I’ve been working in an industry which is new to me for less than two years. It’s a familiar spot after I switched jobs a few times after the economic crisis. And since I work on the product side, I’ve had to start at the bottom of the learning curve to understand products in an industry that was never even on my radar. Nothing beats experience and the general absorption of knowledge from others who have been “in the biz.” But I’m growing tired of people that have accumulated knowledge over 15 years or more and act like they were born knowing about their industry.
They forget that they were in fact not born knowing it and are often unsympathetic to those that are new. Granted, many people are helpful; they are indispensable because their knowledge cannot be replaced or bought. But there are those that just don’t have any empathy and can’t put themselves in your shoes. They often show disrespect as a result. This is not a healthy corporate cultural phenomenon as it is a turn-off to new employees, giving them a semi-hostile environment.
An even larger issue that few people think about is disrespect for academic knowledge in these industries. A “hands-on” person is always put on a pedestal because he’s one of us. Understandably, customers tend to like this because they can relate to you better if you’ve tried tasks that they complete using your products. But there is a place for broader thought, new ideas, and strategy. These are usually the realm of the educated, the ones who often become the people that steer the proverbial ship.
A good white-collar person should definitely have experience with products or services at ground level where the customer is at. But I would argue that a sales person or line worker should also be taught what office folk do. Some are quick to criticize because they don’t understand the art of what we do or its difficulty. Just as a hands-on experience cannot be replaced, our jobs cannot be replaced by computers or robots. I hear people make fun of business leaders for having an MBA and for just not “getting it.” To be fair, many white collar people chastise factory workers or union members; they shouldn’t generalize in their criticism either. I admire factory workers for the physically demanding and often repetitive nature of their work.
I’m not a hands-on expert. I decided to spend 6+ years of my life in college learning other things because I prefer not to make a living getting my hands dirty. I’d rather have a career with a slight risk of carpal tunnel syndrome. Thank goodness some companies have begun to value college education. Not only is experience irreplaceable but so is education and learning from other students who are academically inclined.
In the end, it’s about respecting others for doing what you can’t do, not disrespecting them for what they can’t do.