This Saturday, I turn fifty, and I told most of my friends, I would just try and forget the day. Truth be told, I have never made much of a fuss about my birthday after I turned 18, so this is no different really. Turning fifty does not make a difference in my day to day life except for increasing my concerns of being around long enough to see my daughter hit her life milestones. I have, however, been spending more time thinking about what this means for my profession.
Getting old impacts people’s jobs in many ways, but when it comes to covering tech as an analyst, the biggest challenge is the fact that most of what is brought to market is really not targeted at you. Over the years, I have watched many analysts make the mistake to call a product or a new tech trend a failure just because they could not understand the impact those could have on a whole different generation from theirs. This is no different, to be honest, from not being able to understand the opportunity for something, tech or no tech, that is not aimed at you because of your gender, social status, geography or more. The difference, I believe, is that we tend to be more aware of these other limitations, and we might shy away from offering opinions or advice. Getting old, however, is a process and one that might trick us into thinking our judgment cannot be impacted negatively but only benefit from our experience.
Maybe the biggest question on my mind right now is: how do you remain relevant as an analyst? Do you start covering “ silver tech?” Maybe, if that is something you are passionate about. As a matter of fact, you might be onto a very lucrative opportunity, given how the world population is aging. Data from the US Census shows how valuable this segment is not just in numbers but in worth and spend too:
- Baby Boomers have an average annual disposable income of $24,000.
- Baby Boomers outspend other generations by an estimated $400 billion each year on consumer goods & services, outspending their kids and grandkids nearly 2 to 1.
- When it comes to technology, the average Baby Boomer spends two more hours on the internet every week than their grandkids do. 89% of 65+ have a personal email and use it regularly. 72% have installed broadband internet in their homes, and in 2011, baby boomers increased their usage of social media by 60%.
With devices focusing more on voice-first and simplicity centered around the overall experience, we can only expect technology adoption to increase in this segment and with that the need for advice by brands aiming at the market.
If you are not so inclined, though, there are still ways to remain relevant covering what you have been covering. The first step is to go back to my original point and realize that most likely, you are not the primary target market. The second is to surround yourself with younger people from whom you can draw on their first-hand experience. I tell my daughter that is one of the ways she is most helpful to me!
While a piece of useful advice at any age, and possibly the aspect I love the most about my job, the third and most crucial point is to never stop learning. A good analyst can never say she or he knows it all because technology moves fast and with it, so do players and business models in the sector.
What you cover and how is not the only aspect of your analysis you should pay attention to. How you deliver your insights, must also follow how your customers, many of whom are likely to be younger than you want to consume content and engage. In your effort to stay relevant, however, remain true to who you are and what has taken you where you got to. Relevance, in my opinion, is not a fake it until you make it affair.
Lastly, I feel it is essential to realize that while the consumer and enterprise markets are different when it comes to analysis and advisory, they are not as different as they used to be. How you can influence and advice players in these segment might be different, but they both share the reality of not having you in mind as the first audience. So you are fooling yourself to think you can be relevant for longer if you are covering the enterprise market.
Drawing on your experience without living in the past
I started my career when the mobile market was on 2G, twenty years on, we are rolling out 5G. The temptation to look at history to predict the future is strong, but also wrong. There are so many different aspects at play that will make 5G rollouts different than 3G and 4G. As an analyst, your job is to understand the context use what is relevant and be open to what is different.
I also find it fascinating that it might come easy to recognize that the technology brought to market is different, but we struggle to see the market itself has changed. Markets change in demographic composition, disposable income, interest so many various aspects that impact the technology or service we are analyzing that ignoring them would only make for a very poor analysis. In other words, we see the evolving technology in a constant market dynamic.
The past might also become your worse enemy in your pursue of relevance. If your career has spanned over twenty years as mine has, it is vital to realize that there are two generations who more likely than not would have no clue about brands and products you might have worked with or helped bring to market.
The next generation
What I am most intrigued as I think about turning 50, is that being an analyst starts to feel a little like being an endangered species. Analysts might not be on their way to extinction quite yet, but it is certainly hard to see where the new generation is coming from.
For many years, the door into a tech analyst career was through numbers, market share, and forecasts on the one hand and primary research on the other. Many of these roles have, however, been outsourced or taken over my statistical models closing the door to younger analysts.
At the same time, maybe as a result of the fact that being an analyst is not actually that glamorous, some professions might provide you with the positive aspects of the profession without the negatives. Brand ambassadors, influencers, tech evangelists, tech reporters all encompass aspects of being an analyst and might give you more flexibility in narrowing down on those that better fit your skillsets.
So, is my career over? I hope not, as I feel I still have a lot to offer, but I count on you to keep me honest, and I sure hope I won’t be pounding on the grounds of CES for the next twenty years!