Wednesday, November 26, 2014

The working life with engineers: Packing for a conference


Remember how I was at a conference with all engineers except for the one other person who was a liberal arts major? Bless their hearts, engineers are fabulous, but they don't like the abstractions involved in marketing. We did these exercises about customer needs and talked about understanding the market. The instructor showed examples of how to do these kinds of analyses and the engineers wanted to know how many lines the forms should have. Engineers do not like ambiguity, which is great for product design. I want a phone and a computer that work all the time, not just some of the time.  I want precision and accuracy and predictability in my electronics.

But marketing, unfortunately, does not have that level of precision. You don't know if things work. You don't know if they will work. You just have to test and make assumptions and even when you have success, you don't always know why.

This is maddening for English majors and must be horrible for engineers.

So I was at this conference with a bunch of engineers and I made a big mistake. You would think that after working for a while in an engineering company, I would know better, but apparently, I am a slow learner.

I overpacked.

I took the train to Chicago and then walked the mile to the hotel. I pulled my very full suitcase behind me.

I had packed an outfit for each day. I had packed not one but two pairs of gym shorts. As if anyone ever really exercises while she is on a business trip. I had tennies and work shoes. Another pair of jeans. Not one but three books.

I forgot I was going to be at a conference with engineers. One of the things I like best about my new job is that it doesn't matter what I wear. I mean, I can't be a total slob, but nobody notices what I wear. NOBODY. I could wear the same thing every day and nobody would notice.

I have decided to use that fact for good and am on a mission not to buy any new clothes for a year.

During the conference, one of the presenters asked, "Is there anyone here from the fashion industry?"

I looked around and almost laughed out loud.

"Clearly not!" I said. Unfortunately, I said it out loud and that was rude.

"Speaking for myself," I added quickly. Honestly. There are times when I think it might be a good idea for me to sew my lips shut.

Why did I feel compelled to pack an outfit a day for an engineering conference?

I did not do it right.

I did not exercise every day as planned.

I did not wear every outfit.

I had extra things to take home - books, chocolate croissants - and still had to drag those behind me on the mile walk to the train station.

I did not do it right.

I will not make this mistake again.

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