October 6

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Airplanes and Submarines: Interviewing Adam Carlson

By jaime

October 6, 2020


This time around I had lots of fun interviewing Adam Carlson. By day, Adam designs airplanes and by night he works radio-controlled submarines. Now that’s passion! Adam credits his foray into electronics with helping him understand his engineering courses. He says it was “a physical expression of the theoretical things I was being taught in school.” Even though his major was Aerospace Engineering, he didn’t let his lack of knowledge about electronics keep him from improving is radio-controlled submarines. He says when his friends in the Electrical Engineering program couldn’t find time to help him, he just “jumped in” and taught himself C programming. Adam’s curiosity and his tenacity that have definitely helped him stay excited about his career.

Top 3 Takeaways

#1: Success in Engineering is 30% technical talent and 70% communication

I know right?! Not what you expected to hear is it? We Engineers focus so much on the technical aspects of our jobs that we lose sight of the importance of being able to communicate with other human beings. Adam says, “I can have the best idea in the world. But if I can’t communicate that idea to somebody, if I can’t help them see the same vision that I have, then really my idea has no value.”

#2: Writing helps you prepare your message for your audience

One of the tenets of public speaking is knowing your audience. Adam says that writing “gives you a framework to understand a little bit better how to communicate.” He says that we engineers like to “barf up data. We put it out on the screen and say, ‘Oh, there’s a story there.’ And everybody else also sees a story but it may not be the same story that I’m trying to tell.”

#3: When in doubt, read it out (loud)

Adam says that when he’s reviewing something he’s written he reads it out loud. As he’s reading it out loud he asks himself, “Does this flow? Would I have ever said anything in that fashion? If you are able to read it out loud and it sounds good, generally, that puts on you a pretty decent path.”

Bonus Takeaway: Get out of your comfort zone

Normally, I only pull 3 takeaways from my interviews but I felt this was too important to leave out. Adam says, “It’s important for us [engineers] to at least have a willingness to consider something from somebody else’s perspective. We have to go and jump out of our comfort zone to help ourselves.” Notice how he correlates our ability to consider someone else’s point of view to actually helping ourselves. So by catering to the needs of others, we also improve our own lives.

About the author

I'm an engineer and, sometime, public speaker.  I believe technical presentations don't have to be boring.  I believe the world will benefit when engineers become better communicators.

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