No one wants a young Einstein.

January 29, 2007

One of my good friends, who works as part of a sales team once said to me, (paraphrased) “credibility is one of the critical success factors in my job, I’m young, 22, how am I suppose to convince someone to buy from me when they feel like they are dealing with their son?”

This raised an interesting point, one that i think its particularly valid in the IT field. Youth works against you, when you need to make a good first impression, being young, is not a great start. I think most people would try to deny this, saying that age doesn’t matter, I think this view doesn’t reflect the facts. I think its human nature, take Albert Einstein for example, as a 22 year old he graduated from Aarau in 1900 as a teacher of mathematics and physics.

Although he sent applications to many universities trying to obtain a position teaching, he did not get an offer to teach from any of them. No one wanted Einstein. In fact, in support of my argument, his first ever non teaching job in a patent office was only achieved after a well respected friends father implored the director of the patent office recommending him for the position.The formula is simple, if you are young, you have little experience and less knowledge then someone that has existed for a longer time than you.

Yes, it’s flawed, but why then are there so few young professionals at the very top of the IT industry? There are many examples of young, intelligent people who have done well in the IT sector, Larry Page and Sergey Brin, cofounders of Google are the obvious cite, but these are self made, well done to them, but no one gave them the opportunity, they made it themselves. Sadly, I can see very little evidence of large , or even medium sized IT firms promoting young (<25 )staff to influential positions. It certainly not because they don’t have the drive, balance, intelligence and potential, so why is it? I don’t know.

I’m fully aware of the counter argument, yes there are very experienced professionals, who are experts in their field, and they have had to earn their right to be where they are, only too right, I’m not talking about replacing them, merely supplementing them. After the dot com boom the IT industry has seen a serious decline in the number of graduates taking an IT-related degree, not to mention the sad cosmic dearth of females in this industry. The lack of young role models is simply no coincidence.

I hope I grow old quickly. Or invent the new Google.

I have a feeling I know which one will come first.