The Israeli Newspapers’ False Over 45 Narrative

Israel’s newspapers all shouted this morning that the the amount of time it takes an over 45 year old high tech worker to find a job has increased to 21 weeks. Everyone is outraged! The headlines scream age discrimination. However, they are outraged for the wrong reasons and the proof is buried in their articles.

According to the same study that reported on the lengthening unemployment line for the 45+ crowd, the placement firm reported a 24% increase in recruitment of mobile developers, an increase in younger people going to start ups, a 2.5% increase in salary and big increases in hiring of developers for Android and in big data. I can report from my own experience that there is a dramatic shortage in Israel (and elsewhere) of mobile engineers and I can provide employment for any great mobile engineer I find regardless of age.

So, lets analyze the trend without prejudice and a need for headlines. What you see here are 3–4 converging trends that are the results of tectonic shifts that started 5 years ago but people and the government remained in denial.

1. There was a shift away from Microsoft technologies: Back in 2009, following the Hummus Manifesto and efforts by people such as my partner Eden Shochat and Ori Lahav, the Open Source movement in Israel picked up steam. It picked up steam everywhere (Including in 8200) except for the government and big companies in Israel who still remained married to Microsoft technologies. Many of the 45+ high tech workers referenced in the article never retrained off of the Microsoft stack to move over to Mobile/Android/Objective C and Big Data and other hot areas. How do I know this? Because I get CVs from many people and grimace every time I see the Microsoft expertise, knowing it will be harder to help.

2. Today, teams develop with Agile and Scrum methodologies and less heirarchy: This study suggests that managers and senior engineers over 45 are having a harder time finding jobs than regular engineers. Again here, the demagoguery belies the trend. Many companies have moved to agile development techniques. Agile requires less “senior” people because teams work in small groups that are managed through real time small group organization and not hierarchical management techniques. The distinction in hiring is between those who grew up in yesterday’s companies such as Ness, Comverse, Motorolla and others (Humus Manifesto Part 2) as well as the Government versus those that have retrained and adapted to Agile and scrum development techniques. These words are too technical for journalists and the government so they prefer the loud headlines. This too has nothing to do with age.

3. The pace of technology is accelerating and it is disruptive to the way we work: I keep writing about this and have warned various government officials in person but I feel like Cassandra. The study goes on to say that most young people are opting for startups. The implication is that “older people” (Since i am 42 and just started a start up, I do not view 45 as “old”) are not fit for that for family and seniority reasons and we should not blame them. Wrong. In today’s day and age, if you do not take risk in your career, you are likely to be disrupted. This is true at 25 and it is true at 45. It is a mindset shift but a necessary one. Reid Hoffman, the founder of LInkedIN describes this very well in his book”The Start Up of You.” (Download it here) As I wrote in part 2 of the Humus Manifesto, too much of Israel has relied on Yesterday’s companies and got comfortable with the “social” standards of these companies that are now being disrupted out of business globally and in Israel. Comverse, Motorolla, DSP, Ness and others are shadows of their former selves. That means that their employees need to reinvent themselves and take risks in doing so. This is happening to everyone in every industry today, not only in High Tech. This has nothing to do with age and everything to do with shifting mindsets to take risk and reinvent oneself.

I waded into this fraught and sensitive topic with deep trepidation and sensitivity. I could continue to enumerate the reasons the headlines are misleading. However, the most important thing we can do is change the narrative so we can help people engineer a shift to the future. I believe in everyone’s ability to build a better career at any stage in their life and I believe that WE are responsible for our fellow Israelis to help them come to grips with the fast changing landscape and the need to retrain for the future. We need to double down on training our 45+ (and anyone else) natural resource to Android, mobile, open source and tomorrow’s technology. They can do it and we can help. We need to train them in Agile and Scrum and we need to encourage them to take risks for theirs and our economic future. They are a more important resource than natural gas for the economic growth of Israel because we are short on engineers in Start up Nation and we are a country based on human capital.

Just because the Prime Minister and Government keeps ignoring the warning signs and running down yesterday’s technology rat hole, does not mean we should. We, the high tech community, must fill the human capital void to keep Start Up Nation’s engines running.

[Originally published on 9th July 2013 by MIchael Eisenberg]