“Go directly to the seat of knowledge.” – Marcus Aurelius
Today we continue the conversation “Engineers Make a Difference” to celebrate the National Engineers Week. Our next topic is about mentorship and its role in long-term career success. Join the discussion and share your experiences!
How did the most successful people get to where they are today? Often times, we have this romantic image of a scrappy young person picking themselves up by their bootstraps and making their own way in the world. The fact of the matter is, most of these stories are greatly exaggerated. Sure, you could learn plenty on your own through books and your own practice, but that kind of unfocused, broad approach could take years and years before there is any pay off.
Why Have/Be A Mentor?
What the most successful practitioners of any field have in common is that they all had mentors. A mentor streamlines the learning process, giving you practical knowledge and ways of thinking that they have developed while they learned from their own mentors. Their knowledge becomes yours, and they can steer you away from unnecessary mistakes while giving you real-time feedback and advice on what you do.
In engineering, this dynamic and educational model may be more valuable than almost any other way of learning. Let’s face it, engineering is difficult and intimidating for a lot of young people. Many students don’t even know what it is that an engineer does and that turns them away from the field. This is a problem in a time where more and more talented, trained engineers are needed to meet the demand in growing fields such as healthcare, technology, military, etc.
Experienced engineers must take the helm and steer talented young students into these fields and give them the guidance they need to be successful. Some companies have already taken the lead on this front. Rogers Corporation, for example, is reinstating its program where high school students with an interest in engineering can go behind the scenes and shadow a Rogers engineer, getting valuable, up-close experience and insight that could never be gained in a classroom.
Another valuable resource is STEM Connector’s National Mentoring Month throughout January 2014. STEM Connector links students and their parents to organizations all around the country devoted to fostering interest and excellence in STEM fields.
The theme for this year’s Discover E is making a difference. Before students will have the desire to study such a challenging field, they have to know what it is they are striving for. More than the technical stuff, a mentor needs to show the student how their work can make a difference in the world and improve the lives of everyone in society. This motivation is the key to bringing up the next generation of engineers.
In honor of National Engineers Week, February 17-23, we teamed up with Pat Sweet, author of popular engineering career blog Engineering and Leadership to address key challenges facing engineers in leadership roles: the technical language barrier, setting and reaching team goals, and making the transformation from being a member of a team to a leader of a team. You can find more about these challenges in our guest blog on Pat’s website.
What are the best ways to handle these leadership challenges? Pat explores several solutions in the second part of this blog series, Innovative Leadership in Engineering:
Technical Language Barrier
This challenge is as common as it is frustrating for engineers. Do you ever feel like it’s impossible to get your idea across to non-technical folks? You’re not alone. I think it’s a natural thing to have this barrier, though.
Engineering is considered a profession. An integral part of any profession is that members of the profession have knowledge that isn’t common to most people. Engineers know all sorts about 2nd order derivatives, dielectric breakdown of materials, and how to use a strain gauge. Most other people don’t have that knowledge, which makes it all but impossible to speak the same language.
So, what’s an engineer to do? One of the best suggestions I ever heard was from a design professor I had in undergrad. He said that engineers should have the ability to use analogies to get their technical ideas across. If you can translate your technical ideas into common, colloquial language, you’ll be well on your way to jumping over the technical language barrier.
Another idea is to make it clear that if the person you’re communicating with doesn’t understand something you’re saying, that they can speak up. Giving someone permission to ask questions can be a powerful tool, and allows for much better transmission of ideas in the first place.
Setting and Reaching Team Goals
The ability to set and reach goals is critical to individual and team success. Would you ever set out for a road trip without a destination or a clue how to get there? Probably not. Projects are the same way – you need to know what things will look like once the project is complete, and you also need a plan of attack so that you can actually make it happen.
In setting goals, it’s important that they be SMART goals. SMART stands for specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and time-bound. If a goal isn’t all of these things, it’s just an idea – not a goal. Goals also need to be purpose-driven. If a goal isn’t in line with a company’s mission, or a team’s own sense of purpose, then it’s unlikely the team will buy into it to make it happen.
Attaining goals is much easier if they fit the SMART criteria and are purposeful. You also need to make sure to keep measuring progress against your goals. Every week or so, I find it helpful to look through your goals and to establish milestones for you progress toward these goals 6 days out, 6 weeks out, and 6 months out form now. Each time you make these projections, you should also look at where you thought you would be the last time you evaluated your goals.
The Member to Leader Transition
You may sometimes be thrust into a position where you are required to lead – even though that might be putting you outside you comfort zone. In these situations, it’s important to remember that you were probably put in this position because you’re the best person for the job. You have some special skills, knowledge, or talent that made you a great fit for this role. Let this expertise be your guide.
It’s also important to recall that you’re not alone – you have a whole team of talented people who can help you to make the decisions required of a leader. Sure, you have to make some final decisions, but you have the strength of many brilliant minds at your disposal. Use them!
No two engineers and no two leaders are alike. It’s critical that you use that to your advantage when you find yourself in a leadership position – whether it’s a formal role or not. People who believe in you as a person will be happy to follow you as an engineer and leader. Bearing that in mind, just be you, and you’ll be well on your way to becoming an excellent engineering leader.
Join Pat (@engileader) and @RogersCorpHR on Twitter for a live tweet chat about leadership and engineering, Friday February 22, 2013, at 2:00pm EST. Use hashtag #EngineerLeader to join in the conversation.
Vibration management needs to be considered in any engineering design. Applications that have effectively incorporated vibration management surround us every day, from buildings to rail cars. Even the mirrors on our cars have to pass a vibration test to ensure visual clarity at high speeds. Designs that neglect to properly address vibration often result in malfunctioning components and, in some cases, catastrophic failure.
But vibration management can be confusing. So we’re making it a bit easier for you with three solid and easy to follow white papers. Now vibration management really will be as easy as one, two, three.
Familiarize yourself with some of the necessary vocabulary in the world of vibration. From transmissibility to natural frequency, this white paper will bring you up to speed on everything you need to know to get started.
Natural frequency, also known as resonant frequency, is the specific frequency at which a material will naturally vibrate. If unaffected by outside forces, a material vibrating at natural frequency will vibrate forever; this is Newton’s first law of motion…When systems or structures are forced to vibrate at natural frequencies, the oscillations develop very large amplitudes of deflection. This results in excessive shaking, component wear, and, ultimately, failure of the structure or component.
We’ve spent a lot of time researching, studying, and sorting data in order to provide you with the best information available. This white paper will provide you with a solid foundation and, in the coming weeks, we’ll discuss two additional white papers that will help strengthen that foundation.
By Advanced Circuit Materials Division
Every year, February brings us a reason to celebrate: National Engineers Week. It’s the one week each year when we take a look at how engineering has changed the world we live in. This year’s theme is Seven billion people. Seven billion dreams. Seven billion chances for engineers to turn dreams into reality. When the world’s population does reach the 7,000,000,000 mark, it will be more important than ever to have engineers recognizing problems and finding answers.
Rogers Corporation has been providing solutions with high performance materials for 180 years. Throughout our history, Rogers has grown from a small paper manufacturing company into a worldwide leader in advanced materials thanks to our customers who use our products in a wide range of applications and solutions.
In honor of National Engineers Week, Rogers ACM asks you to share how you and your team have engineered solutions with Rogers by entering the ACM ROG Contest.
Log on to http://www.rogerscorp.com/acmcontest/ to enter and follow ROG on Twitter for news and updates at @Rogers_ACM.
This year, we’re celebrating what we have accomplished together. Happy National Engineers Week from everyone at Rogers Corporation!
By Human Resources Department
At Rogers, we know that to get a job done well, you need the right tools. The same can be said of our local school systems that require up-to-date technology and equipment to engage students of all ages.
This winter, the Rogers Community Network (RCN) team asked local school systems what resources they needed this year. With donations of $1,000 to four local school districts, students of all ages are getting much-needed tools and equipment for their classrooms.
The Killingly School District used its donation to purchase a digital projector for the high school and a digital camera for the preschool and prekindergarten students at the Goodyear School.
In Woodstock, the district used its donation to buy several high power microscopes for the local middle school. At Rogers, we recognize the value of STEM education and we were thrilled to see the donation go towards enlightening future scientists and engineers.
Putnam’s school district put its donation towards a new digital projector for the high school.
The Brooklyn School District touched upon another important value at Rogers: physical health and wellness. They used their donation to purchase new equipment for the district’s Physical Education Department.
The Rogers Community Network team is grateful for the opportunity to give back to our local communities and to help foster students’ love of learning.
If you have a suggestion for how Rogers can continue to help our local communities, please leave us a comment!