Blog,  IT Industry

Expertise Is Not In the Company Budget (But Millennials Are)

When I was 38 years old, I was a single mom of two young children who taught myself how to support us after being out of the work force for 3 years.

For the next 20 years I became known as a “rock star”, “guru”, “expert” and “thought leader”,  cross trained with knowledge and working expertise in search engine marketing, user experience web design, and software application QA testing.  I wrote columns and articles, several ebooks, tutor an online usability course, founded a web design and marketing forums that was acquired in 2012, spoke at conferences, gave workshops, and started a consulting business.

I decided to explore working full-time for a tech company that could use my skills so I could stay in the game doing the work I’m passionate about.  What a shock to discover I’m overqualified, too old and not worth the higher salary.

If 20 years is how long a career is expected to last, our nation is in serious trouble.

Millennials Have Clout

PEW Population The latest surge of media attention regarding working in the USA is focused on our failure to build a robust, thriving economy, sustain a living wage that will meet the most basic of needs such as food and shelter, and the lack of jobs.

Add the generation gap to that list.

In the USA, according the PEW research, the number of people over the age of 65 will double by 2050.  I may be dead by then, but I’m not now.  Nor is my nearly 80 year old father who is still inventing engineering marvels from an old PC.  Nor is my father-in-law who is 80 and still running his company from two offices in two separate states.

Jeb Bush feels that people should be working longer hours.  Hillary Clinton wants employees to share in company profits.  In real life, many people are just looking for a job, period.  That number includes people over the age of 40 with years of experience that companies can benefit from, but they refuse to hire.

If companies continue to hire cheap, inexperienced employees, they are limited by their own ignorance of the talented, passionate, able, older persons unwilling to live off the pennies the Government provides.  Moreover, if today’s millennials believe in the fantasy of company loyalty, benefits and job security, they are misguided and uninformed.

In the IT industry that I chose as the career that would help me raise my children, one’s job security lasts for as long as they stay on top of the latest changes in technology or as long as it takes for the company to realize they failed to build the next big thing.

In truth, it is always that one big quick get rich idea that benefits the CEO’s. The latest trend is coming up with business plans like Uber that have no employee paid benefits and using people is the whole point of the business plan.

In my short, self-taught career, I was laid off from 3 companies, two of them high profile brands.  One of them offered stock options, but crashed before employees could cash in. I joined a start-up that barely survived a year and nearly lost my home.

EBay’s management decided to hire Accenture to manage the company, which they did, by removing EBay’s employees and replacing them with their own. The loss of expertise alone was irreplaceable.

I read this from an article called “Millennials in Charge”.

“As the largest generation in the workforce, millennials have a lot of clout.”

No they don’t.  They are an easily replaceable labor force paid lower wages because of their lack of experience, willing to work 90 hour work weeks.

That is not clout.

Expertise Is Not In the Company Budget

Another growing trend found in IT companies wanting to cut costs, in addition to hiring overseas programmers and people with five years’ experience who can’t claim larger salaries, is to create a position that is really for 3 people instead of one.  Perhaps this started with the regular practice of company layoffs as the yearly sacrifice to the CEO gods but now it is routine.  Any review of job listings for IT related jobs read like bucket lists and demand that people be fluent in and proven to work at tasks from related fields.

I decided to look into why companies hire Millennials. What makes them the better choice to hire?

  • Millennials are not getting married.
  • Women are waiting into their 30’s to start families.
  • They are hired as Interns, with no benefits.
  • They will work weekends and into the night when they are asked to.
  • They are driven to succeed.
  • They are task oriented.
  • Millennials grew up with technical devices and use them daily.
  • They earn less than GenX’ers and Boomers.
  • They live at home.

“According to PEW research, “They are more ethnically and racially diverse than older adults. They’re less religious, less likely to have served in the military, and are on track to become the most educated generation in American history. “ – Reference 

I don’t see the job advantage there.  My college graduate is educated and that has not increased her earning power.

Living at home means they don’t have a mortgage and can’t afford one.  As the cheaper labor force, they are not only expected to do the jobs of 3 people, but not earn enough to move out of their parents’ house.

“In 2012, 22.7% of adults ages 85 and older lived in a multi-generational household, just shy of the 23.6% of adults ages 25 to 34 in the same situation.”  Reference

According to my research, those between age 35 and 65 who work in IT chose the field because they love IT development.  They are also driven to succeed and task oriented.  Many of them have an empty nest, allowing them more time for volunteer work and participation with their local communities, which is preferable to working all night and weekends.  Companies that claim to promote community volunteer events on top of an 80 hour week are not doing it for their employees or the local economy.  It’s for their brand.  If they cared about their employees, there would add more sick and vacation days and comp days for those nights and weekends of overtime.

Older woman sitting on bench

That doesn’t include the study done at home by those who want to be the best skilled.

I started out with no education in IT other than knowing how to use computers and being fluent in WordPerfect, Spellbinder and reading books.  I was a single mom with no child support or alimony living in a small condo paying for childcare so I could work.  Every minute past parent pickup was a $5 per minute penalty.  You don’t tell your team you have to leave if you want to keep your job.

I worked weekends.  I brought my son with his broken collar bone to work with me because I couldn’t afford to take the whole day off for his x-rays and doctor appointment. I slept 4 hours a day, because I was driven to succeed.  At my first job as a webmaster in 1996 I earned below the poverty level for a family of 3 because the company didn’t believe in paying women the same as men.

No young Millennial has clout.  To tell them this is a tremendous disservice to those young people.  They are hired because they are cheap and when they grow up and need more money to move forward in their lives, they are replaced.  To have clout, you must provide value.  I question how companies determine their value.

IT Development Performed By Millennials

The biggest concern I have about hiring inexperienced young people is when they are hired to design and develop websites, software applications, or any type of computer technology used by anyone over age 35.

I know that some companies are not testing before they push their products into production. I also know that some companies are not hiring experts with the skills to keep companies from being sued for building products that don’t work for everyone.  These are some of the topics from my conference speaking days.

When I see a website built by a company that only hires employees under age 35, I know they have never done user personas, created mental models, done user testing, or coded for WCAG2.0 compliance.  The evidence is right there on the corporate site they adore.  Their clients don’t know any better, will hire the company and spread the website fad of the day virus that has infected the Web.

Head Hunters are Clueless

While writing this, I received this email from an agency that has access to my resume, credentials and work history.  They sent me this:

“We are seeking a bright self -starter who is passionate about the digital space! Candidates should have 2-3 years of experience and ideally an educational background in digital marketing strategy/channels and measurement, including Website, SEM/SEO, social media, influencer marketing, display, eCRM, video, mobile, ecommerce, etc. “

Then it lists all the requirements and software skills needed, which reads like a shopping list from several separate technology fields. Why send me this when my resume clearly states I’ve been around for a long time?

This is a description I found for a simple “web designer”.  I would at least beef up the title so that it actually fits the job requirements.

Required Qualifications:
· BS degree in computer science or similar
· A minimum of 7 years as a web developer for customer-facing web and/or mobile applications
· Proven experience in designing and developing HTML5/JavaScript/CSS3 web applications
· Background in proven UX/UI fundamentals, including experience using Adobe Creative Suite tools
· Experience with responsive web design
· Able to manage and exploit any API (Facebook, Google, etc.)
· Experience working with emerging client-side dynamic JavaScript libraries or MVVM pattern
· Experience working with Angular.js, Node.js, Backbone.js, or Knockout.js
· Experience with jQuery
· Experience in using web services (SOAP/XML) and REST services (JSON/XML/SAML)
· Knowledge and experience in enterprise-scale multi-tier, distributed architecture
· Understanding of HTTP/S and web-based application architecture
· Proficient at writing JavaScript that is object-oriented and extensible
· Experience writing frontend tests
· Experience with web socket technologies
· Experience with performance tuning, optimizing code, and real time monitoring solutions
· SaaS/Cloud experience (design and operational)
· Experience working in an Agile environment
· Ability to work in a fast-paced, entrepreneurial, results-oriented culture
· Strong focus on user experience and unrelenting drive for quality
· Passionate, adaptable, flexible, independent and self-motivated individual who takes initiative and ownership of projects
· Highly communicative and collaborative; proven experience creating team success and an excellent customer experience

That job will be for a man.

How can I say this?  In LinkedIn, I follow a site called ITPro’s where 98% of the people they promote are men.

I have never seen a company look for someone who belongs to technical organizations to follow research and case studies.  I love the data I get from those I belong to and now that my kids are grown, I have more time to read them.

Eh.  Nobody in IT wants a passionate Baby Boomer.

Do I Really Want a Job in IT?

It has taken me a full year to accept that I am no longer a candidate for the companies near my location because I don’t want to work for them, rather than me not qualifying for the job.

I have no desire to spend 4 hours a day commuting to Philadelphia and surrounding tech locations.  I want to enjoy my life.  When I had that commute, I came home with barely anything left of me to give my kids.  I fought hard to create a work from home consulting business so I could attend their school sports games and be there when they got home from school.  Millennials are late to start families and those who do face huge challenges with the demands from their employers.  Remember, they are replaceable.  They are the fastest growing employee pool.

Companies that discriminate contribute to the poor economy.  Employee retention?  Not on their list of concerns.  Pay for experts? If they do that, they would have to listen to their experts and apply their skills.  Without investing in talent, and permitting those people to do their jobs, companies lose and that is not helping our economy.

During my career I helped many people and companies become successful.  Helping a person or company become a success is rewarding for me and worth my time.  I choose to not work in the selfish, micro-management, ego driven energy that drives most tech companies these days.

I prefer to work for someone who is genuinely happy to have me.  It is my right as an experienced person with 20 years of experience.  To me, that’s clout.