Ulteig Energy & Infrastructure Podcast: Gen Z – Ready to Fix the World by Designing Better Infrastructure

August 10, 2021

Ready or not, here comes Gen Z.

Born between 1997 and 2012, the first wave of Gen Zers are starting to enter the workforce, and their presence is starting to be felt far and wide in how they intend to approach the world. This includes their proactive involvement in designing infrastructure to meet the needs of towns, cities, states and provinces years into the future.

In the latest segment of the Ulteig Energy & Infrastructure Podcast, host Aaron Lauinger, Ulteig’s Market Director for Power, Transportation and Water, is joined by three Generation Z engineers who joined Ulteig over the past two years, to learn about their perspectives toward work, living through the pandemic, and how they intend to use their skills and thinking as engineers to change the world.

In this episode, Lauinger is joined by:

  • Cassandra “Cassie” Borden, a civil engineer who works with Ulteig’s Water and Wastewater team, who earned a bachelor degree in civil engineering from South Dakota State University;
  • Melissa Linville, an electrical engineer working with Ulteig’s Renewables team, who earned a bachelor degree in electrical engineering from the University of Minnesota; and
  • Austin Baughman, an electrical engineer with Ulteig’s Transmission and Distribution team, who earned a bachelor of civil engineering from Metropolitan State, University of Denver.

During the podcast interview, Borden, Linville and Baughman touch on a number of issues, including:

The value of connecting with their fellow work colleagues, face to face – In school, during the pandemic, all three spoke to the experience of attending online courses where other students wouldn’t turn on their cameras while a class was being taught over Zoom. “It’s so different in the real world,” said Linville. “My work colleagues keep their cameras on, and they have been reaching out to me.”

All three agreed that Gen Z has had to learn how to be nimble and flexible. “Our generation has learned to be very adaptable,” said Baughman. “We saw technology, such as online video calls and hybrid workplaces coming. The pandemic accelerated it all.”

Faster learning curve – As the first generation to grow up in a digital world (with the Internet), Gen Z intimately understands the value of technology to learn. “With today’s technology, we can meet people anywhere in the world with relative ease. Creating connections with my colleagues at Ulteig is easier. With the Internet, we can gain access to information faster. It’s all been life changing. Gen Z wants things to be easier and more efficient. We want to optimize our time,” said Linville.

“I think our generation’s responsibility is to leverage technology to design for a changing world,” added Borden.

Solving Problems – All three guests were attracted to their careers by the need to understand how things work and solving problems. For example, Borden says the reason she became an engineer is “I grew up wanting to know how and why stuff worked. In my career, I want to design things that will make the world better.” Baughman said he was initially interested in going into robotics, but while he was in college, he discovered civil engineering. “I like to solve problems. Working at Ulteig, I see how I can do that every day. I think that’s how I’ll be able to make an impact.”

“I’m just curious about everything,” added Linville. “As I learned more about clean energy and electricity, I was shocked by the number of people who don’t have access to electricity. I want to be someone who can change the world.”

Borden, Linville and Baughman also share their insights about why they chose Ulteig, what they think employers need to do to attract Gen Z workers, the value and importance of innovation, and why Gen Z must take responsibility for changing the world.

“Yes, there’s a lot of pressure on our generation to change the world,” said Linville, “but we don’t have a lot of choice. We need to move as fast as possible.”

Launched in March 2020, the Ulteig Energy & Infrastructure Podcast spans Ulteig’s Lifeline Sectors® of Power, Renewables, Transportation and Water. It offers thought-provoking and engaging conversations with key industry stakeholders on technology, innovation, policy and funding. Click here to listen to the current podcast or download it through AppleGoogle Play, or Spotify.

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