Episode 137 — Late Summer

In an episode that was recorded in early October, Adam, Carmen, and Jeff reflect on their summer activities, and on plans for the remaining months of 2017.

  • Carmen spent a lot of his summer traveling, both domestically and internationally.
  • Although he spends a good deal of time dealing with marketing people, Carmen claims that he’s not gone over to the “dark side.”
  • Entering his second year of full-time employment with a Midwestern university, Jeff finds his time is frequently relegated to administrative duties.
  • We learn that Carmen is an advocate of xeriscaping, a landscaping style that seeks to reduce the need for irrigation. Jeff, on the other hand, is a fan of letting native weeds influence his landscaping efforts.
  • For over a century, a tree has been growing atop the roof of the Decatur County Courthouse in Greensburg, Indiana.
  • Adam has been quite busy at work, as the legislature in his state decided to allocate additional monies for road construction.
  • In his rare free moments, Adam has been constructing a deck for his house.
  • Jeff suggests that engineering projects are “messy” due to their complexity, as well as the uncertainty of creating new methods, processes and products.
  • Many engineering projects involve complex sales, in which the sale of a good or service involves many steps and requires the approval of multiple individuals.
  • Mention is made of Dr. James Trevelyan, who made guest appearances on Episode 19 and Episode 68 of The Engineering Commons.
  • Jeff inquires if Adam manages his professional projects proactively, or “by exception.”
  • Engineers are often asked to deal with “edge cases,” claims Jeff, rather than “middle-of-the-road” issues.
  • Somehow the conversation devolves into a discussion of plowing roads with vertical loops (loop-de-loops).
  • Jeff, Carmen, and Adam take turns talking about seasonality in the engineering profession.
  • Carmen recently appeared on the podcast Embedded.fm, in an episode titled Bavarian Folk Metal. One of Embedded’s co-hosts, Elecia White, previously appeared on Episode 77 of The Engineering Commons.

Thanks to Kenny Louie for use of the photo titled “It’s fall, really.” Opening music by John Trimble, and concluding theme by Paul Stevenson.

Episode 136 — Circle of Competence

Adam, Brian, Carmen, and Jeff consider the boundaries of one’s own competence in this episode of The Engineering Commons.

Thanks to Ghost of Kuji for providing the photo titled “event horizon.” Opening music by John Trimble, and concluding theme by Paul Stevenson.

Episode 135 — Target Audience

In this episode of The Engineering Commons, the gang discusses tailoring a presentation to meet the needs and interests of your intended audience.

  • Adam’s favorite form of communication is an old-fashioned face-to-face conversation.
  • The data throughput of smoke signals is a bit too slow for Carmen’s needs.
  • Jeff suggests flag semaphore as an alternative means of communication.
  • When Carmen suggests that engineering involves “blowing stuff up in the lab,” Jeff and Adam insist on additional details.
  • The group sarcastically agrees that PowerPoint is the answer for solving all communication problems.
  • Brian notes the difficulties of trying to dig into technical issues when the audience is a mixture of technical experts and non-technical stakeholders.
  • A discussion ensues concerning why engineers end up in meetings, and the communication objective of various meeting types.
  • Adam pounces when Carmen utters the phrase “controlling the narrative.”
  • Dwight’s Speech” (YouTube) from the US television show “The Office” is referenced by Brian.
  • Brian points out that, in an effort to be honest and transparent, engineers tend to highlight the limits of their knowledge when dealing with non-engineering colleagues.
  • An article titled “Consider Your Audience” is mentioned by Carmen.
  • Carmen also references an article with presentation tips for engineers.
  • It’s important to present information in a manner that is easy for the audience to follow, rather in rigid chronological order, notes Jeff.
  • An intentionally bad PowerPoint presentation (from the University of Wisconsin) is mentioned by Carmen.
  • A possible middle ground between minimalist presentations and fully-detailed reports are the concept of Slidedocs.

Thanks to Forgemind ArchiMedia for providing the photo titled “2013-0703 北科大建築營建築講座 – 楊恩達主講 21.” Opening music by John Trimble, and concluding theme by Paul Stevenson.

Practical insights for the engineering crowd