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How Tengia Wants To Help You Tap Into The Rich Experience Of Older Professionals

Story by Benjamin F. Kuo

 

Often, older professionals in the workforce—especially those who are past retirement age—face job discrimination, despite bringing a rich set of experience and talent honed over many years. Those individuals, however, are actually a gold mine of talent, says Deone Sulgatti, the CEO and founder of Tengia (www.tengia.com). Tengia is a new website focused on helping companies take advantage of that deep talent and lifetime of accumulated experience, by matching them with older individuals with the skills they need. Sulgatti tells us how she hopes her service will help both those older individuals, as well as companies, connect.

What is Tengia?

Deone Sulgatti: It's really the industry's first service and matching platform, designed specifically to connect Americans 65 plus with skills-based opportunities. There are other services out there, but we decided to empower individuals who were a little bit older, 65-plus, to share their knowledge and expertise on their own time. There are a number of individuals who really are an untapped resource, and are not acknowledged as contributors to the economy.

Why is there a need for a marketplace like this for the older generation?

Deone Sulgatti: I started looking at this from my own personal experience. Looking at the bigger picture. Every eight seconds, someone turns 65. There are roughly 10,000 people a day who reach retirement age, but three fourths of them plan to continue working past the traditional retirement age. Those are individuals working for a more comfortable lifestyle, those who are recovering from the recession, and those who just want to continue contributing to society. It's a very large population. There's a potential for those individuals, to continue to play an active role in the economy, rather than seeing them as out of the way of the workforce.

What's the advantage of using older professionals?

Deone Sulgatti: I myself am a Millennial, but I have been in various positions where originally it was seen as an advantage to bring in a younger professional, because the thought was that they were malleable and easier to train. However, what I found was that lots of the time, they had no experience. I believe accomplished professionals should be valued by the experience they have acquired over the years. They're actually an untapped resource. There are so many individuals who have so many things and skill sets they can bring to the table. Lots of industries, specifically, really require an individual who has mastered skills, in order to be seen as an expert in that industry. And, you really can't do that unless you've been in that industry for a number of years. Older professionals come into your company as an asset.

How is it a Millennial like yourself has started a company like this for the older generation?

Deone Sulgatti: It really happened due to my experience in a firm I was consulting at. I was consulting for an architecture firm, and essentially helping to recruit an individual to manage our firm's design team. There had been a number of younger individuals who just didn't bring in the experience needed. We needed someone familiar with managing a large team, bringing people up to speed, communicating with clients, and who had rapport in the industry, plus an extensive portfolio. The big disadvantage with the Millennials we looked at, was that they really didn't have that kind of experience under their belt. You've got to wait for them to acquire all of that knowledge, and that was what helped me realize there was probably a need for individuals, older than 65, who had maybe experienced age discrimination, but were still interested in working. Consulting with the firm that we were at, trying to find someone who could manage the design team, we ended up finding an individual who was 70. He had tons of experience, was not quite ready to retire, had worked a number of odd jobs before us, and that's what sparked the idea. He clearly was not ready to retire, loved being in the workplace, and that really inspired me to focus on that demographic versus Millennials.

We've run into older professionals who complain about ageism and discrimination against the older generation – how do you think Tengia can help counter that?

Deone Sulgatti: I think it's important for older individuals to emphasize their experience, versus anything that might relate to their age as an advantage. In a potential interview, you have to show that you might have worked a bunch of years, that each of your career choices brings XYZ to the table for the employer, or if you'd worked for a firm for ten plus years, what you gained from it. You've got to talk about tangible, qualitative, and quantifiable examples and results, which really explain to a potential employer what you can do. Focus on your lengthy career being the advantage. The other thing, is you have to hone in on your ability to adapt. I know a lot of younger people tend to think the older folks are set in their ways, and it's important to come in with an open mind and show you are able to adapt and change in the workplace.

What kind of industries and professions are you focusing in on with the site?

Deone Sulgatti: We are looking at fifty different industries, from legal to accounting, to child care and food prep. We're not focusing on any one industry, because so many people can benefit from this. We are looking at areas where having acquired experience of a number of years can be used to an advantage, where it requires a skill set, versus just a small job which is very transactional.

So where are you now?

Deone Sulgatti: We announced our beta last week, and we're in closed beta now. We're conducting a number of studies in R&D, honing our user experience, and getting lots of feedback. If anyone is interested in a first peek, we're launching more broadly in November, and they can go to our web site and register to become a professional or register as an employer to hire people 65 and up.

Thanks!