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Old 16th May 2018, 15:29   #1
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Default The plight of IT professionals in their 40s

Sharing this free article from which I found interesting (most of their write-ups are; would recommend a subscription). Have seen similar posts on the forum earlier, so would like to hear thoughts from our many members in the IT industry. Are things really as challenging?

“So, how did it go?”

“It is hard to tell. You know how these things are,” said Sidharth. “But I’m an optimist,” he quickly adds, pushing his floppy hair back.

An experienced software developer, Sidharth, who didn’t want his last name identified, has gone nearly two years without a job. He didn’t want to talk before a crucial interview with a cab-hailing company. “I don’t want any distractions,” he said. Understandable, given he’s close to running his savings dry.
Jagadeesh Maiya, a 46-year-old senior director at Cisco, spent 18 years in the company. I met him at his home, an independent bungalow in a quintessentially green Bengaluru neighbourhood. It was Maiya’s last week at Cisco. Of slim build, he was wearing a powder blue shirt emblazoned with Cisco’s logo. He once wore it with pride. That has changed to disappointment.

As the company was restructured, Maiya’s position became less secure. More so when his boss decided to make Maiya report to a peer director. Having been a manager who had to let people go, he knew what that meant. And so, he did something he had never done before—track his expenses. Fortunately, he had enough savings to tide him through some months of no salary, if it came to that.
After a few failed attempts, Maiya began writing 20-plus years of experience’ in his resume, instead of the 25 years he has. “Unlike a doctor or a lawyer, where years of experience is marketable, in tech it is certainly not. Somehow there is a feeling of shame associated with saying I have 25 years of experience.”
Ask anyone, and they are sure to know someone in their forties out of a job or looking for one. They are easy to spot. They tend to mask their transition by calling themselves consultants or casually dropping the “I’m on my own” line. These are folks who laid out their career plans with the ambition of being a chief technology officer (CTO) or a senior vice president and retiring comfortably. But that went kaput because their company asked them to leave, or just made it extremely difficult to stay. Whatever be the reason, once out that door, getting their foot in the next door is frustratingly hard.

Last edited by GTO : 17th May 2018 at 11:14.
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Old 16th May 2018, 15:33   #2
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Default Re: The plight of IT professionals in their 40s

Time to move out of the cities and embrace farming. More money there I tell you. And time. And fresh air. And great mornings. And exercise.

Wait, you can't? Oh Loans and EMI.
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Old 16th May 2018, 15:39   #3
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Almost nobody is hiring those with 10+ years experience, according to this survey

A majority of companies are keen to hire candidates with a higher learn ability quotient, especially in the 0-5 years’ experience slab. Senior level hiring demand is decreasing as people management roles are diminishing gradually and mid-level/senior executives are yet to catch up on the pace at which IT industry is transforming, both in terms of business and talent, according to the survey.
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Originally Posted by Red Liner View Post
Wait, you can't? Oh Loans and EMI.

Last edited by SmartCat : 16th May 2018 at 15:41.
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Old 16th May 2018, 15:39   #4
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Default Re: The plight of IT professionals in their 40s

Im not sure why greater experience diminishes value for an IT engineer, it will be interesting for persons engaged in the sector to explain this.

Like the article says, I am a corporate lawyer and find that more years provide me with greater credence and value in the professional arena. Of course, it is a different matter that with greater experience and seniority, it becomes more difficult to skip and hop jobs (for a complex matrix of reasons applicable in my specific profession), which I find a lot of my engineer friends doing.
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Old 16th May 2018, 15:43   #5
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Originally Posted by arindambasu13 View Post
Im not sure why greater experience diminishes value for an IT engineer, it will be interesting for persons engaged in the sector to explain this.
Because the fundamentals of law does not change as quickly as technology. 4 year old's code these is not far fetched to assume that the like the 60's is now the 40's (retiring at 40 instead of 60), the 40's of today will become the 30's in about 5 years.

This is good, this is the only way there will be change. All these fat cat IT boys running around buying real estate - accumulating loans and EMI's like there's no tomorrow...

Last edited by Rehaan : 17th May 2018 at 14:49. Reason: Rephrasing last statement.
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Old 16th May 2018, 15:50   #6
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Default Re: The plight of IT professionals in their 40s

It has more to do with capability and knowledge than slim opportunities.

The rational thinking comes from wisdom and knowledge on technology.
The change being only thing constant in IT.
One would continue to do better if there's a capability and inquisitiveness to learn and explore the technologies.
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Old 16th May 2018, 15:51   #7
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A lot of organisations are scaling down operations with high impact to quality of service delivery. They are willing to take a hit on quality by hiring new joiners and training them. So much that most organisations nowadays resemble training centers for processes and technologies.

Some on the other side of the fence do consider that number of years of experience does not necessarily translate to variety or in depth knowledge. It is like Shane Warne saying about Monty Panesar that he did not play 50 tests; he just played 1 test 50 times. In other words, the person did not learn much by the number of years added. So no value in terms of number of years.

For those of us with 15+ years of experience, it is quite challenging to even land an interview. Most of the times we are competing with others with a half of the work experience willing to join at a third of our salary. They may not stay back for long, but many of those hiring tend not to look beyond completing their hiring quota. Why? because most of them would have moved to another organisation by the next few months that the new hiree resigns. Recruitment and retraining costs are therefore way higher, but it seems that most organisations seem content to live with that.

This is before we get automation and robotics in the picture. Most of those with higher experience levels are considered outdated and are first in line for being fired. Other people are deputed internally in their place.
This is probably why most in their late 30s and early 40s start something of their own.

Farming has always been an attractive proposition. After all you get to see something growing tangibly; quite unlike IT.

Last edited by selfdrive : 16th May 2018 at 15:58.
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Old 16th May 2018, 15:57   #8
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Default Re: The plight of IT professionals in their 40s

The current situation is making a lot of people realize/appreciate something they probably never did before: the difference between tenure and experience.
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Old 16th May 2018, 16:06   #9
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Default Re: The plight of IT professionals in their 40s

Gone are the days when you proudly flaunted your skills. Today's skill is to flaunt; Your ability to remain abreast with what's around ,off lately - Know the latest!

Most organizations are doing away with plain people or project management roles and are looking for Techno-functional or Techno-managerial roles now. This is the order of the day and there is no escape from this.

Things have evolved in the last 5 years more massively than the last decade that one seriously needs to follow the mantra of 'The moment you feel comfortable at one place, either re-skill and move positions or move out'.

Organizations today prefer to hire younger talent on lesser remuneration than have a fat one to an old timer. But at the same time, depending on specific roles, the time taken to train and groom the newly hired talent and the repercussion of having to deal with an unexpected output is something not everyone will be willing to risk - Time is money and client facing roles cannot have any tolerances.

Talking about how there is a huge gap in terms of the quality of Technical resources produced (Engineers/Technical Graduates) and the Industry expectations warrants for a huge discussion by itself but then, we are referring to the 40s in IT and it all has a direct correlation with where you started and how you moved till where you are today.

Originally Posted by Chetan_Rao View Post
The current situation is making a lot of people realize/appreciate something they probably never did before: the difference between tenure and experience.
And if I may add - The difference between Designation and Role .

Last edited by paragsachania : 16th May 2018 at 16:08.
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Old 16th May 2018, 16:08   #10
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Some observations from personal experience after 15 years (and counting) in the IT industry.

Kind of work. As much as the Indian media and our egos would like to have us believe, there is very little innovation in the Indian IT industry overall. Even today. Over the past 5-10 years there have been a few startups that are doing some great work, but these are few and far in between. The majority of Indian IT companies, product and service, basically follow the 'Infosys model' - hire cheap labor and sell their work for several times more to clients in the US or the EU who still make a saving on costs. This is true even for the so called 'product companies'. They may be innovative product companies in the US, but the India office basically works for the US office as a vendor doing back-office work. This will continue till more Indian IT companies start creating products for Indian customers. So naturally once a person's cost rises and the profit margin on his work reduces, the people doing the overall numbers will replace him with someone cheaper, especially when there is not going to be any significant reduction in the quality of work. Because frankly, given the quality of work that still gets 'outsourced' to the India office, none of this is rocket science and a person with fewer years of experience can easily replace someone senior to do the kind of work they are doing in most cases and job roles.

The 'manager' syndrome. Sadly, even after all these years and being exposed to the American and European work culture, we're very designation-crazy here. Willingly continuing as a technical or a domain person, honing your craft is not a majority choice still. The desire is still 'x years of experience means I should be a manager by now'. And people jump or threaten to jump till one desperate company finally offers them that hallowed designation, irrespective of whether that person has the required people management skills or not. The fact is, no really important decision gets taken in the India office, simply because no really important client or major source of revenue is in the India region for most IT companies. So most Indian IT managers are really only an interface/middleman between the senior manager in the US and the India team. How long can a company keep paying so many of these sorts of people 'xy lakhs per year' just to forward e-mails from his higher ups and ask for status reports from his team?

Non-existent HR development or training. Very few companies invest in their employees long-term. Sure the pay package will include an inflated 'CTC' figure. But there is no interest in developing an employee or training him to do his job better. Which is understandable since most people will jump for a 10-15% increase after less than a year, so why bother.

Entitlement. For all the fun we make of government employees and public servants, I've seen that we IT guys behave a lot like them. Most of us believe that it is our birthright to get double-digit hikes every year and a promotion every x years, irrespective of how the company is doing overall or how much we've delivered over the past year. Most appraisals, instead of being those - a honest appraisal of the measurable work done against a predefined target, are basically haggling sessions over the 'increment'. Again, adds to the rising cost of an employee without any increase in the value delivered. Of course we tie ourselves to these hikes because our 'basic needs' go up with every hike - a bigger car every 5 years (EMI 1), a new smartphone every 2 years, an overpriced flat closer to work (big EMI 2)...

IMHO, the music is not stopping soon, but it sure is getting softer. Till then, let's make hay while the sun shines. And for goodness' sake, be smart and try and live debt-free!
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Old 16th May 2018, 16:12   #11
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Default Re: The plight of IT professionals in their 40s

In case of product companies and those employees who are in research groups, being 40 plus is great value.
I need to know multiple technologies and domains when designing a new feature or a new product. Most of these technologies themselves are 20 to 30 years old, think compilers, debuggers etc.
A new hire will take at least 3 to 4 years to just get a hang of the domain.

So I think in service companies it might be true that a young engineer can do the same work as an older guy, but that will be disastrous in a product company.

And there is no truth to the saying that technology becomes outdated and replaced very fast. New tech is built upon the shoulders of old tech. And if you dont understand the concepts which are present in old technology, I am sure you are not going to get far by just mugging up new API.

All the big companies like Google, Facebook, Intel, Qualcomm, have wise and old senior people who shape technology.
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Old 16th May 2018, 19:22   #12
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To all the 40+ IT guys out there. Our generation was one of the luckiest ones. Somebody who had joined an IT company in the 90s earned one of the best salaries ever. Even a mediocre engineering graduate (case in point, yours truly) managed to draw a 6 digit salary. And we used to hop from one job to another asking for 50-100% rises.

If you thought that it would last forever and did not save some of it for this day, then it was your mistake. I intended to work only till 40, but still holding on to it just milk out that last bit of monthly pay. The day they let me go, I am gong to hang up my boots.
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Old 16th May 2018, 19:52   #13
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Interesting thread - but I don’t think IT is the only sector where this applies. It’s the natural outcome of a world where youngsters expect much faster growth, people learn faster, and the overall pie is not growing as rapidly anymore.

During the early 2000s, IT services cos were growing revenues at 20-30% pa, adding clients, entering new markets. Hence there was a rapid growth train from junior coders to project managers to even CEOs - the CEO of TCS is in his mid 40s. With growth slowing and customer additions slowing, there are fewer senior jobs around - and while growth for the average junior may have slowed, there still will be enough stars rising from the very large base layers that companies have - who are cheaper, hungrier and can replace seniors. A minority of seniors will upgrade their skills and find their way to the top of the pyramid - but lots of other are superfluous and will lose their jobs.

The same thing happens in industries like Banking or Consulting - a top quality IIM grad makes it from Analyst to MD / Partner in 12-13 years (viz by his or her mid to late 30s), but the number of Head jobs is small - so if the person is exceptional, he or she makes Head and pushes the incumbent out or up, else the person spends 3-4 years as an MD and then is out of work (or takes up some other job). In the absence of rapid growth, the same problem arises at every level - every three years, you need to be prepared to move up or out.

When I look at my friend circle, there are a large number of people who have moved to trying their hand at starting a business, consulting on their own, trying to launch an AIF, or slowing down and yes in several cases moving on to farming or wildlife photography.

So if you are in a sector where you expect to see rapid growth in your younger years, you must be conscious that this is not a career that will last forever - save enough such that by your mid 40s, you have enough to sustain your lifestyle for the rest of your life, keep building new skills, and remain open to trying your hand at a completely new sector.

When I was in my early 20s, I told my dad “I want to be a VP by 40”, and he asked me, “If you do that, what will you do with the rest of your life”. Perhaps there was a value in the old slow growth industrial era, where you put in your years and rose slowly peaking in your late 50s. I obviously didn’t want that. So for those IT professionals (and others) of my generation who benefited from the post liberalisation boom, I say, “Chill - We have been a lucky generation. Take things as they come, and reinvent yourself for the next 20 years. You are almost certainly much better off at 45 than you ever imagined you would be when you were 21”.
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Old 16th May 2018, 20:28   #14
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This is a classic case of 'when' and not 'if'. This was bound to happen sooner than later. Those who had prepared themselves for the reckoning will survive or move into different roles and those who were not prepared will be like deer in headlights. Everyone who was working in the industry knew this day will come. The reason being Indian IT Industry was not founded on talent but on cheap labor. It wasn't that Indian Engineers are not talented but they choose not to work in IT. They either work in Tech or some other sectors. The basic premise of IT Industry is based on cost savings. The jobs that have been outsourced to India are done not because that there's dearth of talent in the world but because companies were saving money in doing so. Since it was the beginning of the industry the pay packages, salary bumps were enticing to attract people (kinda what is happening in the start-up world). This began to put a strain on costs as the main USP ie. Cheap labor was now becoming an oxymoron.

Coupled with this the Recession in the developed countries have forced the customers to begin looking for squeezing out costs and hence either have started to ship these jobs to either even cheaper countries or started to look at automation as the permanent fix. As a result those caught napping in the mid-managerial positions were paid to face the burnt as neither could they be re-trained nor they could work on reduced pay. As a result they became the most disposable workers for companies since training junior workers was a much better option. It didn't help that most of these managers were just managers in name and had the title just to satisfy their ego and work experience. Similar thing happens in Journalism where you will find Managing Editor, Executive Editor, Senior Editor, Junior Editor, Associate Editor, Deputy Editor, Opinion Editor, etc and even a few more. Most of these people are now suffering because they have taken huge loans and never thought about saving. Now they are caught between a rock and a hard place.

PS : My opinions are of an outsider person who has had access to some of the workings of the Indian IT Industry through friends, relatives or even through some posts here. If I'm wrong at anything, I apologize beforehand.
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Old 16th May 2018, 20:45   #15
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Originally Posted by Red Liner View Post
Time to move out of the cities and embrace farming. More money there I tell you. And time. And fresh air. And great mornings. And exercise.
The grass is always greener on the other side. Unless you are a politician with a 'farm'.

Off-topic edit: And nobody is talking about the agriculture NPAs. Just try going to a village and do a 'The Big Short' kinda investigation. I don't know about the tipping point but it is coming.

Last edited by sidhu_hs : 16th May 2018 at 20:55.
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