Tuesday, January 7, 2014

The Fear of Being Irrelevant

One of the biggest fears I have is one day constantly changing technology will become too much to keep up with and I will become irrelevant. I believe I was very fortunate to have grown up during the tech-boom. Considering the pace at which technology is evolving, things are being less intuitive to me. I used to be on, what I considered, the cutting edge of social media and new technology, but now there is so much available, I don’t even think I know half of what’s out there.

I remember the Christmas morning my brother and lifted that huge box off of the table and there sat an IBM tower and monitor. Years later the internet was mainstreamed and I had a chat conversation with someone in Germany. I had no idea what they were saying, but I was typing messages to people across the globe. With that came my first email account, an AOL account nonetheless. I was a freshman in college when Mark Zuckerberg allowed the rest of the nation’s colleges to join in on what Harvard and Stanford had privately enjoyed for a short time. Twitter seemed like an easy jump and now I’m sitting with a little over 700 followers (not breaking records, but I can appreciate that number).

So why do I feel insecure about the future? I have one of the coolest jobs on the planet; I get to teach college students. Something I have noticed recently is the way my students think has changed a degree or two. The way their cognitive powers work have shifted a bit and I don’t think this change is good or bad, just different. I constantly have to update the way I teach my course (which is probably how it should be done anyway), but this updating is much more frequent. I can’t exactly put my finger on it, but I would venture a guess that this generation of students is the microwave generation and used to instant results. Maybe I fall between the toaster oven and the convection oven, but I don’t think I’m quite in the microwave group and this scares me a bit.

Last semester I met with a student every Wednesday for almost the entire semester. This student has a vision for a company she wants to start. It’s fun to help people shape their dreams and give guidance, especially when it’s a super-cool tech start-up. This experience led me to think about the increasing amount of freshly minted graduates (or some who didn’t quite finish) who take risks to start their own company. If there is ever a time to go for it, now is the time. And this is why I’m worried about the future….

If I cannot keep up with these young minds and their constantly shifting and developing technological platforms and ways of analyzing problems, how can I be relevant to anyone? It has been suggested that there will be a generation who rejects interactive technology as we know it today, but I don’t see that happening. We have created too much infrastructure around the way we live to just drop it completely.

My resolve is to do the best I can to stay sharp, to spend the time it takes to learn new technology, and to never be afraid to ask someone for help. I refuse to be an ostrich with my head in the sand. I refuse to let one of my biggest fears become a reality. I refuse to become irrelevant. 

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