Trade shows offer opportunities to talk with technical people who can help you understand new technologies, suggest new approaches to problems, and answer specific technical questions. I know from experience, trying to find such a person by cold calling a company or sending a query to email@example.com won't get me very far. The personal connections I make at trade shows pay off.
You don't expect your company to pay for your gas or train ticket to get to or from work and you don't expect them to feed you while at work, so why expect them to pay so you can keep your skills up to date? You could take another job any day and take your company-paid skills with you. I'm sorry some engineers don't get paid well and don't have opportunities to advance, but life and work are what you make of them.
I think you are way over-rating what attending a trade show is on your skills. Yes, its nice to stay current on the latest thechnologies available but most of that is available thru the web anyway. Secondly, having knowledge of what other companies are offering for products is hardly considered rocket science or something that would set an engineer apart.
And the comment that if my company cannot afford to send me, I should use my vacation and pay for the trip myself is ludicris. So now, on top of the crappy pay and promotional opportunities engineers are offered, I suppose to pay for what a marketing guy would get monthly for free?
You make a really good point, Jon. Perhaps if the Design News editors are listening, they would consider a version of Tear Down that includes some didactic contact, vis a vis, design intent and decisions. Thanks for your reply!
My brother Chris and I took apart a lot of lawnmowers, washing machines, and TVs and learned a lot not only about how things worked, but how to use and care for tools. I agree that engineering students can learn a lot from teardowns and many landfills and recycle centers have places where people can drop off somewhat-useful "stuff" others can salvage. So we have a lot of raw material for willing hands and minds. Nothing like salvaging a 2-cycle engine and building a go-cart around it. Or taking home a Sun server from the metal recycle bin.
Unfortunately, many of the magazine tear-down projects analyze only what's in a product and the author does not add any insight into why the designers might have chosen one type of design over another. Were plastic molded hinges easier to make but still as hardy as metal ones? Did the manufacturerer choose processor X over processor Y because the X device included a graphic accelerator? Those are the types of questions a good tear-down writer should address for his or her audience. --Jon
What's the relathionship you ask? Because when I think back how I learned as kid about design, it was through tearing things apart (and sometimes, eventually, putting them back together!) Inasmuch as we designers are just overgrown kids, I dare say that the same holds true for 'aging" engineer who wish to keep up to date on the modern technology.
1000X more fun than a booring webinar. And learning needs to be fun to be memorable.
It is easy to fall behind on technology if you let it happen. Webinars and other on-line tools are great ways to stay ahead, but it is hard to keep up with them during the work day. Strict internet policies do limit the ability to sit watching your monitor during the work day. Archived webinars are a great tool that you can use later to catch up on technology.
Speaking of IEEE, the Computer Society (www.computer.org) has a plethora of free (to members) online courses, a lot of which have CEU's attached. I believe you can join the Computer Society for a fee without having to fork over the whole membership fee of IEEE.
My feelings about networking sites such as LinkedIn et al - I think that the networks tend to be too 'diffuse'. You are 'networked' but many of your network is not very tightly (i.e. specifically) tied to whatever you might be doing at any given time. And, in some cases, not even close. If the network gets large then you have the old problem of just too much 'stuff' going on.
I also find that some of the postings on such networks are a bit vague or technically in error. That is probably just a weakness of mine - I like to have some solid engineering/science going on (and of course I don't necessarily regard that as a weakness!!) and when I jump in and contribute, my contributions don't have much impact. OK, I know - it is the communications thing!
Bottom line - I use those sites - they have value and some limited involvement is worthwhile BUT not the end all, be all.
Personally, I'm not a big fan of online webinars and presentations mainly because most run too long. I'd rather have presenters divide their information into separate 10-to-15-minute sections so I can fit them into my calendar as time allows. Also, providing a table of contents to these segments would help, so people can get a quick introduction and then jump into a section they think most applicable without having to sit through an hour-long presentation only to come away disappointed. An hour or forty-five-minute sitting in front of a computer monitor can put even those with insomnia to sleep. And, why not have some printed materials I can download and print? Diagrams, equations, graphs, and charts in such a document would simplify taking notes and let people retain information longer. I haven't seen any webinar invitations that include mention of backup information for participants.
Good points, Bob. I'm curious, though, about why you are skeptical about social networking venues like LinkedIn and even Facebook as a way to connect with the domain expertise of peer engineers and as a resource to keep up with skills.
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Focus on Fundamentals consists of 45-minute on-line classes that cover a host of technologies. You learn without leaving the comfort of your desk. All classes are taught by subject-matter experts and all are archived. So if you can't attend live, attend at your convenience.