No one wants a young Einstein.

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.


5 Responses to No one wants a young Einstein.

  1. DE says:

    Dance, Monkey boy, dance!

    Be aware that your article confuses “people in Influential positions” and “Domain experts”. They are usually different types.

    Domain experts don’t like people in influential positions.

    People in influential positions don’t trust domain experts.

  2. io2 says:

    As a collective we are not to be trusted, we need to be broken, re-educated, molded, sculpted in the image of our seniors, only then can we be trusted to do what they would do if faced with a similar situation,

    That’s why you never notice when company CEO’s change unless you work for said company. His clone just took over at the helms and is what s/he knows best – being a clone.

    Of course there is the associated recklessness, stubborness, unreliability and naivity of youth..

  3. io2 says:

    Incidentally, ‘d like to know, “Which will come first?”

  4. davidjames says:

    Good point DE, domain experts are experts and you don’t become one of these over-night. However, in an industry that is prevalently driven by innovation, not experience, im always surprised at the lack of investment in the top young minds at the “top” of the company.
    Being a ‘graduate’ is tantamount to being “wild and inconsistant” in many (not all) peoples eyes, which is riduculous as its a label without meaning, so what ive been to university.
    io2: we’ll have to see which one comes first, but if myspace is the new google, then maybe is the new myspace.
    Has anyone got any straws for me to clutch at?

  5. Andrew Back says:

    Something that industry founding companies born out of the silicon valley boom in the 1970s knew well at the time, was the value of youth. They capitalised on the fact that the freshly graduated often didn’t know the difference between the possible and impossible, and as such would at times manage to achieve the latter through said ignorance combined with fresh passion, energy and a sheer determination to prove themselves. The sad truth is that these days we are much more risk averse, and now have the benefit of an ‘old school’ who are keen to perpetuate the old ways of getting things done. And doubtless the dotcom meltdown has played its part in restoring sensibility and a more comfortable pace of development to proceedings.

    On the subject of females in the industry I have only ever once worked directly alongside female geeks: a FreeBSD hacker and a MS and directories guru, both at circa 1999. And never since.

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