Think you’re “too old?” Think again.
I recently attended an engineering seminar. Clarification: I am not an engineer. Not even a little bit.
I’m a pre-kindergarten and lower school principal. I work with little kids all day. I tie shoes and wipe tears and referee disagreements. I marvel over lost teeth, hair cuts and new glasses. I clean up messes, get sticky hugs and have my sweaters used as Kleenex while I’m wearing them.
I function very well in a world where the scale of difficulty for math tops out at division with remainders.
Being in a room full of young educators, young business owners and young engineers at the seminar was exciting…and overwhelming. It was painfully obvious that they were way beyond division with remainders.
I saw the covert side glances that said, “Geez, what’s grandma doing here?” Well, grandma wants to start an engineering program for elementary students and thought it would be a good idea to understand more about how to do that.
It was fascinating. I learned about maker spaces and Fab Labs and 3-D printers. I learned about digital machining and that a Raspberry Pi has nothing to do with dessert.
But the most valuable thing I learned had nothing to do with engineering.
During one of the workshops, a college professor from an engineering school recounted a discussion he’d had with the CEO of an engineering firm. He’d asked, “What kind of skill set do the kids graduating from my engineering program need to have in order to be successful in the current marketplace?”
The CEO summed up his answer in three points. “First,” he said, “they need to be able to set an alarm clock. Second, they need to pass a drug test, and third, they need to have a good work ethic.”
What about algorithms and computer programming and inventing parts? What about understanding the ever-changing technological landscape? Nope, not what he was looking for.
Apparently this CEO had experience with an entitled generation. The qualities he is looking for are the qualities most of my generation have in abundance. He said he’d rather train someone who would show up on time and give him their all than deal with someone who has the skills yet acts like he owes them a job and should be thankful when, and if, they show up.
My generation is like salt. Life would be bland without us. We’ve lived through wars and elections, disasters and global changes. We’ve fought our own personal battles. We know how to get through heartbreak and how celebration is sometimes bittersweet. We find joy and peace in simple things. We have knowledge rooted in experience. We understand. We have a lot to bring to the table. Our perspective enhances the flavor of life. We’ve been seasoned at life’s table. We are needed to flavor this current world.
I still struggle with getting older. But I have a lot of life left to live and a lot to contribute. I won’t be intimidated by young engineers or young educators or young anyone, but I will come alongside them and show them the stumbling blocks and how to navigate situations because, most likely, I’ve been there, done that and have the t-shirt.
For those in my generation, let’s look at our beautiful faces in the mirror and smile, showing all those crows’ feet and laugh lines and say, “You go!” Young is overrated.