Re: Another question to ponder

Subject: Re: Another question to ponder
From: written_by -at- juno -dot- com
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>
Date: Mon, 18 Oct 2004 17:00:28 -0600

> Perhaps my sense of humour hasn't kicked in yet and I'm still in a
> pre-caffeine haze. I'll assume that the post was intended as
> tongue-in-cheek.

Yes, Eric... it was tongue-in-cheek. However, I have always considered
the folks on the line to be my children, and I was very protective of

I made sure they got a chance to eat their lunch. I made sure that they
did not miss recess (breaks). I made sure that they were properly dressed
before going to work (smocks, safety glasses, ESD grounding straps,
etc.). I made sure that they were groomed properly (hair tied back to
avoid an inadvertent scalping). In some cases, I was the only one paying
attention to these details.

When an employee had a problem with a supervisor, I would help them find
a resolution. For example, there was one supervisor who would arbitrarily
decide that if one person is late returning to the line, all must suffer.
All employee's breaks would be cancelled or their lunch period cut short.
I would never allow that to stand unchallenged, I'll tell you that. Not
only was it wrong, it was illegal. The supervisor was a youngster, by the

Some young supervisors were completely clueless, and they were hired only
because they had a degree of some sort. They did not view their employees
in the same way I did. To me, they were my children :>). To the
supervisor, they were "easily replaceable" minimum wage earners. After
all, we had a temp service on site and a waiting line at the door. The
oldest manager was kind and generous; many of the younger supervisors
would do anything to look good to a manager.

If I can be allowed one sweeping generalization, it would be this: young
people often have no patience or people skills, and that can hurt a
company, regardless of the person's actual skill or knowledge. I honestly
believe that older workers can be trained as easily as younger workers.
If you are successful, not only do you get a qualified worker, but you
get someone with more tolerance and life experiences. This can often make
a better employee.

The older workers SEEM to, and I say seem to respect the rules of the
company, because it is their nature (our nature, I am old) to follow the
rules. They tend to ask questions rather than just guess. Again, a
sweeping generalization that is probably false.

Then again, old people use walkers that are not ESD safe, so they can be
a problem. (smiley)

Certainly, I did not seriously consider my charges to be actual children.
I would often feel like Father Flannigan, though. I was quite protective
of many of them. I never talked down to anyone I worked with except to
shoot down a stupid idea.

> But, the underlying attitude expressed is probably far more of a
> reason
> for a crotchety curmudgeon not to be hired. I deliberately avoided
> saying
> 'old' curmudgeon for a reason. It's not an age, it's an attitude.

I can't argue with you there. The attitude cuts both ways. Perhaps you do
need a cup of coffee? (smiley)

> Let a hiring manager get even a whiff of the attitude that shows you
> think
> you'll be working with children and you're guaranteed not to be
> called
> back. Just as the young prima-donna know-it-alls are likely to
> suffer the
> same fate if discovered before hired. Neither the daycare-workpalce
> nor
> the geriatric-home workplace are likely to appeal to a great number
> of
> workers of all ages, but it is impossible that a company with a
> younger/older workplace will want to hire someone who would consider
> them
> anything less than colleagues based on age/experience. It will rub
> both
> the worker and the new workgroup the wrong way regardless for which
> reason
> each is putting down the other. Even two workers of identical age
> but
> varied experience will rub each other the wrong way if one decides
> the
> other needs baby-sitting or that they are due some undeserved
> respect and
> consideration just because they've been doing something longer.

I was fortunate. I helped grow the company and I grew up with the
company. We started as Megahertz and eventually became part of US
Robotics, then 3Com, then MSL. These constant changes and about faces,
with no clear direction, were (in my personal opinion) primarily
responsible for killing the golden goose. Not paying attention, hiring
inexperience workers and ignoring the skills of the employee are
responsible as well. Regardless of age.

I did not have to deal with a hiring manager. Everyone hired after
Megahertz, was hired by a head hunter with the ability to sign an
employment contract with an employee; or "All Seasons Temp Service," who
could recommend that a person be hired, and they usually were. I
currently freelance, so I doubt that I will ever work for a large
corporation as an employee. I can sit here naked, drink gin, and only my
doggy will know.

For some reason, we never hired certain classes of people, except for the
"fit tab A into slot B" type of work. We seldom hired a well qualified
senior and the seniors were quite often, the first to be let go. By
senior, I mean 40 or older. We hired many friends of friends, however.

I am not suggesting age bias, but I do wonder. After three corporate
upheavals, I could count on one hand the number of people we hired over
the age of 40. We did not hire handicapped because of some silly reasons;
no wheelchair access inside the plant, for example. Never admitted, but

We eventually got to the point where we would hire anyone. Some "writers"
came from the production line. I always sent them packing, when it became
clear they were not the least bit desirable. For example, someone with
nonexistent writing skills and with no experience with a new product,
being tasked with writing a manufacturing procedure.

They did not know (or perhaps care) how important these documents were,
and what can happen if they make one tiny error or omission.
Additionally, engineers seldom reviewed the procedures, so bad documents
would sometimes make their way into document control.

> Extra experience only goes so far. Eventually, you're not gaining
> much
> more. Flipping burgers, a veteran with a couple years experience is
> probably no more worthy than someone with a couple months
> experience. In
> techwriting, I'd hazard the generalised relational experience stops
> growing 1 for 1 shortly after you can call yourself a 'senior'
> writer.

Extra experience (or some experience, perhaps) would have been a plus. At
least in our case, it would have been refreshing. I was one of four or
five "Senior Technical Writers." When everyone was considered a senior
technical writer, the title means absolutely nothing. Except as far as
wages go. Titles were carefully chosen, because some titles meant good
money, others meant great money.

We did have two "Senior Technical Training Specialists." they were the
last two hired, yet they took the titles. We had to train one of them in
the procedures she was expected to train others to follow, and she had
never so much as glimpsed a modern, high-speed electronics production
line, prior to arriving at our door. I was the first trainer in the
training department (at one time, I was the only trainer), and I was
considered just a trainer, as were the two other older workers.

Titles could be chosen by the youngest trainers; us old farts were simply
assigned a title. This was decided by a young HR Manager; the manager he
replaced was older, and of the opinion that fairness perhaps counts for
something; as does skill and knowledge. By the way, the hourly wage of a
"trainer" was $15.00. The hourly wage of a "Senior Technical Training
Specialist" was about $25.00 more per hour. The yearly bonus was based
upon hourly wage, so it was a huge deal.

> Conversely, the added learning, newer schooling, and youthful
> enthusiasm
> only raises a new graduate so high before they overstep their
> bounds.
> I suppose this is just a long winded way of saying mutual respect
> and
> humility are far more important than age and even make up for
> experience,
> and perhaps even skill, when it comes to being hired and becoming
> successful in a new workgroup.

The problem is lack of respect. As we neared the end of our run, respect
went out the door in favor of profits. If you truly try, you probably
die. That is, if what you want to do slows production. Profits often took
the place of product quality. Those of us that knew what we were doing
were not respected, if it meant slowing production.

The employee that actually knew something was often overlooked in favor
of some new fool that simply had an idea of how they think something
should be done. Some were newly minted engineers and their opinion was
more important than the opinions of those who knew the product
intimately. Some of the best workers were older workers.

I doubt that you would have been able to find anyone who knew more about
PCMCIA packaging than I did. Not a boast, just a fact. At some point, I
was one of the only SMEs in the company, and the older engineers would
seek me out and ask me questions. Many of the younger engineers never
bothered to drop by Bob's Place, so they wrote procedures that caused us
considerable grief. My views were often overlooked by an excited new
employee that had never read the PCMCIA standards. My children knew it

Like I said earlier, part of the problem is public perceptions. I have
always thought that the prevailing attitude is simply this: You old farts
can't cut it in high tech, and it is a young person's game. I doubt that
this is actually true.

Then again, I might just be bitter. Yup, that's it; Bob is a bitter old

-- Bob
"Outside of a dog, a book is a man's best friend.
Inside of a dog, it's too dark to read." --Groucho Marx

PS: Hey Eric? Your e-mail address is from bombardier dot com. The
snowmobile people perhaps? Or am I thinking of bombadier?

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