The release of a new book about an aging journalist turned “marketing fellow” at a Boston-based startup is causing a stir. And it’s not just because several executives at HubSpot (the target of the expose) were fired over trying to stop publication of the book, or an FBI investigation into that suppression attempt, but rather because, the book – Disrupted: My Misadventure in the Bubble – has brought to the forefront a larger discussion about ageism in the tech world (listen to Lyons on NPR with Terry Gross).
In his book, (which is the #1 seller on Amazon’s Business Technology list) Dan Lyons, a 25-year veteran journalist who covered technology for Forbes, Newsweek and others, skewers the unicorn valuations of startups and exploitation of youth culture at these companies after losing his job at Newsweek and taking a job for 18 months with marketing software provider HubSpot.
But what Lyons claims to have found was a culture that caters to the young workers (and spits them out) and makes up for low pay and long hours with candy walls, beans bag chairs, and a cult-like mentality.
This all got me thinking about the role of age in the performance space. Age and business are topics that I think a lot about. Maybe because I am usually the oldest person in any room. And, yes, I even belong to the Oldtimers Internet Marketing group. Although, that group is made up of seniors by rank (meaning experience) and not age. Not surprisingly, the Oldtimers have been on fire about the book and this topic all week.
I take pride in being considered an oldtimer and all that means I worked tirelessly to get where I am. I run a successful business that took years of hard work to build. I have hard-won knowledge and hands-on experience. But yes, I am often old enough to be the father to many of my colleagues. But, admittedly, it’s a little different when you’re the boss.
But luckily I am fortunate enough to work in an industry where youth and age have come together to create a vibrant space where there is respect for what every age brings to the table.
I am also old enough to recognize that that there are often stereotypes associated with both sides of the coin – but there are also benefits. Youth can translate into new ideas and innovation. Yes, it can mean that younger people have less perspective, Age can mean experience and wisdom. It can also mean stuck in the old ways of doing things.
That is why I am always focused on the people rather than the age. My team includes people close to my age, young recent MBA grads, and everything in between. The things they all have in common is their passion, knowledge, ethics and quality of work.
I also know that this older guy can learn a lot by being open to new ideas. And of course, learning and not thinking you know everything – no matter what your age is the key to moving forward.