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What Engineers Do Not Learn

2013/09/07

The presentation bellow popped up in my stream thanks to @flowchainsensei:

The Missing Basics: What Engineers Don't Learn and Why They Don't Learn It from iFoundry

The title is clearly inspired by the book What Engineers Know and How They Know It (it even stars in slide 21). Goldberg presents 7 basics that most have trouble dealing with. I have to say that reading those 7 slides scored home. My instant thoughts after every slide follow:

  1. Inability to ask: which reminded me of ESR’s “How to ask questions the smart way“.
  2. Inability to label: Terminology is a problem. So many times we see that the same word means different things to different people. As Goldberg says, we’re linguistically naive and this is a problem.
  3. Inability to model: Which reminded me of George Box’s “All models are wrong but some are useful”. All to often we take the (ill devised) model as the reality and expect the real life situation to behave as the model.
  4. Inability to decompose: Which reminded me of stuff that I am reading at the first chapter of “An introduction to General Systems Thinking“.
  5. Inability to measure: I’ll leave it without comment. I’ve had two measuring courses at NTUA. I returned to them after graduating. Thanks to a not so inspiring professor I realised the importance of measurement only after bosses asked about numbers.
  6. Inability to draw / visualise: I can’t say really much there. I dump my thoughts on paper always, but for years I was not. And I think the very first time I thought about that was when reading “Time Management for System Administrators“. But honestly the first thing I thought about when reading this slide was “Why a Diagram is (Sometimes) Worth Ten Thousand Words“.
  7. Inability to communicate: So what do you prefer? Write a report for upper management on a project done or work on the next cool project?.

For the finale I keep Goldberg’s remark that:

Companies do not pay $8500 for plugging in Newton’s Laws.

That is because when I was complaining to a TA that we are not actually learning anything that has to do with the work we’ll be doing “outside” he countered me with:

– “But you know Math. The others”, meaning those coming from a technical education background, “do not”.

Yeah, right but you know what? You still can be able to solve equations and not be able to model the problem properly. And that is the problem with most of the Math that we have been taught.

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