Generational Differences in the Industry

While there are generational gaps between many of us at Design Collaborative, our younger staff constantly asks questions of our older staff to learn from their experiences and be guided as we learn our roles.

Terry and I are from different generations. This has been the most important thing for us to remember as we work together. Terry has been mentoring me by pouring his years of knowledge into talks with me.

Technology Versus Paper and Pen

I grew up with technology around me all the time, and Terry did not. I like to have background noise while I work, whether that’s music playing or a show on in the other room. Background noise helps me focus. Terry tends to view those things as distractions and can’t work with anything but soft music, but he respects that I need this to be productive.

I’m constantly asking questions of Terry as I continue to learn more and more. I want to know why we do things the way we do so I have a full understanding of our process as my involvement with projects and client relationships increases. By asking questions, I sometimes think of new and innovative ways to approach engineering solutions for projects. Communication between Terry and me is of the utmost importance. Knowing what the other is working on gives us the opportunity to help each other problem solve, and stay informed of progress on multiple projects we’re tackling any given week.

Learning Between Generations

With a mutual respect for each other’s time, Terry and I each commit to finishing things by the deadline we’ve agreed on. We don’t want to waste each other’s time knowing the other might be waiting for that deadline to be met, and we’re mutually dedicated to finishing projects when we’ve agreed to have them done. By respecting each other’s time, and respecting the time of our team, we hold ourselves accountable to one another. Personally, I find it easier to meet deadlines when I know someone else is waiting for my work before they can move on.
Terry’s willingness to teach me as much as possible is something I really, really appreciate. He allows me to explore opportunities and possibilities for each project. He explains the why behind everything that I’m curious about as I learn more and more about my mechanical engineering role. This goes both ways, though. Sometimes I’m the one with better understanding and I’m explaining things to him. We discuss project solutions, and we don’t always arrive at the same conclusion. We’re both willing to hear the other’s idea, work through it together, and reach a solution that’s best for the project.

Even if he knows I am, Terry never tells me that I’m wrong; he’ll have me walk through how I got my answer, and uses this as a teachable moment until I understand how to arrive at the correct answer. Terry and I share the workload, which allows me to take on new challenges. While Terry might be able to complete a task in half the time it would take me, he realizes that I need to go through the process to gain the understanding. However, this isn’t one sided. I show him technology shortcuts, and ways to move through a project faster than the way he was taught. We each help the other have a better understanding of various parts of the job in different ways.

While the two of us have developed a relationship that allows us to discuss work over a drink after hours occasionally, we each respect the other’s role in the office. Terry isn’t just my mentor, but my boss, which makes me strive to always put forth my best effort. In the end, it’s Terry stamp and seal that goes on our work, and I want to be do my best because I am representing his name and DC.

As a Child, My Parents Taught Me the Value of Responsibility.

I was expected to ask questions, and learn by doing. Learning this at a young age has helped me to become a better mechanical engineer, to always ask questions, and to never stop improving and learning. I look forward to my career here, and am very thankful to learn from and work alongside so many knowledgeable engineers and leaders at DC and in the industry. While there are generational gaps between many of us here, I know I wouldn’t be half the engineer I am without their willingness to teach the younger employees.

Now excuse me while I turn on a background movie to get some work done, and Terry tunes his radio.

Jordan Backer
Associate, Mechanical Engineer