Monday, November 10, 2008

Net Geners

I don't run into a lot of fresh out of college kids in my line of work, less computer science majors from reputed universities. Mediocrity is all around me as are mid career people from diverse educational backgrounds that hopped on the IT bandwagon in the 90s. They've stuck around, figured out their jobs well enough to remain afloat after many layoffs and re-organizations. Very few of them have any radically new or different ideas to bring to the table - rarely if ever do they question the merits of decisions that they are handed down to work with; often against impossible to beat odds.

Recently, that has changed. I am working with three kids with a total of ten years of work experience between them. However, that does not bother or hinder them in the least. What they lack in experience or raw talent they more than make up with their attitude. This article by Dan Topscott in the Guardian is a great summary of the traits these young people display but tends to be a little too one-dimensional. Per Topscott, the net-geners have it exactly right and the rest of us just have to get with the program or go the way of the dinosaurs.

I love that they work smarter and question the wisdom of doing stuff the "old" way. Social media is the air they breathe as is the idea of using the web in collaborative mode. Hanging out with them can be refreshing and provide many learning opportunities for folks like myself who have been around for a bit.

What I find missing though is a desire to learn the system they find themselves in - old, backward and out-moded as it were. Unless they understand the beast and what makes it tick (or not) chances of them being successful in taming it are slim to none. Their approach tends to one of supercilious incredulity at how dumb the non net-geners are. While they are quick to point out the as-is processes are dumb they are not able to suggest a better way either. They want to move up the corporate ladder as fast as possible and if they meet impediments along the way, they will quit to find another gig - it is like the word slow has been expunged from their lexicon.

Recently one of our senior managers asked me for "candid" feedback on one of these youngsters and I had to say about 4 on a scale of 1 to 10 in innate ability and over 20 in attitude. I am sure there are net-geners out there who score far higher in ability and as a result don't need to over-compensate with attitude - they would be the leaders of tomorrow.

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