September 4, 2012

The Upside To The Nanna Technology Skill-Set

I am a child of the sixties. When I entered the workforce in the late 1970s, there were no computers, or mobile phones. Most office communications were made via typed letter and sturdy telephone receiver. We dialled the telephone number, and the coiled line - anchored firmly to a wallsocket - ensured we remained stationary when talking.

Out on the street, we couldn't pace up and down the footpath, or sit on public transport - oblivious to our surroundings and fellow travellers - as we shouted into a miniature receiver, boring strangers with excruciatingly banal, one-sided conversations.

On our televisions we watched Don Adams speaking into his mobile "phone-shoe". However, that was just entertainment, we never invisaged communicating that way ourselves.


Up until a month ago I still used a green 1970s telephone at home. (I know, what a Palaeoithic late adopter I am... until a broadband internet connection made it obsolete). I placed it out on the nature strip, and it was gone in seconds.

Moving forward, I have evolved to become a cordless and mobile phone user. But that's where it ends. I don't do iPods: I do peas in the pod with a mint sauce.

Ok, so I'm obviously not a digital native. I'm a digital newby or digital immigrant, often permanently digitally challenged these days ....though I keep this in the closet.

My story is not so tragic, and skills not so lacking; with Olympic standard typing abilities gleaned from an early 1970s secondary school curriculum. The development of this state education "core competency" gave my mid-1990s skill-set an edge, when personal computers replaced Olivettis, Remmingtons, and the rest.

If I can remember Quick Draw McGraw, our grumpy needlework teacher (no wonder I didn't become a Prue Acton, or Coco Chanel) - why can't I remember the name or even the face of my typing teacher? For those repetitious Qwerty lessons really stuck. I could give any digital native or Gen Y a run for their money these days, when finding my way around a keyboard. BUT, don't expect any SMS text messaging from me. I'm over it already.


Sadly, in today's labour market, employers appear uninterested in digital refugees like myself. This is despite our having the people (face-to-face) soft skills, that they actually need and want. Alas, they only desire to see the back of us  .....preferably in a boat, headed towards somewhere out of sight, like Manus Island.

The countless job application rejections I receive, indicate a widespread prejudice against employing "those of a certain age". This occurs, even when - in our occupations and homes - most of us have successfully traversed the shifting communications technology landscape, and come out the other end (as wise experienced souls) with a vivid appreciation for the way things were BC (before computing). 

One key advantage of this, in the 21st century office, is that we don't go into a deep trance, or immediately hysterical, whenever there's a power failure. We are unphased by the idea of reverting to manual systems, and working "unplugged" whenever the need arises.


Yet regardless of the upside to digital refugee employees, when prospective employers read my CV, and guage my potential age - it seems they only get an image of a scary, incompetent, neanderthal hausfrau.

But that's only on bad hair days, and when I'm due for a facial. Also, I have a much better wardrobe and bag collection than those paleoladies. That said, my applications seem to go no further than the office shredder.

Meanwhile, I've upgraded my physical presentation, from uber-neanderthal chic, to urban-middle-aged chic hopes.

After a hair-cut, blow-dry, spraypaint and polish - my duco comes up well ....until it rains. That said, retrofitting my nannatechnology skills to match and compete with bright, shiny and "IT-savvy", twenty and thirty-something, digital natives, is a little more difficult.


In my experience, as recently as a decade ago, "on-the-job training" was the norm. Staff were at ease with passing on their knowledge to new recruits. And so, it was standard, that a percent of workplace time would initially be allocated to showing someone new,  "the ropes". If you had the basic skills, abilities (and even just enthusiasm and confident smile), you were given a reasonable chance.

Of course back then, the workplace was more leisurely, people passed information to you, in person, at your desk ....rather then via email from the next cubicle.


In such times, when the work environment was less gladiatorial, IT genius was not a prerequisite for operating standard office computing systems. Unfortunately, several years on, the competitive environment of the modern workplace, together with lean budget and time constraints, will not tolerate teaching "old? dogs new tricks". 

So little by little, I've compensated by upgrading my skills, attending seminars and workshops on workplace communication, new computer software instruction, the (very) odd degree, etc. However, as a wise soul once said to me: the more you come to know, the more you realise there is to know.

Meantime, keeping pace with every skill listed in position description "key selection criteria" can be tricky. With information systems software and hardware changing so frequently, there's always a new major hardware component, or tweaked software program on the horizon....just days even, after the previous one was rolled out and sold to eager customers.

It's therefore no wonder that when employing staff, organizations will instantly go for the iGeneration that wouldn't know how to exist, without a BlackBerry in one hand, iPod-plugged earphones (surgically attached to ears), interminable focus on their mobile phone, and Facebook.

However, if I ever hear myself using their lingua franca by saying: ok I'm ON TO IT! ... it's TOO EASY! .... that's SO COOL! ... totally A-W-E-SOME!  and, it's DONE ALREADY! - I'll know a doubling of my medication is overdue.

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