Life lessons learned

listenThe other day I was asked a question: If you were to tell a group of students what key takeaways you would have to share, what would they be?

I thought for a moment and replied:

1)      Listen – You’ll never learn unless you listen to what’s being said and going on around you. The answer is not always ‘yes’ and that’s one of the reasons iterative development is so prevalent. The more you listen, internalize and appreciate, the greater opportunity to understand even more.

2)      Continue to sharpen the sword – Today, the word is ever changing. Everyone needs to keep learning and improving. There are always new areas to explore and skills to develop. Besides, it keep life interesting too.

3)      Leaders must have followers – If you want o be a be a leader, you need to cultivate your network. One great way to have support, is to first support others. The concept of the servant leader can be critical. Closely related to being a leader, is the need to always have an opinion. It may not always be right, but you will never be able to validate your perspective unless you actually state it – and then listen to other’s perspective. It is better to hop on and help steer, rather than to stand-in-the-way of progress.

That was a quick, stream of consciousness perspective. I’d be interested in your view of lessons learned about self-development you’d share with others.

Advertisements

It’s Engineers Week

2018_engineers_week_logo_horizontal

This week is National Engineers Week.

Founded by NSPE in 1951, Engineers week (February 18-24, 2018) is dedicated to ensuring a diverse and well-educated future engineering workforce by increasing understanding of and interest in engineering and technology careers. The emphasis is on:

  • Celebrating how engineers make a difference in our world
  • Increasing public dialogue about the need for engineers
  • Bringing engineering to life for kids, educators, and parents

What engineering related activities will be going on near you?

Last weekend was the Dallas FIRST Regional

Last weekend was the Dallas FRC regional. There are videos of the competition available on-line. This year’s competition was steampunk based.

FRC

I’ve been coordinating judging for the FIRST Robotics competition in Dallas for about 8 years now, so naturally there are a significant number of retired EDS and a few Raytheon folks involved.

FRC allows students to start from a standard kit of parts and some state of the art tools (received at the kickoff in January) to build a robot attempting to meet specified objectives. This video is an overview of this year’s challenge – FIRST Steamworks

The goal of FIRST is to encourage the understanding and passion around STEM. It has a proven track record of results that is hard to argue with. 


I was also drafted to judge the Jr. FIRST Lego League competition on Saturday morning. That competition is targeted at grade school students. At least in the Dallas area this competition was sponsored by Raytheon, among others.

Jr

Ethical issues on the horizon for digital assistants focused at children?

robots-too-humanThis week, I was part of an innovation panel at a large Dallas based IT manufacturer and during the discussion a new product for children was mentioned. Cognitoys is the company that makes a huggable dinosaur-like toy that is connected to IBM’s Watson APIs. I can’t help thinking about Barney whenever I see it.

I call these digital assistants, since they can understand and interact using natural language. Popular digital assistants for adults currently include Apple’s Siri, Google Now and soon Microsoft’s Cortana. This particular implementation is:

  • Speech enabled
  • Internet connected
  • Personalized
  • Educational

There was all the concern about ‘smart’ Barbie earlier this year. Barbie was just a warning shot to the possibilities, since the Barbie implementation wasn’t backed up by a supercomputer. I haven’t heard any concern yet about this toy.

The possibilities makes me wonder about the whole issue of “digital immigrants” vs. “digital natives” vs. these kids who will grow up interacting with and possibly being trained by digital nannies.

What level of configuration (or self-configuration) will be possible through the parent panel? Will parents enable the ‘toy’ to suggest that it is time for bed, take a bath, be more polite, learn a language, understand algebra or religion?? One parents grey area could will likely be another’s line in the sand.

There will be some ethical issues for the patents, the company providing the services… that will likely be worked out in the marketplace during this holiday season.

The future of work…

working at a deskFast Company had a thought provoking post on The New Rules of Work – What Work Will Look Like in 2025. The focus of the article is on the technology enhanced human, enhanced by offloading many of the mundane elements of work on automation. Some of those elements (like recognizing faces) may weaken some of our mental faculties but the automation of other areas will likely refine our skills.

One statement that holds true today though is:

Workers will need to engage in lifelong education to remain on top of how job and career trends are shifting to remain viable in an ever-changing workplace

There is also a few expressed that the automation could eliminate bias from the hiring process. Personally, I doubt that since it would just codify the bias into the selection algorithm through the encoded selection criteria. Granted it may not bias based upon race or gender, but for those who really want a diverse set of perspectives in their workforce employee selection will still be difficult to do well.

One of the best elements of this article though is the number of links to other material on a range of topics. There were a number of links related to the topic of the redefinition of retirement.

In any case the workplace and the type of work being performed will be shifting and this article is food for thought.

In-shoring opportunities in with automation

AutomationI had a long discussion with a serial entrepreneur last week that is looking to define a service offering in the help desk/virtualized meeting/education front. He seems to have a good handle on the business model and the differentiation between what he provides and the other services in the market place.

During the discussion, it did remind me a bit about the CNN post about the effect of Silicon Valley’s virtualization and automation efforts on jobs. What was most intriguing about the discussion was the ability to move the skills in demand to underserved parts of the country.

We both grew up in small mid-west towns and feel that techniques virtualizing the workforce he is developing could open up possibilities in areas of the country that are currently under employed.  With the possibilities of human-centered automation, these approaches will be increasingly important. I do question if today’s HR organizations are ready for this level of innovation.

Starting an R programming course

educationI always like to try and take a few Coursera courses every year. Now I am starting a course on R out of John Hopkins. One thing addition to this approach that I haven’t seen before is that the R environment has a Computer Based Instruction available called Swirl. As analytics increases in importance a bit of hands on exercise is likely a good thing.

It just started, so if you’re interested in this, feel free to drop me a note.