Vicky Bennison read Zoology in college and graduated with an MBA from University of Bath. Thereafter she worked in international development across Siberia, South Africa and Turkmenistan. Today, she is best known as the person behind Pasta Grannies, a YouTube channel that finds and films real Italian grannies – nonne – making traditional, handmade pasta.
These grannies make lip-smacking pasta and tell delightful stories. What amazes me even more is how grandmas have embraced social media, learned digital marketing and emerged as media entrepreneurs – all around the world.
Closer home, we have the example of Mastanamma, the world’s oldest celebrity chef who got her big break at 105 when her grandson filmed her cooking eggplant curry and put it online. She had cataract, wore dentures, cooked outside on an open fire and sometimes roasted chicken inside a steaming watermelon. As The New York Times put it, this was all part of the charm. Mastanamma was a natural on camera and got over 1 million subscribers in 2 years thereby emerging as a legitimate internet sensation.
These grandmas offer precious insights about the future of work, especially the importance of reinventing oneself. Unfortunately, most journals and media reports overemphasize the importance of certain skills without explaining how challenging it gets to acquire them with each passing year. Reinventing our mental models will probably be the most crucial aspect of finding work in the coming years. Let’s understand why.
Authors of 100 Year Life, Lynda Gratton and Andrew Scott, offer three defining features of work in the 21st century. First, people are likely to live much longer. Second, lifespan of organizations will significantly reduce. Third, concept of retirement will fade away, partly due to financial reasons and partly out of choice. Combining all these factors, it is easy to visualize how one might have to learn to work in different industries, sectors and functions every few years.
One of the first things we will see is the disruption of the traditional study, work and retire model by the continual loops of work followed by study. People will probably go to college multiple times in their lives or enroll in a specialized degree at 75. It is also possible that college degrees get split into smaller chunks or the whole notion of going to college gets replaced by alternate learning and apprenticeship models. Several venture capital backed companies in Silicon Valley are already tinkering with this. While it is difficult to predict whether colleges will survive or alternate learning models will prevail, it is abundantly clear that lifelong learning will be central to all our lives.
Lifelong learning doesn’t mean chasing buzzwords, hashtags and latest media obsessions. If we do that, we will be on a perennial wild goose chase because there are way too many new things to catch up on. It we want to become effective lifelong learners, we must figure out ways to connect the dots between what we already know and what we aspire to know. What we aspire to know must follow our curiosity and factor our strengths, interests and time availability.
The Italian grandmas and centenarians like Mastanamma were able to succeed because they leveraged their strengths and chose to work on things they truly cared about. They used technology to augment their potential and thoroughly enjoyed the experience of reinventing themselves as cutting edge digital content producers. In addition to income, starting up at 100 gave them something to look forward to and added more meaning to their lives. If you want to see how this manifests, check out Gina Petitti’s YouTube video thanking her fans on reaching the 100,000 subscriber milestone.
Videos are of course great but if you prefer a real-life demo, you can meet my grandmother at the India International Centre Library writing chapters of her new book on her tablet. Perhaps Vicky Bennison will consider doing a video series on Indian grannies as well.
**This piece was commissioned by Mint and first appeared there.