"A talented engineer, regardless of age, can find a great job"

At Lucky Hunter, we are always up-to-date with IT industry trends. To achieve this, we actively engage with IT experts, seeking their valuable insights and opinions. Recently, we discussed the issue of ageism in IT with Nikolai Beksayev, VP of Engineering, and today we're sharing our insights.
  • Nick Beksaev
    VP of Engineering

— Hello, Nikolai! Let's get started.

— Hello! Certainly.

— Could you please tell us a bit about yourself: what position do you hold? Which companies have you worked for? When did you start working in the IT field?

— I am the VP of Engineering at the Avia Center group of companies. Our company specialises in travel technology, and we are responsible for creating products like "Aviakassa.ru", "My Agent", "Kolibri", and "HotelContentHub". Over the years, we have formed and continue to maintain partnerships with major players in the travel industry. Trip.com is also a part of our board, and our ultimate objective is to lead the travel agency market in Russian-speaking countries.

I started my IT career during my fourth year at university with 'NTC Protei’ in St. Petersburg, a thriving company even today. After that, I worked for product and outsourcing companies, moving up from junior roles to becoming a team lead.

— Great! Let's move on to the main topic of our interview. How would you define the concept of ageism, and how does it manifest in the IT field?

— Ageism refers to the discrimination faced by employees or job candidates due to their age. It is a situation where individuals are deemed either too old or too young for a particular role. In the IT industry, we often observe ageism following patterns similar to those in other office industries. Fortunately, not every company discriminates based on age.

— What common stereotypes exist regarding older and younger professionals working in the IT field? How do these stereotypes affect their careers?

"The main stereotype associated with older professionals is a lack of motivation and loyalty compared to younger professionals"
— The main stereotype associated with older professionals is a lack of motivation and loyalty compared to younger professionals. Experienced older professionals know their worth and expect the best. There is also a common belief that experienced professionals are more susceptible to burnout. This stems from the notion that after many years in the industry, with a stable income, they may gradually lose interest in their work, feeling there is nothing new to explore.

When it comes to the stereotypes about younger professionals, it is often believed they have inflated self-esteem. We had a curious case while searching for a PHP developer. A 17-year-old high school student applied for the position. We invited him for an interview out of curiosity, expecting to meet a 'wunderkind'. However, we were pleasantly surprised to find that he was not only well-prepared but also highly motivated, hardworking, and possessed remarkable emotional intelligence. We extended an offer, and he became a valuable member of our team. He still works with us to this day.

When speaking about young specialists, there often exists an unspoken agreement between companies and candidates. Companies hire individuals without prior experience, fully aware that additional resources will be required for onboarding and training. In return, they gain highly motivated individuals eager to gain valuable experience. Everything is fresh and exciting for young specialists. On the other hand, companies expect loyalty. In our experience, young professionals who joined our team directly after university tend to stay with us longer compared to those with prior job experience.

It is also worth considering that young professionals are more likely to be juniors, while older professionals are seniors. Comparing them is nearly impossible, as middle-level and senior-level do not stay in the company for long – they are in high demand and already know how to position themselves in the market.

— Which age group do you think encounters ageism most often?

— It is necessary to consider several factors to determine the most discriminated age group.
The first factor is the hiring manager. Depending on their age and experience, they might perceive someone as old as 50, 40, or even 30.
The second determining factor is the company's policies and culture. When an organisation fosters a culture that promotes equality and values the contributions of employees regardless of their age, ageism is less likely to become an issue.
The third influential factor is the average age, which often hovers around 45 years. This number is significant because when we subtract 22 from 45, we arrive at 23—the age at which individuals typically complete their higher education. Going further, subtracting 23 brings us to the year 2000, which marks the onset of rapid growth in the internet, outsourcing, and the IT industry as a whole. Consequently, individuals over the age of 45 may encounter ageism more frequently as they entered the job market before the IT boom.
However, the dynamics of ageism in the workplace are not always as straightforward.

We once had an intriguing experience when searching for a Perl developer. A 72-year-old man, a graduate of BMST University and an old-school engineer caught our attention. Notably, he was in excellent physical shape and possessed a sharp mind. We invited him for an interview for two compelling reasons: Perl developers are relatively scarce in the job market, and his impressive background piqued our interest. Interestingly, he chose another job offer over ours.

— Have you experienced ageism yourself?

— Many, yes.

— What other changes have occurred?

— I have been to many interviews and have not faced age discrimination yet. But I am still under 45, so it might happen in the future.

In general, it all depends on the position and experience. It's one thing to apply for a lead programmer position after completing online courses at the age of 45; it's quite another to apply for the same job at that age with a strong background, excellent knowledge of English, recommendations, and a well-crafted resume that highlights your experience in various companies and teams, your willingness to share knowledge, and your ability to work in a team or to work solo on highly complex projects.

— Are there any legal or ethical restrictions that can protect professionals from ageism in the workplace and during hiring?

— I believe that in Russian-speaking countries, there aren't specific legal protections against ageism. On the contrary, Western Europe and the United States have long-established legal safeguards against age discrimination. Engaging in discriminatory behaviour can carry significant reputational risks or even result in legal action. During my time in outsourcing, it was common practice to send resumes without mentioning age or including a photograph, a measure aimed at mitigating age-related biases in the hiring process.
I consider myself fortunate to have worked in companies that fostered an inclusive culture and actively discouraged age discrimination.
Over time and with experience, one's views often evolve, leading to a realisation that age is not a determining factor in a person's abilities and potential.

— From your point of view, what changes in the IT industry will help combat ageism and make it more inclusive for all ages?

— I think a lot depends on big tech companies like Google, Facebook, Amazon, Netflix, and others. They set the tone in the job market and establish trends.
Other companies, of course, can't compete with them in terms of money because not all companies can afford to pay, like Google or Facebook. So, what's left? Offering the right conditions: benefits, culture, and more, such as openness and inclusivity.
Therefore, in my opinion, there should be several companies in the market that promote a different culture, and, in the end, the rest of the companies will catch up due to competition.

— What recommendations can you give to job seekers to reduce the risk of encountering ageism? And what should one do if such a situation does arise?

— First and foremost, job seekers shouldn't worry about anything – if a company suggests someone isn't a fit due to their age, they should confidently move on. I believe it's important to seek a job that resonates with you, and a talented engineer, regardless of age, can find a great job. I've never seen an experienced specialist who is phenomenal in programming struggle to find a fulfilling position in the IT field. It's such a wonderful industry that can overcome these challenges. The IT industry offers a wide range of companies, studios, and even freelance opportunities. So, if a candidate or employee encounters ageism, they should consider walking away. A skilled engineer doesn't need to prove themselves to anyone – and recruitment agencies can help excellent companies discover them.

Alexandra Godunova
Content Manager at Lucky Hunter
Focusing on a diverse range of topics including talent acquisition strategies, employer branding, workplace culture, leadership development, and industry trends. With her extensive knowledge, she delivers engaging content that helps businesses thrive in the competitive landscape of today's job market.

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