The Importance of Prioritisation
Lessons learned from the engineering days
Many years back, and to what might feel ancient today, I started my career as an RF and electromagnetic engineer, working on Signal Analysers. The scope of work in resolving engineering problems lied specifically in identifying root causes of product failures and liaising with vendors.
As with any production, the end goal was to continuously increase yield (high pass rate), as lower failures would mean lesser rework resources and part wastage and higher product fulfilment — which ultimately leads to high revenue.
Given the enthusiastic person I am when I have a mission in mind, I volunteered to as many tasks as possible, hoping it will improve my learning curve. I worked late at nights and over the weekends, yet I wasn’t able to fully solve the problems. It was bits and pieces, here and there.
Was I spreading myself too thin?
I quickly learn that over-promising and under-delivering to your reporting manager wasn’t a great idea. I took a cue from more successful colleagues and observed their pattern. I started working one thing at a time, resolving one problem before moving to another. This surely strengthened the ability to focus and problem-solve, before stepping into the game of a more challenging role.
Hang on to the goals
Fast forward to a few years, I pursued the application and consultation part of electromagnetic engineering, and it was one of my favourite segments in the engineering cycle of R&D, coding, production, sales, application and consultation. My role is to support clients who used these instruments and it ranges widely from all types of industries from electronics, oil and gas, power grids, satellites, car manufacturer, train problem-solving, you name it.
Back then, I was the only female application engineer supporting Singapore and Malaysia, and occasionally other countries in South East Asia (SEA).
I remember so many instances when I was called in to resolve multi-million manufacturing issues, client’s first reaction when they see me would be “I asked for an “expert engineer”.
Over time, ignoring these remarks, having a sales team of supportive men, and consistently focusing on the goal of solving problems, helped me win not only the best employment award but also in gaining repeat clients. But it was also the first time I fully understood what gender discrimination was.
Patience is key
One of my vivid memories is a large Japanese firm I consulted. Their line was down for two weeks and that means they were bleeding loss profusely. Their engineer were under high stress. I was called to solve the problem and I noticed very pissed off managers. It did not bother me but as I sat with the engineers to get a laydown of the issues, the vibe and motivation was devastatingly low
It took a lot of effort on their end to focus on the problem and resolve it, instead of letting the sentiments of the problem affect their abilities. It took us 2 days to find the root cause and a lesson learnt for life
The art of concentration
The power of focus is utmost crucial, where it’s that 20 mins or that 1 hour, depending on the individuals. Anything that doesn’t maximise your time is not going to return the most benefits. If you need to take a break, take time out, flush out thoughts, meditate, it would be definitely beneficial.
At the end of the day, results matter
As years passed by, as I step up from an engineer to a manager, to a consultant to a CEO. I noticed the same issue all across the chain. Those who are unable to prioritise, failed miserably.
You can choose to focus on improving your weaknesses, or sharpening your strengths. While we always want to be better people in life, being able to focus on what we are good at and master it to our benefits has higher chances of success
Life is definitely an journey of mistakes made and lessons learnt. Experiencing this, exploring the changes and enjoying the journey makes a life worth living