The Future’s So Bright, I Gotta Wear Shades: Mythbusting Common Millennial Misconceptions

Fred Isbell

When I graduated from the Fuqua School of Business at Duke University, the Timbuk3 one-hit wonder “The Future’s So Bright, I Gotta Wear Shades” was a Top 20 Billboard hit, and in millennial wears sunglassesretrospect became the prevailing theme song of my career. I’ve had the good fortune of working at some great places with some amazing people over the last 30 years. I spent 27 years in high tech (a rarity in itself), working for only two companies. First I worked for Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC), which later became Compaq through an acquisition, for 13 years. Then I joined SAP – and 15 years later, I am still happily here. Why have I stayed so long at these two companies? The answer is easy: It’s all about people.

I love being around and learning from amazing, talented, and smart people. That is my secret for constantly reinventing myself, my career and my “personal brand” without having to go elsewhere. And I can definitely say this is still true today as Millennials begin to take their rightful place in the workplace.

Understanding the Millennial spirit of reinvention benefits us all

Right before graduation, one of my professors advised my class, “You only have 40 more years to work. 2025 will be here before you know it!” Even though I have absolutely no desire to retire in 10 years, reality is setting in as my generation – the tail end of the Baby Boomers – gives way to Gen X and Millennials. In fact, 2015 is the “tipping point” where Millennials become the majority of the workforce, eclipsing Baby Boomers and Gen X combined. Furthermore, 75% of the labor force will consist of Millennials by 2025.

As a father of three Millennials, I’ve been a bit troubled by the bad press their generation have received. I’ve also been the beneficiary of some pretty cool “reverse mentoring” on everything from social media to how to dress for a night out at a club!  However, as a recent Bentley University study uncovered, the reality is quite the contrary. Let’s focus on three key findings from the university’s study “The Millennial Mind Goes to Work: How Millennial Preferences Will Shape the Future of the Modern Workplace”:

  1. Millennials use a lot of technology because it’s part of who they are. Despite the image of everyone looking down at a smartphone and texting each other at the dinner table, Millennials actually prefer a real conversation. In fact, Bentley researchers discovered that texting ranked as the third-most preferred communications paradigm, behind face-to-face or direct interactions and e-mail. Because they grew up in a world where technology was quickly becoming the norm, Millennials do not use technology as part of a curious need to adopt new things. Rather, they don’t know anything different. Remember when we didn’t have the Internet, digital media, and wireless and mobile communications? Millennials never experienced it.
  1. Millennials prefer nontraditional work styles and hours. Millennials are not lazy – they just work differently. They saw firsthand their parents putting in regular (and long) work hours and the brutal impact of the Great Recession downsizing their families’ and friends’ lives. As a result, Millennials have embraced a more flexible work style. Luckily, so has SAP. My work location is defined only by an Internet/VPN connection, and the hours I choose to work are as flexible as I make them to get the job done. In my opinion, Millennials are also very outcome-focused and pragmatic. With the rising popularity of social media, ubiquitous connectivity, and the digital economy, Millennials are more “always-on” than many people in my generation.
  1. Millennials intend to be loyal to their employers. Contrary to popular belief, Millennials are not job-hopping. The study revealed that the majority expect to work at four or fewer places before they retire. Plus, nearly 20% hope to stay with one employer throughout their career. Even though my generation has certainly done its share of job-hopping, I’ve always abided by the notion that it takes 10,000 hours to master something. It is unrealistic to change jobs and companies every two years. Thankfully, Millennials are figuring that out – and that’s great news for the future.

In the spirit of these findings and the growing Millennial workforce, my team and I are kicking off a new blog series featuring the voices of three talented Millennials from SAP Services and Support Marketing.

Rachel Palekar

Rachel is a solutions specialist responsible for strategic content creation including blogs, sales-enablement resources and assets, and content for She is also a superb multitasker when executing industry-specific events.

RachelAfter receiving her B.A. in biology from Binghamton University in 2012, Rachel went on to obtain an M.S. in communications from Columbia University and serve as a clinical research associate specializing in cardiac electrophysiology at Valley Hospital.  That’s what we call “wicked smart” in Boston!

Rachel will write about the power of an outcome-based approach, answering the question: “Is technology shaping the Millennial generation or does the generation shape technology?”

Taylor King

As an intern for the Global Service and Support marketing team, Taylor supports our team’s social media program, which encompasses social selling, enablement, training, and syndication. Like Rachel, she is an excellent multitasker as she manages special projects and events for SAP.

Taylor is a recent graduate of Loyola University Maryland. Her previous internships include experiences in digital media and events Taylorand operations for Mylan World Team Tennis Operations and public relations at Gregory FCA.

In her blogs, Taylor will discuss why the digital economy and innovation are nothing new and how disruption is now the “new norm” for Millennials. She will also examine the concept of brand affinity and how Millennials identify and engage with brands more deeply than ever see before.  As a student and true believer in  this “new normal,” I think Taylor is spot-on!

Julia Caruso

Julia recently graduated from Susquehanna University with a business administration degree with a dual concentration in marketing and finance. Her previous work experience includes long-term internships at Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices in Devon, PA, and Gloss PR in Narberth, PA.

Julia is an intern on the Global Service and Support Marketing team, focused on SAP S/4HANA and JuliaSAP Activate. While spreading the word about these two offerings, she has enjoyed reflecting on her personal views about technology.

In this series, Julia will take a “deeper dive” into the digital economy and share her research that shows why the digital movement is here to stay.  Again, really excited about this one — like many paradigm shifts I’ve lived through in my career, this one is “here to stay!”

Now, I don’t know about you, but I cannot wait to read these upcoming blogs from these three extraordinary Millennials! Like those of my generation, the 1980’s hit “The Future’s So Bright, I Gotta Wear Shades” should be applied to the Millennial generation – all thanks to these three talented people and many more just like them.

Want more insight on what makes Millennials unique? See Inside The Millennial Mind: The Millennial Manager.

Fred Isbell is senior marketing director for SAP Support and Services Marketing for thought leadership, demand management, and planning for the worldwide Services and Support Marketing team. A 15-year veteran of SAP, he formerly led SAP Global Services Marketing Field EFMI BNSF Aug 2015ngagement, the North American SAP Services regional marketing team, and SMB Channels Marketing for the SAP Small and Midsize Business team. Prior to SAP, he held a variety of senior solutions, services, and partner marketing roles with Compaq and Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC). Fred is an honors graduate of Yale University with a BA in Economics and Political Science, and has an MBA from Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business, where he was a Fuqua Scholar and recently honored with the 2015 Fuqua Exemplary Alumni Leadership Award.



About Fred Isbell

Fred Isbell worked at SAP for nearly 19 years in senior roles in SAP Marketing. He is an experienced, results- and goal-oriented senior marketing executive with broad and extensive experience & expertise in high technology and marketing spanning nearly 30 years. He has a BA from Yale and an MBA from the Duke Fuqua School of Business.