The How of Y

Every new generation is a step ahead when it comes to technology. That's how we make progress in IT.

When it came to work, the great Chicago newspaper columnist Mike Royko liked to quote his friend Slats Grobnik: "If it's so good, how come they have to pay you to do it?"

Slats had the right idea. I think of him every time I hear someone moaning about how tough it is to manage Gen Y'ers or millennials or whatever we're calling kids these days.

The moaners are usually baby boomers, born between 1946 and 1964, who imagine that they were real prizes when they got their first jobs in IT. Their work ethic was exemplary. Their team spirit was unrivaled. Their devotion to The Way It Has Always Been Done was truly a thing of beauty.

In their dreams.

Sure, a few boomers were like that. Usually, they were fresh from a hitch in the Army. After a year or two of being shot at, following orders in an IT department looked positively relaxing. But they were the minority.

Then there were the boomers who spent every spare moment in college in front of a terminal at the computer center.

They were the ones who invented their own computer languages, churned out ASCII pin-up calendars on the high-speed printers and made the washing-machine-size disk drives waddle their way across the computer room.

That wasn't exactly well-loved behavior once they got into the corporate world.

Mostly, though, boomers took jobs in IT because it was work, and somebody would pay them to do it.

They were English majors who could remember where the commas went in Cobol. Philosophy majors who could figure out how to make a flowchart work. History majors who . . . well, they were history majors. They just needed a job.

They were mouthy and opinionated. They knew next to nothing but thought they knew everything. They dressed funny, listened to noisy music and weren't much interested in beating their brains out at work.

That's the crowd complaining today about these lazy, noisy, funny-looking kids with their instant messaging and texting and MySpace and Second Life.

So let's quit feeling sorry for ourselves, OK?

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