Try building something new… But remember to persevere

Building something new or improving something for the greater good is hard.
There is always the gravity of dogma. Things are the way they are for good reason.
As engineers, we use existing systems and knowledge everyday. Sometimes we use existing systems and knowledge to build better systems and knowledge.
As a collective, we make progress always. Every system and tool you use as an engineer was thought up by an engineer like you. It was probably a twist on an existing system or a new way of combining something’s.
Every system can be improved.
Every methodology is up for examination. There is always a better way to do things.

Look at how you do what you do and notice all the things that could be better. Try to ask the right questions that get to the heart of what the ideal outcome looks like… Start then with the end in mind.
Once you identify an idea you could be passionate about, get to work immediately on bringing it into reality.
You most likely are not going to solve something big this week, this month or maybe even this year. Your idea might be ugly early on and have more holes than Swiss cheese. You need to keep at it though. Pick something that needs to be improved and don’t stop until you make it better. Champion something. Improve something. As the saying goes, many saw the apple fall, only Newton asked why.
Think about these quotes from the perspective that these were statements made by super successful people, while looking in the rear view mirror at their own massive success.

I’m convinced that about half of what separates successful entrepreneurs from the non-successful ones is pure perseverance

Steve Jobs

Energy and persistence conquer all things.” -Benjamin Franklin

There’s a way to do it better – find it.

Thomas Edison

The present is theirs; the future, for which I really worked, is mine.”
Nikola Tesla

Gender equality in the workplace

Skellig Blog Creativity

It’s remarkable in 2019 that something as fundamental as gender equality at work is still a thing.  We need to work harder to be more inclusive.  It’s good business to have diverse opinions and perspectives woven into the DNA of a company and the teams within.  Yet, few of us really know how to practially do anything about this. The shift, like anything, begins with awareness of the issue.  While few remain in the modern workplace that would argue we don’t need to consciously be more inclusive, its useful to take stock of progress so far.  Consider the following depressing quote;

“The World Economic Forum predicts that the gender gap – measured in health, education, economic opportunity and political empowerment – won’t close until 2186. That’s 167 years from now. In the same time span, humankind went from the steam engine to Cassini’s trip to Saturn, and from carrier pigeons to the Internet. I’d like to think that we could achieve universal gender equality much faster than that.” – Richard Brandson

Diversity sounds to some like a nice to have. 

The vibe in our workplaces is often ‘Once we get this project done we can focus on nice shit like diversity and inclusion, but until then…’

In a technology driven creative field such as engineering, I firmly believe it’s a competitive BUSINESS advantage to have a diverse team of men and women. 

Better yet, men and women from diverse backgrounds. 

Better again, men and women from diverse backgrounds and a diverse age group.

Business and especially engineering is so boring when we make decisions because “that’s how we have always done it around here”.  It’s also so much less effective. Leaders typically feel more comfortable surrounding themselves with people who think like them… That usually means people from the same background and gender. This is a basic human survival mechanism. People from the same background will think like you, talk like you, protect you as their own.  From a leader’s perspective, it makes sense to have people to validate your opinion. It’s also easier in the short term to get everyone rowing in the same direction.

This might even be a good move for the individual leader in terms of their career longevity at the top.

However, it’s not typically going to be a good decision for the company or team as a whole in the long term.

What are we all supposed to do about it?

All we can do as individuals is try to reach out to colleagues and potential colleagues who are not like us.  Next time you are waiting for that meeting to start, choose someone different to make small talk with.  Make people feel more welcome. 

(If you take away one thing from this post please make it this) Consciously consider who’s ideas you are listening to, and who’s you aren’t.

The biggest challenges need multiple perspectives.

I would argue that diverse teams are more likely to constantly reexamine facts and remain objective.

I would argue that diverse teams encourage greater scrutiny of each other’s actions.

I would argue that members of diverse teams are more aware of their own biases and their own entrenched ways of thinking.

I would argue that you will see better performance overall from teams that have a diverse member group.

Diversity is good for the engineering design process.  Diversity is good business.  Proceed accordingly!

Henry Ford on Experts

Henry Ford, who founded the Ford Motor Company, had a lot of cool stuff to say. This quote, like a few others, has stuck with me.It is profound and has changed how I think when someone describes themselves as an expert.

“None of our men are ‘experts.’ We have most unfortunately found it necessary to get rid of a man as soon as he thinks himself an expert because no one ever considers himself expert if he really knows his job. A man who knows a job sees so much more to be done than he has done, that he is always pressing forward and never gives up an instant of thought to how good and how efficient he is. Thinking always ahead, thinking always of trying to do more, brings a state of mind in which nothing is impossible. The moment one gets into the ‘expert’ state of mind a great number of things become impossible.”

I’ve found this to be often true. I’ve come across some very smart people who learn something well and then get stuck in their ways. They fail to evolve or leave themselves closed to new and potentially better ways of doing things.

There’s a difference between an actual expert, who’s no talk, and a hack, who’s all talk.

It’s the person who shows up to a project, solution in hand! They are the hammer and every project is a nail. This expert thinking usually results in missed opportunities to make something better. it also results in missed opportunities to improve their own craft.

We as engineers are particularly susceptible to this. Beware of hubris.

Have confidence in your ability to add value but don’t forget to keep learning.