Episode 100 — Interdisciplinary Skills

train100Founding co-host Chris Gammell returns to The Engineering Commons to talk about the importance of interdisciplinary skills with Adam, Carmen and Jeff.

  • Knowledge of heat transfer is useful in circuit design, acknowledges Carmen.
  • As part of a required engineering class, sixteen Harvard students designed a smoker for cooking the “perfect” beef brisket.
  • Chris’ educational site, Contextual Electronics, is preparing to start its third year of operation.
  • To avoid software versioning problems, the Contextual Electronics team uses Vagrant, a software program that automates the creation and configuration of virtual development environments.
  • Chris continues his work with SupplyFrame to develop parts.io, an online electronics search engine.
  • Networking through meetups (like the group Chris founded in Cleveland) is important for maintaining industry contacts and staying abreast of technical trends.
  • As the proud owner of a new Wilson II 3D printer, Chris is developing some new technical skills. He hopes to use the printer for enclosure design and fixturing.
  • Jeff theorizes that ongoing reductions in engineering staff, along with automation of specialized tasks, is forcing many engineers into develop a greater range of interdisciplinary skills.
  • The rate of business formation has been declining in the US over the past decade; Chris notes he has nonetheless seen an increasing number of small engineering firms.
  • Foreseeing economic downturns in his first job, Chris actively developed new skills to improve his employability in other technical fields.
  • Being a worry wart, Jeff wonders if advances in artificial intelligence will relegate engineers to providing technical guidance, rather than implementing technology directly.
  • Adam notes a nearly mandatory requirement for professional engineering (PE) licenses has led to an “apprenticeship” arrangement in civil engineering.
  • Carmen recalls Jeff Keyzer’s description of “T-shaped” employees during a past episode of The Amp Hour, which is also described in the Valve new employee handbook (pdf).
  • Having a support group can be a great advantage in trying to learn new skills, notes Chris.
  • Chris comments on the importance of sharing engineering stories, as is done on The Amp Hour, Spark Gap, and Embedded podcasts, as well as The Engineering Commons.
  • Our guest can be found on Twitter as @Chris_Gammell.

Thanks to vxla for use of the photo titled “IC 100 at Chicago Union Station.” Opening music by John Trimble, and concluding theme music by Paul Stevenson.

One thought on “Episode 100 — Interdisciplinary Skills”

  1. Great episode this week gentleman.

    Working in the field of fire protection engineering and find I am constantly using interdisciplinary skills. The field of fire protection engineering includes; electrical engineering (fire alarm and notification systems), mechanical engineering (HVAC, water pipes and plumbing), civil/structural engineering (fire barriers and fire resistance structural members) and combustion engineering (fire phenomena).

    In addition I find myself working more and more with data scientists as the field is recognizing and incorporating “smart” systems.

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