As we approach year’s end and begin looking towards a brand-spanking new year, many of us will make New Year’s resolutions. These are often health-related (eat less, exercise more, drop a few pounds, quit an unhealthy habit or two) or family-related (yell at my kids less, be more considerate of my significant other, walk the dog more, etc.). Why not make a few work-related resolutions this year?
All engineers should occasionally take stock in where their career is at and the things they can do to advance it forward, whether at their current employer or to greener grasses elsewhere. So with this mantra in mind, I’ve decided to toss out a few New Year’s Resolutions to consider based on trends I’ve seen over the past year. Embrace them all, adapt a few, or ignore completely; it’s really your call. Or add a few of your own in the comment section.
Without further ado, here’s my list:
- Learn the basics of simulation. You’re a bonafide pro at your CAD system, but more and more companies are moving towards adapting simulation (FEA and CFD) into product development to lower prototyping costs and speed development. Take the initiative and sign up for an e-learning course online. NAFEMS offers code-independent classes that offer introductions to FEA and Fluid Mechanics, among many others. Check out the schedule and course titles here.
- Lobby for faster computers. One way to achieve an instant uptick in productivity is to rev up your computing power. Because of the booming popularity of tablets, the prices of PCs have plummeted. Their loss is your gain. Time to get your manager on board with a hardware upgrade. A four-core, Xeon-based PC with 16 GB of RAM and blistering-speed graphics will cost you less than $3K. Spend $2K more and you’ll score an eight-core PC with 32 GB of RAM, solid-state disks and high-end graphics processing.
- Check out subscription-based CAD. If your company’s business is cyclical in nature (i.e. you only need CAD on a project basis), you might want to look into purchasing CAD, as well as add-on software, on a subscription basis. Several of the larger CAD vendors are now offering CAD tools on a monthly subscription basis, enabling smaller companies to move CAD from a capital expense to an operating expense. Siemens is now offering users access to full-fledged Solid Edge CAD software for a monthly subscription prices starting at $130. Give it a free 45-day test drive here.
Become a better public speaker. Do you have ambitions of one day becoming a CAD or engineering manager? If so, keep in mind that managers must not only engage with staff engineers but also with executive management, customers, suppliers and outside agencies. Being comfortable speaking in front of others is not a talent all of us are born with so taking the time to develop these “soft” skills is important. Toastmasters International, a non-profit organization, is a great place to get your feet wet in public speaking.
- Investigate the cloud. Perhaps your company has avoided moving to the cloud for fear of IP security. Take the lead and look into the possible advantages the cloud could offer your company. Autodesk was the first to put CAD in the cloud with its Fusion 360 product, which offers excellent and easy-to-use data management tools and takes advantage of unlimited computing resources via the cloud. Autodesk also debuted the industry’s first CAM tool in the cloud, CAM 360, at this year’s Autodesk University. The company also offers SIM 360, simulation software in the cloud.
- Try a new 3D modeling tool. There has been much debate in the CAD industry about which 3D modeling paradigm is best. Parametric modeling offers engineers a powerfully automated way of creating complex models, especially large assemblies that use families of parts. Direct modeling tools are easier to learn and use, changes are made through intuitive push-pull interactions and are ideal for concept development and collaboration. Might be a good time to try and learn both, as the either-or proposition seems to be ending. Mark your calendar: industry analyst Chad Jackson and leading experts from the CAD companies will be debating this topic in an upcoming Design World webinar on February 20th.
- Think like a businessman. Yes, I know you went to college to study engineering, not business, but companies more and more and looking for engineers who are business-savvy and innovative thinkers. They want engineers who have been involved with strategy and planning and know their way around a balance sheet. If you want to advance, you need to understand how the total costs to produce your company’s products affects bottom-line business decisions.