Are my skills obsolete? Can I not think as innovatively or practically as the talented young people I work with? Although I have 20-plus years’ more experience than they do, the question has come up in my mind lately. As we discussed the young adults profiled in this month’s cover story (please see 40 Under 40 on page 132), I wondered about my abilities compared to theirs. Are my years of work experience truly helpful, or have I just refined the same old habits? Can I create new solutions appropriate to the circumstances? The people profiled, like many of our own younger employees, are smart, creative and in a hurry to get things done. While our goal was to inspire you by profiling 40 high achievers in the region, the story made me feel insecure about my own job weaknesses.
Working with our younger staffers and reading about the featured under-40s’ seemingly innate intelligence made me realize how different the world has become. The issues are more complex, and change happens faster, requiring faster decision-making skills. I sometimes worry I can’t fully comprehend some subjects, such as tech- or web-based systems. Fortunately, our young team members not only are sharp, but they’re trustworthy, and more experienced managers weigh in where needed. When asked for new software or other technology by the 20- and 30-somethings, I nod knowingly, feigning understanding, typically saying yes to their requests. So far, it’s working.
We have added many employees during the past 24 months, and now nearly half our work force is younger than 40. Even though I still get to the office early most days, as I have for the past 21 years, trying to get a bit ahead of the next deadline, the next budget, the next challenge, it is harder to be as productive as the young staffers. (They may not come in as early, but they work much later.)
Personally as well, I slog through our high-tech world. Sure, I manage my photos and buy music online, downloading to my home, office or laptop computer and iPod. But typically, I can complete the task by seeking help from one of my kids or from some outstanding young-ish employees who patiently show me how to download and install this or that.
This is not to say that the older employees are not talented and sharp in this area&emdash;they are. One in particular, Steve Rice, our head of print production and technology, is well ahead of the pack in most things digital. I have relied on him for 27 years and, like me, he’s in his sixth decade.
Maybe I need to simply get out of the way of these young tigers and take more time off. Perhaps one of them can show me how to book some airline tickets online?