Social Distancing

The COVID-19 pandemic is no laughing matter, and we're taking it very seriously - as we all should.  But in the midst of the resulting stress and worry, some of our engineers have been unable to resist making wise cracks about our social distancing policy, like"It's an engineer's dream!" or "What's the big deal?  I've been doing this my whole life."  We can take the current pandemic very seriously, but it's still okay to laugh a little.  Smile and be safe.

Your Call is Very Important to Us

"I just love your automated phone answering system!", said no one ever.

Long menus that don't have an option that matches your problem, put on hold forever, being asked for the same information over and over, and dropped calls before you ever speak to an actual human...everyone hates them.

I know - businesses use it to save money.  But unless people have no other option, I wonder how many frustrated, angry, lost potential customers it takes to more than pay for the cost of a receptionist.

...the Revised Program

Good design requires the right people to do it, along with adequate time and budget.  A low-budget or rush design may still "work", but all too often problems during construction, change orders, and delays can make the final cost of the project many times greater than any up-front savings in design fee.

I've seen many well-intentioned but misguided souls willing to invest millions in their project, who believe they're saving money by skimping on the design phase.  It's a lesson that usually only has to be learned once - the hard way - but eventually everyone discovers that the bitterness of poor design remains long after the sweetness of low price is forgotten.

Work, Work, Work and Sacrifice Now...

Ah, retirement!  That magical time of life when you can finally kick back and do everything you've always wanted to do. Your lifetime of hard work and sacrifice have paid off, except... you or your spouse are too frail, too unhealthy, opportunities have passed, the ship has sailed.

Many might live to regret that they haven't prepared enough for their golden years, but far worse is to have squandered life preoccupied with making a living while missing out on actually living.  No one on their deathbed ever wishes they had focused more on work.  What they regret is that they worked too much, let fear keep them from going after what they really wanted, or worried too much about what others think.

It's a difficult balancing act, but when in doubt I recommend the advice of the late actor Michael Landon who died from pancreatic cancer at age 54: "Whatever you want to do, do it now.  There are only so many tomorrows."

The Needles Are Gone - It's Perfect!

Just another typical trip to pick out the perfect Christmas tree.  I learned long ago to leave this job to my wife.

There are endless jokes online mocking the quirks of us humble engineers.  But in our defense, we can't help it - it's how we're wired.  When we walk into a building, you'll see us admiring the roof structure, not the decor.  We don't see a glass as half empty - it's just twice as large as it needs to be. 

Then there's the story about the engineer who was admiring another engineer's new bike.  "Where did you get it?" he asked.  The other engineer replied, "I was just sitting there minding my own business when this woman rode up, threw down the bike, took off her clothes, and said, 'take what you want'".  The first engineer nodded in approval. "Good choice!," he said, "The clothes probably wouldn't have fit."

If You Work Hard, Then One Day...

This boss seems to recognize that his success is a direct result of the hard work of his team.  What he doesn't understand is that his team members' hard work needs to be recognized - and rewarded.  The best companies I know create an environment where their people feel energized and valued.  Pay, benefits, profit sharing, and perks are important, but so is recognition and appreciation, freedom, trust, and opportunities for growth.  If these elements are missing, the best people will leave.

To paraphrase the famous quote by Richard Branson, if you put your people first, they'll take care of your clients and your business and make you successful.

Your Plan Wasn't Aggressive Enough!

Some people just can't be pleased. I say, that's their problem, not yours.  This guy seems like the type that appreciates nothing and complains about everything.  If you base your happiness him and his actions, you'll never be happy.  Don't leave your happiness in his hands.

If you want to be the best, then aim high, conquer your fear, be bold.  In the words of Theodore Roosevelt:  "It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly,…"

Built It Anyway...

I know that sometimes it really is easier to ask forgiveness than permission, but it can also come back to bite you.  In the case of building without a permit and hoping to ask forgiveness later, it's not uncommon for people to spend many times more to correct an un-permitted project once they get caught than it would have cost them had they just gotten a permit from the start.

The Boss Told Me To Have A Good Day...

Probably the same guy who's not even out of bed yet and already he can't wait to get home from work tomorrow.  He's been written up for being late five times in one week and says, "Great!  That means it's Friday."  He thinks, "Work never killed anyone, but why take the chance?"  Chances are, he won't get far in life.

The idea that if you do what you love, you'll never work a day in your life is mostly true, but I love (most of) what I do and yet, many days still feel a lot like work.  I'm fine with that, because it's also true that opportunity is dressed in overalls and looks like work.

I Used to Be Indecisive...

The road of life is paved with flat squirrels who couldn't make a decision.  On some projects, it's the design schedule that's "squished" by the inability of the owner to make a critical decision - regardless of when the owner finally makes up their mind so the design can move forward, the submittal deadline doesn't change.

...seems like I should write more, but I can't decide what.

Artificial Intelligence

Experts say AI will change the world more than anything in history - including replacing about half of current jobs.  Those jobs predicted to be "safe" require the qualities that make us uniquely human such as social intelligence.

Hmmmmmm.  High IQ but low social intelligence...  Should we engineers be worried?

This cartoon kinda reminds me of the line by Detective Spooner (Will Smith) in the movie I, Robot: "You're the dumbest smart person I have ever met in my life!"  Just about every group of friends has someone like this guy.  If you don't think there's one in your group, it's probably you! 

Just a Quick 15-Minute Project

A wise man once said, "All's well that ends." - it's just that some projects never seem to end. 

This reminds me of the time when I was a young engineer, I would sometimes be summoned to the senior engineer's office for a "really quick project I need you to do".  "This shouldn't take you more than a few minutes," he'd say.  Those projects almost always took a lot more than a few minutes - sometimes many hours - and I'd often do much of the work on my own time since I didn't want to appear to be a slacker.  Finally, I'd set the completed project on the senior engineer's desk (and enter just a few minutes for the project on my time sheet).  I eventually came to realize that this was more of a genius ploy to either make sure I worked quickly or to get free labor, I'm not sure which.  In either case, it worked!