Education and Career Insights

The Flight Risk of GenX Engineers

To get some perspective on what the Gen X mindset looks like in a professional environment, I’m going to turn back to Tammy Erickson at the Harvard Business Review (HBR) again. Across a lot of blog posts and publications, things aren’t so mixed bag for Gen X. They’re sandwiched between two much larger (in terms of volume) generational cohorts, the Boomers and Gen Y, leading to a lot of dissatisfaction. However, they exhibit the sort of characteristics that engineering organizations need the most right now to bolster economic recovery through new product development.

The ‘Value-Add Qualifier’ Principle

How much of your day is spent adding engineering value to your development projects? Think about it for a minute. All that email. That huge list of issues you track in a spreadsheet. Running across the office with those forms because you heard the engineering director finally came out of that meeting. Let’s face it, there’s a lot of non-value added work that goes on every day in the engineering office.

General / Books

What is ‘The Goal’ for Engineering?

Besides bringing back memories of years ago, I have to admit, this book got me thinking. In the case of the plant, the goal was to be profitable. The constraints were bottlenecks in production. Alex ends up tweaking and twisting those bottlenecks to up production as well as bring in more sales at lower margins but huge volumes. So what’s the analogue in engineering?

The ‘Get It Right The First Time’ Principle

This article reviews the ‘Get It Right the First Time’ principle, where better upfront design work allows companies to avoid late disruptive problems.

The Engineering Minefield and Unplanned Work

Regardless of what word you use to describe it, engineering a new product often involves the development of new systems, materials, components or any number of other new items. Any new item will have a number of issues that, if left unresolved, will cause product level issues. And despite analysis, testing, qualification or any other type of procedure, some amount of product issues will be unresolved beyond design release. From there, they proceed downstream in the product development process.

Time to Push the Alarm? The Braindrain Threat from Boomer Engineer Retirement

If there were an even distribution of engineers across age groups, then retirement of an entire generation would take away about a third of your staff. However, the saddle shape of the age employment curve means that many engineering organizations are heavily front loaded with Boomer engineers. Furthermore, the far smaller group of Gen X engineers means that there’s not a one-to-one tenured replacement for every retiring Boomer.

Is the Relationship between Engineers and Their Companies Degrading?

My friend was finishing up his week of work in the middle of a Friday afternoon when he got the call. There’s a project in dire straits. They needed him to whip up a procedure for a particular product. Could it wait until Monday? Nope, they said they needed it by end of day. They were going to pass the procedure along to one of their technical centers overseas so they could actually utilize the procedure over the weekend. No waiting until Monday.

Is the Age Profile of Engineering a Saddle?

Imagine if we mapped the number of engineers (y-axis) against their age (x-axis) for a particular engineering organization. What would the distribution curve look like? Well based on historical hiring demand and the relative sizes of different generations, we can project what it would look like. It resembles a saddle.

The End of Engineering’s ‘Black Box’ Operations?

The issues around designing and engineering a product are often so complex, it can be difficult to relate that to other stakeholders in the development process, including those in the c-suite. That’s why these other stakeholders have traditionally seen design and engineering activities as far more of an art and than science. To them, engineering has been like a black box. Market needs and requirements went in the front. Product designs popped out the back. And for the most part, engineering was left alone…

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