Friday, May 20, 2011

Age matters

Chris Gammel had a great post at Engineer Blogs about the valuable resource that older engineers bring to the table. I think this is a great post but there are some other things that could be added to his list. One of those is the "applied" nature of life. For instance, most people in my parents generation probably worked on cars non-stop during HS and college and engineers even more so. The same could be said for sparkies with transistor radios and computer engineers in the old computer clubs in silicon valley before it was Silicon Valley.

The one area where I would say there's a shift towards younger engineers is dealing with computers. That's not to say older engineers cannot use computers but younger engineers who, for the most part, grew up with computers, they're second nature. New version of Solidworks, Pro/e, MS Office? No big deal. Even the transitions from Office 2003 and Office 2010 are fairly easy even with the interface changes. My suspicion is this is more difficult for the older generations of engineers. Plus, my generation and younger has basically a wired-24/7 attitude. And while you can argue the pluses and minuses of that, you can also see how we get things done in a different manner.

For instance, I use skype regularly to video chat with colleagues. Their screen share function is great and it's much easier to visualize a lot of things rather than just describing them over the phone. But I can see why that would be somewhat different from older engineers. At the same time, I am probably more awkward on the phone in a professional sense because I'm much more used to using email as the first contact. Older engineers, however, grew up talking on the phone and they are more versed in that sort of social conduct.

It is a shame though that most older engineers have to go into management to get the respect (and pay) they deserve.

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