A “digital native” is an extremely new term that has sprung up in the IT sector, along with other trendy buzzwords like “big data” and the “Internet of Things.” The term describes a person who was born into and grew up in the digital era, as opposed to those who were born and/or grew up before everything in the world was digital.
Being a “native” is usually a huge advantage when it comes to understanding a culture. For example, being a native American means you have (or should have) full command of the English language. You know what barbecue means, and you understand the lingual quirks and cultural history. For instance, most people who grew up in the U.S. immediately get it when you say an otherwise meaningless phrase such as, “Where’s the Beef?” or “It’s Hammertime!”
What You Need to Know About the Term
People use the term digital native to refer to those born since the digital (or technology) revolution. In other words, these are the people who grew up with computers, the Internet, smartphones, and such. Some have defined a digital native as those under the age of 40. What isn’t necessarily apparent is that the use of this term can easily be leveraged for age discrimination.
Yet unlike natives of any other culture, such as Japanese or European, there is an advantage to being a non-native. For example, if Google goes down for a day, those defined as “digital immigrants” or “non-digital natives” have a distinct advantage by being able to navigate via map, research printed literature using library standards, and do many other tasks the analog way.
What This Means for Your Practices on the IT Help Desk
Even when a new buzzword comes along, it is still not only legal but advisable to conduct hiring and firing practices without regards for age, sex, race, and other factors that have no bearing on the person’s ability to do a good job. There is no indication or research to support digital natives as superior nor inferior to digital immigrants when it comes to working on the IT help desk, learning and using technological tools like asset management software, or other high-tech endeavors.
In the end, the term digital native is just another buzzword to pop up in Twitter “trending topics” or fill some blog posts. Articles that indicate a digital native is more or less likely to be a successful IT worker are misguided. Some people born in the digital era are astoundingly talented, just as many digital immigrants are. Both have a lot to offer the help desk.
In the end, a variety of workers of various ages, skill sets, and backgrounds is the best way to build a strong team. With a plethora of talents, skills, and experiences on hand, workers can offer different vantage points from which to see and deal with issues and problems. This allows you to tackle problems and delve into innovations with a strong set of skills to back up your efforts, instead of a single viewpoint that by nature is limited. With a diverse team, the sky’s the limit.