Over the last five years, I’ve worked at a handful of tech companies. While the industries differed, I found that I quickly fit in with my colleagues because of how similar we were in age. A quick Google search revealed that the majority of people who work in tech are in their late 20s. At Amazon, 54% of the workforce is between the ages of 20 and 30, compared to only 8% who are older than 40. At Meta, 48% fall into the former bracket and 11% into the latter.
At my previous jobs, the older team members were typically in more senior leadership positions, and they often felt removed and unrelatable. When I joined FourthRev six months ago, one of the first things I noticed was the balance of older and younger people in all teams. For the first time, I, at 26, was one of the youngest employees.
Being surrounded by colleagues who have several more years of experience than I do is very refreshing. I feel mentally stimulated every day, and because I’m working with people who have become experts in their field, I’m challenged to rise to their level. This experience has been very positive for me, as someone at the beginning of their career.
Ageism can be a real problem – especially for women
However, when I started looking into the topic of ageism in the workplace, I realised that, at many companies, there is a bubble of opportunity for women working in tech. You have a handful of prime years before the ‘risk’ of wanting to start a family arises, and you head downhill from there, fast. As Kathy Gurchiek writes, “If you are a woman over 30 in tech, you’re considered old. Once you’re a mother and in a tech company, you’re already an outsider and considered in a different category and class … marginalised.”
I sat down to talk to one of the most vivacious and experienced team members at FourthRev, our Director of Market Development, Tara Rodoni, about her work experience over the years. “After you’ve been around for a while, you’ll often notice younger colleagues have a preconceived notion that your knowledge isn’t relevant or innovative. People are quicker to dismiss your input or leave you out of things,” she says.
While this is, unfortunately, the case at a lot of companies, Tara reassured me it’s not all doom and gloom. “If you can find an organisation that values your skills and appreciates what you can bring to the table, then things like gender and age don’t feel as big of a deal,” Tara says. She started working for FourthRev as a consultant before leadership asked her to join full-time. “It was an easy yes for me because of the people here,” she says. “Everyone here shares the same values. It’s always about the person first and what their strengths are. Mine lie in the knowledge, experience and extensive industry network I’ve accumulated over the years, and here that’s recognised as an asset.”
Prioritising an inclusive work environment
As a remote team that all have such different lifestyles, there are several factors we’ve had to take into account to make sure that everyone feels included and can do their best work. Tara shares a few that are most impactful for her:
Even though she’s found a professional position that she feels fulfilled in, Tara enjoys the learning opportunities and resources, like LinkedIn Learning and HubSpot training, offered by FourthRev. In addition to this, because we work remotely and use a range of tools and processes, different team members volunteer to host learning sessions on a regular basis. These sessions are all recorded and stored in a central place, which makes it easy for individuals to go back to in their own time. With the majority of the FourthRev team being based in the southern hemisphere, Tara says that this form of asynchronous connection is useful for her in the US because it helps her stay in the loop, even if it’s not always in real time. “I’m at a point where I’m not looking to climb the corporate ladder anymore, but I do want to keep learning and gain new skills.”
In Long Life Learning: Preparing for Jobs that Don’t Even Exist Yet, Michelle R. Weise writes that people’s careers are going to last 100 years. That makes 60 the new 30 for the modern workforce. In such an extended amount of time, individuals will have to upskill continuously as changes occur. As an organisation, implementing support structures that allow good people to keep adding value over time is going to be key. “FourthRev recognises the importance of ongoing skill development and gives all of us the opportunity to actively participate in it,” says Tara. “I like that the focus is on us as people. The company appreciates our strengths and does what it can to enable our growth. I feel like my contributions are relevant and add value.”
As someone who has had an industry presence for a few decades, Tara says that FourthRev’s flexible work policy helps her maintain her network and invest time in professional interests, like serving on a board. “The team at FourthRev knows and respects that everyone will get their work done without having to set a schedule. This helps me meet my deliverables and keep up with other responsibilities that are meaningful to me.”
Regular opportunities to connect with each other
Beyond the meetings we have with our regular teams to discuss the projects we’re working on, we try to encourage engagement across the broader FourthRev team. Tools like donut and Shuffl make it easy to connect with different people for short ‘coffee chats’, and scheduled company-wide check-in sessions and quarterly updates create the opportunity for as many of us as possible to come together. “It’s good to meet people and put a face to a name that you otherwise just see on Slack or in your inbox. Interacting with someone in a way where they can get to know you professionally and personally is the best way to break down ideas that they might have of you after just seeing your picture.”
If you’re interested in joining a team that values you for the skills you have – whether you’re 26 or 56 – take a look at the roles we have open on our careers page.
Written by Summer Smith and Tara Rodoni