7 nov 2017

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What Tech Is Getting Wrong With The Culture Of Youth

Technology and the wider world continue to deal with the insurgence of youth. We’re constantly reminded of young geniuses who upend business as usual and create billion-dollar businesses. From Mark Zuckerberg to Aaron Levie, we’re surrounded by youthful innovators, probably more so in technology than in any other industry.

But I want to push back on the youth mythology. Developing the next generation of software products and other technology innovations requires a sense of familiarity. Top software development teams are led by people with significant experience who have a deep understanding of both the technical and business requirements. As others have pointed out, such as James Governor of the analyst company RedMonk, when you sit down with an Amazon Web Services engineering team member, you’re “sitting down with grownups.”

As I explored this topic, I spoke with some of our experienced individuals here at Belatrix -- in particular, Uzi Mamani, team leader and lead developer and Ariel Seoane, our VP of professional services -- to help formulate my ideas. Here are my top reasons why we should be cautious about focusing on youth as we build the next generation of software-based businesses:

EXPERIENCE PROVIDES A PERSPECTIVE ON THE EVOLUTION OF A PRODUCT. Individuals who have experience in product development know the ropes and have seen complex products through from their development and ongoing iterations. While today’s products may go from conceptualization to implementation faster than ever before, the process is complex and requires highly skilled individuals. And once a product is live, it requires constant iterations, improvements and changes in order to keep up with customer expectations. And this means ...

BUILDING AN ITERATIVE SYSTEM IS COMPLEX. Systems should not have an expiration date -- they evolve over time. Software products constantly change. If you need to replace the system over time, then you are not doing it right. As Uzi stated to me, “This is why I still love to code: You are creating products that will be forever, and they will evolve, but you need to build this into the product.” It’s experience that ensures individuals and teams are better able to achieve this.

INCREASING COMPLEXITY OF TODAY’S SOFTWARE DEVELOPMENT MEANS YOU HAVE TO THINK ABOUT THE BIGGER PICTURE. Today’s software products have become increasingly complex. As Uzi mentioned to me, some younger programmers throw lines of code “like a machine gun but without thinking. Having experience means you are better positioned to think of the side effects of the code: What are its dependencies? What is the bigger picture?” And that also means that top programmers need experience. It’s not enough to simply write code.

WHILE EXPERIENCE HELPS, NEVER STOP LEARNING

While us older folks in technology may no longer be able to burn the midnight oil like some of our younger colleagues, I hope I’ve made a strong argument as to the value of experience in technology -- not just among managers and business executives, but also among those individuals who are actually down in the weeds and building the software. It’s also critical for tech veterans to never stop learning, to notice how our younger colleagues use videos on YouTube or Stack Overflow to understand new areas of technology. We need to ensure that our minds stay young and learn from our younger colleagues just as they can learn from us.

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