Checklist for Success Tips

Nov. 12, 2012
This last checklist may help you get the most out of your career and your life.  Our accomplishments and our humanity are tightly related. The checklist is a summary of an understanding gained of an attitude and philosophy that has helped me be a better engineer and person.  The checklist is an outgrowth of 101 Tips for a Successful Automation Career inspired by the ISA mentor program.
This last checklist may help you get the most out of your career and your life.Our accomplishments and our humanity are tightly related. The checklist is a summary of an understanding gained of an attitude and philosophy that has helped me be a better engineer and person.  The checklist is an outgrowth of 101 Tips for a Successful Automation Career inspired by the ISA mentor program. I hope this final offering will mean as much to you as it does to me.

Do you

•(1)    Keep your ego in check? The part of your ego that causes the need to be right and image to be more important than seeking the real deal needs to be recognized and put in the back seat. Your ability to overcome pride and prejudice plays a key role in addressing each of the checklist items.  Accomplishment, recognition, and specialization can make one vulnerable to being overly sensitive to being wrong. I have to admit that at times this has been a flaw for me. The fact you are reading this list means you are probably open to being aware of this propensity.

•(2)    Live in the present? Learn from your mistakes but don't dwell on the past. Consider ramifications for the future mostly in terms of what is happening. Be attentive to what is being said, what are occurring quantitatively and qualitatively, and what you are doing. Being in the moment can lead to being in the "zone" giving an incredible feeling of relaxation and focus where you are "one" with task. I had this happen once in tennis. The feeling was incredible.

•(3)    Seize the moment? Once you recognize an opportunity and the conditions are right, "go for the gusto." Just as in control systems inertia is not your friend. Neither is backlash or stiction. Your reaction should also be analogous to feedback and feedforward controls where you adjust for what actually happened and take preemptive action for better future results.

•(4)    Take a long term view? Be patient and don't overreact to the short term. Take the advantages of model predictive control to heart in terms of integrating knowledge of future implications and spreading the corrections over a series of steps with move suppression to avoid disruption and allow for the unknowns in the future to unfold. A longer term view is also analogous to supervisory control and optimization. Consider the effect of what you are doing now 1 year and 5 years into the future. I have seen terrible decisions made to meet end of quarter expectations. In one case, it cost a company 350 million a year in profit.

•(5)    Chill out? Very few situations are life or death. Keep anxiety in the back seat along with your ego. Get energy from the positives (opportunities) rather than the negatives. They will get along fine. A more relaxed view leads to creativity. Problems are corrected when the time is right. If you can't do something about it in the present, schedule the right time and don't worry.

•(6)    Foster a perspective? Seeing the value, importance, and interrelationships of inputs and outputs enable a more pertinent and effective solution. Seek to verify cause and effect in correlations. Do all of this on a large scale besides a small scale. See the big picture. Have an insider and outsider view and understanding.

•(7)    Develop principles? First principles for ethics and physical systems should guide your decisions. Do this on a dynamic basis since the world is dynamic. Businesses and economics can have an integrating and even a runaway response in the time frame of interest. If there is self-regulation, the steady state is imbedded in the dynamic solution.

•(8)    Communicate? Develop synergistic relationships with suppliers, professors, plant engineers, technicians, and operators. Make presentations and publications to advance the automation profession. Sometimes engineers don't develop their verbal skills and over think trying. An idea imperfectly expressed is far better than an idea not expressed. Improving grammar and readability is what copy editors do best.  You can learn from what they do for you. I think it is a crime the knowledge gained the hard way has mostly been lost for posterity causing the same lessons to be learned over and over again.

•(9)    Help others achieve their potential? The advancement of your company and the profession depends upon a continuing supply of talent. There is a two way benefit to Mentor programs where the Mentor and protégé mutually realize a gain in perspective. Cultivate empathy as part of your humanity.

•(10) Advance the state of the art? You need to push boarders and break paradigms.  Step back and see things in a new light without preconceptions. Open up to possibilities. Get out of the box.

•(11) Promote truth? Deception may yield temporary gains but ultimately the truth will prevail. Open societies and the internet help accelerate the process. Tell the truth in a positive way to encourage solutions rather than a negative way that creates alienation. Otherwise the process is slow and hazardous.   

•(12) Have a sense of humor? Humor can break down barriers, create perspective, put ego and anxiety in the back seat, and open up minds. Doing some humor early in a presentation can make the audience much more receptive. When I was choosing my college major, my Dad said humor was going to play a big role in my career. I was perplexed how a physicist was going to be a comedian. This was four decades before the Big Bang show. My Dad was right as usual.  I ended up writing six humorous technical books and doing a monthly Top Ten List and cartoon description for the Control Talk Column for the last 8 years.  I tend to make fun of myself both as an individual and as a senior. Silly or absurd practices and misconceptions are fair game as well.  I made fun of management and corporate culture in my early days as a predecessor to Dilbert. I have toned this down because it can be misconstrued as a criticism of technical management even though it was directed more at unenlightened business thinking. Plus, managers are people too. Empathy becomes an increasing part of my life as my testosterone levels drop with age.  I prefer instructive rather than destructive humor. Be aware that some people are missing the sense of humor gene. They may laugh politely when they are supposed to but they never originate humor or genuinely appreciate humor. Don't try to explain why something is funny. Either the humor resonates a chord within the person or not.

About the Author

Greg McMillan | Columnist

Greg K. McMillan captures the wisdom of talented leaders in process control and adds his perspective based on more than 50 years of experience, cartoons by Ted Williams and Top 10 lists.

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