Aging out

I’ve been thinking about tech and aging lately. It feels so much like a young person’s place to be, with the emphasis on spending all of your time learning and working, be it paid work or side projects. I’ve been the oldest person, or one of the oldest, at most places I’ve worked the past few years. And recently a friend talked about aging out, specifically in regards to being a woman in tech, making plans for what to do next since she knows so few older women in tech. It got me thinking, a lot. I realized that I hardly know any women over 45 who are still working in tech. It’s less than the fingers on one hand. I’m aware with all that’s gone on in the past year that there are very good reasons many women leave tech, but I’ve been thinking a lot about what this means for me. I’m rapidly closing in on that age, will I still be in tech in two or three years?

I still like what I do, for the most part. I’ve been lucky enough to find positions where I’m able to sit in an odd role between design and development, and work on accessibility and design systems. But after the lay off last summer it was harder to find work. That experience, along with the fact that I’m aging, has got me thinking about where I’m heading.

I’ll be frank: I have no idea what I’d do if I weren’t writing HTML and CSS and trying to make things accessible. There are things that interest me; I investigated making lateral moves or transitioning into other parts of the tech world last summer (such as product management or project management) and I found it’s not that easy unless your current job is willing to help make it happen. Given that I’m a contractor right now, that feels difficult.

And that’s the other piece of this puzzle. I’ve loved being contract again. Aside from the headaches of the health insurance mess that is the US system, it’s been great. Contracting allows me a bit of separation and independence while working on projects. In addition, I don’t have a false sense of security; I’m well aware that the job will end and when things do end I’m prepared. And, best of all, I get to work with a lot of different teams, see how they work, and what’s important to them; this makes me a better developer in the long run.

I don’t have answers right now, just a lot of questions. It’s something I’ll be thinking about a lot over the coming years, probably every time I’m looking for my next project. And being even more honest: I’m angry that this is something I’m thinking about, that this is the way it seems to be. I know a lot of women younger than me in tech and I wonder, will they all leave by their mid-forties? Or will they, and maybe myself as well, be a generation that pushes past that age so that it becomes normal to stay as you age? And maybe there are more older women in tech and I just don’t know them? If that’s you, I’d love to chat.