Ageism and Automattic

Some of the over-40-year-old workers at Automattic (image taken by my co-workerJen Hooks at our company's Grand Meetup at Whistler).
Some of the over-40-year-old workers at Automattic (image taken by my co-workerJen Hooks at our company's Grand Meetup at Whistler).
Some of the over-40-year-old workers at Automattic (image taken by my co-worker Jen Hooks at our company’s Grand Meetup at Whistler).

About a week ago I read an article on age and the workplace that was a bit chilling. It linked to a study, which shows that in the tech industry

43% of employees worry about losing their job due to their age

The thought was sobering. Downright sad. And scary.

What really gets me about all this is the fact that this is the tech industry we are talking about. While I know computers “became a thing” over a century ago, the people who really got the momentum going for the techie-world we work and thrive in now are now are still alive. This is not a history lesson from some old moldy book. We have the pioneers living right in our midst. Why in the world would we not want to tap into this knowledge?

It reminded me once again of how fortunate I am to be working at Automattic, Inc where we constantly strive to maintain and cultivate an inclusive environment. Inclusivity refers not only to race and gender but also to many other facets of one’s being. This includes age, geographic location, disabilities, etc.

Our company currently has a bit over 600 employees, and over 80 of us are over 40-years-old. I was 42 when I was hired.

Not only do I not fear for my age being a factor in my job, I often feel that my age is considered an asset. Yes, we do have/have had young people working in the company. Brilliant, energetic individuals who might not have experienced their first legal alcoholic drink yet. But we also have people decades older than my current 45 years. We all have something unique to bring to the table, and overall, it helps us provide a better product for our customers and relate in different ways as we offer customer support.

I wish other companies would realize that.

The report suggests ways for companies to become more inclusive in regard to age. Our company not only implemented those suggestions long before my hiring, but it is constantly re-evaluating to make sure all our needs are met.

For example, as a mid-forty-year-old woman, I’m now in the sandwich generation. The company allows me to set my own schedule so I can take time to be with my kids when they are home from college or visiting, and I can also arrange my work days so I have the flexibility to take my mother-in-law to doctor appointments and on errands.

I, myself, have some of the fun health issues that come with age and life-experiences. My arthritic fingers balk at typing and mouse-use at times. The company provides me with the keyboards and special mouse options I need to relieve that pain.

What does the company get in return? Well, for one thing, I’m so grateful for flexibility in schedule that I will happily work overtime if it’s necessary (and sometimes even when it’s not because this job is so wonderful, it’s addicting). I offer life-lessons I have learned from things that have worked or not worked in past experiences. Also, as stated in the study linked above:

Research by David Galenson of the University of Chicago showed that approaches to problem-solving differ between generations, and Galenson found that older people tend to do better at solving thorny, complicated problems due to the deeper levels of understanding they have acquired over the course of their careers.

Good stuff, that. 🙂

Anyway, I just wanted to share this because it’s been in my thoughts this week. And I’m really thankful for my job.

BTW, if you are into tech and/or customer support, we’re hiring (and age won’t be a factor against you 😉 ).

10 responses to “Ageism and Automattic”

  1. I am glad you’re at a place which regards your age as an asset!!! It often feels like there are age stereotypes at the younger (inexperience, too risk-taking) and older (stubborn, not open to learning) ends. Of course, the things in parentheses are stereotypes of younger and older people, not actual characteristics of younger and older people.

  2. Thanks for reminding us that liberal workplaces exist, which value the different contributions of all ages. I struggle to perceive 42 as old, and you have helped me to see that for so many employers, that’s how they see it.

  3. Thanks sounds like a great place to work but answere this for me; is the above picture of some of the employees of the company? The article stated “Inclusivity refers not only to race and gender but also to many other facets of one’s being. This includes age, geographic location, disabilities, etc.” Could you identify 1 over 40 Black/Africian American in the picture?

    • I love this question so much! It shows the awareness we are striving for. And it was interesting for me because I realized I had no idea of ratios and percentages. The fact of the matter in regards to that image is that it’s super hard to get a bunch of people together for a picture, and after our full company picture, we broke into sub-groups for different pictures (team pics, regional pics, this pic of over 40s, etc) so many were not in our picture. At the moment we have 141 of our workforce over the age of 40. (That is 22%.) In that full group, we have folks of different genders, races, ethnicities, family status, veteran status, sexual orientation – and we welcome all of them.

  4. Hey Chrissie,

    Nice post. Thank you.

    I interviewed at Automattic last year and certainly felt that ageism is not an issue there. Sometimes, I think that we are our own worst enemy though. I want to apply again but pressing that ‘Apply’ button can be so difficult…. because we talk ourselves out of everything… at least I do.

    I went to university late and found that nobody actually cares what age you are once you get to know each other and work hard. For my 50th birthday I decided to scratch something else off my bucket list…a MSc course that was niggling at me… so far so good 😉

    I know contributing on the forums is widely recommended – any other advice?

    • Love that you did that for your 50th!!! And definitely apply again. I know several people who were hired on their 3rd and 4th tries so go for it 🙂 Forums are great, and it’s also good to brush up on our products (Woo, Jetpack, Simplenote, etc). I wish you well in the process.

  5. […] When I started at Automattic over five years ago, I felt a little self-conscious about my age, as one of the few HEs over 40. Now, we have an entire Slack channel devoted to the over-40 set at our company, and many other HEs are included that age bracket. We call ourselves Boldermatticians! My colleague Chrissie Pollock wrote a wonderful post about being an older Automattician. […]

  6. Hello Chrissie!
    Thank you for sharing this post to the world. I can say that I have actually lived myself most of what you mention in this post, at some point in life, and, being in the process of getting my first interview with Automattic, it gives great hope that I will not be applying for another company who sounds eager to have the first interview with me, but then, as soon as they see me in real life for the interview, their eagerness to know more about me suddenly seems to disappear!
    So, I am glad to know that I will not have this type of sad experience once again, the day that I am called for my first interview with Automattic!

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