As technology becomes more and more commonplace in the world, a new generation experiences gadgets, gizmos, and computers at ages younger than we thought possible. As a parent, I hear as much as anyone else the often-lamented statement along the lines of "my kids know more about computers than I do." The amazing part is that this statement is often true!
What this phenomenon leads to is an increasingly large number of students who are technically savvy before they even begin their education careers. Many students gain valuable work experience on their own or through internships and consulting jobs, sometimes having accumulated as much as 5-10 years of experience before they graduate from college.
This pattern generates a large number of very highly qualified young people, who can then be subject to a wide variety of treatment in the workforce. Some individuals report being ridiculed, mocked, harassed, constantly questioned, nagged, scrutinized, and the list goes on - and this treatment is mostly due to the relative age and perceived inexperience of the person in question.
The purpose of this article series is to show you what can be done to combat that, and in some cases, use your age to your advantage to share success with those around you and garner the respect you deserve.
A Little About My Background
Does this sound like you?
Born in 1983, I became interested in computers and technology when Doom came out for PC. I began creating websites (HTML in Notepad!) at the age of 14, learned C++ and started a web design company at 15. I followed the natural progression for web developers: HTML, CSS, ASP Classic, C#, .NET, ASP.NET, Every Microsoft Server Product Known To Man. At 19 I had written a chapter in a book called Flash MX Unleashed (SAMS Publishing) because I was approached by the publisher - I had written several articles for webzines for free, out of my desire to help people learn. At this time I joined up as an intern with a startup company. I graduated from UT Arlington in 2005, and held jobs with two consulting firms before gaining employment here at Microsoft.
In those nine years I have experienced a lot, but it seems like I just don't get older. Wherever I go, the people around me seem to get more and more senior and I become more and more junior.
Accepting Your Fate
If you're like me, you are passionate, motivated, and knowledgeable about what you do and love in the field of technology. However, you may feel like something is stopping you. Maybe you're too young to get drinks with the guys after work. Maybe someone at your job gives you problems or looks down on you because he's been an expert in COBOL for 30 years and you are already certified in beta languages. These problems are all too commonplace with the advanced next generation of technologists.
The first step to success is accepting your fate. You are the young guy on the team, but not everybody has to know that. Be confident in who you are!
The other part of accepting your fate is the concept that you are not jaded and disenchanted by years and years of workplace hell. You have fantastic, fresh new ideas. If you present them well, you'll probably startle your team with your innovation.
It only takes a few of these successes, and your age won't matter anymore. And you know what? It never did.
Check back for Part 2, Workplace Successes, for tips on interacting, performing, and delivering at your job to ensure that age is the last thing on your peers' minds.