Your shout! on how ageism affects younger staff as well

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On how ageism affects younger staff as well

In response to news that ageism laws could put an end to "milkround" graduate recruitment fairs at universities (Computer Weekly, 1 February)

I am a 22-year-old developer. I have recently moved to the .net framework, but I am traditionally a C/C++ programmer.

Having been developing personal projects and contracts since the age of seven, I find the ageism in this industry to be in favour of the older members of the company, in both technical and non-technical roles.

It often appears that due to my younger age, the advice I offer is consistently ignored by management, and advice from older members is valued more highly despite the fact they have less experience than my 15 years as a part of the industry.

Before offering advice, I consider it thoroughly and I ensure all the facts are available. It is my intention to ensure I am aware of current technologies.

The presence of an apparent "old boys' club" with older members sticking together, leaves younger staff feeling underappreciated and undervalued. However, I see no legislation to deal specifically with this issue of ageism without regard for skills or expertise.

I consider myself an equalitarian, and as such will accept any advice for consideration, regardless of its source. Any possibility of hearing about ageism from a younger perspective would be welcome.

Some younger people have as much or more to offer in terms of knowledge than older developers, who may have more experience but in the wrong areas. Convincing management that your approach is the best one is considerably easier the greyer your hair.

The question of "whose knowledge can best help?" should always be paramount in such a fast-moving industry. Favour the young and favour the old, for favouring the unfit is folly.

Bob Davies

 

On the need to attract more young people to IT

In response to warnings that the IT industry could be facing the biggest skills gap since the 1990s (Computer Weekly, 1 February)

Attracting and retaining high-quality staff is rapidly moving to the top of the chief information officer's agenda.

With full employment, an ageing population and the unpopularity of IT as a career choice for the 16 to 19 age group, companies are facing more than a skills shortage - they face a severe people shortage. The IT industry needs to successfully capture the hearts and minds of those at the start of their career if there are to be enough people to fill vacancies in years to come.

Equally, the IT industry needs to realise the benefits of having older people in the workforce who want to work and can offer skills, experience, loyalty and mentoring ability.

This must be coupled with greater skills planning within organisations, improved planning around the attraction of staff to meet future requirements and the development of a strong internal brand to retain high quality individuals long-term.

Dave Pye, managing director, Spring Technology Staffing Services

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On GPs' response to government IT plan

In response to a survey that revealed GPs' enthusiasm for the health service's national programme for IThas dropped sharply (Computer Weekly, 8 February)

This report said more about communication than conviction.

Yes, the bad old days when technology was implemented simply for the sake of appearing IT-savvy are gone. Instead, today's large-scale projects come under scrutiny from a wide range of stakeholders, including end-users, and have to be proven to be aligned with the front end.

Projects of this size and nature will struggle from the outset without the wholesale buy-in of those affected - in this case, the doctors on the frontline of the NHS. This can only be ensured with proper training and effective communication at every stage of implementation.

Alan Rommel, government division director, Parity Resourcing Solutions

 

LETTERS

There may be something in psychology, after all...

I enjoyed Roy Norris' article about business psychology and personality types (Computer Weekly, 8 February), although I am not entirely convinced that real people fit into these neat categories.

Norris said reactive introverts typically think before taking action, communicate in very factual terms and object to cutting corners; all excellent qualities in a good engineer (and indeed most people).

Proactive introverts, by contrast, are characterised by overtly aggressive behaviour, shouting and making totally unreasonable demands. These are all fine qualities in a prima donna pop star, but in the IT industry, that behaviour would just produce a procession of failed projects, running late and wildly over budget, because of incorrect decisions made in obvious defiance of the facts.

Hold on, this is starting to sound familiar. Perhaps I was being a bit too sceptical after all.

Even so, I feel his conclusion is at odds with his own explanation. Norris suggested we should "understand" the behaviour of proactive introverts. But surely a more constructive approach would be to move them into careers better suited to their personalities.

Geoff Winn

 

Don't be fooled by bullies - they can't do the job

Roy Norris' argument about personality types (Computer Weekly, 8 February) stems from the idea that IT staff in general are "reactive introverts" and hence incapable of putting up with normal business behaviour such as "being asked to break rules, cut corners and pare costs", or enduring encounters with managers who display "overtly aggressive behaviour"; the solution apparently being that we ought simply to shut up and put up with it.

The fact is that IT staff are, by and large, experienced, intelligent people who know their jobs and are entitled to be treated with respect. We are well aware that businesses have to make profits, and we will respect any managers at any level who know their jobs and are able to run their departments efficiently.

We do, however, rightly resent incompetent managers who cannot do so and instead require us to put in extra work and drop our standards, sometimes descending to the deliberate deceit of clients, to cover up for their deficiencies. In this case, the solution is to get rid of the office politicians and install people who know what they are doing.

As for the "aggressive behaviour", the non-technical word for this is bullying.

Such people do not "tend to get the job done", they are merely very good at convincing clients and superiors they have got the job done, which is not at all the same thing - although I once knew such a manager who actually could not understand the difference, even when I explained it to him.

They will never get respect, because they will never earn it, although they may convince outsiders and even themselves otherwise.

Again, both ethics and the long-term interests of the organisation demand that such people be got rid of.

Finally, a word on stereotyping. I am an IT person, and have encountered, as I am sure you can tell, exactly the problems described.

However, while I was at university getting a degree in computing, I also got an officer's commission in the Territorial Army. It does not follow that technical expertise makes one unable to understand good management (especially good people management), or unable to recognise incompetence or anti-social attitudes.

Sadly, by labelling us all as nerds - sorry, "reactive introverts" - Norris will simply have fed the prejudices of many managers who may have read his article and concluded that their behaviour is acceptable or even praiseworthy. It is neither.

Alex Swanson

 

Compromise speeds RFID onwards

Further to reports that logistics firms are reluctant to commit to radio frequency identification technology because of doubts about standards (Computer Weekly, 1 February), at the end of last year, EPCglobal ratified a royalty-free UHF standard for the application of RFID tags and readers in the supply chain, known as Generation 2.

This standards agreement is undoubtedly a good thing and should help drive increased uptake of RFID technology this year.

EPCglobal is to be congratulated on agreeing a compromise that keeps the "royalty-free" principle, and allows manufacturers to incorporate royalty-incurring technology where it makes sense.

This decision lifts the final barriers to the adoption of RFID in Europe.

Uncertainty about the final tag standard has limited the availability of the latest products and has given user organisations a good excuse to put RFID into the "important but not urgent" box.

BT called for the speedy adoption of Class 2 tags in November 2004 when it hosted EPCglobal. Our argument was that the EPC's insistence on royalty-free technology was delaying ratification to the extent that those users in a hurry to deploy RFID would adopt technology that was not interoperable.

Although most users are likely to end up using RFID hardware that strictly speaking is not royalty-free, the financial impact will be minimal.

This agreement means we can get on with building the solutions our customers want and help them unlock the benefits of RFID technology within their business.

Geoff Barraclough, marketing director, BT Auto ID Services

 

How about an open standard for Office?

If Microsoft was serious about integration with its Visual Studio development tool (Computer Weekly, 8 February), its strategy would include working with standards body Oasis to provide an open standard for Office documents.

As it stands, this move seems like Microsoft using its market share and proprietary document formats to keep out the competition.

Stuart Mace

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