Career Development Plan

About 12 years into my career, I felt my trajectory plateau. I was an E4 doing the job of an E5, and sometimes an E6.  On one project, I held the same responsibilities as a Fellow and a department manager. Not only was I doing the job of higher salary grades, I felt I had an equivalent, if not greater, skillset in some aspects.

Taking on higher level responsibilities is how you prove you are ready to jump to the next level – a move that reasonably should take a couple of years. But as a couple of years stretched into three and four, I became unhappy and frustrated.

It was not an issue of salary. Nor was it about wanting an office instead of a cubicle. It wasn’t even about recognition. Instead, the crux of my restlessness was the aimless direction of my career.

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PowerPoint Engineering: Laser Pointer Discipline

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This week, I attended a mechanical engineering symposium, the purpose of which was knowledge sharing across business units and groups. A lot of valuable information was presented, which I may discuss in future posts, but there is one takeaway I want to share now:

Don’t swing your laser pointer!!!!

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Interview Tip: Ask Questions

As I think back on the many interviews in which I’ve participated, there is one action that has set interviewees apart in my view. It wasn’t showcasing an accomplishment or maintaining good posture or smiling – though those are important. It was asking questions.

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Use a Daily Information Log to Reduce Learning Curve of New Programs

onenote_logoI recently assumed a new position at work: Integrated Product Team Lead (IPTL) for a production program. Being an IPTL is not foreign to me. I’ve done it before, so I’m familiar with the toolbox and expectations, but without exaggeration, this is the first time in 16 years a new position overwhelmed me.

As I said, I have IPTL experience so it’s not the job I’m overwhelmed by. It’s the hardware involved. It’s a different subsystem than what I typically work. I know where it fits in the system and its basic functions. Beyond that, the technical details and challenges are over my head.

Obviously, I was hesitant to accept the position, but the program office and other personnel know me, or at least know of my reputation, and told me of their confidence in me, and added me to meeting invites and the org chart before I formally accepted. That confidence, however, did not alleviate the initial onslaught of data overload.

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The Work-Life Balance Fallacy

The work-life programs that corporate leaders celebrate are a farce. They’re feel good concepts pushed in an attempt to raise moral and show they care about their employees’ health and families. Of course, your company wants you to be healthy, but only so you don’t miss work.  In reality, their work-life programs are just for show.
Additionally, the work-life balance is a myth unto itself, at least in its most used definition. After all, work is an integral part of your life, thus I believe it’s foolhardy to think of it as a separate entity. So let’s talk about what’s really behind the theory and why it became popular corporate jargon. Continue reading

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Peer Reviews: A Disappearing Tool

Very often, I am tasked with assessing a team’s requirement verification plan – essentially determining whether or not they have the necessary artifacts to show compliance to each requirement. This involves reviewing drawings, analysis, test data, and inspection reports.

In the most recent review, I quickly noticed discrepancies between drawings. Fortunately, none would cause the hardware not to work, but these kinds of discrepancies are still indicative of sloppy engineering. More concerning, if I found mistakes after just a few minutes, there’s a good chance more existed. And what bothered me most is these errors should have been caught during the drawing’s peer reviews.

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Interview Tips: Ask the Right Questions

As I think back on the many interviews in which I’ve participated, both in person and on the phone, there is one action taken by a few interviewees that set them apart. It wasn’t showcasing an accomplishment or maintaining good posture or smiling – though those are important. It was asking questions.
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The 3D Printing Bubble is NOT Bursting

Recently on LinkedIn, a question posted in the 3D printing entrepreneur group asked if the 3D printing bubble is bursting. While I thought the question was jumping the gun, the ensuing discussion had a range of diverse opinions.  Here is the comment I posted:

I think what’s being shown is 3D printing gimmick items like dice, paperweights, toys, etc is not a sustainable business model. However, the model that will be sustainable is 3D printing precision components, and the technology to do so is just now becoming readily available. As an example, material and printing processes are reaching the point where parts with internal passages can withstand high pressures, and other components can withstand high temperatures.

The future of 3D printing is in utility and practicality, and less so in chotchkies.

Because comment threads are not the easiest of forums to conduct a detailed analysis, I’d like expand on my comment now. Continue reading

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Lessons Learned for Attending Conferences

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Figure 1: APEC  2016 held in Long Beach, CA.

The 2016 Applied Power Electronics Conference (APEC 2016) was recently held in Long Beach, CA, and I had the opportunity to attend.  At a week long, the conference covered the full gamut of topics; electric vehicle power trains, semiconductors, smart grids, power converters, power controllers, modeling and simulation, renewable energy, transformers, you name it.

Being a mechanical engineer specializing in power electronics packaging, my interest was naturally drawn to the 3D Power Packaging industry session.  The seven presentations covered additive manufacturing (3D printing), embedding components in circuit cards, and component cooling just to name a few.  As expected, I found a couple to be extremely applicable to my work, a few to be interesting but not usable, and a couple to be very meh.

I also spent several hours walking the exhibition floor, networking with suppliers.  Of particular interest were laminated bus bar suppliers, high power capacitors, and custom magnetics assemblers – items that need to progress in order to optimize the size weight and power (SWaP) of my designs.

All in all, it was a successful week, and I really enjoyed the conference.  I left with a lot of technical information, and many lessons learned for improving my next conference experience, which I will share with you now. Continue reading

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JSTARS: Another Competition Contract

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Figure 1: An E-8C, the current JSTARS platform.  Photo taken from airforce-technology.com

According to DefenseNews and other sources, the US Air Force has awarded both Northrop Grumman (NG) and Raytheon contracts to compete to be the sole source supplier for the new generation of the Joint Surveillance and Target Attack Radar System (JSTARS). The fixed price contracts are worth  $60 million for Raytheon and $70 million for NG. Continue reading

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