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Background

A few days ago, I posted a blog post titled The Most Balanced Piece I Could Write About the Stupidity of Ageism. It received an amazing resonance, thousands of views, dozens of comments and literally hundreds of replies and comments on twitter and Facebook, all within the first twenty-four hours of being online. I’m especially thankful for the high engagement ratio, with people actually signing up to SAP Community Network just in order to leave comments.

The formidable Abesh Bhattacharjee then suggested that he, Michael Bechauf, Dipankar Saha, Mrinal Wadhwa, and I record a podcast. We all loved the idea and got together for a session. Michael provided the infrastructure, Abesh did the audio editing, I moderated and am now posting it.

Podcast link

Find the podcast here, enabled for streaming and as a downloadable MP3 file and complete with a navigable index: http://soundcloud.com/thorstenster/ageism-in-the-software

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Index

00:00 Welcome and Introductions

05:09 Framing the discussion: being a techie and age

06:33 Michael on seeing familiar patterns, mistakes and risk-averseness

09:05 Mrinal and Michael on experience-based intuition and patterns, using SOAP and REST as an example

12:00 Thorsten comparing it to the intuition of a chess player

15:10 Abesh on how learning through failure cuts off options that don’t work, narrows down choices

16:23 Dipankar on the IT industry in India with its focus on the offshore delivery model that makes Indian employees go after managerial roles

21:42 Michael on how the transition from services and consulting towards product development leads to engineers being valued more

23:10 Mrinal on how startups promote the transformation towards product delivery, change the skills and value landscape

25:38 Michael emphasizes sustainability and how in Silicon Valley, success comes not only from being technically savvy, but also from handling business ambiguity very well

27:45 Mrinal asking if India is creating enough people with deep experience for the challenges of the changing industry

28:52 Thorsten suggesting that the broadening industry offers dream jobs to different character types, so they needn’t flee into managerial positions

32:16 Mrinal looks at the flip side, is there a top-down culture change going on?

33:36 Dipankar mentions the price tag and that the change affects product companies stronger than offshore services companies

34:44 Michael shares how Silicon Valley over-emphasizes fast-paced builders, marking the opposite side of the spectrum from the classical Indian IT industry

37:26 Thorsten: Isn’t it great to be 35 and already have a failed career to learn from?

37:40 Abesh speaking from the bottom of a well

38:52 Abesh on the social notion that if you’re not a manager by 35, you have squandered your life

40:25 Michael on how SAP tries to keep the balance, value different job roles

41:43 Thorsten on balancing the different aspects in a single position, shoutout to Vijay Vijayasankar

43:50 Michael: Age does play a role, and the times they are a-changing: speed of innovation, collaboration across organizational boundaries, it’s hard to stay abreast of technology

46:00 Abesh and Michael on Hasso Plattner as the ultimate rockstar

47:13 Mrinal, Michael, Thorsten on the question if a twenty-years old delivers more value than a thirty-five-years old (no)

48:03 Dipankar begs to differ, mentioning that the young employees come cheaper; value is perception-based, could be focused on money or quality

49:11 Mrinal on the monetary value of experience

50:26 Thorsten asks how many screwdrivers equal one hammer, explains that with their different profile, young and old professionals are like different tools you should have in your toolchest

52:18 Michael recommends to get out of on assembly-line situations

52:50 Mrinal says that the situation in India is comparable to an assembly line, it has worked well for the country but the country needs to evolve

53:33 Thorsten quotes Arthur C. Clarke’s “Clarke’s Three Laws”, wraps up

(Thanks to Marilyn Pratt for teaching me the importance of writing up the talking points.)

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6 Comments

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  1. Tammy Powlas

    I am only part-way through the great podcast (always great to hear Thorsten speak) but I have to tell you my sister-in-law also read your ageism post!  She does not work in the SAP space but lives just outside Seattle, Washington

    It is simply amazing to me how far-reaching this topic has gone.

    Tammy

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    1. Kumud Singh

      That’s so true that this topic has really gone far but I think it completely deserves this. I think ‘Ageism’ perspectives has lot to do with different cultures. By this I mean, what you are doing at a particular age also depends on how will that be taken by people around. If I speak in a very straight forward way, I will put it this way – if someone is still coding at the age of 40 or more, I am sure majority of people would think that the person is not much capable of moving up the hierarchy, hardly would they bother to think that it might be his/her passion. I have many a times heard people saying , ” I used to code many years back, not now”. I often want to ask them,” So why did you stop coding now”. I would do that next time someone says this. Such statements actually confuses me than anything else. I am sure I would be coding till I like it irrespective of the age I attain. Ahhhh….there can be never ending discussion on this topic. I would have been happier had this been made part of ‘Design Thinking’ workshop at TechEd so that many different views could be openly discussed. Moreover, these are my individual views based on my observation and my culture. These may not be applicable to all.

      Regards,

      Kumud

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  2. Andy Silvey

    According to the Economic Times, the economics section of the Times of India, 17th November 2012,

    http://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/news-by-company/corporate-trends/whats-the-shelf-life-of-a-techie-just-15-years/articleshow/17251620.cms 

    “The shelf life of a software engineer today is no more than that of a cricketer – about 15 years,” says V R Ferose, MD of German software major SAP’s India R&D Labs that has over 4,500 employees . “The 20-year-old guys provide me more value than the 35-year-olds do.”

    Andy.

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      1. Andy Silvey

        Hi Tom,

        thanks for clarifying.

        This is a huge subject and clearly has local interpretations and regional differences in expectation and perception.

        That’s my conclusion 😉

        All the best,

        Andy.

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