Category Archives: Business

Chris has talked before about how engineers tend to think highly of people in “value-add” professions. At least as perceived by engineers, if you are contributing something useful, that contribution is respected. But perception of value is a very tricky thing – two people in very different fields may both be doing work that is important, but neither one may appreciate the other. I’ve been considering value from another angle – instead of looking at how much you are adding with your skills, what happens if you look at how hard your skills are to take advantage of? Recently I watched a situation unfold where two people involved in a project – one an engineer, one a businessman – had a falling out and canceled the project they were working on together. Often it is just as instructive about people and their character and values to observe what happens when things go…

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A couple days ago, a headline in my IEEE Job Site newsletter caught my attention: How a Personal Blog Can Boost Your Career.  (Being a blogger, things like that do catch my eye.)  The article mentioned several ways in which a blog can help you, a couple of which I believe are more relevant for engineers than others. Let’s start with where I disagree with the post.  I am not sure that I buy into the whole “personal brand” idea, but I also take issue with one of the final comments: that your blog probably isn’t going to replace your resume.  The first is a matter of opinion, and in engineering, I’m going to guess that more manager-types are going to be interested in results and not your marketing je nes sais quoi.  (I could very well be wrong on this, however, which is why I’m an engineer and not…

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As a general rule, I never thought my job responsibilities as an engineer would include HR duties. Admin duties, yes – engineers are not exempt from Excel data entry, scheduling, and organizing forms with pink sticky notes. (I do love my pink sticky notes.) And management duties, yes – many engineers work in teams and need to know how to motivate, collaborate, delegate, and generally navigate in leadership settings. But the thought of hiring folks, paying salaries, crafting policy – that just scares me. What the HR department does deals directly with issues that get to the heart of human emotion – money, titles, benefits, and scope of power. Eesh. No wonder it scares me… Fluxor has recently moved to a job that requires hiring folks, and Cherish and FrauTech have both written about being on the interviewing side of the hiring process. So far I’ve never had to hire…

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Recently, there has been a significant amount of rhetoric by President Obama on how we need to re-establish manufacturing in the United States. This topic was front-and-center in the State of the Union speech in January. Additionally, President Obama has been touring the country, speaking at universities, businesses, campaign stops, and fundraisers about how we can boost our economy by emphasizing manufacturing. The President, thankfully, has backed this initiative with a serious amount of funding. Much of the following information is paraphrased from Manufacturing.Gov, the website detailing the National Network for Manufacturing Innovation. In a nutshell, the government is looking to fund up to 15 Institutes for Manufacturing Innovation in the next year backed by up to $1 Billion in funding. The pilot institute, with a focus on Additive Manufacturing, will be funded using FY2012 funds, meaning it will be awarded before the end of September. These Institutes will primarily…

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As we continue on our theme week, I thought I had a slightly different perspective on the business spectrum. While I won’t be writing about my current situation, I have in the past worked for companies that have been on the downward trend. But more to the point, I have worked for companies as a sustaining engineer (keeping old product alive) and through a recession. I think both of these put me in the red area of the spectrum, though the business I worked for did not ultimately shut down. Regardless, I think this situation causes some interesting changes in how I and my colleagues acted as engineers. I’ll cover the the sustaining engineering and the recession separately, though there will be similarities between the two. Sustaining Engineering Sustaining engineering is not always fun. For those who have never heard of it, it’s the engineering based around keeping a product…

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I am seriously jealous of my male engineering colleagues: it’s so easy for them to pick out clothing, and they never have to worry that someone will assume they aren’t an engineer because of their attire.  I have decided that it is time for a serious wardrobe upgrade, and I am struggling to figure out what kind of clothes I can and should wear. For years, I’ve been quite happy wearing jeans, sneakers and tshirts or sweaters depending on the weather.  This is perfectly acceptable where I work, as there really is no dress code.  Unfortunately, this more often than not has left people believing I’m a grad student, or more often, an undergrad…because that’s how a lot of them dress. When I’ve tried to upgrade to wearing more professional clothes, I am assumed to be a secretary, except when I went to a conference recently.  At the conference, I…

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In this post, I’ll talk a little bit about what it was like procuring parts at my old job, a mid-sized R&D lab. (Or maybe I should say an R&D lab working on a number of aerospace projects and particularly concerned with part traceability). To my childlike eyes, it was a strange sort of magic. I’ll try to elaborate.  You see, as a mechanical engineer, I like concrete, tangible, physical things. The process of going to a store, giving someone money, and getting something in return makes sense to me. There’s been a fair exchange of goods. The procurement process at work, however, seemed like voodoo in comparison. The way procurement would work at my old job was that I would fill out a piece of paper with a list of the parts I wanted (yes, paper! although at some point we switch to an electronic version of the paper, which…

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Sophi Kravitz is an electrical engineer who enjoys being somewhere near the bottom of the learning curve. Currently, she is pursuing RF engineering, analog engineering and building art based on RF signals. She lives in a workshop containing a kitchen and living room with her husband. I have to say: Frautech’s recent post about Double Speak resonated with me. Nearly two years ago, I moved into a Sales Engineering role out of Design Engineering. Exhilarating, fun, challenging and creative, being a Design Engineer is fulfilling on an emotional level. Making money for the company which can provide a sense of importance, Sales is fulfilling on an egotistical level. My function is to maximize sales for my company by helping engineers and scientists to choose the right product (ours, naturally) for their application. The thermal control products that I sell aren’t very complex, but there are distinct competitors which use other technologies…

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Editors note: I (Chris) gave up my usual weekend slot to Seb because he had an intriguing article about a touchy and recurring subject within the field of engineering. This post will discuss working in the defense industry (possibly on deadly weapons), a topic which we know can set off some emotions. We’d love to hear your opinion in the comments section, but we won’t hesitate to squash any hateful or unduly harsh words. Engineer Blogs has maintained civil discourse and we hope to continue doing so. Enjoy Seb’s article! One think leads to another, as they say. This particular though journey started whilst I was drafting my post about the SULSA 3D printed aircraft. The process of writing about the subject gave me pause. I had to stop staring at the keyboard as I did my usual hunt-and-peck routine; I gazed thoughtfully out the window at the forest hills around Heidelberg. A memory…

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The US supreme court recently struck a blow to biological and pharmaceutical industries.  They shot down a patent (and probably several others that use similar technology) on measuring a metabolite as a diagnostic procedure.  In other words, even if someone came up with the idea to measure a particular naturally generated substance as a way to diagnose an illness or dose a medication, it’s not patentable. The article in the Chronicle of Higher Education states: Patent claims that merely describe natural phenomena are not patent-eligible, the court said, and the diagnostic procedure outlined in the patents at stake in the case “adds nothing to the laws of nature that is not already present when the steps are considered separately.” It makes sense why this would be problematic in medicine, a field that is facing rising costs.  If tests require patents to be administered, this significantly increases the cost and means…

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