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Unwritten Laws of Engineering

This is a nice article that talks about some must-have characteristics for engineers. One crucial observation is that:

W. J. King, observed that the chief obstacles to the success of engineers are of a personal and administrative rather than a technical nature. King, a wartime engineer with General Electric and later a UCLA engineering professor, conceded that he and his associates were getting into much more trouble by violating the undocumented laws of professional conduct than by violating the well-documented laws of science.

That said, some nuggets follow:

Many young engineers feel that the minor chores of a technical project are beneath their dignity and unworthy of their college training. They expect to prove their worth in some major, vital enterprise. Actually, the spirit and effectiveness with which you tackle your first humble tasks will likely be carefully watched and may affect your entire career….ut by and large, if you perform your present job well, the future will take care of itself. It is also true that if you do not make a good showing on your present job, you are not likely to be given a chance to try something else more to your liking.

Demonstrate the ability to get things done. This quality is achieved by various means under different circumstances, but it can probably be reduced to a combination of three basic characteristics: Initiative, which is expressed in energy to start something and aggressiveness to keep it moving. Resourcefulness and ingenuity, or the faculty for finding ways to accomplish the desired result. Persistence or tenacity, which is the disposition to persevere in spite of difficulties, discouragement, or indifference.

Too many new employees seem to think their job is to do what they are told. Of course there are times when it is wise and prudent to keep silent, but as a rule, it pays to express your point of view whenever you can contribute something. The quiet, timorous individual who says nothing is usually credited with having nothing to say.

Other nuggets, briefly are:

• Use serious, but normal, conversational language: avoid long convoluted sentences.

• Be precise: avoid fuzzy, ambiguous, or inexact statements.

• Be concise: get to the point promptly.

• Be explicit: avoid figures of speech and euphemisms.

• Use formal language: avoid colloquialisms, slang, inappropriate abbreviations, contractions, jargon, and exclamations.

• Get the emphasis right: structure ideas in sentences, lists, and paragraphs to convey not just the information, but also the relative importance of the ideas.

• Report results honestly and objectively.

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