Blog - Steve Mackay

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

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...

When you have a permanent job in a company, your income is pretty certain. But in the cruel but real world of consultant and contractor, life can be considerably more complex and fraught with hazard when dealing with contracts. Remember if you don’t handle these correctly, you will end up considerably poorer despite putting in an enormous amount of hours working...

Dear colleagues,

When you have a permanent job in a company, your income is pretty certain. But in the cruel but real world...

Many years ago, in an isolated part of the outback on the inevitable mine site in hot and dry conditions, one of our guys inserted a communications board into the PLC rack and inadvertently destroyed one the key memory chips by electrostatic discharge (ESD). Fortunately, we had one backup board left...

Dear Colleagues,

Many years ago, in an isolated part of the outback on the inevitable mine site in hot and dry conditions, one of our guys inserted a communications board into the PLC rack...

As engineering professionals we are always engaged in design engineering at some time or other. Whether you are an electrician undertaking a rework of the wiring for a switchboard or designing a state-of-the-art oil refinery or indeed, a new Apple iPhone.

Who is a designer today?

Dear Colleagues,

As engineering professionals we are always engaged in design engineering at some time or other. Whether you are an electrician undertaking a rework of the wiring for a switchboard or designing...

Would you leave your password to your bank account lying around? In the same way – you need to protect your  intellectual property (IP) such as engineering designs and  inventions. When protection is considered most of us think of patents. Some firms file a ferocious number of patents every year to protect their IP. Think of IBM who received an unbelievable 6,809 patents last year.

Dear Colleagues,

Would you leave your password to your bank account lying around? In the same way...

Is your new engineering graduate, technician or technologist ready for the job? Do they find it easy to learn the key elements of their job? Did they get a great education or training experience focussed on practical outcomes?  Are they sure of what they must do at work? Are they able to prioritize their work load?

Dear Colleagues,

Is your new engineering graduate, technician or technologist ready for the job? Do they find it easy to learn the key elements of their job? Did they get...

Politicians of all stripes are calling for more innovation and entrepeneurship in the economy. No doubt realizing that large mega corporations aren’t going to create the jobs and taxes for the future. The trick when setting up a new venture is...

 

Dear Colleagues,

Politicians of all stripes are calling for more innovation and entrepeneurship in the economy. No doubt realizing that large mega corporations aren’t going to create the jobs and taxes for the future.

The trick when...

Currently life in the mining and oil & gas sectors is tough and some of you may be scratching your heads nervously when pondering the future.

In these uncertain times it is good to keep in mind what is required for a good resume or cv...

 

Dear Colleagues,

Currently life in the mining and oil & gas sectors is tough and some of you may be scratching your heads nervously when pondering the future.

In these uncertain times it is good to keep in mind what is required for...

We’ve all heard of or experienced computer security problems with our computers and perhaps, even PLCs and your SCADA system. Ranging from viruses chomping your database to sophisticated denial of service attacks on your industrial and office network from someone based in the depths of West Waziristan.

Dear Colleagues, 

We’ve all heard of or experienced computer security problems with our computers and perhaps, even PLCs and your SCADA system. Ranging from viruses chomping your...

I noticed this morning an announcement from some senior government bureaucrat saying that (young) engineers should be paid more - the same as merchant bankers receive, she reckoned. I agree.

Dear Colleagues,

I noticed this morning an announcement from some senior government bureaucrat saying that (young) engineers should be paid more - the same as merchant bankers receive, she reckoned. I agree. In addition, governments throughout the world have been making agonising cries about the...

In the past two years, there has been a huge jump in the use of drones or UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles) throughout the world. Have you thought what you could do with one of these to enhance your next engineering project?

Dear Colleagues,

In the past two years, there has been a huge jump in the use of drones or UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles) throughout the world. Have you thought what you could do with one of these to enhance your next engineering project?

The laws in various...

Over 120 years ago, the venerable, and brilliant Nikola Tesla claimed that it was possible to transmit power around the world using a system of towers and balloons and was backed financially by a few of the early venture capitalist types to make it happen.

Dear Colleagues,

Over 120 years ago, the venerable, and brilliant Nikola Tesla claimed that it was possible to transmit power around the world using a system of towers and balloons and was backed financially by a few of the early...

You may argue that it is impossible to give a few casual tips on troubleshooting SCADA systems as the field is vast. And you’re quite right on this score.

Dear colleagues,

You may argue that it is impossible to give a few casual tips on troubleshooting SCADA systems as the field is vast. And you’re quite right on this score. However, I did a useful presentation recently outlining the typical components of a SCADA system and some typical items one could look for when troubleshooting these...

An intrinsically safe circuit is “A circuit in which no spark or thermal effect in any part of the circuit intended for use in a hazardous area is capable of causing ignition.”

 

Dear colleagues,

An intrinsically safe circuit is “A circuit in which no spark or thermal effect in any part of the circuit intended for use in a hazardous area is capable of causing ignition.”

After an introduction to hazardous areas (or locations as our North American cousins refer to them), the...

With all the travails of regular power interruptions in South Africa; we are again reminded of the tried and tested diesel generator being the workhorse we all turn to for a consistent power supply for small to medium requirements.

 

Dear colleagues,

With all the travails of regular power interruptions in South Africa; we are again reminded of the tried and tested diesel generator being the workhorse we all turn to for a consistent power supply for small to medium requirements...

Many people assume wrongly that inspecting, testing, maintenance, and commissioning is a fairly straightforward process and is often a rubber stamp confirmation of a good design.

Dear Colleagues,

Many people assume wrongly that inspecting, testing, maintenance, and commissioning is a fairly straightforward process and is often a rubber stamp confirmation of a good design.

Click here for a short presentation I made recently on the subject with a focus on:

  • Asset records
  • Condition...

I am always staggered by the ongoing high number of serious electrical accidents and even fatalities every year in industry – ranging from electrocution, shock, explosions and arc blast.

Dear Colleagues,

I am always staggered by the ongoing high number of serious electrical accidents and even fatalities every year in industry – ranging from electrocution, shock, explosions and arc blast. 

Click here for a short review on the key issues here from a presentation I did...

A potential problem with our centrifugal pumping systems is cavitation. Very often pumps handle liquids with suction conditions very close to a liquid’s vapor pressure.

Dear Colleagues,

A potential problem with our centrifugal pumping systems is cavitation. Very often pumps handle liquids with suction conditions very close to a liquid’s vapor pressure. When a liquid is drawn into the pump inlet there is a pressure drop resulting from the fluid friction along the pipeline, valves...

One of the vexed topics of engineering is how to minimize the damage from lightning and surges. As part of a regular series of presentations which I do on various topics, please click here to access the full set of slides relating to this presentation.

Dear Colleagues,

One of the vexed topics of engineering is how to minimize the damage from lightning and surges. As part of a regular series of presentations which I do on various topics, please click here to access the full set of slides...

I was reminded about this issue last week when one of my colleagues – an experienced chief engineer – laughed at a cost over run we had with some consultants working on a project.

Dear Colleagues,

I was reminded about this issue last week when one of my colleagues – an experienced chief engineer – laughed at a cost over run we had with some consultants working on a project. Rightly enough he said – you should have engaged them on a fixed price contract and defined precisely what you...

Is there nothing more irritating than the strident noise of lawnmowers or mulching machines with their staccato crackling sound on a quiet Saturday afternoon?

Dear Colleagues,

Is there nothing more irritating than the strident noise of lawnmowers or mulching machines with their staccato crackling sound on a quiet Saturday afternoon? In my book, silence is often more desirable than privacy. This short note is on audio and levels of sound and how you can eliminate high levels of noise....

No matter what your engineering discipline - you would have learnt about Ohm’s Law at some time or other (even at school). Herewith a simple application question which tests your conceptual knowledge. I posed this a few years ago and have brought it back somewhat modified.

Dear Colleagues,

No matter what your engineering discipline - you would have learnt about Ohm’s Law at some time or other (even at school). Herewith a simple application question which tests your conceptual knowledge. I...

Engineering professionals are generally not particularly enthused with writing. It is often regarded as an onerous chore outside their key skill set.

Dear Colleagues,

Engineering professionals are generally not particularly enthused with writing. It is often regarded as an onerous chore outside their key skill set. We are also subjected to written reports which are gibberish, unreadable and full of gobbledygook. Perhaps you even are guilty of writing like this? I know that I am.

An...

We all keep a reasonably up-to-date engineering resume (or cv) – unless of course we have been with one company for ever.

Dear Colleagues,

We all keep a reasonably up-to-date engineering resume (or cv) – unless of course we have been with one company for ever. In these uncertain times it is good to keep in mind what is required or indeed, you may need to help a buddy who needs support in writing his or her resume. A good resume is vital whether you are an electrician or a chief...

A topic I often avoid discussing is quality. Mainly because it conjures up ideas of masses of paper work and enormous costs with no discernible increase in the quality of a product or service.

Dear Colleagues,

A topic I often avoid discussing is quality. Mainly because it conjures up ideas of masses of paper work and enormous costs with no discernible increase in the quality of a product or service.

However, someone for whom I have the greatest admiration is a fine electrical engineer...

There is furore at present with the allegations being made about bribes paid to host the Soccer World Cup in Qatar.

Dear Colleagues,

There is furore at present with the allegations being made about bribes paid to host the Soccer World Cup in Qatar. 

I believe we get exposed to challenges to our ethics on a daily basis. Most of the time; we ignore these challenges but occasionally the price is high and we succumb ever so slightly (and silently).

In the nutshell – ethics is about...

It is often considered risky practice in advertising to say something with a negative message; but hopefully you will see the importance of avoiding these damaging items (as listed below) in your engineering career.


Dear Colleagues,

It is often considered risky practice in advertising to say something with a negative message; but hopefully you will see the importance of avoiding these damaging items (as listed below) in your engineering career.

Remain positive and in top problem...

I have always maintained that we don’t sell ourselves enough. And let’s face it; selling yourself isn’t about simply flogging a product or service or trying to schmooze yourself on a disbelieving recipient.

Dear Colleagues,

I have always maintained that we don’t sell ourselves enough. And let’s face it; selling yourself isn’t about simply flogging a product or service or trying to schmooze yourself on a disbelieving recipient. But about being adept on promoting ourselves in terms of one’s...

People learn 70% of what they know about their jobs through informal means (US Bureau of Labor Stats – 1996). So stop pouring your money into formal training without pausing to consider these other more powerful options...


Dear Colleagues,

People learn 70% of what they know about their jobs through informal means (US Bureau of Labor Stats – 1996). So stop pouring your money into formal training without pausing to consider these other more powerful options.

Formal training accounts...

Conflict is a key part of our lives as engineering professionals. Especially these days with so much change occurring. Conflict is a verbal (or indeed non-verbal) expressed disagreement between individuals or groups. It may occur, for example, between an engineering supervisor and employee, or manager and supervisor. And, as you all know, conflict can even exist within an individual...

 

Dear Colleagues,

Conflict is a key part of our lives as engineering professionals. Especially...

In varying degrees, most of us are working virtually in teams undertaking our engineering work. From use of email to Skype and sometimes, web and video conferencing; we are all moving to working together with colleagues and friends at far flung locations connected only over the Internet.

 

Dear Colleagues,

In varying degrees, most of us are working virtually in teams undertaking our engineering work. From use of email to Skype and sometimes, web and video conferencing; we are all...

One of the best investments I ever made in my basic skills was learning to touch type thirty years ago (yes - on a typewriter). A mere 20 hours investment, has been worth tens of thousands  in terms of a real payback. There are many other basic skills which we tend to neglect but are critical to our engineering careers and personal lives.

 

Dear Colleagues,

One of the best investments I ever made in my basic skills was learning to touch type thirty years ago (yes - on a...

Courtesy Gemma Falconer

In today’s businesses, there are many types of methods of communication: email, telephone, in-person meetings and so on. Videoconferencing is becoming a more common way to communicate between clients, employees and companies – not just to save on travel costs, but to liaise with remote workers or interview international candidates.

Things start to get complicated when each communication has different etiquette. The goal is always to be professional even though some...

Courtesy Daniel Huckstep

When it comes being great at what you do in life, there’s no real formula. Some people have that natural talent for something, and others just love it enough to dedicate the time to get better at it.

Regardless of how you ended up where you are, there is always room for improvement. I’m going to talk about some of the things that have helped me along the way become better at what I do: write kickass software. Realistically, you can substitute “Software...

Courtesy Style for Students Online

When asked about grammar checkers, some teachers of English will immediately darken their eyes and pronounce them evil. No, this is not because they worry about losing their jobs to computers (English teachers will always be needed, certainly), but because they recognize the limitations of grammar checkers and fear that they make writers lazy or unthinking. Because my paper passed the grammar checker’s test, some think, it must be fine....

Dear colleagues,

We employ an eclectic mixture of experienced engineers, graduate engineers and engineering students both on staff and contract ranging from few days a year to “14 months a year” (i.e. they work day and night).

What drives me into a frenzy (and other engineers around town) is the absolute rubbish these young students are being taught at university or college. From how to program an ancient microprocessor (yes!) to totally irrelevant theoretical mumbo-jumbo.

The challenge we...

We employ an eclectic mixture of experienced engineers, graduate engineers and engineering students both on staff and contract ranging from few days a year to “14 months a year” (i.e. they work day and night). What drives me into a frenzy (and other engineers around town) is the absolute rubbish these young students are being taught at university or college...

 

Dear colleagues,

We employ an eclectic mixture of experienced engineers, graduate engineers and engineering students...

“The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence” can really gnaw at you. How can you make sure that you’re being paid what you are really worth? Essentially your remuneration is based on the contribution you make to the business you work in.


Dear Colleagues,

“The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence” can really gnaw at you. How can you make sure that you’re being paid what you are really worth? Essentially your remuneration is based on the contribution you...

Your Email Address
 Consider it from an employer’s perspective. Ensure it is simple and appears sensible. Choose your provider with care (remember gmail is free) and personalise it conservatively. Rate the following examples: [email protected]  versus,  [email protected]
Your Voicemail Message
Friendly is good, but the message should be brief and effective. (Don’t be tempted to reveal your character here). Make the recording in a quiet environment. Include your name and...

Being somewhat of a cynic, I don’t have many engineering heroes.  But the inspirational engineer - Andy Grove, the former chief of Intel, the microchip maker must surely be one of them. His wrote a well known book entitled “Only the paranoid survive” reflecting on the difficulties in surviving and growing in business.

 

Dear Colleagues,

Being somewhat of a cynic, I don’t have many engineering heroes.  But the inspirational engineer - Andy Grove, the former chief of...

Below you will find templates for resume writing  and some cover letter examples.

But first, bare the following in mind:

Both your cover letter and resume need to be tailored for specific jobs. If you are saturating all available positions with applications, this will be exceedingly tiresome. BUT, it is absolutely crucial if you are serious about succeeding.

Perhaps send generic ones out to those positions you have less interest in, but give all you have to the positions...

Informal Job Search Networking

It has been suggested that up to 60% of all positions are acquired through networking!

It does, however, take a concerted effort to get the best out of those in the network. They need to be nurtured, just as you would any relationship. Contacts include friends, family, neighbours, college or university alumni and people linked to relevant associations. Generally, your list should include anyone who may provide you with job leads or further...

Some of this information will vary depending on where you are in the world.

Online Sites

In Australia,for example,a popular online site for job searching can be found at; www.seek.com.au. You can even create an account with Seek so that relevant job alerts are emailed to you. Another Aussie one is https://www.careerone.com.au/. A similar site in the UK, for example, can be found at www.jobsite.co.uk.

Company Websites

Many large companies advertise vacancies on their websites...

One of the key skills employers want from their people is the ability to problem solve, or troubleshoot as we generally refer to it in engineering. As with common sense, good troubleshooting isn’t so common around here.


Dear Colleagues,

One of the key skills employers want from their people is the ability to problem solve, or troubleshoot as we generally refer to it in engineering. As with common sense, good troubleshooting isn’t so common around here.

Your engineering career is...

Dear Colleagues,

Is your new engineering graduate engineer, technician or technologist ready for the job? Do they find it easy to learn the key elements of their job? Did they get a great education or training experience focussed on practical outcomes? Are they sure of what they must do at work? Are they confused with the different priorities and demands in their jobs? The answer to these questions is often depressingly no.

So we have to seize the moment and mentor ‘em.

What are young...

Dear Colleagues,

Some years back, I was engaged in the automation of a mushroom farm (no – we weren’t manufacturing crack or magic mushroom potions). When I joined, the engineering team had already implemented an embedded controller system with the electronics systems designed from scratch. Surely lots of fun for the engineers and technicians who put this system together at a huge expense in terms of hours (although very cheap from a hardware point of view). But a veritable nightmare to design...

Dear Colleagues,

You may be one of the many engineering professionals not particularly enthused with the idea of making presentations. The reasons may be that one gets nervous; the audience shows obvious boredom and the poor presentations reflect badly on one. It is thus not a particularly pleasant experience for both the audience or the presenter. You’re unlikely to ever hear from someone, who has to attend an engineering presentation, that they are looking forward to it.

However, doing a...

Dear Colleagues,

Many of you are probably nervously contemplating the wreckage of engineering employment with the rather too rapid crash of mining and oil and gas over the past few months (I am; but am always optimistic thinking of it as yet another business cycle). What intrigues me though is the ongoing search for talented people for smaller companies is as hard as ever. Many will retort that a reason why smaller companies are always searching for staff is that they pay peanuts. Not...

Dear Colleagues,

When you read this, I will be standing on the beaches of Normandy peering through the sea mists visualising the landing craft approaching in 1944 as the beginning of the end started for World War II. Probably driven by a desperate shortage of materials and labour, everything then was designed to be absolutely functional – over-engineering wasn’t exactly encouraged. Today, it is dramatically different.
 
Today we have Moore’s Law
You are probably familiar with Moore’s Law. It...

Dear Colleagues,

Murphy’s Law is especially quoted in engineering and as most of you would well know says: “If anything can go wrong, it will”. Often, we add on: “and at the worst possible time, in the worst possible way”.

 

Origin of Murphy’s Law
The Law’s (supposed) origin was in engineering where Captain Ed Murphy, an engineer at Edwards Air Force Base, was dealing with a technician who incorrectly wired  a strain gauge bridge (wired backwards) for doing gravity tests which as a result...

The Engineering Institute of Technology (EIT) is dedicated to ensuring our students receive a world-class education and gain skills they can immediately implement in the workplace upon graduation. Our staff members uphold our ethos of honesty and integrity, and we stand by our word because it is our bond. Our students are also expected to carry this attitude throughout their time at our institute, and into their careers.