Employability and context – deeply connected today

As we made our way slowly through one of chennai’s traffic-infested “Information Technology” zones, a friend observed that IT was probably the one industry where experience was more of a handicap than a boon. Companies increasingly wanted smart programmers at lowered costs, and middle managers were losing out.

On reflection, I think we ought to amend this statement a bit – today experience is no longer the USP it was and skills and attributes are what will decide who is coveted and who’s job is at risk. Relevance and currency of experience are more critical today.

This trend seems to be getting more pronounced as we serve younger customers across the globe.

A programmer who does not intuitively understand the social and mobile propensities of his customer can just not make a great product, no matter how good his programming skills may be.

And managing a team of millennials does need some insight into their value systems and the willingness to accept them without passing judgement. Pass judgement and you’ll find your job relegated to history – no matter how many management degrees or books you acquire.

Whenever we head into such discussion, we hit a wall – the naysayers believe it to be but a mitigation that will ensure we are employable for a little longer. “The situation is loaded against the senior folks” they voice again. I truly believe they’ve got it wrong – when managers and programmers get into the skin of their customers/business (ie get the context right), they thrive (not just “survive”). Of course it does require some childlike curiosity (or beginners mind as the zen folks say!).

It seems to have succeeded for many. Bill Gates seems to have made the transition from an uber-competitive corporate to a globally compassionate NGO pretty seamlessly – and as his annual letter indicates his earlier experience is helping him bring in some cool insights.

Nicholas Negroponte and Ward Cunningham aren’t getting any younger, but they continue to lead technology vision with flair.

Steve jobs (do look at his Stanford address) wasn’t a teenager by any means when he led Apple through several iconic products that changed The company’s fortunes and in many ways the world for ever.

True Gates, Negroponte, Cunningham and Jobs are superstars – what about the rest of us? We too can perhaps make the shift in our little (if not their earth changing) ways. Contribute to a kickstarter or wikipedia project/topic of your choice and experience the power of virtual crowds. Or get onto twitter and discover the immense power of 140 or so characters – brevity and wisdom at the same time. Or take a course at udemy on a new project management model (say the lean startup) and discover the magic of agility. Or join your team on their Facebook page and just soak in the fun.

I guess that’s my thought for the day. If I were to tweet this, it would read “be irreverent, not irrelevant. Focus on context, skills and behaviours. And enjoy change!”….. Or some such thing……..

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