Career growth at every age: a look at our multi-generational employee resource group

Alexander Wolfgang Schneider was a month into his first job at Pratt & Whitney. He had just moved from Florida to Connecticut, and he didn’t know anyone. An invitation to a summer picnic organized by the company’s young-professionals group changed all that very quickly.

“I hopped in another employee’s car, went to the beach and played football and volleyball,” he recalls. “It made me feel like there was a support system for people new to the company. It wasn’t about young or old – there was a mix there. For me, it resonated because I felt like I was becoming part of something.”

Now, that experience drives him to help others make connections as the global chair of RTX NXGEN, the company’s multi-generational employee resource group – one of nine such organizations that promote RTX’s culture of inclusion. The group aims to retain top talent at the company by helping members achieve the career growth they want, whether horizontal or vertical, and by addressing age bias in all its forms.

Empowering a multi-generational community

RTX NXGEN, an employee resource group that represents multiple generations, focuses on promoting career development, networking and mentorship. The group’s key initiatives include:

Icon showing two hands shaking
Developing a mentorship program to bridge the gap between junior and senior employees through professional development and networking
icon depicting employees
Planning roundtables and speaking engagements with leadership to amplify the viewpoints and perspectives of employees at all experience levels
Icon showing a community of people
Hosting in-person social events designed to foster engagement between all levels of employees
Icon representing countries on a globe

Promoting open discussion of age bias and ways to prevent it

Growing your career at any age

For Schneider, a senior principal engineer in the F135 sustainment program at Pratt & Whitney, an RTX business, one of the group’s main roles is to advocate for employees no matter where they are in their career. The group is creating professional development programs to support young professionals in advancing; help middle managers progress out of what can be known as the “frozen middle” to their next career level; and retain senior employees who have accumulated critical knowledge and experience to share.

Part of that work, Schneider said, is raising awareness of age bias – the belief that the company’s youngest and oldest employees have less to contribute.

“If someone is younger and surpassing performance and leadership skill expectations, there should be a route to growth and advancement. Likewise, senior employees exceeding their own performance expectations should not be forgotten or put to the side,” he said. “Age shouldn’t be a discriminator. It’s important to see all ages at higher levels of leadership.”

While previous iterations of RTX NXGEN focused on young professionals, the group expanded to serve employees of all experience levels in 2022. The community plans to continue the predecessor groups’ focus on in-person social outings to provide opportunities for all employees to broaden their networking skills, meet new colleagues – and, importantly, to have fun.

“The young-professionals employee resource groups started as very social, and we don’t want to lose how it started,” said Schneider.

While informal mentoring is already taking place between members, the community is also creating a formal mentorship program for all levels of employees to share career guidance and promote networking.

Schneider has seen how activities like these helped his own development. After that summer picnic in 2016, he joined the young-professionals group, became a board member and found it was opening new doors for him – particularly when he began looking for a new role within the company.

“Initially it was very challenging, but the second I leveraged my ERG network I was able to have someone advocate for me,” he said. “Soon after, I had two job opportunities to consider, and there began my way to my next career step.” 

Alexander Wolfgang Schneider headshot

“Age shouldn’t be a discriminator. It’s important to see all ages at higher levels of leadership.”

Alexander Wolfgang Schneider | Global chair | RTX NXGEN

The impact of inclusion

In 2018, RTX NXGEN global co-chair Erica Pavlo was a month into her first job out of college at the former Raytheon Company in Massachusetts. She heard about an after-work event hosted by the company’s employee resource group for young professionals and decided to check it out.

When she walked in, she recalls, the leader of her business unit greeted her and said: “We want you to be successful.”

“It was instantly a connection, and people made me feel included,” said Pavlo, now a business manager for the F135 program at Pratt & Whitney. “I felt like I was part of a family.”

Pavlo joined the community immediately and, like Schneider, made connections that helped develop her career.

“It motivated me and helped me feel like I had a purpose at Raytheon,” she said. “I wanted to give back that feeling to others. Just that openness to want me to feel comfortable and make friends that I could have a lasting relationship with, and open me up to leadership opportunities – that was so special.”

For Schneider, the benefits of the ERG network have been long-lasting, with colleagues recommending him for what became his next two roles in the company.

“People helped advocate for me for those jobs,” he said. “They said, ‘Here’s why you need to hire him.’ It really has totally impacted my career. If I had to do all those things on my own, I don’t think I’d be where I am today.”

Erica Pavlo headshot

“It was instantly a connection, and people made me feel included. I felt like I was part of a family.”

Erica Pavlo | Global co-chair | RTX NXGEN