Better to be perceived as naïve and immature

By Noam Scheiber via newrepublic.com   Article

The Brutal Ageism of Tech: Years of experience, plenty of talent, completely obsolete


“Silicon Valley has become one of the most ageist places in America. Tech luminaries who otherwise pride themselves on their dedication to meritocracy don’t think twice about deriding the not-actually-old. ‘Young people are just smarter,’ Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg told an audience at Stanford back in 2007. As I write, the website of ServiceNow, a large Santa Clara–based I.T. services company, features the following advisory in large letters atop its ‘careers‘ page: ‘We Want People Who Have Their Best Work Ahead of Them, Not Behind Them.’

And that’s just what gets said in public. An engineer in his forties recently told me about meeting a tech CEO who was trying to acquire his company. ‘You must be the token graybeard,’ said the CEO, who was in his late twenties or early thirties. ‘I looked at him and said, ‘No, I’m the token grown-up.’ ‘

In talking to dozens of people around Silicon Valley over the past eight months—engineers, entrepreneurs, moneymen, uncomfortably inquisitive cosmetic surgeons—I got the distinct sense that it’s better to be perceived as naïve and immature than to have voted in the 1980s.1 And so it has fallen to Matarasso [cosmetic surgeon] to make older workers look like they still belong at the office. ‘It’s really morphed into, ‘Hey, I’m forty years old and I have to get in front of a board of fresh-faced kids. I can’t look like I have a wife and two-point-five kids and a mortgage,’ ‘ he told me.’ ‘

The techies also place a premium on subtlety. ‘They’re not walking into their office in front of thirteen-year-old co-workers looking swollen and deformed. They’d rather go slow, do it gradually,’ he told me. This helps explain why Fridays are his busiest days for tech-industry patients: They can recover over the weekend and show up Monday morning looking like an ever-so-slightly more youthful version of themselves, as though they’d resorted to nothing more invasive than a Napa getaway.’ “

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