Author Archives: Duane Grob

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How we learn….

In a recent project kick-off meeting, I explained to our client how our team would discover his process operations and then adapt our code standards and methods to his specific application. With a straight face and a deep stare, he replied, “I don’t want to pay for your learning curve, too.”
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Your Cube, Your Space

There was a time when I thought a productive employee needed an office where they could shut the door and work away in distraction-free silence. However, while silence is precious and clearly needed at times, there is a lot to be said for the open cubicle office environment. Immediate collaboration is an obvious advantage. The ability to easily open a dialog with a nearby co-worker can be very attractive. However, there are rules and boundaries associated with cube space that we should understand before walking into or shouting over a coworker’s cubicle walls.
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Music: The Engineer’s Tool

Whether you play an instrument or just value the joy of listening to a Beethoven symphony, you are using your brain to help solve a problem: creating an environment that provides a heightened state of enjoyment. This state can take the form of relaxation, excitement, passion, or simply rabid agitation. All music is enjoyment to someone, somewhere!
Engineering may be your chosen career, but it can also be your subconscious means of satisfying your personal need for this enjoyment. Music and math have always had a direct connection, but this engineering connection is more cerebral and at times does not seem to have a specific design. Hence you mentally create the tool and the design begins to take shape in the mood or state of mind you wish to achieve. Studies have shown that while in this state of mind, creative juices are flowing (see “The Power of Music” by Elena Mannes).
Technically, the means of creating or admiring a set of mathematically tuned pressure waves can be easily seen as an engineering marvel, but I am talking about the use of your mind to create this tool called music appreciation. We all have it. Yes, even that curmudgeon in the next cubicle. Listen closely and you may hear him humming “I am Woman, Hear Me Roar.”
And how many of your coworkers are just now sitting at their desks with earbuds in place, bobbing their heads in spastic rhythmic patterns? They’re not listening to the latest YouTube Kitty vid. Well, not most of them, anyway.
Take a moment, use your brain and create that magical place. After all, you are an engineer!

Standards and Projects: Separate but Connected

Has a client ever told you, “We would like to develop our standards while executing this project?” This statement is usually followed by the assertion that the project timeline will not change, and that improved standards will in fact speed the project toward its deadline.
Nothing could be further from the truth. Projects have an installation target date, while standards development requires many levels of discussion, agreement and buy-in. The standards development team is then challenged to meet their timeline for definitions and sample code.
It’s true that once standards are developed, an efficient path toward a project due date can be developed utilizing these standards. However, when you mix the two, the standards become less defined and more subject to changes while the concentration of development efforts eventually are pulled into the race to complete the project on time.
Astute technical managers realize the two worlds are very connected, but at the same time must be managed differently. Standards development should be separated from the project itself; then all parties can decide if the project deadline will be determined upon standards approvals, or if the project can proceed without full standards.
Trying to manage standards and projects simultaneously can lead to murky standards and a rushed project. But you’re too sharp to let that happen to you, aren’t you?