Tag Archives: practice

Episode 15 — Talent

Are engineers born or made? In this episode, Chris and Jeff discuss how engineers acquire their talents.

  • A top-notch engineer is skilled in both the theoretical and practical realms. So how are these talents acquired?
  • Exposure to engineering operations seems to be an important component in creating an outstanding engineer.
  • In this episode, we reference Daniel Coyle’s book, The Talent Code.
  • Mr. Coyle suggests that world-class skills can be acquired through substantial deep-practice, continued passion, and knowledgeable coaching.
  • Practice causes additional insulation, called myelin, to form around neural pathways, allowing neural signals to pass more quickly and with greater strength.
  • Deep practice consists of focused concentration and repetition of a particular skill that is not yet refined. Such sessions are said to be mentally and physically exhausting.
  • Several books reference 10,000 hours of deep practice being required to become a first-class practitioner. This “rule” is based on a paper titled, “The Role of Deliberate Practice in the Acquisition of Expert Performance,” by Dr. K. Anders Ericsson.
  • Repeated practice is difficult for engineers, as they are often asked to carry out new tasks that have little in common with prior assignments.
  • Deliberate practice requires problems to be “chunked up” into understandable blocks of content that can be internalized.
  • Processes need to be slowed down, and frequently repeated, for solid learning to occur.
  • Jeri Ellsworth taught herself electronics by trying tons of things, and accepting that failures will occur.
  • People who have to “grind” on a solution often understand the problem better than those who get a solution on the first attempt.
  • Engineers often rely on their own passions to drive educational and career advancement.
  • Typical career paths take engineers away from technical operations just about the time that they reach the 10,000 hour mark.
  • Apprenticeships were often used in the past to convey skills from one generation to the next. Chris makes the case for reviving engineering apprenticeships.
  • Great teachers have outstanding task-specific knowledge.
  • Good instructors are frequently gifted with a strong theory of mind, and can perceive a student’s difficulties.
  • Honest feedback from mentors is needed for improved performance, and must be provided in a timely manner.

Thanks to Bjornmeansbear for the rocket photo, titled “It’s not Rocket Surgery.” Podcast theme music provided by Paul Stevenson