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Topic Tuesday: How to stay hip?

Mary Ramirez Community Leader Feb 26, 2019

When I was younger, "staying hip" was often used by my uncle after trying out the new dance all the kids were doing. I cringed. Now as an adult, I often find myself trying to "stay hip." In other words, I'm vigorously learning a new technology/product, staying up to date with the political news or even trying to learn the new Fortnite dance. 

I think many of us feel this way, especially in our careers. Scared to fall behind but somehow really eager to learn. The pressure is even more in the tech industry because things are changing every day. So I pose these questions to the community:

  • Where's the fine line? How do we balance "staying hip?" 
  • How should we help others who perhaps aren't "hip" to what we know? (without making them field excluded or ashamed for not knowing)
  • When looking at a job application, how can we show our strengths in areas we are not "hip" in? 
  • The most important question, what are you doing to "stay hip"? (personally and/or professionally) 


Kat Marketplace Partner Feb 27, 2019

This is an interesting topic.

It is tempting to follow the latest and greatest innovations in our industries but we need to assess where we as individuals and where our employer fits on the Early Adopter > Fast Follower > Late Majority Adopter > Dawdler scale.

Some people like knowledge for knowledge's sake. These people can be an assets as they can consume a lot of information and, like a magpie, select the shiny highlights to share to a wider audience.

Many of us have heard "we are agile" / "we are going agile" etc. To reach some people you need more than a buzz word and/or methodology. Be specific about what this means to the organisation and their way of working. "We are going to have a daily stand-up meeting to share blockers and progress to help reduce bottlenecks and improve forward planning" means a lot more and does not make someone feel excluded for not knowing the 'theory'.

Recruiters and hiring managers look for an interest in continuous learning, adaptability, and enthusiasm to do more than the bare minimum, and often documentation skills when they are hiring someone where these are relevant. Be aware that some companies and/or teams are comfortable in their processes so 'getting along' and 'following process' is more important that challenging the status quo.

I've spent enough time on this for now so I'll leave the last question unanswered.

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This is a topic that interests me quite a bit. I'm about to turn 60 and have increasingly had a tough time finding a job in technology--not because my skills are behind (they are not), but I have often been told I wasn't a "good fit." People who have hired me find I'm a good fit with pretty much everyone.  I don't think there is conscious age-discrimination going on, but when I am decades older than the people interviewing me, there can be an unconscious bias. Of course, this is not always the case.

  • I don't try to be "hip.," other than keeping up with technology and asking questions about things I don't understand. Still, I have colored strands of sparkly strands in my hair and a tattoo, neither of which has to be visible. I do try to be open to learning from others, though. I'm flexible and adaptable, which stands me in good stead with most groups. Adaptability and flexibility are often limited to younger people (as us oldies are rumored to get "stuck in our ways").

    I remember interviewing an uber-talented (much older) tech writer for a education-related training project--who had the job until she started talking about her work as a teacher in Special Ed. "I worked with the retards," she said. She was no longer a candidate the moment she used that word. She could tell by the looks on our faces when she said it that we were shocked and offended and started explaining "back in my day, we called them the EMR kids. I didn't mean that as a slur." It didn't matter. Her lack of keeping up with the the practices of inclusion and diversity (and not maligning other human beings) lost her the job. The same would be true of people who use pejorative terms for any other humans.
  • There's nothing more awkward than someone trying to be "hip." It doesn't work. Authenticity does. If you like to learn new dances, do it. I've always believed my role is to lead, follow, or get out of the way. My preference is to lead. When social media became a thing, I decided to become an expert. I did a lot of research, used all the various platforms, wrote newspaper and magazine articles and gave talks on the subject. I'm no longer an expert in this area. However, I became "hip" because it was important to me and my career. I was hip to online help before other people were doing it. Do what you need or want, but not for the purpose of being hip.
  • Helping others who perhaps aren't "hip" to what we know can be tricky. I try not to make assumptions. Instead I ask questions and then tell the person to let me know if I need to speed up or slow down or skip or repeat something. None of us knows everything--and there's no shame in not knowing.
  • When looking at a job application, if I don't know something, I stress my experience in like items, my adaptability, flexibility, and my ability to learn quickly.
  • I read blogs, wikis (like this one), attend meetups and professional gatherings, and attend talks. To keep up with my software testing skills, I often participate in Because I am a writer, my particular interest is language--and changes in language over time. I do enjoy learning about and using the language of more hip people than I am (they are "adorbs"). The use of the singular "they" for people of non-binary is new--and something I am coming to terms with (as a grammar nerd, the use of they for a single person is rough, but I get it. I'm also interested in the use of x in Spanish because nouns are always feminine or masculine. A Latinx (or latinequis) is a latina/latino of non-binary gender. As a bi-lingual person, this is especially interesting--and it satisfies my grammar-nerd need for subject-referent number agreement).

That's it for now. Thank you for such a thought-provoking set of questions!

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