Posted on 1/21/2015

​Why employ young talent?

We sat down with Automation Alley Executive Director Ken Rogers and Senior Director Kelly Kozlowski – top management on opposite ends of the age spectrum — to get their opinions on hiring and managing millennials and what it’s like to work with someone generations apart. 

Q: Ken, you often say you enjoy working with young people. Why is that?

Ken Rogers: Well, I feel that young people are on the cutting edge of change, and I think that’s what Automation Alley is all about. It’s about what’s happening today. Young people are an integral part of driving this organization. And so, yes, I enjoy working with millennials very much. 

Q: We employ a lot of young people here at Automation Alley. What advantages come with hiring young talent?

Kelly Kozlowski: I think when you have younger people working on staff combined with people who have more experience, it just gives more balance to the organization. Younger people are often exposed to more technology because they are from a generation that grew up with it. They are able to make suggestions and improvements that older generations maybe wouldn’t have so much familiarity with. Another plus is that when you have younger talent you can kind of grow them up in the company culture. They’re not tainted; they’re not coming to you with a predisposed notion of how business is done. You’re getting them fresh.
Personally, I’m passionate about developing people, and so I love the opportunity to get someone in who is looking for growth opportunities because then the organization benefits as they learn more. 

Ken Rogers: Our hiring philosophy here is: skinny, fat, tall, short, black, white, male, female — the only thing that matters is talent. And if that’s what you’re looking for, you’re looking for whatever package it comes in. So, here at Automation Alley, we are not bashful or hesitant about hiring someone that’s young. We feel that we’re gaining enthusiasm and the current thoughts about today and incorporating that into our business. We have people with experience, who have been in the business world, and they’ll bring their ideas to the table. So when you mix that pot up, you get the mix that I think is healthy for an organization. 

Kelly Kozlowski: One of the things I love about our organization is we do have a really good mix. You have people in their 60s and 70s, and you have people who are in their 20s and 30s. So we span 50 years all under one roof. 

Q: Kelly, one thing Ken always talks about is how important it is to develop talent. In your personal experience, how have you grown professionally in your time here at Automation Alley?

Kelly Kozlowski: So, in four years I’ve had four different titles. That’s just the pace of Automation Alley. We’re always moving, always growing and always improving. As an employee here, I’m constantly exposed to new projects and new programs where I have the opportunity to develop new skills. I got hired into a job that has morphed, and I’ve been given opportunities to grow within the organization. So that’s another thing that I love about working here: It’s not rare at all for people to climb up the ranks and have a pretty significant influence in the way we do business. 

Ken Rogers: The thing that I try to do is stretch people. We often have this picture in our minds of who we are. But that’s not the real you; there’s more to you than that picture. It may involve you doing something you’re not quite comfortable with at first, but you will find out new things about yourself, and that personal discovery is worth more than anything. 

Q: Ken and Kelly, there are generations between the two of you, but you work really well together as executive director and senior director. What are some of the challenges about working with someone from a different generation, and what are some of the benefits? 

Ken Rogers: From my perspective, it’s all about how you see the other person and their role at the company. If you understand their position and role and what’s expected, you’re going to pay attention to their point of view. You’re going to be interested in their thoughts and recommendations about the company. So I think it starts with your personal relationship with that person, but there also has to be an openness in the dialogue and communication. 

Kelly Kozlowski: Well, I think it’s a major benefit to the organization that we are on opposite ends of the age spectrum because we do have very different ways of looking at things. So the way that I might approach a problem has a lot to do with my experience, which is much more limited than Ken’s. The way he approaches a situation comes from his years in business. So, because we have those different perspectives, it makes for more lively conversation usually. And the other thing that’s important to note is that I’m kind of an old soul, and Ken is more young at heart than the average person his age. On paper you might look at it and go, “Wow! There are decades between them!” But in terms of how our brains work and how we approach work here at Automation Alley, I think we are much closer in age than numbers would suggest. 

I think for people in any workplace it’s important to not put people in a box just because they are a certain age. Ken has never looked at me and treated me differently because I’m a millennial. Ken just looks at me and says “I’ve worked with Kelly for four years and, as a result, this is how I’m going to interact with her.” And I become an individual and not a demographic. And I feel the same way about him. I don’t go into meetings with Ken thinking about my older, more traditional, CEO. I think “This is Ken, and these are the traits that I know about him.” I think everyone in business should approach relationships that way. 

About the Author

Automation Alley Staff | Automation Alley


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