Are you a digital hybrid?

A Digital Hybrid is a person that’s part Digital Native and part Digital Immigrant.

A Digital Native is a person who had the opportunity to use digital/computer technologies during his/her formative years. These technologies could be video games, smartphones, computers, other similar technologies, and the internet in general.

A Digital Immigrant is a person who did not have access to these digital technologies during their youth, but now has access in adulthood. The lack of access could be due to age (it didn’t yet exist) or simply due to a lack of access based on their personal circumstances.

A Digital Hybrid is a person who had limited access to digital technologies during his/her youth, but embraced technology in college or in later life as a hobby or profession.

I think the Digital Hybrid distinction is an important middle ground to define because there is a large divide within the Digital Immigrant category between those who are computer literate and those who are not. Using me as an example, I’m a Baby Boomer and my formative years did not include computers of any type. I was first introduced to computer technology in college when I was required to take a class in BASIC programming as part of the standard freshman curriculum. I loved it, majored in it, spent the majority of my professional life in Information Technology (IT) organizations as a programmer, and in time, in IT leadership roles. As a result, I have a very different understanding than someone my age that chose a different professional path with no connection to technology.

This is an important distinction for Digital Natives to understand when speaking with people seemingly less technical, based on their generation, but technically knowledgeable by choice.

Digital Hybrids typically have a combination of native and immigrant technological strengths and weaknesses and have a unique ability to blend technical and manual processes. This blended background provides Digital Hybrids with the ability to understand both natives and immigrants, as well as bridge the gap between the two. Using me as the example, I understand why Digital Natives go to the internet first for everything from research to hotel reservations to making plans with their friends and why many Digital Immigrants love to use a stylus because it feels like a pencil in your hand.

I know Digital Natives that use their smart phone for emails, calendaring, to-do-lists and just about everything else. I also know Digital Immigrants that have no desire for a smart phone and do everything using an old style address book. As for me, in typical Digital Hybrid style, I do everything on my smartphone except for my to-do-list, which I do with pencil and paper.

If, like me, you are a Digital Hybrid, here are some suggestions that you may find of value.

• Don’t underestimate the power of having both a digital and non-digital mentality. It will help you design better business processes that require a combination of manual and automated components. • Use this digital/non-digital understanding to your professional advantage by using it to effectively communicate with people of both technical and non-technical orientations. • Don’t cling to old technologies just because you’re comfortable with them. Be willing to step outside your comfort zone and dive headfirst into new technologies if it has professional advantage. • Don’t be intimidated by new industry-changing technological advances. They may be less intuitive to you because it’s not your first technology, but once understood, you will be in an ideal position to interface this new technology with existing mainstream products.

In closing, regardless of your technical orientation, now that you are familiar with the concept of Digital Hybrids, use this knowledge to better understand the people you work with and how to best communicate with them on technology related topics.

If you have any questions about your career in IT, please email me at eric@ManagerMechanics.com or find me on Twitter at @EricPBloom.

Until next time, work hard, work smart, and continue to build your professional brand.

Read more of Eric Bloom's Your IT Career blog and follow the latest IT news at ITworld. Follow Eric on Twitter at @EricPBloom. For the latest IT news, analysis and how-tos, follow ITworld on Twitter and Facebook.

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