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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
[Note from Pat: This is the first instalment of a two-part series. For your reference, the second part is here. PS 03/11/2014] Strategy is absolutely critical for a company. A business that doesn’t have a strategy for how it’s going to compete in the marketplace is a company that’s going stay mediocre at best, if it survives at all. Without a strategy, it’s nearly impossible to differentiate yourself from your competitors and to focus your time and attention on what makes your company awesome. If a company wants...read more
Where I work, if you were to ask a random sample of people what they were up to in a given moment, no less than half of them say “Email”. You’ve probably seen it yourself where you work. Heck, you might even spent the majority of YOUR time dealing with email. Since neither you nor I work in email production plants, I see this as a problem. We go to work to produce things. Be it a product or a service, as engineers our job is to create, produce, and support things that will help people. So guess what? Email...read more
My wife is a medical resident. In the US, she’d be called an intern. Basically what that means is that she graduated med school, and is now doing her practical training to specialize. In her case, she’s becoming an anesthesiologist. Part of her training involves completing rotations in different parts of the hospital. So, every month or two, she’ll switch what department she’s working for and meets a whole slew of new people. Every time she makes one of these transitions, at least one of the people she meets will shake...read more
Bad news is a fact of life. Brutal, I know, but it’s true. You’re going to have to deal with it on a daily basis if you’re basically a normal person. The world of engineering is no exception. We deal with incredibly complex systems, with too little information to fully understand them, and too little time to process that information. As a result, we sometimes hear (or create) bad news. If you’re going to succeed in this profession, you need to figure out how to deal with bad news. The ability to handle the stressful,...read more
Are you the kind of engineer who isn’t satisfied just cruising along? Are you looking to be one of your company’s best? Here are 67 things that you can do today to become your company’s top engineer. Start today by choosing just five and putting them into action. Once those five become part of your regular routine, chose another five and keep going. I’ve also added excellent references and reading material within the action item wherever I could. The List Get enough sleep. Eat properly. Prepare for meetings. Take...read more
My dad used to coach my younger brother and I in soccer when we were kids. One of my dad’s soccer proverbs was that it was important to pass the ball not to where your team mates were, but to where they were going to be. Every play, in other words, should set the team up for forward motion toward the other team’s net. Hockey legen Wayne Gretsky is famous for a quote that captures the same idea nicely. He said “A good hockey player plays where the puck is. A great hockey player plays where the puck is going to be.” So,...read more
A friend of mine and I went out to one of my favourite pubs a few nights ago to talk about his career. He’s considering making a move from his current employer to be able to pursue other interests, but wasn’t sure if he should. You see, his current job is with a very well-respected company and his position looks incredible on paper. The problem is that he’s just not challenged. In short, he doesn’t love what he’s doing, and I think this is a problem for him. Why you need to love what you do So why should this be...read more
[Note from Pat: This is a guest post from my friend Christian Knutson. Chris is an expert in both engineering and leadership, with decades of experience in the military and as an entrepreneur. He's the author of www.engineerleader.com, an excellent read for anyone who reads this blog.] Enter Christian: Whether you like it or not, every thing in your life is changing. The projects you’re working are changing – perhaps progressing or falling behind. Your feelings about the work you’re engaged in changes, sometimes daily. Your mind, body… OK…...read more