Emotional Intelligence

Skellig Blog Humans Tool Builders

Warren Buffett the multi billionaire investor says he looks for 3 things when hiring.  These are integrity, intelligence, and energy.

“Somebody once said that in looking for people to hire, you look for three qualities: integrity, intelligence, and energy. And if you don’t have the first, the other two will kill you. You think about it; it’s true. If you hire somebody without [integrity], you really want them to be dumb and lazy.” –Warren Buffett


I like this quote a lot.  However, I believe that the most important quality to look for when hiring is emotional intelligence.  It’s basically your ability to manage your emotions and it’s a measure of your ability to manage interpersonal interactions.


As an engineer, I believe the study of emotional intelligence is going to have the biggest impact on our ability to successfully communicate ideas.  Our work isn’t about packing boxes or moving heavy objects, it’s knowledge work.  Most of us are collaborating and working with others to design something.  This kind of work requires emotional labor.  That’s the effort of having difficult conversations, figuring out the right thing to do, bringing people together, or producing ideas that challenge conventional thinking.


IQ might get you your job, but EQ or emotional intelligence will have the biggest impact on how successful you are in that line of work.  A big IQ is great when you’re at school and a good IQ almost directly translates to good grades.  After school when we join the workforce it has less impact on our success.  At work, its more meaningful if you are self-aware, if you can stay motivated, and if you conduct yourself well inter-personally.  It’s more meaningful to be able to read other people and know how to get along with others.


An easy way to improve emotional intelligence is to try listening to others more intently.  As Steven Covey says, “seek first to understand, then be understood”.


I think it’s an important topic to be aware of.  Warren Buffett’s business partner Charlie Munger said, “Other people are trying to be smart, all I’m trying to be is non-idiotic.”  It takes more than IQ, EQ is the other piece.


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!