Reinstall the grey brigade to revive IT's sexy image

When I think of the dotcom boom I think young executive.

I think of a cocky, young start-up executive with Gordon Gekko ambitions and Donald Trump flamboyance.

Back in 1999, the average age of an Internet company director was 23. MBAs were a dime a dozen, but hard-won, real-world experience was in short supply.

And the mood? There was an infectious air of great expectations, an edge of anticipation. All those Nasdaq-driven dreams that once were (sigh).

You see, the key word in all these recollections is young.

Once upon a time IT was teaming with youthful vigour. Young people were drawn to the industry in droves, it was sexy, it was fresh. Heck, technology was so damn exciting! But in a few short years it's lost a lot of its appeal, especially among school leavers.

This is reflected in course enrolments which continue to fall at an alarming rate.

As a result employers are actively reaching out to the over 55s, all those older workers who left the industry during the downturn, to try and overcome continuing skills shortages.

This is not surprising when you consider the truth about IT, that is what we have always known - regardless of whether it is pre-2000 or post-2000.

The IT industry has always been led by the grey-haired brigade. Despite all the glitter and glamour that prevailed during the dotcom boom, the average IT manager is about 45 years of age.

That's right, the real world of IT is positively middle-aged. It is far more sedate than those e-business upstarts would like us to believe.

While the search for capable young guns never ends, it is the middle-aged IT professional with more than a decade of on-the-job experience that really steers the ship and will continue to do so.

Their legacy skills form the very foundation of today's enterprise.

Market analyst and researcher Len Rust believes the grey-haired brigade is making a comeback.

He says skills shortages have created a climate where employers are seeking out a depth of experience that belongs exclusively to older workers.

They have learnt from past mistakes and have the knowledge to make sound business decisions. They also make great mentors to younger workers.

And more importantly, they have seen the cycles of the IT industry, first-hand.

The goal is to find the right mix of the young and old, but how do we lift IT's appeal?

Can the grey-haired brigade lead the charge and make IT sexy again? Feedback to sandra_rossi@idg.com.au

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