35 isn't too old to work in tech — but you may feel over the hill, say software engineers

Key Points
  • Ageism is a big issue in Silicon Valley, with many over 40 saying it's hard to find a job in the industry.
  • An inquiry on question-and-answer site Quora asking if 35 was too old to work as a software engineer prompted many employees to say no, but some still acknowledged issues with ageism.
Even 35-year-olds may feel ageism in tech

Ageism is a growing issue in Silicon Valley. But are older millennials finding themselves too old for the tech jobs at the biggest companies?

An anonymous user recently asked on Quora: "I'm 35 years old. Am I too old to join Google, Facebook, Microsoft or Apple as a software engineer?" Quora is a website that allows people to post questions and have users answer them.

A recent article in USA Today reported those over age 40 found themselves over the hill when looking for a tech job. A Financial Times article noted the story of a 62-year-old man, who despite years of experience with Hewlett-Packard, Sun Microsystems and Cisco was losing jobs to people "earlier in their career." A woman who was hired at Google at 52 described on Wired the issues older tech employees face with career development, lack of mentoring programs and socializing — although she noted she survived "karaoke, rock climbing and a folkloric overnight ski trip."

Several people who claimed to work at tech companies inclduing Google, Amazon and Microsoft answered the Quora inquiry. Though the overwhelming majority said there was no age limit to joining a tech company, they did point out some issues like company culture and ageism. However, having a strong resume and relevant experience generally outweighed everything, most commenters said.

"Google frequently hires people who are much older than that, in both junior and senior positions," said Google software engineer Rebecca Sealfon, who said she started at the company at 33. "The main reasons Google engineers skew slightly younger, on average, are that Google was much smaller 10 years ago; many of its hires are made at the entry level; and for more senior positions, many older engineers are too well-established in their companies to transfer."

Another Google employee Andrew Shebanow — who said he started at the company at 46 and has been working there for seven years — said it is possible to get hired while older, but there are obstacles, including the interview process aimed toward young college graduates.

"Although ageism is rare, you may feel out of place at times since most of your coworkers will be much younger than you are," he wrote. "This comes up more often in social situations than in technical ones."

Frederic Jean, whose LinkedIn account lists him as a senior staff software engineer for Amazon Web Services, said he joined Amazon at 42.

"Yes, there is a lot of ageism in this industry," Jean said. "There are a lot of bad -isms in this industry. But there are many companies of all size that recognize how potent the combination of talent and experience can be. The good news is that companies that recognize it are also companies where grown ups tend to come to, which is a good thing."

A software engineer at Microsoft named Arya Afrashteh jokingly said older people will be a "social outcast" if they don't live on "chips, ramen, chocolate and protein drinks" and play "binary ping pong."

"Coding skillz begins to drop around 35," he wrote sarcastically.

"No you are not too old to work at those places at 35," Afrashteh, who is in his early 30s, added seriously. "You'll be fine at 35. You'll probably be fine all the way to 60 working at those companies. You can work anywhere at anytime at any age (though you may have to deal with a bit of ageism). Just stay healthy, learn stuff and find someone to settle down with. That's pretty much life."