Recently I've been getting a serious jump on my professional career now having worked at a Fortune 50 company last summer and currently working for a company which IPO'd a month ago. I've recently understood a problem in my field that causes me to get offered significantly lower salaries just because of my age, not because of my skill level.

A way the companies I have/am working for try to maintain consistency is by determining salary primarily on location, age, and how far done I am with college. This makes it quite difficult for someone like me with extensive "informal" experience in the field to get a salary most appropriate given my skill set.

For the purposes of this question, assume that I have the skill set of a recent college graduate, the problem I've seen is that HR has difficultly quantifying technical skill set, and even if you have someone to vouch for you there is no clear process to evading the age restriction.

The sad part is that I am not just claiming that I have xyz skills, I have documented evidence in my resume. For example, given my field is information security, I have over thirteen documented vulnerabilities in my resume and six CVE's assigned to my name.

Although especially with this new job, I'm being placed in an exclusive team doing some seriously technical work, the same old "location, age, and college level" policy has been used to determine my salary. My issue is that my location, age, and college level do not accurately describe my skill set and value, and I feel like it ends up being a case of "reverse age discrimination".

Furthermore, compared to other engineering interns, I get paid substantially less (about 20%), although I might do more intensive tasks then them. They only get paid more because they are older and at a higher college level, when it comes to experience they only have one internship like I do.

My goal isn't to get paid at the same rate as a full-time hire, I only want to be paid at the same rate as other interns (regardless if they do less intensive work then me). How can I achieve at minimum the same rate as other interns?

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    Where are you? Basing you salary on "absolute Age" (not years worked for the company or years of experience) is illegal in many countries. – nvoigt Jun 22 '19 at 8:17
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    @nvoigt from my research age discrimination typically applies to those at a more senior age, but I live in Minnesota in the United States. – Rob Gates Jun 22 '19 at 8:26
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    By the way there is no reverse X discrimination. There is only X discrimination. – rath Jun 22 '19 at 15:17
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    An intern is an intern. Interns always get lower pay. This is the reality. Ask for more pay when you are not an intern anymore. – scaaahu Jun 23 '19 at 9:54
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    @Taladris I think he means "low-level programming" i.e. programming that is closer to hardware, not low-level as in simple. – rasan076 Jun 25 '19 at 11:30

I think you're overshooting here. It sounds like you're still in college, so I'll answer based on that assumption.

I have over thirteen documented vulnerabilities in my resume and six CVE's assigned to my name.

This is of course fantastic. It certainly gives you a leg up compared to most other candidates your age.

But here's the thing - most companies don't offer a salary based on your absolute skillset, how many CVEs you have, etc. - they offer it based on commercial experience in other similar roles, and in the case of graduates (for better or worse), the quality of your degree. You don't yet have a degree, and you've worked in what sound like internship positions for a short length of time, which is great, but:

Recently I've been getting a serious jump on my professional career now having worked at a Fortune 50 company last summer

...let's be realistic here, it's just an internship position or short-term employment contract. It might be a very good one, but it certainly doesn't equate to a "serious jump in your professional career". You can't realistically take a couple of good short-term work roles, a handful of CVE's to your name and expect to bypass the internship hiring process, jumping in at a graduate salary instead. It's vaguely possible that some might if you're really lucky, but in general companies just aren't set up that way.

However, the good news is that if you keep this performance up, and you prove that you have the other "soft skills" necessary to be a great asset to a team longer-term, you'll almost certainly rise high in the ranks very quickly at any decent company that recognises your talent. So shoot for the top-end roles now that give you the best experience, use that to build up a great CV, then look to shoot for the most competitive graduate roles out there.

  • Hey Berry, thanks for your answer, let me explain some things. Perhaps you misunderstood my main concern so I'll try to explain it better. The issue wasn't getting paid a graduate salary or skipping the internship process, rather I am significantly being paid less then my fellow interns just because of my age. I know well for one of them that works in my office, has one other internship that he got in his sophomore year of college, no other experience, but he makes significantly more than me. What my question is really asking is "How can I avoid being paid less just because of my age?". – Rob Gates Jun 22 '19 at 16:56
  • And to regarding your comment about me calling my experience a "serious jump". The reason I said that was because my peers have not gotten internships, and even in my college it's expected you get an internship the summer after your second year. I got my first internship at 16, which is why I mentioned "serious jump". I don't hear everyday someone starting their career at their age. – Rob Gates Jun 22 '19 at 16:57
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    @RobGates - you are getting paid less than other interns? I think you should highlight that in the question because at the moment it reads differently. Also... are you in the UK? The UK specifically has slightly odd minimum wage laws which are heavily affected by age. – P. Hopkinson Jun 22 '19 at 22:13
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    @P.Hopkinson Updated my question, sorry for any confusion. No I live in the United States. – Rob Gates Jun 23 '19 at 1:31

I have been in something similar to your situation, though with less provenance, but I hadn't handled it well - dropped my college side job (where I handled 2x the average workload for 1/4 the average pay), which I later came to regret.

Now I have, among others, one exceptional 22 year old and a few average ~30 year old developers working for me. The 22 year old one is always coming up with new ideas, implementing them in record time, and criticizing bad ones harshly. He is firmly in the top 1% intellectually, doesn't think twice about pulling 14-hour workdays, documents his code religiously, and is generally awesome. This last bit is hard to quantify, but you know it when you see it.

Who would I bring with me long-term? No question there. But who do you think brings more value in business terms right now?

The truth is harsh. The 22 year old insists on doing things his way or no way, and that often costs a lot of time. He can't tell how long a project will take, so it's give or take 500%. He can't write formal reports about his own work. Can't write user-friendly documentation, needs a lot of back-and-forth to communicate anything to non-IT people. This means more time spent on micromanagement, more assistance for non-core work, and ultimately more time to deliver.

The average 30-somethings will take a job, give a time estimate (it will sting), and a week after the deadline you get the working software, the way you want it. Of their 15+ languages, 12+ are useless except for legacy code, but that means they can dig up and reverse legacy code. And they'll write plain, idiot-proof documentation. And they'll present it to the end user. And you can forget they are there, except hand them a new task every now and then.

The good thing is, this is very temporary. The awesome young developer will learn the language of the business, learn to compromise, slow down a little, but otherwise get much better in practical terms. And it isn't the age that matters, it's experience. Just plain years spent in the dreadful confines of a business, where one learns the double-speak, the idiocy of the users, the subtle ways to present their work in a good light.

You'll always earn less than your real worth at 17, but it's an opportunity to come out on the absolute top of your group. Get to the next level and top it out there. And the next. And the next. It will be notices, and the college years' work will count as real experience, putting you far ahead of your peers. I had such an opportunity and dropped it. Managed to recover... to probably halfway of where I could've been.

So to answer your direct question - you can't overcome it in the hiring interview. But you can by proving yourself at the job, and climbing higher from there. It doesn't take long. If you can get into FAANG companies, as an intern, do so, because the pay will be at the top of the industry once you graduate.

Don't think of your age as a weakness, think of the opportunities it opens for you to max out your standing in a few years. There will be plenty of time to make money, now you've got an opportunity to get the means to make money, like experience in top tech companies.

  • Hey Therac, thanks for your answer. Unfortunately it seems like my age is both a blessing and a curse. My only comment is that I might have been asking the wrong question in the first place. My primary concern is that other interns (a few years ahead in college) make significantly more than me and that's what I'm trying to combat. All I want is to be paid fairly, any tips? – Rob Gates Jun 23 '19 at 1:34
  • @RobGates Get into better companies that they can. Yes, you'll still probably be at the bottom there pay-wise, but it can still be better pay. And focus on maximizing your earnings in the future, rather than right now. – Therac Jun 23 '19 at 7:43
  • It does sound like your 22 guy has ADHD. I say so because I do myself. – Marc.2377 Jun 23 '19 at 8:48
  • @Therac Only issue with getting into a "better company" is that the company I'm at now is one of the best in the field. Sure I could probably try and get into a company like Google, but the only issue with that is that I wouldn't be doing the same low-level intensive work I love doing. – Rob Gates Jun 23 '19 at 20:39

If you’re unhappy with your salary, you can certainly negotiate it.

However, I don’t think you’re experiencing age discrimination - rather you are being compensated for the skills you do have (technical) and should expect greater compensation as you demonstrate additional skills (behavioral and social).

While you do have some technical swagger, you are certainly inexperienced. Working on a team, especially within large organizations like you describe, requires more than technical skills. Your education and work experience are indicators of these behavioral and social skills.

It’s reasonable to expect an individual who has shown steady progression through various roles or with greater education to be offered a greater salary than someone who lacks that experience or education. Unfortunately, it takes time to complete a degree or get promoted a few times.


I can think of several ways to adress your problem:

  1. Look for companies where the owner/manager and the people responsible for hiring people have a technical background. People without a technical background tend to judge you based on the things they can judge and that is for example age, years worked in the industry, former jobs, ... And these are the things you don't want to be judged by I assume. Technical people think more time of their life about technical stuff and therefore tend to judge you more on your technical knowlede. In essence you have to choose who judges you.

  2. Look at how you present yourself. It is a fact that ageism exists. But it is not as simple as looking at a number. Older workers tend to send other signals in their speach, bearing and cv. You could try to change the image you project to the world. If your birthday is the only outlier. It might get overlooked.

  3. You could do contract work or try to build your own enterprise. There it is easier to hide your age.

If you are hellbent on staying in your current firm, it might be hard to negotiate a 20% rise just because the guy/girl next to you earns that kind of money for the same work. You might have more luck if you change to another position. A change like that, even if it is a lateral move, makes it easier to open negotiations since you negotiate acceptable pay for a specific position and not a raise for a position you are already filling for less money.

  • The funny part is that I have been tasked to do some pretty intensive work compared to the guy/girl next to me. – Rob Gates Jun 23 '19 at 20:33

You need to look for a new employer (while you're currently employed). During your interviews, if they seem interested, just tell them the truth.

"Because of my age, I do not have income parity with my peers. I find that completely unacceptable considering my experience and the amount of work I do."

Make sure that you first tell this to the hiring manager. The hiring manager will be your strongest advocate, not HR. And should the hiring manager really want to hire you, he'll know what he has to do to get you on board and to keep you around.

If you're afraid of losing your post-IPO stock options, negotiate that into the deal as well. Just tell them, if I leave before this date, I'll lose x worth of stock options.

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