Tag Archives: expectations

Episode 139 — Estimation

Adam, Brian, Carmen, and Jeff discuss the importance of accurately estimating time and budget as a practicing engineer.

  • Brian frequently makes estimates as part of his professional duties.
  • Detrimental effects of our anchoring bias are noted by Jeff.
  • We reference lecture notes from Francine Warner of Kennesaw State University in this episode.
  • In making estimates, one has to remember that people don’t like negative surprises. Thus, it is important to manage expectations.
  • Carmen reminds us to quickly and clearly share work-related problems with managers and co-workers.
  • It’s easier to sort out problems face-to-face than doing so via email, says Jeff.
  • Even though life’s events may break for us, as well as against us, Brian notes we always notice headwinds, but rarely appreciate an assisting tailwind.
  • Collecting opinions from multiple team members (with relevant experience) can help identify inaccurate estimates.
  • Estimates can be generated with a top down methodology, in which the cost and scope of project details are approximated from past experience.
  • When a bottom up methodology is used, estimates are generated from a close examination of many project details.
  • If a sufficient number of topic experts are available, another means for producing an estimate is the Delphi method.
  • Back in 2006, Jeff Atwood wrote a series of blog posts titled “How Good an Estimator Are You?”
  • Brian suggests our optimism bias allows us to undertake difficult projects.
  • Samsung made some inaccurate estimates of battery performance for their Galaxy Note 7 phone, recalls Jeff.
  • Several corporations have made rather bad business decisions.
  • Previously discussed in Episode 47, we mention Donald Rumsfeld’s Unknown Unknowns.
  • Jeff describes the problems of “feature creep,” which was also discussed in Episode 109.

Thanks to Robert Couse-Baker for use of the photo titled “summer maths.” Opening music by John Trimble, and concluding theme by Paul Stevenson.

Episode 83 — Career Planning

propellerWe talk with aeronautical engineer Patrick Riordan about the challenges of developing and navigating a career road map, Archimedes’ lever, and the Star Trek method for being perceived as a miracle worker.

  • Although he’s enjoyed his career, Jeff isn’t ready to claim that he’s changed the world in any meaningful manner.
  • Jeff points out that it is rare for business, personal, financial, self-esteem, and societal interests to simultaneously align.
  • The E-Myth, a book by Michael E. Gerber, highlights the difficulty of starting a business as a technical “doer,” as the process of “doing” conflicts with the overarching goal of growing a business.
  • Our guest for this episode is aeronautical engineer Patrick Riordan, a lead engineer for Liftoff Engineering Services, located in Melbourne, Florida.
  • About ninety-three percent of engineering degree graduates started in an engineering program, where as only fifty percent of social science degree holders started their academic career in that particular major.
  • Only about one in three engineering graduates works as an engineer (although many have moved on to managerial or non-engineering technical positions).
  • According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are approximately 83,000 aeronautical engineers currently employed in the United States.
  • A Designated Engineering Representative (DER) is an engineer who may interpret and approve technical data in coordination with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).
  • The FAA has implemented a newer Organization Designation Authorization (ODA) program to certify engineers who may approve repairs, alterations and airworthiness.
  • Patrick notes that modern aircraft design delegates limited, component-level responsibilities to a large number of engineers, each of whom is responsible for a small portion of the overall flight system.
  • Jeff notes that during the course of our employment with a given firm, we have to balance our expectations of personal growth, a healthy work/life balance, reliable benefits and increasing compensation against the employer’s expectation that we will aid them in becoming more profitable.
  • We discuss the Star Trek method for managing your boss’s expectations: under-promise and over-deliver.
  • Jeff admits his patience with engineers working for him was frequently tested when he became a departmental manager.
  • Employees increasingly expect that their career advancement will be self-directed.
  • It’s easy to get discouraged when comparing your professional work to the “highlight reel” of engineering accomplishments one finds on the internet, according to Jeff.
  • Patrick mentions a YouTube video showing quadcopters capable of tossing and catching an inverted pendulum.
  • Jeff suggests engineers be specific about the relative importance they attach to career factors such as money, power, prestige, confidence, authority, leadership, wisdom, insight, respect, experience, and technical ability.
  • Our guest notes that analysis skills are more valued in industries where prototyping is difficult or dangerous, while tinkering skills find greater favor in fields where prototypes are more easily produced.
  • Average lifespans of S&P 500 companies are rapidly decreasing, with experts predicting that more than three-quarters of the S&P 500 in 2020 will be companies we’ve not heard of yet.
  • Two-thirds of college students believe they’re going to “change the world.”
  • Young people in their twenties want to be promoted every year or two, with more than 40% of them expecting to be in a management position within two years.
  • Listeners can reach Patrick via email: patrick -=+ at +=- liftoffengineering dot com.

Thanks to Dave Nakayama for use of the image titled “rotate.” Podcast theme music by Paul Stevenson.