Sunday, March 21, 2010

Are Embedded System Engineers more adulterous than other Engineers? Webinar March 26 Soft Skills

You are undoubtedly asking why I would even ask such a question as "Are Embedded System Engineers more Adulterous than other Engineers?" right?
On the drive into the office the Talk Radio DJ brought up a survey done by the controversial dating website AshleyMadison.com. Apparently this dating site is intended for married people. That is just wrong on so many different levels.
What caught my attention was that "Engineer" was listed in the survey of people most likely to have an affair. Out in the vast wasteland of Government Pork there probably really is someone willing to fund a study to answer the question we posed above.
Normally when I hear such things on radio or Internet I do my best to find the original source of the information. In this case we know that the source is Ashley Madison. However to actually see the survey you must register with the site. "Honey, I only signed up to that site to do research for my software safety blog". No I don't think I'll go do that road, and instead point you to a secondary source: Who Cheats? Docs and Stay at Home Moms!; Ever wonder what professions top the list as the most guilty of infidelity? We were shocked by the answer!.
Some of the comments to the article are interesting in themselves:
"Yes, an engineer will pursue an affair so that the wife and the mistress will think he is with the other woman so he could sneak to the office to catch up on work."
"The president and founder of AshleyMadison.com Noel Biderman notes these top professions are often high stress and require many to work long hours."
Alas in this industry we do seem to work hours that are far to long, in high stress environments (If our products screw up people may die, how higher stress job can you get?), where Dilbert seems to be a documentary rather than a cartoon.
If we are not carefully we can lose the focus that our products are ultimately designed to be used, either directly or indirectly, by people. So being able to interact with people is important skill to have. Having a well developed set of Soft Skills helps to understand things like having to hold a gear shift lever in a position for three seconds makes sense in the cold sea of design cubicles, but makes no sense in the real world.
Just as a race car driver does not get into the race car to drive, he gets into the race car because he is driven. People in our field tend to be driven to the field, usually at an young age. We certainly did not get into it for the fame or the money.
In my personal experience the best designers that I have worked with over the years have shared one or more of these traits:
  • Apophenia; The experience of seeing patterns or connections in random or meaningless data.
  • Dsylexia; Interchange letters and numbers, leading to problems with spelling and mathematics.
  • Pareidolia; Finding of images or sounds in random stimuli.
  • Tend to be "Hands On" Tactile Learners.
To the last point our schooling systems tend to develop Auditory and Visual Learners well, while failing miserably with Tactile Learners. Try taking the Learning Style Inventory yourself, and have your children take it.
Also, at least in our early years, as a group we tend to fit the stereotypical image of Nerd: "A person who passionately pursues intellectual activities, esoteric knowledge, or other obscure interests that are age-inappropriate rather than engaging in more social or popular activities. Therefore, a nerd is often excluded from physical activity and considered a loner by peers, or will tend to associate with like-minded people".
Speaking strictly for myself the movie Revenge of the Nerds was a documentary of my public school experience, and made be become an advocate for Home Schooling, and self-teaching.
We may be driven to this field by the seeming cold hard logic of it, and our fears of social interactions. Alas this is counter productive to designing products for use by people.
In the Soft Skill development area are couple books my wife has added to my pile of reading material:
While I've added these to her pile:
both published by Earth Pulse Press.
Do not be so quick to dismiss those titles last two titles in our discussion of Soft Skills. Having a well developed intuition is a good skill to have while debugging, and when trying to divine missing requirements, from incomplete information we are usually given to design products. The traits of Apophenia, Dsylexia, Pareidolia usually seen as a problem in general society can also be a significant strength in troubleshooting.
Also as a bit is aside, the area of "Anomalous Human Potential" is one of those new areas of Embedded System design that is virtual unknown outside of deep military circles. If you want to see how deep the rabbit hole goes, start here: The Mind Has No Firewall by Timothy L. Thomas. From Parameters, Spring 1998, pp. 84-92, US Army War College.
What do you recomended for developing Soft Skills? Perhaps a good Webinar (Ironic isn't it)?
The Pittsburgh Section of the American Society for Quality has started a series of Lunchtime Webinars.
Fitting in with our theme of Soft Skills is the one coming up March 26, 2010, 12pm-1pm (Eastern Standard Time), Getting Things Done as a Quality Professional presented By: Brien Palmer, Principal InterLINK Management Consulting.
Do you find yourself frustrated as a Quality professional? Do you find it difficult to get management hear your ideas? Then plan on spending lunch hour of March 26th in an immensely valuable webinar.
Most of us are very skilled in the analytical areas of logic, use of data, formal problem-solving processes, statistics, and so forth. We are trained in these areas, we use them constantly, and we are inclined by temperament to think of them as the only way of thinking. However, this way of thinking -this temperament- represents only a small part of the general population, and other people can consider us a bit odd.
In fact, we analytical types often lack what can be called "complimentary" skills, such as people skills, communication skills, assertion, presentation skills, political acumen, business knowledge, ability to managing change, etc. Because Quality professionals often lack these skills, we can get marginalized in organizations. Ideas get lost, management goes un-convinced, Quality takes a back seat, companies get in trouble, and so forth.
This cycle can be frustrating, but it doesn't have to be inevitable. In fact, analytical people are fast learners when they set their minds to it. When analytical people focus on non-analytic skills, they experience vast improvements in personal and organizational effectiveness.
This program will introduce Quality professionals to some immediately-applicable complimentary skills.
Cost: Participant pays $25 for voice-over-the-internet (VOIP) webinar presentation. Invite your company for Pizza Friday at no additional charge! Need speakers on computer to hear Presenter and speakerphone to ask a question to the Presenter, otherwise the chat function can be used.
To Register: Call 412-261-4300, upon payment participant will be registered for the webinar. If you have any problems with registering, please contact Robin Dudash.
Re-Certification Units (RU): Gain 0.1 RU under the Professional Development category.
Speaker Bio:
Brien Palmer is a management is a management consultant specializing in leadership development and quality management systems. In twenty-five years as a consultant, he has served a broad spectrum of clients, from large, internationally known companies such as Commonwealth Edison and Ontario Hydro to smaller, family-owned businesses. He has produced significant business results in a wide range of business settings, including high technology, manufacturing, public utilities, financial services, construction, and non-profit organizations.
Brien is a senior partner in InterLINK Management Consulting, a small, Pittsburgh-based consultancy (www.InterLINKbusiness.com).
Brien serves on the Board of Directors of the American Society of Quality (ASQ). He is an ASQ Certified Quality Auditor, and has written many articles for Quality Progress magazine. He is the author of one of a Quality Press' best-selling books: Making Change Work-Practical Tools for Overcoming Human Resistance to Change. He also created ASQ's first internet-based "virtual seminar", which is still in production: The Case for Quality: Taking it to Management.