Category Archives: Workplace

We’ve all heard of the “Freshman 15” which refers to the average 15 pounds a college freshman puts on when away from home for the first time. Finally on your own and free to eat unlimited quantities whatever you want, possibly on a college “unlimited” meal plan. There’s also a lot of change happening at this time in life with a new home, no more high school and new people. All of this stress can trigger overeating. The Freshman 15 is similar to the “Office 25”, which is a term that I just made up, but refers to an average 25 pounds that an office worker will put on in a sedentary job. Sedentary, like engineering. There is no typical engineering job; some are in factories, some are on assembly lines, some have excessive travel and some are in front of a computer. But as a generalization, I think it…

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A very happy fourth of July to my American friends, colleagues, and readers. On this most patriotic of patriotic days in the US of A, I am going to write a very patriotic-themed post on … Canada. The reason is simple. Tomorrow, I will leave this hockey-loving, maple-syrup-drinking, igloo-dwelling nation for one that produces no hockey, no maple syrup, and no igloos. Living and working in China will of course be very different than living and working in suburbia Canadiana. But more than lifestyle and cultural changes, a question that has come up in my mind is whether I should be working for “the enemy” at all. After all, China is seen by many in the West as their primary adversary on the international stage. One that sells cheap crappy goods. One that sells unsafe toys. One that unfairly manipulates its currency to maintain an economic advantage. And one that…

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An offhand comment about paper writing on Twitter this morning led to an interesting conversation about what different fields consider typical. This brought to mind part of what Miss Outlier was talking about in her post on thought leadership, namely the different expectations she encounters. Every environment has a certain set of rules you’re expected to follow, many of which may not be initially obvious. Academia vs industry is a conversation that comes up semi-regularly here, since we have writers on both side of the fence. In academia, or at least in graduate school, it’s not uncommon to go months without a hard deadline. I don’t think my husband has gone more than a week without a firm deadline since he started his current job. On the other hand, he’s expected to work certain hours, whereas my hours are fairly unregulated. Norms can also be very specific to a small…

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I was talking to my brother-in-law about salaries the other day. He mentioned he knew some police officers in the area that had base salaries in the $70-80K range. With the regular overtime they got policing public events like carnivals and sporting events (rough gig!), their salaries went into the six-figure range. Aside from the shock I had at my decision not to be a police officer, I caught myself wondering: How much do I think that job is really worth? Part of me thinks that the police should be paid well. They are protecting people and that’s an important thing. It’s an odd situation too, because we are in a relatively safe area. Should cops in the safer areas get paid well because they continue to keep us safe? Or should they be paid less because the area is already safe? (And for those wondering: yes, this is a suburb and…

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Most companies, large and small, recognize that they need to constantly develop new products or revisions to existing products to stay ahead of the herd. Ideas for new products come from multiple departments: Sales, Engineering, Marketing and occasionally the people who manufacture the product might speak up too. Sales and Engineering generally butt heads during new product development, especially in the concept phase. Sales goes and talks to customers and brings back highly optimist views of what will sell. This might be based on a compilation of many customers, or it might be based on one customer, or it might be based on something that someone dreams up and thinks it is a good idea. Because it’s Sales, this department always has a say and will get their New Product Idea heard. It is Engineering’s job to tell Sales how long it will take and how much it will cost to…

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My wife grew up on a farm in Northwest Ohio. In fact, that’s where I am right now, writing this post. It’s a serene place. No sounds of the highway, lots of room for my dogs to run around, lots of fields and woods to explore and a laid back lifestyle. Though I grew up in the suburbs and I still enjoy the city (had a great time in SF a few weekends ago), I always enjoy my time in the country. It’s a relaxing experience and I recommend it to everyone. It got me wondering though. Is it possible to live in the remote areas of the US though and be a successful engineer? My wife has always enjoyed the country and stated her preference to move back a more “spread out” part of the US at some point. I’ve been thinking about it too, since I asked about moving anywhere for…

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I’ve been away from EngineerBlogs.org for a couple of weeks as I’ve been traveling. I finally made it out of China, and it was about time. I flew directly to a country that shall not be named, except to say she is the top exporter of crude oil to the United States. But I didn’t linger long in oil-country, just enough to take care of some personal business before heading off to my next stop, America the Beautiful and her Keystone State. For two straight nights, I had greasy burgers and fries for dinner and I must say, it felt pretty good. I’ve now returned to oil-country and will stay here a while before going back to China again. Despite my travels, one thing I continue to do is to interview candidates for our open analog IC design positions in China. I leave all the fancy questions, such as control theory,…

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A funny thing happens when you try and hire someone you know: they usually tell you more about their life than a potential employee would ever tell an employer. In the midst of talking to an acquaintance and trying to convince him to come work with me, we got talking about location. He did not currently live in the same city as me. He also divulged that he was considering a different job further away, just about as far away from where he lived as he could get (without leaving the country). We began discussing the merits of moving for a job and he stated it quite simply: For the right job, he would move just about anywhere. I, of course, immediately began probing him on worst case scenarios. What about completely barren areas or moving to a place that had very few resources (grocery, gasoline, etc)? What about if the weather…

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I’m not someone who is prone to nostalgia often. First off, I haven’t been an engineer that long, at least in comparison to many of my peers. Being the “new guy” (or gal) can really prevent being nolstalgic about the old days. However, I find I’m becoming more so when I try to hire people. Hunh? You see, I know a decent chunk of engineers who I’d love to hire. I know I’d like to hire them because I’ve seen their work, I’ve talked to them about electronics and I know that they know their stuff. I feel confident that whatever they don’t currently know, they would quickly go out and learn to the best of their ability and apply it to the situation I’ve placed them in. However, in reviewing their work and credentials, I see that there isn’t an undergraduate degree on their resume. FULL STOP. Is this…

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I love building things. I love working with my hands, I like using power tools, I like the physical making of STUFF. (Or the tearing apart of stuff, which is a lot of fun but perhaps less productive….) And by choosing to major in mechanical engineering, I thought I was giving myself the best shot I could to find a career where I can build stuff. And now I am looking around at what my friends from undergraduate university are doing, and none of them are building things. And if I look at what my friends from graduate school are doing, none of them are building things either. Part of this has to do with what you WANT to do. Of course if your interests lie more on the modeling/simulation side of mechanical engineering, or if you are more interested in leadership roles, or in management, or in design rather…

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