embedded software boot camp

First do no harm …

Monday, February 2nd, 2009 by Nigel Jones

One of the pleasures of working for myself is that it allows me to experiment with some rather non-traditional approaches to the whole concept of ‘work’. In fact, looking back at some of my postings, here, here and here it’s clear that this is a recurring theme in my writing. I mention this because a number of years ago I instituted the policy of

Two idiotic mistakes and I quit.

What exactly is this you ask? Well over the years I have noticed that I have days in which rather than progressing on problems, I actually regress, often by huge amounts. I do stupid things such as apply power with the wrong polarity to a board, or I design a circuit that will evidently never work. If I make two of these bone headed mistakes in quick succession, I take it as a clear indicator that my head really isn’t where it needs to be – and I quit for the day.

Now, back when I was an employee, I simply had no choice other than to continue ‘working’, even though I knew full well that I’d be doing my employer a favor if I did nothing more than sit in the corner for the rest of the day. Today, I simply walk away and return to the problem the next day.

It would be an unusual manager who recognized that these days occur – and encouraged his staff to ‘quit’ when they did. I’m sure for many managers, this concept is too radical. However, if Engineers are indeed professionals, then we could do worse than adopt the abbreviated form of the Hippocratic oath given in the title to this posting.


3 Responses to “First do no harm …”

  1. Michael Barr says:

    Excellent point, as usual Nigel!I’ll just add that it’s also important to recognize that the skills of an engineer (whether employed in a creative or productive phase) are sometimes most on display at non-traditional locations and times of day.A successful engineering organization must not only recognize these facts but also learn to harness them. To be maximally productive, engineers need:- flexible working hours- open spaces to collaborate and brainstorm- distraction-free spaces to read or reflectCheers,Mike

  2. GregK says:

    Seems more than obvious! but impossible when you are employee, especially when your manager newer did similar thinks like you do.

  3. The Walrus says:

    To Michael Barr, I'd add: – quiet spaces to go and write code.Writing code in a noisy environment just does not work.And when I was a manager, I used to tell people to go home when they were having a bad day – usually illness and so on. But when they were having a bad time and screwing up, I'd encourage them to do something else, leave early… anything at all to let the problem sit in the subconscious for a while. Coming back refreshed the following day makes a difference.Getting people to actually DO this was a separate challenge!

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