Tech & Work

IT is best suited for the young? I don't think so

Toni Bowers addresses a controversial blog by Jack Wallen in which he says that IT is better suited for young people.

Last week, one of TechRepublic's freelance writers, wrote a piece for the 10 Things blog called, "10 things you gotta have to succeed in IT." This piece caused a mini-furor among its readers, as evidenced by the discussion following it. The part that most people objected to in Jack's piece was his assertion that IT is better suited for younger professionals. Here's what he said:

Although I like to think IT is a field not affected by age discrimination, it really is best suited for the younger professionals. There are numerous reasons for this. First, there are the hours. IT often requires far more hours than the usual 9-t0-5 job. When a company goes down, the administrator must respond - and this could easily mean any time of day, night, or week. Those hours add up and (generally speaking) only the younger workers can keep those types of hours up week after week. Add to that the energy required to keep systems and networks up, and it should be obvious the best IT workers tend to fall into that 25 to 45 age range. The good news? Even if you start at the age of 25, there's a 20-year career waiting for you.

First, I would like to tell everyone what I told those people who wrote to me to take me to task for "letting" something like that get published on TechRepublic. I can see where many people would assume TR would have to approve of a message in order to publish it. That's not true or else I'd be out of a job (ba dum dump!!). Blogs tend to, in general, carry the personal opinions of their writers. The internal editors may not always agree with the writer but we leave it to our excellent readers to point out issues with viewpoints they don't agree with.

However, from a personal standpoint, I feel the need to have to a go at Jack's logic in this particular instance. In my blog, I have long argued for the importance of experience in the job. IT is no exception. Here's my point-by-point rebuttal:

Hours - Wouldn't long hours actually be more of a burden on a younger IT person? Seems to me the 25-45 age group he cites would be somewhat busy starting their lives, e.g., getting married, raising kids, laying the groundwork for a lifetime of alcoholism. Speaking for my old, decrepit self, I'm more willing to work longer hours these days (now that my kid is 21 and embarrassed to be seen with me) than I was when he was little. Energy levels - The day I don't have the energy to sit upright at a desk and look at a computer is the day I call it quits. I had a problem with his statement, "Add to that the energy required to keep systems and networks up, and it should be obvious the best IT workers tend to fall into that 25 to 45 age range." First of all, it's not like "keeping the systems running" requires you to manually generate electricity on a stationary bike. Again, when my son was little, I had to fix his meals, get him to day care/school, go to his games, help with homework, do the grocery shopping, work full-time, clean house and, at various times, take classes myself. With him being grown, it's like semi-retirement. I have more energy (and more focus) now than I ever did.

And last, speaking from a strictly editorial viewpoint, one should avoid statements like "it should be obvious." The implication is that if the reader does not agree then he or she is "missing the obvious" and is perhaps somehow deficient. And that tone may have been what put people off. My fear is also that Jack's point of view might be adopted by osmosis by some hiring managers out there and that is WAY unfair (and illegal if said managers decide to state that viewpoint in an interview).

Now if you'll excuse me I have to go. Matlock is on.

About

Toni Bowers is Managing Editor of TechRepublic and is the award-winning blogger of the Career Management blog. She has edited newsletters, books, and web sites pertaining to software, IT career, and IT management issues.

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