15 responses to “Hey You Kids, Get Off My Lawn!”

  1. gasstationwithoutpumps

    I think you overestimate the security of engineering jobs in the past. This is not the first decade that saw a lot of layoffs for engineers.

  2. gasstationwithoutpumps
  3. agammy

    I do agree that instability is the new stable. Whenever you look back and see the 1 job, 2 kids, home-ownership families of the past, it’s sort of frustrating to look at how hard it is for people today (especially now that college debt is a reality for most people . . . again, something most people didn’t have to factor in before)

    However, I still feel lucky to be part of “now.” Instability can be exciting, in that things are constantly changing, and there are always new opportunities right around the corner.

  4. Philip Freidin

    Wow, talk about lost in translation.

    I am pretty sure in my response to Chris’s survey I literally wrote
    “Hey you kids, get off my lawn!”. What I was intending to convey was that I am getting older, and quoted the above as one of the stereotypical complaints attributed to older people in general. Not at all a reference to younger engineers. I absolutely welcome new people into the profession, even while I am seeing a different scenario for older engineers.

  5. FrauTech

    On the stability issue I’d have to agree with GEARS on this one. I know mass layoffs have hit engineers in the past (I certainly get schooled on all the local downturns of decades past by many of my older colleagues). But I think the difference is layoffs in the past tended to affect a single industry or single geographic region. There were generally other industries or jobs still hiring engineers for those who could move for the jobs. And federal and state jobs provided a better backbone of employment then it looks like they ever will again. Not to mention the complicating factors that other developed countries are similar going through a downturn, and even jobs in developing countries have been affected by the downturn in the west. Then the triple factor of underwater homes restricting people’s abilities to move for jobs right now. I agree layoffs have happened before but I think the scale is so large now and so protracted that those engineers who weren’t able to establish themselves prior to the downturn are really at a huge disadvantage compared to previous generations. And that’s all GEARS is talking about. (And I completely agree with the lack of on the job training for current set, we’ve discussed before how ProEngineer or Solidworks used to be something your company trained you on, now it’s a skill they expect you to already have)

    Philip – I know you were being tongue in cheek. I think we’ve all had similar thoughts about those younger than us (like when I see a 12 year old on a scooter talking on their cell phone, and I’m thinking, who the heck does that 12 y/o need a cell phone to talk to?) darn kids these days!

  6. » A Few Good Reads (10/17/11) Hydraulically Inclined

    […] Hey You Kids, Get Off My Lawn! (Engineer Blogs) So when I hear grumblings from the older generation of engineers on how us young engineers don’t know anything or will never be as good as them, remember that we haven’t had the 20-30 years of extra training, job security, life stability, and exponentially increasing rate of technology change. […]

  7. An old engineer

    I graduated in 1974 from UC-Berkeley. So, I’ve had a 36 year career in engineering. I think I can give you all a good idea of what went on in the profession during those years.

    1. From the 1st job I had to the current one, I’ve had to teach myself what the business was all about and how to get my work done. There was no on the job training for me. In fact, I’ve had to teach many of my younger (and older) engineers how to get the work done. Too many of them expected formal training classes & a mentor to show them the way. If you work for small companies, there is seldom time, experienced people, or financial resources to do that. Rule 1 is to earn to be self reliant in as many aspects of the job as possible. That means you need to do your homework to survive.

    2. I agree job security is an issue now. However, this was also true in the ’70s, ’80s and the ’90s. There was a recession when I graduated in ’74, another recession in ’87, and one in the mid 90s. All of these recessions lasted for 2 or 3 years. Lots of engineers were forced to look for work in other industries. I was one of them. I’ve worked in about 6 or 7 different industries not because I wanted to. I worked in the fields that needed engineers.

    3. I agree that engineers have and are becoming mercenaries. Most are forced into this because we get laid off or switch jobs for better wages trying to support our families. If you have a good meaningful job that paid a decent salary and benefits, why would anyone change jobs? I’ve seen guys jump from job to job trying to climb the corporate ladder. If they can’t reach senior management in 3 years, they figure they’re wasting their time and jump ship for the next opportunity.

    4. Yes, technology has made us obsolete much faster. I figure that the 1st 20 years of my career doesn’t matter any more. So, that means I have to be as least competent with a guy that started in the mid-80s. Everyone needs to keep up with the current technology. But, I think the most important thing is that everyone needs to understand the basics of how to get things done. That means the knowledge level of the individual is important. You don’t need access to a FEA software and mainframe to do a decent stress analysis of a design. You don’t need a CAD system to start a design layout. You need to know how to be a engineer. I don’t need a calculator to know that the sine of 60 degrees is 0.866. I don’t need internet access to know that the yield stress of mild steel is about 18-20 ksi. If had to, I can do a reasonable quick design on a pad of paper and do the math the old fashion way. Yes, it can be done, I did it at a customer’s site a couple of weeks ago.

    By the way, what happens when your iPhone battery dies out or you don’t have that particular application that you need to get the job done? Do you stop everything and wait for the world to catch up to you? Or, do you have a wait to get the job done with what is available? I vote for the latter.

    1. GEARS

      I’m not saying it’s been 100% frolicking in fields of flowers for engineers. But I’m just saying that it appears to be getting worse at an exponential rate. Clearly, there are going to be ups and downs for everyone, but the true engineers are probably OK in those situations. They may be put in less than ideal circumstances but the dynamics between 20-30 years ago are vastly different than today.

      What happens when you come across a much younger engineer that does all those same things and has those same traits as yourself? Do you slap them down or do you try to help nurture them? That’s the really important question.

      I find that many older engineers refuse to listen to younger engineers even when they exhibit those same traits they want in their colleagues (of the same age). They’re blinded by the youthfulness. Maybe you’re the exception, not the rule.

      PS: how many older engineers even know what an iPhone is?

      PPS: teh iPhone never runs out of battery, at least in my case.

      1. An old engineer

        One thing I’ve learned in life is I don’t know everything. No one does and there’s nothing wrong with that.

        However, the most important thing I did learn was that it was better to learn from someone else’s mistake rather than your own. That matra was instilled in me when I was college freshman. My 1st college was a fledging engineering school at San Francisco State. The department was full of older students who were ex-military going to college on their GI bill.

        The guys were focused and knew how to work together as a team. I was fortunate enough that they took me under their wing in their little group. All had spend time in the Vietnam war and understood that if you made a mistake in a war zone, someone may have to pay with their life (or your own) for that mistake. So, everyone worked together as a team to survive through the classes. No one was left behind.

        So, over the years, I’ve taken the time to try and teach other engineers what I thought was the “right” way to get things done so that they didn’t make the same mistakes as others have before them. In turn, I’ve tried to learned from others too. I never withheld information or knowledge from anyone who asked for it. The idea was that we were always a team and we survived as a team.

        I’m proud to say that I’ve learned from machinist, welders, riggers, production line assemblers, etc. I’ve tried to keep them in the loop during a design because in the end, they’re the ones who will have the responsibility to build and assemble your designs. Their knowledge input early in the design phase will only make the overall design better.

        Over the years there have been colleagues I’ve meet who were just out for themselves and were only interested in climbing the corporate ladder without regard for anyone else. I never withheld information from them either. However, I was not willing to do their work for them. That didn’t endear me in their eyes.

        P.S. I was probably one of the last freshman classes that used a slide rule in college. When the 1st HP35 calculator showed up, it didn’t take long to figure out the slide rule was ancient history and if you wanted to survive, you needed a electronic calculator. Unfortunately, they cost $345 (1972 dollars) and were intially only available from some who worked at HP.

  8. Duane Benson

    In the mid to late 1970’s, we entered a post-war recession. The Japanese were cleaning our clock in manufacturing and seemingly could build just about anything electronic better than us. The consumer electronics and auto industries were in complete chaos. The oil embargo doubled gas prices overnight and deepened the recession we were already in. That gave us recession as well as double-digit inflation. The world hated the U.S. Here in the U.S. malaise was the watchword of the day. The Soviets were loading weaponized smallpox into their second-strike ICBMs. The pundits were saying the the American Century was over. Dead. Gone. Over.

    Okay, but those goofy microcomputer people snuck in and created a whole new industry out of the morass. And, the older engineers had a lot of trouble keeping up with the young hotshots that understood all of this VLSI stuff.

    In the late-80’s, our financial industry was nearly obliterated with the collapse of the savings and loan industry. Capitol dried up. Loads of people lost their jobs. Companies shut their doors by the boat loads. The American Century was over. Dead. Gone. Over. But not long after that, some other people created this Internet industry out of nothing. And the older engineers had a lot of trouble keeping up with the young hotshots that could write web code.

    When the Internet bubble crashed in the first part of this Century, several trillion dollars vanished from our economy. It was simply unprecedented. Then we got real e-commerce and real Internet business applications and robots and iPhones.

    What’s happening now? It sure looks like our economy is dead, gone and buried…

    I think there’s a pattern here.

    It’s always tough on the older engineers. It always seems to the younger engineers that it was easier for the generations prior. Young engineers will always become older engineers and have trouble keeping up with the new young hotshots. I say, have a beer or go get a latte and do some daydreaming. Then build some robots.

    1. GEARS

      Definitely catch your theme there. I do like your summary but I don’t always think it’s easier for the younger engineers, especially when many are having a hard time getting jobs coming out of college.

      Off topic question: If several trillion dollars can vanish from the economy overnight, then doesn’t that strike you as not being real in the first place? Because that’s what it says to me.

      1. Duane Benson

        If I recall correctly, the number given by the “expert economists” was 11 trillion dollars that vanished in the Internet crash. I certainly consider much of it to be vapor money. When someone could build a website that had no practical use, no way of ever making any money and no interested customers and have it “valued” at $50 million, that isn’t real. Unfortunately, along with the not-real money, there were a lot of real 401K and retirement dollars that also disappeared.

        My son just entered college in pursuit of a CS degree. I’m really worried about his career prospects, so I can certainly see it being very tough for young engineers too. When I got out of school in the 80’s, I couldn’t find a job writing software as I was degreed for. I ended up freelancing for a number of years because had apparently I timed my graduation to coincide with a down time in the software industry.

        I guess I should have also added in to my summaries: “The young engineers struggled to find a job because the industry had just collapsed.” :-)