PDAs and Electronic Organizers- Do They Really Help You?

January 5, 2006

I bought my first Palm organizer back in 1998. It was a Palm IIIxe. I then purchased a Casio E100 color pocket PC running Windows CE. Then, an HP Jornada 820 clamshell again with WinCE. Two more Handspring devices on the Palm platform, then a newer Palm PDA. Did I mention my HP 2410 Pocket PC?

You get the picture. And where are they at this minute?

Sitting in a desk drawer.

This is what I learned after spending hundreds and hundreds of dollars to improve my organization and productivity:

1) If you can’t already organize your time and work on a piece of paper, the cleverest electronic gadget in the world won’t help you a bit. Checkout www.pocketmod.com for a smart way to take a single sheet of paper and create a pocket sized, 8-page booklet. (more on this later)

2) If you rely on a PDA, the batteries will go flat at the exact time you need to find the direct-line number for tech support at blah-blah company. On a trip without your charging cradle and synch cable? Been there. Spare batteries/ replaceable AA/AAAs? Forget it nowadays-mostly sealed cases and non-replaceable batteries. So I have to haul along a charger and cable, if I leave the office for any length of time.

3) If you try to take notes on one, you still look foolish pecking away with half a chopstick. Though I mastered grafitti, it is always more of a hassle and s-l-o-w-e-r than it is worth. Enough of the snickering in meetings!

4) You will experience grief when trying to sychronize/overwrite/download with your primary PC. It eventually comes together, but never as easy as the manual states. Contacts disappear…or triplicate themselves mysteriously.

5) WiFi access is a neat feature, but viewing non-PDA optimized webscreens or pecking out a detailed email response leaves still so much to be desired.

6) Bluetooth-enabled blah blah…does anybody really find Bluetooth-enabled anything that useful?

Perhaps electronic PDAs prove useful to some people. But to me, they are still alot of show and very little go for a lotta dough.

A piece of paper, loose or bound, still gets the job done.


While At Work 101- What You Carry Sends a Message

December 31, 2005

When moving about the office, it looks “good” to carry something in your hands. Busy people always tend to have something in their hands. But NEVER carry a newspaper or magazine around the office.

And, especially, NEVER stroll around with your latest Fantasy League roster.

Carrying around a newspaper just cries out, “Hey…I’m going to the restroom!” It doesn’t matter if it is the Wall Street Journal, or the National Enquirer. It will be viewed as recreational or break time material.

A lengthwise folded magazine stuffed in your pocket also whispers…”Another l-o-n-g restroom stop is ahead for me!”

Although scientific and trade journals are common reading material (and so recommended) around the office, moving them around on your person quietly suggest you’re heading for a rest or a break.

And you likely won’t even know that your June issue of “Mechanical Machine Design” was mistaken for the June issue of “Popular Hot Rodding” by Sal in Purchasing.

BUT, carrying a manila folder or a clipboard…that broadcasts ”…Sorry, Cant talk now…I’m off to a meeting!” and “Gotta get this information to the drafting department ASAP!”

While this may seem like nit-picking, you should approach each day as the next stepping stone in your career path progress.

The newspaper/magazine scenario could paint a momentary image of laziness and poor attitude.

Inevitably, you may just pass the CEO on your way down the hall. Sometimes, you may only have split second to appear at your best.

While you shouldn’t always (for now) care what your co-workers think, you always must consider what management thinks.

Always be on guard, and present your image in the most positive light possible. Always.

Remember, how things appear aren’t necessarily what they really are.

While at Work 101- Noisy Pockets

December 31, 2005

When you arrive at your desk, leave your keys and change in a coat pocket, or a desk drawer. Walking down the hall with an improvised version of Jingle Bells broadcasting from your pants pockets won’t impress anyone.

It’s easy to assume you are heading toward the vending machines, or you’re the janitor come to clean our wastebasket. Either way, you do not leave a good impression on those you pass.

Draw attention to yourself through your attitude and performance, not through your pockets.

Make Friends, Network, Keep Food on Table.

December 31, 2005

To be successful, and to keep food on your table, you must develop and keep friends.

Business people call it networking. But to be truly successful you must be sincere in your actions.

Whether it’s a fellow engineer on the same project a couple of years ago, or a Project Manager who supervised you back when, just say call and say hello from time to time. Former customers are invaluable too.

Its easy to do this with people we already consider our friends. But you can never has too many friends. Keep in touch with as many past colleagues and clients as you can.

This network can keep you informed of changing job conditions at the various employers in your region. The “hidden job market” that we all hear about.

The HR department usually values the opinion of its prized employees. Having an current engineer vouch for you as an interview candidate can leap frog you over your competition.

HR also figures that their employee may be working alongside the candidate, so they certainly aren’t going to recommend a bozo.

Give first, receive later.

Hear of a good job opening? Call your friend over at XYZ company. He may be happily employed there since the last time you spoke to him. Or, he may have just come from an all employee meeting that morning telling him some “staff reductions” are on the horizon.

Shoot her an email just prior to the holidays. Ask how they’re doing, how’s the family…sincere stuff.

Find an interesting website for technical information? Send her the URL.

Several years ago, I met with the CEO of a small packaging company. Truly a shoestring operation, they purchased industrial box making equipment from distressed or bankrupt companies at auction. They would install the machinery in their plant, and refurbish or upgrade the equipment as required to make it functional.

I was trying to sell him services to retrofit the controls on a particular machine. I knew I wasn’t getting the sale, because in the past they simply converted some of the automatic controls to manual function controls. Nevertheless, I really enjoyed talking with him that afternoon.

Back at the office, I sent him the customary thank you email. Several weeks later, I forwarded a URL for a CEO-focused web portal site- links to all the major CEO type on-line mags, investment and business websites, etc. I didn’t hear back from him.

About three months later, I received a phone call from him. He arranged plant tours and meetings with two other companies that he was a board member of. He says that website was a gold mine for him, and that he thought of me from time to time when he used it.

At a recent board meeting, one of the companies was undertaking a major plant automation project. He thought I might be interested, so he called me to arrange the meetings.

Because I offered something of value, mere information, I in turn received two opportunities for project work. I didn’t know he was actually on the boards of a total of four companies. I sincerely thought that the information I sent to him might be useful, nothing more.

Nothing more flatters a fellow colleague, as well as cementing a true professional friendship, than letting know you are thinking about them- as a person.

It is that colleague that may just be the beacon for you if your current employment situation turns dark.

The Secret to Success

December 30, 2005
The secret to success in this business is really no secret at all. You probably heard your parents or a teacher tell you that secret; and you may not even have known it. You might have heard it on TV. It is, quite simply, a fact of life that has existed for ages.

The secret to success is to believe that you will be successful – period. Simple, isn’t it? It may not sound like much, but without that belief in your own success, you can rest assured that your career is not going far. It’s the basis of your success.

How you can build a career on this belief is the subject of this book. When Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin took off for the moon in Apollo 11 they believed they would get there. There simply was no doubt in their minds that they would be successful. Of course, they had trained for years, depended on the people on the ground at Mission Control and, yes, they took a risk.

All three elements – hard work, trust and boldness – are essential to success. You’ll get nowhere without them and not very far without all three. But without that belief that you are going to win – and win BIG – these elements are wasted. You can flail your arms and struggle against the current all to no avail. Success begins with YOU.

You see, your attitude is paramount. Each day your attitude goes to work with you. You can’t leave it at home. You can try to hide it, but that trick is impossible for nearly everyone. You unconsciously give out signals and reveal your attitude to others around you by your words and actions.

It’s not easy to keep a positive attitude. Anyone who tells you they’re always positive and never need an attitude adjustment is hiding something negative. That’s OK. We all go negative at some point. The trick is to build a lifeline toward the positive so you can pull yourself out of that mess as quickly as possible.

Engineer’s Primer will help you craft that lifeline. The quickest way to build one is to see how others have done it. Preferably they should be people who have faced the same situations you have.

Besides guiding you to clean water, we show you more than that. We’ll show you how to navigate your way to the greatest satisfaction – doing what you love and getting paid good money to do it. You’ll have the wheel of the ship that is your career. Your career is truly in your hands.

Everything we do at Engineer’s Primer is geared towards making you independent – independent of your circumstances, independent of your co-workers, independent of your employer. While you can’t just forget about or totally avoid these things, you can learn that they cannot add or detract from your eventual success.

I invite your comments. Please feel free to contribute in the blog.