A Digital Progression for Generation Y

This is a timeline of the Apple iphone. Unfortunately it starts in 1999, when I’m sure R&D started much earlier than that.

® iphonegold.org
® iphonegold.org

It inspired me to create a timeline of my own (albeit lacking in design):

1994. I use Microsoft Office to type out my first Science Project paper.

1996. I remember my father setting up the school’s first internet network in the Junior High library. I also remember elementary school kids doing internet searches frowned upon by Catholic school administrators.

1998. Our computer classes in Junior High focused mostly on typing (typing tutor anyone?).

1999. Google officially replaces Webcrawler as my internet search engine. Google begins to take over the world.

2002. It wasn’t until Highschool that I had a couple classes on Microsoft Office and Excel (which were a bore and a complete waste of time).

2005. My friends and I fully embrace Facebook and login with our .edu email addresses.

2006. If you don’t have a website, I don’t think you’re a credible business.

2008. Instawhat?

2009. I’m working on a capstone project and I’m appalled that my student peers don’t know how to utilize Microsoft Word’s formatting features like Table of Contents. I edit and fix the 100 page document by myself.

2011. Websites start cleaning up their act. Smarter code, cleaner design, and pretty savvy plugins.

2012. I still work with people who don’t understand the SUM formula in Microsoft Excel.

2013. Mobile is king. And we still get clients to pay thousands for a flash-only, desktop experience.


The point of the timeline isn’t to date myself (which I consistently do with my 21-year-old brother-in-law). It’s a look back at my experience and interaction with digital–and showcases where academia falls short.

Academia reminds me of the church (which I find ironic, but a story for another time). On the whole it’s a slow-moving institution that fails to prepare students adequately for the real world. This is ever present in today’s world, where the digital landscape changes too frequently. My marketing class in graduate school still focused on POS (point of sale) and billboard advertising. That’s great and all, but what about video advertising (which is one of the fastest growing segments in mobile) or even social media campaign buys?

Oh right, that’s because social media was just a fad back then, like the internet.

I don’t want to be too hard on academia. I get it. It’s tough to build a solid, consistent program focused on digital marketing. The landscape changes daily, and one day you’re in and the next you’re out (thanks Heidi). That said, students fail to grasp simple concepts like HTML or CSS (unless they take the initiative to learn), and I’m still surprised at the percentage who don’t understand how a website works (Students, if you really want to get hired, learn these concepts instead of demanding that 6-figure salary with just a Bachelor’s degree and no experience).

(And as a quick side-note, am I just being consistent with older generations….or do kids these days really graduate with a sort of self-entitlement that they unabashedly display in interviews?)

But back to business.

Digital is best suited to those who have the ability to change. And change quickly. What worked yesterday might not work today, and it’s important to acknowledge that and move forward. More often I see people clinging to stale concepts and beating the proverbial dead horse (which has more meaning when you work in the equine publishing industry) instead of progressing.

Be dynamic. Take risks.

And please, learn some digital design skills.