We aspire to have a diverse workforce because, in our view, diversity enables better business outcomes. Our approach aims to encourage conversations and discussions around important D & I subjects and constantly improve our approach. Meet Andy, our Development Team Manager.
1. Tell us about your role and your experience...
It was 1994 and I was working in Inventory and IT Operations for a manufacturer of electrical components. I'd already had a career in the army, but was now back in Civvy Street, building a new career.
One morning, the IT director walked in and said:
"The company needs one of those website thingies..."
And tasked me and another tech guy with finding out how to build one.
I disappeared into a world of mark-up languages and trying to build webpages that would load properly over a dial-up Internet connection.
That was my introduction to web development. I stayed in and around it for the next 25 years.
I eventually moved into managing teams of developers. My role at Eastside Co as a Development Team Manager is more about:
- Developer performance
- Recognising the need for developer training and helping developers broaden their skills
But on my way here, I went through being a developer, then a senior dev, a lead dev and a Head of Development.
2. Why do you believe that generational diversity is important in agencies?
I believe generational diversity is vital in all businesses. But especially in the technical sector. I bring a lot of experience to the table. That experience comes from solving problems and working with loads of different people across the sector. And for a long time.
But as you get older, it gets harder for example, to comprehend screens full of code. And your appetite for it wanes. So, staying in development isn't an option. However, the experience you've gained is valuable for leading and mentoring younger developers.
You need younger folk to bring the enthusiasm and technical know-how of the latest innovations in the sector. So that you can push on with those technologies to continue to win new business.
You also need the knowledge of younger folk to explain the things us oldies don't get... (what the hell is TikTok?)
3. How do you go about mentoring others in your role? What's your approach?
Developers are people, too. It sounds daft to say that, but it's an important point. It means they have aspirations, worries and fears the same as anyone else.
I try to use a careful balance of references from my own background and listening skills to understand where the issues might be for a particular developer.
I prefer to listen and then work collaboratively with the developers and other roles that report to me.
I like the idea of being a benevolent dictator — I'll listen to everyone and discuss everything. But in the end, I'll make the decisions.
I try hard to avoid doing the whole: "ooh, back in the day..." type of thing. I used to find that annoying. So, I wouldn't want to inflict it on anyone else.
I prefer to find out what inspires the individuals in question and tap into that to motivate and assist them.
4. What comes with experience?
I often say (and I'm only half joking) I'm paid for what I know, not what I do. The more life experiences you gather and task-oriented work you do, the more your overall experience builds. It gets to a point where there are few things that surprise you.
That means, you are an asset to a business because you'll have insights that others may not be able to bring.
5. And visa versa, what do the benefits of youth bring to the table?
Being young means you have boundless energy to pursue all the latest technology. You can absorb and learn new things quickly and you understand how those in your generation think.
That is important when working in teams and building working relationships.
But also, being younger means you will take on new things without hesitation. Whereas us older folk tend to be more cautious.
6. Do you think there is a problem in the advertising industry?
I think in advertising and IT in particular, there is an ageism problem. The perception is, that because of the dynamic nature of both industries and the fact that people working in them tend to be degree-qualified (at least), that rules out older people.
I'm acutely aware that I didn't go to university. Everything I know about development, coding, business, management etc. came from self-study and experience. In fact, everything I know about anything work-related came from self-study and research.
I've mentioned already that older people aren't going to be the best developers (for example). But, our problem-solving skills and decision-making capability will be right up there because confidence comes with experience gained from facing a myriad of different issues — over many years.
7. What more could agencies do to have a more positive impact?
Without wishing to be discriminatory, agencies are often run by younger people.
There is a practical reason for that: they are the ones with the energy and vision to build a busy, vibrant agency.
However, they shouldn't shy away from hiring the odd oldie. As I've mentioned, we bring a wealth of knowledge and experience. And if nothing else, we can help to mentor other staff (and managers).
But for that to work, the agency management have to be prepared to create the roles that older folk can fit into. Like our directors have, here at Eastside.
By creating a diverse age range in the workforce, there is a blend of youthful drive and energy with experience and knowledge that should help the overall success of the agency.
So, an assessment of the roles needed to provide a backbone of experience in the business is a good thing to do. Obviously, the roles need to add value.
8. Any advice for aspiring developers?
First, a simple thing — convert your CV to PDF format. It amazes me how many developers send their CVs as Word documents.
Second, build real experience as soon as you can. Even if you have to do some work for free. It's better to be able to talk about work you've actually done.
Third, work out what you like to do in terms of career progression. For example, if it is the technical side of the things that appeals to you the most, you should be aiming for CTO (in the end).
But if you prefer to work with others and see how they progress, you'd likely be better pursuing team management.
Or, if you like analyzing and figuring out how to get stuff done, you should aim down the Solutions Architect route.
The point being, whatever it is, work it out as early as you can and follow that path.