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As we expanded our research to include professors, accountants, and other professionals, the findings were remarkably similar. All found political machinations to be distasteful. It's just that some had found a way to master the social aspects -- the top performers. For example, which group of people did I try my best to avoid offending?
What Your Walk Says About You
Was it my committee? No, because healthy disagreements and negotiations with your adviser and committee are crucial to graduating within a reasonable amount of time. Nor was it my fellow students, because I did not need help from most of them, and most of them did not need me. The critical group was the research and support staff. These include the research faculty and all the various support positions the system administrators, network administrators, audio-visual experts, electronic services, optical and mechanical engineers, and especially the secretaries.
I needed their help to get my research done, but they did not directly need me. Consequently, I made it a priority to establish and maintain good working relationships with them. Cultivating interpersonal relationships is mostly about treating people with respect and determining their different working styles.
Give credit where credit is due. Acknowledge and thank them for their help. Return favors. Respect their expertise, advice and time. Apologize if you are at fault. Realize that different people work in different ways and are motivated by different things -- the more you understand this diversity, the better you will be able to interact and motivate them to help you. For certain people, offering to buy them dinner or giving them free basketball tickets can work wonders. A true example: at one point in my research, I needed to make significant modifications to some low-level code in the graphics computer called "Pixel Planes 5.
How should I tap into Marc's expertise and get my necessary changes done? The wrong way is to go up to Marc, explain the problem, and get him to make the changes.
Marc doesn't need the changes done; I do. Therefore, I should do most of the work. Expecting him to do the work shows disrespect of his time. What I actually did was to explain the problem to Marc and he sketched out a possible solution. Then I ran off and worked on my own for a few days, trying to implement the solution. I got part of it working, but ended up getting stuck on another part.
Only at that point did I go back to Marc and ask him for help. By doing this, I showed that I respected his time and wanted to minimize his burden, thus making him more willing to help me. Months later, when he and Jon Cohen needed my help in setting up a system to demonstrate some of their software, I was more than happy to return the favor.
Walking Home: A Traveler in the Alaskan Wilderness, a Journey into the Human Heart
Interpersonal interaction is a huge subject and goes far beyond my description here. All I can really do in this section is hopefully convince you that these skills are vital to your graduate student career and encourage you to learn more if you need to improve these skills. I still have a lot to learn myself. The magazine article "How to be a star engineer" listed in the References also touches on this subject. Since academia is a type of business, you will have responsibilities that you must uphold.
You will be asked to greet and talk with visitors, give demos, show up to meetings, get projects done on time, etc. If you are not well organized, you will have a difficult time meeting those obligations. A technically brilliant student will be greatly hampered if he or she exhibits an "absent minded" personality and develops a reputation for being disorganized. There are many different time management and organization skills, and you can find many books on those at your local bookstore. This guide is not going to describe them.
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Find one that works for you and use it. I can highly recommend Stephen Covey's book, listed in the references. But whatever system you pick, just make sure it works for you. I have never found anyone else who uses my filing scheme, but it is effective for me by minimizing the combined time of putting away and locating a piece of information. All that really matters is whether or not it works. One metaphor I found useful is the following: Organize your tasks as if you were juggling them.
Juggling several balls requires planning and skill. You must grab and toss each ball before it hits the ground. You can only toss one ball at a time, just as you can only work on one task at a time. The order in which you toss the balls is crucial, much as the order of working on tasks often determines whether or not you meet all your deadlines.
Finally, once you start a task grab a ball you want to get enough done so you can ignore it for a while throw it high enough in the air so it won't come down for a while. Otherwise you waste too much time in context switches between tasks. Do you see jugglers try to keep each ball at the same height above the ground, frantically touching every ball every second? Randy Pausch a professor at CMU has a set of notes on time management. Three words in his guide summarize the most vital step: Kill your television.
He asks you to keep your priorities straight. What is the most important thing to a Ph. It should be finishing the dissertation, not watching every episode of Friends. That doesn't mean dropping everything else in life, but it does mean knowing what takes priority and allocating time accordingly. I am always amazed that articles written about businesses consistently put good communication skills at or near the top of list of skills that employers want to see in people but rarely find. But you know what? It's true! Communication skills, both written and oral, are vital for making a good impression as a Ph.
At a minimum, you have to defend your dissertation with an oral presentation. But you should also expect to write technical papers and reports, give presentations at conferences, and give demonstrations to groups of visitors.
If you can write and speak well, you will earn recognition and distinguish yourself from the other graduate students. This is especially true when giving presentations in front of important visitors or at major conferences. Conversely, if you cannot communicate well, then your career options after graduation will be limited. Professors spend most of their time communicating: teaching, fundraising, guiding graduate students, and documenting their results through papers, videos, viewgraphs, etc.
In industry, we need people who can communicate well so they can work in teams, learn what businesses and customers need, present their results, raise funds, and transition to leadership roles in projects and personnel management. If you are technically brilliant but are incapable of communicating, then your results will be limited to what you can accomplish alone and your career growth will be limited, both in industry and academia.
60 Best Survival Tactics images | Survival, Survival tips, Survival skills
Unfortunately, not all graduate students receive training in giving presentations or writing technical documents which are different from English essays. Such parents will hold the baby erect, feet touching the ground, and chant en-couragement for the baby to take a step, and then another step. They will drag the baby forward feet trailing the ground to teach it to walk. That could be called walking the baby, like one walks a dog.
This book is not about such walking. It is about how people modify their walk after having mastered it as a natural process that they inherit genetically. Compounded with the fact that it doesn't seem take itself very seriously, watching Ned's Declassified School Survival Guide felt a bit like watching Looney Tunes or Tom and Jerry - good if you like Nickelodeon's sense of humor.
Third, the three main characters are very likable if you are in to these kinds of shows. Personally, I believe Ned is one of the better main protagonists to come around lately.