Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Talking About Work


I have not specifically addressed this topic with an entire article. It’s a shame that this post should rectify. Let us begin.

Who’s intellectual property is it? If I write something at work does my employer own it? Yes, at least I think so. If I say something at work does my employer own it? I don’t know. If I think something at work does my employer own it? I hope not. I mean, of course not, or at least they would have a hard time finding evidence they own it. Plus, they probably don't want to own every evil thought in my head. But it’s really an interesting process, from idea to written communication I lose ownership of my idea. My work is no longer my work but the company’s work. 

That’s pretty much the basis of the whole argument.

So my dilemma every week when I write my weekly summary is that of elation about the problem solving that I did, and terror that I will say too much and get fired. I do fully expect at some point in my life to lose a position of economic income because of what I say on my blog and also I expect one or more times to gain an economic income for the fact that I do say things on my blog. In other words, Seth Godin and Guy Kawasaki get paid a lot doing traditional things like consulting and strategizing for traditional companies even though they convey a lot of information to scores of thousands of people. On the other hand, people get fired for things posted on Facebook and other sites. 

When I was younger I always thought I would go into the aerospace defense industry and work on secret projects that I could not tell anyone about. I did the stint at Sikorsky, but my project had nothing to do with any product for national defense. Rather, anyone with the money can buy the products I work on and look at the work that I do. Frankly you can probably buy a little 1/32nd scale model and still see much of the work that I do with gussets, tails and radii. Or at least in about two years you will be able to see it. 

So the rules I set out for myself are:
  • If the work I did is related to production I don’t show it. In other words, I’m not going to show some strain contour plots of a brand new boom. Honestly, I might never show strain contour plots of any assembly because inevitably a crack will show up in a place where we didn’t predict it would. 
  • If the work is related to a failure I don’t show it because I would probably get fired for admitting that things fail during the warranty period (regardless of the fact that we probably fail far less in the warranty period than the competition). 
  • Nobody else at work agreed to the terms I did to blog about my life. Therefore I will not name names or discuss others work. If I can somehow claim that I am responsible, both for the credit and the blame, than I might discuss it. Otherwise, you will not hear about it from me. Most of the time this is not a problem because I usually don’t know what other people are working on and I often spend 35+ hours alone working on a project just to turn around and spend eight minutes presenting it. It’s not that I want authority, but I do enjoy accountability.
So that is where I stand. Am I too open? Some would say so. However, unlike the weekly changes to the privacy policies of Google and Facebook I am all I have to work with. I have done what I have done, both right and wrong. I certainly don’t want you to know everything, but given the choice between unlimited sharing and absolutely no sharing or communication I choose the sharing. Should I share more? Some would say so. Secrets are a strange thing. We all have things from our past we did wrong. General Petraus had a mistress and affair and he was supposed to be the leader of the CIA.  

It interests me that articles about Abaqus and Ansys continually rate as my most viewed, yet most of them I wrote in 2009. I am so much better at finite element analysis now than I was back then. I read the struggling comments and see the page views, and I want to help! I want to make the world a better place!

What does that leave to talk about? Abstract business concept discussions, show pictures of "science projects" that I work on when work is slow, and when I am learning new skills that are probably unrelated to my daily job. Also, it leaves running, which is why I talk about running so much. I bet a lot of people go home and don't really think about work, it's almost 9 at night and I'm thinking about learning Optistruct. And I want to share that with people. My contributions to Wikipedia and Squidoo only satisfy me so far. I want to tell people how awesome finite element analysis is! I want to recruit new engineers from middle school! I want to show animations!!!

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