The Challenges and Scintillation of a Baby Boomer in the Technology Work-space

When did I get old? How did I become, “you know, that old guy”?

Depending upon which metric one consults, being born in 1961, I am either at the tail edge of the baby boomer generation or the leading edge of gen X.

I still think of myself as a vibrant, hard-working, contributor who readily and expertly rises to whatever challenges I encounter. I may be bit slower on the uptake at times, but I believe this is due to wisdom I have gained rather than diminished capacity. Not everyone shares this opinion.

Relating to the men and women born at the tail end of generation X, the millennials, and now those of generation Z entering the work force is not difficult for me. I hear this is a challenge for many of my generation and I suppose this is different for me because of my natural inclination to embrace technology, youthful attitude, and being able to respect people regardless of age. The problem I have is overcoming the expectation that I won’t be able to relate well.

I admit sometimes I reminisce about the days when we had to manually bind protocols to a card to get a network connection or write code to do what today is done with a click of a button and no understanding of what happens behind the scenes. This gives me a great appreciation for the wonderful advances we’ve made that perhaps those of the later generations are not aware. This can sometimes be frustrating, and I do my best to remember that I too take for granted those things made easier by advances in ways of doing that my predecessors developed that they had to do “the hard way” in their youth (such as indoor plumbing). There is something about being born into a way of doing that makes it tough to understand the trials of the past.

Because I contributed to that explosion of technological growth which began in the 70’s I have a tendency to want to understand everything about everything I’m working on. Working in the cloud with AWS, Azure, micro services, containers, mega data, and the seemingly daily releases of new digital advances, I’m just not able to comprehend it all. Letting go of that need to understand is sometimes difficult.

Although I’ve striven on one hand to land that long term gig some of my contemporaries have managed, my quest for learning and exploring uncharted territory on the other has driven me to look for new roles every few years. Until recently I thought I was invincible and would never have difficulty lining up the next opportunity. Time has caught up to me and I’m actually struggling to find a role that meets my requirements, I have the skills for, and I actually get offered. I always try to own my situation so I won’t blame it on age discrimination, but I can’t help a nagging feeling that it is in play. The reality of retirement looming in the next twelve to twenty years certainly gives me pause before considering another change.

“Each generation imagines itself to be more intelligent than the one that went before it, and wiser than the one that comes after it.” — George Orwell

When I’m working with the newest technologies I get so excited thinking about the possibilities! Advances in managing data, not having to worry about what’s behind the IaaS or PaaS solution, streamlined agile development processes, awesome tools in the cloud, fast affordable bandwidth and storage, and advanced powerful high-level languages make this a great time to be in technology. I’m still amazed that things from my childhood that were science fiction like traveling to Mars, AI, robotics, and self-driving cars as well as things we never even dreamed of like 3D printing, are now a reality. I feel blessed that I’m at an age where I can truly appreciate it. I know those being born now, through no fault of their own, will completely take these things for granted.

Sometimes I feel underappreciated and left behind by those younger. How I became a part of this group and no longer the one speeding past the old-timers, I’ll never fathom. When I connect with them, which is more often than when I don’t, I am rewarded with a fresh perspective that I just don’t get with those my age. I am astonished by the insight and depth these gen x,y, and z peeps can bring to a brainstorming session where the boomers often get hung up on old notions that don’t always work any more. Once in a while I’ll be surprised by receiving props totally unexpectedly. It is so wonderful when that happens because it is so genuine and shows so much gratitude that I am deeply touched.

I still have a number of good years in me before I’m ready to step aside. I hope to continue to learn from all who I work with and that I can be an inspiration and share my knowledge with anyone willing to learn. I am thankful for the opportunities I’ve had and the prospects of many more to come.