One teacher who strongly influenced my career taught me how to have the patience to test, innovate and model a concept until I had time to master the basic concepts. Learning how to successfully test and innovate helps me increase productivity with technology solutions for my clients and shareholders.
As a student I always enjoyed hands-on projects taught by technical teachers, but I did not appreciate the labs. Testing, experimentation and getting feedback from supervisors and peers was tedious and boring. And then I met Mike.
Mike was the supervisor of a small woodshop at summer camp. About 25 campers endeavored to build the fastest model boat for a race that would take place on the last day of camp. We had four weeks to build our sailboats from scratch. The goal of the regatta was to be the fastest sailboat to navigate - without intervention - between two docks, 50 yards apart, on the small lake.
Initially we all focused on the appearance of the boat. It seemed important that the boats look fast, but Mike encourage us to think about sailing dynamics. How do you keep a sailboat going straight unattended over 50 yards of water? How would the lake breeze and waves impact the boat's course?
My boat design was clunky, sturdy and stable. But with Mike's encouragement, I balanced the design and placement of rudder, mast and centerboard to keep the boat sailing straight with light-to-moderate breezes. Mike encouraged me to keep testing the design to accommodate variable wind conditions. I tweaked the location of the centerboard and rudder. I tested the sail and the re-positioning of the mast. I experimented and modified the design for hours in different wind conditions.
On race day there were so many impressive boats and the conditions were perfect for the regatta. My boat easily won the race (finishing two laps ahead of the second place boat). Mike taught me to be patient, experiment, allow for peer input and to be comfortable focusing on function rather than appearance. This approach has helped me create innovative technology solutions that deliver measurable increases in productivity for my clients and stakeholders.