Opinion: Are red-haired DBAs unwilling to learn?

I've seen a lot of discussion lately about diversity and inclusion, and rightly so. It's incredibly important. But there are two points that I want to draw attention to. The first is that language matters. And the second is that we shouldn't be generalizing about people, based upon either their physical characteristics, or their race, religion, sexual preferences, etc.

Language that singles out people based on these things is regularly called out. But one that's often missed is age.

I was disappointed the other day to hear one of my friends who is normally a champion for diversity and inclusion, saying:

Quite a significant number of older DBAs I've met just think what they don't know is not their job to learn.

Regardless of how you react to that sentence, ask yourself how you would have reacted to any of these instead:

Quite a significant number of female DBAs I've met just think what they don't know is not their job to learn.

Quite a significant number of Christian DBAs I've met just think what they don't know is not their job to learn.

Quite a significant number of gay DBAs I've met just think what they don't know is not their job to learn.

Quite a significant number of red-haired DBAs I've met just think what they don't know is not their job to learn.

Anyone saying those things would rightly be shouted down. The person's characteristics, beliefs, preferences, etc. have NOTHING to do with their interest in learning. I have many older friends who are always at the cutting edge of modern technologies, and have a thirst to learn. Conversely, I have many younger friends who see a job as a means to getting some money and will put as little effort as possible into their own development.

The person's attitude is the issue here, not their age, no more than it's their gender, sexual preference, religion, or hair color.

When I started in IT, the entire industry was very young. Computer Science degrees in their current form either didn't exist or were extremely rare. The majority of people who entered the industry then were career starters, and they were young. But they aren't now. So while IT has always seemed a "young" industry, it's not now. In IT, we now have a big spread of ages.

Sadly though, ageism is still rampant in our society and seems to be one of the remaining forms of discrimination. And of course the final sentence was:

All old white men, of course.

2 thoughts on “Opinion: Are red-haired DBAs unwilling to learn?”

  1. Good thoughts, Greg. Most people want to think we have a meritocracy and that we all view people as equal in this business. Yet, few of us do, and we have lots of these stereotypes and judgments of different types of people.

    Certainly I see examples of poor behavior, personal or professional, in older people. I see it in younger ones, white, black, Asian, Christian, Muslim, senior, junior, developers, sysadmins, managers, etc. I also see fantastic examples of people that work hard to set examples, both personally and professionally.

    Ageism is a strange one. I've had more than a few people worry about finding jobs at 50+. I've also seen some friends that were sure there was no such thing in their 40s start to realize in their 50s that it's an issue. Certainly the desire for organizations to reduce labor is an issue and there are times that all the experience you have isn't worth more salary than a less experienced person might get. Perhaps that's part of the workforce that's aging, re-setting expectations that are lower.

    It's a hard place to be, but I never worry about it. I'm sure I can find a job, perhaps not at the salary I've gotten used to, but that's a different discussion.

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