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Veterans in Engineering
2

Veterans in Engineering

Veterans in Engineering

(OP)
Having compared and contrasted my experience in the military vs that in the white collar world in various threads over the years, I'm going to jump at Sparweb's suggestion to start a new thread focused on veteran experiences in the military and the possible takeaways applicable to our civilian engineering careers, leadership or otherwise. Feel free to share or join, former military and friends alike.

From the Women in Engineering thread:

Quote:

An interesting, related dichotomy that many veterans like myself struggle with surrounds the lack of candor in civilian workplaces. In the military you could speak significantly more freely with only a need for very limited tact. Worst case, if someone didn't like what you said then you'd either get a bit of free exercise or you'd agree to let your fists settle the argument with a couple of your peers acting as referee. Ultimately, nobody held grudges and everybody was "in it" together. No doubt it was a rough lifestyle due to various other reasons but the acceptance of candor, forgiveness of faux-pas, and simple common courtesy ensured personal interactions were never really an issue. Among the folks I served with, there were plenty that I didn't care for due to petty personal reasons (found them annoying, personal habits, etc), but yet I'd still seriously consider traveling to their funeral. By contrast, I have met many in the civilian world that have been offended by honesty and retaliated with petty grievances who I don't think I could sympathize with if something truly terrible were to happen. At some point the petty garbage makes someone "not a good person" due to lack of forgiveness. In any case, I don't know where the proverbial line in the sand is on feelings vs forgiveness vs professionalism vs etc, but I suspect its gotten worse, moving toward "extreme HR" due to modern job-hopping. I often wonder if more employees stuck with an employer most/all of their career if folks wouldn't act a bit better toward one another. An interesting quote that many former military have claimed sums it up best is copied below, and the most frustrating part is highlighted. Apologies in advance for strong language, ****'ed it out intentionally.

“Life after the military is hard because from day one, we’re told where rank and how to act accordingly. You spend years knowing exactly where everyone stands in the hierarchy of command, ranked by accomplishments, intelligence, and time in service.
Cut to life after getting out…
None of you know your f***ing place. Everyone thinks they’re the most special flower and I’m over here losing my s**t because I’m trying to stay in my designated lane but people keep crashing into me. I’m the bad guy when I verbally assist them back to where they belong.
I genuinely struggle with this every single day."

Quote:

If I understand CWB1 correctly, in the military your display of respect for the others' rank allows you to dispute their opinion without any disrespect taken. A hierarchy where status is not based on rank but rather on seniority, skill, or simply popularity is less stable, so any challenge to an opinion is more likely a threat to the other's status.

You're taking this a (logical) step further and drawing a conclusion about causation that I didn't really intend to address, simply bc the military culture of respect is complex enough that there really isn't any one significant, specific cause. My point was simply that the military IMHO is much more openly communicative (candor) to their benefit at the detriment of political correctness, which makes myself and many others question if the move toward "extreme HR" isn't detrimental to a company's culture.

To your point however - Somewhat yes but mostly no. I'm sure the custom & courtesy shown to rank helps subliminally keep respect forefront, but I believe the culture of respect is more shaped by each service's recognition of the human factors and the duty of leadership than anything. One of the first things you learn in basic training is that everybody makes mistakes, often large ones, but we're all in it together so holding grudges and negative feelings is a needless distraction. Ultimately the military owns everyone from the top officer to the lowest enlisted for X years, your individual rights have been mostly forfeited, everybody must obey orders given, and that will lead to a ton of personal sacrifice, separation from family and friends, and possibly even death. Early on you learn to be a good follower - to trust your leaders explicitly and without hesitation (blind faith) that you are capable of accomplishing what they say regardless if you believe the task is possible or yourself physically capable. This level of trust leads to all manner of negative stereotypes about the military being rigid and uncaring, yet quite the opposite is true. It seems like a waste sometimes to stand in formation with everybody multiple times daily, but good communication led to frequent quick praise, "good job at/on/doing...." which creates the fierce esprit de corps the military's known for. Leaders by regulation are also barred from giving orders which they themselves cannot perform and are often challenged by their superiors and juniors to show that they can perform basic soldier skills to a high standard. This leads to unintentional team/respect building as senior leaders often have the youngest/newest/lowest ranking score their PT (physical training) tests or spend time on guard duty alongside lower enlisted. Leaders are also ultimately responsible for everything their subordinate does/doesn't do, and are expected to know them personally. If your sub is having an issue its your job to fix it regardless if it means a lot of extra work after-hours on your part. Rank therefore is somewhat of an illusion in many cases for all these reasons, yes its respected as a designation of someone that must be obeyed but simultaneously leaders are expected to maintain the respect of their subordinates or there's a good chance they will lose said rank.

Quote:

In terms of specifically "women in engineering", how fair would it be to suggest that strictly hierarchical systems (like the military) are more likely to make women feel uncomfortable than men?

Admittedly not female so probably not a great person to argue this point, however I'd believe most women to be like most men in that they're far more comfortable in the military than working in the civilian world due to the camaraderie. If you study veterans' mental health issues you may notice the significance of interpersonal relationships. The main reason for this that I've heard repeated many times is that as alluded above, in the military you know what to expect of others - respect and honesty. They may not like you but others will solidly respect you given reasonable effort. In the civilian world by comparison praise is rarely given, feelings are not discussed unless it involves negativity, and the means for promotion/success aren't clearly laid out in terms of skill, knowledge, or accomplishment but often involve office politics. There's often also little/no room for the candor necessary to improve.

RE: Veterans in Engineering

"most women to be like most men in that they're far more comfortable in the military than working in the civilian world due to the camaraderie."

I think you'll find that sexual harassment and rape are statistically high enough that the military has published which bases have the highest statistically likelihood of rape: https://www.militarytimes.com/news/your-military/2... and the actual report https://www.rand.org/content/dam/rand/pubs/researc...
https://www.rand.org/pubs/research_reports/RR870.h...
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sexual_assault_in_th...

I think that one would find the military probably has a higher incidence of unreported sexual harassment, because of the get-along, go-along environment, coupled with the fact that the still male-dominated hierarchy is composed of the people who probably participated in sexual harassment when they were lower ranked, resulting in either inaction or retaliation

Quote (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sexual_assault_in_th...)

A survey for the Department of Defense conducted in 2015 found that in the past year 52% of active service members who reported sexual assault had experienced retaliation in the form of professional, social, and administrative actions or punishments

TTFN (ta ta for now)
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RE: Veterans in Engineering

The most annoying thing about being a veteran in industry is the endless train of misconceptions people have about military life.

RE: Veterans in Engineering

Or the military's misconceptions about business practices and the compromises that engineers have to make due to the constraints of cost and production schedules.

John R. Baker, P.E. (ret)
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The secret of life is not finding someone to live with
It's finding someone you can't live without

RE: Veterans in Engineering

Well I'd be the first to admit I never was the most politically correct individual during my career. Having said that, I found the women in engineering threads somewhat self serving and to me , irrelevant. The good female engineers I worked with earnt my respect, largely thru their competency. Respect of course , has to be earnt, absolutely no point in demanding it, or thinking it is your entitlement. And no, I do not intend defending my beliefs here on this thread.

However some CB1s posts and others caught my attention, and perhaps I am misinterpreting some of these posts. However, do military personnel really respect the rank ( or uniform) of their officers or has that officer earnt that respect?? I am not talking about simply following orders, I am talking about being willing to gladly put oneself into harms way, because of confidence that the officer knows his job and has thought out the alternatives??

There are some really horrendous stories from WW1 of men being led to their deaths by absolutely incompetent officers. Stories from Vietnam and Korea suggest that this incompetancy had not been eliminated 50 years later. Hopefully the standards of leadership on both sides of the Atlantic has improved since say 1970.

Certainly I am unaware of any gross failures of military leadership in the Falklands ( well that might not be true of the Argentinians ) nor Iraq nor Afganistan. Political leadership is of course another story.

My point here is that any mid career engineer, ex military , should find it relatively easy to earn the respect of his colleagues, provided he has the skills and background to to do what is expected of him.

I suspect that any kind of project management role should come easy to such an individual. If his previous career included concrete or steel he would likely demonstrate competancy in those areas, less so if his military experience was communications or electronics. In short , as engineers , we should be very reluctant to take on tasks outside of our main area of competancy.

IN summary , male or female, officer or grunt, respect is earnt

RE: Veterans in Engineering

(OP)

Quote:

I think you'll find that sexual harassment and rape are statistically high...

I'm well aware of the claims, however just as in collegiate cases I often question the sources as the statistics seem exaggerated. The military IME is phenomenal at both keeping insignificant paperwork and investigating these claims, yet these reports rarely point to convictions or even investigation statistics while claiming high crime rates and suggesting massive coverups. I was privy to far more than I cared for between acting as EO NCO and barracks chatter, yet the first thought when I hear "rape" and "military" is barely legal Joes & statutory cases, nothing non-consensual as the statistics suggest I should.

Quote:

However, do military personnel really respect the rank ( or uniform) of their officers or has that officer earnt that respect?? I am not talking about simply following orders, I am talking about being willing to gladly put oneself into harms way, because of confidence that the officer knows his job and has thought out the alternatives??

Yes I firmly believe so, tho maybe I simply had a run of extraordinary leaders. Admittedly, there were a few "cant get rights" but they never seemed to work themselves into command positions. Those folks got stuck at E5 or O2-3 without any real responsibility. Doubly, my various units also wouldn't send junior enlisted out if others doubted their abilities. Refusing to allow someone outside the wire was a big source of embarrassment and cause for argument among some junior enlisted that had been in the military for years, the folks fresh out of training OTOH always seemed thankful for it. Your comment about respect being earned is spot-on btw.

Just to clarify, I'm not trying to paint the majority of the civilian white collar world as grossly political or nonsensical, only a vocal minority. I simply had a better experience in the military despite the stereotypes suggesting that I shouldn't. A favorite giggle of mine is when folks comment that they couldn't handle the military due to perceptions of how they'd be treated, makes me wonder if they're happy with corporate life.

RE: Veterans in Engineering

CWB1,
Here I was thinking you hadn't taken my suggestion, but then I discover that you did post this, just in a forum area I don't visit often. Sorry!
I suggested splitting this quote from the other thread because it gave me a few questions that would be off-topic from that one. And the questions would probably expose my misunderstandings of some things that perhaps I should know better at my age...
I have no military background, not even a member of the family, and only one friend who served (Master Corporal Cdn Forces) so it's a bit of a blind spot for me.
One thing you said that touched a nerve with me: I often step into other peoples' domains at work due to my unique background. I worked for almost 15 years in a very small business where everyone did everything as necessary. It was normal for me to take sales calls, check drawings and drill parts all in a given day. My transition to corporate life, where peoples' job descriptions are much more restricted was difficult for me. In my first year I caused many conflicts because I didn't "stay in my designated lane".
So it was interesting to see your comment that from your background, corporate people still don't respect their specific roles enough.

I would probably drive you up a wall!

And yet I also strongly believe in fostering trust, so that honest opinions between coworkers can be expressed without reluctance. I have been cultivating various practices to make that possible, but they are proving to work better on some people than others.

Then you went further to say that the honesty and candor that you enjoyed in the military is gone in corporate life. That also resonated with me, but again for different reasons. I was able to tell my old small-business boss he was being an ***hole without escalating our disagreements, not so in corporate life. My small-business boss taught me to debate and discuss until ideas or problems were thoroughly understood. My corporate colleagues mostly want to go off by themselves to figure something out before opening their mouths, with some exceptions.

CWB1, does this make you think different mechanisms can bring about the same camaraderie?

No one believes the theory except the one who developed it. Everyone believes the experiment except the one who ran it.
STF

RE: Veterans in Engineering

(OP)

Quote:

Here I was thinking you hadn't taken my suggestion, but then I discover that you did post this, just in a forum area I don't visit often. Sorry!
I suggested splitting this quote from the other thread because it gave me a few questions that would be off-topic from that one.

No need to apologize, it was a great suggestion and one I'm sure will benefit others as well. Feel free to ask anything, anytime.

Quote:

My transition to corporate life, where peoples' job descriptions are much more restricted was difficult for me. In my first year I caused many conflicts because I didn't "stay in my designated lane".
So it was interesting to see your comment that from your background, corporate people still don't respect their specific roles enough.

I fully understand & sympathize with the frustration of job restrictions. My office was once attached to a rather strict union shop which made prototype builds rather difficult at times for my hands-on, stickler for quality self. As for staying in one's lane, so long as you're respectful and not putting on airs/fronts I think you'd be fine. I'm sure we've all sat through design reviews or DFMEAs where the usual engineering debate and outside feedback was welcomed, but there's also those folks who take it a bit too far trying to make themselves sound intelligent second-guessing seemingly every detail in areas they know little about. The folks going too far need to stay in their own lane or have someone assist them back into it with a bit of harsh candor if necessary, the others are welcome to swerve a bit. In the military you're expected to help with any task when asked and its very much a team mentality. Its also not the autocracy its made out to be. There's ultimately someone in charge taking responsibility and you need to stay out of their lane once a decision is made, but respectful input is usually welcomed.

Quote:

CWB1, does this make you think different mechanisms can bring about the same camaraderie?
Yes definitely. Camaraderie is definitely a function of culture and the trust level a group of employees have for one another. Your experiences in the private sector mirror my own in many ways - small company ~ more camaraderie, large company ~ less so. Given that large companies also tend to be more process driven I often wonder about correlations between process, camaraderie, and culture. OTOH, the military is very process driven but yet very flexible - if the process isn't working quickly then its abandoned in favor of another.

RE: Veterans in Engineering

So I earned another rebuke today. Stepped on a colleague's turf and got a pointed phone call. I kept the colleague talking long enough that my side came through, and in context... "oh... I can see then... if the CEO asked you to..."
Here's a case, similar to the one you mentioned, where being asked to help, by the right person, smoothed the ruffled feathers of the one who should have done it. I couldn't say no to the CEO, could I?
Nah who am I fooling? He may still hold a grudge, just couldn't win the argument today. Since the CEO asked him to do the same thing weeks ago before asking me about it, I still have some ammunition. Heh. The best outcome would be if our sales people would just step up their game.

When I was younger, I sure did not know how to use dialogue to patch up these little frictions. I'm slowly adapting to corporate life if I can keep little irritations from growing.

Quote:

...correlations between process, camaraderie, and culture
Aw jeez. Now that's going to turn over and over in the back of my mind for days.

No one believes the theory except the one who developed it. Everyone believes the experiment except the one who ran it.
STF

RE: Veterans in Engineering

Quote (CWB1)

I'm sure we've all sat through design reviews or DFMEAs where the usual engineering debate and outside feedback was welcomed, but there's also those folks who take it a bit too far trying to make themselves sound intelligent second-guessing seemingly every detail in areas they know little about.

Here's a place where I can get into trouble. I don't have to pretend to know or not know something before I can get wrapped up in a discussion about how it will work, be compatible with something else, jump steps ahead to how it will be used... to the point of sidetracking the meeting. Others waiting impatiently for the discussion to end may start thinking along the lines you outlined above.

Why do you think I spend so much time on Eng-Tips, eh?

No one believes the theory except the one who developed it. Everyone believes the experiment except the one who ran it.
STF

RE: Veterans in Engineering

I believe that referring to comparison to "the military" misses a big point. Lot of difference exists between dealing with MTOE units than TDA units. In my dealings, MTOE has been great, TDA tends to look at organizational and political units.

RE: Veterans in Engineering

(OP)

Quote:

Here's a place where I can get into trouble. I don't have to pretend to know or not know something before I can get wrapped up in a discussion about how it will work

I usually limit myself to 1-2 questions per 5-8 others', then if I still have significant questions or doubts I'll request an informal one-on-one to help "understand this better" before leaving the meeting. Even the busiest/grumpiest senior engineer will struggle to refuse a polite request for education/mentorship in front of the bosses, whereas a request to meet otherwise might be blown-off.

Quote:

I believe that referring to comparison to "the military" misses a big point...

Sure, and experiences can also vary greatly between branches, individual units, and active vs reserve/guard components. I could be mistaken, but I believe TDAs represent a relatively small portion of the active force.

RE: Veterans in Engineering

For the USA, that would be Table of Distribution and Allowance (TDA); is there a desk available?

For Modified Table of Equipment (MTOE - you all are going to Middle East) and are credited with inventing the AMF acronym (some times confused with ACE Mobile Force).

RE: Veterans in Engineering

(OP)
Yup, I understand the difference, TDA being garrison commands among others. I simply couldn't find anything on google as to their size vs the active MTOE force. I remember being shocked a few years ago to find that the majority of the active Army was in a support MOS.

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