Wednesday, April 28, 2010

You're only as old as people think you are

Today is my 36th birthday. Not too long ago, I probably wouldn't have told you my age--not because I thought I was old, but because its not much of an advantage to be a 36 year old CEO. But that's better than what I sometimes get when people guess that I'm 28 (on a completely vain level, bless them!) or 31 or some other younger age. While on some level it is a compliment, it also is invariably a hit to my credibility. Because unfortunately, whether we like it or not, we judge people's expertise in some part on their age.

I've been discredited for my age in client meetings, comments like "and all that before you were 25" after I gave my bio. I've seen others discredited or dismissed for their age, most recently keynote Jonah Lehrer at the Learning Solutions conference. And more subtly, you hear the tone of people's voices, see their body language, when some young whippersnapper comes on the scene and has an opinion or shows expertise.

So I'm 36, squarely in my mid 30s, and have been running my own company for 2 years after starting it (brilliantly) at the beginning of a recession. I have more than 15 years of experience in education and training, have my Master's degree, and wrote my thesis on technology in education and the need for media literacy in curriculum.  I've sold millions of dollars of project work in a year. I've managed a team of 16 people. I helped start a charter school. I've worked on both the client and vendor side, having started my career as a corporate training manager. I've been a teacher, I've been an instructional designer, I've been a project manager. I've spoke at conferences, and internationally. I'm a mom to 3 awesome kids.

And yes, I'm just turning 36 today. Its easy to dismiss someone because of their age or because they look young. Considering my role models are Mark Zuckerberg and these guys, I'm actually an old lady...

1 comment:

  1. Happy birthday, Koreen!

    I've struggled with the same issue; I'm also 36 (37 this Nov) but have always been baby-faced. I've learned firsthand that the way you look has an *enormous* impact on how seriously you're taken by others. Being young-looking, I've often had trouble getting the higher-ups to take me seriously despite my experience. There would often be a less experienced but older-looking (or sometimes taller) person who would immediately be taken seriously despite the nonsense coming out of his/her mouth. It has always infuriated me.

    In fact, it's probably why I'm an obsessive perfectionist -- I may have looked younger, but I was determined to leave those other people in the dust.

    It's also why I tend to use an illustration for an avatar than my actual photo. :)

    Keep fighting the good fight!