With a new year dawning and 2016 in the rear view mirror, I am recalling a recent article that explained that “no one in tech will admit they are old.” Well, I constantly joke that I am old, which this article seemingly marks as idiotic behavior. I’m 58 years old, which maybe doesn’t rate as old these days, but it certainly rates as old in the technology world—and the digital marketing world. The article explains that there is rampant age discrimination because younger people don’t believe that people my age know anything about technology.
I don’t care. My last job at IBM was Distinguished Engineer—geez, even the word distinguished means old, doesn’t it? And I left that job in 2008, so I am even older now.
I often joke from the stage that I am old, to make points about things that make me feel old. (Yes, Pokemon Go, I am looking at you.) I don’t claim to understand everything that younger folks know about digital marketing technology. It’s just that I don’t think I need to know everything. I think what I do know is plenty to be useful to people young and old.
But I have been the target of three (count ’em, three!) well-meaning people who have taken me aside after a speech and told me point-blank, “Stop saying you’re old. No one wants to hire an old guy for digital marketing consulting or for technology projects—and that’s your line of work. Those ‘I’m old’ jokes are hurting you.”
I don’t care. I continuously use self-deprecating humor in my talks—mostly because my shortcomings provide a never-ending source of material—and I because actually like to play against type. I have the confidence that I can hold my own with anyone in my areas of expertise. And if youngsters can outdo me on Facebook, that’s cool. I can learn from them. But maybe they can learn from me on text analytics, machine learning, and data analytics to fuel content marketing.
And companies that have endless problems delivering technology projects might learn from me about how to bring the projects home when they stop trying to project manage them like they are erecting an office building. Maybe my agile approach to technology development is still worth something, even if I have gray hair.
To me, it is about competence, confidence, and candor. I know what I am good at and I don’t hide that. I also know what I don’t know—and I seek help when it’s needed. I don’t pretend to know everything about everything because I am old enough to know that you don’t need to. You just need to know enough about something.
For example, what I know about Pinterest fits snugly in a thimble. But I am not too old to learn enough about Pinterest if a client needs my help with it as part of a larger digital marketing project. And I would happily add a Pinterest expert to my consulting team for a project where that expertise was critically important.
So, yes, I am old. At least old for tech—and digital marketing. If that makes you not want to hire me, that’s okay, because I wouldn’t want to work with you if you make decisions based on people’s appearances rather than the value of their advice. Instead, I’ll work with your competitor to put you out of business. Because having the last laugh never gets old.