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Godfrey, Kneeland, Jr. (ed.) / The Wisconsin engineer
Volume 59, Number 2 (November 1954)

So you think you're smart!,   pp. 46-53

Page 48

         Laws of Engineering
                (Continued from page 27)
that if you take care of your present jol) well, the future
will take care of itself. Success depends so largely upon
personality, native ability, and vigorous, intelligent
prosecution of any job that it is no exaggeration to say
that your ultimate chances are much better if you do a
good job on so50' minor (letail than if you do a medi-
ocre job as section head. Furthermore, it is also true
that if you (1o not first make a good showing on your
present jol) you are not likely to be given the opportu-
nity of trying something else more to your liking.
  T'hierc is alwais (1 prennum upon the ability to get
thinags dlone. This is a quality which may be achieved
by various means under different circumstances. Spe-
cific aspects will he claborated in some of the succeed-
ing items. It can probably be reduced, however, to a
combination of three basic characteristics, as follows:
  (a) Energy, which is expressed in initiative to start
things and aggressiveness to keep them moving briskly.
  (b) Resourcefulness or ingenuity, i.e., the faculty for
finding ways to accomplish the desired result, and
  (c) Persistence (tenacity), which is the disposition to
persevere in spite of dlifficulties, discouragement, or in-
  This last (puality is sometimes lacking in the make-up
of brilliant engineers, to such aln extent that their effec-
tiveniess is greatly reduced. Such dilettantes are known
as good starters but poor finishers." Or else it will be
said of a man: "You can't take him too seriously; he'll
be all steamed up over an idea today but tomorrow he
will have dropped it and started chasing some other
rainbow." Bear in mind, therefore, that it may be worth
while finishing a job, if it has any merit, just for the
sake of finishing it.
  In carrying out a project do not wait for others to
deliver the goods; go after then and keep everlastingly
after them. This is one of the first things a new man
has to learn in entering a manufacturing organization.
Many novices assume that it is sufficient to place the
order and sit back and wait until the goods are deliv-
ered. Tlh fact is that most jobs move in direct propor-
tion to the amount of follow-up and expediting that is
applied to them. Expediting means planning, investi-
gating, promoting, and facilitating every step in the
process. Cultivate the habit of looking immediately for
some way around each obstacle encountered, some
other recourse or expedient to keep the job rolling
without losing momentum. There are ten-to-one differ-
ences between individuals in respect to what it takes
to stop their drive when they set out to get something
  On tile other hand, the matter is occasionally over-
done by overzealous individuals who make themselves
obnoxious and antagonize everyone by their offensive
browbeating tactics. Be careful about demanding action
from another department. Too much insistence and agi-
tation may result in more (lamage to a man's personal
interests than could ever result from the miscarriage of
the technical point involved.
  When sent out on any assignment stick with it and
see it through to a successful finish. All too often a
young engineer from the home office will leave a job
half done or poorly clone in order to catch a train or
keep some other engagement. Wire the boss that you've
got to stay over to clean up the job. Neither he nor the
customer will like it if another man has to be sent out
later to finish it up.
  Avoid the very appearance of vacillation. One of the
gravest indictments of an engineer is to say: "His opin-
ion at any time depends merely upon the last man with
whom he has talked." Refrain from stating an opinion
or promoting an undertaking until you have had a rea-
sonable opportunity to obtain and study the facts.
Thereafter see it through if at all possible, unless fresh
evidence makes it folly to persist. Obviously the ex-
tremes of bullheadedness and dogmatism should be
avoided, but remember that reversed decisions will he
held against you.
  Don't be timid-speak up-express yourself and pro-
mote your ideas. Every young man should read Emer-
son's essay on "Self Reliance." Too many new men seem
to think that their job is simply to (lo what they're told
to do, along the lines laid down by the boss. Of course
there are times when it is very wise and prudent to
keep your mouth shut, but, as a rule, it pays to express
your point of view whenever youi can contribute so1e'-
  It frequently happens in any sort of undertaking that
nobody is sure of just how the matter ought to be han-
dled; it's a question of selecting some kind of program
with a reasonable chance of success. This is commonly
to be observed in engineering-office conferences. The
first man to speak up with a definite and plausible pro-
posal has better than an even chance of carrying the
floor, provided only that the scheme is definite and
plausible. (The "best" scheme usually cannot be recog-
nized as such in advance.) It also happens that the
man who talks most knowingly and confidently about
the matter will very often end up with the assignment
to carry out the project. If you do not want the job,
keep your mouth shut and you'll be overlooked, but
you'll also be overlooked when it comes time to assign
larger responsibilities.
  Be extremely careful of the accuracy of your state-
ment. This seems almost trite, and yet many engineers
lose the confidence of their superiors and associates by
habitually guessing when they do not know the an-
swer to a direct question. It is certainly important to
be able to answer questions concerning your responsi-
bilities, but a wrong answer is worse than no answer.
If you do not know, say so, but also say, "I'll find out
right away." If you are not certain, indicate the exact
degree of certainty or approximation upon which your
answer is based. A reputation for dependability and
reliability can be one of your most valuable assets.
                 (Continued on page' 50)

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