The 65-Year-Old UX Designer

The 65-Year-Old UX Designer

A 65-year-old UX designer lands in your hiring inbox. What do you do?

Regret to inform

You could be blunt and blurt out something like you’re looking for someone with a bit less mileage on the clock. You don’t want to be rude, so you politely mask it with a watered-down response:

Thank you very much for your application for the UX design position.

After very careful consideration, I regret to inform you that, on this occasion, your application was not successful.

May I take this opportunity to thank you for the interest you have shown and wish you every success in finding a suitable position.

Blah, blah, blah.

The truth is that you were too shallow to see that even though Tod is a 65-year-old UX designer, he is an amplifier to your design maturity.

Luckily, no one is that short-sighted. You are intrigued by this odd happening and decide to proceed with a screening call. 

Set up a screening call

It’s odd to have Tod on a screening call. Is he senior because he’s 65 or because he’s got decades of design experience? 

The call is slightly awkward because he’s old enough to be your dad, nevertheless, you soldier on and ask where he sees himself in 10 years from now. “Shit,” you think, “that was a dumb question.” You gulped and wait for a response. 

Tod, appreciating your rooky mistake, play along with a humourous reply, “Well, I could be dead of old-age but hopefully not.” 

You both chuckle. 

Despite the 30 year age gap, the rest of the interview goes relatively well. Tod speaks with confidence, which you, admittedly, find quite intimidating.

After the call, your bias kicks in and you wrap up the interview with a 👎 on your scorecard, with “culture fit" as the primary motivation. 

Hire with fire

But you’re smarter than that. After a “Strong yes” from a couple of your colleagues on the take-home test and culture-fit interview, you extend an offer and hire Tod with fire. 

For this hire to have happened, Tod’s experience and age isn't the point. What is important is that he is now part of a team that created a space for individual contributors to have influence and impact without having to become a manager.

In teams like these, individual contributors can perfect pixels until they die of old age and never get stuck because they have autonomy, mastery, and purpose. They are enabled to think strategically, help define company roadmaps and cultivate a culture that inspires this same behaviour.

This is a key characteristic of visionary teams - they enable individual contributors to help shape business strategy. But the team Tod joined isn’t visionary, it’s a new breed, the type who realises that their biggest challenge isn’t to set up the Tod’s of the world for personal and business success but to set them up for industry-wide success.

It requires a new level of maturity, an “if they win, we win” level of maturity. It is this type of organisation that cares less about protecting intellectual property and patents and more about decentralisation, building networks, communities, and open standards.

Paradoxically, it’s this type of thinking that enables organisations to solve bigger problems, ones we have a hard time solving right now.

This is Org 3.0, the beginning of infinity.

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Cover photo by Jonathan Cosens Photography