Do You Have Tech Performance Anxiety?
"I'm often humbled by technology. It's a constant learning curve, and something that I feel is holding me back - or at least I can make myself feel it's holding me back. I'm thinking about why it takes me so much longer to adapt to new tech versus younger audiences. I guess that in our youth, we dabbled with machines, and to poke around with those was more dangerous. I'm less experimental and understanding of tech than younger audiences. How do we handle this? I worry it's going to create an artificial ceiling for my career. How did you handle it at Airbnb?" - A Wisdom Well subscriber
Thanks for this question. Fortunately, we had Tom Kamber staying here last month at MEA, who has some good advice for us all. Tom is the founder and executive director of Senior Planet and Older Adults Technology Services (OATS), which offers free tech classes for older learners. Note: for more advanced or professionally oriented skills, people seem to like what General Assembly provides.
Tom says, "that adopting a more experimental or even playful attitude toward emerging tech is far preferable to having a mindset that 'this is beyond me.' For most people, the critical frame of mind is around simply finding a positive pathway into tech, some app or program, or digital culture group that you connect to and enjoy spending enough time doing that so that you build some skill sets around it. Then it's all about transferable skills and knowledge."
As for my experience at Airbnb, I recognized early on that it was just a fact of life that I was a "digital immigrant" and not a "digital native." Rather than feeling ashamed, I embraced being a "mentern." When it came to leadership skills and a few other areas of work, I was a mentor. But, when it came to the digital arena in a tech company, I was open to being a curious intern. I didn't have to be perfect, and, just like with my recent learning of Spanish, I focused more on improving myself instead of proving myself. I defined my success by my learning. I also realized I was far more critical of myself than others were.
Finally, let's remember that we don't have to be software developers in our fifties, but we can be soft skills developers (in ourselves and others). The key is to find a workplace that embraces the idea that we can be both a teacher (of soft skills based upon, hopefully, our growing EQ) and a learner at the same time. What a role model you can be to younger employees if you adopt this way of being!