“So, how did it go?”

“It is hard to tell. You know how these things are,” said Sidharth.  “But I’m an optimist,” he quickly adds, pushing his floppy hair back.

An experienced software developer, Sidharth, who didn’t want his last name identified, has gone nearly two years without a job. He didn’t want to talk before a crucial interview with a cab-hailing company. “I don’t want any distractions,” he said. Understandable, given he’s close to running his savings dry.

Now, Sidharth isn’t some job-hunting fresh graduate. As a self-taught developer, he has worked on an array of technologies. PHP, Ruby, Java, Scala, Javascript, Python, Go. Based on these programming languages he knows, like a form of carbon dating, you could peg his age close to 40. Years of experience is traditionally worn as a badge, as if to show  ‘I’ve been there, done that.’ But for him, these years are in the way.

For someone who has held four different jobs in his 14-year career as a developer, a job interview should not be a big deal. But it is when you are close to 40 and looking to get back after a break.

His first interview in two years didn’t end well. “They expected me to write code in half hour, but I took longer. I could see from the interviewer’s face it was going badly. I came back home, locked myself and just stayed in bed that day,” he said. Companies tend to compare even those with experience to college freshers, who are, no doubt, faster. “My speed is rusty, and I had to work to get it up to speed this time for this interview.” So he prepared for this interview as if he had everything to lose. From taking numerous coding challenges to answering problem-solving to even doing a role-play of the interview. “I would pose as the interviewer asking questions and then answer.” The college kids have it easier. “They have a nice support ecosystem built where they help each other out. Do you know any bunch of 40-year-olds sitting together and preparing for interviews?”

For the 40-something tech professionals, this is an unexpected turn of events. This is Generation X and they have seen multiple tech waves come and go. The first was in the nineties when the rise of the internet saw them getting their engineering degrees in droves. It was soon followed by the bursting of the dot-com bubble, a time in which many were mostly in their first jobs. By the time the 2008 recession hit, they were seasoned professionals in their thirties managing teams running into hundreds. It was the 20-year-olds who faced the brunt of the recession. But now, the automation era is upon us. While the Gen Xers manoeuvred through those first two waves, they’re bang in the middle of this third one as companies peg their fortunes to AI, big data, and analytics.

AUTHOR

Arundhati Ramanathan

Arundhati is Bengaluru-based. She is interested in how people use money in the digital age and how new economies will take shape based on that interaction. She has spent over 10 years reporting and writing on various subjects. Previous stints were at Mint, Outlook Business and Reuters.

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