In Defense of Gen Y Workers

Spoiled? Entitled? Forget it. Generation Y employees simply know what they want, know what works, and won't settle for anything less from the companies and managers for whom they work.

We’ve been called an entitled generation. We’ve been called spoiled. We’ve been called brats. What we are, old folk, is different. We have been raised with technology; we know what’s good and we won’t settle for less.

Old folk, like you, experience technology as a disruption of the familiar. You Boomers talk about the warm sound of vinyl records. Excuse me? You think that hissing crackle is warm? Gen X talks about claymation and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, The Breakfast Club and other sappy John Hughes movies celebrating slackers and losers. No thanks. I’ll take my IMAX movies and realistic graphics any day.

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My parents bought our first computer—a snazzy Gateway 2000 with 25MHz, 8MB of RAM, 180MB HDD and Windows 3.11—when I was seven. With the help of my teenaged brother, we explored the soul of the new machine. Soon I was playing educational games like Math Mountain and Explore the Dinosaurs in 3-D! while he spent most of his time playing Doom.

Soon after that, my teachers started bringing me to the computer lab where I completed research projects and learned how to use all the computer had to offer—basics like word processing and games, but also utilizing its ability to search for information on websites like encyclopedia.com and Ask.com. Before, we would have to spend hours trying to find the same information in the library’s stacks. So long, Dewey decimal system, I hardly knew ye, and I’m glad I don’t have to now.

I grew up turning in my homework assignments online and using online chat rooms as study groups with fellow classmates. And it worked for me. It worked real well. I love the Internet, online communication and Facebook because these technologies allow me to do what I do best: multitask. Since I’ve been trained by and with these new technologies, I am—face it—better suited for the new work environment than you old folk. Even you old folk are beginning to realize that collaboration is a better way to leverage information to produce services, products, whatever. But while you think of collaboration theoretically, I live it and breathe it. And, unlike you, change doesn’t bother me. I love it.

When I was a kid, my parents couldn’t be bothered with the computer. They didn’t see any use for it since they got along perfectly fine without it for their whole lives. Now, almost 15 years later, watching either of them try to use it is somewhat laughable. It’s like attaching a word document to an email is the hardest challenge they’ve ever faced—even after countless tutorials from my brother and me. And forget about exploring new programs—they’d rather play it safe, stick with what they know and, consequently, stay stuck. Just like a lot of Boomer bosses I’ve had.

This has been going on all my life. Remember dial up? That’s my nostalgia. Just like everyone my age, I sat patiently waiting to hear the awful and all-too familiar connection sound, waiting to talk to my all my friends with instant messaging. Who needs a phone when you can have multiple conversations at the same time? My parents will never understand why I’m glued to the keyboard night after night. They can’t understand why I would want to talk to more than one person at one time. There is no real answer except, Why wouldn’t I? Everything follows from that. If it’s possible, why not do it? And if it’s not possible, it soon will be and, please, don’t ask me to wait. I’ve seen the way things go. Microsoft Power Point is better than 3-fold foam boards. Much. So please don’t ask me to use inferior tools. Why should I? I’ve grown up on the cutting edge and I want to stay on it. I won’t be happy without progress and I hate settling for only what’s in front of me now. Staying in one place means something’s wrong. I don’t just want change, I need it.

So don’t give me your tired old enterprise apps. I want the new stuff because it’s better. If you don’t give me the tools I need, I’ll leave you flat and find someone who will. If you can’t understand that, I don’t want to work for you because you just don’t get it and chances are you never will.

I need to be connected to be happy. And that means connected in all areas of my life, work and play, not that I think there’s much difference between them. Just because I’m not in the office right now doesn’t mean I want to be cut off from work. Why would it? My work ethic is strong. That’s how I grew up. There was always homework to do, papers to write, tests to study for, and now you’re going to tell me to leave my work unfinished just because I’m going home? Doesn’t that seem wrong to you? It does to me. I want devices like BlackBerrys, Palm Pilots and the like, to allow me to stay focused on work at all times. Since I’m so used to having a 24-hour connection, being unreachable is a scary thought. And one I don’t have to put up with.

The fact is, I’m different, I’m better and I’m tired of hearing otherwise. Ignore me at your peril, old folk. It’s my time.

Jarina D’Auria is CIO Magazine’s Editorial Assistant. She is 21 years old.

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