Algirdas realised his dream of becoming a programmer a decade ago when he was able to take a year off from his leadership position at a company where he had worked for almost twenty years. During that year, he learned coding, while also mastering the English language – he was able to read and understand but never had the chance to speak it. Algirdas had 30 years of work experience before joining Danske Bank and decided to challenge himself by seeking a job where English was the primary language. Even though he experienced quite some stress at first when he had to start communicating in English, Algirdas, currently the senior programmer and team lead at Danske Bank Lithuania, is convinced that renewing knowledge and experience in later life is critical and that health should be the main driver for mature talents who are dreaming of a new job but are reluctant to make that first step.

What made you decide to look for a new job?

I am constantly challenging myself. Prior to joining Danske Bank, I worked for another company, which I chose so I could launch a new project and build my own team. I assembled a team of completely fresh programmers with no prior job experience, demonstrated all the necessary processes, taught them for several months, and they’re successfully working to this day.

I joined Danske Bank to challenge my English skills. When I decided to learn programming ten years ago, I had just begun learning the language – my very first words. I studied both coding and English in parallel. I gradually learned to understand and read English, but I never spoke it – I never had the opportunity. At Danske Bank, we work in a multicultural environment; my team consists of colleagues from Lithuania, Finland, India, and Denmark. Everyone communicates in English. Of course, it was daunting and, at the same time, a great opportunity for me to learn English faster.

Did you get any remarks about your age as you searched for a new job?

Even at my previous jobs, I was one of the older ones.

I never felt any discrimination based on my age. I didn’t hear any comments or remarks either, or if there were any, I probably didn’t pay any attention to them.

I was always ahead of my younger colleagues – I worked both faster and better. Though now I do remember one work situation in which I expressed my doubts about the necessity of a new initiative that would have simply distracted everyone, one of the younger colleagues used the phrase ‘us younger ones’ in his counterargument, letting me know that I showed less initiative as an older person. I didn’t react to it then because I saw that the words slipped out without much thought, but in a less formal environment, I would have quipped with a smile that old guys can plough the soil just as well as young ones can.

Do you think that stereotypes and negative attitudes towards age are an issue in the job market, or is this just a myth?

Yes, these stereotypes exist 100%, just not many talk about them. There is a misconception that if someone is older, they no longer want to accomplish anything or are looking for a 'cushier' position. And I've heard some comments on why I work at Danske Bank that imply I came here just because it was stable and a suitable place to work in peace until retirement. Meanwhile, I've never considered such a thing. Perhaps this type of tendency exists among older people, but I feel it is more likely to rely on the individual than on age. If they’ve been a ‘pensioner’ by nature, that’s how they’ll behave when they look for work, but if the person can’t sit still, they’ll be like that for life, restless, searching, and looking for action.

What were you most nervous about when starting to work at your new workplace?

The technologies I came to work with here were nothing new to me. I wasn’t facing any challenges on the technical side of things. The only thing that I was especially nervous about was my English competence. I'm not generally afraid of anything in life, but when I had to speak at a meeting, I was getting really nervous; my heart was starting to beat faster, and my hands were sweating, just like on a dental visit as you’re a kid. At first, I used to translate and arrange my sentences in English correctly using a specific mobile app. I constructed my sentences, rehearsed and repeated them before a meeting. It took about a year for me to break through. Now, if you ask me, my spoken English is far from perfect. After a while, I began to understand my Indian colleagues as well, who in order to ask something, usually first explain their question with long sentences, using several hundred of words. If it so happens that they speak too fast for me and I don’t catch their meaning, I ask them again, even now. 

Have your changed opinion about new job search as you joined the team?

The recruitment process at Danske Bank Lithuania is more complex – there are personality, reasoning tests, they ask for recommendations. At the same time, candidates like me, who have substantial professional knowledge, work experience and skills but who do not have a strong command of English are given consideration. Although I was unaware of this when I applied – I just said that I wanted to try this, and they took me on.

What previous professional/life experience comes in handy working at Danske Bank Lithuania?

I like working according to a plan. I brought this experience with me from my previous work as a leader. I always preferred to have precise plans for where I would start, how I would meet deadlines and this helped a lot. At Danske, there are numerous tasks that need to be planned so that my colleagues know how things are progressing and I can respond quickly if any questions occur. At the same time, this allows me to avoid a lot of stress. The ability to resist stress is also extremely helpful at work. If an error is made somewhere, an issue emerges, everyone around begins to stress out, and countless questions pop up on MS Teams.

I’m capable of keeping calm because I know that stress doesn’t help; I must focus on my work, the problem,  and finding a solution.

I have experienced such situations before, and the ability to stay cool has helped me.

Was there anything new that you learned about yourself since you joined Danske Bank?

Working at Danske Bank, I realised once again that I’m more of a results-oriented rather than process-oriented person. I get great satisfaction out of solving a problem and finding a solution, especially if the solution is a new and original one, something that we haven’t applied before. I'm constantly thinking about work, even though I don't work after office hours. If there are problems at work and they’re still unresolved, I sometimes wake up at night and find the answer, and if I don't, I don’t fall asleep until I do. This doesn’t bother me because finding a solution brings me great joy.

What would you say to someone your age who can’t quite find the resolve to look for a new job or change jobs?

It’s always worth a try. In any case, it will be a new experience—you'll get to see a different corporate culture, get to know new people, learn about new processes, and experience new approaches to solving problems, organising the work process, and executing tasks. It might be difficult at some point; but, most importantly, it will be different. That’s critically important and even healthy for someone to experience in later life. Just like brushing your teeth every morning, new knowledge and experience should be part of your daily hygiene. If you’re constantly doing the same things and going in the same direction, that’s a clear-cut path to degradation. In later life, when you've raised your kids and paid your mortgages, there’s not much left to motivate you. In that case, your health should be your principal driving force. In order to develop new neural connections in your brain, you have to constantly encounter new obstacles and learn to overcome them. That should be the norm.

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