By Edan Puritt
There is a moment, truly, not much more than an instant, when you realize that a long held belief just isn’t so. And then CRASH. The crash is to be expected, the surprise just before the crash, not so much. In theoretical terms, I’m referring to the point when there are sufficient anomalies to a paradigm or belief, that finally that paradigm or belief just can’t withstand the pressure of all the contrary evidence, and it collapses. That’s normal. That’s learning. That’s progress. But it’s still quite the shock when you are standing amidst the rubble.
Laying the Foundations
For me, this latest crash occurred recently. As part of Askari’s plan for both growth and social responsibility, we actively engage and encourage young people, recent graduates, to join us. And yes, we, or at least I, thought that I would be sharing my wisdom (read: I have made lots of mistakes and can point to my scars) with younger colleagues who may lack my knowledge, but compensate with boundless energy. Before the holidays, we participated in a local university’s (Carleton University) meet the student networking night. Practicing what we preach, we asked three of our younger employees—all recent graduates themselves—to attend, and if sufficiently impressed, bring us back some new employee candidates.
Developing Internal Talent
Frankly, I must admit I thought this was more of an exercise at developing the existing staff than it would be at finding new candidates. But there wasn’t a downside, so, forward we went. I was expecting them to look at the new batch of peers and come away with a better perspective on themselves (read: green but eager). And no, I wasn’t thinking of my own behaviour as paternal, manipulative, or condescending. I am older and know more so was affording the youth the opportunity to gain experience and insight into a critically important part of running any business. Much to their surprise, and even to mine, they came back with multiple resumes from multiple candidates who thoroughly impressed. By way of background, the Askari Solutions team was prepared for the evening with information cards that described who we were on one side, and who we were looking for on the other side. Askari supports our clients in understanding how to better manage their information assets. Sometimes that just means understanding how our clients currently manage their information assets and providing them with advice on how to do so more efficiently and effectively. Other times our clients want our support developing technical solutions to implement these previous findings.
Prospective Askari Talent
So, those are the two types of people we are looking for: people with critical thinking skills who can examine individual and group behaviour and provide context for information lifecycle management or information asset management, and people with the technical skills to develop or configure an information asset management software solution. On that particular evening, our team met students representing faculties where we were likely to find business analysts rather than computer developers. The Askari Solutions team knew what we were looking for: high achieving critical thinkers from a discipline that provided analytical skills to examine individual behaviour in an organizational context. And oh, yes: any such individuals should have personal interests and activities indicating a well-rounded life, and if their personal metadata could contribute to our commitment to diversity, even better. (I suspect the whole issue of diversity will come up in another blog at some point.) Suffice it to say, all I was looking for at this point was to remind my colleagues to please keep their minds and eyes open for people who look, think, feel, and seem different from themselves. Different—no matter how they choose to think of themselves. Essentially, it’s hard to learn much from a clone. Again, my expectation was that my colleagues would have an interesting evening, and I would have reinforced in them the qualities of the people we value as peers and colleagues within Askari. Win-win.
But they found candidates who met all the criteria. And after some very, very difficult examination, which said more about the state of our current projects than about the candidate abilities, we narrowed it down to five. Or at least, I should say that my colleagues narrowed it down to five candidates that I had the pleasure of meeting. Impressed doesn’t adequately convey how I felt upon reading their resumes and being briefed on their initial interview behaviour. The five young candidates met and exceeded all the criteria and expectations I had placed on my colleagues for the selection process. They are bright, driven, articulate, well-rounded, and engaged in their lives, not just their classes. So, we scheduled back-to-back interviews. Quite honestly, that process was really more of an attempt on my part to read some of the intangibles related to how they might interact with our clients. At the end of it, I came away even more impressed with them. Hard to believe!
Icy Reality of More
After the last candidate departed, and I thought, How am I going to choose among, or between, these people??, I had that moment. That sound of the ice cracking. I realized I am about to drop into iced cold water. They are all more. More than I was at that age. More than my peers were at that age. By way of disclosure, I have three kids in their 20s (ok, so not kids to anyone else, but still kids to me). One has graduated university, and two are still balancing academia and social lives and family life. And yes, I have been impressed with them for years. And as I watch one of my business partner’s kids enter teenage life, I am impressed with them. In fact, I have generally been impressed with the peers that my kids bring and brought around. I read the newspaper, and the news, and young people everywhere are more. Millennials are a new breed. At least this generation is more in all the places where we adults have let them be more and haven’t done remarkably cruel and criminal things like forcing them into child armies or filled their minds with the poison that is our own racist, sexist, or bigoted inadequacies. But I digress. I knew my grandparents, actually, I knew some of my great grandparents, and I know most of the stories of how and where my parents grew up. There are family stories, and black and white photos from my grandparents, and colour photos and personal memories of my parents, so I know why and where and how I came to be. I can see the building blocks that formed my beliefs and thoughts. They are in the unique combination of those previous beliefs, and my acceptance and/or rejection of those thoughts and beliefs. But this next generation? Millennials: not so much.
The Paradigm Shift is Real
We put the world—through communications and transportation—into their lives from the times they were babes. My parents are still amazed at the changes in communications and transportation, and my generation thinks of them as conveniences now, but for the next group, they are normal. My millennial children don’t just have my family stories to accept or reject to make them who they are, they have yours as well. They have all of our lives and stories to pick and sort and select and learn from. They really are better than we were/are. It’s not just a question of me sharing wisdom (read: scars from previous mistakes) with them, I need them to teach me too. They don’t even see the same obstacles and challenges I see. And there’s my paradigm shift. I’m not recruiting Askari’s next generation of students, I’m recruiting my next generation of teachers.