•September 29, 2011 • Leave a Comment

Well, I’m a married man now. It’s a very exciting time in my life, and I’m happy to say that things have gotten better since the wedding day. But they haven’t gotten easier.

 

Anyway, enough about wedding talk. Today I’d like to share with you a thought that’s an extension of my “gaining recognition through your work” post. Many people I know have a difficult time meeting new people and finding their niche in a new group. This is especially important when you get a new job, when a new semester begins, or when your relationship progresses into a more personal mode, and you need to fit in with his/her friends and/or family.

 

I’d like to begin this with my core belief in social matters. Specifics are not important.

Let me repeat that.

Specifics are NOT important.

 

There is a right way and a wrong way to approach a potential meeting, which ironically matches with analyzing a failed meeting. Generally, the wrong perspective on each is on a microscopic level, where each word, look, action, and article of clothing is scrutinized. Conversely, the right perspective on each is a systematic process, where the symbols and suggestions are more important than specifics. We’ll look into each of these approaches, and then discuss some overlap area.

 

Men tend to understand the physical side of this: looks can be quite varied, as long as they suggest good personal care. When a woman walks in the room who has taken care of herself, she is instantly noticed by the men and women around her. This responsive behavior plays a key role on the introduction process for both sexes: dressing well when meeting a significant other’s parents can go for miles. They will not remember what color shirt you wore or if your shoes matched your hair color, but they will remember the sense of responsibility that comes from a commitment to being well groomed. Regardless of the situation, a system of making each part of your appearance match the desired role is key to fitting in when meeting new people.

 

Women, on the other hand, tend to have better control over the actions in a meeting. Subconsciously, women seem to snap into this mode where they get, well, kinda silly. It’s really strange to think about from a man’s perspective, but you may have noticed this when your female friend (or sister) switches from quiet and reserved to loud and expressive when new people are present. And it’s not like they have the same one-liner or catch-phrase that attracts people to them. Some men who are very good at this are listed as confidence; while confidence is not a measurable (or even directly observable) trait, the ability to react to a situation rather than try to directly control a situation generates that desire that draw other people to you.

 

With that idea of reacting to a situation in mind, there is a slight overlap with the right and wrong methods that I have come to appreciate. There’s an old saying when it comes to presentations: “If there’s an elephant in the room, introduce it.” The key idea present in this gem of a statement is to comment or otherwise bring light to any strange occurrence that is happening. The goal is to have a systematic response to any issue on a level that specifies the situation. For example, I had a presentation once where everyone happened to wear a nice button-up black shirt to a presentation, while mine was blue. Right at the start of the presentation, we introduced ourselves and I made a dramatic look at everyone’s shirt and said “I guess I missed the memo about the shirts.” It’s a short and seemingly stupid quirk, but the significance hit hard. First, I lost any prior nervousness because of the audience’s laugh. Secondly, I was remembered by the viewers more than the other presenters, and my topics were well listened to (there were some wonderful questions at the end).

 

A word of caution: don’t go elephant hunting. People can see when too much effort is put into being funny.

 

I wish you great success and confidence in meeting new people, and don’t be afraid to fail sometimes. Failing is part of the system too.

The Proclaimers

•September 9, 2011 • Leave a Comment

For a few minutes tonight I sat in my car alone except for the thoughts of how far I’ve strayed from my original path. The experience of seeing myself as somewhat of a selfish asshole isn’t something I look forward to or expect, but it just happens from time to time when I let it happen.

In just over a short week, I will be a married person. I’ve been looking forward to this experience throughout for my life so far (however short that may be), especially during the past four years of our very, very long engagement. The amount of worry and fear that I’ve been holding in is about to drive me crazy.

Many of the thoughts going through my head lately are wondering if Ashley is good enough to be my wife. I don’t think that’s something I’ve ever heard a man say a week before his wedding, but that’s the initial concern that’s been growing. Today though, in a sudden twist, I’ve begun to question if I’m good enough to be her husband.

 
The truth is, I don’t really know. And that makes me feel like an asshole.

I look back on the way things used to be. I remember never taking things for granted. I remember looking up and giving the most genuine of thanks to the people who helped raise me through so many difficult times. When compared to today… I have so much expectation in my life now. I worked hard, and I deserve this. Well, tomorrow I’m going to work harder. Don’t I deserve something more now?

Becoming an asshole is a gradual process. It’s a bad habit we develop, like biting on fingernails.

How selfish all this fear and doubt is. Running away from someone and leaving them stranded in a time of need is completely selfish, even though our perspective is clouded by worries that we’re not making the right decision, and that we need more time to process the events.

Each of us has but one life to live. This is my time, and this is my chance. I don’t want to make the wrong decision, whether that’s choosing someone that I’m not completely compatible to, or choosing to walk away after so much emotion and care has been invested by both parties.

The decision that I’ve come to is that I won’t know which decision is right. I’ve decided to accept that I’ll never know when to cash out my chips, or when to place another bet. I’ll never know how that relationship would have played out if I had made a move, or if I hadn’t made a move. But I’ve decided that decisions are not the important part. I’ve decided that my response is the important part. For right now, I see the world as a game of cards, and I’ve got to make the best hand out of what’s available, regardless of my decision that I prefer hearts over clubs.

So what’s my response to all this worry and doubt? How do I choose to respond to the realization that my intended path was lost somewhere in the past? I’m not sure exactly, but I think I’ll share it in my blog.

 
After I get back from my wedding.

Project Management that Advertises for You at Work

•August 30, 2011 • Leave a Comment

Just got back from my bachelor party in Las Vegas. It was fun.

I get a lot of questions from friends about how I constantly find myself lined up in good social standings with people I’ve never met or barely know. A particular example of this is how I got to meet the CEO and Vice President of my current company, and have THEM provide direct feedback on MY work. Basically, I generated a plant layout that is a simple, no cost temporary solution that will help our facility maintain simple product flow and strategic supervising positioning. Further, we began to implement these changes after only two days, with me as head of the project.

The benefits of working towards better social standings at work are twofold. First, having your employers get to know you quickly puts you in your eventual standing with the company at a quicker pace, whether that’s in management or out the door and looking for a better option. Secondly, as people get to know you more, they will tend to know your strengths and weaknesses. When they work with your strengths, it will make you more productive and make the work you do more enjoyable.

There are two key things to keep in mind whenever you want to better situate yourself and your work in the eyes of key figures at your company. These things are planning strategically and coordinating with others. And while these ideas sound all fine and dandy, let’s take a step back and look into exactly what it means to work with these concepts and how to manipulate the outcome.

First, planning strategically is a continuous process, and to accomplish this, you need to focus on your goal and look for SPECIFIC opportunities. The goal could be to make your staff work in a more productive manner, stimulate new interest in your company/product, or find key people to add into your task group. The goal finding process should be specific enough to find a clear and direct path, but adaptive enough that the path you need to take is not too time or financially consuming. An example of a specific opportunity would be to reduce dependency on forklifts for moving goods within your facility, thereby lowering cost from forklift operation and maximizing available workspace. This example is perfect because we know 1) what “action term” is being focus on (“reducing”), 2) the dependent vehicle that is not sufficient (in this case a literal vehicle, or forklift), and 3) simple, single sided goals that show obvious benefit (lowering cost/maximizing workspace).

In order to plan strategically, it is essential to understand the details of the processes within the business system, and what their limitations are. This is the bread and butter that will be used to piece together the steps to accomplish your goal. Using the example above, these details would include plant floor area, machine dimensions, a complete flowchart of each process within your shop, and miscellaneous stuff like plumbing/electrical requirements for machines or government regulations. If a piece of equipment is required to have proper ventilation, you need to account for that if you consider moving that. While this example is very visual, the same process applies to systems of any size; just be sure to do your homework and get a list of things to keep track of.

Keeping track of a list such as this can end up being exhaustive, and therefore one of the reasons why the second part of solving problems at work: coordinate with others. Remember, the overall goal of this exercise is to better situate yourself with key company figures, and communicating with others will bring them to you. This provides a double benefit of accomplishing the immediate task that you set for yourself, while also opening potential doors for work that is more enjoyable to you. Successful communication with the available workforce (including people who are both above and below you on the corporate scale) will make or break your success and the success of your company.

When dealing with other people, always remember to be courteous. Seriously, this one is a point that I cannot stress enough, only because I see and hear about so many dickish people that talk down to their employees or coworkers. The project goal you’ve set is not about you, it’s about your company. You are simply the mind behind the goal, so instead of barking out orders, advertise your efforts and your needs. Yelling at someone to buy the eggs you’re selling won’t make them stay loyal customers for long, and the same process applies in corporate and manufacturing realms.

These two points are what make up the overall process for generating good social standings, but as an aside statement, it is important that in all you do, follow through. If you are communicating with another project manager or a shipment supervisor, follow through with those emails or phone calls on a regular basis. If you are writing a list of every requirement for a crucial piece of machinery that you want to move, take a minute to step back and clear your mind, but then follow through and research any features that you are unfamiliar with.

As with any information about work or relationships, take this to heart and use it properly like you would use any tool, or don’t use it at all. I love sharing suggestions and successes with people, but take be patient and put all your effort into it. With this, you should be on a fast track to the company standing that fits you best.

My Pirate Shirt

•August 19, 2011 • Leave a Comment

I accidentally wore my pirate t-shirt to a meeting with management today.

Alright, so after such a long unexpected hiatus, I believe I owe you some background. First off, thank you for everyone who checked in on my blog while I was gone. I appreciate knowing that people want to hear more about me.

So, with that in mind, let’s talk about what’s going on. First off, I have been working for Circor, an aerospace manufacturing firm, for the past two months. The experience has been plentiful, and though I started off doing process planning for overhaul components, I’ve been shifting around and learning each of the key phases of overhaul for aircraft landing gear. In a nutshell, my company performs routine maintenance on mostly commercial aircraft (747s, 757s, DC-10s, etc). This involves an exhaustive breakdown of every component in the assembly, with various dimension and material inspections.

That’s all fine and dandy, but I get bored easily. After a quick conversation with the overhaul manager, I drew up some blueprints for an improved short-term layout that simplifies part processing flow and reduces clutter. The manager seemed to like that, so he showed the plant manager, who liked it, who then showed the vice president, who liked it. I pitched that idea, along with a few others, to various people over next few days. Within a week and a half of that I have become a mandatory member of the layout management meetings and head of the blueprint layout design. Not bad for an intern.

Naturally, I quit my job at the medical office where I have spent the past two and a half years, and while it’s sad for me to end things, the progressive feeling I get with the new work I’m doing makes the typical work week so, so, so much more bearable. For anyone who is terrified about taking that first step into the corporate world I say don’t be afraid, because it will be worthwhile in a very short time.

My last semester of school begins in two weeks. Oh yeah, how could I forget: do you remember the Intelligent Ground Vehicle team I wrote about in the past? We ended up with first place worldwide at our competition. In addition, I’ve been invited to speak at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena about the work our team did in machine vision processing. I’m seriously not making this stuff up.

Today has been a different day for me though as I prepare for the last month before my wedding. I cannot begin to tell you how excited I am about getting married. The changes and paths I’m taking now are huge monuments for the rest of my life, and I’m happy to share them with you. I promise to post more regularly again and share my thoughts.

With Respect to Gloria Gaynor

•March 29, 2011 • Leave a Comment

It looks as though I won’t be moving out to the middle of the desert. I would have if the job at Edwards, the same one that I interviewed for last week, had worked out. But it didn’t, so now’s the time to move on.

Today has been a painful experience while I floundered at my first real job application, just the same as when I screwed up my first relationship. With all the new things to worry about that aren’t pre-programmed into our heads, the job seeking situation is complex, difficult, and slightly worrying.

That is not to say that I’m devastated; on the contrary, I’m far from that. Few people ever are successful at their first interview, and frankly, I believe that there is much better work to be had that would fit me more suitably. But just like when we bring home that girl with the back tattoo and the piercings to mom and dad with excitement for finally attracting the attention of a woman, there was a lot to appreciate about this position and the potential that it brought.

 

As I type out this post, I laugh slightly when I remember that my initial intentions were to chronicle my journey towards Disney. By contrast, a job as a navigation test engineer at Edwards Air Force base doesn’t seem much in line with my overall goals (which are still planted firmly in my heart, by the way), it would have been an interesting opportunity for my professional engineering career nonetheless. My desires to work in the amusement park industry far surpass anything else I know of at this point, but I keep in mind that my career is a long time period, and therefore I’d like to take the time now to expand my horizons before settling down into hopefully my final employment position. Adaptability is one of my primary assets, and I would be a fool if I didn’t practice being adaptable while my time and energy are available.

Instead of wallowing in self pity though, I just came back from enjoying a delicious beer in what is probably my favorite place on Earth: my front porch. It is a relaxing place, that, with proper company, allows me to fully focus on anything that is important to me at that point in time, from women to jobs (which are surprisingly similar). Of course, it is hurtful to think that I’m not what they’re looking for, but the benefit of my situation is that I believe if this job was meant to be, it would have happened. Therefore, it was not meant to be.

I want to share this first in my life with you so that I can explain what exactly makes me worried and what I have learned from it. I am worried about the possibility of my career not starting when I need it to. This has no (okay, barely any) relation to the Ferrari that I had planned for my honeymoon if I found work, but instead mostly revolves around the responsibilities that I am expecting for married life. I’m worried that I won’t be able to provide. Now, what have I learned? I’ve learned more about the application/interview process, I’ve learned more about the way I act in unfamiliar territory, and I can say that I’ve learned a bit more about the current job market as a whole and the waters through which I will wade to find a job.

The feeling of being unwanted is difficult to live with, but I believe that more chances will arise. I look forward to the people I will meet and that wonderful goal that I will finally reach, and the company that will help me keep my sanity in the time until that happens, whether it be good friends or good beer. I know I will get the opportunity that I need sometime soon, and for any readers who are also turned down, please do not be discouraged. For I know that I will find my way. I will take chances. And, with respect to Gloria Gaynor, I will survive.

Choices

•March 21, 2011 • Leave a Comment

The scariest part of marriage for me is the process of forging a new life. Routines and pre-set destinations are so comfortable to work with, but to evolve into a new lifestyle of choices seems overwhelming by comparison. Not so say there isn’t excitement in these new choices; I think fear and excitement go hand in hand. And just because something’s scary from one perspective doesn’t mean that will be true from all perspectives.

It’s not the need to make decisions that scares me, but rather the uncertainty in result from these decisions. All throughout my life, my parents have made decisions that affected our family, and everything turned out more or less okay from where I stand now. While I never understood the difficulty in processing each decision between two people until very recently, the plans and directions Ashley and I have discussed already scare me because I want to make sure that we make the right ones.

We have so many directions that we can take our lives; how do we know where we want to go? How will our needs and desires change over the next few years? Or dozen years? These thoughts keep me up at night as I reach out to people for help.

This Wednesday I have an interview with Edward’s Air Force Base; they were the group that I wrote about from Tech Fest about a month ago. I am so excited about the idea of being a test engineer for them at this point in my life, but with this choice and everything that follows with it, I get scared sometimes whether I’m making the right choice or not. There is so much uncertainty in the outcomes of this opportunity, and the entire decision making process begins with the results of this interview. If they decide I’m unfit, then the search will continue. If they like me, then we’ll see just how deep this rabbit-hole goes.

The choices I’m making today, about employment, living location, relationships I want to keep, and adjustments I will have to make, compile into an incredible list. Marriage and starting a career are two of the biggest choices we can make, and no authority on Earth can predict whether some short 23 year old will go on to conquer his goals or…… not.

My life has not gotten to this point on accident, and despite any temporary pressures, I am overwhelmingly pleased of the course it has taken. The respect that my family and friends have shown me has been helpful beyond measure, and Ashley’s ever-increasing support is crucial to my survival each day. Having said that, I would not recommend this lifestyle for everyone.

I hope this interview goes well. If it doesn’t, then I will move on and find some new choices to make. The potential for failure is scary, but my fear of inaction is stronger. I look forward to tomorrow and all the new paths I can take with my life. As long as I work hard and make choices to the best of my judgement, I will go somewhere in this life.

Well, I Guess This Is Growing Up

•March 11, 2011 • Leave a Comment

Well, after many letters written, meetings attended, and people contacted, I, along with our IGV team’s president Nick, were able to raise $1500 to showcase our robot for National Robotics week in Washington DC this April. I cannot express how wonderful it feels to make such a contribution to a cause I love so much.

School is extremely interesting right now. I use the term interesting in a good way, but out of surprise rather than depth. Let me back up a bit.

Three weeks ago today, I had the job fair (“Tech Fest”) that I wrote about. Things seemed to go very well, but after staring at my phone for the time being, my lack of patience is affecting other areas of my life. I’ve been sensing a much stronger discernment from my family and friends in the recent weeks that causes me to doubt myself, and I believe this is due to my uncertainty with the job situation. Now, I’ve kept applying in the meanwhile (in fact, I sent out another Disney application only earlier this week), but because of the value that I felt while talking to the Tech Fest rep, my mind seems enveloped on perusing that heading and seeing how far it takes me. Limited feedback sends mixed signals, which has seeped into all other social aspects of my life.

I promise I don’t enjoy it. But I will endure it.
Actually, I spoke with the same rep that I had met originally a short while ago. She had explained that only one person at this company was currently working on the hiring process, so the pace would be a bit slower than usual; regardless, she was extremely nice and very adamant in re-expressing the value seen so far in me. To add to her confidence, she offered to call me personally if things don’t end up working out.

I don’t mind moving around from company to company for a bit. On the contrary, I believe that I would feel the most worth from my life if my experiences involved varying employment opportunities, much as I find worth in life from my varying relationships. As one of many people applying for this company, I understand my chances are just that: chances. I guess the thing I worry most about overall is having a career-oriented job.

Sometimes I joke about my future, because I find there’s so much left in it that I shouldn’t sweat small things. Sometimes I set myself goals to push further in a certain direction; for example, I told Ashley that if I get a full-time engineering job before we get married, then I’m renting a Ferrari for our honeymoon. Of course, I’d love to have that experience, so it helps push me further.

Anyway, back to the thing about school being interesting: while I wait for something to pop up in the job market, my efforts in the classroom are focusing more and more on improving my professional engineering performance. And in a strange way, I find more comfort in my classes now than I do hanging out with friends on a typical basis.

Isn’t that crazy?

I enjoy classes because it gives me a challenge that I can tackle with people that I work well with. Sharing discussions and planning strategies to solve abstract issues is something that I not only do well, but I enjoy doing it. Writing those letters with Nick was a great way to spend a Saturday afternoon, and I can’t for the life of me explain why I’d rather do that than… well, a lot of things (one of which is run cross country, but that’s a story for another day).

This time of life involves a lot of change, and my ability to adapt will be crucial to the outcome regardless of whichever company and people I end up with. I find certain people that I work well with, and I find companies whose goals are in line with mine, but the only thing I can actively influence is myself, and when I see that my influence is contributing to the causes that I love… well, there is no greater honor that I know.