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Poll: Is youth or experience more valuable for working in IT?

One of the hottest debates in the TechRepublic forums lately has been the issue of whether youth is an essential asset for a career in IT today. See both sides of the story and vote in our poll.

We've had a firestorm in the forums on TechRepublic over the past week, ever since Jack Wallen cited "Youth" as one of the 10 things you gotta have to succeed in IT, and then Toni Bowers responded with her rebuttal, IT is best suited for the young? I don't think so. Now we'd like to officially put it to a vote with a poll.

First, I'd like to clarify something. We received a number of angry messages from readers in response to Jack's article, with many of you asking questions such as, "How could you publish such a thing?" and "Is this what TechRepublic is all about?"

The thing I'd like everyone to keep in mind is that TechRepublic is not a homogenized source of information with a single set of principles and ideals. First and foremost, TechRepublic is a community of technology professionals and on almost any topic you can find contrasting points of view among our writers and members. We like it that way, because that's the way it is in the real world. We believe that TechRepublic should always represent the diversity of viewpoints, and that the clash of differing opinions will help us ultimately get down to the truth. In order for that to work, we promote unity in diversity, which is all about respecting different opinions — especially in the ones you don't agree with.

As for the youth versus experience question, for me this evokes a sports metaphor (as usual). I think of Michael Jordan when he first came into the NBA. The guy was pure energy and enthusiasm. He would make acrobatic layups, fly around blocking shots, and simply dunk right over people. He was amazing, but he was also out of control at times. Later, when he reached his mid-30s, he was arguably an even better player. He certainly won championships a lot more often. But, he no longer had 40 minutes of ferocious energy that he had in his 20s. Instead, he became much more efficient, no longer wasted as much effort, and used bursts of energy at strategically valuable times to outperform opponents. In his 30s, Jordan just flat-out outsmarted many of his opponents because he was a more diligent student of the game and had a lot of successes and failures to draw from in his experience as a basketball player.

Obviously, the careers of professional athletes are condensed into a much shorter period (10-20 years vs. 40+ years for average workers), so we should think of Jordan's 20s as the first half of the career (25-45 for an IT pro) and his 30s as the second half of the career (45-65 for an IT pro).

More specifically, in IT, younger workers are often sought after because they are cheaper, are willing to work longer hours, and are more malleable — since they aren't already locked into a set of skills, procedures, and technologies. Meanwhile, older workers are often preferred because they know how to get things done, have usually been through multiple platform transitions, and can use their experience to efficiently complete projects without wasting as much effort or resources.

So, now it's time for your vote. Answer the question below, and then dive into the discussion.

Take the poll

About

Jason Hiner is Editor in Chief of TechRepublic and Long Form Editor of ZDNet. He writes about the people, products, and ideas changing how we live and work in the 21st century. He's co-author of the book, Follow the Geeks.

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