“Success rarely happens in a vacuum. Involvement in the organizations that are at the forefront of engineering can make the difference in taking your career to the next level. But your time is limited. What are the most effective ways to get involved, make connections, and get noticed? Moderator Ken Schmahl leads a discussion of engineers who are recognized as leaders in the hardware design community and those who are on their way to that lofty goal.”
This was the abstract for a panel discussion at DesignCon 2020. Along with myself, other panelists included: Istvan Novak, Antonio Ciccomancini-Scogna, Adam Gregory, Hansel Dsilva and moderator, Ken Schmahl. The goal was to share our experience with this year’s new author mentorship program and to give our own perspective on how authorship can take your career to the next level and become an industry influencer.
DesignCon tried an experiment this year to offer mentorship to first time authors with experienced paper authors. Since I am a member of DesignCon’s technical program committee (TPC), and had published several papers over the years, I was invited to participate.
I was paired up with four authors, and provided constructive feedback on how to improve their papers. All feedback was well received. Three papers were nominated finalist for a best paper award (BPA) and one was also nominated for an early career best paper award (ECBPA). This new award is given to the author with seven or less years experience in the industry. Because BPA are also based on audience feedback, winners are announced later in the spring -usually early April time frame.
By all accounts the experiment was successful.
So how does authorship lead to becoming an industry influencer and advance your career?
It offers a chance for deep learning of a subject matter. When you have to capture your thoughts on paper, you suddenly realize you may not know as much about the subject as you think you know. It forces you to do more research on the topic so that the information you are trying to covey is accurate.
It demonstrates thought leadership at your work and the industry. You become the subject matter expert on that topic. And over time, the path to your desk is worn from all the traffic to your cubicle. If you are self employed as a consultant, it eventually leads to more business opportunities.
It inspires your coworkers and peers to become subject matter experts in their own right by leading by example. Being a subject matter expert offers opportunities to work with other subject matter experts in your company on leading edge projects.
It builds your personal brand. By writing papers and presenting at conferences you become known in the industry from the work you have accomplished and shared.
It builds self confidence. Everyone at one time or another has had a fear of public speaking. By presenting your work in an audience of your peers, that fear of public speaking begins to dissipate.
Personal pride. Just like a “runner’s high,” you get a dopamine hit every time you see your work published or you present. There is no greater feeling, after spending an enormous amount of time writing your paper, making your slides perfect, continually practicing your presentation to anyone who will listen, then finally delivering to an audience. It becomes addictive so you will want to continually publish and present your work.
It leaves a lasting legacy of part of your life’s work behind. Let’s face it, our time is limited on this earth. By publishing your work, it inspires future generations in their research, just like past generations of authors have inspired many of today’s authors, including myself.
You don’t have to start big. A personal blog or web site is a good place to begin. Trade journals and online magazines, in your industry, are always looking for quality content that is relevant to their readers. Signal Integrity Journal, for instance, is an excellent site to showcase your work with the added benefit of being peer reviewed.
Formal societies, like IEEE, is a more recognized venue and is peer reviewed as well. Having your work peer reviewed and accepted adds credibility to your content and personal brand. Submitting a paper to industry conferences is another way and offers the opportunity to present your work.
And finally, the ultimate, is publishing a book.
Once your work is published, then you need to self promote what you have done. Use social media like LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter or any other platform. The added benefit of publishing with a trade journal is you get to ride along with their marketing strategy to a wider audience. You eventually will build a following, who will react and share your posts and soon become an industry influencer.
Finally, I’d like to close with this final thought. Being Canadian, our national pastime is Hockey. We usually have a hockey analogy for almost anything. Everyone who follows hockey knows Wayne Gretzky, the greatest hockey player of all time. One of his famous quotes was, “You always miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.” And likewise, if you do not take the shot of writing an article, paper, or book, you cannot become a subject matter expert or industry influencer.
Go for it!