Stress

Many times I am asked how I handle stress. I find that in a typical blue collar job where you can use stress to push yourself more physically that stress can be used as a tool to push yourself. However, (much like how the below youtube finds differences in white and blue collar jobs) I too often find in a highly detail oriented job, such as engineering, trying to use stress to push yourself or a project to go faster can do more harm then good.

For example, when working on the ConXL Test Frame, I was trying to get it done as quickly as possible, since it was handed to me already overdue. So I slapped things together as quickly as possible, and got it done in about a week, but then I spent 3 weeks troubleshooting its startup. At some point down the line I re-made the Test Frame system, and while it took me 2 weeks to put together instead of 1, the startup troubleshooting was nearly non-existant, and later when problems arose I was able to more easily locate and fix them.

So while it's the hardest thing to do when you're under the gun and everyone wants it done yesterday, I've learned to use stress to determine my priorities, but not to rush through a project that demands the time and attention to get the details right the first time.

Follow up question for you:

How does your organization ensure that getting something done right in 2 weeks will be recognized more by management then someone getting it done in 1 week with follow up issues?

Deadlines

So, if I don't use stress to push a project to go faster, how do I manage to meet deadlines? While it's impossible to get something done on time when it's handed to you overdue, I do get the important things done as soon as possible, but still right the first time. And building on the above example, if I had taken the slow steady path the first time, it may have taken longer to get it together, but it would've been working sooner, which is ultimately what management wants.

Follow up question for you:

How does your organization determine deadlines? Based on wants, or based on how many resources a similar project needed?

Time Management

Many times I find people are so busy fighting today's fires that they miss an opportunity to prevent tomorrow's fires. Granted, there is no way to prevent 100% of your fires. And there will be times where you need to play the role of firefighter. However, when this is the rule rather then the exception, then there is something wrong with the way you're managing your time, or buisness.

Of course for this attitude to be effective, management needs to recognize those who keep things running smoothly over those who appear to be a hero when a fire is put out.

Follow up question for you:

How does your organization look at an employee's performance? Is it by looking at hard numbers of their output, or by how you "feel" they did?

Motivation

Many times I am asked about what motivates me. The below youtube video hits the nail on the head regarding why I work as an engineer.