Final Frontier

Everyone has their favorite geek or nerd. There was Michael Anthony Hall in Breakfast Club, Anthony Edwards in Revenge of the Nerds, and of course Dilbert. We can all remember that kid in school that absolutely hated physical education class: the one that was much more comfortable finding prime numbers with the math club than “playing”, or more appropriately “being the main target” in dodge ball. Sure, they were laughed at and made fun of, but now they are the decision makers and power brokers of the new millennium. Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak – geeks by most accounts, founded Apple Computer. Bill Gates, clearly a geek, held the title of richest man in the world for many years. The founders of Google, Larry Page and Sergey Brin, are now arguably two of the most powerful people in the high tech industry. When kids head off to college, the cool kids go Greek; the not so cool kids go geek.

Engineering is based on logic, and for many years was quite predictable and mundane. That all changed in the 1960s when Hollywood introduced the world to the dramatic side of engineering. James Doohan portrayed Montgomery Scott (“Scotty”) the chief engineer aboard the U.S.S. Enterprise on the television series Star Trek. For many, this was a first glimpse into engineering. Many young, some-day engineers took note. The dramatic flare forever changed engineering methodology and process. This has evolved to the widely accepted “Scotty Process” of engineering. It goes like this:
1. Receive request.
Requests can come from customers, marketing, or internally from other functions in the organization.
“Scotty we need warp drive right away.”
2. Review the request.
(usually this includes significant body language, sighs and exasperated breathing)
3. Explain how the request is impossible.
Set the bar of expectation such that there is no hope of delivery of such an outlandish request. The only way this could be accomplished was if a miracle occurred. Anyone that could pull it off would certainly be a genius… if not a miracle worker.
“Captain, all warp engines are down, best case will be two weeks to repair and get them back on line”
4. Accept the request expressing low confidence.
“We will take a look and see what we can do.”
5. Provide a response.
Response should be well crafted, positive enough to keep the request from being withdrawn, but with significant concerns in order to keep expectations down.
“Aye, Captain we’re given you all we got.”
6. When the need is at a critical point, provide the solution, maximizing the dramatic effect.
“Now, Scotty ...We need warp drive now or we all die.”
“Right away, here you go Captain.”

Note: It is not necessary to deliver a perfect solution on first delivery. High value is placed on individuals that can “fix” things not necessarily those that engineer them properly the first time. Especially, when time critical.
7. Sit back and enjoy the thanks and respect of miracle worker status.
“Well done Scotty.”