Analytical 21: Rugs

15 December, 2017


Have you ever heard the expression, to have the rug pulled out from under you? Life does that to us all and sometimes you can do it to others without realising.

Transcript available
[Music] Everything can be approved, iterated and refined. If you don't think that's true, maybe you haven't analysed it enough. Calculated choices carefully considered absolutely analytical. Analytical is part of the Engineered Network to support our shows, including this one. head over to our Patreon page and for other great shows visit today. Rug or rugs or the rug metaphorically speaking. This has to start with a story, a true story and it starts about a story about me. When I was 14 years old I developed an interest in Citizens Band or CB radio as it's called and when I went to a friend's house one day after school. I heard him speaking to someone on the other side of the world, without any wires, no telephone, nothing but his radio and an antenna. However, it piqued my interest. I bought my own radio with my pocket money in the fullness of time, built every antenna that you could think of to try and improve my reception and transmission, and during During the first year of my Electrical Engineering degree, I obtained my unrestricted amateur radio license. I started in engineering wanting to build electronics, and I started building electronics kits including the NN1G radio from an amateur radio handbook from the ARRL. I wanted to learn how to design and build my own radios, and my final year project at University was a radio tracking system. Both during and then following my degree, I lived in Canada and specifically in Calgary working for a company called Nortel, eventually Nortel called Nortel Networks. I spent a few years in the reliability department learning about large scale electronic designs, value rates, modelling. Before making what was the defining shift in my career at that time, I moved into a position within Nortel as an RF hardware design engineer. Finally, I had achieved my dream. 10 years in the making, a university degree in the making. At the age of 24, I was finally designing the electronics and the radio that I'd fallen in love with when I was a teenager. And then I had the rug pulled out from under me. Nortel's stock went in the tank. They sacked 60,000 people around the world within 3 months. They cancelled their newest R&D projects, determined not to be critical to the business' survival. And the one project that I happened to be working on, it got cancelled. And I got cancelled along with it. It was more or less at that point, after a lot of soul-searching and frustration, that I had an epiphany. I chased a dream career at the expense of my family who were back in Australia, missing the places that I called home. And all of that dream could be ended at a moment's notice through no fault of mine at all. And perhaps in the end, chasing that dream in that way was not the right thing to do. Because ultimately doing RF hardware design was something that I couldn't do in my home state and there were very few places in my home country where that was even a career option. So, I decided instead, rather than chasing a dream career, instead I would return home to Australia and decided to live where I would choose to live, closer to my family, to the beaches that I've missed so much and love. Sunny weather for 28 days of the month, that sort of thing. And instead, I would live where I wanted to live and not chase that dream, because no matter how hard I tried or how hard I worked or how much I cared, the rug could be pulled out from under me at any moment. So while I'm not rambling on about this, there is a point, trust me. And the thing is, everything is cyclic and I revisited that epiphany again just this week. 17 years later, here we go again. In a manner of speaking, of course. Without going into too many specifics, I was the project manager on a year-long project and it had been approved long ago, the budget had been allocated and spent, and the final hurdle, Having passed all of our internal testing and our initial site testing in the field, we were ready to deploy it to the entire fleet, but we were stopped at the last hurdle. The project itself, at time of recording, remains in limbo, but as I reflected in the aftermath of what had happened, I'd done nothing wrong. My team and I had worked very hard. We chased all the required approvals, solicited input from all the stakeholders that were involved and some that weren't even, formulated a plan, had it extensively reviewed, approved and were ready to go, literally inches from that finish line and the rug got pulled out from under us. So why does this matter? So it got me thinking about rugs, metaphorically obviously, that we all stand on. And then I think, if really not rugs, another good thing, another way of thinking about it is the ground. Because I mean, 99% of the time, the ground feels solid, rigid, unmoving. And yet, when there's an earthquake come along, if you've ever felt one, you can throw out that confidence that the ground is solid for a terrifying minute or two or three or 10 as it shakes and everything falls apart. After an earthquake, we pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off and keep moving. We rebuild things that are broken. And that's fine. But the thought that counts in the end is preparation. Because ultimately, the thing you need to understand is that even if you do everything right, things go wrong. You can't prevent it from going wrong. All you can do is recognise that you're always standing on a rug of some kind and you need a safe spot to fall when it gets pulled out from under you if, although regularly enough when. So one other thing, there are people in the world that are unaware of the impact that they have on others. The decisions that they make affect so many things that they either can't or don't understand all of the ultimate ramifications. Maybe it's just too complicated for them to figure it out. Maybe it's too complicated for anyone or anything to trace out all of the possible outcomes of a decision. The ripple effect, they say, from a decision and the impacts that that decision can make can be very hard to determine up front, perhaps at the time of the decision. So I started to recognise something. Some of my decisions had resulted in a similar, although perhaps less drastic, impact on others around me. And I effectively, unintentionally, had pulled the rug out from underneath them. And when I realised that, it really didn't feel very good at all. So in the final analysis, the harder you work towards a goal, the harder it's going to hurt if the rug gets pulled down from under you. And the closer you are to the end, it will amplify that pain. It's kind of like momentum down a hill. The further down the hill you are when it comes to a stop, the more momentum you've built the worse it hurts. Momentum amplified pain or something like that anyway, or frustration. It's okay to be passionate about things. In fact, I think it's better to be passionate and to care, and I would rather have an attitude of caring and just bracing myself for a fall potentially along the way or towards the end, than I would to simply take the approach of not caring. I feel like the subtle art of not giving a f*** as per a book that was handed to me by a friend once. Perhaps that isn't the point at all. It's important to have a backup plan. To lay out a safe place for you to fall, just in case the universe gets in the way of your ultimate goal. If you're enjoying Analytical and want to support the show, you can. Like some of our backers, Ivan and Chris Stone. They, and many others, are patrons of the show via Patreon, and you can find it at or one word. Patron rewards include a named thank you on the website, a named thank you at the end of episodes, access to pages of raw show notes, as well as ad-free, higher quality releases of every episode. There's a back catalogue of ad-free episodes available, and a new making an episode tier as well so if you'd like to contribute something, anything at all, there's lots of great rewards and beyond that, it's all very much appreciated. Analytical is part of the Engineered Network and you can find it at and you can follow me on Mastodon at [email protected] or for our shows on Twitter at engineered_net. Accept nothing, question everything. It's always a good time to analyse something. I'm John Chijji, thanks for listening. [MUSIC PLAYING] [Music] [BLANK_AUDIO]
Duration 10 minutes and 41 seconds Direct Download

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John Chidgey

John Chidgey

John is an Electrical, Instrumentation and Control Systems Engineer, software developer, podcaster, vocal actor and runs TechDistortion and the Engineered Network. John is a Chartered Professional Engineer in both Electrical Engineering and Information, Telecommunications and Electronics Engineering (ITEE) and a semi-regular conference speaker.

John has produced and appeared on many podcasts including Pragmatic and Causality and is available for hire for Vocal Acting or advertising. He has experience and interest in HMI Design, Alarm Management, Cyber-security and Root Cause Analysis.

You can find him on the Fediverse and on Twitter.