A Baby Boomer mum at work. BBC file picture taken in 1991.
Television host, producer and entertainment correspondent Shafiq Najib.

They are a force to be reckoned with, the writer learns

I AM still reeling from overexposure to millennials; leaving me feeling rather inadequate, insecure, intimidated perhaps, and, of course, the word irrelevant comes to mind.

I met them at the Malaysian Initiative in Cardiff, the Manchester Intellectual Debate in Manchester and recently, at the UKEC Careers Fair in London, where the term millennials was being mentioned all the time to refer to these vibrant, dynamic generation; the demographic cohort whose date of birth would begin somewhere around the 1980s to early 2000.

How easily we forget Yuppies and their Filofaxes!

Having just understood the use of hashtags and located it on my keyboard after several attempts, this Baby Boomer (defined as one born between 1943 and 1960, which would include those who are between 57 and 74 years old this year) ticked another box in her attempts to catch up, albeit limping as she does so. Boomers are those who have to scroll a long, long way down a drop-down list to find their year of birth. Enough said.

However, I am impressed that some Boomers of my generation are using hashtags on Facebook and had even ventured into the world of Instagram and are Twittering till the cows come home.

Millennials are a force to be reckoned with. The future is theirs. They start sentences with “so”, as in, “so, my name is ….” indicating that there is already a conversation going on in their head. For a Boomer, the use of “so” only comes in a sentence following an introduction to something. A millennial, I noticed, speaks quite fast and wants to get things done by yesterday. And, of course, with technology literally at their fingertips, they could do it.

I sat in during a session where a millennial had voiced out his concerns over the future, over the threat of technology taking over workspaces and culture; in today’s term, the work landscape.

Indeed, I had been there; the feeling that one day technology would take over everything and render you irrelevant. One day, you are happily going about doing what you think you do best and suddenly, your services are no longer needed. Either technology has made it possible to find ways and means to do things cheaper as the world has been made borderless and smaller, or technology itself can do the job.

A few days ago, I was sitting with a young man, a few years younger than my youngest son. He was a young man in a hurry and had taken things into his own hands and charted a career for himself that would be the envy of everybody in the industry.

We are in the same industry – media — a Boomer and a Millennial comparing notes about how we go about things.

In terms of taking advantage of situations, I guess we are on the same page.

With a rather privileged exposure as an American exchange student in Los Angeles, the United States, he has sowed the seeds of interest and adventure that has now taken him to places far and wide, rubbing shoulders with celebrities on red carpet events.

Turning back is not in the vocabulary of Shafiq Najib, a 24-year-old television host, producer and entertainment correspondent with an impressive list of employers I can only dream of.

After a brief stint in Los Angeles, Shafiq did the obligatory thing and fulfilled his parent’s wishes and did a course for a-year-and-a-half that he had no interest in.

He conveniently dropped out of the university in Scotland and went about making enough money to pursue a short course in journalism, which had opened doors, big doors, for this boy from Kluang, whose present playing field is Hollywood, no less.

“If you want to be somebody, you cannot be like everybody” is his mantra and he wants to be even bigger than Oprah, with his own talk show and spread kindness and goodwill, and to be the voice of those not heard. I think he is on the way there.

Listening to him going at breakneck speed, multitasking while eating white rice with lamb curry at our favourite haunt, Makan Cafe in Portobello, I couldn’t help but think back of how I had unwittingly ended up in the media industry.

I had enrolled for a business studies course at the then Institut Teknologi Mara in Shah Alam.

My family had wanted someone who couldn’t really count to study business while I had other ideas. At the end of the first semester, I went up to the 13th floor and pleaded with the then head of the School of Mass Communications, Datin Marina Samad, and struck a deal with her.

The course was full, but she said, “Do me proud” and that was the deal. I hope I had indeed kept my part of the deal.

Taking charge of my own destiny, I negotiated a no-pay work experience with the RTM radio newsroom after the first semester. Looking back, although the work had mostly been taking down weather reports as hujan di sana sini and tagging alongside senior reporters, I showed my interest and passion. This was my investment.

I made connections with people that mattered in the business and, years later, when I landed a job at BBC in London, the same people in RTM and I were back at the negotiation table, negotiating programmes that benefited both radio agencies.

After my redundancy after an 11-year stint at the Beeb, again, my investment paid off. Until today, one of the outlets would be RTM, although I had ventured more into television rather than radio. I had morphed several times and embraced changes. However, there are no ends to the challenges in this industry.

On the table with our plates of rice and curry were also our tools of trade; several smartphones, a tablet. Shafiq, an advocate of social media, for indeed it was through Instagram that he was discovered, introduced me to his fans on Instagram, and hey, I am well and truly on my way to stardom!

During my days, it would have been the heavy Uher recording an interview before I would go back and splice up the interview with a blade and patch the edits with an editing tape. That was our tool.

During the incident at Westminster, I was privileged to tag alongside a young television journalist to see his modus operandi. Indeed, a smartphone is all that is needed these days; reporting live is possible without those huge satellite dishes near you.

That much I had learnt and embraced to make myself relevant in this industry. I had learnt to film, use Adobe Premiere and send off my stories from anywhere in the world. The basic rule of journalism, no matter what tools we use, still remains: to be at the right place at the right time, and to have the nose to sense what is news.

I guess, as a 63-year-old Boomer, I had not done too badly to embrace change and enjoying it too.

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