I was talking to a retired friend recently when the topic of technology came up. He commented that he had reached a point in his career where he recognized that he could dive into many of the new tools and master them but that the payback for his time and effort would be minimal. Instead, he hired bright young people who already had knowledge and experience with these new tools.

This was not a “hands off” approach. He did not give in or give up. He simply pitched his learning process to a broader perspective and managed the experts rather than try to match them in knowledge and skill. It was an informed decision.

Our conversation continued with reminders of our own early adoption of new technologies – in this case personal computers. I recalled lugging my 17-pound Kaypro computer to the office of the publishing company I worked for because they were still using manual typewriters. I saw the potential for improving my own productivity while immersing myself in some of the emerging technology I could see starting to take hold in the field I was writing about. (This was a little before I got the press invitation to the proof of concept for a satellite location system we now know as GPS.)

As digital technology started to replace our typewriters and change many of the processes we employed, I was well served by my early adoption of the technology. But at the same time, I could bridge the gap between the old processes and the new, and this helped me improve my own processes and also put things into perspective for newer, younger workers as they came onboard. None of us wanted to go back to the “manual” days, but it was important to have a solid grounding in the fundamentals of those processes.

There’s a recent addition to the Gen Z lexicon – OK, boomer. It’s a response to the Baby Boomers who complain about the attitude and lack of commitment they see in younger workers. When we dismiss them, they dismiss us with a flippant, “OK, boomer.”

There’s a danger the term will also be used to ridicule older workers who may not find it easy to communicate in unfamiliar terms of our changing language and society. That would be a mistake.

How many of us looked at new tools and said, “When this technology takes hold and grows, we’ll be able to do this and this and this?” And now, we see all of those things are commonplace. We can help the new generations of surveyors and geospatial professionals achieve great things if they will listen. But first, we have to listen to them. We may both need a translator, but that combination of fundamentals and vision coupled with Gen Z tech skills can be unstoppable. It let my friend take an early retirement and know what he had helped build was in capable hands. I say, with enthusiasm, OK, boomer!

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