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engineers in america
hinara   1/9/2014 2:05:03 PM
What is it with this society that older folks can't create or not productive and should be committed to pasture -- of course there are some who should. However, one should look at the value they get from years of practical experience and the knowledge base. One cannot dismiis someone simpley because they are old. Evaluate individuals based on what they can contribute and not on thier age.

Lance A Jones
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Lance A Jones   1/9/2014 2:09:31 PM
Nobody said EAG did not end up hiring people with both more and less experience than we were looking for. I personally have over 30+ years in the industry. The blog was meant to ask the question about there being a hole in the experience pool that could cause some issues both now and in the future for the industry as a whole. It is also a problem for companies to not have a variety of experience on their staff so you can get different perspectives and approaches to the issues. We and many other companies have programs where we actually do hire fresh grads and train them in parallel with other hiring. Those grads need mentors.  

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Re: Nothing new
betajet   1/9/2014 2:40:49 PM
Yog-Sothoth wrote: When I was a kid, there was a buzz about technology - the Apollo years, the possibilities of electricity being so cheap (due to nuclear power) and the promise of reduced work hours due to technology making life easier.

Yes, I remember a topic in grade school we considered: "what would people in the future do with all their extra leisure time?"  Actually, many people have lots of leisure time these days: the 7% who are officially unemployed in the USA and the many more who have given up looking for a job and are no longer counted.  In many European countries it's far worse.

The problem is poor distribution of leisure time -- you have engineers and teachers working 60-80 hour weeks, and unemployed people with oodles of time but no financial resources to use it effectively for things like further education and travel.  OTOH, many unemployed middle-aged people are living with and caring for aged parents, so it's not like they're doing absolutely nothing.  In fact, I suspect that if the jobs picture improved overnight there would a crisis finding enough people to care for the elderly.

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Not surprising really
RichQ   1/9/2014 2:50:14 PM
Given the market for engineers crashed about five years ago, it's no surprise to me that there are few candidates in the 5-10 year experience range. None at 5 years because no one was hiring them five years ago to have given them that experience. At the higher end, anyone with 5 years of experience who survived the downturn and kept their job is probably not out looking for a new job because they are already well situated. The ones with 20 years of experience, though, may have numerous reasons for seeking a new position, including being pushed out of their current position due to their high salaries and competition by their 10-year experienced coworkers.

In the meantime, it's true that fewer students are entering engineering in the US, in part because that same crash scared off some students entering or in college at the time, and  in general because the glamor of engineering faded with the decline of space programs.

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Too MUCH??
JeffL_2   1/9/2014 2:55:38 PM
I want to know when Bill Hewlett or Dave Packard ever fired a staff member for having "too much experience"! Hogwash, this is one of two things, it's either an excuse for firing someone whose level of experience would otherwise legitimately qualify them for a raise, or it's a new cloak for that ancient practice of age discrimination applied instead to your own employees. It's also a clear misunderstanding that everyone WANTS to move into management, that if you've been on the technical side for a decade or more you're just "a management candidate who could never cut it" that the corporation would be better off without.

Now I do understand that technologies have a much shorter "half-life" than they used to but this can get carried to extremes. I recall the story of the son of an acquaintance of mine who was hired as a summer intern before he even had a sheepskin to work for a networking outfit that was later acquired by Intel. He THOUGHT he had the "inside line" on a rewarding career, only to be approached by his boss to say that they had to let him go because he was "over the hill"  in his chosen profession - if I recall the story correctly at that point he was all of 26!!

Honestly if you don't have anyone working on the technical side with more than 10 years of experience, in my opinion you're just being condemned to repeat the mistakes of history you never had the opportunity to learn in the first place. I realize not everyone will agree but there HAS to be more to engineering than "early retirement" at 50 (that no one can afford to take anyway), given that HR departments (especially in Silicon Valley) are set up so they never need to interview anyone over that age for an engineering positon so they can't be accused of discriminating in the first place.

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Re: Nothing new
Yog-Sothoth   1/9/2014 3:11:55 PM
Agreed, betajet. I'm not sure what the answer is though...

Employers want their folks to work yet more hours to be productive. Yet this was never the plan, we are doing this to compete with far east working practices. Are we just lazy ?

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US Age Demographics
Wnderer   1/9/2014 3:20:39 PM

US Birth Rate 1934 2004

I wouldn't be surprised if the age demographics of your applicants looked like this.

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KB6NU   1/9/2014 4:07:21 PM
I'm with Wnderer. Employers are the problem. In the years that I worked as an engineer, only once did I work for a manager who knew what he was doing. And the higher ups? Forget about it. They only cared about themselves, not the company or the engineers that worked for them.

Why is 20 years of experience a bad thing? Companies say that they can't afford to pay these guys, but can they afford not to?

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Bert22306   1/9/2014 5:15:17 PM
Wow, I totally agree with the "you are the problem" sentiment! Although I apply it at both ends -- to young and older engineer candidates.

Since when have US companies insisted on hiring just a narrow age group of engineers? With just enough experience to land running full tilt, and young enough that they will potentially stay for decades?

It may be true that we need more young people to enroll in STEM majors at universities, but it's equally true that we need corporate managers responsible for hiring people to quit with the excuses already. Tech companies traditionally have hired young kids straight out of school, and then invested perhaps a couple of years in getting these young people to full operating strength.

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Still working at 77...
MClayton200   1/9/2014 6:08:46 PM
While we aging semiconductor engineers are working fewer hours, many of us are still working part time.  The key seems to be to adjust your salary expectations for the reality of globalization in manufacturing, and deregulation of the financial gambling systems (a really great paying job as only quant in the "banking" game?)  I simply kept lowering my expectatations and going to where the work was offered.  And now that can be done from home, via Google Hangouts and high speed data mining.  

The math is quite similar, since automation in manufacturing and in finance have taken us to the point where knowledge workers are either experts at structuring information and data, or experts at predictive modeling of that data. And the CEO's are just good looking well dressed folks that need some quants around to assure their bonus each quarter.  

What used to be called "machine learning algorithms" such as nearest-neighbor or genetic or neural models can be used on streaming sensor data from machines, or on cash flows and options trading and with some hardware (and knowlege on how to use it) high speed trading is much like high speed manufacturing.

What we really need to bring this late 1980's brain drain to its logical conclusion is to automate the bungie-CEO jobs, by simply letting the quants and the customers work more cooperatively, getting the C-suite out of the way.  Just a thought.  Financial Engineering and Semiconductor Engineering require similar skills to great extent (with some specialized but very old physics and some specialized but not only old but flawed econometrics being the only serious difference perhaps.  

My best teacher at Carnegie Tech in 1950's said that the last job to be automated out of existence would be heavy equipment operators, since automation of hand-eye-coordination was more difficult than the management and engineering decision processes given powerful computers.  And I notice that Google is testing out high speed hand-eye coordination, so maybe these overpaid CEO's really have no clothes at all???  Might be an interesting experiment.   Many startups did fine until they were told to hire a CEO.  Maybe its time to finish automating those non-value-added jobs and keeping the quants productive without so many middle men preventing the customer from being served well?   Lean Six Sigma Supply Chain adjusted in real-time by Customer Satisfaction Algorithms?   




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