Maybe you didn’t realize it, but adopting new technology is a matter of life and death.


In the provocatively titled article “Public cloud will grow when experienced IT folks DIE,” one CTO added his own spin to the phrase “We’ll upgrade this technology over my dead body!”  The CTO was quoted as saying, "I just think it's a time thing. Those guys that are the older guys in IT will retire and the new guys that are the Facebook generation or the Instagram generation will become the new guys, and they will have only lived in the cloud era."

The specific technology in question was the cloud, but that doesn’t matter. Similar discussions have been held about other technologies, such as in last year’s article, “Why Every Social Media Manager Should Be Under 25.” “Every time I see a job posting for a Social Media Manager/Associate/etc. and find the employer is looking for five to ten years of direct experience, I wonder why they don’t realize the candidates who are in fact best suited for the position actually aren’t old enough to have that much experience,” wrote Cathryn Sloane in that piece.

Needless to say, articles like these spawn lively discussions and follow-ups, including on LinkedInRegister.UK, and CMSWire, as seasoned computer people wave their virtual canes and tell whippersnappers to get off their IT lawns.

“I look forward to being the equivalent of the COBOL coder of the future: grizzled, aged — and able to demand $2000/day plus expenses for maintaining IT stuff because the kids just think their data and code comes out of the cloudy/wifi/air-thingy,” noted one respondent.

“If IT Pros dying was the transitional event, then one would think that mainframes and COBOL would be long gone,” agreed another. “The reality is extricating legacy technology from an organization requires a business case to justify the expense of the effort and the risk exposure.”

“You confused familiarity with using social media tools like Facebook and Twitter with the ability to turn that into offering actionable, solid communications advice for internal or external clients,” wrote Mark Story, author of Starting Your Career as a Social Media Manager, in a rebuttal to Sloane.Of my peer group, many of the smartest and most experienced social media professionals are in their 40s.”

Much of the discussions devolved into pros-and-cons of the technology in question, with people noting that as a vendor in that market, the CTO who’d made the initial statement had a vested interest in finding reasons other than technological ones for why the cloud technology he was championing wasn’t more successful.

But the technology discussions miss the point.

The real problem with the sentiment — which has even made it to a Jack-in-the-Box ad — is that it buys into the whole stereotype that older people can’t or won’t learn new technology, and that younger people are inherently better at new technology. And the problem with allowing the discussions to focus on the merit of the particular technology of the moment is that it doesn’t touch that underlying assumption. This gives people the ammunition to dismiss the factual arguments as being those of an out-of-touch fuddy-duddy who’s simply against anything new. With the issue of ageism in IT — where even people in their 40s are considering filing age-discrimination lawsuits — that’s something you don’t need.

How can non 25-year-olds combat this stereotype? Look for ways to keep up with new technology. Learn about it. Use it. Embrace it. To be able to argue the merits of new technologies, you need to be seen as willing to be open to the idea of new technologies in the first place. Upgrade…or die.

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