Professionalism

Okay, honestly, I never thought I would have to argue this point, let alone with a professor, but, academics are oft lost on what the “real world” is like. It’s not necessarily their fault, either. Whose fault is it? Well, that’s a kicker right there. At National Instruments, it didn’t matter whose “fault” it was, when something happens it just does and you react accordingly to rectify the situation as needed.

That’s not really what I’m getting at though. A relevant example to my current situation is being “too negative”. Yes, I am quite critical, and even more so critical about myself. You wouldn’t notice if you weren’t looking, and I get the impression I don’t pull it off too well (people either like me or hate me).

The other day I got into a bit of an argument/debate with said “important person” who was trying to figure out what I was doing. It was obvious the monitor has a bad power supply and needs a new capacitor somewhere, which is probably why it got surplussed. I was told everything was setup and ready for me to use when I got to the lab. I can only do so much. Y’know, I have an engineering degree though. Why are you micromanaging this whole operation?

To top it off, I was having hallucinations of what sounded like another professor and a TA listening in on this dialogue. There was one particularly interesting comment which sounded like a loud whispher: “Control Freak!”

Getting off point here.

Professionalism. What does it mean? When I worked at National Instruments, my version of professionalism was similar to the attitudes of those who I had worked with at the university. Generally, taken from the UCF Creed:

Integrity, scholarship, community, creativity, and excellence are the core values that guide our conduct, performance, and decisions. These values comprise the guiding principles that direct the actions of the University, its students and its employees.

Those 5 adjectives sound good, and indeed are critical to a functional system. However, recent events show that even the university doesn’t follow its own rules. What does that mean?

I think the most relevant of the UCF Creed is “community”, if you want to compare the creed to professionalism. At least, that’s how I think about it right now. I speak from an engineering context where I worked independently most of the time, requiring interacting with other hardware engineers, V&V engineers, manufacturing, not all of whom were located in a cubicle 20 feet away but sometimes halfway around the globe.

Sometimes you have to make a point, and human beings are not robots: We have emotions (I feel like I sound like a broken record now). At some companies, people literally ARE robots. (Information In + Coffee + Time) = Processed Information Out). Next.

I’m going to go on another tangent now. One of the problems in engineering is that the boomers are starting to retire. That’s great for us young ones just out of college looking for jobs. It also means that the talents and mentor-ship that was provided by these individuals will be lost. One of my previous jobs I kinda had a mentor; he was so passionate about the work he did, he left the office everyday and went home and kept on working. This reminds me of the story from a friend at the UCF Radio Club telling stories from HP about people passing away at their desks in the middle of a project. Seriously. They just… passed away at their desk.

So, what IS professionalism? For one thing, professionalism is telling your boss “FUCK YOU” when he/she requests you work unpaid overtime. Who are you impressing? If you work at Subway… I just want you to make my sandwich. There’s a few givens: Part of professionalism is being: 1) Being happy where you are so you can settle down which will help you emotionally and mentally, but also give your employer trust in you as a person, 2) Properly educated in your field and willing to learn to progress in your career chain, 3) Knowing what your supervisor and manager expect out of you so you can focus on improvement as an individual. There’s other examples too. This is quite a subjective topic, so I can only come up with ideas that are valid for me.

Notice how, in my previous paragraph, I started off my very first example of professionalism by setting a boundary. There’s a lot that leads me to this point, that I’ve learned over the past several years. The bean counters will count every last bit, every last atom, molecule, DNA sample, whatever to find a way to… I don’t even know, they just want you to evaporate.

So, yes, a good, heated, civil (mainly meaning, no curse words and no personal attacks) debate can be a healthy way to vent stress at work AND communicate with colleagues who are willing to participate in this style of communication.

Or in other words, if you jump back to a previous post from a few days ago, being rude, whether it’s intentional or otherwise, will happen. Most companies have a diverse and very broad set of cultures within them, and inevitably people will bump heads. Intentionally being rude also happens, when and wherever you are. Example: A car pulls out of Alafaya Square from the Publix Parking lot. We’re going straight, in the left lane, so we have nowhere to go. So the idiot behind us starts honking and speeds past us in the right lane. So if the car pulling out didn’t stop… it would’ve probably been a 3 car collision, at least. Needless to say that guy was given a very special finger job, reserved only for Darwin’s finest, and his wife, sitting next to him, was like “You’re an idiot”.

So yeah, professionalism. To a young, naive college student, you would think it means everyone gets along, there’s no drama, everything is exactly as it should be (right out of Heaven). NOT.

People are people first and foremost. Nobody teaches you what professionalism means. We get lots of information about ethics, safety training, yadda yadda yadda, buuuut not professionalism. That’s largely up to you.

Final words: I go to a church in Winter Springs. It is in a very large, very populated area, so it is a very big church. I was confirmed as a Catholic in this church, and my sister got married there, among other things. I try not to bother the clergy, but at the same time I like to keep tabs on how things go, which would mean I’d call a particular other person, but he’s busy now. So, I call the pastor. He deals with more people every day than I probably have brain cells. Since he deals with this large quantity of people, he comes off in a certain way (not a bad one), but, in this case, that would be an example of professionalism. Being blunt is a necessary evil.

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