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Archive for August 29th, 2010

Quandary: Career Advancement of Technical Engineers Part II

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This is a follow-up to the posting:  The Quandary of Career Advancement of Technical Engineers

And the extraordinary question asked by an engineer to a Vice President at a corporate all hands meeting, “What does this [ direction, goals, reorganization of the company ] have to do with me?”

The last posting cited an academic study on why engineers turn down offers of advancement.  Or, in general why the interest of engineers is often not aligned with the company they work for.

Here is more from that research.  This comes from the Discussion section where the findings are summarized

Advancement Choices
Engineers enjoy technical work. That is why they chose their profession and it is also why they continue to be engaged in it. They entered the corporate world with the awareness that advancement means success, and success should be everyone’s goal. There is pressure to advance quickly, a finding that supports Westney’s (1985) earlier research. However, there is only one career to pursue: management. And even though management is a possible goal, the process of being promoted is mysterious and contrary to the engineering nature that appreciates unambiguity and concreteness. In fact, the engineers are not sure that a technical ladder actually exists. If it does, it is a very short one, as there is at most one level above the one at which they entered. The criteria for this promotion are inconsistent and the meaning of the promotion is ambiguous. The engineers would prefer a more open and structured technical promotion process based on experience and professional demonstration. On the whole, these findings support earlier research indicating that R&D career paths are ambiguous and inconsistent (Allen & Katz, 1986; Bailyn, 1982, 1991; Bailyn & Lynch, 1983; Dalton & Thompson, 1986; Ritti, 1971).

Personal “Reality”
Success is not really on the engineers’ minds, but when prompted they say they do feel successful. However, they tie their success more to family, happiness, and personal accomplishments. They view internal ideas of success as more important than social, or external, measures of success. Their self-development occurs outside of work and they also have outside leadership roles. They feel their lives are sometimes out of balance due to clashes in work and personal life demands. They view the demands of work as excessive and think that their workplace should be more flexible in the area of time. They feel organizations are trying to trade visions of flat organizations and empowerment for more of their time, and this just does not work for them. Their organization does not provide onsite childcare, which they feel would help their situation. They feel torn between their personal and work obligations and this causes a fair amount of stress. They see organizations’ increased demands as unhealthy for people and detrimental to organizations’ long-term goals. The only way they feel that they can cope is by keeping organizational and personal concerns completely separate. Their experiences parallel Hochschild’s (1997) and Rifkin’s (1995) work regarding the difficulty of defining work and personal life boundaries. The engineers would like to continue to “build” things, and they think that they might enjoy doing work that involves “using their hands.” They would like to own their own businesses, or work in a more creative environment. They mentioned trying management under different circumstances, when they have less personal obligations to attend to, or perhaps in a smaller company with a different culture. They look forward to a time of retirement and financial independence, when they might donate their technical work to needy causes.

The Disconnect between Engineers “Personal Reality” and Corporate Goals

Here’s a proposition for you to consider.  The personal goals of an engineer and the basic fundamental goals of a corporation are fundamentally opposed.  Engineers are engineers because: 1) they love technology 2) their primary pursuit is that of personal technical competence – both self-development and application.  Corporations exist to: 1) Make money 2) Satisfy the wants/desires/needs of other people in order to sell products and services to generate revenue (make money) for other people (shareholders). 

To  put it clearly, Engineers are about technology and self.  Corporations are about money and others.

There is a little more to it. 
Read the rest of this entry »

Written by frrl

August 29, 2010 at 6:10 pm

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The experience of the presence of God: On-Demand

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The God Helmet

How do you know the World?  All experience is mediated and interpreted by the brain.  Did you ever have a “ringing in your ears”.  As you know, there is no real sound, out there, in the “Real” World.  The brain self-generates this experience and its as real (to you) as any sound you ever heard.  But you know there is no external source for the sound.

When you have an experience, how do you know if its “out there” or “in your head”?

What if you could generate “experiences” on-demand?  What if you could experience the presence of God, on-demand?

What if you could build an electronic device that stimulate a certain part of the brain, and just as you hear “ringing in your ears (Tinnitus)” you could experience the presence of God.  In this case, where is God?

This is just what Michael Persinger says he can do…

His theory is that the sensation described as “having a religious experience” is merely a side effect of our bicameral brain’s feverish activities. Simplified considerably, the idea goes like so: When the right hemisphere of the brain, the seat of emotion, is stimulated in the cerebral region presumed to control notions of self, and then the left hemisphere, the seat of language, is called upon to make sense of this nonexistent entity, the mind generates a “sensed presence.”

Persinger has tickled the temporal lobes of more than 900 people before me and has concluded, among other things, that different subjects label this ghostly perception with the names that their cultures have trained them to use – Elijah, Jesus, the Virgin Mary, Mohammed, the Sky Spirit. Some subjects have emerged with Freudian interpretations – describing the presence as one’s grandfather, for instance – while others, agnostics with more than a passing faith in UFOs, tell something that sounds more like a standard alien-abduction story.

It may seem sacrilegious and presumptuous to reduce God to a few ornery synapses, but modern neuroscience isn’t shy about defining our most sacred notions – love, joy, altruism, pity – as nothing more than static from our impressively large cerebrums. Persinger goes one step further. His work practically constitutes a Grand Unified Theory of the Otherworldly: He believes cerebral fritzing is responsible for almost anything one might describe as paranormal – aliens, heavenly apparitions, past-life sensations, near-death experiences, awareness of the soul, you name it.

Michael Persinger has a vision – the Almighty isn’t dead, he’s an energy field. And your mind is an electromagnetic map to your soul.

Read the full story in Wired –

Watch this multi-part video from the BBC.  First part below.  You can find all the parts on YouTube


More on “cerebral fritzing” – The Man Who Mistook His Wife For A Hat: And Other Clinical Tales

Written by frrl

August 29, 2010 at 7:33 am

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