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No one takes you seriously when you are young

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There is something that we all share, something that frustrates us immensely. It's not being taken seriously… Well, there's probably more things that frustrate us immensely, but today I want to talk specifically about the relationship between age and being taken seriously.

I came upon a discussion thread on reddit and was reminded of what I went through when I entered my career. I was also reminded of all the times friends, colleagues, and even family shared this with me:

"Our views are being dismissed because we're young."

There is truth in this. Often times you'll see that your professional opinion is not taken seriously or dismissed entirely. Us youngsters feel that this is because we are young, haven't paid our dues, or whatever other reason we attribute to it.

When I was 20 something, I too encountered this quite a lot and had a hard time understanding why… After all, if I wasn't at work, I was trying to get a deeper understanding of technology in my home lab, reading whitepapers, and could support my statements with solid proof of it being valid.

But still I was being ignored or dismissed.

But then there came a moment in my career a lightbulb went off. It was when a former colleague of mine appeared at a customer I was working with. Now I have to say, this man was always a smart cookie. I looked up to him immensely, and in a way I still do. He had gone on to work at Microsoft as a Premier Field Engineer, and as such he arrived with a truckload of authority in a meeting I was quietly attending (I stopped proposing solutions or workarounds to issues at that point). A question was posed to him and he said "That's slightly out of my field of knowledge, but why don't you ask Marc about that, he probably knows the answer to that."

To this day I don't know if he just wanted to make me look good, or he genuinely did not know, but that line stuck in my head forever, because what happened after that was an eye opener. I answered the question without missing a heartbeat, supported it with referencing where this information could be found, and supplying that information (as well as a detailed answer to the question) to the attendees of the meeting afterwards.

It also dawned upon me that suddenly, by virtue of an SME giving me the opportunity to speak up, I was also considered an SME by the people in that meeting, and they pulled me in to other meetings to help out with other items, and they provided me with the backing to be taken seriously.

What happened? What suddenly changed? I didn't become more knowledgeable because he said I could answer a question he didn't know the answer to. I was given credit by someone who knew me from a previous company and had a position of authority.

So, the next company I worked at I encountered the same issues again. I sat down and thought about that moment. I sat down and thought about how to replicate the situation of being taken seriously. I came to the realization that if nobody knows what you know, you won't be taken seriously. Your resume gets you hired, but what you know gets you interesting projects and challenges.

I started to force myself to share more with colleagues, offered my ear in rubber ducking (the act of explaining a problem to yourself or someone else often helps in coming to a solution), and would help diagram/solve issues people outside of my direct team would have. In other words, I built a name for myself outside of my direct team. More and more I was pulled in to projects, and my voice was not dismissed outright.

Obviously, I had my set-backs, my ups and downs, and had (and still have) much more to learn. But it was a spark that was lit in my brain, a new neural connection created, an interest in interpersonal communication and social dynamics that I have explored since then. Growing is more a process of discovering what not does not work, or should not be done.

Later in my career, I had the opportunity to start in the same role as that man that turned on my lightbulb, and gave me a voice in a room. I tried to do the same thing for others, as he (knowingly or unknowingly) did for me. I helped them gain a voice in a room, where they previously were dismissed.

To this day, I am grateful for that moment, Benjamin Logist. And I say thank you, for teaching me something that day! You helped me realize that my voice was not lost because I was young, but because I did not have to social credit, or the backing of someone with that credit to have it heard.

Since that moment, I have encountered many people who helped come to many realizations, taught me a great deal on both technical and social topics. To all of them I say "Never stop teaching"!

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Print | posted on Monday, March 11, 2019 2:07 PM | Filed Under [ None ]


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