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Age discrimination: Perpetrator and victim



Age discrimination: Perpetrator and victim

In response to the April 23 article, "Tech ageism works both ways":

I am one of those "senior" technology workers, and I have seen and been subjected to the rampant age discrimination in the technology workplace today. What is ironic is that I was one of those "too young" managers 20 years ago.

The more things change the more they stay the same. In the late 1970s and early 1980s I worked on the Internet's predecessor (ARPANET) and supervised a cadre of older workers (I was in my late-20s and they were in their 40s to 60s). I was a pioneer with digital technology and one of the first technical managers to build and install digital telephone switches and data sets and get them to work with the existing analog telephone network. I remember feeling that my teammates were "old and out of it" and could not possibly understand this new technology. I was sooo wrong, and I apologized to many of them when I realized what I had done.

Today I am getting repaid for my ignorance and intolerance. Now I am the "old and out of it" person, and I have worked with several younger leaders who thought the same way I did when I was their age. And they are just as wrong as I was. I have pulled their bacon out of the fire more than once, but there have been no apologies from any of them. They all seem to believe that admitting to making a mistake is a sign of weakness.

More experience will hopefully teach them that mistakes are inevitable, and making them is human. The real keys to being a good manager are having good people on your team who can help you avoid or overcome mistakes, and learning that good people are ageless.

An old but appropriate adage is, "Too soon get old, too late get smart."

Dennis Parker
Lake Lotawana, Mo.