Are Recent Grads Working on What Matters?

Young engineers tend to ignore old-guard technology companies

7 May 2014

In a New York Times Magazine article [“Silicon Valley’s Youth Problem,” 12 March], author Yiren Lu—a graduate student of computer science at Columbia—notes that many of today’s engineering grads care little about working on foundational technologies such as computers and telecommunications, and instead spend their energy on creating apps. “In pursuing the latest and the coolest, young engineers ignore opportunities in less-sexy areas of tech like semiconductors, data storage and networking—the products that form the foundation on which all of Web 2.0 rests,” she writes.

They’re also more likely to go to work for a trendy start-up like Pinterest, which provides a tool for collecting and organizing content from the Web, rather than an established company such as Cisco, which admits to having a hard time recruiting young talent. As Lu looks around at classmates who eagerly grab jobs at the latest start-ups, she wonders: “Why do these smart, quantitatively trained engineers who could help cure cancer or fix healthcare.gov want to work for a sexting app?” Many recent grads, she finds, prefer to work on products and services that their peers are using and talking about.

Do you think recent engineering grads prefer working in start-ups, and is that a bad thing? What can established companies do to attract young talent?

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