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Generation Y: Prepare for the Business Tech Revolution

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So you think you are online constantly…but do you tweet around 100 times a day?

Brenda, one of the reality show stars in Channel 4’s new documentary ‘The Secret Lives of Students’ certainly does. The programme follows 12 Freshers at the University of Leicester, and portrays how they use various technologies and social media.

Largely, it’s a misbalanced and overly stereotypical representation of students.

I’m a student myself (working a summer internship at TSG before heading back to the University of Leeds soon) and can tell you we don’t all define popularity by the amount of Facebook friends someone has, or spend our entire weekends videoing our supermarket trolley racing.

However, I’m going to put myself out there and say a lot of my generation are not opening our eyes to how technology can be used today. More than that, this will leave us ill prepared for when we graduate, exactly at a time when employers are demanding high technical skills across all fields of business, not just IT.

This might seem controversial, or perhaps confounding since we’re supposed to know all about the latest gadgets and gizmos, and many of our parents do come to us for ‘technical advice’.

We are this so-called Generation Y: full of big thinkers and ambitious types, who are revolutionising the world in which we live. We grew up with technology didn’t we? So shouldn’t we be driving its influence and innovation?

Yes, we should. And a lot of us are.  But it does get me down when my Twitter timeline is infiltrated by #healthkick #foodporn #supergreen salads, complete with pictorial evidence.  

Frankly, sometimes I feel like we are a bit of a lost generation when it comes to technology. Growing up in a digital age, but with very little to show for it.

Ok, maybe I’m being somewhat cynical of my peers and even a little bit hypocritical as I am by no means immune from doing this sort of thing myself. My Twitter is constantly hash tagged just because I feel like it, not because something is actually #trending.

But all this time spent glued to our social media, are we aware of its potential (and the potential of other technology we are using) when we eventually start paying the tax man? My feeling is, a lot of us are not seeing beyond the news feed.

Now, I know that’s a rather sweeping generalisation (though I hope those who have Twitter timelines which are also filled entirely with pictures of food are with me in some respect). And perhaps I’m being unfair as there are plenty of examples of the ‘youth of today’ using technology to accomplish great things.

Take the children of an Indian slum in Kolkata who, upon discovering that they weren’t on Google maps, used innovative mobile technology and survey data to make sure they were.

What they accomplished went far beyond map placement however – they brought attention to a startling lack of public services. You can read more about this amazing story in Hazel Burton’s blog, ‘Getting on the Map’.

This kind of example is why I feel we should be doing more.  

I'm not saying social media is a bad thing.  I'm not even saying salads are a bad thing.  I'm saying it can be a great thing, and we should be looking into how we can use the potential of this technology, which will in turn help us when employers are looking to take us on.

In a business context, the Microsoft Dynamics Convergence Keynote 2014 exemplifies the ways in which we can take advantage of technology as much as we possibly can through avenues that we understand, such as social media.

(It also probably helped that its subject is one of my favourite things, wine!)

So, we have the knowledge. We have the capabilities. Let’s make sure we have the mindset to take these insights to another level.

Technology in Education

I read on the BBC a few days ago that coding is now going to be introduced into the curriculum at primary schools. Some think this is great, and some think it’s a terrible idea.

There’s a part of me that thinks, well, it’s not really fair is it?

When I leave the University of Leeds and apply for jobs, there will be an expectation that I should be competent in technology and various systems, or at least have a thorough understanding of why and how they will help me do my job.

But before I started at TSG, I’m ashamed to say I didn’t have a clue what CRM stood for, never mind what it actually does – why would I? But now, I would be incapable of doing my job properly without it.

My generation were born at an awkward time. Not young enough to be taught how to code at the age of 5 or grow up with the iPad as a tool for learning, yet also inexperienced in the world of work, as we haven’t been around to witness the rapid development in business technology.

We need to fill this gap with self learning, otherwise we’ll become more lost than we are now.

Working at TSG has changed the way in which I view technology, and I’m going to take a lot back with me to University. We use a vast range of software to increase our business productivity, my favourite being Microsoft Lync, which is a complete overhaul in business communications.

Not only does it reduce the need for pointless emails, we use it for video conference calling, and when like TSG you have 12 offices all over the UK, this significantly reduces the amount of time used to travel. Paul Ince discusses 'productivity' in his blog, 'What Productivity Really Means in IT'.

Plus Microsoft Lync has instant messaging, a technology I’m very used to!

As I talked about in my previous blog, we need to embrace the evolution of technology which is to come. I really wish I had been taught about technology and all the amazing things it can do when I was a lot younger – but this is easy to say in hindsight as I was still listening to the Spice Girls.

One thing I will really urge other people my age to do is to work for somewhere like TSG – get that invaluable experience and learn things you can only learn while working for a real company and even better – a technology services business.

It’s no longer just technical roles that are demanding a strong level of technical knowledge. Graduates in every single discipline will need to brush up on how technology will help them do their job better. It’s the expectation most employers set, given how much technology drives business competitiveness now.

In fact, I recently read in this Forbes article that in five years time CMOs (Chief Marketing Officers) will spend more on IT than CIOs (Chief Information Officers). No field can now say technology doesn’t have an inherent influence.

Not only will I take away many valuable skills, great friendships and experience from my time here. But I have a greater understanding of technology within the business world – something completely invaluable for my future.

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