I recently read the View op-ed by Georgios Chiotis on Generation Z with great interest. The post-millennial Generation Z, he argued, is digitally literate, entrepreneurial and has transferable skills. The article also pointed out that employers no longer place weight on previous experience in their particular industry. Moreover, they look for the type of mind skills which are developed to adapt to any occupation (almost any, that is).
I have been running my clinic in London for over 40 years and many of my patients have degrees which are not directly compatible with the jobs that they have. For example, one has a Chemistry degree which led to a career as a patent lawyer, another a degree in computer science that led to work in film production. I have also met a few “industry leaders” who left school at 13 or so and made a career in unexpected ways. They are very intelligent, may be dyslexic and experienced a poor and brutal childhood. Their drive and humanity have served them well.
With this in mind, I realised that a new category may be useful to describe people like me, who have embraced programming and whose skills are broad ranging and entrepreneurial. This generation - now in their fifties, sixties and seventies - is enjoying the creative freedom granted by this digital magic. I am 66 years old and have been programming since I was 28. I classify myself as a "Generation Z+".
Admittedly, my generation is largely concerned with holidays, grandchildren and box-sets. Their curiosity and their need to explore is minimal and often technophobic. However, there are others amongst us in "Generation Z+" to whom the internet is a liberator, a mine of splendid jewels and opportunities to put our lifelong skills to some other purpose than walking the dog.
To give an example, I have used my skills as a practitioner, having observed the pain patterns of thousands of people, to develop an online musculoskeletal injury assessment process. My initial aim was to design an online process which could gather data on repetitive strain patterns in arms and hands. It soon expanded to include the rest of the human form. I then extended it to relate repetitive functions, such as typing and using a mouse, to the muscles and nerves causing the pain patterns. This has been a very successful and useful tool for many businesses and their employees.
When I have a 'geek' in for treatment, we will often engage in conversations about their work and the particular programming problems that they currently find challenging. Some things they know and some things I know; the rest we have in common. We converse as equals. This is encouraging for me because I realise that the digital world is not beyond me. If I need to find a programming solution, it can be found by utilising stubbornness, lateral thinking and experimentation. There are many roads to Rome and plenty of ways of getting there. Programming has a 'universal logic,' which is in place in all walks of life. Whether you build a skyscraper or create an app, you must use similar logic to achieve them.
Often people are trapped in “brainless” work which frustrates them and makes life more torturous. Businesses will often compartmentalise our roles to the extent that we might not even know what the department next door does. There are few organisations who recognise transferable mental skills and will educate their employees about functions throughout their corporation. These employees will know exactly the advice you need, which is the correct department and how it works.
They are then in a position to make suggestions freely, without stepping on anyone’s toes or annoying their often territorial managers. The opportunity to use their skills in various areas is demonstrable and they will often be promoted. The day job is sometimes not enough to satisfy our grey matter so we use our evenings and weekends for more than having a good time. My enjoyments, for instance, are programming, writing, illustration and playing the guitar.
We are humans and must use our minds to their fullest potential. If we don't it will turn to mush and will very often sink into a malaise. Use it or lose it, as the saying goes.
I therefore encourage "Generation Z+" to engage with this seemingly scary digital world. Conquer your fears. You are not alone; even young geniuses get stuck and intimidated. They, too, must struggle to find solutions. If you use your brain, you will live longer and will retain the inventiveness and imagination of your childhood right into "Generation Z++".
- Paul Manley is an Osteomyologist specialising in musculo-skeletal problems.
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