Category Archives: Workplace

This week’s theme on Engineer Blogs relates to networking and finding jobs.  I have both worked in the Real World™ as well as being a grad student and an engineer in an academic research group. My experience getting jobs before I returned to school in my mid-twenties was almost bi-polar.  People didn’t go so much on recommendations, and most of the jobs I applied for were in the paper.  (Yes, back before the internet became the world’s largest classified ad.)  I was living in southern California at the time, so that meant, of course, that I had a hard time getting jobs because I was usually competing against several hundred applicants.  I had an easy time getting jobs that I didn’t want and that didn’t pay well, but it was very difficult to find jobs I actually enjoyed.  The low spot was spending a year working as a secretary at…

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Last week I had my first ever technical interview in my field. I was told ahead of time to bring “all my textbooks” and a paper and pencil. For better or for worse, the interview was to be on the phone. Since most of my core engineering class books are boxed up in the storage room behind the garage I lovingly refer to as spidersville I grabbed my Fundamentals of Engineering Exam reference book instead feeling this would have many of the basic equations. I tried to prepare beforehand by looking stuff up but found there’s not a lot of information online for mechanical engineers and technical interviews. So I figured the least I could do was keep notes about what I was asked and post it here later to give somebody else the heads up. Though I suppose this is the point where some pre-internet engineer whines about how…

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Professional Engineers Ontario (PEO), of which I’m a license-holding member, publishes a bi-monthly magazine called Engineering Dimensions. In the September/October 2010 issue, a letter to the magazine caught my attention. Since online access to the magazine is restricted to members, I’ll quote the reader’s feedback in its entirety below: -President Seems to Support Discrimination- I read with surprise and disappointment our newly elected president’s avowed intention of supporting the concept of sexual discrimination (“Women in leadership,” Engineering Dimensions, July/August 2010, p. 3). However, her suggestion that our profession should support sexual or any other type of discrimination greatly concerned me. This is antithetical to our long and proud history of objectivity, neutrality and fairness. In fact, it calls into question our claim to professional status. Her first sentence–”At a time when women represent only 10 per cent of all professional engineers in Canada, there is a ray of light in…

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During the course of selling your soul for pieces of silver, there may come a time when the powers that be request that you sell out just a little more of yourself. Yes, they give you underlings. Soon, you will discover that all the skill and pride that you’ve carefully nurtured over the past many years will vanish in mere months. Where once you took pride in your ingenious cleverness, now you take care of babysitting disgruntled ex-peers who look upon you as an obstacle to their inventive genius. The complex computer modeling of the nano-world is replaced by Gantt charts and bar graphs. You start attending meetings, lots of them. Meetings with the boss. Meetings with your peers. Meetings with underlings. Food starts to taste funny; the flatulent co-worker seems to smell less; staring at the sun directly is no longer a problem; underling complaints seem to sound like…

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There’s been a great discussion going around Engineer Blogs this week about how we all got into engineering. Cherish asks What did I get myself into? as she discusses getting hooked into EE in a graduate school program. Fluxor asks Uh…What’s Engineering? describing wanting to work on something big and being good with math and science. Our new guest blogger, Paul Clarke, outlines his Baby Steps into Engineering which describe to me the more typical path of taking things apart as a child and then getting into engineering hobby work later. And lastly the brilliant Chris Gammel tells us Physics Caused the Sparks and how an interest in physics helped get him into engineering. It’s nice for me to see that not every engineer’s path is an obvious and linear one, and my own path is no exception. I have always known what I wanted to be “when I grow…

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One of the certainties in the working world is the expectation of your work getting criticized. In engineering I think this plays a crucial role. You actually want criticism to make a better product and a better design. People asking questions and suggesting alternatives or pointing in problems in your test plan is what makes the best end result. One engineer who I respect tremendously told me a story about bringing on a new employee who’d had prior experience at another shop. When the new employee was told about our products he had nothing but positive things to say. He looked forward to working there and seemed incredibly optimistic about the whole thing. And this put my engineer friend off. He was concerned that an engineer who didn’t question his surroundings or wasn’t ready to bring in his own alternate point of view was not a good engineer. So I…

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Back when Engineer Blogs was still just a young and innocent babe, waiting for loving hands to write upon its empty pages of life that still lay before it, I put down a few words regarding Transistor Interview Questions. A gracious reader named Phil was kind enough to pen his thoughts in the comment section, even going so far, and humbled am I that he did, to ask for advice not only regarding interviewing tips, but also, I presume, an open-ended general appeal of counsel for, as he describes himself, “an aspiring analog designer”. I promised Phil that I shall in a future time write another post responding to his entreaties; that time has come. Let me tackle the first of the two inquiries — interviewing tips — not because it is easy, but because it is hard, thus necessarily bounding the size of this post with my limited wisdom.…

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Yesterday was what I would consider bitterly cold on the high plains.  The actual air temperature was around -15°F.  I have no idea what the windchill was: I don’t bother checking because it’s usually bad and only makes me feel worse.  Despite that, I tucked my lab notebook under my arm along with a mess of paperwork and trekked to the part of campus (i.e. the next building over, which is a long way in the cold) that deals with intellectual property issues. Those of you who read my blog may remember me talking about some easy funding I got for an idea.  The idea involved developing a special widget, and my supervisor thought it was an *ahem* novel idea.  He was hoping the widget might be patentable.  Granted, I may not be Hedy Lamarr, who patented the secret communication device below, but one can always hope that all this excess…

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How do you write your best reports? The hardest part for me is getting started. Back when I was a humanities student I had a post-it note system of organization. Rather than starting with a written outline, I’d go through the document and attach stickies wherever there was a point I wanted to analyze. Then I’d just go back through, cite it or paraphrase with a footnote, and write my analysis on the spot. Now it’s a bit harder for me to do this fly by night method. It helps to start with a template I think which can serve as a rough outline, but it doesn’t actually capture the main points you might want to hit. I generally have a really good idea of the overall objective and less of a good idea about how to get the reader through all the logical steps to get there. Often I…

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…or is it? Back when I was in university, when I was naive and skinny, when fresh hopes and dreams still sprouted from my fountain of cluelessness, when nubile bodies walked the same halls, I was unfortunate enough to have signed on to electrical engineering where the ratio of nubile bodies to geeky guys was 0.017 (not a made up number). It was also a time when the high tech industry was riding a humongous crest upwards. The first web browser was just released. Everyone was talking about media convergence and the new brave digital world. Upon graduation, my classmates went left and right into digital design. For me, I enrolled in a masters program researching … analog design. My sanity was questioned by family. My friends wondered if I will be one of those taxi-driving master degree engineers not unlike the fate of so many new immigrants. Many moons…

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