I recently attended the fantastic Interaction 10. But one thing concerned me—a definite lack of younger people (not too many under 30, and next to none under 25, those few being students). What’s more, I’d seen this happen at other conferences, and even looking around mailing lists. Where are the younger voices?
As someone in this age group, I know how difficult it can be to committing money to a conference or time to a blog, and so on – if you’re a student, you have no money, if you’re working you’re desperately trying to hone your skills – but this ageing of the industry concerns me somewhat. Many of the pioneers in our industry were, as far as I can tell, pretty much as vocal when they were starting out 10 or 15 years ago as they are now. Where are the up-and-coming people prepared to juggle their job and be actively be involved in the larger industry?
It may be a matter of not feeling good enough. I know I battle this thought regularly, and I have to admit that at times I worry that my work in the UX community such as Johnny Holland and others maybe ought to be time spent improving my own craft. However, a student in the ‘Future Leaders’ podcast done by Jeff Parks at Interaction 10 tackled this by pointing out that while she’d love a mentor, she could potentially mentor those with less knowledge than her such as high school students. And when it comes to being involved in a community, the adage “99% percent of life is just showing up” is as true as ever.
In my previous life in industrial design, I did come across a different and more concerning reason – a feeling that things such as conferences, or even deeply investigating other peoples’ work wasn’t particularly relevant. I’d like to think this isn’t so much of a problem in interaction design, but it could be a matter of maturity and respecting others knowledge that transcends disciplines.
Whatever it is, I hope it changes. We may not all be able to be the next Mark Zuckerberg or iJustine, but merely being at conferences, contributing to UX events, creating content. I hope that in the next few years people my age actively contributing to the industry won’t seem like such of a minority. Not because our elders haven’t been doing a great job, but because pretty soon, we’ll be them.