What I learned from my undergraduate engineering schooling was that with reasonable tools and assumptions about operating conditions, you could break things down into their component parts, illustrate your solution, state your assumptions, and show your work. You could always get partial marks if you could show some reasonable logical connections, even if it turned out to be a wrong solution. Lots of “it depends” were postulated which occasionally might score you some latitude. All in all though, it was a pretty thorough and good education and a good base of “thinking” with which to start my work life.
At best, I’m a competent engineer the way people think of engineers – equal part geeks and detail fiends who believe if they tinker with things they can fix them, or at least improve them. I’m competent when it comes to tinkering with the things around us; small motors, appliances, a general handyman. Competent, but no more. Still, you get a lot of people that think because you are an engineer you should be able to do things that others don’t generally get asked to do. It’s kind of a nice compliment but in some ways it can get a little exasperating.
Discovering my passion – business
In my formative working years – my twenties and thirties – I was experiencing the high technology engineering world of telecommunications. Over the years I migrated from fairly pure engineering functions (design based) into roles examining and improving business processes, and then towards more pure business-oriented roles. I worked through all the major organizational functions of several multinationals and “Fortune 500” industry titans, working for companies on three continents and traveling through dozens of countries. I survived and at times prospered through a massive industry build up and an even more wildly brutal melt-down. I’ve experienced the hard slogging of the start-up challenge, and I’ve gone through the transition of disengaging from the standard employee model and charting my own path as a Free Agent (I love this term!). So I’ve seen a lot and learned a lot about business first hand, and I’m still learning every day and from every experience.
Business fascinates me and enthralls me. I love to solve problems and chase bottlenecks through companies as you work to scale the business. I love working with people to make their lives easier by helping them more effectively manage the machinery of business, rather than being managed by it. I’m passionate about it and I generally get a thrill out of helping my clients, my associates, and my friends and family with their business and commercial interests, whatever those might be. It has its moments and trying times to be sure, but I’ve pretty much found my groove and it feels very comfortable and rewarding. I think I really excel in the “engineering of business” and how all the pieces fit together and work – at an operational level and strategic level, at a people level and increasingly at an owner level.
In my own consulting business I have branded myself as a “Business Engineer” and I engage my various clients in re-engineering their business for maximum performance. I teach business process re-engineering at one of the local universities in my city, and that helps keep me reasonably sharp and provides me an opportunity to interact with young business and general students at the undergraduate level, and with older professionals doing graduate business degrees and programs. So, at least in my mind, it all fits together fairly well and is comfortable position to grow from for the long term.
And of course, my passion for business has led me to spend a lot of time looking at business itself. Not just at the level of examining an individual business, but really more at “the business of business”. And while I an in awe at the inherent beauty of much of the machinery of business, it’s hard not to see some of the major flaws in the design itself that directly lead to the love-hate relationship most people have with business.
Which leads directly to one specific manifestation of my passion — researching and advocating reforms for business to bring it into line with 21st century societal expectations: The Business Detox Project.