Witnessing the change in teenagers skill set


It is always exciting to actually experience major events or changes rather than just read about them while or after they happened. It goes without saying I am referring to positive-exciting events and not the disastrous ones...

While I was in Unit 8200 (IDF's Elite Cyber Unit), one of the projects I lead and was very proud of (and still am) was forming a group veterans to consult and interview high-school seniors as part of their requirement process for several cyber-related positions in the unit.

This group of qualified and experienced individuals were my fellow colleagues, around the same age range, serving in similar roles as we were interviewing for. We started this group as we discharged and kept serving for years, when we were called for reserve duty.

As you can imagine, doing hundreds of teenagers interviews for over 10 years, gives you a nice perspective on how this high school age group looks and evolves through the years. More than that, we were able to compare them to ourselves, while we were their age, since we were all being recruited by the same parameters and similar roles.

There was one difference between our generation and the following ones (up to the ones that were more than 15 years younger than us) that was interesting to notice and it actually took us a while to put our finger on it and give it a name.

When we were interviewed and chosen for these specific roles, one of the main skills we were asked to demonstrate (knowingly and not knowingly) was the ability to deeply analyze a piece of information. To receive a broken, lacking data point and dive into it as deeply as possible and provide comprehensive-quality insight from it, as much we possibly could.

This was what our interviewers were after because this was what was needed at that time and what the 'smart kids' knew to do.

The 'smart kids' we were interviewing 15 years later were completely different in their main skill. They were not so good at taking a piece of info and breaking it down to its atoms but they were extremely good at running cross-data analysis, meaning getting a whole lot of information from different sources, review it to a certain level of depth (surely not as deep as possible) and highlight the important from the not-important. Horizontal processing vs. vertical processing.

This was what they were good at because this is what their world has become, just like by the way the unit's world and its needs has become - lots of data sources, pouring tons of records and the required skill was the ability to screen the 'good' from the 'bad', the 'quality' from the 'poor', quickly and effectively. This is what they were naturally doing in their surrounding world in the Facebook feed, chatting over IM and SMS, browsing through endless number of TV channels and it has become the world of the intelligence work in 8200 as well.

Back in our time, we didn't have this. The little information we got, we had deeply analyze it and squeeze it to the last bit of insight we could deduct, building that puzzle one piece at a time. The world changed, teenagers changed, their skill set changed and our screening process changed as a result.

An amazing change to see from a 15 years perspective.

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