Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Discover Engineering Family Day, DC, 2/16/13, Engineer's Week, &c: Today's Engineer Email Update: January 2013

EWeek 2013: How Will You Celebrate?
National Engineers Week (EWeek) 2013 is one month away (17-23 February). How will you celebrate? EWeek highlights the countless ways engineers make a world of difference, and encourages youngsters to become more technically literate and consider a career in engineering. For ideas on what you can do in your section for EWeek 2013, visit theEWeek website.
Kick Off EWeek 2013 at Discover Engineering Family Day
If you're in Washington, D.C. on Saturday, 16 February, and looking for a fun, engaging way for your children or students to experience the wonder of engineering, this event is for you.Discover Engineering Family Day, co-sponsored by IEEE-USA, features engineering concepts, scientific principles and technology in a way children can embrace and enjoy. Join us at the National Building Museum, from 10 A.M. to 4:30 P.M., to celebrate the profession and the beginning of National Engineers Week.
Registration Now Open for Congressional Visits Day (CVD)
Registration is now open for the 2013 Congressional Visits Day (CVD), to be held 12-13 March in Washington, D.C. CVD is an annual two-day event that brings scientists, engineers, researchers, educators, and technology executives to Washington to raise visibility and support for science, engineering and technology. The deadline for registration is 1 March.


today's engineer articles
Career Focus: Semiconductors 
Statistically speaking, quite a few of the people reading this article are probably doing so on new tablet computers that they picked up or received over the holidays. Those tablets -- which didn't exist just a few years ago -- would not be possible without the semiconductor industry. At the same time, the growth of the modern semiconductor industry has been fueled by the rapid development of new technologies -- tablets, smartphones, and hundreds of other connected devices -- that can be found in almost every facet of our daily lives.
Cogent Communicator:The Inexact Science of Persuasion
Business communication is often aimed at persuading others to do something they haven̢۪t thought of or haven̢۪t wanted to, persuading them a different way is better, overdue, more efficient, or simply the right thing to do.
Your Engineering Heritage:
Protecting Power Lines

How can we harden our infrastructure against natural disasters, even as climate scientists are predicting that storms like Superstorm Sandy will likely become more frequent?
Five Ways to Network Purposefully to Create Lifetime "Career Insurance"
7 Tips for Recent College Grads
Tech News Digest
World Bytes: Hey, Governor
Reshoring and the Resurgence of U.S. High-Tech Manufacturing
Service and Personal Robotics Industry Takes Off
A Survey of IEEE Standards in Patent Litigation
Sponsor's notice
IEEE Member Discounts
IEEE Members can access more savings in more places for home and office -- including group discounts on insurance, travel, home/office and technology needs. While you focus on your career, we'll take care of saving you money. Watch for new deals and more locations in 2013. See vendor details for terms, conditions and availability.
featured items
EWeek 2013: How Will You Celebrate?
National Engineers Week (EWeek) 2013 is one month away (17-23 February). How will you celebrate? EWeek highlights the countless ways engineers make a world of difference, and encourages youngsters to become more technically literate and consider a career in engineering. For ideas on what you can do in your section for EWeek 2013, visit theEWeek website.
Kick Off EWeek 2013 at Discover Engineering Family Day
If you're in Washington, D.C. on Saturday, 16 February, and looking for a fun, engaging way for your children or students to experience the wonder of engineering, this event is for you.Discover Engineering Family Day, co-sponsored by IEEE-USA, features engineering concepts, scientific principles and technology in a way children can embrace and enjoy. Join us at the National Building Museum, from 10 A.M. to 4:30 P.M., to celebrate the profession and the beginning of National Engineers Week.
Registration Now Open for Congressional Visits Day (CVD)
Registration is now open for the 2013 Congressional Visits Day (CVD), to be held 12-13 March in Washington, D.C. CVD is an annual two-day event that brings scientists, engineers, researchers, educators, and technology executives to Washington to raise visibility and support for science, engineering and technology. The deadline for registration is 1 March.
Winter 2012 Issue of IEEE-USA in ACTION Available
The Winter issue of IEEE-USA in ACTION is now available online. You may also download a PDF of this issue for offline reading. And our new app for iPad and iPhone is available through the Apple App Store.
2013-2014 IEEE-USA Government Fellowships
IEEE-USA's Government Fellowships link engineers with government, providing a mechanism for IEEE-USA members to learn firsthand about the public policy process through personal involvement. Application kits for 2013-2014 Fellowships are now available, and the postmark deadline is 8 February 2013.
conferences, workshops & symposia
IEEE Conference on Innovative Smart Grid Technologies Conference
24-27 February 2013 | Washington, D.C.

The fourth Conference on Innovative Smart Grid Technologies (ISGT 2013), sponsored by the IEEE Power & Energy Society (PES), will be held 24-27 February 2013, at the Washington Marriott Wardman Park in Washington, D.C. The conference will provide a forum for participants to discuss state-of-the-art innovations in smart grid technologies. The conference will feature plenary sessions, panels, technical papers,and tutorials by international experts on smart grid applications.
Fifth Annual IEEE Green Technologies Conference
4-5 April 2013 | Denver, Colo.

The fifth annual IEEE Green Technologies Conference (GreenTech'13) will be held in Denver, Colorado, and builds on the success of previous conferences. Green Technologies is an inter-disciplinary area with impacts in all human endeavors. The impact of our energy consumption is forcing us to fundamentally rethink every aspect of what we do, why and how we do things, and reimagine how we can do things differently. And how can we recreate the capacity, structure and operations to support our reimagination? GreenTech'13 will provide a forum for researchers and practitioners to address these wide-ranging issues covering various aspects of "green technologies."
Southeastcon 2013
4-7 April 2013 | Jacksonville, Fla.
SOUTHEASTCON 2013 is the annual conference for Region 3, which contains a horizontal technical conference with workshops and technical paper presentations; the Region 3 Student Conference, including robotics hardware, software, ethics, papers, etc.; and the annual volunteer meeting of the region. The reviewed technical papers are published as a conference record that is made available in IEEE Xplore.
For a full listing of conferences, check your email inbox for the bi-monthly IEEE-USA Conference Brief.
Today's Engineer Email Update: January 2013

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Thursday, January 24, 2013

Employers offer more flexibility in overseas assignments - thanks to Ask Annie!

Employers offer more flexibility in overseas assignments

January 24, 2013. 12:04 PM ET

Thanks partly to Gen Y up-and-comers who want international experience but on their own terms, one size no longer fits all.

FORTUNE -- Dear Annie: A friend sent me your recentcolumn about increases in benefits for employees who are being relocated within the U.S., so I'm wondering if companies' international policies are changing, too. Here's the situation: I've been offered a really interesting promotion, which happens to be located in Brazil.
I'd like to jump at this job, but moving my family there would be very difficult. (We've already moved so many times in my career that I hesitate to even bring it up again, and now we have twin high school seniors who would never speak to me again if they couldn't graduate with their friends.) My employer's usual practice is to move managers' whole families overseas, but would it make sense to try to negotiate for a different arrangement? For instance, what if I propose spending three weeks there and one week here every month, without uprooting my family? Your thoughts, please. — Flying Down to Rio
Dear F.D.R.: Your timing is good, because employers these days are offering staffers who transfer overseas more choices than ever. "Companies want to retain talent and encourage deployments," notes a new studyof over 1,000 big employers from the global mobility practice at PwC. So they're now letting people like you have far more say in how international assignments are structured.
One recent change: Over 20% of companies now encourage "commuter" policies -- in other words, letting managers fly back and forth between an overseas post and their home base, as you'd like to do. That's a leap from just 8% in 2002. "Employers used to move managers and their families from, say, New York to London or vice versa," observes Eileen Mullaney, a PwC principal in charge of the firm's global mobility practice. "You hardly ever see that now. People commute back and forth instead, without moving their families."
About 80% of the companies PwC studied also have "extended travel" policies, allowing executives who spend most of their time on the road to let their families stay in one place. That percentage has more than doubled from 30% in 2002. "So many overseas jobs now have huge travel requirements," says Mullaney. "So it often doesn't make sense to uproot someone's whole family if the employee is going to be away most of the time."
What's more, PwC's research shows that many employers now offer "menus of benefits," allowing those who transfer overseas to pick and choose among different options that the company is willing to pay for, similar to "cafeteria plans" in other areas like medical benefits. Some typical items on the menu: An assignment preview trip, an incentive bonus for taking the job, help with selling a home, or even, in some locations, a "hardship premium."
"What's important to one overseas transferee may not matter to another," Mullaney notes. "I might want my employer to cover the cost of a bigger house, for example, while you'd rather rent an apartment instead and have the company pay for friends and family to visit you." From the employer's perspective, all this choice might be more complicated than the old standardized approach to moving people abroad. But it often results in cost savings when employees make choices that happen to be cheaper than what was automatically covered by a company's old policy.
One reason for employers' new willingness to bargain: They want to attract and retain talented twenty-somethings, 71% of whom said in a PwC poll that international experience is high on their wish lists. "Millennials expect to be assigned overseas, and they ask for it," Mullaney notes. "They are not used to anything being 'one size fits all', and they're not bashful about negotiating for what they want." At the same time, with overall demand for globetrotting talent soaring, offering flexibility can be a competitive advantage in wooing and keeping the right people of any age.
But what if your employer hasn't caught up with the trend? How rigid the relocation policy is "varies tremendously from one corporate culture to another," Mullaney says. "But often there is more room for negotiation than you might think." It never hurts to ask, especially if you emphasize the cost advantages to the company of letting you fly to Rio and back instead of moving your whole family there.
For one thing, your plan wouldn't call for any help with selling your current house -- a big plus right there. "The cost of moving a family is a huge expense," Mullaney notes. "Anything to do with buying and selling real estate is problematic these days. If the company doesn't want you in the new location forever, it probably makes much more financial sense to let you commute."
That's particularly true since you may not be working in Brazil for all that long. The average length of an overseas gig is shrinking, PwC's research shows, from three years or more to just 18 months.
The main disadvantage to going the commuting route, Mullaney says, is that "part of what you gain by living somewhere overseas is a deep understanding of the culture on lots of different levels. I've heard some executives say you don't really get that unless you live there."
Even so, she adds, "It can be done, especially if you have lots of locals working for you." Good luck.
Talkback: If you've taken an international assignment recently, did you have a choice in whether to move there or commute? If so, which did you choose, and why? Leave a comment below.

Filed under: Ask Annie

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British Left Waffles on Falkland Islands; President Wins on Budget, But More Lies Ahead; and more from GCFL

Humorous Headlines

Include Your Children when Baking Cookies

Something Went Wrong in Jet Crash, Expert Says

Police Begin Campaign to Run Down Jaywalkers

Safety Experts Say School Bus Passengers Should Be Belted

Drunk Gets Nine Months in Violin Case

Survivor of Siamese Twins Joins Parents

Iraqi Head Seeks Arms

British Left Waffles on Falkland Islands

Eye Drops Off Shelf

Teacher Strikes Idle Kids

President Wins on Budget, But More Lies Ahead

Enraged Cow Injures Farmer with Ax

Plane Too Close to Ground, Crash Probe Told

Miners Refuse to Work after Death

Juvenile Court to Try Shooting Defendant
Rate, print or email this funny at Headlines, thanks to GCFL

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Wednesday, January 23, 2013

27 Science Fictions That Became Science Facts In 2012 | BuzzFeed

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Sent from my iPhone

Become A Super Intern - thanks to !

Feedback from a real technical intern here at Paneve: "These pages provided great information for interns. I would have to say that the first ( and third ( links were the most helpful. .... If I had to suggest any of these articles to friends I would definitely pick the first one."

Become A Super Intern


Posted by The Editors on May 3, 2011
Become A Super Intern
Fetching coffee in a single bound. Working tirelessly into the wee hours of the night. Coming to the rescue of colleagues in distress. A Super Intern’s job is never done.

As you dash around the office, never forget you’re under the microscope—being watched, judged, dissected. Although there are never any guarantees you’ll snag a full-time offer, even if you perform up to task, there are some superhero maneuvers that will help you soar from intern to employee faster than your boss can say “Planet Krypton.”

It sounds simple, but punctuality speaks volumes about your professionalism.

No one wants to work with a grouch. “The three most important attributes in getting or keeping a job are attitude, attitude, attitude,” says Don Sutaria, founder and president of CareerQuest, a coaching company with offices in New York and New Jersey. If you maintain a can-do, positive attitude during your internship tenure, you’ll be someone coworkers actually want to be around full time.


Don’t thrust yourself in front of managers every time you do something right. Your superiors will be watching, so there’s no need for you to point out your every accomplishment.

Once you start becoming friendly with the other full-timers, ask them to go to lunch, one-on-one. Ask how they got their current positions. They may reveal insight about what the company looks for in candidates, interview tips, and more.

It may sound harsh, it may sound Machiavellian, but the astute new associate never befriends the first people to seek him out. “There’s a high probability they’re desperately in need of instant allies,” says a Wharton MBA who became a director of corporate relations at Penn State. Until you figure out who’s in and who’s out, be cordial and professional, but not chummy. If you find yourself the lunch pal of a guy who badmouths the managing directors, you become guilty by association.

Stay on the safe side with your new colleagues. “Don’t discuss religion, sexual orientation, or other private topics,” says recruiting consultant Lisa Orrell, author of Millennials Incorporated.

It’s good to make sure your internship supervisor knows what you’re doing, but don’t incessantly check in. For instance, there’s no need to interrupt her and announce you’re going to get coffee every time you make a run.

That trick of shooting off an email to a supervisor when working into the wee hours? Oldest one in the book. Don’t use it more than twice.

It’s okay to leave before other colleagues. But as you stroll out the door, never cheerily say, “Don’t work too hard,” or you’ll be branded as the kind of jackass who says things like that.

Don’t talk business in the bathroom. It puts people in the awkward position of having to agree with you because they don’t want to prolong the conversation. Managers tend to resent being put on the spot. They’re funny like that.

Never think like a temp. Introduce yourself to as many people as possible and don’t blow off an assignment you think you won’t finish before your summer stint ends. If you have any interest in getting hired full-time, act like you’re in it for the long haul.

OK, it’s a no-brainer, but based on the experience of many disappointed employers, this advice needs to be emphasized. CareerQuest’s Sutaria stresses that summer employees should “try to tackle summer assignments with all the intelligence and competence they can muster.” And remember the little stuff counts too. If you’re asked to do menial tasks like photocopying or filing, take them seriously. Otherwise, if you do a sloppy job photocopying documents, who will trust you with bigger assignments?


Go out of your way to help others. Stay late and offer assistance when others at the company are overloaded with work. “It’s never too early to act like you’re already an indispensable part of the permanent workforce,” says Margot Carmichael Lester, a career coach based in North Carolina.

14. ZIP IT!
Don’t complain—about the company, your assignments, the cafeteria food—even to other interns. A positive outlook could make or break you in management’s eyes.

Show an interest in the company and learn as much as you can about the industry. Read trade magazines to gain even more knowledge.


You might have a 3.9 GPA, but you still don’t know it all—and, guess what? You aren’t expected to. Most managers would rather answer 20 questions when you get the assignment than have to fill in holes after you turn it in. If you don’t understand how to go about an assignment, ask your supervisor for clarification and what resources are available to you. Just be smart about whom you seek answers from and when. Don’t collar the senior vice president at a cocktail party and ask her a dumb question about workflow.

You take a summer job assuming that everyone knows you’re attending one of the country’s top universities. But one uninformed jerk has the audacity to ask you to fax a lease to his landlord. This, experts say, is the one time you should suck it up. Don’t utter the words “that’s not in my job description,” even if it isn’t, ’cause it is.

Everyone has rubbed elbows with the annoying brown-noser who spends more time trying to schmooze the higher-ups than doing work. It’s even more frustrating when you see the ass-kisser heading out to play after-work racquetball with your department manager while you slave away in your cubicle. The lesson? Although getting the job done is of paramount importance, don’t underestimate the importance of building a social connection with co-workers. Just do it with some class.

Building relationships and cultivating champions who can fight for you to get hired is key. That can be done in a number of ways, says Melinda Allen, executive director of leadership development programs at Vanderbilt University's Owen Graduate School of Management. Network with other interns and employees, including those outside your functional area, to learn more about the people and roles throughout the organization. “Identify someone whom you trust and admire to mentor you and provide feedback,” Allen says.

It’s pretty safe to assume that most employers know you’d love to get an offer for a full-time job when the summer ends. But don’t take that fact for granted. “As soon as you decide you love the company and those you’re working with, make sure everyone knows you want to come back after graduation as a full-timer,” says Carmichael Lester. That includes your boss, coworkers, and the support staffers—who often have the ear of the big guns.

A hard sell won’t necessarily lead to a hard offer. Don’t pester your boss or senior management. Back off if you sense they’re not yet confident in your abilities.

Okay, so the summer’s done. Some of you might already have a full-time job offer in the bag before your departure date. But even if you don’t want to work at the company, try to snag an offer anyway, advises Brian Drum, president and CEO of the New York-based executive search firm Drum Associates. “Keep in mind that when you go on other job interviews, they may ask you if you were offered a fulltime job following your internship.” An offer will increase your perceived value in the job market.


Even if you walk away without a job offer, continue your relationship. Send articles that might be of interest to your boss, and check on initiatives that you helped jump-start. “The trick is to maintain top-of-mind awareness without being a pest about it,” says Carmichael Lester. “An occasional email containing relevant content will do the job.” Although your employer will probably guess that you’re keeping in touch because you’d love a fulltime offer, it’s best to—gingerly—make that clear at some point during your follow-up.


If you liked your junior year summer internship and want to work at the company post-graduation, try to continue interning during the school year. Offer to come in during your free mornings or afternoons or during winter break. A position could open up and you’ll be top of mind.

There’s another reason to stay in touch with your internship supervisor: Even if she didn’t offer you a job, staying fresh in her mind will ensure you have a good reference when you start interviewing elsewhere.


Superman might have only one weakness, but there’s a multitude of ways for an intern to crash and burn, destroying any chance of landing a fulltime gig. What follows is a list of seven ways to obliterate your job prospects with a single blunder. Read closely, and act carefully.

No one will remember the great job you did on a project or the novel idea you came up with if there’s a better memory of you drunkenly asking a co-worker “for a nightcap” or throwing up on your project manager. You have a right to a social life, including getting a drink with co-workers—as long as you’re 21, of course. But proceed with caution wherever alcohol and work mix.

Your co-workers might be dishing it out, but it’s best to turn a deaf ear to gossip. You’re new on the scene, and can’t afford to get caught up in the crossfire of office politics.

It’s bad to get caught flat-footed by your professor, and even worse by your boss. Doodling or daydreaming during meetings will attract negative attention right off the bat. If you have to be brought back to reality during meetings, there’s no way you’ll be brought back after your internship.

Mind your language and subject matter in emails to co-workers and supervisors. An email with the f-word to a fellow intern could get forwarded to the CEO. No matter how funny that forward from your uncle is, it’s best to have a chuckle and then chuck it.

Take note of what your officemates wear and make sure you’re on par: Don’t sport wedge sandals if the other women are wearing closed-toe heels every day. Even if you see supervisors taking business casual to new levels, wait for a formal go-ahead before you break out the muscle shirts. If you look the part, it’ll be easier for management to picture you fitting in full time.

PDA use might be part of your regular assignments, but limit your use to professional duties. “I look at an internship as an audition,” says Natalie Lundsteen, a doctoral candidate at University of Oxford researching internships. That means playing iPhone games or rudely texting while being given instructions could have your supervisor sending you the famous digital kiss-off, “kthnxbai.”

Chronic lateness or absence is a near-certain intern killer, especially if you don’t provide notice. The way you notify your supervisors matters, too. Phone calls are the most forthright. Sending a text isn’t typically appropriate. Even leaving a voicemail is kind of weaselly. And be mindful of background noise when you call: Lundsteen tells the story of an intern who called to say he wouldn’t be in while audible flight announcements in the background clued off he wasn’t sick in bed.

Become A Super Intern - Wetfeet

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Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Super-talented employee driving you crazy? How to deal, thanks to Ask Annie

Super-talented employee driving you crazy? How to deal.
November 30, 2012. 12:27 PM ET

Most creative teams have at least one gifted, difficult loner. Luckily, says one expert, they're "highly coachable."

FORTUNE -- Dear Annie: I've never seen this problem addressed in your column, but I can't be the only one struggling with it. About six months ago, I got this great new job leading a team of 18 software developers and designers, and everything's going great, with one exception. One of our most talented people is also the most difficult and unpredictable. He has terrific ideas and often comes up with elegant solutions to challenges that have other people tearing their hair out. He's also the brain behind two of our biggest hit products.
However, he's not at all interested in project deadlines, he's dismissive of other people's ideas, and he's so absorbed in his own work that he misses a lot of meetings, so he's never quite up to speed with the details of what's going on. I want to keep him here (he's already changed jobs four times in eight years, and I know for a fact he gets other offers all the time), but his prima donna act is bad for the whole team. How can I get him to play well with others? — Baffled Boss
Dear Baffled: Ah. Sounds like a textbook example of what executive coach Katherine Graham Leviss calls a high-maintenance high-performance (or HMHP) employee. "These people tend to be visionary, big-picture thinkers. They're independent producers, and they're very driven, but they're not process-oriented. They're focused on results," she says. "Once they have a mental image of the outcome they want, they go after it without regard to how what they're doing affects teammates."
Leviss runs XB Insight, a coaching firm that specializes in taming HMHPs for Fortune 500 companies and the National Football League, and she wrote a book you might want to check out called High-Maintenance Employees: Why Your Best People Will Also Be Your Most Difficult…and What to Do About It.
"HMHPs are tremendously valuable if properly managed," Leviss says. "And luckily, they're highly coachable. One thing this personality type can't stand is feeling out of control. So once you create an awareness of the problems an HMHP's behavior is causing, he or she is likely to feel a sense of urgency about getting back on top."
How do you do that?
1. Set up consistent processes and guidelines. "If there's no process in place, HMHPs will create their own," says Leviss -- and that can lead to chaos. But don't let an HMHP determine what the process is going to be, even though he or she will probably try. Instead, assign designing the structure of a project, including deadlines, to "more methodical, step-by-step team members who are good at that."
2. Assign them tasks they can "own." This is largely a matter of turning an HMHP's outsized ego to your, and the rest of the team's, advantage. Since these are people who want to put their own stamp on their work -- and since "they're usually highly technically proficient," Leviss notes -- put them in charge of the part of each project where they can shine the brightest.
To bring out an HMHP's best performance, Leviss says, make it about him. "Instead of saying, 'The team has to get to X result by such-and-such a date,' focus on his part of it: 'In order for the team to get to X, you have to produce Y.'" Then stand back. "It's usually pointless to tell an HMHP how to get there," says Leviss. "He or she will just try to find a better way, and they usually can."
3. Make your expectations clear. Sit down with your HMHP for a frank discussion of exactly what isn't working, and don't hesitate to be blunt about it. "You don't need to 'sandwich' your remarks with praise, as you might with other employees, because HMHPs already know they're extremely talented," Graham Leviss says. "So get right to the point: 'Here's how what you're doing -- skipping team meetings, for instance -- affects everybody else, and here's what I need you to start doing instead.'
"We do this kind of coaching with NFL athletes," she adds. "It takes a little while for new habits to form, but hold people accountable and remind them of the changes you've said you want to see."
4. Provide as many learning opportunities as you can. High-performance employees get bored more easily than others (which helps explain why they tend to change jobs so often). They also "like to feel that they're on top of the latest, newest, hottest" trends in their field, Leviss notes. So be on the lookout for cutting-edge training, interesting conferences, and other learning experiences you can offer your HMHP. Whatever the cost, it's lower than the price of replacing him.
5. Keep the challenges coming. Leviss, a self-confessed HMHP, writes in her book that, having changed jobs six times by age 30, she had an epiphany: "I loved my job when I was working on new projects or new problems…. It was the thrill of something new that kept me going…. Most high-maintenance employees are unhappy when a project is over and they don't have another one in sight."
This eventually motivated her to start her own company, but you probably don't want your HMHP to do that in this case -- so make sure he never runs out of fresh puzzles to solve. A definite upside of having HMHPs around: One of their defining characteristics is that they don't know the meaning of the word "overwork."
Good luck.
Talkback: Have you ever worked with, or tried to manage, an HMHP? Do you think you are one? Leave a comment below.

Filed under: Ask Annie

Super-talented employee driving you crazy? How to deal. - Ask Annie -Fortune Management

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Monday, January 21, 2013

Things I Like About Python; thanks to The Female Perspective of Computer Science

Things I Like About Python

Back in May I wrote a popular post about which was a better beginners language: Processing or Python.  Although I concluded that Processing was better for the audiences I tend to have in mind (that is, nontechnical members of the general public), that doesn't mean I think Python is a bad language.

I finally had the opportunity to use Python for my own project.  I have been making a simple iOS QR code scavenger hunt / story game as a (very) side project for a while now, and am trying to give it the final push to completion.  The game is defined in a plist file. I wanted to generate the QR codes automatically from the data in that plist.  I also wanted to arrange the generated images into contact sheets with the text associated with each code written underneath.  I figured this was the perfect opportunity to use Python for a real purpose instead of just as a teaching language.

The very best thing about Python is the fact that no matter what singular unit of work you need to do, you can almost always find freely available code online that does it.  QR generator? Check.  Contact sheet creation?Check.  Help with the imaging library, including drawing text? Check.  Put the pieces together and do some customization to suit my purposes, and I was off to the races.

I also like the 'scriptiness' of the language.  I felt that I didn't need to work hard to make robust and reusable code. So long as it worked for my purpose here, that was good enough.  This is a rare feeling for me.  I usually feel compelled to make the code as general and 'nice' as possible.  I loved being able to do what I wanted quickly and not worrying about what the result looked like.

But that's sort of a downside, too.  When I stepped back to look at the code from a beginner's perspective, I noted how messy and likely difficult to understand it had become.  I remember reading that Python inherently helped developers write good code (thanks to, for example, indentation to signify blocks of code).  But this experience made me believe the opposite - it's so easy to write fast code that it can quickly end up being kind of ugly.

I also had a heck of a time getting everything set up on my Macbook.  Python comes installed on OSX, but it's usually kind of old.  So I downloaded and installed Python 3.  After wrestling with the OS to get it to actually use that version for most Python-related things, I quickly found that the libraries I was trying to use didn't really work with this version.  After several hours I ended up reverting back to the newest release of version 2.  If I was a beginner trying to accomplish some relatively simple task, I would have been turned off the whole thing pretty quickly, if I even understood how to set up the environment in the first place (and I doubt much of the general public would, given how much time you are likely to spend at the command line).

So, all in all, I really like Python for my own purposes as an experienced programmer.  But I'm still favouring Processing (or, even better, something like Scratch or some not-yet-existing language theorized by Bret Victor) as a beginner language.  I could see Python being really handy once the basics are taught and some confidence is built, but I am still fairly sure I wouldn't want to begin with it if I had a choice.

The Female Perspective of Computer Science: Things I Like About Python

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Sunday, January 20, 2013

A stroll around Pompeii, courtesy of Google's Street View : Discovery News

A stroll around Pompeii, courtesy of Google's Street View

If you can’t be one of
the 2.5 million tourists who wander through the streets of Pompeii every year,
you now have another option: Google’s Street View.
The 360-degree panoramic street-level service debuted last week in theancient Roman town that was buried in Mount Vesuvius’ catastrophic eruption in 79 A.D.
Statues, temples, amphitheaters, as well as close-up views of houses, bakeries and baths are now visible on the search engine’s free mapping service.
Virtual tours of archaeological sites abound on the Web and in DVDs. With just a few clicks, you can easily take a tour of ancient Rome, enter Egypt’s Great Pyramid or climb the Acropolis in Greece.
The problem is that too often these computer reconstructions look the same. As you move your mouse around, you are taken into unrealistic, clean, lifeless, plastic-coated landscapes.
Google’s Street View application offers a much more realistic and lively experience, making you feel as if you were walking down a street among many other tourists.
The opportunity to walk virtually through the wonders of Pompeii is a powerful way to boost Italian tourism.
The opportunity to walk virtually through the wonders of Pompeii is a powerful way to boost Italian tourism.
“The opportunity to walk virtually through the wonders of Pompeii is a powerful way to boost Italian tourism. It will actually encourage many potential tourists to come in person to visit the archaeological site,” Mario Resca, from the ministry’s heritage promotion department, said.
Despite recent efforts to spruce up Pompeii by opening up new sites, hosting theatrical events, and taking care of the stray dogs, Street View highlights the deteriorating condition of the ruins.
“From a conservation point of view it is now obvious to a larger number of the public how much the site has suffered,” Blogging Pompeii, a blog for people and archaeologists working at Pompeii, noted.
Launched in 2007, Google’s Street View provides panoramic street-level views of more than 100 cities around the world.
Recent additions include the prehistoric site of Stonehenge, the ancient Spanish city of Caceres and the Palace of Versailles, the official residence of the Kings of France.

A stroll around Pompeii, courtesy of Google's Street View : Discovery News

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Making connections to hiring managers, employees via LinkedIn

    If you don't know me, I have a background in design verification/EDA, and almost always have a few great former colleagues seeking employment.  This message compiles a few good links on the topic of LinkedIn and jobseeking, hope it helps!

   I've suggested to a number of people that if you could find people in LinkedIn that could help your job/contract search
(for research, for resume expediting, to check for existence of unadvertised jobs, or to try to get a job created/remoted for you because of a very special skill match),
then you could write a linked in introduction to said person, and  I would happily forward it (I recommend you give me hints about points to highlight in recommending you for this specific position/company, either in the portion of the intro that is for me, or in a separate email).  It is better if I know you, but if I only know you via a contact or two that will vouch for you, I will still consider it.  These introductions do by and large reach their intended recipients.  I spent all this time in 2002/2003 building up a big network, someone should benefit from it.  So here is the nuts and bolts of that:

This last link tells generally how LinkedIn can be used to help in a job search.  Most people can do everything they need to with the free LI service, by the way.


Thursday, January 17, 2013

Mentoring Skills: Using Your Knowledge and Experience to Help Others - thanks to Career Development from

Mentoring Skills

Using Your Knowledge and Experience to Help Others

Pass on insights, knowledge and skills.
© iStockphoto/asiseeit
Whether it's some advice for a friend on helping them look for a new job, or guidance for a child embarking on their first day at school, many of us regularly use our knowledge and experience to help and guide others.
But this type of help and guidance isn't just useful for our friends and family – by mentoring in the workplace, you can help people increase their effectiveness, advance their careers, and create a more productive organization. Being a mentor can also be very rewarding.
In this article, we'll look at the benefits of mentoring, and the skills you need to be a good mentor. We'll also look at setting up and managing an effective mentoring relationship.

Benefits of Mentoring

Mentoring is a relationship between two people – the "mentor" and the "mentee." As a mentor, you pass on valuable skills, knowledge and insights to your mentee to help them develop their career.
Mentoring can help the mentee feel more confident and self-supporting. Mentees can also develop a clearer sense of what they want in their careers and their personal lives. They will develop greater self-awareness and see the world, and themselves, as others do.
For an organization, mentoring is a good way of efficiently transferring valuable competencies from one person to another. This expands the organization's skills base, helps to build strong teams, and can form part of a well planned Succession Planning strategy. Many apprenticeship schemes are based on the principles of mentoring.

To be a good mentor, you need similar skills to those used in coaching, with one big difference – you must have experience relevant to the mentee's situation. This can be technical experience, management experience, or simply life experience.

Skills for Mentoring
To be an effective mentor, you need to:
  • Have the desire to help – you should be willing to spend time helping someone else, and remain positive throughout.
  • Be motivated to continue developing and growing – your own developmentnever stops. To help others develop, you must value your own growth too. Many mentors say that mentoring helps them with their own personal development.
  • Have confidence and an assured manner – we don't mean overconfidence or a big ego. Rather, you should have the ability to critique and challenge mentees in a way that's non-threatening, and helps them look at a situation from a new perspective.
  • Ask the right questions – the best mentors ask questions that make the mentee do the thinking. However, this isn't as easy as it sounds. A simple guide is to think of what you want to tell the mentee, and to find a question that will help the mentee come to the same conclusion on their own. To do this, try asking open questions that cannot be answered with just yes or no. Or ask more direct questions that offer several answer options. Then ask the mentee why they chose that particular answer.
  • Listen actively – be careful to process everything the mentee is saying. Watch body language, maintain eye contact, and understand which topics are difficult for the mentee to discuss. Showing someone that you're listening is a valuable skill in itself. It shows that you value what the person is saying and that you won't interrupt them. This requires patience, and a willingness to delay judgment.
  • Provide feedback – do this in a way that accurately and objectively summarizes what you've heard, but also interprets things in a way that adds value for the mentee. In particular, use feedback to show that you understand what the mentee's thinking approach has been. This is key to helping the mentee see a situation from another perspective.
Remember, mentoring is about transferring information, competence, and experience to mentees, so that they can make good use of this, and build their confidence accordingly. As a mentor, you are there to encourage, nurture, and provide support, because you've already "walked the path" of the mentee.
Also remember that mentoring is about structured development – you don't have to tell the mentee everything you know about a subject, at every opportunity.

Below are some guidelines for setting up and running a successful mentoring arrangement:

How to Manage a Mentoring Relationship

Set regular mentoring meetings

A mentoring relationship is one of mutual trust and respect. So meet regularly, and lead by example. The mentoring conversation may be informal, but treat the overall arrangement with formality and professionalism.
If possible, conduct mentoring meetings away from the mentee's normal working environment. A change of environment helps remove the conversation from everyday perspectives.

Be honest and open

If you're not honest, a mentoring meeting will probably be a waste of time for both of you. Discuss current top issues or concerns. Sometimes an honest exchange leads to the mentor and mentee deciding that they don't really like or respect each other. It's better to know up front and build from this sort of understanding, rather than have it hurt the relationship.

Build sustainable improvements, not quick fixes

Use the mentoring session to exchange views and give the mentee guidance, and don't just give the mentee immediate answers to a problem. A simple answer to a problem is rarely as valuable as understanding how to approach such problems in the future.

Play by the rules

Establish some rules or a charter for the mentoring arrangement, with desired outcomes. This could be a set agenda for points to cover, or some performance goals for the mentee to pursue outside of their regular appraisal structure. (One of the key reasons that mentoring can fail is that there's a fundamental misunderstanding about what's expected from the mentor and mentee.)
Most mentoring arrangements work best when they're outside of the day-to-day line management relationship between people. That doesn't mean that you can't mentor the people in your team, but it's often best to have a mentoring relationship that crosses reporting lines.
In a small organization, you may not have this option. If this is the case, make sure everyone knows when you're acting as a mentor, rather than as a manager.

Key Points

Mentoring is a great way to progress a person's professional and personal development, and help create a more productive organization. It can also be very rewarding - for the mentor and the mentee.
Treat the mentoring relationship with the respect it deserves. Focus the relationship on the mentee's needs, and use the powerful skills of smart questioning, active listening, and value-added feedback to achieve the best outcomes from your mentoring.
To keep the mentoring relationship on track, set regular mentor meetings, be honest and open, and don't look for quick fixes. Mentoring is a long-term commitment.

Mentoring Skills - Career Development from

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