Thursday, November 24, 2005

Get professional in your attitude

I am writing this in response to facing the brunt of purely childish emotional behavior by certain class of people whom I have worked with. No matter how talented, skilled and capable you might be, but if you have a bad attitude, are insecure professionally and lack confidence, you are a misfit wherever you work. You will always be disgruntled and untrusting of your colleagues, thinking that the next guy you meet is going to take you for a ride. I believe that as professionals, we have to deal with situations impassionedly and rationally. These are some of my tips for being a good professional:
1. Believe in yourself, be confident and be hungry to learn. Get involved in your work to widen your horizon.
2. Everyday, do an honest days work. Get connected to the overall vision/goal of the company and follow through with actions. Don't vile away your time...There's lots to do, just go do it.
3. For you to make a significant contribution in any sphere, and also for you to gain something worthwhile from this engagement, you need to spend substantial amount of time in the company. I feel that 2.5 to 3 years is a bare minimum. If you retire from the company, that's great.
4. Trust the company you work in or else quit. Don't hold resentment within yourself towards the management or hold feelings of being cheated or short-changed of opportunities or start indulging in politics like forming them v/s us groups. If such feelings arise, discuss with your manager candidly and sort them out. After that if discomfort still persists, it is better to leave. By continuing, you are creating more harm than good to yourself and to your company.
5. If you must leave, do it with grace and dignity. (If you are leaving for better opportunity, it's perfectly all right. Be forthright about that, rather than hide behind some farce of blaming the company for non-issues just to avoid feeling guilty. I feel that you don't have to feel guilty if you have adhered to points 1 and 2 in spirit.) Complete all unfinished work, discuss with the manager a suitable leaving date so that you don't leave in a lurch (we've had people who come in the middle of a product release and desire to leave that very day with no concern about their commitment to completing the job) and leave behind your contact details in case you are needed in future for some help. Also remember that this globally connected world is getting smaller, with technology enabling easier and wider communication (e.g. this blog to share my thoughts), good as well as bad references can make or break your career.
6. Stay in touch, since you never know when you may need to ask for some help/references from old contacts.
Wish you all the best.

Friday, November 18, 2005

Engineering is simplicity

In a very old Hindi movie, I had once come across a scene in which a textile machine in a plant breaks down, bringing the whole plant to a halt. Unless the service engineer for the machine from the company comes in, there will be no production. Enter the unemployed hero (engineer who is not getting a job…in olden times unemployment was a big issue) who offers to fix it. The boss gives the go ahead and observes that the hero hammers a certain portion of the machine, gets it running and asks for Rs. 100 (big money in olden times). The boss was furious, saying that it is unjustified to ask for so much money for just hammering the machine once. The hero justifies saying that Re. 1 for the hammer blow and Rs. 99 for knowing where to strike.

Of course this story has been oft repeated in textbooks with different characters and situations but all point to the same basic thinking of what engineering is all about. Minimum effort = maximum output. Our job as engineers involves

  1. Continuously improving and simplifying the production system to deliver top quality products with minimum effort, minimum waste and a fast response.
  2. Present simple & accurate interfaces for the end user to use the product to minimize the learning curve, increase the adoption rate and reduce operator errors.
  3. Simplify the serviceability of the product to ensure quick turn around for customer support.

Any of the above mentioned items could take years to achieve and 1 or all of them can easily become the source of competitive advantage for the company (in today’s time I think we need all 3 in place to even survive)

I believe that any problem that you face will have multiple alternative solutions and in your process of choosing the solution to be worked on, please put simplicity of the solution on a high score. A simple element has fewer connections, less deviations, is cohesive and is simply easier to produce, use and maintain.