Category Archives: gen-y

Learning from Gen Y: Help needed!

In a few weeks, I’ll be giving a talk called I.B.Millennials: Working with and Learning From Generation Y at the IBM Technical Leadership Exchange. I want to help managers and technical leaders understand my generation better, get inspired by ways they can engage, coach and learn from younger members of their team, and find out how we can all work together to make something cool.

I’ve got lots of stories from my one and a half years at IBM, including:

  • how I got to know my team and they got to know me even before my first day at work
  • how my team’s learning from the way I search for information online, the way I reach out and connect, the way I give presentations, and the way I experiment with new things
  • how mentoring and reverse-mentoring are awesome
  • how Gen Yers at IBM are connecting online and in person, and how that’s different from other networking groups within IBM
  • what my manager, my team members and I have talked about
  • how we pulled together a panel of Gen Yers to help clients brainstorm ideas
  • what issues usually come up (face-time, communication, etc.) and how we’ve dealt with them

But I’d love to tell your stories, too. If you’re a Gen Yer, tell me a story about how working with your team has been, and how they’ve been learning from you too. If you’ve worked with Gen Yer, tell me what that’s been like, what you’ve learned, and what you’ve helped them learn as well. Leave your stories below in a comment, or post it on your blog and leave a link back, and I’ll look for a way to feature your story, name, and picture in my presentation to IBM technical leaders!

Best story will get a $25 Kiva gift certificate so that you can support an entrepreneur of your choice in a developing country!

Please post your stories or e-mail them to me by Wednesday, May 20, 2009 to be eligible for the Kiva gift certificate (and lots of thanks and gratitude). If you’re reading this after that date, feel free to share your stories anyway – it’ll be a great way to inspire others!

Purple carrots

Last week, W- told me that he’d been thinking about what house-related tasks we might try delegating. He’s been helping me learn more about delegation in my experiments with virtual assistance, and he thought it might be fun to give real-life delegation a try too. We decided that housekeeping and gardening were easy ways to get started.

I checked the Toronto Craigslist section for household services, and I came across this ad for organic vegetable gardening:

Backyard Harvesting offers a full range of customizable services from
seed to harvest to solve your backyard dilemmas and put fresh, organic
produce on your table at reasonable prices. We take care of all the
heavy lifting and you enjoy the fruits of our labour. Check out
www.backyardharvesting.com for more information.

I found a number of other gardening services, too. I asked one of my virtual assistants to send e-mail and call the services without websites, and I e-mailed the Backyard Harvesting service to set up an appointment so that we could see what the process was like.
We set up an appointment with Backyard Harvesting for this Saturday at 2.

I came home to find W- chatting with Laura, the gardener from Backyard Harvesting–a young woman with a notebook and some sheets of paper. As she was going through the list of plants she could get from her suppliers, I asked, “By the way, did you bring a portfolio?”

Laura replied, “This is my first summer, actually. I’m a student. I couldn’t find a summer job, so I made one.”

=D

After some discussion (which mostly involved things like “Have you thought about growing heirloom plants?” “Oooh!” “Did you know carrots didn’t always come in orange? They were bred like that. You can get purple carrots and white carrots.” “Oooh!”), she filled up a page of notes and sketches. She promised to send us a plan and estimate by Wednesday.

There are other services like Under the Sun which also offer edible landscaping, and we might get other quotes. But if it all comes out similar, I wouldn’t mind supporting a Gen Y entrepreneur! =D

Brainstorming around Smart Work

IBM’s holding another one of its awesome collaboration jams (72-hour web-based brainstorming/discussion), this time on Smart Work.

I’m passionate about helping people connect and collaborate. All the topics highlighted are things I’m deeply interested in: teams, Gen Y, collaboration…. After I get through my 9-12 AM leadership development class (whee!), I’m looking forward to joining the Jam.

Anyway, I was inspired to make this:

There’s so much more to say, but I still have to figure out how to say it… =)

Join us for the Jam and/or the videocast! http://www-01.ibm.com/software/solutions/smartwork/virtual/

Getting past generation-based conversations

I’ve talked about generations in the workplace, from myths to organizational shapes to moving forward. I’m with Luis Suarez on this one: can we move on from the generation-based conversations?

People are well-meaning, but it’s interesting to look at what we accept when we have these conversations. I think we’re much better off focusing on workplaces that can deal with all sorts of diversity – age, gender, race, lifestyle, and so on.

Take this post from the Harvard Business Review discussion threads:

Create Mutual Mentoring Relationships

Conflicts between Boomers and GenYs may feel inevitable. They have different approaches to getting work done, assumptions about how to do things, and philosophies about what work means. They also have a lot to teach each other. To help bridge the generation gap, pair people of these generations up and ask them to share what they know. This shouldn’t be a "Teach me, Oh Wise Boomer" relationship but one in which the parties exchange knowledge and expertise. Gen Ys can show Boomers different uses for technology and how to integrate it into their work. More experienced Boomers can help Gen Ys better understand the history and culture of the organization. Creating mutually beneficial relationships can demonstrate what these generations have in common: a need to learn.

It’s a good point. I’m a fan of mentoring, and both people grow in the process. But it’s interesting to think about the dialogue we’re having, and the assumptions we accept. If we replaced age with, say, gender:

Conflicts between men and women may feel inevitable. They have different approaches to getting work done, assumptions about how to do things, and philosophies about what work means. They also have a lot to teach each other. To help bridge the gender gap, pair people of these genders up and ask them to share what they know. This shouldn’t be a "Teach me, Oh Wise Man" relationship but one in which the parties exchange knowledge and expertise. Women can show men different uses for ______ and how to integrate it into their work. More experienced men can help women better understand the history and culture of the organization. Creating mutually beneficial relationships can demonstrate what these genders have in common: a need to learn.

… doesn’t that feel weird? What about race or culture?

Conflicts between Caucasians and Asians may feel inevitable. They have different approaches to getting work done, assumptions about how to do things, and philosophies about what work means. They also have a lot to teach each other. To help bridge the racial gap, pair people of these races up and ask them to share what they know. This shouldn’t be a "Teach me, Oh Wise White" relationship but one in which the parties exchange knowledge and expertise. Asians can show Caucasians different uses for ______ and how to integrate it into their work. More experienced Caucasians can help Asians better understand the history and culture of the organization. Creating mutually beneficial relationships can demonstrate what these races have in common: a need to learn.

That just gave me the heebiejeebies. =)

Where’s the line? Where do we let generation-based discussions turn people into “others”? Where do we let age become an excuse? Wouldn’t it be cool to build a workplace where these things just aren’t issues, where we’re used to working with people who aren’t like us?

Talking about this stuff is better than not talking about this stuff. People have stereotypes about age, and those stereotypes affect all generations. (The ageism of the technology industry, the ageism of society in general…)

But we can do better than that, you know. We can treat it as normal that we work with people who are different from us and who have different experiences from what we have, and we can get better at recognizing not only the value other people bring to the organization, but also the value of the diversity of people in an organization.