Month: January 2010

The New Kid In The Block Syndrome (Part 1)

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One thing that you need to realize when you land your first job is that you’re not in university. It’s not like freshmen year when you’re lost, you have sooo many people who are lost with you,and a team specifically puts together a whole program so you’ll feel less lost – though you’ll still feel lost when you’re finding classes, trying to understand why there are endless lines outside Ibrahim Sadek’s office, and why everybody’s making fun of freshmen when you’re just that….lost. Also at work, there are no professors to give you a syllabus. There’s no course book to teach you the subject when you miss a class. There are no exams to show you how you are progressing with time. Finally, there are no friends to take notes from when you’re not in the mood for class.

As I mentioned in An EnginE-eeer’s Life, working as an engineer is not rocket science. Its main benefit is that it pays very well walhamdullilah. You can call freshly graduated 3engineers some of the most expensive copy-edit-paste-callers-printers in society, and it all goes down to the one piece of cardboard paper that you spent four years of your life getting, (and feel free to display an ear-to-ear grin at the sentence in cursive “With all the honors, rights, privileges and responsiblities pertaining thereunto”, because it might make you wonder, “Does that mean, it gives me the right to cause some destructive field explosions and then go, ‘whoops, sorry’*hand scratching head*).

As for the work environment, you don’t have to be smart to excel in it. The work itself is relatively easy, but your challenges are new. You need to get along with the people you work with, and you need to get a lot of things done as accurately and fast as possible. And that’s where the Always-Under-Stress-acquired skill of multi-tasking and handling stress comes in.

So when you’re walking around the office on your first day at work, you might not always be welcomed by everyone. Remember, you’re the new kid on the block. This is a list of what to expect at work.

Culture clash

I’m using “culture clash” as a generic term. It’s not supposed to signify differences in nationality only, but also differences in age and experience. At university, you used to go to class, and the professor had to give you information because it was their job, and you (or your parents or some sponsor) were paying for their job. But at work, you can only be trained by the people sitting there, and those people might be reluctant to share everything with you since you’re the kid who might take up their jobs in the future. This is worse when you have expat experienced engineers training local fresh graduates in government companies. So how do you solve this problem?

Learn The Work System

A lot of international companies are giving fresh graduates defined career paths, but if the company you work at doesn’t give you a defined path, then you’ll have to define your own path. Know your goal and work for it.

Simplifying the work system, there’s the boss(dubbed Big H.), the experienced engineers (dubbed the EE), and you…the duck to be shot whenever something goes wrong…um…I mean,the new kid on the block. To truly learn the system of your company, and the work you’re supposed to do, you’re going to have to talk to a lot of people. Master the art of asking.

And don’t be afraid of asking stupid questions, because you might get shocked to know that people with so much experience couldn’t answer some of your questions when these questions may have sounded “stupid” to you. Remember the only stupid questions are those that are left unasked. By stupid, I’m talking about being 5 years old again, and asking all those questions your parents used to be annoyed of (and might still be annoyed of), “What are you doing? How do you do that? Why do you do that? Why do you do it this way not that way? Let me do it. Show me this drawing. How do you read this? What is this? What is it used for? what’s the difference between using this and that? Why do you use this in this case, and not that?Who’s the manager? How did he become manager?”

Be endless with the questions. The thing with EE’s is that not all of them like to share knowledge of their own free will, but when you ask them, they might answer you (there’s a 50-50% chance upon asking, but it’s better than the 0% you might get when you don’t ask). Remember to use the new-kid-in-the-block badge to your advantage. Since you’re still a kid with no previous work experience, ask, ask, and don’t stop asking. That’s how you get that “Experience” that workplaces so love.

In any work environment, there’s normally a stabilised hierarchy, and it is established that orders and work go from Big H. to EE to you.

*And that’s if it reaches you*

What If You’re Not Given Work?

Unlike university where professors used to seek pleasure from giving you work, work and more work, at work, you have to work to actually get work (count the number of times the word “work” has appeared in this sentence). At the beginning, expect not be given any work or any responsibilities. You’re still the kid who knows nothing. Even with a university degree, admit it that you still know nothing about how the company works, what it does, and what your position in it really is. So you need to be taught first, and you have the right to a proper training, because you were employed for a reason, and that reason does not include playing solitaire and drinking coffee. So you need to be assertive, and take the active approach, i.e., be very annoying and ask for work. Typical reactions you might get from the EE’s are:

a) The cold shoulder by some people, because they’re “too busy” for you. “Come tomorrow. Or don’t come at all.”

b) Go read the manual

c) Print these papers for now

So why are you given not-so-important work?

This series to continue in Part 2 insha’Allah
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An EnginE-eeeer’s Life

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So here I am cooking yet another note, so that my admiring (not very), loving (*yeah right*), caring (*cough*chortle*cough*) readers (*what readers?*) know that I am still alive alhamdullilah…

So what’s new with me? Nothing much except that recently I haven’t been in the mood for writing much. Engineering is consuming me, dragging me into its midst, with all its calculations and drawings. Now I understand those who say that engineering as a field does something to the human in you so you start acting like a robot, and that might be one of the reason why society pays you highly for it…it makes your life imbalanced, and helps you lose your human side.

Another thing about Engineering is that it helps you get serious in life. If you’re one of those people who seem to be stuck in the cartoon age because nobody sat you down as a child and told you that what you see in real life is not a cartoon, engineering could reverse that. It sobers you up. And when you hear an engineer say, “We’re engineers, we don’t have a sense of humor,” believe them. Because engineering is serious. Dead serious. A small calculation error can lead to money loss, or even worse, life loss.

And another thing you may learn is how your signature on a report = responsibility. You must make sure you have checked everything that’s in that report yourself, before you sign it, because it might come back to haunt you, even if you’ve been working under the supervision of an “experienced” engineer.

And for the non-engineers who think engineers must be so smart to work as engineers, it’s time for a wake-up call. Engineering work is not rocket science. Most of my working alumni could concede that we don’t use 80% of what we learnt in university (*For those who’re thinking 80 % is an understatement, I’m leaving a 15% margin of error*). You start thinking of all those hours you spent studying when you could have C-minused your way to graduation, because when you land in your first job, you might end up doing far more than your share of copy-pasting-editing-printing, especially at the first few months of your career.

And sometimes you get a headache, not because you’ve been using your brain so much, but because of the construction noise outside your office. And don’t even bother challenging people with, “Why do we use this?” or begin your annoying inquisitive questions, “Where does this number come from?”
Why?
You might get people who tell you, “This is how we received it from [...people at the higher level of hierarchy...].”

Yet of course, as the years pass by, you’re so used to not thinking and not questioning that it makes you wonder if you’re ever going to be eligible for the higher level of hierarchy.

Then while you’re working on something, you might face one of the famous engineering lines, “We don’t have the complete data as yet. Just assume something.”

Because as an “inexperienced” engineer, when you ask an innocent, “On what basis shall I assume?” you might get a jaw-dropping, “Just assuming anything.”

Last I checked, there’s almost always a basis of assumption in engineering. It’s not a philosophical or artistic field where anybody could come up with “anything” and plug it into an equation as a first assumption. If “anything” applies then could a negative number be assumed for something like the length of a rope? What about infinity being used for poisson’s ratio? Usually, there must be a basis of assumption, or a range for assumption, and that means when you ask, “What’s the basis of assumption?” you expect to be given a maximum or minimum, or at least an order of magnitude…and no, “anything” is not a proper engineering answer.

And according to what we were taught, the basis of assumption comes from trusted sources.

As a result, after a long day at work, one realizes that if AUS taught us anything, it’s not so much the information – because half of that evaporates 20 minutes after the exam if not before – but it’s how to think and ask questions like engineers.

And one last thing, now I miss classes mostly because they were so inspiring. These are samples taken from my real notes. The red boxes are the non-engineering (=creative writing) work I used to get done during classes…and the blue boxes are for the real engineering/math notes….

(P.S. Note the ratio of red-box-material/blue-box-material of the last picture. )

The Secret

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So my baby blog was starting to get old and boring, so I thought it was time for a complete makeover. You probably know how it goes with a real baby, change his diapers, cover him in powder that makes you cough, dress him in the best outfit…

*tada*

All smart, cute and ready for the real world

Some of the ideas for these notes come from my personal diaries. Being an only girl in a guy’s world, it’s natural that my diary has been giving me company since I was 13 years old, because I always had a lot to talk about, yet not many people in my real world could understand me much, and not many people had the time or patience to tolerate my headache-inducing conversations.

My older brother was the only one who learnt the art of tuning me out without making me feel left out, and that’s why I used to love talking to him, because he wouldn’t remember most of what I said. And what’s funny is how we both knew it,  and yet I kept on talking, and he kept on listening…or pretending to listen.

Yet going through one’s personal diaries to retrieve ideas is an emotionally draining experience. It’s like a roller coaster ride. It can be eye – opening. It can hurt. Sometimes it’s pretty much amusing, as there are parts that can make you feel like hitting your old self in the head for being so silly and stupid. But a lot of times it can bring tears to your eyes. Not tears of sorrow, but tears of sympathy.

It reminds me why I keep this blog running one note at a time. There are many things that I’ve learnt through this life journey the really hard knock-in-your-head way, and the first one is, stop lambasting the world, and think instead of changing yourself. There’s an unknown quote that says, “If you have no will to change it, you have no right to criticize it.”

Another anonymous quote goes like, “When I was a young man, I wanted to change the world.  I found it was difficult to change the world, so I tried to change my nation.  When I found I couldn’t change the nation, I began to focus on my town.  I couldn’t change the town and as an older man, I tried to change my family.  Now, as an old man, I realize the only thing I can change is myself, and suddenly I realize that if long ago I had changed myself, I could have made an impact on my family.  My family and I could have made an impact on our town.  Their impact could have changed the nation and I could indeed have changed the world.”

A secret behind the attempted anonymity of this blog is that  a lot of times in my life, people used to pass by my life, and drop encouraging messages, words, phrases that made me ponder about my life and make changes. Then years later, I would hear from them again, and these people who used to encourage me before would do things that would disappoint me, and I’d always wonder, “Is this the same person who used to tell me (so and so) before?”

And there were people who changed 180 degrees from supporters to opponents and they’d try to stop me from moving onto the next step, and their messages would hurt the most because I’d remember their previous positive influence, then what made them change?

Yet as time passed by, I learnt not to take their hurtful comments personally, because it was not the person that I was supposed to think about, but the message at the time it was sent. I needed to completely separate the person from the message.

And the secret behind this blog is nearly the same. Don’t connect the notes to the real writer, because if a message resonates with you, or touches you, then it’s the message that you’re meant to think about, not the real person.

The whole idea can be described by a quote from a book I read once, “Maybe some people just aren’t meant to be in our lives forever. Maybe some people are just passing through. It’s like some people just come through our lives to bring us something: a gift, a lesson we need to learn, and that’s why they’re here ..you’ll have that gift forever.”

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Guess Who’s Here!

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It’s the new year!

Boohoo :’-(

So 2009 has jumped out of the window and 2010 has made its way through the door. Tearing each day off the calender makes you realize how fast time is zooming by nowadays, doesn’t it? I don’t like reflecting back on the past year on New Year’s day because one gets tempted to work on their New Year’s Resolutions.

This idea of New Year’s Resolutions is quite funny. It’s like people’s resolutions are the same; become more religious, lose weight, get finances straight, get ahead in career, fix relationships, overall be a better person.

But do people stick to any of those resolutions?

*BLAH*

Whether you write your list of resolutions on paper or tissue paper, by January 15 this list finds its new home in the garbage or even better, in a shredder or a blender.

Yalla 3ad, wait until next year to work on those resolutions. And what’s funnier is that people know that they’ll never stick to their resolutions, and yet they keep on working on them year in, year out.

And in general, why don’t people stick to their resolutions?
The picture explains why.

Because they try to change everything about their lives suddenly. They try to go from zero to one abruptly, and then they can’t tolerate being at one so they return to zero again. The classical approach to changing your life is stepwise, taking things one baby step at a time.

A Muslim’s personal development program should be a continuous process, something that is done at least once per month if not on a daily basis, simply to avoid falling into 6ool il amal.

قال عمر بن الخطاب رضي الله عنه:  حاسبوا أنفسكم قبل أن تحاسبوا، وزنوها قبل أن توزنوا، فإن أهون عليكم في الحساب غداً أن تحاسبوا أنفسكم اليوم

And how do you begin to t7aseb nafsak?

قال رسول الله -صلى الله عليه وسلم- : ” أول ما يحاسب به العبد يوم القيامة الصلاة، فإن صلحت صلح سائر عمله، وإن فسدت فسد سائـرعمله

عن عبد الله بن مسعود رضي الله عنه أن النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم قال : ” لا تزول قدم ابن آدم يوم القيامة من عند ربه ، حتى يسأل عن خمس : عن عمره فيم أفناه ، وعن شبابه فيم أبلاه ، وعن ماله من أين اكتسبه ، وفيم أنفقه ، وماذا عمل فيما علم

And that’s just how you begin

Dec. 31, 2009

The things that normal human beings do on Dec. 31 are quite strange. Thank God I’m always seen as abnormal wherever I go, because being normal at this time and age is just weird.

*How ironic :S*

Overall, it was a good 31 December for me. And what was I doing when the clock struck midnight?

*zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz*

(AH confession time; if I were a cartoon,I’d be Garfield because I’m soooo lazy)

And on top of that, sleep was so beautiful alhamdullilah, meaning I was not shaken awake at midnight to the noise of the crowd outside. Even though, I have to admit, we could hear noise around 10- 11 pm-ish that made us wonder if the people in the neighborhood were celebrating with their families back in their home countries. Why else would they be celebrating too early? And if that were true, then the time of noise pollution can give you an indication where they’re from; somewhere to the right of the UAE on the globe.

As a final note, the best resolution was posted by one of my friends, Amal Ashtal (on Dec 10, 2009), ” Just meet everyday’s resolutions.”

P.S. This is a reminder to myself first before others

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