Baby boomer finds ageism in millennial workplace

One challenge for all of us as baby boomers is, well, just keeping up. With technology, we mean, and with the new culture of high-tech companies that have become the accepted standards of American industry. That’s why BoomerCafé’s co-founder and publisher David Henderson wrote this piece, originally for his own blog, about a book that has just come out. It’s by a fifty-something guy to whom this brave new world seemed pretty cool … until it turned awfully cold.

Reading the numerous news stories of Dan Lyons exposé of working a short time at HubSpot in Boston, I was reminded of an unemployed cable TV installer who had time to learn Twitter in its early days and went on to become a self-proclaimed “leading Twitter guru,” charging naive CEOs up to $21,000 an hour to explain Twitter. On the other hand, he has a reputation for talking about fleecing CEOs.

Astonishing but true -- HubSpot is publicly traded.

Astonishing but true — HubSpot is publicly traded.

I once again wonder whether technology has made America smarter or just a zombie nation that will believe any sort of hype and jive from any fun-loving, fast-talking flimflam huckster.

Journalist and writer Dan Lyons had spent his entire working career in a newsroom environment. Yet when he was suddenly laid-off by Newsweek, he had to find a job and what he found was at the Boston tech outfit, HubSpot. Lyons calls it his “year in startup hell,” and details his experience in his new book, “Disrupted: My Misadventure in the Start-Up Bubble.” The book is getting wide attention.  HubSpot has created its own scandal, accused of “extortion” attempts to block publication of the book. The FBI is involved.


Lyons labels HubSpot the epitome of a cultish and juvenile trend in tech workplaces.

While I had heard of HubSpot several years ago, I knew little about the outfit, only that it seemed to be run by people with vague expertise, credentials and accomplishments. But, then, that’s fairly commonplace in tech consulting firms these days.  In a nutshell, HubSpot sells software to help online marketers “game,” manipulate and hype products and services via email spam or tricking search engines.

Millennial fun and non-stop games at HubSpot.

Millennial fun and non-stop games at HubSpot.

Of HubSpot offices, Lyons describes them as bearing “a striking resemblance to the Montessori preschool that my kids attended: lots of bright basic colors, plenty of toys, and a nap room with a hammock and soothing palm tree murals on the wall.” He says “teams go on outings to play trampoline dodgeball and race go-karts and play laser tag … Nerf-gun battles rage, with people firing weapons from behind giant flat-panel monitors, ducking and rolling under desks.”

Of HubSpot’s services, Lyons writes “customers include people who make a living bombarding people with email offers, or gaming Google’s search algorithm, or figuring out which kind of misleading subject line is most likely to trick someone into opening a message. Online marketing is not quite as sleazy as Internet porn, but it’s not much better either.”

Dan Lyons, author of “Disrupted: My Misadventure in the Start-Up Bubble."

Dan Lyons, author of “Disrupted: My Misadventure in the Start-Up Bubble.”

“One involves using a misleading subject line in an email—something like, ‘fwd: your holiday plans’ — to dupe people into opening the message.”

While HubSpot claims to fiercely oppose spam emails, Lyons says it is blasting out billions of “lovable marketing content” emails to all of us who consider it to be spam.  “Lovable marketing content” is really what HubSpot trainers call it.

The convoluted logic behind this is that “spam” means unsolicited email, and the company sends email only to people who have handed over their contact information by filling out a form and giving their permission to be contacted. HubSpot’s emails might be unwanted, but they’re not, strictly speaking, unsolicited, and therefore they are not spam … they claim.

Even though the company and its customers send out literally billions of email messages, they are not trying to annoy people but trying to help them. Sending one message after another, each time with a different subject line, is how HubSpot discovers what someone wants.  “We’re learning about them. We’re listening to them,” or so goes the HubSpot thinking.


  1. As someone who makes my income from working on the Internet, I feel I have the right to say I completely agree with your statement” “I once again wonder whether technology has made America smarter or just a zombie nation…” Although I love a lot of things about the younger generation, I fear they sometimes have no idea what kind of world they are creating. Sure hope they enjoy living in it. They are creating their future much more than mine!

  2. I’m a young boomer (54). While I find the description of the work environment at HubSpot entertaining and somewhat in line with how I would view this personally, I think it might be a healthier environment, than the office environment when the majority of Boomer’s were 20 somethings.

    More importantly, I find the dismissal of a billion dollar industry (digital marketing), is misguided. Companies like HubSpot, Marketo, Acton, etc are working to make marketing more personal, relevant and less likely to be viewed as spam.

    1. Thanks for the enlightened, but not surprising expose.
      My experiences with this type of culture has made me quite concerned about the future of social norms. It is very disturbing to witness these superficial moguls justify their sleazy behaviour with hollow euphamisms.

      But who am I to judge? I’m a (part-time) Marketing instructor.

  3. My daughter will soon be 23 and works where there are a lot of people her age. She is a mature and academically oriented young woman and a college student and works in a business on a college campus. Even she bemoans how silly, goofy, childish and immature people her age are. She was home schooled and preferred other homeschool kids as friends for their maturity. She is funny and loves to have fun but thinks the shenanigans mentioned in this article are inappropriate for a workplace and show how immature these coddled young people are even in their 20’s and 30’s.

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