The Brutal Truth About Young Engineers Today

Studies about the attitude of millennials towards work do not give them justice, if not flat-out misleading.

There are a lot of negative notions about millennials that hiring them is often frowned upon. Various studies reveal that millennials are unaccomplished, inexperienced, frustrated and have unreasonable workplace expectations. Owing to this, many employers are skeptical about hiring millennials, engineers or not, and are even more doubtful about giving them a wider scope of responsibilities at work.

The truth is, no single study can capture the essence of a millennial. In fact, I believe that the millennials I have worked with do not reflect the millennial professional that these studies paint. They may have some setbacks at work, but that does not make them unaccomplished. They may have a long way to go to be a subject matter expert, but that does not make them absolutely inexperienced. They may not be jolly every day, but it does not mean that they are frustrated. They may desire changes in the workplace, but they sure are within the confines of reason. What I am trying to say is it may not be right to typecast an entire generation, and tag them with absolute attributes, because just like people from other generations, millennials are unique in their own ways.

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I have worked with tonnes of millennial engineers (Civil, Electrical, Electronics, Metallurgical, Software, Computer and Systems). In fact, 90% of GineersNow editors are licensed engineers. I do not pretend to write a conclusive article on them, but I believe their story should be told based on my observation with my editorial team, engineering companies that I have worked with and companies that I am currently serving.

So, let me tell you how it is like to work with millennial engineers.


     1.  They are well educated but know how to respect experience

Experts agree that millennials are the best educated of the three generations now present in the workplace (the other two being boomers and Gen X). My colleagues’ up-to-date education and intensive training in the university and other institutions of learning equip them with innovative ideas to optimize engineering operations. They may not have had many years of work experience, but they are formed extremely well by their professors and mentors.

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This, thus, gives them the confidence to ask for responsibilities at work, and the freedom to exercise it. Though they are ambitious and discerning about the quality of their own work, this should not be mistaken for conceit. The millennial engineers I work with sure recognize the wisdom of their superiors and the older employees. They are always willing to listen, be taught, collaborate and share ideas. They are generally tolerant of others, and comfortable with working with people from diverse backgrounds and experiences.

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     2.  They have other motivations besides salary, the “social good” factor

As millennials (read young), their responsibilities in life are still relatively lean. Being so, most of the millennial engineers I work with value more things in work than just salary. They give premium to autonomy, fairness of work policies, equality among employees, sustainable practices in business, and environmental stewardship. They also prioritize work-life balance, career growth opportunities, and health and safety at work. A purpose driven engineering work is a primordial criterion. They give back to their immediate community and environment.

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     3.  They have modest material desires, and they love their work

The millennial engineers I work with prefer to live a simple life. Engineers as they are, they are in-demand in a lot of industries that are willing to pay them multiple times of what they are receiving, but, ironically, they remain calmly put. They are contented with taking public transport, living in a rented room far from the city, and using mobile phones below the top line.

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Curiously, they are not pressured to match the lifestyle of their contemporaries in other industries. When asked why so, they tell me that they’d rather stay in a job they love than earn millions doing something that bores them. So, this is a testament to the resolve of millennial engineers: Once they find a job that excites and stimulates them, as long as it stays that way, they can be loyal.

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     4.  They are ever curious and creative

One thing I notice about the millennial engineers I work with is how “fearless” they are in trying new ways of doing things. They are constantly curious about improving processes and technologies, and display utmost creativity in solving complex engineering problems. I usually tell them that they are like present-day MacGyvers, using their ingenuity to find their way out of difficult situations.

But, they don’t do it alone. The millennial engineers I work with leverage their online connections in social media, online forums and other channels to source for thoughts and foster a wider collaboration. They also discuss their proposals in such venues, and put their ideas up for criticism and review.

These are just a few things I can tell you about working with millennial engineers. But, I hope these are enough to debunk the common myths about their generation, and to encourage companies to include more millennials in their workforce. Millennial engineers are far from being the perfect employees, but who is? Perfection is not their generation’s trump card anyway. When companies hire millennials, engineers or not, what they get are confident, respectful, collaborative, innovative and hardworking individuals ready to face the everyday challenges of their chosen jobs.


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The Brutal Truth About Young Engineers Today

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