Engineers (and engineering environments) are an odd lot. Youthful,
energetic, adventurous engineers often but heads with stodgy old,
uninspired engineers (and, many managers are stodgy old engineers
who couldn't "remain current" in their field and ended up shuffling
into management -- long forgetting what engineering is really like!)
I am very selective about the folks I'll work with and for -- simply
because I want to be able to continually explore new ideas and
approaches. Some colleagues can be counterproductive when you
have such goals. Some employers/clients can be too fixated on
"getting it done" and ignore the consequences of HOW it gets done.
More than once (in my early career) I came up with very clever
solutions to problems that were dismissed as too "threatening".
Instead, being directed to choose a more mundane (less "inspired")
approach to the problem -- even if it was more costly, less
In other environments, there was a healthy "friendly competition"
to arrive at the BEST solution to a given problem. Who *thought*
of the solution wasn't important: everyone enjoyed the challenge
of trying to *improve* on it, feeding off each others' contributions.
I've met "old timers" who were visibly envious of the excitement
I would express in my work. Or, the technologies that I was
exploring. They'd long since traded away that sense of adventure
for "job security"... and, now, were reduced to more mundane sorts
of work: the equivalent of ditch diggers. (very well paid ditch diggers!)
There are certain "types" that I characterize with this anecdote:
Ages ago, primitive man invented the wheel. It was SQUARE with
a small hole in the center for an axle on which it would rotate.
The conveyances that they created with these were, naturally,
Over time, the wheels would wear and become rounded. At which
point, they would be promptly replaced with *new*, SQUARE WHEELS!
The trend is to let the customer "debug" the product. Yet, many
products never actually reflect those "detected bugs" back into
their refinement. I.e., buy an early version, get the bugs
that came with it forever!
So called "rapid development", "incremental development", etc.
have replaced the traditional "waterfall" approach: specification,
One wonders if the same folks advocating this development style would
be happy if their DaVinci surgical robot was *deployed* with such
software: "Have you installed TODAY's software updates yet? BEFORE
my scheduled surgery????"
A funny thing happened when I was in surgery waiting to be given the
anesthesia. The Dr's in the room needed the table lowered, and none of
them could figure out how to do it. Finally, one of the nurses in the
room walked over, hit a knob, and adjusted it in less than 3 seconds. I
had to laugh to myself (and out loud) that these highly educated Dr's
couldn't adjust a surgery table.
I had a lover who was a nurse. She would rant endlessly about how
bad/inept the doctors were! Mistaken orders, Rx errors, etc.
And, this is what you would EXPECT them to GET RIGHT!
When looking at new cars, I was annoyed at how many questions that
I asked re: stuff under the hood were met with blank stares.
Cripes, this is YOUR PRODUCT! Don't you KNOW IT?? What do you do
all day when there are more salespeople than customers? Play
Solitaire?? Aren't you interested in your product enough to
quiz one of the techs in the service department about those
things that you're ignorant of?
As a customer, I could care less about how many silly awards your
car company has won. There are all sorts of awards essentially designed
so EVERYONE wins something! Tell me something specific about *this*
vehicle. Something in which *I* have expressed an interest...
Smoke and mirrors. Ego stroking. etc.
If you think carefully about what you are doing and what they are
saying, it's relatively easy to see the "curtain" hiding Oz.
I can understand a shoe salesman not knowing much about the
shoes he/she sells (what is there to know besides price, size,
etc?). But, something as big, complex and expensive as a
motor vehicle seems to justify knowing more than the number
of *wheels* it has! ("Um, I'll have to get back to you on
that... Hey, Jim... do you know how many wheels are on
this vehicle? I've got a customer who wants to know...")
That's probably true. But, if the only question will be those pertaining
to color and payments, there's no need for a sales droid! You could
design a vending machine to handle those requests!
As a salesman, knowing about your product gives you things to talk
about that can highlight its assets and differentiate it from the
I did a lot of research before we looked at each vehicle that we
considered in our search. It was embarassing to have to correct
salespeople about how certain features operated, etc.
We also tended to notice a lot of details that salesfolks either
didn't notice or chose to ignore. E.g., we found all of the Subaru
SUV-ish products "imposed" on the legroom of the passenger in a
way that made it very uncomfortable for either of us to occupy that
seat. On a repeat test drive, SWMBO sat in the passenger seat and
complained that she was uncompfortable. Having sat in that spot
on the first test drive (different model vehicle, same problem),
I immediately told her what to look for -- how she was being
forced to sit: "Oh, my!"
It was unfortunate as I really liked the layout of the engine compartment
in those vehicles (given that *I* would be doing all the maintenance
work). But, we quickly ruled them out solely because of this
It is actually the first or second question that we were asked.
The other being related to financing, our budget, etc. Amazing
how many salespeople were unable to get past this issue! "We'll
be paying cash for anything you have on your lot. Your job is
to convince us that we should buy one of YOUR vehicles instead
of one of the vehicles from any of your competitors that line
the street, here..."
I've ruled out several cars just because the drivers seat was
uncomfortable, and the door was so close to the drivers seat that you
couldn't adjust the seat unless the door was open. What were they
thinking with such a design?
Yes. We ended up choosing between our "finalists" based primarily
on how good *both* seats felt. I.e., *one* of us will be seated in
the passenger seat so it had better be AS COMFORTABLE as the
We gave some (token) consideration to the back seat, as well. But,
we rarely drive folks around so this wasn't going to be a deal-breaker
Many of the cars that we *thought* would be in our final list before
we started the selection process failed to clear that bar: their seats
were very uncomfortable (even though we spend ~250 hours ANNUALLY in
the car). Others failed the "visibility" criteria (c'mon, guys...
don't you *see* that pillar blocking your vision?? Are your eyes
located on a different body part than mine??)
yeah! If the seats in the front aren't comfortable for both myself and
hubby, it's a deal breaker for me. If the controls are too complicated,
it's another deal breaker. I once drove some Ford new model and they
said you had to go to a class to learn how to operate all the bells and
whistles it had. DEAL BREAKER! I want to commute to work and around
town, not learn how to program an SUV. I don't need complicated in
order to commute. Give me comfortable seats, reliability, heat and AC,
a radio that plays local stations, maybe a CD player, I like power
steering, windows, and seats, and a light colored interior. What's up
with offering a black interior as the ONLY choice??
SWMBO does most "solo" driving. I drive very infrequently. Most of my
time spent in the car is weekly shopping trips. In previous vehicle,
she hated passenger seat (comfort) so ended up driving most of the
time. New car has essentially "equivalent" seats in passenger and
As I design these sorts of things for a living, I'm not intimidated
by them. Rather, see them as learning experiences: why did they make
this design choice instead of some *other*?
I find very few "big" disagreements with their chosen implementation.
Most noteworthy is NOT being able to "backup" your settings to a
thumbdrive. Imagine what happens when you accidentally delete -- or
*lose* -- all the addresses, phone numbers, etc. that you've
meticulously "programmed" into the car/GPS! Likewise, in the
21st century, it doesn't seem too far fetched to let me *edit*
this sort of stuff on a PC in the comfort of my home -- instead
of trying to type stuff in on a touch panel seated in a hot
I addressed the "how to backup the OTHER settings" issue by creating
a "cheat sheet" that enumerates all the settings, their FACTORY DEFAULT
choices, lists of POSSIBLE choices and *my* choice (using bold and
italics to make the visual distinctions). I laminatated these and
stuffed them in a seat back pocket -- so I don't have to remember
where I "filed" them!
We found MANY seats to be very uncomfortable. The Lexus saleswoman
was chagrined that we spent a mere *minutes* at her dealership!
We'd sit in a vehicle, then get up, close the door and walk away -- in
search of another vehicle that *might* have more comfortable seats.
(we didn't find any, there!)
We encountered lots of black-on-black offerings. Totally ridiculous
in an environment where it's sunny 360+ days per year and over 100F
on anywhere between 60 and 100 of those days!
[We likewise lamented the sun/moonroof issue but typically had no choice
in that "option" for the sorts of vehicles in which we were interested.]
My hubby doesn't ride in my vehicle often, but if he's been ill or had
knee surgery (something like that), he has to ride with me, so the
passenger seat has to fit him and be comfy enough for a ride to the Dr's
office and back. He's a big boy, so the passenger seat has to have some
leg room, too.
I ask "why" a lot! haha
I file/organize things in a similar way, too.
I was almost sold on a Nissan Juke but the seat were terrible. The most
comfortable seats I've tried thus far are in a Nissan Cube.
I can't stand black interiors if it's going to be my car. I'd rather
have a beige or tan interior.
We found the seats in the Rogue, IIRC, comfortable. The Murano's
seats felt too "conforming" (or, maybe I got that backwards)?
The rogue had an interesting "rear shelf" in the cargo area
that would have been of use to us. But, to be of *real* value,
you'd have to buy a spare (the shelf is nominally the floor of
the cargo area so when you raise it to the upper "shelf" position,
you lose that rigid floor support)
We ruled out both vehicles because they both had "bugs" (flaws)
in the vehicles we test drove: one wouldn't operate the rear
liftgate when commanded (could be a broken switch or wire... or,
even a configuration setting! But, the saleslady should have
been able to address that problem: "See? this setting controls
that feature!") and the other vehicle I was able to crash the
navigation/entertainment system leaving it completely unresponsive.
Not a good sign given that the dealership has continuous access
to those vehicles AND the paid staff to keep them fully operational
at all times! ("first impressions")
Some vehicles had light "fabric" but dark dash, side panels, etc.
A downside of the beige interior (which is what we had and what
we chose for the new vehicle) is that it "scuffs" easily and
visibly. Lots of blackish marks where the soles of my shoes
drag across the threshold (if I fail to lift my feet high enough
to completely "clear" that threshold).
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