We continue our series on Millennials in Manufacturing with Mya Walton, associate coordinator in the test department at Saline Lectronics.
Mya has been with Lectronics for almost three years now. So far, she finds her work to be fulfilling. "I've gained knowledge I didn't expect to get from this job. For example, I've learned every unique component and exactly what role it plays in completing an assembly. Working in the test department really exposed me to learning new things such as truth tables, logic gates, measuring components, and figuring out problems. It's rewarding to be a part of creating products that help other people, such as heart monitors and black boxes."
A New World of Possibilities
When she applied for a job at Lectronics, Mya said her focus was strictly to make more money.
"At the time, I was going to school for criminal justice and criminology. It wasn't until about a year into Lectronics that I thought the criminal justice field wasn’t my dream anymore. Here I am at a job I enjoy, a job I can continuously grow in, and if I wanted to, I could get some type of related degree that wouldn’t take me as long to achieve. This job opened a whole new world of possibilities that I could see myself doing in the future, and the neat thing is I’m watching and learning it all firsthand. My expectation for my future career is one that teaches me new things every day, that challenges me to be better than I am, and a career that I can wake up and be proud to do my best at. Although I may have my frustrating days, Lectronics seems to be providing all those things."
Challenges are a part of the manufacturing industry. For Mya, communication is one of the big ones. "When you're working to a deadline, things can get hectic. When multiple factors such as material shortages, vendor issues, and test fixture issues arise, and you’re trying to commit to a date with a quality assembly, it's a challenge."
Another issue is not being taken seriously. "In upper management, my hard work and position is recognized and appreciated; but some of my coworkers can’t handle a young female achieving higher roles."
Millennials' Unique Work Ethic
Some of the complaints older people have about millennials is that this younger generation has a unique work ethic, or no work ethic, and seem to want praise just for showing up for work.
As a millennial, Mya refutes this. "I would say that the unique thing about millennials is that we all, to a certain extent, feel like we have something to prove. We don't strive to just do the job we are given. We strive to do our job, be the best at our job, and we crave to learn the next thing. I would say it is true that some millennials have no drive, but generalizing the many because of a few is what we need to steer away from. With the rapid advancement of technology, a millennial has an advantage and can pick up on the changes quicker because we grew up during the technology boom."
Regarding motivation, Mya says it's compensation for her efforts. "I do believe that in working for what you make, so I strive to become more of an asset to my company so that I can be compensated for it. When you are good at your job and care about what you do, more opportunities seem to open up for you to learn and gain experience… and that is what I want; that is my motivation."
Many believe that most millennials don’t understand the promise of a career in the industrial sector, and attracting them to join the manufacturing world remains a challenge.
Mya agrees. "I know that a lot of my generation isn't made aware of electronics manufacturing. Before this job, when someone talked about manufacturing, I would think of car manufacturers like Ford, for example. I think the technology classes we take in school need to be taken to the next level. When I was in high school, my technology class consisted of learning how to do different functions on the computer, with programs like Word. I'd think learning what actually makes the computer and why it functions the way it does would have been more interesting. Taking the technology class a step further, like making projects and things, would bring a lot more attention to the manufacturing field."
Leading the Company Forward
The older generation will soon vacate many positions, including leadership roles, in the manufacturing field. Are millennials ready to take the lead?
Not before the older generations teach what they know. Mya said the older generation in the company need to accept that they are now the teachers. In addition to this, millennials should be given opportunities to be heard when it comes to management decisions.
“We need to give millennials more freedom to put in their ideas. We should be more inclusive to our company as a whole, so it's not just people in leadership positions. I see myself learning every aspect that I can with this company. Like I've stated, I want to be flexible and knowledgeable. I'm already learning new things every day. I just recently learned how to solder and it was amazing—it's like art work! SMT interests me a lot as well. I'd love to know the beginning stages for assembling a circuit board, not just working the machines but even how to make a program for them."
It’s driven, passionate, honest young women like Mya who will propel Lectronics forward as an industry leader in electronics manufacturing. She’s established herself as an excellent resource in the test department, and continues to lead the way as a shining example to others who yearn to excel within the organization. If the manufacturing industry can better recruit employees like Mya, we won’t be talking about the skills gap five years down the road; instead, we’ll be reflecting on the momentous and wondrous changes that took place when millennials started leading manufacturing’s vision.