Does age matter?

So I've had an idea in my head for a while now and the only way I feel I can get it out of my head is to write a blog post. So some context; I'm sitting in my office completing my appraisal, reflecting both on what I've done in the past year and what I'd like to do going forward and it strikes me that I cant see myself sitting here when I'm 50. Now before anyone accuses me of being ageist I believe I could do the job perfectly well when I'm 50* and that someone else with the required skills and experience could do the job perfectly well when they're 50.

So my question for this community is "Does age matter when it comes to managing an intranet" Here are my thoughts on the matter.

Yes it does matter...you need to be young

  •  Intranet management poses unique challenges and requires an individual to have a mix of skills, including but not limited to technical, creative, analytical, negotiation and presentation skills
  • Technical skills and in particular understanding and having an appreciation of new technologies and how these can be applied in your organisation are essential. Younger candidates might be more in the know in relation to these technologies
  • "Being down with the kids" and understanding how they use new technologies and that you use the same can be a boon. For example describing something as similar to Facebook or Twitter only makes sense if you actually use the tools yourself. On a related note I don't think you can encourage people to use Twitter if you're not using it!
  • Being creative is another key skill, as intranet managers are likely to be creating content that needs to be engaging. Are younger people more creative? I'd love to roll out a report that says they are, sadly I cant!

Yes it does matter...you need to be older

  • They say that with youth comes enthusiasm and with age comes experience. Experience can be no bad thing when managing an intranet, especially where the intranet needs work around its aims, objectives and the overall intranet strategy
  • Being older can also be a boon when talking to more senior individuals within an organisation. As they will respect the fact that you're experienced
  • You will have an understanding of technologies, but you will have seen it all before so are more likely to appreciate when something is going to pass by quickly and when something is going to stick around and be important

Having actually now sat down and written this blog post it doesn't seem as long as I thought it would be also apologies to anyone who thinks any of my comments are patronising, they're certainly not intended to be. So what do people think of my not very well thought about points! Just me and my role or does age really matter?

*There is no particular reason I chose 50 it just happened to be the age I thought of at the time of writing this blog post.

  1. gravatar

    # by JP - Friday, May 25, 2012

    It's a really good question James.

    I remember talking to a colleague last year and we were mulling over next career steps. He asked: "Do you see yourself in this line of business in 10 years" (when I'll almost be your hypothetical 50) and I replied no, without any hesitation.

    My reasoning then and now for that answer is that increasingly, intranets are gateways to a host of communication, collaboration and transactional tools - and with the onset of the social enterprise concepts, each of those three will be social in some form.

    I think that means I'm going to have to work hard to maintain my relevance in this marketplace because young digital natives will likely have a stronger insight.

    Hehe, so I'm looking for a new career...:)

  2. gravatar

    # by JP - Friday, May 25, 2012

    It's a really good question James.

    I remember talking to a colleague last year and we were mulling over next career steps. He asked: "Do you see yourself in this line of business in 10 years" (when I'll almost be your hypothetical 50) and I replied no, without any hesitation.

    My reasoning then and now for that answer is that increasingly, intranets are gateways to a host of communication, collaboration and transactional tools - and with the onset of the social enterprise concepts, each of those three will be social in some form.

    I think that means I'm going to have to work hard to maintain my relevance in this marketplace because young digital natives will likely have a stronger insight.

    Hehe, so I'm looking for a new career...:)

  3. gravatar

    # by Simon Thompson - Friday, May 25, 2012

    Try replacing young with "youthful mindset" and old with "mature mindset"

    How does it sound then? I don't think any of the points you raise are exclusively in the domain of one or the other.

    To me, it remains about understanding your users in relation to the needs of the business.

  4. gravatar

    # by David Whelan - Friday, May 25, 2012

    Good post on a touchy subject! I don't think you can separate age out in that way, although I tend to agree with your split if only because, as we age in an organization or go up a career lattice over time, we may have fewer opportunities to learn new things as opposed to improving what we already have as a foundation. A 50 year old changing careers may have the same options/exposure as a 20 year old starting out. Both might have fewer or different ones after spending 10 years in any given environment. Different experiences, rather than better/worse ones.

    It can be attributable to your position as well. I don't get to do hands-on coding, etc. nearly as much as I used to - and some of my skills are atrophying - because my role has changed and a lot of the fun work gets delegated to others. I'm a fan of making regular moves (internal or external) to get opportunities to work with new systems, different reporting structures and teams, refresh your creativity, etc. Age isn't the distinguishing element in regards to creativity, tech adoption, and learning but I think longevity can sometimes be a hindrance and may get conflated with age.

  5. gravatar

    # by Fiwi - Friday, May 25, 2012

    Interesting post. At what age do you think younger ends and older begins?

    So the ideal intranet manager would be a blend of tech-savvy, creative, enthusiastic, experienced and well-regarded. Perhaps someone middle-aged?! Although, as you say, one can embody these traits at any age.

    Am curious now as to where you do see yourself at 50 but I guess that's a whole other blog post...

  6. gravatar

    # by Caroline Cooke - Saturday, May 26, 2012

    I don't think age matters - for me one of the things at the core of librarianship is enabling access to information and using the best tools to achieve that aim. Keeping up to date with technology and having a 'fresh' attitude (whatever your age) is an important aspect of that job...

  7. gravatar

    # by TC - Tuesday, May 29, 2012

    In my opinion this has little to do with age at all. It has everything to do with who you hang out with and learn from.

    Being a runner and running coach myself, I can attest that if you want to train well you've to work with someone who's better and more knowledgeable than you are. Too much chatter causes you to lose sight and too little of it makes you fall behind.

    So managing an Intranet is about staying current on what people want and technologies that would leverage those wants and needs.

    If you must ask, my qualifying time for the Boston Marathon is 3:30.