Do You Prefer To Work On Projects On Your Own?

Do You Prefer To Work On Projects On Your Own?

I don’t!

I know I’m not the most stereotypical engineer out there. I’m social (somewhat). I’m talkative (on my radio show at least). I don’t wear a pocket protector (sometimes). I haven’t whispered sweet nothings to my calculator (lately). But this whole idea of working on your own? Without being able to bounce ideas off of friends and c0-workers? Holy hell! That’s a nightmare!

I recently started consulting for electronics work. It’s always outside the scope of my day-job (and sanctioned by my company) but still involves being an analog electrical engineer. The people/companies that need work done though often need one engineer, not an entire department! So the struggle I face, and one that many before me have likely also faced, is that of solitude!

“But Chris! I thought engineers loved solitude!”

Well, a lot of us do. I mean, I do too. But not when going over a design problem over and over and over. When you think about it, it makes sense. People from my generation have been brought up working in teams, learning to share and chatting about problems. Honestly, I wouldn’t have it any other way. But what am I supposed to do when I’m under contract to not share secrets or design details with anyone else (besides blog about it while frustrated)? The nature of the job is to work alone and yet the best work would be done with multiple inputs (though, in my opinion, not too many).

There’s growing evidence that two person teams are the optimal number for creativity as well. That recent Slate article highlighted the Lennon/McCartney duo but also gave good links to other research and creative teams. Even in the technological world, it seems to fit: Woz/Jobs (Apple), Allen/Gates (Microsoft), Wildar/Talbert (Fairchild Semi working on the first op amp).

So what to do?

  1. Hire some co-workers.
  2. Speak anonymously about issues you’re having.
  3. Speak generally about issues you’re having (on forums like Electronics and Robotics Stack Exchange)
  4. Deal with it and do your research.

I don’t have an answer because I am still struggling with this issue. I’m not planning on speaking anonymously, though I may do any of the other three. Just remember to cherish your co-workers, as they are a great resource. Once you start doing work on your own, you’ll realize just how helpful they are.

5 comments

Hey if you need someone to hire (for free) to look over the problem that “your friend” is having, I know a guy who might be able to help…. 😀

I think you need a engineering business partner, one that will share part of the workload. This will allow you to take on larger contracts and have a co-worker to talk to at the same time.

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