Entrepreneur

Ageism in tech? One LinkedIn exec isn’t ‘afraid to hire young’

Above: Ian Scherr of CNET, Nicolas Draca of LinkedIn

Image Credit: Michael O'Donnell/VentureBeat

SAN FRANCISCO — Hiring highly qualified and talented employees is still a challenge for most tech companies, and LinkedIn is no exception, according to its head of global marketing operations, Nicolas Draca.

During a fireside chat with CNET’s Ian Scherr at our GrowthBeat conference this past week, Draca shared his team’s approach to hiring, as well as some of his other practices when it comes to nurturing his team members.

“Don’t be afraid to hire young,” he said at one point. Currently, the average age on Draca’s team is 24.

During the interview process, Draca and his team look for three things: culture fit, passion for the job (people who “own” the job, not just do it), and “what is the person going to do next,” which we understood to be ambition. Moreover, out of the seven (or more) people who interview each candidate, all have to be in agreement by the end of the process and discussions.

When I asked Draca why his team’s average age was so young, he said that it was because “it’s tough to find talent,” so limiting himself to seasoned professionals would just make hiring impossible. So instead, he’s very open to young people with raw talent and the ability to “ramp up” very quickly once on the job. Naturally, this sparked questions about age discrimination, but Draca assured me that he of course has older folks on his teams and youth is not a requirement at all. He simply wants to encourage others to not be afraid of hiring young talent.

When LinkedIn released its workforce diversity numbers in June, it didn’t include age distribution, so we can’t take a look at how this team compares to the rest of LinkedIn. (Anecdotally, our interactions with the LinkedIn team as a whole show a markedly balanced age distribution when compared to, say, Facebook or Twitter.)

An interesting practice Draca’s team has is a quarterly project pitch every person has to do. The presentation is a single slide with a 90-second-long sound byte. Presentations are mandatory and are judged by senior folks outside Draca’s team. Draca has instituted this for three reasons: It’s challenging; it gives his people visibility; and it’s an opportunity to explain what they do to other teams.

“We do a shitty job at explaining what we do,” he said, referring to the often misunderstood function of his team by other LinkedIn employees.

Draca also said that whenever someone doesn’t present themselves very well during one of these pitches, he actually holds their supervisors accountable first. He expects his five “leads” to mentor their subordinates and turns to them first when a presentation doesn’t go all that well.

Also, once a year, employees everywhere in the company are given the opportunity to apply for other jobs within LinkedIn (not a guarantee they’ll get them) as a way to encourage them to develop their careers.

“We invite people to reinvent themselves,” said Draca, who saw 25 percent of his team last year change jobs, though many of them were just lateral moves within his division. He said most people do it to explore new jobs and careers.

When Draca joined LinkedIn four years ago, his team was made up of three people, which he scaled to 50 within a couple years.

 

 

 

More information:

LinkedIn is the world’s largest professional network on the internet, with more than 259 million members worldwide, including executives from Fortune 500 companies. Founded on May 5, 2003, by Reid Hoffman and founding team members f... read more »

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39 comments
Kim Grissom
Kim Grissom

It is like this in just about all industries. Extremely sad and troubling.

Hazel Lynd
Hazel Lynd

and being old doesn't mean being more experienced

John Dito
John Dito

"Own it!" code for you'll be working a lot hours you arent getting paid for......whatta douche!

Diana Hathaway
Diana Hathaway

I've never been a fan of the "corporate culture" obsession. The best companies I've worked for had people of all ages, all races, all backgrounds.  If you seem to only hire 24 year old males from the same colleges because of the "corporate culture" you get a homogenous workforce that looks nothing like your customers.  Corporate culture seems to be a shorthand for hiring people to play hacky sack with at lunch. People over 35 don't need fridges filled with energy drinks, or nerf wars, they do their job and make you money. 


As far as the hiring young as though it's some sort of edgy and praise-worthy thing, hiring people over 40 would be much more intriguing and gutsy, and you'd have fewer colossal tech and PR failures in the world. 

Duane F. King
Duane F. King

This asshole if he is in fact age-ist, is hurting his company by not hiring the more experienced people. If this can be proven lets go to his board of directors or something.

Jeff Durso
Jeff Durso

At least now I now why LinkedIn has such a crappy UI, and many of the links don't work at all :-)

Jeffrey Thom
Jeffrey Thom

Of course a young workforce is desirable. They're cheaper, easier to manipulate & do not have as many personal overheads. Not many people with a genuine commitment to their family would want to work in many of these firms. At the end of the day these tech companies are just another company and just another job.

Brad Carr
Brad Carr

Hire them young. Hire them cheap. It's just good business.

Irish Ramul
Irish Ramul

This is utter and simple BS. There are plenty of experienced (i.e. older) software engineers that are capable of doing the job. THe lack of talent is BS.

The truth is far far more simpler. Younger is easier to manipulate, take advantage of, pay less, work harder and do crap work by crappy managers. An experienced individual would demand more of a work-life balance, reasonable pay and we would talk back to our manager.

Enrique CortesRello
Enrique CortesRello

I think mr. Draca is too old for that job and should be fired immediately, and replaced by a 19-year old.

Richard Nichols
Richard Nichols

Actually as an older developer I have no problem with his position, you get what you are comfortable with. That being said I get hired for specific reasons by startups with mainly younger employees. I know how to quickly fix and integrate software and can make complex code changes that work the first time. This is based on experience and most younger developers cannot do it. A lot of my recent work have been making changes to Open Source libraries and frameworks. A lot of younger developers know how to add bits and pieces to make something work but don't know how to add functionality. But I do teach them how to manage and maintain my code...

Enrique CortesRello
Enrique CortesRello

Mr Draca needs to be replaced. He looks too old to do that job. Good riddance ha ha

Dallas Literal Johnston
Dallas Literal Johnston

Which source are you getting this "older people leave companies sooner" concept from?

Heather Meeker Haas
Heather Meeker Haas

I don't know one person in tech over the age of 30 who would jump at the chance to work at LinkedIn. That said, there's nothing wrong with hiring a 24 year old - if they are a rockstar. You just have to commit to helping them grow.

Daniel Stoddart
Daniel Stoddart

I agree on expertise ≠ experience. If a programmer, engineer, or technician has 10 years of experience but is still doing the same rudimentary things (or making the same fundamental mistakes) they were doing 8 years ago, there's not much expertise there. Then again, there are many people in the original wave of programmers from the dotcom era who have both deep expertise and long experience. The challenge for employers is being able to distinguish those two things during the hiring process.

Joshua Rosenberg
Joshua Rosenberg

It appears you got the Ageism stick from the wrong side. The problem is not hiring old. Young is all you get these days. Anyone unemployed in tech at 35+ is in trouble.

Eshaan Sharma
Eshaan Sharma

On the contrary, in my opinion tech. is the only field in which expertise matters far more than experience

Ian Moss
Ian Moss

Their maybe a correlation between age and the capability to get up to speed. Annoyingly.

Ian Moss
Ian Moss

Some companies strategies may think that. But it's certainly not what I believe.

Jennifer Pockell Dimas
Jennifer Pockell Dimas

The headline is sensational. I know this team and leader. This is irresponsible reporting. The interesting story here is in his innovative approach to accountability and visibility for projects. That part gets subverted for something that will make you emotionally react. Sigh.

Nate Hermes
Nate Hermes

c'mon venturebeat, you need to stop using these ridiculous social media headlines. you're better than this.

Lisa Crosby Clark
Lisa Crosby Clark

When I was at Sun HQ back in its explosive growth days, the average age was about 27 (as was I). But the company was populated with talented folks of every decade of age, and what I NEVER saw, or even had to consider, was conversation like this. Happily, talent and value ultimately still rise regardless of age as long as people still have the intelligence to get up to speed vertical learning curve-style, and these folks are recognized in a variety of companies of a variety of sizes, stages and product/service sectors. Youth and experience both have their place and necessity.

Dave Chan
Dave Chan

Tech loves youth and ignores experience. Also, young people are easier to take advantage of in the workplace. You can work them longer hours for less pay because they are eager to prove themselves.

Brandon Hutchinson
Brandon Hutchinson

When older people can do something in 5 minutes what it takes a younger person 5 days to do, it becomes relevant. If it's simple stuff, yeah hire young cause they are cheaper and easier to control.

David Moshons
David Moshons

It definitely depends on the role. Someone in software engineering needs experience... These companies are hiring young because they are as temporary as their workers.

Brett Bumeter
Brett Bumeter

Very crappy reporting, just the surface innuendo of possible ageism to stoke fears and get people agitated, but almost no facts to back up the perverse comment made by the subject of the article. Yes ageism exists and the age at which it starts seems to be on a steep decline, but simply playing to fears is about as useful as Fox news reports on immigration concerns.

Wayne Vaughan
Wayne Vaughan

Nothing offensive about this article. I started a tech company at 19, current a week away from my 37th birthday. Younger people have many advantages over older employees. For example if social media is a key part if your strategy, younger people will often have a fundamentally different perspective from older employees. Back in the dotcom days I had to persuade many graphic designers that web design was fundamentally different than print design. More seasoned employees are key to building a social / organizational structure that makes the business work. Both groups need each other. Smart managers know how to build a culture where the value of both groups is broadly recognized.

Zanzibar McFate
Zanzibar McFate

They go on unemployment, until that runs out, and then they go on the street, or into minimum-wage part-time work, if they're "lucky". Did you suppose they evaporated, or ascended, or something?

Zanzibar McFate
Zanzibar McFate

No? Did you just come out of hibernation? It's the new thing, all the cool kids are doing it.

Zanzibar McFate
Zanzibar McFate

I hope Draca goes disastrously bankrupt thanks to overwhelming competition from a company put together by two seven-year-olds.

Batoor Khan
Batoor Khan

This is where certainty jumps in. Ain't that the primary concern for the heads? I though so.

Anne Parke
Anne Parke

From my experience in dealing with their accounting dept they could use a manager with age and experience to ramp up their abysmal service and attitude.

Ian Moss
Ian Moss

Didn't annoy that much tbh. Sadly the age distro amongst all tech co.s is skewed towards the under 30s. I've not actually figured out where all the other over 30s actually go mind :o

Diana Hathaway
Diana Hathaway

I find it ironic that looking at these comments, those "older employees" are all here, using their social media accounts to comment on this.  Yes, we can't help but pause to remember those massive social media fails at the hands of young workers with zero life experience and business sense. Young doesn't always equal better.