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As much as I hate to admit it, engineers are fallible (Gasp!). I know, I know, we spent years in school learning second order derivatives, every function possible in Excel, and have the Greek alphabet memorized. But still, it happens from time to time that we screw up as engineers. Sometimes, our designs just plain miss the mark. Today, I want to talk about five of the most common reasons that engineering designs fail. I’ve seen these mistakes time and time again in my career. If you can make an effort to avoid these mistakes, I...read more
Do you work in an environment with high levels of uncertainty? Uncertainty is characterized by high complexity (that is, many players or factors are at work) and high instability (things can change in a moment). If you have both complexity and instability, you have what’s called an uncertain environment. This is exactly the kind of environment I work in, and it can be brutally difficult to stay on top of things. I work in the rail industry. As you can imagine, building a new rail vehicle is a massive undertaking with 100′s of...read more
[Note from Pat: This is a guest post from Carl Friesen, principal of Global Reach Communications Inc.] Many engineers believe strongly that technical excellence is their path to career success. So they focus on technical aspects such as accuracy in measurement, workable designs and elegant code. And these aspects are important — as a non-engineer I’m glad that the bridges I walk across are designed by people who care about getting it right. But to grow into a leadership role, engineers need to move beyond the technology, to...read more
My wife and I were in one of our favourite downtown coffee shops recently on a date. We were having a wonderful time together. It had been a little while since we had had a chance to just put our busy lives on hold to go out for some time just for us. It was fantastic. I was one happy engineer. The situation changed suddenly when someone in the table next to us started choking. She was gasping for air. There was a moment of confusion when everyone in the coffee stopped dead in their tracks and turned to look at the woman. Eventually, it...read more
T oday, I want to teach you about one of the most important productivity hacks I’ve ever learned. This one simple tip has single-handedly improved my technical skills, communication skills, business knowledge, and overall satisfaction with life. Even better, it hasn’t taken an ounce of extra time out of my life to implement. Now, I know what you’re saying to yourself. You’re saying “But Pat, this is too good to be true!” Fear not, naysayer, for there really is a simple explanation. Ready for it? The...read more
One of the most frequently asked questions that I get is about engineering salaries. For example: What’s a good salary for an engineer? How does a mechanical engineering salary compare to an electrical engineering salary? Should I ask my employer for more money? How much more money could I make if I had a Masters degree in engineering? Is my employer screwing me? To me, these are very interesting questions. Beyond that, I think they’re important questions to ask. Your career is (typically) your main source of income. If...read more
[A note from Pat: Today's post is a combo guest post from by Rebecca H. Goldberg and Carl Friesen. I met Carl over at Engineering.com where he and I both blog frequently. Carl and Rebecca work at Global Reach Communications, where they help professionals make a name for themselves using the internet and social media.] Showing Credibility in a Digital Age Many engineers like to stay out of the limelight — to just go on doing the best work they can. But if your aim is to rise in your profession into a leadership role, you’ll need to build...read more
Hey there, engineering leader! I’ve recently come up with a new hobby. I’ve started writing what I call “Engineering Haikus”. They’re ridiculous, but I have a lot of fun with them, so I thought I’d start sharing them on the blog. My goal is to put one on the blog about once a week. I’d love to know what you think, and for you to share them with your friends. It would also be especially awesome if you posted your own Engineering Haikus in the comments section below. For my first instalment, I...read more
This is the second instalment in a two-part series on using business strategy theory to get ahead in your engineering career. In the first part in the series, I wrote about the basics of business strategy and how they apply to engineers. Today, I’ll teach you more about the four strategies, and offer pros and cons for each. The Four Possible Engineering Career Strategies In the first instalment of this series, I introduced Harvard Business Professor Michael Porter’s four basic business strategies (Dr. Porter is an engineer, by the...read more
When I left undergrad, I discovered something terrible: my education left me woefully unprepared for real engineering work. I remember arriving at work my first week and being asked to “spec’ a cable”. I literally had no idea what that meant. “You know, like, chose the size the conductor, the insulation rating, all that stuff.” my boss told me. “Right”, I said, “I’m on it.”, not having a sweet clue where to start. I was embarrassed, to say the least. How could I go through more than...read more