Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Someone say, Road-Trip!

When it comes to getting jobs, is my generation any different to Millennials and Gen Y – and will NonStop remain important even to this younger generation?

This year, I have enjoyed a little more time off than usual and the downtime has been much needed. That’s not to say I have been working less, but where I have been working from has been on the move – the RV, now the company command center, is fully operational. Road-trip! With replicated networking services, portable printers, and an array of laptops, tablets and smartphones, the company has been firing on all cylinders even as we have covered a lot of miles.

While not strictly a vacation, it did allow Margo and me to enjoy the July 4th holiday alongside a lake in Minnesota (the picture above is of the company command center as close to the edge of the lake as I was prepared to drive the RV). Being lakeside afforded me ample time to read many of the discussions active on LinkedIn and it was hard to miss the many laments from my generation as they sought fruitful employment in IT. Within the NonStop community there are many who want to continue, but the competitive pressures seem overwhelming at time. I am not referring to the impact made a decade ago with offshoring but rather, today, as we see much of our core skills looking less and less attractive to today’s CIOs.

Reading the comments posted to these discussions led me to the more sobering thought of just how different Millennials, or Generation Y, people are from previous generations and of the problem they are creating for employers and marketeers alike. Imagine a generation that doesn’t like to get up off the couch all that often, preferring to do everything from the comfort of their room, via a laptop, or tablet, or simply from their smartphone. Road-trip? Just another chance to catch up on sleep or to read a book. C’mon – enjoy the view. Not!

For the most part, Millennials are very different, exhibiting no passion for cars of any type, preferring to accept “boxes on wheels” when they absolutely have to buy something to get around – for them, the spirit of “road-trip” has long lost any prospect of being something they enjoy! Perhaps the truth is really how different older generations are from them – so much of what I enjoy today makes little sense to people brought up in a world as heavily networked as it is, and where being online isn’t a case of watching paper tape spooling onto the floor as information flowed into a data centre (at barely 300bps). Punch cards? Are they collectables featuring ancient pugilists?

Nowhere is the interests of Millennials proving to be more of a challenge (to cater for) than to financial institutions and for the NonStop community, this could bring about some serious changes to the way we interface with Millennials and the generations that follow them.

In the December 20, 2012, post to Hey buddy! Can you spare a dime? I wrote of how, according to an article in the December 4, 2012, edition of USA Today, Video ATMs let customers interact remotely, journalist Hadley Malcolm writes, “Your bank teller could soon be coming to you through a 30-inch flat screen.” Malcolm then goes on to tell us that, “In an age where more customers, particularly Millennials, prefer to bank online, banks are looking for ways to keep branches relevant while reducing costs.”

Already finding few incentives to get up and leave the couch, Millennials are going to have financial institutions come to them? About this demographic I recently wrote of how it’s far too early to be talking tradition, they do seem to be at odds with conventional wisdom. In the July 5, 2012, issue of ZDNET, the feature
Survey: 'Millennial’s' see future with cashless transactions quoted Paul Jung, head of Visa's e-commerce division across Asia-Pacific, Central Europe, Middle East and Africa as stating, “The ubiquity of the Internet and mobile technology are helping to make electronic payment an intrinsic part of a Millennial's purchasing behavior. [There is] a long future for mobile phone and other device-based payments as more people, especially Millennials, adopt electronic payments around the world.”

In my days, we all went to work; picked up our pay in cash, in small envelopes, every two weeks; we stood in line to deposit a small portion of it in a savings account – a stamp in a passbook advising all and sundry just of how wealthy we were. But would I have been any less anxious to join the workforce if I didn’t have an association between working and my physical pay packet stuffed with cash? Would I have opted to “hang out all day” if I could derive an income directly from my laptop and if transactions completed even as I sipped a cappuccino? Rewarding myself with a chocolate brownie every time I succeeded in doing anything at all? More than likely! The browser has opened the door to a different way of working – for all I know, these very same Millennials sipping lattes could be hard at work.

The more I thought about it, in my day I probably would have preferred to work this way – perhaps Millennials are on to something, after all. When I look at my fellow professionals working with NonStop I read so many instances of their lament over there being not enough work when so often it is work that is no longer required. It’s no fault of anyone really; what we describe as work continues to change with each technology advancement. And yet, I see in their comments so much that are in common with the very same Millennials I fret about.

In a comment published in the July 10, 2013, edition of The Sydney Morning Herald, Wake up to the workforce reality, Gen Y Millennial, Ed Livesey, openly confessed of how, as a generation, “We have finished university, have experience through internships and applied for copious jobs but don't have one … Welcome to the real world. We, Ys, as a generation, are so used to getting what we want when we want that anything less is perceived as a personal insult … The simple truth is that Gen Y wants a chocolate for every task. We are soft, having been spoon-fed and are unwilling to fight for what we want. Where has the ethic of hard work gone?”

Going even further, Livesey adds, “We as a generation have become too comfortable with sitting back and waiting for things to happen. I'm guilty of it. I had a day off the other day and the most productive thing I achieved was paying my overdue phone bill.” All the while financial institutions talk of bringing the teller to them, rolling out easier ways for them to transact whatever business it is that they conduct. In the comfort of their couches, even as they watch cricket being televised from half way around the planet, or build virtual worlds, we reach out to them even when it’s only to help them pay their phone bills. No, Millennials are no different from my demographic it’s just that they offer far greater potential to employers.

The very tools many Millennials have mastered (and that remain alien to so many within the NonStop community) are those required today to bring greater life to NonStop systems, given the chance. Java, SQL, TCP/IP, HTML – these are all well known to Millennials and equip them to be a lot more productive than I ever was when I entered IT. Marketeers may think they still have much to do to get Millennials engaged and financial institutions probably are going to have even more hoops to jump through before they have it all figured out.

However, CIOs have little to fear, and unfortunately, my generation is going to find itself remaining on the outer, equipped with tools too few companies need. Buried within the comments on LinkedIn are instances where members of my generation did retrain on Java, SQL, TCP/IP, HTML, etc. but with mixed results; perhaps we do need to add more hours on the couch to truly think the way Millennials do before we regain the productivity we once had. And the clock just keeps on winding down …  

Bringing the teller to where Millennials sit may just be the starting point. But what cannot be overlooked, even as generations change, is that the NonStop core values are every bit as important as they have ever been. Millennials click even faster to what’s working than any previous generation and they are considerably more savvy about accessing information, recognizing all too quickly poorly designed interfaces from another time that ask them to keep on entering the same data with every interaction.

The key just turned in the Nissan as we start our drive to Atlanta, New Orleans and Dallas; business calls once again. Yes, I am very different from the Millennials but perhaps that’s more “me bad” than anything else. Perhaps the real world is theirs after all, and what I am familiar with just a poor, out-dated, shadow of what used to be of value. All I know for sure is that even as my colleagues struggle to find their next job, Millennials everywhere are getting up off their couches, even if it’s slowly at first, and are proving every bit as capable as we ever were – more so to many CIOs - and that’s a lot to think about on this next road trip! 

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