How to Solve the Engineering Shortage

In between taking my geritol and feeding the pigeons, I came up with a brilliant idea to solve the tech industry’s talent shortage AND its diversity problem: Hire more old people.

The rationale behind “diversity” in any organization is to bring contrasting perspectives to the table. A really easy way to get diversity of opinion is to look a generation above. Try talking to your parents, or grandparents, about any matter of social and political import. See?

Yesterday, the internet collectively soiled itself over VP Mike Pence’s policy of never dining alone with women who aren’t his wife. But anyone born before 1963 would find that behavior perfectly reasonable*! The problem is that the internet, and the internet industry, is restricted to a narrow cohort whose formative years were shaped by the same series of world events.

Silicon Valley is known for putting employees out to pasture by age 35. The median age of Facebook employees is 28, and at Amazon and Apple it’s a Methuselean 31. Prime working age in this country runs from 25 to 54, which means that a reasonable company median ought to be closer to 40.

I get it, no one wants to work alongside Grampa. The Soylent cabinet will have to be stocked with Metamucil, catered dinners will move up to 4pm, the foosball table will make way for shuffleboard, and company team-building exercises will consist of bingo night.

But it’s important to bring an older perspective to the industry. Older employees can make sure that VR goggles properly support bifocals, self-driving cars remain safely below the speed limit, and Siri and Alexa will know better than to talk back to their elders.

Okay yeah maybe there’s a reason why Facebook keeps getting voted the best place to work in the US.

*It looks like those born after 1992 might agree as well.

3 thoughts on “How to Solve the Engineering Shortage

  1. Amen! However, I think the evidence is pretty clear however is that there is no engineering shortage. If there were, median wages would of course be skyrocketing across the board. But adjusted for inflation they haven’t really moved much since 2000.

    When most businesses talk about an engineering shortage, they mean “there’s a shortage of engineers 1) willing to work for what I want to pay them, 2) naive enough to be exploited for free labor by working very long hours, 3) free of family commitments, and 4) willing to be subordinated to MBAs and others lacking appreciation for their skills and who treat them like ‘human resources’

    The only engineering shortage is a shortage of companies without an industrial-age worldview and that do not treat engineers like expensive manual labor in a high-tech feature factory.

    1. Totally agree. Unfortunately, arguing that engineers should be paid higher wages will not win you any friends these days 😉 A better option may be for the tech companies to stop cramming themselves into the second-most expensive city in the country.

      1. Agreed on both on counts. I wasn’t trying to argue for larger salaries for engineers but rather that the general lack of salary rises is proof that there is not a shortage (i.e., limited supply) of tech talent.

        And, yes, you’ve absolutely identified another constraint that I should have added to my ‘company definition of talent shortage’ above: “5) live within a π*(35mile)^2 area on the planet”

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