In August 1st’s Boston Globe, Scott Kirsner wrote in his Innovation Economy column about start-ups courting older talent. Hubspot, a local firm that’s experiencing amazing growth has started a campaign called “Prison Break” to court older talent from large companies. Dharmesh Shah, Hubspot’s CTO, noted that the challenge in the start-up world is having people who have a lot of ‘flight hours’ and have actually deployed large systems — more than once. He also notes that by looking at large company talent, they are not competing with other start-ups for the talent already resident in the start-up world.
I think Shah is on to something. We’ve all heard the statistics about the aging of the boomer workforce and quite honestly the first wave of Gen X is not far behind. There are a lot of them (okay, us. I’m officially on the tail end of the boomer generation even though I was only 5 when Woodstock happened). And they are not the older generation of yesteryear. Many are looking for the next challenge. They want to bring their vast experience and have it inform innovations that are going on, not stall the innovations. They have a richness of experiences that can be integrated into new thinking to create more robust products and better solutions. The economy we are moving to will need people with diverse perspectives that are willing to contribute and work together to come up with what I call the ‘third solution’. It’s not my solution or your solution but a better solution that answers questions, addresses issues, and allows us to rise to the challenge.
Shah’s perspective should also remind us that real talent comes in many different packages. Our star performers are not necessarily from one generation or another, from one region or another, from one department or another, etc. There are diamonds in the rough everywhere and we should not discount someone based on our typical stereotypes.
Many, many years ago when I was searching for a job, I belonged to a networking group of HR professionals. At the time, one of the ‘older’ job seekers had gone on an interview at a start-up. When asked what the company needed most, the owner responded, “Adult supervision!” This owner expressed an understanding that even the brightest new ideas could benefit from having those who have been around the block a couple of times give their perspective on the best way to make it around.