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9/9/2008 11:13 PM
Since about 1982 (3rd year of my B.Sc.), I have been interacting
with the employment process in Materials Science and Engineering.
Frustration has lead to studying the system from many points of
view. I have written articles on Internet related employment for
applicants and employers, and the information has worked for other
people. I have been involved in efforts to fix certain aspects of the
employment process, Internet edition, on 3 occasions. Studying a
problem without any idea where the problem is, does not easily
lead to a solution. It does provide one with a lot of background.
I was born with the curse and gift of Asperger's Syndrome (a kind
of Autism). However, I was almost 41 before I found out. Had I
have known that I was an Aspie as a child, it is likely that I
could have done many things more effectively. Even with the
medical community now sensitized to Autism, there will always be
un-diagnosed Aspies. In addition, I am Savant. In essence, this
means I was made for a certain occupation (Materials Science and
Engineering), which is something I have been frustrated from ever
I really don't like bringing conflict into inter-personal (social)
relations. Which is understandable knowing that I have Asperger's
Syndrome. I am much less successful at judging people, whether
there is a conflict or not. However, a couple of years ago my
local ASM branch decided to recognize me for 25 years of service
to an industry I haven't yet figured out how to join. And this
was embarrassing enough that I have decided to risk some
confrontation. If for no other reason, as to make it easier for
other people to follow in my footsteps.
An ongoing problem is that most people who see the term "learning
disabled" think of STUPID! REALLY STUPID!! Almost USELESS
STUPID! When I was a child, the term was mentally retarded.
Political correctness requires that this term changes on a
constant basis. I am hardly stupid. On a general IQ test I
score significantly higher than average. If I can suggest
restricting it to what I was made for (because I am also Savant),
I am easily in genius category. According to friends I have played
soccer with, I am a genius without this restriction.
It is not hard to find companies that have published policies
about employing disabled people of all kinds. What they fail to
recognize, is that if learning disabled people cannot be hired
because they have problems with the hiring process, that there is
no reason to have the employment policy. If some segment of the
learning disabled can never become an employee, it is irrelevant
what their work conditions would be.
Asperger's Syndrome tends to have 3 big problems:
* difficulty maintaining eye contact,
* difficulty reading facial expressions,
* difficulty reading body language.
To me, the first one is more of a problem. Society is schooled
that if someone cannot look you in the eye, they must be lying.
How many interviewers suggest hiring a liar? Too many people
communicate by means of facial expressions and/or body language.
If an interviewer is "communicating" that they are confused (or
something else) by facial expressions or body language, and the
interviewee seems to be ignoring this, how many will be
considered for a job?
A common problem across Autism, is excessive honesty. A
particular consequence of my tendency to excessive honesty is a
drastically reduced ability to sell. I am essentially useless at
selling anything. We all know that employment revolves around
the ability of an applicant to sell themselves to an employer.
And this is the factor that has interfered the most in my using
all of my knowledge of Materials Science and Engineering to the
betterment of mankind. If I ever get an interview, the above
problems typical of Asperger's Syndrome just aggravate things.
I graduated top of my class in my B.Sc. and went on to a M.Eng. I
could have gone farther academically, but I really wanted to be an
engineer, not an instructor or something else. Everyone else in
my class has become an engineer, and possibly moved on to other
things. I am still struggling to find a way into Materials
Science and Engineering, and I am almost 50. How much more time
do I have to waste? I could help so many people, and make a lot
of money for an employer willing to take a chance.
Does anyone need an entry level (or non-management) person who has
29 years of study? :-)
10/27/2008 10:22 PM
[ Hmm, no comments. Probably expected. ]
What is experience?
It is hard to find an advertisement where someone isn't looking for experience at something. Everyone just assumes that we all know what is being talked about, and how to measure it.
Definitions: almost universally people disregard "cognitive" means of obtaining experience. If you are fresh out of school and never worked before school, you have ZERO experience. Or so people seem to be saying. If you look at definitions of experience in better dictionaries, you will find that experience can be garnered by purely cognitive means. If you need a "publicly known" example, the thought experiments of Alberta Einstein ought to suffice. For something a little closer to current, it is commonplace in sports psychology to get athletes to play out how they are going to do some field event (high jump, pole vault, ...) in their head before they make their attempt. If you watch these people before they perform, it is obvious that they are doing this. They are gathering experience before they
actually do the action.
However, we being engineers, we are good at math. I've modeled experience, many aspects of it. You cannot measure experience as a duration of exposure to an environment.
We've all met people that don't seem to hold onto any more experience after some point in time: they are losing experience as fast as they are acquiring it, and attaining a state of dynamic equilibrium. The simplest mathematical model of this is to equate experience to retained knowledge, and assume that retained knowledge decays as a simple exponential. With constant exposure to stimuli, this model climbs to a limit. We have to assume that learning is perfect and instantaneous in this model.
A lot of jobs seem to regard 10 years of experience as some minimum kind of threshold. It takes a try or two to find the correct parameters for someone working five 8 hour days per week, 50 weeks a year to reach 95+% of their threshold in 10 years. We use that as a baseline.
I've met people who have been working a long time, who are still learning. Obviously, not all people reach a threshold at 10 years, some may never reach a threshold. How long does it take someone who has a threshold of 25 years, to reach the same level of retained experience of someone who is a threshold after 10 years in an environment? The answer isn't even close to 10 years, it is about midway in their 3rd year (about 2.6 years). Sorry, you cannot measure experience as a duration of exposure to an environment.
Some companies start to give longer term employees increasingly more vacation time after some point. Let's take our baseline employee, who reaches threshold at 10 years on a 40 hour work week. After 10 years, we start giving 3 weeks vacation; after 20 years, we give 4 weeks; and so on. Running through the math we find that now longer is retained knowledge rising to a threshold, it peaks and starts declining. A person with a threshold as small as 10 years, starts losing value to an employer with vacations of somewhere between 2 and 4 weeks per year.
I grew up with farming. Many tasks in farming only happen during a short time of the year. In essence, most of the year is vacation with respect to that short duration task. A person who has planted 2 crops has about as much retained knowledge as someone who has a threshold of 10 years, who has been doing it their entire life.
So, do we really know what experience is, and how to measure it? From everything I've seen, we don't even come close.
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