Monday, May 5, 2008

Practice Makes Perfect

I have always told my kids that the only way to really be good at something is to practice. You could be a gifted athelete, a natural genius, or a musical prodigy. But that natural talent can only take you so far. History is full of genius that disappointed as well as overachievers who thrived. As the band Rush put it:

You won't get wise
With the sleep still in your eyes
No matter what
Your dreams might be

Engineering can be the same way. During the last 10 to 12 months at my previous company my job mostly consisted of a) training new people, b) building and qualifying copies of existing test stations, and c) maintaining those existing stations. There was nothing inherently wrong with this activity. It needed to be done, and I was the only test engineer to do it. But that meant that my LabVIEW programming skills atrophied. Well, maybe not atrophied, but they certainly were not improved.

I've now been at my current company for close to 4 months, and it has been heavy on the programming. As a result, I have had to stretch out my skills. I've read up on certain programming techniques, played around with new ways to present data, and some of the algorithms I've developed are among the most complicated of my career.

I'll pat my own back a little and say that I'm really happy with some of this work. I've created new data structures I really like. I'm working with some aspects of LV code I haven't used before. I've improved my LV knowledge in a small but noticeable fashion.

It almost makes me want to go back and rewrite test code I did a couple of years ago. Almost.

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