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April 26, 1999
a year ago

Engineering Day

I am an engineer. I really am. Faced this morning with an 8 a.m. start at work after not getting to sleep until well past midnight, I was desperate for espresso. There's an espresso machine in the engineering kitchen, and there are even detailed, picture instructions on the cupboard over the machine. So, I bravely did what it said to do, and in a very short while I had a small, 8 oz. latte crowned with a white ring of foam.

A test engineer walked in as I was fiddling with the machine. She introduced herself, and as she made her latte, we talked for a while about application testing. She really enjoyed my stories about how our entire department had pitched in for the testing phases of our products, and how we tried to get tests done by the engineers who hadn't written the code. She was sympathetic and liked how everyone got involved.

Even with the coffee, I didn't get a lot done today.

John was in all-day meeting, a class for time management using the Franklin-Covey time management and value assessment system. He did get a lunch break, that we used to go get cash and lunch at a King Soopers, one of the larger, local grocery chains. The fried chicken meal was hot, plain, and very cheap; but the chicken was crisp and not too oily.

We got pizza from Albo's on the way home, because we had to dump the videotape off at the video store, so we were in the same complex. While we waited for the pizza, we wandered around the complex, and found a small French restaurant there as well. It turned out that on Monday and Tuesday nights they had a three-course chef's menu. We'll have to try some time.

When we got home, my little Benchmade knife was in the mailbox! Hurrah! It is tiny, and looks like nothing more than a little pocket knife, while it is closed. It is cute, small, and while it isn't really cuddly, it does look fairly harmless. Harmless, that is, until it is opened. Then, it is like seeing fangs shining with moonlight from a puppy. The blade itself is beautiful, more slender than anything I've ever seen that looks that solidly built. The edge is different than with my larger knife, and it doesn't catch on the quill tube in the same way. So, I wasn't able to cut quills with it quite as well as I wanted to cut them. I know it is an unreasonable expectation to want to be able to cut quills quickly, when it took nearly two weeks to learn how to cut them with the larger knife. But, as usual, I want to be perfect at the start.

Over dinner, John showed me how his new system worked. There are a lot of things to recommend the Franklin-Covey method. The way it sets up roles and goals for those roles make it really easy to prioritize in the short term. The way it sets up long-term needs is almost like setting up a personal Vision Statement, which can be useful, if they are stated in the way that makes decision-making easier. Just like company Vision Statements, however, they can also be meaningless. I think it depends on how much thought is put into what is written. But I could see how it might help with long-term, life goals. Now, I want one.

One of the biggest problems at work, has always been that I don't know why I'm doing what I'm doing. I respond best to emergencies, bugs that need fixing Now. Things that are urgent, and clearly important are easy to figure out and respond to effectively. It's all the other things that I don't know how to sort out, and, I'll admit, to haven't ever really sat down to think it all through. The way the old company was run, made it very easy to only focus on short-term goals, survive another week, survive another quarter, and not much beyond that. Now, there is actually the opportunity and resources and time to think long-term.

This is unfamiliar territory for me. Not that I mind, and it looks like a good opportunity to get my act together. I am smart. I can hit learning curves like pro bicyclists hit mountains on the Tour de France. It's what they pay me to do. It's what I do best. But it looks like, rather than tackling the curves of starting new all over again, it looks like they are setting things up so that the next level I hit will be based on what I've already done. It is almost scary

I can actually engineer my days, engineer the paths I go down, what I will develop, design, and work on. There's a lot of room for me to do all that, to be proactive rather than reactive. To think it through rather than just blindly react to what's needed Right Now. Reacting is easy. Doesn't take much effort. It's the lazy way of doing things. And, maybe, I now have enough stability and enough support around me to do it right.

Brought to you by Dragon System's Point & Speak.

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