iStock_000012479981XSmallThis series of posts covers a number of issues related to the differences in generations, specifically in engineering organizations. Today’s post introduces some of the basic definitions for different generations and how it relates to engineering work.

What’s the dynamic like in your engineering group? Is everyone fresh out of college figuring out what it’s like in their first job? Or is everyone in the final leg of their career heading into retirement? All things considered, neither of those answers is likely. The average engineering group in today’s manufacturer is frequently a big mix of people in all different stages of their careers. Some are baby boomers with loads of experience. Some are part of generation Y and soaking everything in. And that fact matters. Actually, it really matters. Each of these generations have different attitudes towards life, technology and, most relevant to this discussion, work. Those differences can affect how you work with your peers. It affects how someone manages the engineering team. It affects how you sustainably build and maintain the engineering organization as a whole. And if you can’t work together or maintain the group as a whole, then you can’t continuously design great products.

Over the next few weeks, this blog series will dive into a lot of issues related to generational differences in engineering organizations. But before we get into details about building and managing multi-generation teams and organizations, we should all make sure we’re working against the same baseline of information about different generations. To start, here are basic definitions found at wikipedia.

  • The Greatest Generation, also known as the G.I. Generation, is the generation that includes the veterans who fought in World War II. They were born from around 1901 to 1924, coming of age during the Great Depression. Journalist Tom Brokaw dubbed this the Greatest Generation in a book of the same name.
  • The Silent Generation born 1925 to 1945, is the generation that includes those who were too young to join the service during World War II. Many had fathers who served in World War I. Generally recognized as the children of the Great Depression, this event during their formative years had a profound impact on them.
  • The Baby Boom Generation is the generation that was born following World War II, about 1946 up to approximately 1964, a time that was marked by an increase in birth rates. By the sheer force of its numbers, the boomers were a demographic bulge which remodeled society as it passed through it.
  • Generation X is the generation generally defined as those born after the baby boom ended, and hence sometimes referred to as Baby Busters, with earliest birth dates seen used by researchers ranging from 1961 to the latest 1981 at its greatest extent.
  • Generation Y is also known as Generation Next, Millennials, or Echo Boomers. The earliest suggested birth dates ranging from mid to late 1970s to the latest in the early 2000s. Today, many follow William Strauss and Neil Howe’s theories in defining the Millennials. They use the start year as 1982, and end years around the turn of the millennium.
  • Generation Z, also known as Generation I or Internet Generation, and dubbed the “Digital Natives,” is the following generation. The earliest birth is generally dated in the early 1990s.

In our next post in the series, we’ll take a look the typical composition of an engineering organization within a manufacturer and how it resembles a saddle. And nope, that wasn’t a typo from Texas.

Take care. Talk soon. And thanks for reading.