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Engineers and misplaced confidence (observations)
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More ramblings as I'm procrastinating......

This is a followup to the intern woes, but it is a pattern I've seen with a lot of engineers, though mostly younger ones.

After spending 90 minutes with our customer clarifying details that the intern insisted that we didn't need clarified, it turned out that he was 100% wrong. The reason why he was wrong was that he looked at the database and made an assumption about what a field meant, when it turned out it meant something completely different (work done on "product" vs work done by member of "product" team).

I knew what it meant because I actually investigated the data and was able to figure out what all of the elements meant without making assumptions.

He did what I've seen a handful of young engineers (many whom seem to be on the spectrum) do, which is he saw the field, made a quick assumption about what it meant, and then became dogmatic about that assumption. When I say dogmatic, its like assuming 2+2=5, and then defending it like zealot defends their religion, and completely shutting out any new information that contradicts what they believe.



So I have a couple of thoughts/questions about these kinds of people.

1) Have any of you noticed this pattern?
2) Do most of them survive past the beginning stages of their careers? ie do they ever grow out of this?
3) Is there a way that they can be managed, or a fit for them within an engineering company?
4) Clearly they can manage to study for test and calculate/regurgitate correct answers. Is there a way that they can be trained out of this behavior in school, or a way to screen them in school so that they don't get the degrees?


Additional thought.....I've actually noticed this problem, or a similar one, in the data science field. Its actually one of the reasons why I started programming on my own because 50% of the people who have been doing it for us have been so bad. Like really fucking bad. ("How does this report look?" "For the 4th time, I asked for a stacked graph. This graph is not stacked....STILL!")

-----------------------------Baron Von Speedypants
-----------------------------RunTraining articles here:
http://forum.slowtwitch.com/...runtraining;#1612485
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Re: Engineers and misplaced confidence (observations) [BarryP] [ In reply to ]
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And yes, I spoke to his manager today and pretty much told him that I didn't want him to be surprised if I end up kicking him off of my project.

-----------------------------Baron Von Speedypants
-----------------------------RunTraining articles here:
http://forum.slowtwitch.com/...runtraining;#1612485
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Re: Engineers and misplaced confidence (observations) [BarryP] [ In reply to ]
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A couple of years ago, I went to a seminar on the topic of managing millennials. One point they made has been very helpful for me, and it may be a part of what you're dealing with. This guy could just be a standard know it all jerk, but I figured I'd share.

In previous generations, new hires were willing to put their heads down, work a few years, and were OK with not getting noticed and not making a big impact. They were paying their dues. Eventually they would grow into their career, people would start respecting them, and they may move companies once or twice before they retire. Millenials grew up in a world where their parents were regularly let go due to recession, off-shoring, restructuring, etc. They cannot fathom staying in one company for very long, because they have never seen anyone do it. They need to make an impact quickly, because they won't be around in 3 years. It isn't that they necessarily want to jump from company to company, it is just how they see the world.

Maybe the kid is just trying to show he is useful. His manager should be directing this excitement and drive into something productive.
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Re: Engineers and misplaced confidence (observations) [jmcconne] [ In reply to ]
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Possibly. Or at least that could be a factor.

I talked to a millenial at the gym a few years ago who said he knew more and did more work than any of the older guys, and he planned to tell his boss that he should be making $250K a year.

I wonder how that went.

-----------------------------Baron Von Speedypants
-----------------------------RunTraining articles here:
http://forum.slowtwitch.com/...runtraining;#1612485
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Re: Engineers and misplaced confidence (observations) [BarryP] [ In reply to ]
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They also talked about the impact parents had by always telling them how great they are, but at the same time doing their science project for them.
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Re: Engineers and misplaced confidence (observations) [BarryP] [ In reply to ]
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1) Have any of you noticed this pattern? Yes.

2) Do most of them survive past the beginning stages of their careers? ie do they ever grow out of this? I don't have statistics, but I know that some grow out of it.

3) Is there a way that they can be managed, or a fit for them within an engineering company? My chosen way is to do root cause analysis of all problems. And I'd consider faulty assumptions resulting in wasting 90 minutes of customer time a problem. Many people want to stay away from "the blame game", and claim millenials are especially bad at taking negative feedback, but how can you learn from mistakes if nobody even figures out what went wrong? I try not to be huge dick once we get there, but I don't let people keep me from getting to the bottom of things. For most perfectionist know-it-alls that journey is often humbling enough.

4) Clearly they can manage to study for test and calculate/regurgitate correct answers. Is there a way that they can be trained out of this behavior in school, or a way to screen them in school so that they don't get the degrees? Work is not school. The lessons are obviously going to be different in one versus the other as well.


On the other hand, some people just have personality blind spots. Those probably aren't going away.
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Re: Engineers and misplaced confidence (observations) [BarryP] [ In reply to ]
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I'm an engineer in oil and gas and have been for almost 20 years. As a result, I get to mentor and train a lot of junior engineers and fresh grads. It's one of the most rewarding parts of my job.

I expect them to be confident, but not cocky. Due to the nature of the work (hydrocarbons, high pressure piping and vessels, etc) one of the first things I hammer home is if you fuck up, people can die. So you better be right. That means follow specs and code, have ALL work reviewed, then check it again. It's your responsibility that people don't die or get injured. Risk should be engineered out as much as possible. Don t rely on operators or procedure.

And for added measure, we discuss the costs and environmental consequences of errors and oversights. Any thing under 50 million is considered a small project.

I've noticed that the fresh grads tend to be more over confident than someone who has a couple years experience. The experience tends to humble them somewhat. That's said, most of the juniors are willing to learn, and respect the knowledge and opinions of more senior people. Just my experience however.

Sounds like you have more of a "person" problem than a junior engineer problem.
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Re: Engineers and misplaced confidence (observations) [Ringmaster] [ In reply to ]
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"Sounds like you have more of a "person" problem than a junior engineer problem."

I've worked with about 6-7 interns/recent grads so far. Four were awesome and all got hired. One was okay, one was in the wrong field.


Yes, this one is special. Over confident, probably on the spectrum, and I think he might even have OCD, or some other personality disorder.

-----------------------------Baron Von Speedypants
-----------------------------RunTraining articles here:
http://forum.slowtwitch.com/...runtraining;#1612485
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Re: Engineers and misplaced confidence (observations) [BarryP] [ In reply to ]
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i think there's also an element to engineering training that, frankly, breeds misplaced confidence. in canada, at least, the 'iron ring' thing often seems to get outweighed by the 'ertw' thing. in my time on campuses that included engineering schools, eng students were often convinced that their coursework was the hardest, that their field was the most important, that there were virtually no problems worth solving that their training hadn't already equipped them to solve. seems one or two mandatory courses in the humanities or social sciences might help with a sense of perspective. . .

side note: number two in the misplaced academic confidence sweepstakes was usually economics.

____________________________________
https://lshtm.academia.edu/MikeCallaghan

http://howtobeswiss.blogspot.ch/
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Re: Engineers and misplaced confidence (observations) [BarryP] [ In reply to ]
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BarryP wrote:
"Sounds like you have more of a "person" problem than a junior engineer problem."

I've worked with about 6-7 interns/recent grads so far. Four were awesome and all got hired. One was okay, one was in the wrong field.


Yes, this one is special. Over confident, probably on the spectrum, and I think he might even have OCD, or some other personality disorder.

I an a Mechanical Engineer (Tech school, no PE) in the industrial construction industry. I am also an OCD triathlete. In construction I find my OCD to be very helpful. I think some people can grow and integrate their "disorders" to benefit their profession if given the opportunity. Others not so much. We have younger PM's coming in the same way, over confident and cocky. It usually doesn't take but 1 project for them to realize this isn't college.
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Re: Engineers and misplaced confidence (observations) [BarryP] [ In reply to ]
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The pattern I've seen is in smart people who have not been exposed to other smart people especially much smarter people. Someone who has been the smartest person in the room for a long time gets into the bad habit of assuming (often reinforced) that it isn't worth considering other peoples views, especially on anything technical. Add to this some spectral issues and they have a very hard time working with others. That said, I've seem progress when those people are exposed to situations where someone is more capable. I think it comes down to learning a little humility. Getting humbled helps. It helps even more to be exposed to someone who is obviously brilliant who is humble and openly considers that they might be wrong.
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Re: Engineers and misplaced confidence (observations) [BarryP] [ In reply to ]
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1) did not read everyone's reply
2) Background 52, Been an engineer for 29 yrs.

Bob Lutz is often quoted as saying "Often wrong, never in doubt" -- I use a modified version "Often wrong, seldom in doubt"

Engineers often will stick with and defend their initial thoughts in conversations , but then the good ones think about discussions and are willing to change.

For years I have been working within GM on a program of Evidenced based engineering.

In short, I know, I think, I was told, are not proof of things or evidence. When working a project start with what the customer (whomever that is) wants and whey do they want it -- of course you have evidence of that and they bought off on what you wrote down, cause often what they say, what hear is not what they want and only by putting in writing does everyone agree. But then going forward, you need evidence so in your case whats the evidence of what "product" meant.

Instilling this as policy also makes everyone do it and the young engineers dont feel your singling them out. Actually my experience its harder to get the old timers on board.

Anyhow hope this helps.

Just Triing
Liking ST more since finding the block user post option.
Triathlete since 9:56:39 AM EST Aug 20, 2006.
GM employee, The views and comments posted are my own and in no way reflect those of GM. - Required legalize from employer.
Be kind English is my 2nd language. My primary language is Dave it's a unique evolution of English.
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Re: Engineers and misplaced confidence (observations) [DavHamm] [ In reply to ]
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Short answer: your hiring process possibly failed.

Longer answer: your screening process, initial "stink test interviews" with an HR person, and the interviews with managers and other engineers.........those people possibly failed.

There's questions even the first HR person can ask that'd weed out problems. The old classic "can you give me an example of a time you were proven dead wrong and what you did about it?".

If there's crickets, either a liar or doesn't have any relevant experience in dealing with that and should be a "pass, next please".

Also, it's an intern. There shouldn't be any guarantee of a re-up or of a full time job someday. So shouldn't be that big of a deal.

I find it offensive you would lump so many of us into one fatburger in the sewer.

A real engineer will be more along the lines of "assuming makes an ass of u and me, show me the data".

Not "let's shoot at the hip now and cook the data later".

We're on a $2bil USD manufacturing project right now full of engineers. We've almost none of the problems you are describing going on. Then again, we hire the right stuff.
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Re: Engineers and misplaced confidence (observations) [BarryP] [ In reply to ]
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BarryP wrote:

Yes, this one is special. Over confident, probably on the spectrum, and I think he might even have OCD, or some other personality disorder.


If I went through school now I bet they would classify me as on the spectrum... OH and a requirement to be a good engineer is to have a personality disorder.

Just Triing
Liking ST more since finding the block user post option.
Triathlete since 9:56:39 AM EST Aug 20, 2006.
GM employee, The views and comments posted are my own and in no way reflect those of GM. - Required legalize from employer.
Be kind English is my 2nd language. My primary language is Dave it's a unique evolution of English.
Last edited by: DavHamm: Apr 2, 19 6:11
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Re: Engineers and misplaced confidence (observations) [iron_mike] [ In reply to ]
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iron_mike wrote:
i, eng students were often convinced that their coursework was the hardest, that their field was the most important, that there were virtually no problems worth solving that their training hadn't already equipped them to solve.

Of course we were convinced of that cause its THE TRUTH...

lol

Just Triing
Liking ST more since finding the block user post option.
Triathlete since 9:56:39 AM EST Aug 20, 2006.
GM employee, The views and comments posted are my own and in no way reflect those of GM. - Required legalize from employer.
Be kind English is my 2nd language. My primary language is Dave it's a unique evolution of English.
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Re: Engineers and misplaced confidence (observations) [DavHamm] [ In reply to ]
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Experience teaches you that the answer is rarely Yes or No and instead is almost always more nuanced as a Maybe...

Knowing this is why we older engineers earn loads more than the kiddies.

That, and engineers are almost always a bit on the spectrum 😀
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Re: Engineers and misplaced confidence (observations) [jbank] [ In reply to ]
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jbank wrote:
The pattern I've seen is in smart people who have not been exposed to other smart people especially much smarter people. Someone who has been the smartest person in the room for a long time gets into the bad habit of assuming (often reinforced) that it isn't worth considering other peoples views, especially on anything technical. Add to this some spectral issues and they have a very hard time working with others. That said, I've seem progress when those people are exposed to situations where someone is more capable. I think it comes down to learning a little humility. Getting humbled helps. It helps even more to be exposed to someone who is obviously brilliant who is humble and openly considers that they might be wrong.

This. Very satisfying work engagements have been with really smart people that are also humble because they're likely to consider other views, vs. the stubborn know-it-all. Had a former boss that was extremely bright who always said his goal was to be the dumbest person in the room. The hardest folks to work with are the stubborn ones that also believe they're the smartest.
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Re: Engineers and misplaced confidence (observations) [ In reply to ]
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we got 2 recent grads in to my dept.. phd physics from delaware, 1 male, 1 female. Outstanding individuals that I enjoy working with. Guess we hit the jackpot.
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Re: Engineers and misplaced confidence (observations) [BarryP] [ In reply to ]
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Jeez, what's the guy think he is? A lawyer or something?
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Re: Engineers and misplaced confidence (observations) [burnthesheep] [ In reply to ]
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"I find it offensive you would lump so many of us into one fatburger in the sewer."

I'm allowed to. I'm also an engineer.

-----------------------------Baron Von Speedypants
-----------------------------RunTraining articles here:
http://forum.slowtwitch.com/...runtraining;#1612485
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Re: Engineers and misplaced confidence (observations) [spntrxi] [ In reply to ]
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Where are you?

-----------------------------Baron Von Speedypants
-----------------------------RunTraining articles here:
http://forum.slowtwitch.com/...runtraining;#1612485
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Re: Engineers and misplaced confidence (observations) [BarryP] [ In reply to ]
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So, for any interested, here is the hangup that he has:

He thinks my table structure is inefficient. Here's the thing, if we were building a database, he would be correct. In every other context, including this one, he's completely wrong. I'm going to go out on a limb here and think that maybe part of his schooling was database structure and his lack of real world experience makes it difficult to see that the world does not always revolve around the efficiency of data storage.

-----------------------------Baron Von Speedypants
-----------------------------RunTraining articles here:
http://forum.slowtwitch.com/...runtraining;#1612485
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Re: Engineers and misplaced confidence (observations) [BarryP] [ In reply to ]
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Engineer masquerading as an analyst in a couple of fields.

1 - Yes, I've noticed the pattern of "I said this so I must be right no matter what anyone else says." It's worse with millennials, but it shows up in all cohorts. It seems to be getting worse, although I don't know why. I've noticed, as another poster said, that the "Someone told me/I heard that/I assumed" line of thinking is what people count as 'critical thinking.' Again, I don't know why and I don't want to blame the usual suspects - eg the education system, media, whatever - but the concept of asking oneself a question or posing a hypothesis, looking at the outcome, and then noting that the outcome did not match one's assumptions is no longer widespread. In fact, if you do that you might well end up being the target of some serious attack by your peers.

2 - Some grow out of this only if a mentor has worked on changing their behaviour. Unfortunately, narcissism appears on the rise in workforces. There aren't many true narcissists, but they have such a heavy influence that they can really propagate that "I said this so I must be right" way of thinking.

3 - Dunno. I try to avoid them now. But promotion systems favour them because they look so confident.

4 - I was fortunate to have good professors in university who went out of their way to teach a more Socratic approach to problems than what schools teach. Interestingly, those two professors were young at the time and their approach brought the entire faculty against them. They didn't survive the pressure. Within four years of trying the approach, they left for other jobs. One left me this book
https://www.amazon.ca/...panded/dp/1551114933
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Re: Engineers and misplaced confidence (observations) [hyr00] [ In reply to ]
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I'd also say this (as a side-note from the baby boomers thread):

once upon a time internships and entry-level positions were about training people up ... now they seem more about exploiting free labour and paying in 'experience.'

so when these interns and new staffers come to you without the right skills or mind set, you fire them rather than invest in them.

____________________________________
https://lshtm.academia.edu/MikeCallaghan

http://howtobeswiss.blogspot.ch/
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Re: Engineers and misplaced confidence (observations) [BarryP] [ In reply to ]
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BarryP wrote:
Where are you?


SF BayArea... probably an epicenter of entitled Millennials
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