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Adaptability: Just How Good Are You?

If you have ever been involved in design, designed a product, a circuit, or been in any type of engineering field, it may be safe to say that we all share the same fundamental ways of thinking and approaching certain issues or activities. We strip down an issue and develop creative problem solving approaches, or we visualize a design we want and know the initial steps to take to get to the end of the road. We have all been involved in certain approvals and standards. We know or can sympathize with other engineers' headaches and issues.

However, is it possible that there may be a separation or a fork in the road in our common ways of thinking? Can an engineer adapt to markets and designs that they have never had experience with? Of course, there was a day when we first came out of college and started that first job with no experience. At that time, we adapted to working on our first designs and dealing with whatever market we were involved in. But for the time later in our careers, I'm wondering if you can teach an old dog new tricks.

Could an engineer that has developed TV speaker soundbars or audio amplifiers for 20 years jump into a military market designing rocket launchers or night vision goggles? How about the engineer that has developed blood glucose meters for 30 years? Could he or she start over in the industrial market designing uninterruptable power supplies (UPSs), actuators, or test and measurement devices? What about the automotive engineer? Could he or she do just as well designing dental chairs? Can we quickly and easily adapt to any market as different as they are?

As far as projects go, no matter the market, I think the same steps are taken. Research is done, samples are made, testing, design reviews, approvals, engineering builds, pre-production runs, production, etc. Regarding design, we have power supplies, digital and analog circuits, processors, software, interfaces, displays, etc. Every market or company or engineering group follow the same basic project flows and most any design contains the same or similar blocks in the circuit. But is it really that easy?

Again, can an engineer from one market easily adapt to a totally different market? Is it also possible that we have a niche or a gift, or that our brains are designed to be the most effective in one certain market? Perhaps you are awesome and the best at designing printers or washing machines, but have absolutely no skill or grasp when it comes to designing a communication system for NASA. Maybe it just comes down to interest or what you want to do. Maybe we are only good at what we enjoy doing.

I am curious for all fellow engineers reading this — how did you end up where you are today and do you enjoy what you are doing? Could you see yourself designing or working in a completely different market? Are you scared to change, or perhaps have no interest?

I don't want to get into the economic issues or talk about which markets are dying or have no jobs or growth. I want to focus purely on the issues of interest and capability. Do you think if you used your skills and brain in a different market that maybe you could excel more? Could you move up the ladder more quickly? Can we change and become engineering chameleons, blending in and adapting to any market environment and the different headaches they bring? Let me know with your comments.

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7 comments on “Adaptability: Just How Good Are You?

  1. RedDerek
    December 31, 2013

    I agree that the basics can be easily adapted from one field to another. However there are certain specialties that can take time to shift. Taking a digital person and expecting them to design magnetics for a flash-lamp circuit is not really an easy transisition. I actually have seen this and the magnetics the digital engineer designed burned up within a few moments after applying power. Or asking that same engineer to start designing antenna for space flight hardware.

    However, if you take a power engineer and ask them to do transition to instrumentation or other analog focus, the transistion is not that difficult.

    Otherwise, the testing, thought process and research – we should all be able to manage that in any field.

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