On Skellig: Why I Started my Company

Skellig was started in 2010 with a very simple idea: try to take care of engineers.

I always wanted to start and grow a company. I spotted my opportunity to begin when I saw how some fellow engineers and myself felt like we weren’t empowered to help solve engineering problems. Instead, we were expected to fall in line, do what we were told, and not to ask questions about why things are the way they are. “Be thankful to have a job” seemed to be the maxim.

I remember reading the following quote from Howard Schultz before I read his book, Onward

“You can’t expect your employees to exceed the expectations of your customers if you don’t exceed your employee’s expectation of management.” -Howard Schultz

I don’t think we’ve cracked the code and done everything well in the eyes of everyone. However, coming back to that quote years later, what I have learned is >don’t try to be all things to all people. Figure out who you are and what you stand for.

The best you can do is to explain your vision for the future. Be as honest as you can about it. This is the best way to let people who might be better off in another company make that choice for themselves. More importantly, it’s the only way to cement a team around a common goal.

I have big plans for Skellig. I want to see it empower engineers to be the best professionals they can be. My role as leader is to build them a stage to perform on.

In any venture find the right people who believe what you believe. Then figure out how to exceed their expectations. Onward!

Oops: Making Mistakes as Engineers

We all make mistakes. As engineers, failure as part of the design and development process is OK and should be encouraged.

Good testing catches issues. I’m referring to the type of failure that comes from trying to do things better. Never ever be afraid to try to improve the way something works.  EVER!

As engineers, its OK to make mistakes. Its great to make mistakes. That means you are learning. It means you are growing. It means some decisions are getting made.

As engineers on a new design project, make choices. Do your best.

There is nothing as useless as a group waffling on decisions. That makes real failure.

Real failure that ends up hurting someone is terrible. In our industry, real failure usually happens when there is apathy on design decisions. Lack of caring in doing things right.

Think through your design. Test it thoroughly. CARE deeply about what you do. CARE deeply that you’ve thought through every scenario.

Massive engineering failures like a plane crash or a bridge collapse usually result from multiple points of failure and neglect. Not from someone testing something new in the spirit of improvement.

DON’T be afraid to make mistakes.

What Makes a Great Engineer?

Engineers are a smart bunch, right? I’m an engineer, but I’d definitely consider myself not even close when it comes to the abilities of some of the people I’ve gotten to work with. I truly admire them and their ability. 

The best engineers, in my opinion, are first and foremost good people.

They help educate those around them.

These women and men try to shoulder more than their fair share of the burden.

Great engineers bring their experience to bear by asking razor sharp questions that get to the heart of the issue.

They know what questions to ask because they have vision.

They don’t make silly assumptions.

These individuals are willing to follow their curiosity to find a better answer.

Great engineers don’t blindly follow existing industry dogmas unchallenged.

They don’t accept poor ways of working without trying to change them or offering an alternative method. 

They don’t leave their ideas undeclared.