Things that older electronics engineers can do
Pocono Armchair Review
4/4/2012 1:02 PM EDT
In every profession, there is an acknowledged body of stored wisdom and knowledge firmly packed into the noggins of those geezers and codgers still kicking about with a sufficient level of awareness to identify themselves as members in good standing. Electronics engineering is no different. Though there is a myth that age is a disqualifier for service within the EE ranks, in fact the brother- and sisterhood of those devoted to the movements of electrons and their accompanying fields of charge make full use of the experience and random outbursts of their aged members.
For instance, the Institute of Electric and Electronical Engineers (not to be confused with the other IEEE) has created a special division devoted to those older engineers who, contrary to the stereotype of engineers as uncommunicative, introverted and socially inept “nonconformists,” now serve society as gatekeepers of the nation’s large retail establishments, where they cheerily greet customers and welcome them to their shopping experience. This special division, designed primarily to continue extracting dues from older members who otherwise would wonder why they were still funding an organization with which they no longer had any connection, serves a secondary function of making these well hosed-over souls believe they are part of an association that distinguishes them, at least in their minds, from the unwashed rabble.
We interviewed several members of this new division and were impressed when they boasted, without exception, “We love being a part of this effort!” Their smiles as they spoke showed no signs of the fear that some skeptics have claimed to detect; rather, their demeanor suggested only sincere devotion to their employers, their customers and their professional organization (quantifiable, in the last case, at about $90 of true love per year—half of the regular U.S. dues, but still more than what members pay in developing countries for the “e-memberships” available only outside the States).
The experiences and skills of older engineers are tapped in other ways as well. Though obviously the technology of 2012 is beyond the ken of this expiring Civil War generation (or Vietnam War—we're really not sure of the difference), the oldsters do manage somehow to navigate the Internet and routinely check in on social media, where their encouragements to the younger generation are received with gratitude and respectfully studied. Indeed, the open-mindedness of those eager young EE acolytes has been recognized as one of the main engines of the current Golden Age of Engineering Paradise.
These demanding roles are only a small part of the repertoire that “advanced” engineers have at their command. They’re too humble to advertise the fact, but many of these pioneers are experts in daytime television and the Home Shopping Network (not that they can buy much). Even in the summertime, these stalwart engineers remain on task, assembling on park benches to hold professional gatherings where, incidental to their technological deliberations, they debate the relative merits of job offers from Big-Mart and McRonald's.
Yes, there is much that an older engineer can do. From inspiring the younger generation with tales of food stamps and foreclosures to watching their retirement accounts disappear and waiting for social security to blow up, older engineers are our anchor, our source of guidance and our pizza deliverymen. Professionals to the core, they illustrate the engineer’s prototypical versatility as they seamlessly transition from designing multilayer analog and digital printed-circuit boards to asking perhaps the most pressing question of our time: “Will you have fries with that?”