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Once an engineer, always an engineer?

November 22, 2007

A bunch of us from work were taken earlier this week to an offsite location to build a prototype to solve a business problem. There were six teams in all – from various parts of the firm, and each team had its share of software people, hardware people and business people. We were to compete and the team to win would receive a pretty cool prize.

We lost, and we lost badly. Quite a few of us were very frustrated by the end of it. When you lose, it hurts twice as much – just ask Nigel or Robbie.

But it is still useful if you gain some practical knowledge and/or information out of it. I learnt quite a few:

  • None of the teams actually solved the business problem. None even came close. Ergo, the business doesn’t know how to solve the problem.
  • Apparently, the business has been trying to address the problem for 2 years now. Since they haven’t yet done that and no else in the industry has filled that gap in the interim, no one knows how to solve the problem yet.
  • The firm didn’t know what to expect from the teams. While they figured one of the teams might actually solve it in a best-case-scenario, they bargained on solutions which would take advantage of the gap in the market in the short-term.
  • The teams who did well in the competition were the ones who realized this early and focussed on very narrow chunks of the entire problem.
  • When the judges mainly comprise of business suits, they are mainly interested in £££ and $$$ signs.
  • That makes perfect sense to the pragmatist in me. The idealist in me shudders at the very thought.
  • And most importantly of all, the engineer in me would LOVE to know if there is an answer to the problem. Not to make money, but just to satisfy my curiosity. That’s probably why I will never be rich.
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2 comments

  1. Well summarised. My biggest frustration was simply with those judging the teams. A woeful lack of understanding of the problem, solutions, technologies involved… I could go on. I can deal with not winning, but I won’t be judged by i***ts.


  2. Agreed, on all counts. But from where they sit, being able to b***shit their way to big money and positions, the joke’s on us.



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