Understanding the Millennials
Sybase CIO Jim Swartz shares his thoughts on some of his top priorities in 2010: particularly cloud computing, SaaS and mobility.
Swartz has been around for decades, serving as CIO at organizations including SRI International and SAIC.
You might not think that a longtime veteran has a particularly compelling take on the youngest generation of IT workers, but Swartz does. Here are some interesting snippets from our recent conversation:
What about the staffing front? How does your workforce figure into these priorities?
A lot of this is driven by the new generation coming out of school. It kind of goes back to a philosophy we're developing in our company and in my organization. We want to bring in new graduates. It's a water-fountain effect: you bring them in at the top bottom, have them rise up and then stream out into the company. That means everybody needs to be part of this dynamic "streaming up." To be dynamic, you have to attract these people at this nurturing level--you have to have the thinking, the tools and the structure that makes it attractive for them to come into your organization. These people probably don't have a concept of what a vinyl record is, let alone 8mm tapes, and some won't even know what CDs are. You have to accommodate their needs. How do you create an environment that's attractive for them, and show them they can move up in this water-fountain effect and help you grow the company?
So we have to think about the technologies they like or are accustomed to, which may be very much removed from our fairly rigid, batch-mode, serial processing functions we've had in companies for so long. You have to think about using collaboration technologies inside the company to allow for effective communication. I hate to say it, but e-mail is such an old technology that we're seeing it being phased out by successors like chatting and presence and collaboration technologies that are moving in. And we need those people to help us get there.
I recently participated in a roundtable about Millennials, and many CIOs seem to consider them to be "mercenaries" who won't stay at any particular job for an extended period of time.
I remember when I graduated from college. People no longer will go to General Motors and work for that company their entire lives. I don't think it's an entirely new concept. But because they're more mobile, due to the availability of these new technologies, that people will move around, and maybe even create their own companies from time to time. But that doesn't mean they won't want to work for a large corporation. As long as the company is reinventing itself, and not moving along some stagnant vector, they'll want to stay with that company for a long term. But if we can't provide those dynamics for people that allow them to reinvent themselves and help reinvent the company, people will be leaving their jobs more frequently. It's up to us as leaders to understand these dynamics. We can't altogether control them, but we can begin to accommodate them and understand how to mitigate the risks of losing people we've made significant investments.
What's your strategy for developing Millennial-generation IT workers?