship program that helps them feel the joy and pain of working while studying.

But let us go back to the state of the industry itself.

“I want to stress the importance of being young and technical,” Mark Zuckerberg once infamously stated. “If you want to found a successful company, you should only hire young people with technical expertise”.

“Young people are just smarter,” he said with a straight face. “Young people just have simpler lives. We may not own a car. We may not have family.” In the absence of those distractions, he says, you can focus on big ideologies. He added, “I only own a mattress.”

Although Zuckerberg (a 22 year old when he said those words) later retracted this stance and changed it to “Simplicity in life allows you to focus on what’s important.” this seems to be a predominant opinion in the tech industry.

age

As PayScale research shows – companies with older employees tend to be older companies. So the age of the tech company and its employees seems related. Most big companies hire college graduates while their older workers are the ones that jumped on board earlier in the company’s life cycle  – which means that hiring just young people is a trend in the tech world that will not be reversed soon.

There’s no question the tech industry is filled with satisfying, high paying jobs. But a career in tech seems to come with a “deadline” and this has sprung many controversies.

The thing with age discrimination is that eventually everyone becomes a potential victim and there is no room for thinking that it can’t happen to you. While in some cases ageism is the reason for people to get rejected for a position that is completely suitable for them, in many cases young people will have a real advantage based on their skills and commitment.

So do not be afraid to take risks and work on improving your career chances by starting young and joining a company while still in college, or by changing companies and joining a startup that offers a more fulfilling, but slightly less paid job and an opportunity to keep learning.

And no matter how young or old you are (or feel), apply for a job at Devana if you think you could add value to our team.