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Handling Discrimination in the IT Workplace? 918

Posted by Cliff
from the where-can-you-go-what-can-you-do dept.
RJ asks: "I would like to get some advice from others that may be going through the same situation I am. I am currently 19 and will be turning 20 in 1 week. I have held my current job, as Systems-Network Administrator, for almost a year now in very good standing according to my direct boss, the IT Manager. I have 5 years industry experience and a few certifications, yet I am more then qualified for my current position according to previous employers (and my work history/experience). It has recently come to my attention that our IT Director is trying to either find a way to get rid of me or transfer me into a miserable job position, all because of my age. My Boss explained to me he thinks it has to do with a bit of jealousy. Everyone I work with is over the age of 30 and the IT director is in his mid 40's." Either your too old, or your too young, or it's racial issues, sexual preference, and sometimes it can even be religion. Despite the fact that it's the 21st century discrimination still exists and many of us have had to face it in our careers. For most, it basically amounts to a career roadblock, while for others, it can also turn into an extremely humiliating and terrible experience. What options exist for those who experience it in any of the many forms it can take in the workplace?

"The IT Director has never approached me about any of this and treats me fine to my face, but seems to talk bad about me around my Boss, though my boss does his best to defend me. I have had no work problems (documented or not) and have a clean HR record. It's to the point I can't trust anyone at work anymore. Everywhere I work people like me but as soon as they learn my age they automatically hate me, become jealous, or try to find ways to get rid of me. I have learned to deal with this problem as I figured it went with the territory. However, I also have a new baby daughter and a new wife to support and I can't lose my job, especially in this economy. Needless to say I am polishing up the resume and starting to look for a new job, but can anyone offer any sound advice, or legal actions which I can take if I do get fired, or even suggest employers in the industry that are friendly to my age bracket?"

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Handling Discrimination in the IT Workplace?

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  • Proof is good. (Score:2, Insightful)

    by goodwid (102323) on Sunday December 30, 2001 @11:42AM (#2764673) Homepage
    #1: Document everything, whether rumors, tidbits you overhear, whatever. Keep a record of everything you hear, who said it, when, where, etc.
    #2: If they set out to try to get rid of you, they can use anything, so stay on the ball.
  • by Brento (26177) <brento@NoSpAm.brentozar.com> on Sunday December 30, 2001 @11:45AM (#2764690) Homepage
    It has recently come to my attention that our IT Director is trying to either find a way to get rid of me or transfer me into a miserable job position, all because of my age. My Boss explained to me he thinks it has to do with a bit of jealousy. Everyone I work with is over the age of 30 and the IT director is in his mid 40's.

    OK, you need to buckle down a little here and realize that it might be a perfectly legitimate complaint. They hired you knowing full well what your age was (unless you've got premature gray hair or you dress like Mr. Rogers), and you need to realize that they wouldn't have hired you if they didn't want you. Something has changed between the time when they hired you, and now. Odds are you've demonstrated something about your age that didn't show up in the interview. I don't know what it is in your case, but typical guesses would be that you've made some less-than-mature decisions.

    I know plenty of people who have done the same thing. One example that comes to mind is a guy who started dating coworkers. A lot of them. And while it wasn't against company policy, it looked pretty immature when he was involved with a different staff member every month - and it wasn't the kind of mistake a 40-year old programmer would have made. The powers of the company didn't start disliking him because of his age: they disliked him because of the decisions he made.

    Another thing you need to consider is the economy. Suddenly, employers have their pick of the best that's out there, and prices are dropping. You might have been a choice pick two or three years ago, but now there are better people out there with more experience, and the IT director might even have someone in mind.

    Don't forget that personal connections mean everything. Your chief responsibility is to make sure your boss doesn't make any mistakes, and that he/she looks like a hero. As long as that's the case, your boss will always go to the mat for you, no matter how old/young you are, and nobody else in the company will be able to override them. You know what they say about trust: people who don't trust others, can't be trusted. If you come off as paranoid, nobody's going to put you in charge of stuff.
  • by ImaLamer (260199) <<moc.liamg> <ta> <ramal.nhoj>> on Sunday December 30, 2001 @11:49AM (#2764706) Homepage Journal
    That isn't a great question to ask the /. community. You are going to get a million IANAL but here is three large - run on forever and ever quite descriptive version on my opinion.

    If you think you have a case see a lawyer. Besides that there is nothing you can do except... nothing. You can't be mean to him, as this will give him a legitamate reason to fire or demote you. You shouldn't ignore him because that isn't good for anyone in the workplace. But, most importantly don't take his shit.

    But if you are serious about doing SOMETHING, do it legally and through the proper channels. I could have been one of the few woman-on-man sexual harassment 'victims' [read:Millionaire] if I would have sought real legal advice early.

    Besides that, if you don't even know for sure what he thinks and he hasn't actually affected your job or overall life, there isn't much you can do.

    I'm 21 and I learned this lesson fast. If you don't like the people you work with [or they don't like you] there isn't anything you can do; and if you quit or do something to get fired you may find it hard to get work afterwards.
  • Re:Proof is good. (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday December 30, 2001 @11:51AM (#2764711)
    He's right. Get yourself a little notebook. One that can fit in your pocket. Anytime anything suspicious happens. Whip it out and write it down, with time, date, location and any witnesses. Don't be too obvious about it though, Don't start writing things down in front of people's faces.

    If push comes to shove you can use it to get them to back off, or file a wrongful termination suite.

    If its a big prestigous company you might even get a a firm to work your case pro bono.
  • by Brento (26177) <brento@NoSpAm.brentozar.com> on Sunday December 30, 2001 @11:52AM (#2764712) Homepage
    I found that if you confront them and show them how much you know and how confident you are at your job then they will learn to respect your level of knowledge.

    Wrong-o. If you confront a senior manager and start a showdown, you will win the battle and lose the war, looking like a cocky jerk. I can't believe how many times I see junior people try that stunt. If you correct your boss in front of other people, you are NOT helping your case. You will look like an overconfident know-it-all with zero political experience, and your boss will not have you around the next time he/she is in an important conversation.

    That sort of trick works great when you're "fixing computers on my time off", as you said, but as soon as you get into a political office, you will be targeted for destruction. Think about how you feel when somebody corrects you, and you were wrong. Now think about how you'd react if they were much younger, and you had all the power. You might think you'd be nice to them, but in reality, you'd squash 'em like a bug and bring in somebody more polite and savvy.

    Start your journey by reading The Art Of War. I can't emphasize enough how important this is in corporate culture: look weak when you're strong, and look strong when you're weak. Nothing impresses bosses more than an employee who gets the war of corporate culture, and knows how to pick battles.
  • Quit. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by jcr (53032) <jcr@NOsPAM.mac.com> on Sunday December 30, 2001 @11:52AM (#2764716) Journal
    It's always easier to get a higher starting salary than a raise. If you don't like where you are, and your skills are as you describe, then get your resume out there, and take a better job.

    -jcr
  • by k4 (267349) on Sunday December 30, 2001 @11:54AM (#2764721)
    I had problems with discrimination in my first two jobs out of college - about ten years ago. I had the double whammy - young (21) and female. I was a sysadmin, programmer, jack of all trades, with three years of experience and a CS degree. But because I was female, the salesmen gave me letters to type. The owner referred to me as the "computer girl" and treated me like a secretary. I tried to tough it out for a while, but realized that there isn't much you can do about people like them. So I quit.

    The next place I worked at, I was the manager of the IT department, with two employees reporting to me. I was nearly 20 years younger than them, and one of them had major problems with my age. She tried very hard to get me fired. Most of the other managers also thought I was way too young and didn't take me seriously at all. So I quit.

    The next time I interviewed, I looked for companies with lots of young employees. Getting a tour of the company is a great way to scope this out. I also looked for temp-to-hire positions, so I could make sure things would be good before hiring in permanently. And I found a fantastic company, where people didn't care that I was female or young. I was much, much happier.

    So if you've got the experience, knowledge, and talent, why stay in an environment where you're uncomfortable or not treated right? Life is too short...
  • by foxtrot (14140) on Sunday December 30, 2001 @11:59AM (#2764740)
    When I was 19, I had five years of real world experience, too.

    Now I'm 28, and I have 9 years of real world experience... All of it in the past 9 years.

    -JDF
  • by bmetz (523) on Sunday December 30, 2001 @12:00PM (#2764747) Homepage
    First, you don't have 5 years experience. Unless you started working 9-to-5 at age 14. Part-time at 14, which I doubt you did, doesn't count. Running a few linux machines at your high school or at your house doesn't count.

    Second, do you actually care whether or not this is age descrimination? I wouldn't. If someone is looking to get rid of you, the real problem is that someone is looking to get rid of you. You either resolve that or you get ready to get kicked out of the company. Get ready for the inevitable -- you are on the way out.

    How about you take the obvious not-so-attractive-short-term choice: quit the company, get some student loans, and go back to college. (I'm assuming you either dropped out or never went)
  • by webword (82711) on Sunday December 30, 2001 @12:01PM (#2764750) Homepage
    In my opinion, there will always be discrimination. My experience in industry and academia has taught me to be very aware of discrimination. It is there, and it always will be there. Humans are human. As long as we judge each other, discrimination will occur.

    With that said, I wish people would stop complaining so much. It is actually very, very rare to be discriminated against. To be more precise, it is rare to be only discriminated against. Instead, what usually happens, is that a person is lazy, annoying, or useless. Management then makes a move and the person being "attacked" cries discrimination.

    I'm not trying to minimize the impact of discrimination, but come on folks, most of us know that the people being "discriminated against" are the slugs. They are the people that you actually want to eliminate from your company or organization.

    Once again, just to be 100% clear, I know that discrimination happens. I hate it. You hate it. But, in my opinion and experience, it is extremely rare that it is the only factor.
  • by truthsearch (249536) on Sunday December 30, 2001 @12:06PM (#2764767) Homepage Journal
    Just because you didn't work while you were in high school doesn't mean no one else did. As a freshman in high school (14 yrs old) my father hired me to do some network administration in the small accounting firm he owned. I learned on the job and he paid me a low hourly salary. I did that all through high school and college for him. That's 8 years of "real world(tm)" experience before getting a degree.

    No one is going to say their 19 with 5 yrs experience and not mean it. You can be sure he's used to the questions, and knows better than to state something like that on Slashdot without a valid story behind it ;-)
  • by mwdib (56263) on Sunday December 30, 2001 @12:07PM (#2764770)
    Brento makes a very valuable point in his first paragraph. As a manager with 30-some years experience, I've seen many cases where employees felt they were being discriminated against (for age, sex, sexual orientation, or race) but, at the same time, there were serious performance problems or behaviors that the employee failed to correct -- often claiming the behaviors were irrelevant or didn't even exist.

    Out of a dozen or so instances I can think of, there was only one (a sexual orientation case) where I agreed with the employee that the manager's case against him was bogus and rooted in personal animosity. Of course, in my state, discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation is legal, so the employee lost. Nonetheless, the other 11 or so cases make me skeptical as to the claims being offered here. I could be wrong, but I'm a crusty old cynic.

    And now I'm going to sound like a prejudicial old coot . . .


    My experience tells me that young people (males particularly) tend to be non-reflective and have a fair amount of trouble realistically assessing their behaviors (both good and bad).


    That said, I'd offer the following advice:
    1. Answer the question: do I like (or need) this job enough that I'm willing to make reasonale changes to my behavior? If the answer is yes, continue:
    2. Talk to the boss and ask what specific behaviors need changing. If the boss says "none," ask for permission to speak to the IT Director yourself. [Bear in mind that the boss may be trying to get you to change your behavior by making you think upper management is displeased -- maybe they aren't and the boss is playing some game of his own for his own reasons. The IT Director may love you and the boss may actually be the one trying to get you to leave]. If you get to talk to the IT Director, lay out the situation clearly, with more detail than you have done here. The upshot should be respectful requests to (1) understand the situation and (2) understand if the IT director has concerns about your behavior and what they are.
    3. In any event, immediately go to your company's HR department and lay out the situation clearly and non-emotionally.


    The essence of the advice is this: Failing to confront this, will just stress you out and get you no where. You must clarify three things: (1) where you stand on the job, (2) what the actual situation is, and (3) if you need to make changes to alter the situation.

    Best of luck.

  • by Sk3lt (464645) <peteNO@SPAMadoomedmarine.com> on Sunday December 30, 2001 @12:10PM (#2764781)
    Oh yeah I know... I'm not talking about correcting the boss as that's a big No-No but what I mean is that if you show them how good you are by, for example, if you work at a computer retail shop try to talk to customers and help them out giving them advice on whats the best product and also making sure your boss is listening as he will not only be impressed but he will see that you are doing a good job.
  • by wurp (51446) on Sunday December 30, 2001 @12:11PM (#2764786) Homepage
    While I agree that the post to which you're replying takes a cynical view, I still agree that even if you have been programming since 16, your 'years of experience' don't start then.

    When you tell someone about your professional experience, it should be just that. You should definitely also tell them about your pre-professional experience, but you're misleading them if you lump your junior high and high school programming/networking/admin days in with work you did in a professional environment.

    BTW, I started programming (in Basic and 6502 assembler) when I was 12 years old. I am now 31, and I tell people I have 7 years of experience, which I do. I have never counted my experience as starting at 12!
  • by s390 (33540) on Sunday December 30, 2001 @12:12PM (#2764788) Homepage
    I disagree - /. gets these every once in a while and the community provides some good advice.

    Gather documentation: you should have copies of your reviews and be allowed to see everything in your personnel file, maybe even get a copy of it. Take copies of your email, and take them offsite.

    Does your company have an Employee Handbook or other HR publications describing their personnel and termination policies and procedures? If so, they must follow what they publish or face potential liability for wrongful reassignment or termination. Get copies of whatever they publish.

    What State do you work in? Do you know what your State Labor Board/Commission requires of employers? If not, find out.

    Get a lawyer. Most will talk with you for an initial assessment of your situation without charge. But you'll have to retain them ($$$) to get them to take any action on your behalf, from writing letter(s) to filing suit ($$$$+).

    Best wishes to you.
  • Plow on. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by twitter (104583) on Sunday December 30, 2001 @12:13PM (#2764795) Homepage Journal
    Just keep on doing your best, but start looking for another job. Places that dissmiss merit and are unable to recognize results for any reason are on the way down. Somewhere is a place that will both appreciate and reward you for what you do well. Continue to do what you can to make your performance as good as it can be. Failure looks bad.

    Remember the razor, however. If you find that many people are wrong and impossible to convince, you may not be right. Good luck!

  • by SpinyNorman (33776) on Sunday December 30, 2001 @12:13PM (#2764797)
    You may believe you are god's gift to your boss, but the people you are workign with most likely have degrees (which you obviously don't) as well as years more experience than you do. You may be doign your job OK, but I bet in ten years time you'd be the first to shout how much more useful experience you have than some 20 yr old, and how that experience helps you see things at a higher level and make better decisions.

    The tech job market is competetive, and it may well be that although you're doing OK, that your performance falls short enough of what the higher ups know a more experienced person would bring to the job. I'd really adivise you to look for another job, although your other alternative would be to ask where you are coming short of expectations / requirements, and what you can do to improve yourself.
  • by sinator (7980) on Sunday December 30, 2001 @12:16PM (#2764805)

    I don't mean to sound rude or hurtful when I say this, but are you being particularly cocky around the workplace? Allow me to explain:

    I'm 22 and I'm currently working a midlevel developer job at a contractor for the NIH. Just about everyone else is older; mainly in their forties. Because I'd worked my way through university in several entry-level developer jobs, I had some experience on my belt, but I made it a point not to appear like some sort of "whiz kid". While many of my coworkers have styles of thought which I, personally, find outdated (they mainly come from a COBOL on IBM mainframe background), I don't belittle their ideas nor do I try to "convert" or "convince" them my way is better. Why? Because even if it's right in a technical sense, politically, it's suicide.

    There are many ways of getting things done; sometimes it's worth taking a hit in terms of efficiency if it means sparing the cohesiveness of the team. After all, in the I.T. fields, learning is constant; a 40 year old will be learning new things as will a 20 year old. If you think Java on UNIX is going to last forever, you're mistaken; thus, it's fair that you allow your older coworkers to learn and stumble without pointing out how or why they're wrong (no matter how justified it may seem).

    Finally, and on a slightly more personal note, there's something to be said about learning from your elders. Believe it or not, there's often wisdom from the elders. Sometimes it's technical, sometimes it's operational, sometimes it's personal advice. Even if you don't agree with it, smile, nod, thank them, and keep it in the back of your mind. You wouldn't turn down a free computer, if it was crappy, right? You'd keep it in the back room in case you needed a router. You wouldn't turn down a free car, even if it was a beat up old Ford Escort, right? You'd keep it around, or at the very least, donate it and write it off as a tax deduction. Treat advice the same way; it's free, and you never know when you'll use it.

    I guess it's obligatory to say YMMV [tuxedo.org], but I think the advice is sensible enough to apply. And if you feel that you've been following all of the above conditions, and you've double checked and triple checked it, then take heart in the knowledge that you're an agreeable person and they are not, and look elsewhere.

    But trust me on the sunscreen.

  • by truthsearch (249536) on Sunday December 30, 2001 @12:19PM (#2764814) Homepage Journal
    I worked for Mastercard for 5 years, starting as an intern after my sophomore year in college. I was in HR for a year, then an analytical dept for a year, then the "IT" department for 2 years. I was hired at 19, had great reviews and only compliments for my first 2 years.

    After I graduated and was hired full time, I was moved under a jack-ass of a boss. He was an idiot, but lied and carried himself well, so got away with a lot of shit. Anyway, he was my 4th boss at the company and was the only one to talk about me behind my back. He gave me great reviews, but the raises sucked and he told others I was too young, even though everyone agreed I did more than my share of good work.

    After one particular comment he made in front of others, I put in an official complain in human resources. They did nothing. I went to his boss, who also did nothing (he seemed to feel uncomfortable with discussing it with my boss). I felt my salary was being held back because I was being discriminated against. I had no good way to prove it, however.

    I took 2 weeks vacation, found a new job, and started at double the salary I was getting at Mastercard. I'm still at this other company and I'm treated very well, even as the youngest in my group.

    My experience tells me that if your IT director wants to get rid of you, you're out of luck. Granted it's a bad market, but go looking elsewhere. Remember that you won't be able to sue him (most likely) until after you're fired, which is way too late if you've got a family. So freshen up that resume and send it to everyone and their mother.

    Good luck.
  • by bad-badtz-maru (119524) on Sunday December 30, 2001 @12:24PM (#2764834) Homepage

    The guy shouldn't be left guessing as to whether or not there is some sort of discrimination occurring. If management has an issue with some aspect of the employee's behavior or performance it is supposed to be brought to the attention of the employee. If management has not specifically mentioned a performance problem to the employee then the employee is right to think that there is not one. It is maneuvers by management such as what is being described by the poster that typically results in a lawsuit. Any halfway decent employer would have shielded themselves against this sort of liability by using standard human resources policies, therefore this employer must suck and the guy should seek employment elsewhere.

    maru
  • by barzok (26681) on Sunday December 30, 2001 @12:32PM (#2764864)
    But when law makes it unfair, as in the case of the "age discrimination is only over 40" that's wrong. Slapping a number on age discrimination is age discrmination in and of itself!
  • by mindstrm (20013) on Sunday December 30, 2001 @12:33PM (#2764868)
    Speaking strictly, the IT director won't tell you this to your face because it's not his job to do so. It's his job to deal with your boss (from the sounds of it). Period. And your bosses problem to deal with you.

    Now, what should happen is your boss would shield you from the director. If your boss thinks his boss is out of line, it's up to your boss to do something about it.

    If you were to go over your bosses head and complain somewhere over the Director's head, it may get your boss in shit.. because it's his job to sort this out.

    Now.. strangely enough, I was in basically this exact same position a few years ago, if you can believe it.

    The VP Tech (out of the blue) decided that I needed to be fired, and started basically blaming things on me, and to make it worse, he worked in our head office, not in the building I was in. Whenever I saw him in person, he was nice, joking, friendly. Whenever he was back in his office, he backstabbed.

    Just before he moved to this new office and started trying to get rid of me, we hired an IT Director, whom I reported directly to (clarification, in my case, it's the VP who's bad and the director who's my boss) Now.. this guy barely knew me. I was young (24) compared to everyone else involved.. and he walked right into his new job to find that the VP Tech was trying to axe me. What did he do? He came to me in person, said so-and-so has it in for you, and flatly stated that he thought such behavior was unprofessional and that he had no intention of letting me go. This was after working with me for about 3 or 4 days.
    Weeks later, at a meeting, with all senior management present, The VP brought up the topic of canning me again. My new boss stood up, said basically, and firmly, 'We are not letting him go, he stays. if you have a problem with what my department does, bring it up with me. It's not up to you to hire/fire my staff. That's why you hired me as the Director of IT'. This was in front of the CEO, etc. And that settled it. It never came up again.
  • Ageism and IT (Score:4, Insightful)

    by ellem (147712) <<moc.liamg> <ta> <25melle>> on Sunday December 30, 2001 @12:36PM (#2764876) Homepage Journal
    Biggest problem I can see with "youngster's" at rhe helm is one of experience.

    Not technical experiencebut of human experience.

    The younger techs do not seem to grasp the idea that saving a Word File (et al) is not an innate ability that all humans have. Thusly, younger techs tend to be ineffective "trainers" and short on patience.

    Oddly I also find younger techs do not have the ability to "See The Screen" allowing them to talk someone through a set of commands or mouse clicks to "fix" their issue. Despite all of their excellent tech knowledge and boundless energy, young techs aren't always great people people.

    In the thinning IT world being able to talk to a 60 year old VP Assistant is more important than being able to script or build a BIND server.

    (I am sure the 45+ set is saying that about me and my 30ish set -- such is life)
  • by danheskett (178529) <danheskett@@@gmail...com> on Sunday December 30, 2001 @12:40PM (#2764891)
    I run into the same thing alot. Its very tempting to call age discrimination when in fact its just plain old "discrimination". Being 20 at a small company is tough for me for that exact reason. I walk around in a daze, wondering if they hate me because of age or for other more personal reasons.

    Then, at the end of the day, I just decide it doesn't matter why. I just go in every day and do the best frigging job I can - I don't complain, I dropped my contentious attitude, and I don't belittle other employees.

    Its also tough because I do work 8-5, M-F as well as go to school full-time in a fairly demanding program. My bosses really don't know the extent of my ongoing education - its none of their business - but more or less, I feel that I am being underpaid and taking much to much of the burden.

    But, like you said, the options are clear and the real problem is why is someone looking to get rid of you.

    One other point: my boss often dismisses my programming experience as not counting, like you did, but in many cases (like mine for example) we really have been working full or nearly full time for 4-5 years by the time we are twenty. I was doing full-time consulting and programming from my sophomore year in high-school on. Real work, real pay, real references, and real products brought to market. Under very high-stress no doubt.
  • by egarland (120202) on Sunday December 30, 2001 @12:41PM (#2764896)
    I would recommend is go to work for a very small company. Big companies need large groups of people that all are content in their little role. Tiny companies need people who want to do everything. A desire to branch out and work in all kinds of areas can be irritating to the people around you in a large company. You end up stepping on toes and angering groups. That same quality could be your greatist asset in a small company where they expect people to wear multiple hats. I work for a startup now and it's a whole different world. People are excited when I offer to branch out and take on new responsabilities.

    Another thing to keep in mind is that I used to think *exactly* the same thing as you do. I'm young, they're old, they're jealous and thats why they don't like me. I was wrong!

    The problem was my bad attitude. I had a rotton attitude that stemmed from a feeling that I though I was younger and smarter and better than everyone else. It sounds like you have the same attitude. It could be the real problem.

    Don't get me wrong, you can run into people who are legitamitely jealous of your skills, I'm pretty sure I have. Most people won't be though. I've found that the most important thing for you to do is work hard, be helpful to your co-workers and get you assigned taks done. A good employee brings up the performance of everyone around them. An arogant employee can bring down the performance of everyone around them. Being dependible is also *HUGE*. A prima donna sysadmin that only does what they like, not what they are assigned isn't good for any company, especially a big one. Most people don't really care about your age but a superior attiude can piss off an entire devision of people. No single employee is worth ruining the morale of an entire group of people.

    Just work hard and be nice to everyone. Remember when you get pissed off that you are all on the same team and you are all going in the same direction. If you truely have the skill then you probably see horrible things about to happen and get emotional about them. Don't! It's business, it's not personal. You are all on the same team. You are all going in the same direction. Calmly explain your fears and then sit back and let the horrible thing happen. Then say I told you so. It sounds childish but unless you are the boss that's the way you have to do it. After a couple of those people won't think of you as a hot headed kid. They will fear your disapproval because it means the project is likely to fail. You can't get that from superior skills alone. Only time can build a reputation like that among your pears.

    Another thing to keep in mind is that in this job market it seems to me that you always get rewarded for your hard work but not unitl you switch jobs. There is a kind of *next job karma* in the world where whatever busting your ass you do in this job will be compensated in your next one. Remember to note your particularly impressive accomplishments in your resume. That's how the karma usually get's passed on.

  • by pdqlamb (10952) on Sunday December 30, 2001 @12:44PM (#2764901)
    Oh, what the heck. Here goes anyhow.

    Five years experience and you're 19? Like several others have said, no way. Unless, of course, you dropped out of junior high and started working full time, which I doubt. Ask your boss and HR people how they count years of experience, and restate yours to match their standards.

    Sue them? Well, count on paying a lawyer a few hundred bucks to ask him a few questions. You could save it to pay for your baby, but you're pissed, right? Then drop it. You're unlikely to make out like a bandit, and you're very likely to taint yourself (for suing your employer) so badly nobody will ever hire you except as a temp or consultant again.

    Confront the bastard. Well, you can. Most 19-year-olds don't have the maturity and self-control to pull this one off, but you may be the exception. If you do, figure out what your goal is and how you're going to get there ahead of time. Two more hints: First, you won't win if you threaten him, and probably won't if you try to convert the IT guy on the spot by jawing at him.

    Second, if you want to win a confrontation, you should ask him (and your immediate boss, too) how you can improve your performance. Tell him you have a kid on the way, and you're serious about trying to be the best employee he has, and has him how to do that. Ask him why he wants to get rid of you, and what you can do to improve so that he wants to keep you. If you don't get any response there, try the IT director's boss, one level up, with the same approach. Then listen, write down what he says, and get to work on those suggestions.

    You may want to become a "Master of the Universe," but you obviously are not in a position to get there by acting like one. (For one thing, masters of the universe don't bring their problems to ./ asking for advice.) Eat some humble pie, learn how you can improve, and you may get there in another 19 years.

    Are your grammar and dress in line with the rest of your company? The dot.bust has come, and you may be trying to get away with last year's mannerisms. Don't push it too hard. Khakis and no ties you can justify if you routinely crawl around behind machines or lug monitors around. Torn t-shirts and holes in your jeans may chafe a raw spot somewhere up the hierarchy. Keep that up only if you want to remind them you're a special case. The special case they may want to get rid of.

    Or quit. Just make sure you have another job lined up before you go. Be sure that if you take this route, you are going to leave. You can look for other work, and test the waters, on your lunch hour or before/after work. But you're not trying to get a raise, you want a job. If you get an offer, you're out of there.
  • by marekcain (444318) on Sunday December 30, 2001 @12:47PM (#2764912)
    Hey dude,
    I can understand that you are upset with what you perceive to be the current situation. However, take a step back and look at it from a critical point of view. Before changing to the IT field in 1996, my accomplishments included running a large food company as Operations Chief, and then co-owning a factory. Granted that the fields are different, but I believe that the past experience plus the current experience as a junior sysadmin and systems troubleshooter, allows me some weight in commenting. b.t.w. I am 37.
    First, I think it is great that you got the position. At your age that is a huge plus.You must have accomplished a lot for them to even consider you.
    Second, as a former boss I'm aware of the discrimination laws and you really do not have a case. You are in the position already so they didn't discriminate in hiring practices. Nor are you being actively acted against because of your age.
    K- here are the comments that might be helpful:
    At 37, it is refreshing to work with younger and older people. We all have something to offer. Our IT team works with the Gov't and a few of them are in the early 20's. We value their input and their opinions. Age is not considered
    Therefore, some factors must have been either discovered, i.e. let's say about your personality and ability to be a team player; or created, i.e. did you act in an immature manner or criticize others for mistakes.
    How well do you take criticism?
    Your boss might like you personally but perhaps some items have come to his attention. Your post sounds very defensive, you might be showing this at work and treating your coworkers with suspicion and paranoia.
    How do you dress? How well do you speak and communicate with others? Being a sysadmin is more than pounding the keyboard. How is your command of the English language? As a sysadmin you are setting examples and will be held to a higher standard.
    Has your company experienced growth? Perhaps newer technologies and economic advances within the company demand someone with either a different skillset or more business savvy.
    Have you been watching the bottom line? Keeping an eye on ROI? Submitting reports on time? Are you a team player? How well do you integrate the ideas of others? Your post sounds like its a "me against them" relationship. You arent running the place alone there are many others in IT who are the backbone. Do you value them and give them your time? How do you spend your time at work? You might work fast but what do you do in the downtime? Do you pick up the slack and pitch in or do you stay aloof, maybe even playing games.
    Have you done something outlandish that might be perceived as immature? Do you demonstrate mood swings? At your age, mood swings would be seen different than if they were demonstarted in an older employee.
    Do you drink? take drugs? talk about drinking and drugs? [ no offense meant, its just that everywhere drugs are not cool- the Govt has just denied school funds from 43,000 college kids because of past drug history]
    Do you contribute to weekly or monthly meetings? Have you saved the company money or submitted reports explaining how you saved money or accomplished a given set of tasks?
    Have you brought a weapon to work? You might be showing off that new knife or your skills with nunchakus-- your boss and coworkers might feel different. Do you joke about violent actions?
    Do you talk excessively about religion? politics? ethnic groups? Are you ON TIME at work? Do you leave early or right at the stroke of the clock?
    Do you work hard? Remember that your boss is not your friend. That kind of relationship is separate from his/her being a boss. Over time the boss might become your friend, but a good boss keeps business separate.
    After work, with whom do you associate? Have you been caught cracking? Using the company telephones or machines in a personal manner? What is the yearly gross of the company? Do you speak of your coworkers in a critical manner? Do you follow company policy? How did you react when you f*cked something up? We all have so don't be shy.
    Discipline and how we react to it is a strong indicator of business and personal maturity.
    Finally, just take all of this into consideration and think from an objective point of view. You could approach your boss at a lull in the work day and suggest a meeting with him/her to discuss your work record and performance. Explain that you want to improve and are seeking constructive criticism.
  • Ask Slashdot Week (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Flavio (12072) on Sunday December 30, 2001 @12:55PM (#2764926)
    It seems to me like this is the "Hi, I'm 19-24, never went to college, am a kick ass programmer with TONS of experience but am stuck professionally! HELP!!!!" week.

    I don't intend to offend you, but you must know some things:

    1. Face it: college is IMPORTANT. Go study now while you still can. You may argue that you're married with kids now, but you're still young -- don't wait until you're 30 to say "I should've gone to college back when I was 20 and could".

    2. Programming is cool, but it's not everything that matters. Once you learn calculus, statistics and logic you'll have better ways to solve problems. You'll see that there are solutions other than brute force.

    3. Programming can be extremely easy next to mathematics. It's often much simpler to devise something that "just works" rather than developing it carefully and proving why it's the best solution.

    4. Cutting and pasting perl/php for 5 years doesn't count as real work. Nor does assembling computers/networks. Just installing and updating software doesn't count as professional system administration.

    5. The computer stuff you did in high school doesn't count as real world experience.

    6. Whether you like it or not, most companies will NEVER consider you and most professionals won't respect you if you don't have a degree. You will keep losing arguments even though you're right.

    7. You'll never know how much you lack unless you go to college.

    In short, you may be stuck professionally for a reason other than age discrimination. Perhaps being a kick ass programmer isn't all that matters.
  • Re:additional info (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Mike Connell (81274) on Sunday December 30, 2001 @12:56PM (#2764932) Homepage
    I wonder if "intimidatingly smart" is doublespeak for something else. I meet really really smart people a lot, and don't feel intimidated (I'm not so smart, so maybe I'm just oblivious ;-)

    OTOH, I've met a fare share of moderately intelligent assholes who have a chip on their shoulder about how smart they are.

    0.02
  • OT I guess, but... (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday December 30, 2001 @01:07PM (#2764966)
    So this is what I don't understand. You say running a few Linux computers and screwing around doesn't count as real world experience. Well, ok. I understand that, although I think that screwing around with a few machines can certainly boost your skills more than one might think if you get into it.

    My question is this. If that's the case, how the hell does someone without a degree ever get an IT job? And I know they do. Every job I see wants at least 2 years experience. Is is supposed to be next to impossible to get into this crap?
  • Get out! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by mlknowle (175506) on Sunday December 30, 2001 @01:09PM (#2764975) Homepage Journal
    Discrimination like this will always happen, no matter what century; in fact, I think it might be better to call it 'jelousy' than 'discrimination.'

    In any case, your best choice is to get out now. Look at the two possible outcomes:

    1. He succeeds: you get fired. Then you have to explain the situation to other employers, who might just think you are making up a story to justify termination.

    2. You prevent him from dumping you through legal means. Well, congradulations; now you have a guy who hates you for the rest of your life, and will do every little thing he can to sabatoge you. Sounds like a great place to work!
  • by tshak (173364) on Sunday December 30, 2001 @01:25PM (#2765022) Homepage
    OK, you need to buckle down a little here and realize that it might be a perfectly legitimate complaint. They hired you knowing full well what your age was (unless you've got premature gray hair or you dress like Mr. Rogers), and you need to realize that they wouldn't have hired you if they didn't want you. Something has changed between the time when they hired you, and now. Odds are you've demonstrated something about your age that didn't show up in the interview. I don't know what it is in your case, but typical guesses would be that you've made some less-than-mature decisions.

    You make a well stated argument, but you are incredibly off base with your assumptions.

    1) It sounds like his immidiate bosses have never had a problem with him - they are most likely the ones to have done the hiring.

    2) There are a couple times - for ego/political reasons - that after I've been hired, a manager doesn't like me regardless of job performance. A relevant example: When I was younger (21), I critiqued a major system designed by an upper manager. Almost overnight I went from a "star" employee to a "devicive and incompetent" employee. He tried to fire me for 6 months until finally HE got fired (thanks to some seasoned consultants and other developers who reported similar findings).

    There are many reasons for a few select people to not like you, least of which is incompetance. Now, if his immidiate managers and fellow employees don't like him - for whatever reason - then it's time to find a new job. With age one does gain valuable life experience, but with the current information given, I would lean more towards illogical management then the possibility of less-than-mature decision making.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday December 30, 2001 @01:30PM (#2765029)
    Give me a break. In one of my previous positions I worked as a systems administrator for the EE dept in a major university. I had several interns. They worked for little to no money. They work 12-14 hour days, some of them as young as 15. They did good, solid work (better than some "professionals" I've worked alongside.) and worked hard. When we lost power during a thunderstorm, they were onsite right along with me. Admittedly most of them only did summer work, but a couple were no longer in high school, and did it full time.

    Maybe you don't consider this "real world experience" but I sure do. They got paid horrible wages, to do professional quality work, they got discriminated against for being so young (they didn't count as full time university employees.) and they had to deal with the professors in the dept. because the "manager" of our group didn't manage. (Instead, I had to pick up that slack, unofficially.)

    So don't tell me kids that young can't gather real world experience. Maybe he's exaggerating how much he has, but I'm pretty sure everyone I know does.

    --jeh
  • by Anml4ixoye (264762) on Sunday December 30, 2001 @01:31PM (#2765032) Homepage
    First, the situation you are in sucks. Some of the posters are correct that you really should determine if you want to stay there under the supervision of someone who doesn't want you there.

    And as much as it sucks, federally there is nothing you can do. The EEO laws state that age discrimination applies to 40 and above. The best thing you can do at this point is check your state laws to see if there is something that can be done.

    A third option you might have is to get a hold of your representatives in the house and senate. While there may be nothing that could be done to help you, you might be able to get laws past that could help others.

    But more than likely, if they want you gone, they will find some way to do it that is legal. A director isn't a director because he/she fell into it, they are a director because they have survived, and they know what it takes to make it through.

    Good luck. Sounds like you are going to need it.

  • by looie (9995) <michael@trollope.org> on Sunday December 30, 2001 @01:42PM (#2765068) Homepage
    The really sad thing is that age discrimination is pretty much a one way street. The guy would have a better-than-even shot at collecting compensation if he were a 42 year-old coder being forced out because of his age (most HR departments demand such heavy documentation that managers don't even bother trying), but the chance that a 20 year-old can win on an age discrimination claim is approaching zero.

    The law is quite unambiguous -- discrimination on the basis of age is illegal: period. It doesn't matter whether the discrimination is based on youth or elderliness. If you can demonstrate that decisions were being made solely on the basis of age and not on competence, you win.

    That said, I find this guy's complaint to be a bit of the "shoe on the other foot." In fact, the majority of age discrimination in the tech business is by guys like him running out the "old folks" so they can get their video-game-playing buddies in. Sorry, he's in the right legally and morally, but I just don't have much sympathy for him. I suspect that, if he were in a management position, he'd treat an older cow-orker exactly the way he is being treated now.

    mp

  • by Anonymous Brave Guy (457657) on Sunday December 30, 2001 @01:47PM (#2765085)
    As a freshman in high school (14 yrs old) my father hired me to do some network administration in the small accounting firm he owned. I learned on the job and he paid me a low hourly salary. I did that all through high school and college for him. That's 8 years of "real world(tm)" experience before getting a degree.

    No, it's not. While it is certainly valuable experience -- I'm a professional software developer now, and you can bet I listed my early part-time programming work on my CV at first -- comparing that to full experience of the same length of time is misleading at best. A part-time job such as you describe does not provide the same level of immersion into the position as a full-time job would. It simply isn't as "full on".

    Quite rightly, almost no-one in the industry is going to give you the same amount of credit in your position as a guy who's been running a network full-time for 8 years. Furthermore, if you go around making exaggerated claims like that, they'll mark you down for the implicit dishonesty, and possibly use it as grounds for dismissal at a later date.

  • by big_debacle (413628) on Sunday December 30, 2001 @01:51PM (#2765097)
    Generally, management (whether a supervisor, mananger, director, VP, etc.) doesn't sit around throwing darts at a phone list deciding who to pick on next. Usually you "earn" the right to extra attention--both positive and negative.

    Lots of times, you may not even know what has attracted their attention, but rest assured, something has.

    One other note: Don't be so sure about your manager. It's a fact of the business world that just because somebody tells you that they're loyal and watching out for you, doesn't mean that they're not really the one putting the bad reports about you into the director's ear.
  • by Anonymous Brave Guy (457657) on Sunday December 30, 2001 @01:55PM (#2765112)
    Leave without notice.

    That's not big, and it's not clever. For all the millions of employees worldwide, this is a small industry. You might want a reference from your current boss in future, or you might later wind up working again for someone at your present company, either back there or elsewhere. If you demonstrate that you're a grade A scumball by leaving without notice or badmouthing the boss/company as you go, it may well come back to haunt you sooner or later.

    Never underestimate the power of networking. Leaving a good impression can give you contacts in the industry who can valuable open doors for you later on. On the other hand, a reputation as someone awkward or unhelpful will spread far faster and further than you'd like.

  • by OnyxRaven (9906) on Sunday December 30, 2001 @01:57PM (#2765119) Homepage
    Bah, I'm a 19 year old about to turn 20 who has 5 years of experience, and the 5 year pin to prove it. I probably cant get as far as this poster though because he does have certifications and I have but one, a CNA.

    I've gone through 4 IT managers, and all but the current one have treated me as a kid, not taking me seriously. This one though knows I know more about the history of the office's network than anyone else there, so my skills are valuable, and even though I dont work much during the semester, I still get called about some obscure issues predating any of the staff there. I'm still offered my position back at every break.

    I have been ignored quite a few times, because I'm young, and they ask for one of my older coworkers. But there are still quite a few who value my expertice and knowledge about the systems we maintain.

    I have never been offered a promotion, though I have gotten raises by threatening offers from other companies (which I have recieved). I understand why not, because I'm not a full time employee.

    But if this poster is full time, has intimate knowledge of the system, and is getting 'bullied' by older staff because of his age and his possibly more current knowledge, it does sound like age discrimination, and he should seek help with it outside of the IT department (office manager, HR manager, etc).
  • by Verteiron (224042) on Sunday December 30, 2001 @02:15PM (#2765180) Homepage
    As the poster of the parent note implies, once a Director has a mind to do things, like canning someone, they usually find a way to do it.

    This is no joke. I worked for a large corporation (hint: they make big green tractors) as second-level tech support. Basically I oversaw the users in a zone and was responsible for ALL of that zone's IT needs. Just after I set up the systems and such for an international conference with 180 attendees (and got a commendation for it), I was fired without any reason given. They didn't even tell me right away; my security card wouldn't let me leave the building and some guy had to use his to let me out.

    Upon being notified the next workday that my contract had been terminated, I called a friend working inside to see if I could find out what was going on. Apparently the inside story was that I'd been using company resources to "hack a server in north Korea" (which wasn't remotely true). But nobody had seen any logs or any other evidence. This was purely on the word of the IT director. I was 19 at the time and all the others in my position were 25+. Of course, I was a contract employee, so I had no legal recourse, but if I had ever heard anything about that story outside of that company, I'd sue. I mean, firing me for being too young is one thing, but making up some bogus bullshit story to blame it on?
  • by Otter (3800) on Sunday December 30, 2001 @02:17PM (#2765188) Journal
    As a manager with 30-some years experience, I've seen many cases where employees felt they were being discriminated against (for age, sex, sexual orientation, or race) but, at the same time, there were serious performance problems or behaviors that the employee failed to correct -- often claiming the behaviors were irrelevant or didn't even exist.

    I was trying to give him the benefit of the doubt, up until:
    Everywhere I work people like me but as soon as they learn my age they automatically hate me, become jealous, or try to find ways to get rid of me. I have learned to deal with this problem as I figured it went with the territory.

    If this were an isolated incident, maybe. At the point where everywhere you work, people "automatically" hate you, it's time to start looking in the mirror instead of deciding that it's always got to be age discrimination.

  • by thumbtack (445103) <.thumbtack. .at. .juno.com.> on Sunday December 30, 2001 @02:29PM (#2765214)
    Start actively, though discreetly, looking for another position. As one of the other posters stated, if you you keep your job by legal means, the guy will hate you, if you get laid off or fired you have a problem trying to explain. If you can get another offer, that will ease your mind, and give you some clout with the big boss. Tell him you like working there, but the situation has become unbearable, knowing that for whatever reason, this one guy seems to be out to stop you at every turn. Suggest a meeting with the three of you to try to work through the issues. If the guy who seems to have it in for you refuses, then you've won and he loses credibility. You've taken the high road, and he has refused to co-operate. If your boss has any sense at all, it will be the other guy that gets the boot, not you. Keep in mind that this is business and you have to get along. If the other guy won't play nice, then he's the one who should be sent home. In any case have a way ready to bail, if it doesn't work out. By offering to work things out you've shown your maturity, and willingness to work together. That is an asset to any company. If it doesn't work out and you leave, you have gained the respect of your boss, who will most likely write a glowing letter of recommendation. (he would rather do that than admit his faults, for not getting rid of the troublemaker).
  • Re:Quit. (Score:2, Insightful)

    by marko_ramius (24720) on Sunday December 30, 2001 @02:32PM (#2765226)
    In the current economy ... Unless the job is intollerable, I would suggest staying put if possible.
  • by fm6 (162816) on Sunday December 30, 2001 @02:33PM (#2765229) Homepage Journal
    You are 19 and currently have 5 years experience? I don't buy it.
    When I firt got into computers, I knew some high-school kids who were doing serious computer work, including one guy who was the sysadmin at his family's business (plus using down time to sell computer dating services). And this was thirty years ago, when computers were still big expensive boxes with lots of blinking lights, and few people had access to them. Computing's always been a young person's game.

    A couple years ago I was in one of those big warehouses that sell used office furniture. They had a fairly nice network covering the whole building, with a good POS and inventory setup. When I complimented the owner on it, he got all proud and parenty and introduced me to his son, the sysadmin. who was maybe 15, probably a little younger. He'd not only chosen the hardware and software, he'd pulled all the cable himself. ("Easy in an old building. Walls and floors aren't hard to get through.") Can't imagine a competent IS manager who wouldn't want to hire somebody like that.

    We all know stories like this. Teenagers are just the right age to pick up these kinds of abstrat technical concepts, and they enjoy the work. Of course, in the process they show up old farts like me. Hence the resentment.

  • by schon (31600) on Sunday December 30, 2001 @02:36PM (#2765236)
    "I left home at 21, convinced that my father was the stupidest person in the world. When I returned 5 years later, I was amazed at how much he'd learned."

    -Mark Twain

    I think this is exactly what's happening with the submittor. As others have pointed out, his "experience" claims are surely an indication that he probably doesn't really know as much as he thinks he does.
  • by uncadonna (85026) <mtobis@nOSPAM.gmail.com> on Sunday December 30, 2001 @02:49PM (#2765269) Homepage Journal
    In this thread and the recent one about a fast-track CS degree, we see confusion about the value of age and experience.

    I'm pretty old for a slashdot reader, and have been coding as a main career activity since the 70s. I'm a solid coder, but I've known four great programmers. At least two of them achieved their greatness before they were twenty. Each of them is worth ten of me, and I'm not bad at all.

    The fact that one can reach greatness as a coder before the age of 20 implies to me that coding ability is predominantly about a flavor of innate intelligence, and only secondarily about theoretical knowledge or experience. On the other hand, both of these precocious geniuses were CS undergrads at top-flight schools, so the firehose effect counts for something as well.

    On the other hand, I've been a manager and a business owner. I know that raw talent isn't all there is to doing a job well. One person I supervised, not one of the greats but a solid talent, was under 20, and holding his first real job. Unrealistic expectations about the nature of private sector employment caused big problems. Inability to take hints and make compromises caused big problems. It wasn't that he was under 20, it was that he was unseasoned in dealing with groups and collaborations.

    Your value added to your employer isn't only your core professional talent. Your ability to participate effectively in group efforts has a lot to do with it as well.

    Of course, there isn't enough information about the original poster to know if non-core people skills are really the problem, rather than age per se. There are a couple of clues beyond age that incline me to suspect so, though.

    Anyway, I've never known anyone at the age of 20 to have profound 10-times-better-than-47-year-old-me people skills though. That's a domain where experience counts for a lot.

    For the original poster and other wunderkinds, I recommend tempering your pride with a dash of humility. Raw technical ability isn't everything.

    ----
  • by Kagato (116051) on Sunday December 30, 2001 @03:03PM (#2765313)
    College doesn't make you good in the IT field. I've worked for large companies all my professional career. I've interviewed dozens of college grads for IT. Just because they have a 3.9 in CompSci doesn't mean they have what it takes to be a great designer/programmer/analyst. College or not it comes down to this. You either have "it" or you don't have "it".

    Too many people come out of college with no idea about the low level computer operation. 75% may know how to use vi and write a "hello world" in ADA, but only 25% could tell me what /etc/services does. If I'm going to hire a programmer they better know what's going on under the hood of the OS.

    For my money I look for people who are creative. Not someone who can do book work well. And from what I've found the ones who are like this and have a CS didn't learn the skills from a class, they learned it on their own.

    I ask questions like:

    Have you ever written a program on your own outside of class?

    Have you ever installed Linux or similar Unix on your computer?

    And the final test would be to give them a lanuage they didn't know. Perl, C, Awk, something like that. Give them five pages of the manual/man page and ask them to write a hello world program. If they can't figure out how to write the program header and print statement they shouldn't be a programmer nor sysadmin.

    I would treat someone with professional training like a vendor Unix class with the same respect as a person with a four years of college.

    This is not to say someone who doesn't have "it" and a 3.9 can't work out at the company. I just think at that point they make a better Business Analysis or Jr. Project Manager at that point. But at the same time I've seen grads with liberal arts degrees work out just as well in those positions.

    My personal opinion is college is overrated. A good grade may reveal a good work ethic and organizational skills, but nothing more. I myself don't have college, command a 6 figure salary and have worked for some of the largest companies in the US.
  • Re:Quit. (Score:2, Insightful)

    by MisterBlister (539957) on Sunday December 30, 2001 @03:29PM (#2765391) Homepage
    Agreed.

    Don't just quit without having something else lined up.

    That might have been an OK move in 1998, but with the economy where it is (it seems to be slowly improving now, but still has a ways to go) I really suggest you don't quit unless you have a lot of money saved and/or have another job lined up already.

    The economy isn't so bad that qualified candidates can't find work, but the process of finding that work is a lot more lengthy than it used to be!

    Real-world ancetdotal evidence: Back in the mid-to-late 90s I was offered many jobs on the spot halfway through interviews when job seeking. I recently just finished a multi-month full-time job search after a long-term contract ended...While I did find work, it took a LOT longer...Since there are far less open positions and far more people (relatively) going for them, hiring managers can afford to wait things out and consider many, many more candidates than they would in the past. Even if you get the job as the best candidate, this situation of hiring managers having their pick means you're usually going to spend a lot more time in-process...Second (and maybe more) round interviews have become the norm, companies will wait until they interview many candidates before making a final decision, etc...That all takes time (possibly months of time!)

  • by Flavio (12072) on Sunday December 30, 2001 @03:38PM (#2765420)
    You have a good point, but I don't believe college is overrated.

    I agree with you that college won't turn a "commoner" into a computer wizard and you as an employer are usually looking for the wizard types. The IT market usually looks for technical skills that are usually NOT taught in college. That's because one can learn those on his own. It's much more difficult to learn math on your own than it is with a teacher and that's why colleges may choose to teach math.

    College may be overrated in the sense tons of college graduates (the ones who haven't got "it") go out unprepared into the real world. But that doesn't mean we should all ditch college! The unprepared ones can pick up the technical stuff they lack as they work in the real world. They'll still retain the theory they learnt, which will eventually help them in the future. Of course they still won't have "it", but that's no surprise. Most people (CS graduates or not) don't.

    We'd both rather have the gifted employee who doesn't need college because he's brilliant. However, I'd rather have the brilliant type who went to college than the brilliant type who didn't. College gives you background which allows you to make better decisions because you're informed. No matter how much you've got "it", you won't be able to figure out the last 100 years of computer science without learning it from books. I believe college is the best place to do your learning.

    I agree with you that having "it" is more important than anything else. That's what makes a good CS professional. What I wrote in the original post is advice to the Ask Slashdot guy. Not everybody out there agrees with you and me, and I believe he'll be much more stable with a degree.

    [In short: he may be in some trouble if gets fired and he doesn't have a degree. That's why I recommend him to get one while he can. I wish we could all open our little software shops and code away without ever needing to prove ourselves with certificates of learning, but most of us can't.]
  • by CaptainSuperBoy (17170) on Sunday December 30, 2001 @03:40PM (#2765422) Homepage Journal
    Drop the attitude. Whatever path you have taken in life isn't the only 'good' path. There are plenty of other ways to reach your goals without doing exactly what you have done (sounds like you went to college, got your expensive piece of paper, and now you resent people who are doing as well as you w/o a formal education).

    Look, you made a list of stuff that you didn't do, so it must be wrong. You were never a PC tech? Good, it doesn't count as 'real work'. Tell that to the technicians I work with, who are smart, capable people who help users and support their families through that work.

    Programming is easy next to math? What does this have to do with the question? What does this have to do with anything? Programming is easy compared to brain surgery, too.. why didn't you go point that out too? Oh, you're not a brain surgeon, right.

    Programming is not a 'brute force' solution, and math often has nothing to do with solving a programming problem.

    Last,
    6. Whether you like it or not, most companies will NEVER consider you and most professionals won't respect you if you don't have a degree. You will keep losing arguments even though you're right.

    Just plain wrong. Maybe YOUR company won't consider you if you don't have a BS. There are plenty of companies who will give you a chance, however. A college degree is better of course, but you're really wrong about needing one. As you move along in your career a degree matters less and less however. If you are 30 and have proven yourself with a bunch of good years of experience behind you, 95% of 'professionals' will actually respect you, whether or not you got that piece of paper 10 years ago.

    BTW, who are these professionals you speak of, who won't respect you if you don't have a degree? Do they ask? Personally, when I meet a new business contact, college usually doesn't come up in conversation. And I've never had the experience of meeting a new client, only to have them disrespect me because I didn't finish college.
  • by Flavio (12072) on Sunday December 30, 2001 @03:52PM (#2765453)
    Maybe YOUR company won't consider you if you don't have a BS. There are plenty of companies who will give you a chance, however.

    With lower salaries, unless you can really prove yourself. I doubt the Ask Slashdot guy will be able to do that since he's so young.

    A college degree is better of course, but you're really wrong about needing one.

    I wouldn't like to be out of work, 20 years old, with 5 years of questionable industry experience and WITHOUT a college degree.

    You're just saying that because of the following:

    As you move along in your career a degree matters less and less however. If you are 30 and have proven yourself with a bunch of good years of experience behind you, 95% of 'professionals' will actually respect you, whether or not you got that piece of paper 10 years ago.

    You're correct that as you prove yourself the degree becomes less important. Until you've done that, however, you may live through some unpleasant times. If I were 20 years old and in his place, I'd try to go to school. It's much more pleasant than going against the stablished order and gives you better odds.

  • by swillden (191260) <shawn-ds@willden.org> on Sunday December 30, 2001 @04:21PM (#2765536) Homepage Journal

    That said, I'd offer the following advice:

    [Excellent advice snipped]

    And in addition to the more obvious advantages of following this advice (finding out where you are and what you need to do), if you can confront the situation calmly and professionally you will go a long way towards demonstrating the maturity that your superiors may think you lack.

    I was the youngest employee in several programming shops (time has cured that "problem") and I had my share of age-related issues. In retrospect, however, I can see that the problems had little to do with age and a lot to do with maturity and professionalism. I often acted like a brilliant, arrogant young punk and was upset when I was not treated as well as my (I thought) less capable but more reliable "peers".

    There were exceptions, but by and large I've decided that my age discrimination problems were of my own creation.

  • by renard (94190) on Sunday December 30, 2001 @04:39PM (#2765581)
    Of course, I was a contract employee, so I had no legal recourse,

    I hope you know by now that this is not true.

    Discrimination (age, race, sex, marital status...) is never legal, whether you are a contract employee or not, whether your contract says you can be terminated without cause or not.

    Of course, this is not legal advice, IANAL, and you may well not have prevailed in a legal action. But you would have been well within your rights. This is (one of the reasons) why we have courts, contingency-fee lawyers, and anti-discrimination laws.

    -Renard

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday December 30, 2001 @04:40PM (#2765585)
    Act like a kid and get treated like a kid. You've gotten raises by threatening with other offers? My oh my, I hope you are ready to be escorted out the door. That wouldn't fly with virtually any company or manager. I am truly surprised that you haven't found that out yet.
  • by Skyshadow (508) on Sunday December 30, 2001 @05:28PM (#2765710) Homepage
    Well, if your boss was telling people you were hacking from work, you'd have a pretty darned heafty slander suit.

    It's been a while since I had a law class, but I think you could hit him for lost wages at the very least, and probably for a lot more. Sounds like he has it coming.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday December 30, 2001 @06:18PM (#2765861)
    I recently had a 19 year old student on a 4 month university co-op program. Good programmer, easy to get along with, but behaved more like a 16 year old at times.

    There were no specific issues, but enough to not want him on a long term basis. Examples work better here.
    1) Asked to leave early Thursday and take Friday off to go sking. Okay, not a problem, except for the 9:00 PM Sunday message on my office voice mail asking me if it was okay to take Monday off. Comes in late on Tuesday and only explanation was he was having too much fun partying. Not a real biggy if he didn't have a habit of coming in once a week late after partying. Usual excuse was he would work 10-6 instead of the offices usual 8-4. Note: office is in a secure building, guess what supervisor had to do the paperwork.
    2) Refused to include error checking in his software. Claimed his code was perfect, and error checking was for people who write buggy code, besides it let to code bloat and slowed things down.

    Needless to say we gave him a negative review, which resulted in him not getting credit for the workterm. We considered this a failure on our part, since good performance is a team effort, and no one works alone. And its not like we didn't try and try and try ...

    His response: Your jealous because I am younger, smarter and will make more money that you when I graduate. Too bad he couldn't listen, or notice the fall out of the dot.com job market.
  • by haruharaharu (443975) on Sunday December 30, 2001 @06:32PM (#2765893) Homepage

    In order to protect the company from wrongful termination lawsuits, [...]

    Perhaps they were trying to mention it in a subtle was so that he could fix the problem without alot of fuss and continue working at the company. Not everybody wants you gone.

  • by Clived (106409) on Sunday December 30, 2001 @06:35PM (#2765900)
    Hi
    I would take legal action on this, speak to a lawyer, after all its your reputation being slandered. A dangerous situation for you. BTW for you younger guys feeling about age discrimination, well it gets worse on the other end of the spectrum. I'm 53, 17 years experience as sysadmin on a variety of platforms, Novell, NT, THEOS, a Unix sysadmin cert from a comminity college (SCO, Some Solaris & Redhat), I picked up Linux 4 years ago, brought myself up to speed on my own. Still can't find a job in that area. A really bad scene all around

    My two bits
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday December 30, 2001 @08:16PM (#2766109)
    First off I apologize for my grammer. Secondly I have 5 years real world experince and I am not talking about running some pethetic highschool network.

    You are the one who submitted the original article??? Trust me, the people who are trying to have you fired are not basing their decision solely on age.

    1. Your spelling is atrocious. You may think it is shallow to judge someone by their spelling, but to be honest you come across much more like a 12-year-old than an adult with a family. Success in the corporate world takes more than just programming and system administration skills.

    2. You have trouble writing comprehensible sentences. For example:

    I am not one to sue for millions of dollars I am simply talking if they fire me because of my age I would simply want enough severance to take care of my family.

    The point here comes across, but you apparently don't give much thought to the way things sound to others when you write them. Written communication skill are very important, even for people in your position (think: documentation and email correspondence).

    3. Your attitude is obnoxious, defensive, and condescending. Little things like

    Lastly and I stress this fact would all the trolls and flamers that have no sound advice, just not say anything at all ? That would be nice.

    are real turn-offs to people who have to deal with you on a daily basis. Suffixing points with "That would be nice" will make your enemies hostile and your friends neutral. You are doing yourself no favors here.

    Listen to what I'm saying. If you write me off as a 'troll' or 'flamer' because you don't like what I'm telling you, you're only hurting yourself in the long run. You've got a lot of growing-up to do.
  • by Johnboi Waltune (462501) on Sunday December 30, 2001 @08:21PM (#2766117)
    Being young is sometimes an advantage in IT work. We don't have family obligations, so we can work long hours (not true in your specific case though). Your skills are more current than many of the older people. Your brain is younger and faster. You've grown up immersed in the technology and your mind has been shaped to be comfortable around it. The amount of caffeine you ingest before lunch would give most oldsters instant cardiac arrest.

    Most older people (35+) are cool, and will recognize your greater talent so long as you don't try to disregard their greater experience. In other words, let them tell you what the goals are, and they'll let you tell them how they can best be reached. But some people will resent you... ex: where I work there's this one old asshole. His skills have not been current for 20 years, so he can't really do anything besides lecture people. Every chance he gets, he's trying to dominate or patronize the younger guys. Alernatively disparaging their abilities or giving them wise (bullshit) advice. Since this guy has no social skills, he is not a manager (he can't fire anyone). But maybe you have become a victim of a similar guy.

    You can try to go to "Mr. Asshole"'s boss and formally ask for a resolution. Maybe you can get reassigned to an area where you won't be under Mr. Asshole anymore. When your boss hates you, there's not a lot you can do. You've just got to remove yourself from the situation, either by switching bosses or switching companies. Remember, if Mr. Asshole had the power to unilaterally fire you, he would have done it already. If you can't make a lateral transition into another job, then your choice becomes simple. Keep doing good work, hang on until the economy gets better, and then ditch that company. From this point forward, you should be saving all the cash you can and be mentally ready to quit at any time. In your exit interview, make sure you mention you're leaving because of Mr. Asshole. (Don't excessively disparage him, because that is unprofessional.) Good luck...

  • by Anonymous Brave Guy (457657) on Sunday December 30, 2001 @10:45PM (#2766352)
    Hey, give the guy a break. You should know the IT industry - less hours doesn't automatically mean less work. More often than not, it simply reduces the time you have to do the work *in*.

    Sometimes, yes. Notably, companies that treat their staff well and don't expect 50+ hour weeks often get as much out of them, if not more, than those with an 8am-7pm culture.

    On the other hand, the kind of part-time work typically given to 15 year olds does really mean less work, and certainly less responsibility. I know plenty of people who've worked part-time in their teens, myself included, but you couldn't compare a single thing any of us did to a full-time job with full responsibilities.

    Even the vacation work I did while at uni wasn't the same as a full-time job. The company knew I was only there for three months, and the work I did was planned accordingly.

    I find it incredible, therefore, that there are so many people here who found such full work. I'm sure the fact that most of them are still pretty young is entirely coincidental as well.

  • Pre-Madonnas (Score:3, Insightful)

    by nikpieX (518952) on Sunday December 30, 2001 @11:10PM (#2766389)
    The problem with a lot teenagers and some twenty year olds is their ego. From the post, I can tell that the poster thinks quite highly of his/herself. One could have twenty years of experience and do as well as someone who is a beginner in the field. Years don't define the quality of one's knowledge, nor do paper certifications.
    So to say one is qualified for a job merely based on years of experience (how much "experience" one gets out of those years is quite variable), and some multiple choice tests is rather ignorant. The poster gives the impression that he/she is a big-head who thinks he/she is better than those who have their college degree (and don't bloat their knowledge-level), but truly is on the level of someone who just got out of high school and has no understanding of what a decent IT job requires.
  • Can't win (Score:2, Insightful)

    by The Cat (19816) on Sunday December 30, 2001 @11:16PM (#2766400)
    First you can't get the job, then some (usually incompetent) manager decides one day they don't like you anymore and you're back looking again.

    No second chance. No recourse. No way to pick up the pieces. Credit destroyed (again). Savings gone. Another three-month job on the resume. Next company always hesitant: not sure if you're "reliable" enough. Bills due, past due, late, delinquent... Start over. Again, and again, and again...

    Put your degree at the end of the resume. Those years in college don't matter. Only experience matters. Move your experience at these three companies over here, because those don't count either. Oh, and don't list these projects, because that's the wrong platform, and those projects are the wrong language. So, here's your one-page, one-job, no-education resume which is supposed to show you have four years experience. Now, go get that job!

    Didn't people have careers at one point? I seem to remember stories long ago of people who worked for years at the same company and didn't walk around in constant fear of being fired for no apparent reason.

    Every IT job seems to start a clock the moment you are handed your W-4, and it is only a matter of time before the whining starts and everyone starts updating resumes.

    Can't make any progress this way. Companies that whine about not being able to make any money ought to spend a couple of minutes looking at how much it costs to have an 85% turnover rate. Of course, what do they care? As long as they can keep the paychecks coming, they don't have to actually produce anything.

    Ever notice how the plant-watering, stuffed-animal-decorated-desk-occupying, ALWAYS recently newlywed (usually female), picture frame surrounded HR types NEVER EVER EVER EVER want for a salary, or a new car, or a decade+ of gainful employment, even though they only spend three of every eight hours AT that desk, and can't tell the difference between there their and they're?

    Do the IT people ever get that? Or are we rather making sure we don't leave anything valuable at work because our keycard might not work tomorrow?

    I put in seven years learning numerous programming languages/platforms, etc. Four years of web development (server-side, mainly) Four years of Linux. Two years of Perl. Year of C++. Employers could care less. All wasted time. It's never enough. More, more, more.
  • by sofbert (547043) on Sunday December 30, 2001 @11:54PM (#2766453)
    I'm 23, been doing admin stuff and tech support since I was 17. Sure, i've got 6 years experience, but these elder fellows are right. We haven't been around nearly as much as they have. There's a -wide- variety of places that most of these current net admins have been before there was even such a thing as net admins. They have a lot of experience behind them that we'll never have. I don't expect to be in any type of serious admin position until i'm 27-28.. You really need to hop around different companies and soak in different places and software before you can be a good netadmin, these days.
  • by autocracy (192714) <slashdot2007@@@storyinmemo...com> on Monday December 31, 2001 @12:52AM (#2766573) Homepage
    Perhaps so, perhaps not. I've had situations where I can run down the list of everything I've done, and basically be "hired" (yeah, pending interview, blah, blah, blah - but they are really interested). Of course, it's obligatory to mention how young I am. It's also a quick way to end a conversation and watch a job disappear. No interview, no interest, no further info. You're how old? Good bye.
  • by sup4hleet (444456) on Monday December 31, 2001 @01:40AM (#2766638) Homepage
    with any superiors because even if you are right you will lose. Getting into a fight with your boss is like showing up with a knife at a gun fight (that's a quote from some famous movie, I don't remember which, flame me). They can always fire on the spot with out cause. Most states are "Employment at will" which means the don't have to give you a reason, and you can bet that if they did it wouldn't be an illegal one. Also in this economy if you piss off the director bad enough you manager will save his own ass and congradulate him on his descision. My advice, work your frickin butt off if you aren't already. Be the goto guy for ass much stuff as you reasonably can be. Talk to the director and ask him what you need to do to make him happy and if he dislikes you, what you did to deserve it. Make ammends as best you can even if director seems completely wrong. Unfortunatley your daughter may be depending on your ass kissing abilities. And with five years experience, you should know that ass kissing is a part of every profession (yes even the CEO has to kiss the stock-holders collective ass).
  • Cope with it (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Phileosophos (317750) on Monday December 31, 2001 @02:03AM (#2766678) Homepage
    My first suggestion is to relax. I dealt with the same thing when I was 19, being only the second statistics-literate person in a Ford plant that was desperate seeking their Q1 quality award (back in 1986). I got precisely zero respect at first from any of the guys there at first, who were all 15 - 40 years my senior. However, once it became obvious that I knew what I was talking about while they didn't, the majority treated me much better while the minority hated my guts. If you're as good as you think you are, then the respect will come. If it doesn't, you might want to re-evaluate how good you really are as opposed to how good you think you are. Those older than you aren't stupid; they may be unfairly skeptical, but they'll come around if you've got the stuff to prove yourself.
  • Re:Proof is good. (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Cramer (69040) on Monday December 31, 2001 @03:52AM (#2766819) Homepage
    Alright smart-ass (hiding behind the AC)...

    You cannot hold a perminant, full-time, W-2 position until you are old enough to enter into a legally binding contract -- 18 in the USoA. You can hold a temporary, full-time job or a long term, part-time job. Child labor laws exist for a reason.

    Working for daddy is not a job -- it's an allowance. If the only experience you have is years of part-time work at daddy's office, then don't waste my time. Go ask daddy for a job and stay the hell out of my office. In every case of paternal employment I've ever witnesses, a job is created for the child -- there's no job opening, no interviews, NOTHING. That's the Interpath hiring mode -- hire them and then ask them what they want to do (and where are the hundreds of people Interpath used to employ?) And it's not a realistic "real world" work environment... no one ever openly criticizes the boss's child; they act very cautiously around them.

    • "Hey, I've been admin'ing servers part-time for 10 years, but have 0 years of experience!"
    Correct. You have 10 years experience as a part-time admin. Saying "10 years experience" would indicate 10 years of (near) continuous, full-time employment. While not a complete lie, it is certainly overstating the truth. Either your work history on your resume will bear this out or you will look like an idiot when you are called on it during the interview. Call me evil but I love trapping people in the "fluffiness" of their resume. (And I've been interviewing people at my various places of employment for years now (7 years; 1996 to present); the practice didn't make any sense in '96 -- sysadmin interviewing web content types, but "have resume, will ask questions.")
  • by Anonymous Brave Guy (457657) on Monday December 31, 2001 @01:17PM (#2767798)
    So knowledge of a subject can only be gained in school or on the job, where anything learned outside of school or on the job is junk and can't be used in the real world?

    Um... No. Did I say that anywhere?

    But there is a big difference between full "hands-on" experience that is gained through doing the job, "theoretical" experience that is gained through training, and the sort of experience most of us have gained from just playing around. Each has its place, but no-one who has experience of all of these would regard them as equal.

    Also, remember that most of the good people in this industry spent years playing with their home PCs, doing sysadmin stuff at school, working in the local PC shop at weekends or whatever. This stuff is to the credit of those who've done it, but it really isn't exceptional. A lot of the "I started at age -3" guys around here seem to think it is.

    After meeting a few MSCE with 8 years of experince and some 3l33t UNIX hackers who been cracking government mainframes since they were eight years old, I don't give anyone cridit until they prove themselves.

    That's a fair point; to an extent, neither do I. But still, you can make educated guesses based on people's track records. For example, you seem to think that "3l33t UNIX hackers who been cracking government mainframes since they were eight years old" are in some way clever. I think they're irresponsible, egotistical and a probable liability in a professional outfit. If I discovered that about someone applying to work for me, I'd want some pretty hard evidence that they'd reformed or I'd deep six their application in a nanosecond.

    Similarly, someone who thought all it took to run a network was a MCSE certificate wouldn't get too far either. When they first appeared, MCSEs might have actually meant something, but they were supposed to be for the guys who'd really been doing the stuff for years and knew their sh*t, because that experience is valuable. Now, when you can walk into any bookstore and buy "Get your MCSE in 5 seconds", they obviously aren't worth a whole lot. On the other hand, someone who had been successfully running networks for 8 years would get my attention, MCSE or not, because that experience is still valuable.

    "...It doesn't matter what you have done for the last ten years, I only want to know what you have done in the last six months and how well you did it."

    I'd be very surprised if he meant that, if you're in any sort of position of responsibility. It's true that knowledge dates fast in our industry, but not that fast. Your last, say, five years of technical experience are certainly relevant, whether you're a sysadmin or a programmer. After that, any previous experience is more valuable for illustrating that you are adaptable to a variety of technologies, or that you have specialist knowledge in particular fields (e.g., as a programmer, have you worked in telecomms, have you done embedded/real-time development, etc).

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