Thursday, June 10, 2010

Engineering Packrats

I changed positions in my company recently and took over for an engineer who had been in his position for a couple of decades and basically was the industry guru for his field. In this respect, I feel rather inadequate as a replacement, but it also is a major challenge then to be successful following in the shoes of a giant.

One thing that I have noticed throughout my career is that engineers are natural packrats. The older generation are paper packrats and it can be evidenced by my current position. There are at least 4 filing cabinets of documents and notes that are for my position, carefully gathered and sorted by my predecessor. Unfortunately, besides being packrats, engineers also are obsessive/compulsive in the way that they organize things. And no two are alike.

This makes taking over an engineering position difficult. Besides being a newbie to this area, I now have to sort through, mentally catalog, and try to assimilate 100,000 pages of information that is in a filing system which a) I don't know, b) has no index to describe it, and c) more than likely is diametrically opposed to my own OC tendencies.

I am a digital packrat though. I like to keep things electronically and throw out as much as I can. In my first job out of college, I was similarly dumped on with boxes of papers. I sorted through what I could, digitized much of it (using my own folder filing system) and then after 4 years boxed up the rest for the next guy to deal with (I still got emails for about 4 years from my successors to ask me to explain something about the documentation).

At my current position, there are two computer folders that I consider mine. The first day on the job, I literally spent 5 hours rearranging the folder and documents in them. I was half expecting some gnashing of teeth the next day as some of the other engineers had lost links to important information. But nothing. My rearrangement went unnoticed.

I cleaned off two shelfs of one of the bookshelfs by getting rid of the empty binders (that should give me enough room to bring the books from home that I may use at some point in my career). Oh yeah, and I have a big schematic on one wall that I spent a couple of hours color coding. Engineers can't get over the childhood urge to color everything.

1 comment:

  1. Yahoo! I can't wait to get those books that you never touch out of the house!!!!