TECH SPEC: Ageism triggers fall of a giant. Bad Apple updates released by cocky youth-obsessed culture.

TRIGGER WARNING FOR READERS UNDER 35: this piece may make you defensive. Ageism & cocky code-release practices are not your fault but beware what is coming…unconscious bias from HR, managers, investors, and anti-family policies contribute to a real problem not only for the ‘older’ but for our industry. For a moment, imagine you’re nearing 40 years old or you’re a parent, and you know the scary stats. Imagine you’re an investor in Apple …

Yesterday I tried to answer a call on my new, freshly updated iPhone and it wouldn’t let me. I also couldn’t open an email, close an app and encountered a slew of other show-stopping bugs…and this just a few months after the horror of iOS 11’s ugly buggy release that would have had Steve Jobs fire half the team…The Apple is falling. Word is switch to the Pixel phone.

Apple pushed out major code releases to the masses without proper QA. Twice. With each buggy release, a portion of their market share dies.

I’ve worked in the tech space for over 20 years and have a theory that ageism is the culprit for this absurdity. QA is software development 101 — yet I’ve noticed in the past couple of years, cocky 20-somethings brush-off QA standards. And, UI design standards seem to be going to hell too — as seen with the ugly, non-sensical typography in iOS 11.

I am hired to help underperforming products get engagement #s up — so I’ve been privy to step into dozens of different teams. There’s an arrogance and lack of personal responsibility that I didn’t see 10 or 20 years ago when designers and developers of all ages and genders took their code releases far more seriously. What triggers this? Investors and ignorant management worship these young developers and designers for ‘knowing what millennials want’ and expect them to run the products…There are no grey hairs there to help…leaving teams with naive, poor processes dressed up as iterative development…they’re pushed to be ‘agile’ without a cultural demand to adhere to best practices.

How did it get this way? Part of it maybe from the FOMA that so many had in reaction to SnapChat’s success. People thought it succeeded because millennials have some secret-sauce development style where crappy UXs that deny best practices = success. But, the truth is that SnapChat’s success belongs elsewhere; it was in-spite of poor design elements that the innovative product choices, like disappearing messages, captured a gazillion eyeballs - NOT because of weird UXs and buggy code releases.

Cheaper slave-like-labor is another explanation for youth-hiring biases…the young are more apt to work 100hrs a week. But, like this Harvard Business Review article shows, overworking is not only bad for the person, but bad for product outcomes. IE, hiring teams of only young developers is not going to save a company money.

Development teams have been systematically crafted to be young, inexperienced, unmarried, and male. On-tap beer at work. Day care for dogs but not human children. (*I love dogs, so please don’t get me wrong…but policy breeds culture and no human daycare = no parents policy.)

Apple employees: median age 31.

Developers who’ve proven they can release well-written, stable code are not being hired today because they’re ‘too old.’ The sexist, agist shit I encounter in my freelance work is so strong and absurd — like a 25 year old CTO who feels like he needs to explain to me how to open a door and scoffs at my suggestion to dig into analytics or do some AB testing.

There is nothing wrong with young people —I hire them — they can learn quickly, have tons of energy to harness…but they are NOT cheaper, they are not more creative, and they, like us all, need to learn and be curious.

Our industry is now old enough to have a lot of people with relevant experience - so why are many of the best software designers and developers not being hired once they hit their 40's?

Stupid, short-sighted ageism needs to go away so we can push out intelligent, innovative, well designed products. 2018 is time to snap out of youth obsession and grow-up. There’s a lot of important work for our industry to do.

Meanwhile, if you haven’t read this tale that illuminates sexism in academia wrapped in the life story of a hero, please DO: ‘A towering legacy of goodness’: Ben Barres’s fight for diversity in science

And, a few articles touching upon ageism in our industry: