The future of professional engineers: talent and career preparation
Young engineers are an important resource for firms—recruiting, training, and retaining fresh talent is important for a company’s future success. Here, engineers with experience in attracting and developing new talent share advice to help their professional development while increasing their value to the company. Many professional engineers practice various methods to reach out to new, potential talent and have great industry advice.
Meghan Calabro, PE, Assistant Department Manager, Telecom & Network Engineering, Burns & McDonnell, Kansas City, Mo.
Michael J. Ferreira, PE, Vice President Development, Jensen Hughes, Baltimore
David Harris, Senior Recruiter, Stanley Consultants, Phoenix
William E. Koffel, PE, FSFPE, President, Koffel Associates Inc., Columbia, Md.
Douglas Lacy, PE, LEED AP, Vice President, WSP + ccrd | A WSP Parsons Brinckerhoff Co., Dallas
Paul Meyer, PE, LEED AP BD+C, CEM, CBCP, Senior Vice President, WSP | Parsons Brinckerhoff, New York City
Christopher O'Connor, Engineering Operations Manager, EYP Architecture & Engineering, Albany, N.Y.
Ron Parsley, PE, LEED AP, NCEES, Electrical Engineer, Affiliated Engineers Inc., Madison, Wis.
CSE: What are the most positive aspects and biggest strengths of hiring millennials (Generation Y)?
Harris: Here are some comments I've received from hiring managers: "They are eager and will jump in." "They think more out of the box." "They like to learn new things." "They are versatile and fearless." "They aren't as intimidated." "They are good communicators."
Parsley: Younger staff members probably have a better grip on technology than older generations, so they are able to use technology to their advantage, which can increase productivity and completeness if used properly. They're learning Revit in school now. It isn't just a drafting tool. Among many other options, it's an engineering tool. Their energy is positive. Younger staff members can bring a high energy level to an environment, which can increase productivity and morale. Most have not experienced enough to cause them to be slowed by past issues on projects. Sometimes, experience can slow someone into trying to cover all angles and overthinking certain things. In this respect, younger staff members may be more creative since they lack whatever encumbrances of past experience.
Meyer: Definitely their thirst for knowledge in real time. With all of the technology available to them 24/7, they look things up on their smartphones instantly. Listen to a group of them talking casually and you hear one talk about a movie they saw and someone will pull up IMDB or Yelp on their phone and read the reviews.
Ferreira: Millennials tend to be hard-working and driven toward success. They often contribute immediately to projects and come up with innovative solutions to help our clients and their project teams. We've found that most engineering programs are starting to place more of a focus on working in project teams than solely rote learning of technical facts and procedures. The project team context is more relevant to the work environment at Jensen Hughes.
Lacy: Energy! When you find the right graduates that fit your firm's culture, they bring an enthusiasm to your company that you can't live without.
CSE: What weaknesses do millennials (Generation Y) demonstrate professionally?
Lacy: Younger individuals, regardless of generational label, have always struggled with knowing what they don't know. Learning to seek out advice from more experienced individuals, rather than relying solely on digital search results, is an important skill to develop. This interpersonal interaction will help foster the ability to communicate effectively with a varied group of individuals and will help you build your analytical decision-making ability in a timelier manner.
Meyer: Writing skills and spelling! They rely on technology too much. With spell check everywhere, they tend to type without proofreading—and the autocorrect function makes for some very embarrassing mistakes. I explain to my staff members that their writing reflects on their professional knowledge and opinions. Does the report you just wrote demonstrate that? We internally perform peer reviews of client reports, which helps both the writer and reviewer to grow.
Ferreira: By far, the biggest weakness that millennials consistently demonstrate is that they often overestimate their own abilities and fail to exhibit patience in developing their engineering careers. Many millennials want to manage their own projects and attain supervisory roles well before their abilities demonstrate they are ready for these responsibilities. Another issue is that millennials often bring up "work-life balance" as being a primary driver of their motivations. They tend to be less career-first types and will work hard only up to the point where they feel they are adversely impacting their social and personal lives.
Parsley: They have less experience and knowledge to help guide them through sticky or difficult situations. Without sufficient oversight and engagement with senior staff, it may create a lack of trust. Younger staff members may pay less attention to detail and put less effort into a task than more senior members who want to make sure every item is completed thoroughly. They typically need to practice more tactful speech and learn how to word their emails more tactfully. There's a higher likelihood that they will leave for another opportunity, which comes at the expense of long-term planning. They often have unrealistic expectations for promotion. They're typically less motivated on tasks that they feel "aren't them."