Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Limping into Retirement in a High Tech World

"... many people will have to get more serious about saving money. They’re the ones who are determined to retire at 65, who have health issues that will prevent them from working longer or whose employer or profession doesn’t offer much opportunity for older workers." This retirement dilemma summed up by Rob Carrick (a personal finance columnist worth following) resonates with this writer. I certainly wasn't planning to go to grass, but my industry no longer offers opportunity. Nowadays I have to admit, when people ask, that I'm in a state of  'involuntarily retirement'.

You could be thinking I'm out of one of those rust belt industries? Not so - I was in biotechnology, a truly C21st discipline where once Canada was a major player.

I got in there early. Indeed have even on occasion been described as an industry pioneer, and am still sometimes asked to guest lecture or adjudicate business plan competitions where young bio-scientists are hoping to polish up their commercial credibility. Sadly for them the reality is that biotechnology hasn't yet lived up to the hype. Here in the (presently not so) Frozen North our increasingly  conservative attitude to risk financing  hasn't helped, but even in that warm engine of enterprise, the Excited States to our immediate south, things are in the doldrums for anyone hoping to get a start-up to first base. Big Pharma, itself in trouble, is buying up any worth that is still to be found.

And it's not just biological high tech that's slowing. Nanotechnology, cleantech and other wonders of our post-industrial era are also getting a reality check. While social media software rocks on (a la FaceBook IPO), hard science products can't get funding. Society seems to be running out of gas for the journey of learning around technology production.

It's an odd feeling knowing a lot about former pizazz that, while it puts a twinkle in people's eyes no more, is far from obsolete. Who among us bleeding-edge industrialists could have believed we would become high tech dinosaurs in our wisest years! While we learned to expect the economy to wax-and-wane, having lived a lifetime of improving comforts we boomer professionals couldn't imagine technology adoption not continuing ever onwards and upwards.

In reality technology adoption is erratic; its popularity behaves like waves where water currents are contrary. In periods when optimism is low, personal relevance is everything. So today webtech is in, while hard-to-fathom science like genomics turns few cranks.

Hence the employment ice age that we biotechies now find ourselves living in. Perhaps it's only a mini-ice-age, but this blogger for one feels frozen out.

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