Is your age a problem?

Katherine Ann Byam
Harnessing the Courage to lead
4 min readJan 6, 2021

--

It’s my birthday today.

At the time of writing, it’s the morning of January 6th 2021, and I’ve just received about 30 birthday greetings, and a nice long chat with my brother who’s based in Venezuela. With me in the UK, we haven’t seen each other in person in more than 5 years, and it’s not immediately clear when we will. He is 10 years my senior, but he is making a great effort at surviving in a place where the economic, social and political situation is tough, to say the least. I started to reflect on this question of age, as I have been actually for some time.

I just turned 40….uhh…something.

Since I left my corporate job for the world of Entrepreneurship 2 years ago, I’ve been asking myself whether or not age is an actual barrier to anything. I’m sort of lucky I don’t look my age. Well that’s what people tell me anyway.

Ageism and bias is real, but is it relevant?

Certainly the bias is real. I work with executives on managing their career transitions, and in reviewing some of the roles they pitch themselves for, you know that the job ads are designed to attract a younger more digital native candidate, than older digital immigrants. There are so many ways this age discrimination is revealed even in the office.

What’s the criteria to be on a shadow board anyway?

Trends such as the shadow board, that selects very young candidates to represent their views to the board. Same with reverse mentoring. There’s a category of people, older people, who are not among the most senior ranked positions in the organisations, who are likely to be digital savvy but are ignored by such policies dressed up as progressive acts.

My Achievements since 40

When you strip back the bias though, age is a barrier to nothing, in fact it’s an enabler to many things.

In the last 24 months since becoming a forty-something year-old first time entrepreneur, I’ve done a great many things that may initially seem unorthodox but became more normalised in recent times.

I dropped everything and travelled

I packed up my things and went to Australia & New Zealand for 2 months — just to explore nature discover cultures that I hadn’t before, and to decompress. In hindsight, this might have been the best decision I’ve made, considering how challenging this has become to repeat! I was really impressed with New Zealand’s conservation efforts and continue to be inspired by Jacinta Ardern’s leadership.

I became a bona-fide life long learner

I’m an accountant by profession, and did more than my 10000 hours share of accounting, auditing and risk management. I’ve also done my 10000 hours in supply chain and change management, but today, I am a digital marketeer, a career transition coach, a start up strategy advisor and I do business development for my partner (also 40 something) who is a CIO turned data scientist. What I’ve learned from these pivots is you can always add new skills, and the old skills are still useful, if you are willing to adapt them to new technology.

I leverage my strengths much more than I have in the past

The biggest lesson though, and the shift I’ve made since leaving corporate is I have a much more robust approach to leveraging my strengths, while being decisive and targeted about my weaknesses. Corporate me considered I needed to be good at everything. Entrepreneurial 40 something me knows that I need to outsource stuff and bring diversity to my team to balance out the areas I don’t want to be good at.

Health first

My health has become more important than anything. That’s why from tomorrow I start what I’m calling 93 hard — 93 days of perfect attention to my physical wellbeing before my work. Might as well, as we will be in lockdown for at least half of it.

Conclusion? Age isn’t the Problem

I don’t think age is a barrier to anything. Only our mindset and biases determine the limits within which we operate. I am a 40 something year old woman, with a business, no kids, and at the moment not a lot of mobility freedoms, but I’m a pretty handy digital immigrant who knows how to learn and pivot. Anyone can do this too!

to learn more about my work, you can follow me on LinkedIn or join one of my communities online. You can find a lot of my best work here.

--

--

Katherine Ann Byam
Harnessing the Courage to lead

Author, activist, coach and consultant for innovation and sustainable change. She’s the founder of Dieple Consulting & Where Ideas Launch.