Month: March 2010

Work Colleagues Classified

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Following the idea of Students Classified, let’s talk about the typical characters you might find in a pseudo-professional environment.

Mr. I-always-have-an-appointment-at-4.30 p.m. This is the first engineer to leave the office when the clock strikes 4.30 p.m. regardless of whether he finished his work or not. He seems to have a very lovely family as the idea of overtime just doesn’t click with him. It’s as if he’s sitting on a coiled spring that launches him upwards when the clock strikes 4.30 p.m. If you ever train under him, he’ll probably throw all the work at you since he’s always too eager to leave the office, and when you tell him to check your work, he’ll probably throw your work to someone else since he just can’t waste office time on you.And when someone asks him, “Why are you leaving early?” (since in engineering, 4.30 p.m. is a bit too early), the answer is always the same, “I have an appointment.”

*ummmm….with who exactly?*

Mr. Self-proclaimed-Hard-Worker. This is the person who sits from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. with his back straight and a look of utter concentration on his face. When you call him to ask for help, he’s always busy, and when you want to meet the manager, he slips in before you to sit and talk nonsense with him. It’s so obvious he’s after a promotion or something, and when you tiptoe silently behind him to understand the concentration glare, and try to look at what he’s actually working on, you realize that no, he’s not trying to solve the Middle East problem, but rather, he’s playing solitaire.

Mr. Please-Take-An-Appointment-With-Me. This person spends half the day blabbering nonsense about how much work he’s got but if anybody comes and interrupts his “important” conversations, you need to take an appointment since he’s so busy.

*Obviously*

Ms. I-will-punch-you-in-the-face-if-you-mess-with-me. Engineering’s got a lot of these tough women who seem to know more about football than makeup, cars than shoes, and needless to say, they seem to represent the inverse of the saying that, “If you’re a female in engineering, then the odds are good but the goods are odd.”

Ms. Ya Lali. This is the overfeminine engineer who wishes there was a career advisor in high school to warn her about this major before she got stuck with the university degree and career.

The Gang. These seem to be best friends since their nappy years. They probably went through the school system together, graduated together, maybe even married on the same day, and now – guess what – they work together in the same department. They’re never serious about work since they’re always throwing work/blame on each other. They also cover up for each other, too. In front of the boss, this is what they say;

A: “He did it.”

B: “No, he did it.”

Then after work, you see them giggling together. “Thanks, man. That was a close one. You owe me, or is it me who owes you this time?”

Mr. Clicking Bomb. You see them clicking ferociously, uttering expletives at the screen as though the swearwords will make the computer work faster.

Mr. I-Anticipate-A-Crusade. This person doesn’t answer you when you ask. He doesn’t look at you when you ask. He’s always afraid of you bigtime. His blood seems to freeze anticipating a holy war or crusade just because your religion is different, you’re fully in black and you do look scary. You find yourself wondering if he’ll jump off his seat and cower under his desk if you use the word, “Osama,” around him.

Mr. Organizer. This person is always organizing; he’s organizing his desk, folders, email folders, plants on his desk. Then when he’s done, he’s combing his hair with his fingers, what on Earth is he preparing himself for? No idea.

The Radar. This is normally the secretary, who keeps a close watch at the door, and sees the time you walk in and out, then sends a report to your supervisor about your lack-of-discipline-at-the-very-beginning-of-your-career

(what career?)

And then when you ask your supervisor a simple engineering question and he answers with, “You see, in this department we get it as input,” you find yourself wondering, “If I’m going to be like you at the end of my career and stop asking questions, then I think this ‘so-called’ career needs to end ASAP.”

Ms. Ignore/UnderCover-Reporter. That’s me, la da3i lilta3reef, just watching and recording everybody as I watch my personal countdown towards the end of my career.

*Tick*Tock*Tick*Tock*

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Students Classified

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One of my friends suggested that I write a note on the typical characters one would find at work. Before that, however, I thought I would repost an old note on typical characters one would find in engineering classes. These characters were drawn for illustrative purposes only, which means that some students might fall under more than one category.

1. The Nerd. This student does not need to be introduced as he seems to be the star of engineering. Common characteristics include glasses, pencil case, a backpack and the like…you get the picture.

2. Mr. My–favorite–alphabet–is–zzzz. This student is forced to come to class by forces that range from external – parents – to internal – avoiding a guilty conscience. The secret combination to reveal this student is to put 8 o’clock, power point presentation and lights off together in a single class. Back in the old days, this student used to sit at the back of the class, behind the most horizontally gifted (or the not – so – thin) student and put his head on the desk. Nowadays, you can spot him in the very first row with his chin propped up on his hand. Frankly speaking, if it were not for his closed eyes, his sitting posture can actually fool someone into believing he was interested. One important accessory to this person is his shades. Teddy bears (nice fluffy pencil case), pillows (backpack), and blanket (lab coat) are always a plus. 

3. Mr. Alice–in–wonderland. The moment the white screen is pulled down over the white board, this student’s mind has jumped on a red carpet to Lala world. A question posed by a professor might have him crash–land back to Earth as he looks around the class silently pleading with anybody who knows the answer to actually answer the question because he’s so lost in the course that the only thing he knows is what course he is actually registered in – or maybe not.

4. Ms. Cup-of-coffee-in-hand. You expect this student to be the most alert because she’s got a cup of coffee in her hand, right? Wrong. The coffee is just there for heat transfer purposes as some engineering classrooms happen to be so cold.

5.Mademoiselles we–are–out–on–a–picnic. These students have their breakfast right there in class. The monotonous lecture may be interrupted by munching and slurping, and if the professor is lucky enough, he might actually get something.

6. Ms. Techno -savvy. This one is the one who pretends to be taking notes on the laptop just to be discovered facebooking their classtime away. A tip for this student; the tapping gets pretty annoying especially for students from the second category.

7. Mr. Time-manager. This one is seen solving next class’s homework. They seem to have learnt lesson number one in time management; prioritize!

8. Last but not least, Ms. Scribbler. This one is my favorite. The professor stops writing notes on the board but this one is still scribbling in their notebook. They seem to measure the bori–tude* of a class by the number of pages written during class. Their imagination train spurts sparks from the speed at which they move, fuelled by boring classes. The best thing about this student is that the professor mistakes them for hard– working students because of the voluminous notes they seem to be taking during class. Needless to say, the notes have nothing to do with the course subject but it might appear on the next issue of the Leopards – or coming to think about it, maybe this one.

Bori–tide: AH terminology coined to mean ‘how boring something is.’

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The Printress

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Some people were making fun of the “Can operate all types of printers” from my updated CV in the previous note. If you think your engineering job is bad, you haven’t met the Printress. This is the girl who spent four years going through engineering courses like you and myself…Differential Equations, Heat Transfer, Mass Transfer, etc…etc…etc….and then she got stuck in a position for some time where her “job” from 8 to 4.30 p.m. was to print and file, print and file, print and file. Sometimes she took a break from the printing and filing, but the break was filled with calling people, and making sure they were doing their jobs properly. Also, a break from the printing was spent preparing MOM’s for meetings.

She printed so many drawings during her ‘career’ that when someone was stuck at the printer, she could tell from a distance what was wrong with it. The only thing left for her was to say, “Move over….I’m the one with the ‘experience’ here.”

Once I was talking to her, and she was frustrated from all the printing she was doing, and I told her something like, “3’eirna 2a3ed bel beit.” (At least you got a job. Others are jobless).

She said something like, “At least, if you’re sitting at home, you might make tea and give it to your mother, and you’d feel you’re doing something useful with your life. As for me, all I do is print drawings, put them in a folder, and throw the folder into a cabinet.” (…where the sun don’t shine. In other words, nobody even checks if the drawings are there or not.)

Listening to her suffering made me grateful that at least I ran into some engineering work during my career.

I think if you were ever stuck in the Printress’s position, and you were asked, “What’s the size of A3 paper?” your automatic answer would be, “11.69 x 16.54 inches.”

“What about A4 paper?”

“8.27 x 11.69 inches.”

Quick answers.

Min 3’eir tafkeer. (Without thinking.)

Now this is what I would call “Learning from experience.”
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Optimization And Playing With The Numbers

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Do you remember the CHE 430 course? The one with the long title that sounded like; Process Modeling, Simulation and Optimization. The one where you had to do either one of the following;

a) Put as many library books in a wheelbarrow and roll it into the exam room with you- and still expect to fail

b) Pray qiyam ul- leil and make du’aa that the class average will be too low so you can come out with a passing grade.

Okay, I needed to bring back memories for the following reason…during one of those now-I-deem-as-extremely-entertaining classes, the professor said that when we get our first jobs, one of our first assignments as engineers would be optimizing systems.

Since mostly engineers follow this blog, you probably know that by definition, optimization means solving problems in which one seeks to minimize or maximize a real function by systematically choosing (not playing around with) the values of real or integer variables from within an allowed set.

In English, you have an input, a model, and an output. You keep on changing the input until the output is optimized. If you know the logical sequence of equations that constitute the model, you begin to know exactly what inputs must be changed and how the change in input will affect the output.

Let me now tell you what happens at work if you DON’T know the model because you’re using a program; (again, organized in imaginary dialogue form for entertainment purposes);

EE: Use <Program name here> to optimize the system.

IEE: How do you do that?

EE: Copy-paste the input from somewhere else, and play with x and y (variables) until you have uniform z (output = series of numbers).

IEE: What do you mean by uniform z (as in plus or minus what values)?

EE: Where the values are nearly the same.

*3an jad fassara al ma2 bil ma2*

IEE stupidly playing with x and y in hopes that the output will be uniform, but there’s something wrong with the output. Half the numbers are positive, and there’s some negative number. No matter what changes are made to x and y…the negative number is still there.

After a long – frustrating – time on this assignment, EE suddenly remembers that the input (copy-pasted as per his instructions ) needs to be changed.

Don’t you feel it’s one of those “Open-the-window-because-I-need-to-throw-myself-out” moments as described in Engineeringly Incorrect Statements?

Take another optimizing problem;

b) Copy-paste Mathcad sheet, and keep on playing with the numbers until the system is optimized.

So basically, after some engineering experience, the conclusion is this;

-To optimize any system, forget everything you learnt at uni, just copy-paste, use a program and keep on playing with the numbers until the system is optimized.

Finally, with all our engineering experience, I think our CV’s need to be updated. Here’s a template of how mine has changed;

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