Blog - Steve Mackay

Dear Colleagues

 

I am always humbled by many people’s pride in what would initially appear to be a horrific job. These range from those who clean up often horrific levels of sewage and waste / work with toxic chemicals / operate on remote and harsh mine sites. You see the obvious level of pride and skill in their work coupled with a tremendous camaraderie and most importantly – a purpose in what they are doing.

 

And then I see some engineering professionals - often well...

Dear colleagues

 

When you are on a fixed salary in a company life is pretty certain. But in the more fraught world of consultant and contractor, life can be considerably more complex and financially tricky when dealing with contracts that require you to deliver a specific outcome. Remember if you don’t handle these correctly, you will end up considerably poorer despite putting in an enormous amount of hours working. So it is worth re-considering the different options here as...

Dear Colleagues

I bumped into an engineering friend the other day – unfortunately he has been out of work for a number of months and is in his late fifties. He was becoming somewhat despondent about the employment situation and at his age it is undoubtedly tough. Employers are very cautious about employing engineering ‘veterans’ no matter how good they are. Unless the employers have a specific need for the specialised skill that you may have.

My take on it is that if you are idling...

Dear Colleagues

 

As you all know – common sense is NOT so common around here when it comes to avoiding industrial failures. Often these failures are caused by avoidable (always) strategies such as good maintenance, better quality equipment and better training for staff.

Historically, a hundred years ago a telegraph problem  could have disrupted a few people’s lives – however the scale today of the impact of an electrical failure (power or communications) can be...

Dear Colleagues

 

As you all know, the global workforce is rapidly growing. And it is rapidly becoming more multicultural and multinational. We all have our own cultures, skills, behaviours and attitudes about life and work which are generally focussed on our local environment or town. However companies are increasingly straddling borders or are required to work with suppliers/clients and partners in different countries. Fortunately for some of us, the English language is becoming...

Dear Colleagues

 

In the past few years; we have seen some spectacular collapses of buildings and bridges. This is quite inexplicable to today’s structural designer and engineer who puts enormous effort into the careful use of materials and huge safety margins. In addition, it is not only about care in design but also in putting into place monitoring mechanisms for the life of the structure.

However, when a designer is operating at the limit of their expertise; mistakes still...

Dear Colleagues

 

As an old pal of mine, once remarked about his career: ‘Find out what you enjoy doing which adds value to other peoples’ lives and never ever work again’. What he was saying is that if you can do something at work  which gives you meaning to your life and which you truly enjoy; you really have a great job which is the same as your hobby.

 

Corporations Spend Millions

Corporations spend millions of dollars on trying to motivate their staff and...

Dear Colleagues

 

Ferocious and violent arguments are the part of life in engineering. Needless to say, they are rarely productive. And often very damaging to relationships and self esteem. A few suggestions on breaking an argument in its tracks and focussing on positive productive outcomes  follows….

 

An Argument over Defective Software

I have been involved in many meaningless arguments which have got heated and always regretted the unproductivity of them all. I...

Dear Colleagues

As you bump (race?) up the ladder of an organization, keeping a journal can be really useful. No, I am not referring to making an accounting journal entry but a ‘diary entry’ as we in the Commonwealth English speaking world often refer to it. Or in shipping parlance, sometimes referred to as the ‘captain’s log’.

 

Journals can be Really Useful

Journals are useful for two reasons, I believe: firstly, to cover yourself when there are disagreements about what...

Dear Colleagues

I was fascinated but not surprised about the impact you can make on reducing crime in your local area – simply by being more entrepreneurial and opening a local retail or manufacturing business. Well - any business where people are employed and clients visit you.

 

Recent Research

Worldwide, there has been an uptick in mixed use development – combining residential and commercial properties in the same area. This makes it an easier commute and strengthens the...

Dear Colleagues

 

We all know that habits can be powerful in achieving great things (e.g. timekeeping or exercising/studying regularly) or descending into the depths (smoking, drinking or eating too much).When we think of habits, I guess we mainly think of the latter ones. And once you have a bad habit, it is verily a devil to break out of.

Some really great suggestions for good habits are listed below in helping to write great code but they actually apply to any part of working...

Dear Colleagues

I notice with faint amusement that Intel announced last week (rather too confidently) that ‘Self-driving cars will add $7 trillion a year to global economy by 2050’. As one less-than-impressed punter remarked: This was presumably said to boost Intel shares.

What is the impact on us as engineering professionals?

 

Here we go again – ‘Massive Business Opportunities’

The move to the driverless future reminds me of a comment made by another colleague...

Dear Colleagues

 

Great engineering careers aren’t built around sudden inspiration, profound insight or even incredible technical abilities. I believe they are built around an average person doing ordinary things extraordinarily well coupled with huge persistence and patience.

 

A good example of an ordinary person who did well in engineering and in the military is General Dwight Eisenhower (who later became – arguably a good president). He was an average performer in his...

Dear Colleagues,

 

If you look at the results of most economists, financiers and journalists you will see that their prognostications are never particularly good at predicting the future. It is nevertheless tempting to make a few suggestions about the future of oil and electric vehicles as solid trends are now emerging. Ultimately everything is driven by price - and oil and electricity is certainly no exception.

As engineering professionals you are certainly going to be impacted...

Dear Colleagues

 

No matter how small or big one’s business is – we often tend to be obsessed with what our competition is doing. Naturally, this is all about staying in business and based around the thinking that if you ignore your competition; they may steal opportunities away from you and then who knows what could happen.

 

Competition could be a simple as another electrician providing similar installation services to you or perhaps, a fast growing engineering design...

Dr Steve Mackay and Ms Edwina Ross met with Engineers Australia on the morning of the 28th March. Emmanuelle Wintergerst, their National Manager for Skills Assessment, outlined the process for those wishing to work and reside in Australia. It is summarised here: To have your qualifications assessed by Engineers Australia, the following options are available:

  1. If you need an assessment to gain eligibility for a Skilled Migrant visa, the following link will guide you through the process:...

Dear Colleagues

I believe there are many of you – in common with me - who have accepted a new job or task and then regretted it afterwards. In my case, I recall a particularly well paying engineering job giving me huge opportunities in a growing area of engineering (industrial automation). However, the company was dysfunctional, treated their clients with disrespect, never delivered on promises and my boss was dictatorial and made poor decisions. It put huge pressure on me and after a year...

Dear Colleagues

We are all keen for our teams to be more successful and innovative. This requires your team to be supremely experimental and enthused with constantly trying new approaches – probably showing significant levels of energy in doing this. But as engineering professionals, we are often also  anxious about excessive risk and failure and thus try and steer our guys away from this experimental approach. All seemingly a gigantic contradiction.

Obviously, if you are dealing...

Dear Colleagues

You can surely summarise the recent massive technology changes that have happened in four sentences:

  • Launch the microprocessor and personal computer
  • Connect processors (PCs) together in networks
  • Connect networks  to each other globally (the internet)
  • Add sensors and mobile devices (such as drones/driverless cars)

 

The last change is the interesting one and the connectivity often referred to Internet of Things (IoT)

 

Drones are...

Dear Colleagues

Most attempts at change fail - some pundits estimate up to 70% of change attempts fail (Harvard Business Review). Change is particularly hard as it involves people. This is the greatest challenge in effecting change – equipment and hardware changes are relatively easy by comparison. With people there is always inertia to changing from the existing status quo. Especially as they have probably undergone vigorous change initiatives in the past – many of which may not have been...

Dear Colleagues

 

Great work! You have been offered a tremendous new engineering job and are poised to accept. Subject to a final negotiation session to finalise the details, of course.

When you are offered a job – this is normally a signal that you are near end of a long road of a job search, investigating the opportunities and then going on interminable interviews. This period of time when you are close to acceptance of the job is a critical one as you have a huge opportunity to...

Dear Colleagues

 

You would often be confronted with the situation where you have to disagree with your boss or even worse – a client. Is it worth going through the pain of disagreement and the agony afterwards? My  belief is that if you want to stay true to yourself as a credible engineering professional - you have to raise your objections.

 

It is perfectly natural to avoid conflict – it can be the source of pain and perhaps (in an extreme case – being fired for...

Engineering careers have five flavours - how can we take advantage of them?

Since the early seventies, I have watched as engineering careers have morphed into five distinct types: ‘corporate’, ‘learning’, ‘contract’, ‘skilled global’ and ‘manager’. I would be most interested to know what your type is and naturally, make suggestions on what you think of my categorisation. I will conclude by making some suggestions on how you can take advantage of these trends.

 

Dear...

On a regular basis, you will often be confronted with requests for a quick summary of some lengthy meeting or series of documents. You will have to provide the key ideas in simple easy-to-read English with no jargon. Seemingly an intractable task...

Dear Colleagues

On a regular basis, you will often be confronted with requests for a quick summary of some lengthy meeting or series of documents. You will have to provide the key ideas in simple easy-to-read English with no jargon. Seemingly...

Without a shadow of doubt, with traditional power transmission systems, home and factory power systems and motors – good old alternating current (ac) is the name of the game with electricity. Direct Current (dc) has always been the poor cousin.

Dear Colleagues

Without a shadow of doubt, with traditional power transmission systems, home and factory power systems and motors – good old alternating current (ac) is the name of the game with electricity. Direct Current (dc) has always been the...

That virtually unheard of quantity - surface tension - is the cause of enormous costs in the engineering world and a slight reduction in this rather arcane ‘force’ could save billions of dollars.


Dear Colleagues

That virtually unheard of quantity - surface tension - is the cause of enormous costs in the engineering world and a slight reduction in this rather arcane ‘force’ could save billions of dollars.

A Technical Refresher
As a refresher for those that are rusty – surface tension...

“We are spurred on by the impossible” may be a fairly trite throw away line from Dyson’s Director of Energy Storage Development (Bruce Brenner). But it does show the attitude of the company driven by James Dyson in pioneering new inventions which are also commercialised with great success. As many of you would know - he has created products ranging from...


Dear Colleagues

“We are spurred on by the impossible” may be a fairly trite throw away line from Dyson’s Director of Energy Storage...

Over 30 years ago, I attended an impressive demonstration of a company that had developed a nifty image processing system and fruit selector to sort good from bad fruit. A great idea but hugely expensive, only operational for a part of the season (fruit picking) and prone to breakdowns and many errors.


Dear Colleagues

Over 30 years ago, I attended an impressive demonstration of a company that had developed a nifty image processing system and fruit selector to sort good from bad fruit. A...

here is nothing new under the sun - as the old adage goes. And when looking at the sleek new industrial buildings built out of state-of-the-art new materials such as carbon fiber or indeed, boring steel and concrete, it is surprising to see the renaissance of construction with wood – something I thought had disappeared for traditional city building.


Dear Colleagues

There is nothing new under the sun - as the old adage goes. And when looking at the sleek new industrial buildings built...

Seemingly the target of 50 billion connected devices on the Internet of Things (IoT) by 2020 is now somewhat overly optimistic. The estimate has been sharply estimated downwards to perhaps 20 billion interconnected devices. Quite a change from the original hyped up estimate.


Dear Colleagues

Seemingly the target of 50 billion connected devices on the Internet of Things (IoT) by 2020 is now somewhat overly optimistic. The estimate has been sharply estimated downwards to perhaps 20 billion...

I am always a little twitchy when I hear of the next latest invention based around renewable energy – whether it be solar panels or (self-driving) electric cars  - as far as saving the planet and reducing the carbon footprint.


Dear Colleagues

I am always a little twitchy when I hear of the next latest invention based around renewable energy – whether it be solar panels or (self-driving) electric cars  - as far as saving the planet and reducing the carbon footprint.

As we...

Do you communicate and write well and have excellent problem solving skills? Do you have outstanding technical know-how and experience? Well – you have improved your chances of securing a good job immeasurably. Naturally, there are other skills required and the over riding need for good experience relating to the job.  But...


Dear Colleagues

Do you communicate and write well and have excellent problem solving skills? Do you have outstanding technical know-how and experience? Well –...