How not to be a dinosaur

I am amused and angered by ageism in the technology field. The notion is that those who are older and experienced are too used to doing things a certain way, that they can’t adapt, and that they can’t keep up with new technologies and trends.

Age is not the problem. The problem in companies I have worked at is usually institutionalization. A process that doesn’t take 20 years.

I am fighting a battle almost everyday over processes that have been outdated for over 20 years. Ironically, some of the most stalwart defenders are people who have been at the company a few years but are hardly your long-time veterans. They have been convinced by their managers and peers that what they need to do is the way they have always done it. They may even concede that it is not ideal, it is not efficient, but it works so they want to keep doing it. I’ve been vague as to where exactly, but I work for a media conglomerate. Amongst our holdings are newspapers. We don’t only have newspapers but I’d say they represent the majority of our print business and are definitely the cornerstone of our distribution system.

Despite everything you hear about newspapers, there are still those that are resisting change at all costs. You even have employees who have joined the company since the decline who have adopted the old way of doing things because that is the culture they are immersed in.

By the way, before anyone starts beating up on newspapers or print in general you’d be shocked at how backwards a lot of broadcasting properties are run. Especially radio. It really is everywhere. Newspapers have just been at this the longest.

My job is not to preserve the old ways or to protect tradition. My job is to introduce new and better ways of performing. Whether that is through technology or changing how we use that technology. The days of trying to make a 2013 software application fit a process from the 1950’s are coming to an end. The bottom line is we can’t afford to do business that way anymore.

Here’s my take for those looking at the business world, especially old traditional models struggling as technology disrupts their comfortable business models. Embrace change. It is not fun watching the newspaper side of the house trying to implement technologies that could have preserved them had they acted just ten years ago. Had they embraced the technology when it emerged we probably wouldn’t even have blogging as we know it today.

In my own career I have struggled as I’ve gotten older. Struggled to stay relevant, to stay current, to understand how technology is changing. In the software development world it only takes about six months to stagnate. If you haven’t touch code in a year you will appear out of date. I knew I was going to have to either go into management or architecture. I was honest enough with myself to know I could not make an entire career out of writing code.

Age is not the problem. I’ll take a dynamic 50 year old developer who has been staying up with trends and learning the latest versions of .NET over a 35 year old who has been working in the same codebase for 10 years and has no interest in doing anything different. Age is not the problem, stagnation is.

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Posted in Business, Career Management, Work
2 comments on “How not to be a dinosaur
  1. Scott Powell says:

    Great post!

    My experience is I am 51 and more excited and curious than I have ever been!!!

    My suggestion is when a new friend shares new stuff, take the time to experience what they are so excited about!

    SP Out!

  2. Justin Buck says:

    I hear and totally relate to your frustration, Rob. Working the “system” that’s always worked may prove effective until a more agile competitor swoops in. Wait ’til your customers/clients hear about the new kids on the block. Things are evolving every day, you know.

    The frustrating thing about this kind of thinking is that it locks us into a perpetual cycle of affirmation. It’s taught and re-taught and affirmed by the market because there’s nothing better. If YOU aren’t building something better, someone else will.

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