Jasper Neve is Manager Customer Support Services at Virtual Affairs "Next to my job as Manager Customer Services, I help local tech start-ups to be successful, am co-founder of the Dutch IT Cluster, and an active member of the Bulgarian IT employers association BASSCOM"
By Jasper Neve
If you work for Virtual Affairs, like I do, you work each day with people from all over the world. In our Sofia office, for example, we have welcomed guests from Canada, Iceland, Serbia, Indonesia, United Kingdom, Russia and many more countries.
So it was nothing out of the ordinary when we received a group of students with different nationalities and their teacher from the Dutch NHL Stenden university in our office in Sofia. After working for so many years at Virtual Affairs, I do not experience any cultural differences, only mutual understanding.
But during the visit of the students, I was confronted with a difference between us that I wasn't aware off.
In our session we showed the students how to make an insurance claim by just speaking to a device from Amazon. "Alexa, I have a damage" - "What damage would you like to report?" - "The windshield of my car is broken" - "Shall I send you a list of nearby repair shops?" and so on went the conversation between man and machine.
The teacher was very amazed and joyed to see, or better, hear this all happening. Without revealing his or my age, I can say we are in the same age group. He is more used to filing damage claims on paper or talking to a real person, and for me it's not a lot different. His amazement reflected my enthusiasm when we started working with Alexa.
The students reacted quite differently. They were much less surprised. "Yes, it is a good thing that makes sense", they commented politely. That was the end of our session. When I came back from a short break, they talked Alexa into playing their favorite song. I have no idea what other things they did to her during my absence.
Afterwards their teacher told me that his students are quick in checking new things, adopt it (or not), and then move on to the next thing. Very different from my approach of examining and trying before using anything new.
It made me realize there is a gap between me, a person who grew up when internet was emerging, and the generation that came after me. A generation that grew up with mobile apps, social media, and online access to anything at any moment.
Perhaps the same applies to more people of my generation. When we value new technology and want to understand what i could mean in the real world, we should not take only our own world into account. We should listen, watch and talk to the younger generations and learn. It seems obvious, but I experienced it is easy to forget and more difficult to do than expected.
I hope that with this lesson I learned from the students, I can turn generational differences into mutual understanding.