Reading time ( words)
Patty Goldman catches up with Gene Weiner, the longest-serving member of IPC, about his experience meeting with the next generation of engineers in IPC’s Emerging Engineers program through a unique contest held at IPC APEX EXPO 2023. Weiner, who has attended well over 60 annual IPC meetings, shared his unflagging optimism and the lessons he’s learned over his illustrious career with the young professionals who managed to find him at the show. With so much still to do, Weiner has no plans to retire any time soon; he’s already hard work helping IPC develop a new program to support aspiring managers in the industry.
Patty Goldman: I’m with longtime friend Gene Weiner who, having attended more than 60 IPC annual meetings, is certainly one of the oldest IPC members here at IPC APEX EXPO 2023. Sixty years of coming to IPC meetings might be a record. This year, IPC has Gene doing something special with the emerging engineers. Tell me all about that, Gene.
Gene Weiner: When I attended my first IPC meeting back in 1959, suppliers couldn’t join IPC; we were “invited guests.” Shortly thereafter, in 1961, I joined IPC and became the official member for MacDermid. Then in 1962, I joined the first IPC Printed Circuit Board meeting for multilayer printed circuits, and ever since then, I never seem to leave. But as you age and go on, you hope there will be people that follow you and meet the challenges facing today’s electronics industry. You have to introduce young people, young engineers and physical scientists, to our industry because they traditionally have looked at manufacturing as something dirty and messy; they don’t really understand modern electronics and how they’re made.
The latest inductee to the Hall of Fame, one of the IPC directors, Teresa Rowe, and Tracy Riggan had the idea to hold a contest for these young engineers and physicists in the Emerging Engineers Program, to have them look around and meet some of the long-term members of the IPC. As the longest attending member, they asked me if I would join in with them and have a contest with the emerging engineers and their mentors, who would be given the chance to find the longest-term IPC member while at IPC APEX EXPO 2023. They had a coin made using 3D printing, that talked about emerging engineers in 2022/23; it was made of plastic and cut in half.
One half of a coin was given to each of the 40 or so young engineers at the meeting early on this week, and I was given the other half of each coin. And with the thousands of people here milling around at the exhibition, in the meeting rooms, at the luncheons, their task was to find the person who had attended IPC meetings for 60 years. They were not given clues as to how to do that at the meeting; they were to ask for the coin, have a little brief discussion with me and bring the coin back.
Approximately 15 of them have done so, so far. One actually walked around with my picture, taken off the Hall of Fame wall, looking to match faces at the reception on Tuesday evening. Another chased me down as I was walking back to the hotel. An even stranger thing happened; I have about 6,000 followers on LinkedIn and one of them suddenly wrote to me and said, “Gene, are you going to IPC APEX EXPO?” I said, “Yes, why do you ask?” She said, “Well, I’m going to be there too. I want to find you.” I said, “What’s going on?” She hemmed and hawed. Actually, it was one of the mentors who was going to help the young engineer find me at the show. They did.
It’s interesting, a number of them came up and said, are you so and so? They’d ask for my half of the coin. I had good conversations with some of them. We talked—young engineers and physicists and quality and production and research from Lockheed Martin, from Raytheon, from companies all over—we spoke of their careers and the interesting work they were doing. Then some walked away not asking for the coin. They had forgotten. I said, “Have you forgotten something?”
“Do you have a coin?”
“Oh, yes.” Then they finally asked for the coin.
Goldman: They got interested in you and the whole story?
Weiner: Yes, and the discussion about their work; they were telling me what they were doing. It was wonderful. Very bright kids. A lot of young ladies in there. One was an astrophysicist that wanted to become an astronaut, which is very interesting—in tune with yesterday’s keynote speaker. We joked a little about some of the slightly off-color remarks made by the keynote speaker about what should be carried into space with the women astronauts. Others came up while we were discussing this. There were four of them talking to me at one time, and one said, “Oh, the older man I’m looking for. Do you have a coin for me?” I gave it. The other three looked at me and didn’t say anything. I said, “In this world, if you want something…”
Goldman: You have to ask for it.
Weiner: You have to ask for it or you may not get it. At that point, they all pulled out their half a coin and asked for my matching half.
It was a great experience meeting these young people and having them meet with someone who has been around awhile. I told them how lucky they were to be where they are at this time of their life, with so much going on in advanced electronics and space and R&D and production analytics. I have a grandson who’s doing analytics now. I have another one doing work of a similar nature. My own son followed in my footsteps and he’s now a director at Analog Devices. I told these kids that their future’s ahead of them and they have to set their goals, and not to let other people set their goals for them. This is a good place to start.
Goldman: They have fabulous opportunities.
Weiner: Some of the industry’s greatest inventors are here at the show on the show floor today to walk around and talk to them and answer their questions.
Goldman: The emerging engineers are required to take a number of professional development courses and get involved in committees; they really do seem to be an energetic, involved group. Once you get somebody interested in our industry, well, you know how it is. You get sucked into the industry and you don’t get out. And here we all are.
Weiner: Yes, the Hall of Fame Council had breakfast this morning, and you were there, Patty. One of our newest inductees is Teresa Rowe, Director of IPC, who along with Tracy helped put this program together for the emerging engineers. We talked about a new program for emerging managers and I volunteered to chair it. I suggested we bring in the HR people from large corporations such as Raytheon, Analog Devices, DuPont, or Lockheed, and have their people address our emerging managers about what their companies are doing to train scientists and engineers who become managers for economics, for non-economics, and things like that. DuPont’s had a program like this for decades. One of my colleagues, Jim Hickman, was in that. I’m looking forward to working on a new program like that. I’m not retiring yet; I’m not the retiring type. I keep flunking retirement and I look forward to working with these young people another year or two.
Goldman: That’s great to hear. Gene, thanks so much for your time.