Paul Miller Blog – Youth, Youth, Youth

Youth, Youth, Youth….

For a few years now, I have been hearing from customers in the mechanical and electronics design sectors that they want to “reach younger engineers.” This has led to a number of tactics that range from engaging with universities to experimenting with the Maker movement and focusing on social media outreach.

Outside of the BtoB technology markets that we work in, wider society is obsessed with reaching younger consumers. The consumer media is full of lists of “30 under 30,” “40 under 40,” and “the next generation of leaders” type content. As the father of two teenage daughters, I see how they respond to marketing, how they care about sources of information, and how they practically live on social media.

Earlier this year, Penton’s Design Engineering and Sourcing brands launched a “Bracket Challenge” (think March Madness) to engage younger engineers in voting for the best engineering school. The program went viral very quickly with over 20,000 social media engagements and over 14,000 votes by 7,500 engineering students. It was a super successful challenge that tapped into the deep sense of pride that these students have in their schools while talking to them “where they live” on social media—the Facebook Landing Page garnered over 1,500 “likes” in a short period of time. We now need to nurture and engage these students as they graduate and enter the work force, becoming our readers of tomorrow and potential customers of our partners. So, we are very much focused here on the next generation.

However I believe that the obsession with youth is dangerous. In the consumer world, most of the spending power resides with people over the age of 40 and above. Markets are springing up across the world to focus on retirees and “empty nesters” and, in those established aging economies, there is a huge market for products and technology solutions.

I would go further and suggest that in the engineering sector, experience is absolutely essential. In some internal brainstorming meetings earlier this year we discussed how to celebrate and highlight those “Engineering Lifers” who continue to disrupt and drive our industry. This may sound tongue-in-cheek, but it’s not. Younger professionals are constantly communicating that they need mentors. And in the engineering profession, the best mentors are those who have built up years of experience.

Often, media companies like ours are criticized for the age of our audience. But I would claim that engineers over the age of 40 are often in senior positions, overseeing design teams and making critical technology decisions. They are to be praised, not ignored. And we need to help them mentor the next generation of innovators.

So, yes, engage with the youth (as we are doing), but do not ignore the experienced decision makers. In fact, if you have an engineer in your company that has three to four decades of experience, stay tuned as we launch our “Engineering Lifers” project in the next few weeks. This might even go more viral than the engineering schools challenge, as the fastest-growing group on Facebook are those aged 50 and above!

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